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Old 11-23-2020, 10:26 PM
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Default Ultrasonic Vinyl Record Cleaner Recommendations

I currently have a VPI Typhoon HW-27 RCM and looking to go Ultrasonic. Looking for some recommendations.
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Old 11-24-2020, 05:53 AM
tima tima is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiophilehi View Post
I currently have a VPI Typhoon HW-27 RCM and looking to go Ultrasonic. Looking for some recommendations.
There are many paths open to you. At a top level are two broad categories:
1. the out-of-the-box manufactured desktop USC (ultrasonic cleaner) that is essentially a one button full cycle machine capable of processing a sinlge record at a time.
2. the DIY approach where you assemble a few off-the-shelf components to make your own USC which is typically capable of cleaning 3-6 records at a time.

The main variables for all USC cleaners include: a) a cleaning solution composed of distilled/purified water and surfactants (cleaning chemicals), b) the number and operating frequency of the ultrasonic transducers (devices that create the ultrasonic energy in the cleaning solution,) c) the temperature of the cleaning solution, d) the length of time the ultrasonic energy is applied to the record, and e) how the wet record gets dry.

The main thing a manufactured desktop machine has going for it is convenience. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and use the manufacturer's supplied chemicals and you will get the result the machine is capable of giving. Not all machines are equal and generally you get what you pay for. Most (all?) have a warranty. If the machine breaks while under warranty you're in luck. All will break at some point.

The main thing the DIY approach has going for it is the user is in control of the variables (above), the components that make up the system, and DIY typically is capable of higher throughput, ie, more records get cleaned quicker.

Cost? Decent manufactured desktop machines run $3000-$4000. Decent DIY systems can be built for $2000 and up; you determine the quality of the components. You can assemble a better DIY machine than any of the out-of-box units on the market today based on how much you want to spend. Both will require replacement of consumables such as chemicals and filters.

At present the two main out-of-the-box units are the Audio Desk from Germany and the Degritter from Estonia. The Audio Desk uses a single ultrasonic transducer and 4 rotating brushes to clean the record. The Degritter uses two ultrasonic transducers. Both are primarily mechanical devices that rotate a record, drain and fill the solution tank, and run a fan to dry the record.

The Degritter company is newer and has much better marketing. The Audio Desk has been around much longer. Audio Desk was the pioneer developer of the desktop record cleaner and early models had some problems as the design was refined. Any discussion of Audio Desk inevitably attracts complainers who experienced some of those problems, but the current machines are reliable. Both machines have pros and cons. As is the case of much in audiophilery, owners of each will testify to the wonderfulness of their purchases.

I've been a student of record cleaning machines and ultrasonic cleaners for several years now. My survey of many audio forums suggests there are likely at least as many people doing DIY as using manufactured units and there is quite a bit of active discussion on various DIY options. Ultrasonic cleaning has been used in various industries for decades and there is far more knowledge about it than you'll find in the audio world where there is a lot of misinformation.

I've owned a Loricraft PRC-3 cleaner (a point nozzle vacuum machine based on the Keith Monks machines), an Audio Desk (sold) and now use my own DIY system. I've written three articles on building a DIY system - these are published on The Vinyl Press:
Tima's DIY RCM
Tima's RCM - followup #1
Tima's DIY RCM - followup #2

There is an excellent highly detailed technical paper by Neil Antin, an ex-Navy professional, published for download at The Vinyl Press: Precision Aqueous Cleaning of Vinyl Records

If you opt to continue using your VPI HW-27 (basically a vacuum), you might be interested in my review of cleaning chemicals for those types of machines: Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions • Record-Cleaning Products
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Old 11-24-2020, 06:54 AM
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Thank you Tim
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Old 11-24-2020, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audiophilehi View Post
I currently have a VPI Typhoon HW-27 RCM and looking to go Ultrasonic. Looking for some recommendations.
I think your first consideration should be your expectations. Are you seeking convenience, or are you seeking improved cleaning? Rather than tell you what you should do, I'll just share my experience.

My history with record cleaning dates back to the original Keith Monks machine, which I discovered in the '70s. It was too pricey for me at the time, but a local high-end dealer had a demo and sold record cleaning coupons, so customers could clean their own LPs for a price. I relied on the KMAL machine until Nitty Gritty introduced its vacuum device, and I bought one of the early models. (As I recall, that was before VPI entered the record cleaning market.) I used the NG for decades, futzing with various cleaning solutions and and always finding the process annoying.

A few years ago I bought the Klaudio ultrasonic machine and my life changed forever. Its one-button LP cleaning process makes record cleaning so easy and simple that I cleaned more records in the first few months of owning it than I would do in years with the NG. I've kept the NG in the event I acquire some used LP that needs aggressive cleaning, but it's been years and that hasn't happened yet.

Some people have elevated LP cleaning to something of a "black art" and I have to wonder: What contamination is on their LPs that such extraordinary measures need to be taken? In my experience, one pass through the Klaudio removes whatever dust and contaminants are present. In fact, I'm convinced that many people have never heard a truly clean LP, and that ultrasonic is more effective than other means.

One reason the Klaudio works is that - like the AD and Degritter - it also dries the LP. DIY approaches that rely on air drying are much less effective - it's amazing how quickly dust will accumulate on an LP in even a fairly clean room.

The Klaudio is presently out of production, but some inventory remains. You might want to check with Ivan (which is where I bought mine) - Klaudio's website shows refurbished models available at a discount. If you seek convenience, something like the Klaudio, AD or Degritter are the way to go.
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Old 11-24-2020, 05:39 PM
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I have no experience w/the others, but if you can find a KLaudio, go for it! It does an amazing job and without the use of any kind of cleaning formula or parts to replace like sponges. I've used mine to clean some pretty nasty 78s and 45s and the results are outstanding. I'm sure the other USCs do good work as well, but I can only vouch for the one I own.
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Old 11-24-2020, 06:14 PM
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I currently have 3 Klaudio RCM’s. Although they see very little use, I’m not actively looking to sell them.
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  #7  
Old 11-25-2020, 06:02 AM
tima tima is offline
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There has always been contention over which out-of-the-box desktop RCM works best or is better. For a while there was the Audio Desk and KLaudio (KLA) machines, then Degritter came on the market. Another brand named Kirmus is also on the market, though in my own view it cannot be recommended.

Each of the units, including KLA has its pros and cons.

KLaudio - KLaudio machines sold well and were popular. Made in S.Korea, KLaudio did offer US based support. The company started adding some interesting tank solution filtration options and various add-ons, then unfortunately they went out of business.

The fundamental problem with the KLaudio machines is that using anything in solution besides water voided the machine's warranty. The company claimed it did not know how surfactants might damage machine internals. That is a function of machine design. Owners of KLA machines claim excellent results.

While water is a solvent, the bottom line is that using surfactants (soaps if you like) as part of a cleaning solution yields better results than water alone. There can substances on records such as fingerprint oil, greases, etc. that are not water soluable. Smashing cavitation generated vacuum bubbles against the side of a record alone can remove some residue and yield a cleaner record, however having surfactants in the water can do a more complete cleaning generally. Almost all industrial uses of ultrasonic cleaning use surfactants appropriate to the item being cleaned.

Fwiw, both Audio Desk and Degritter include bottles of cleaning agents meant to be added to their tanks of water.

Degritter - the Degritter is relatively new and like any brand new mechanical device it has had some some problems come up with their machine. However, thus far the company has been attentive to end-users and responsive in offering fixes and updates. Degritter machines are sold through on-line retailers in the US. It is not clear the extent to which they have US-based support and in some cases machines get returned to Europe for repair. The machine is controlled by a microprocessor and its operation can be updated via software. That is a positive feature though it is still basically a mechanical device with a pump, motor to turn the record and a fan.

Ultrasonic cleaning involves the generation of bubbles of vacuum in the cleaning tank. When these vacuum bubbles hit a surface (the record) they explode, and their released energy impacts against the surface and can dislodge substances foreign to that surface. The frequency applied to an ultrasonic cavitator determines the size of the vacuum bubbles that it generates. The lower the frequency, the larger the bubble, the greater the explosive force.

The main problem with the Degritter, imo, is that it runs its ultrasonic cavitators at 120kHz. This is high compared to other machines. This high frequency generates more and smaller bubbles than a lower frequency, so there is a greater distribution of vacuum bubbles, however their explosive force is considerably less than bubbles generated at 40 or 80kHz. Degritter is sensitive to this issue and claims their high operating frequency as a feature. Ideally, a USC RCM operating at two frequencies (low and high) will clean a larger percentage of residue types based on particle size.

The Degritter does have a removable water tank. This means you can do a separate rinse step after using their cleaning fluid; ideally you'd want two tanks, one for cleaning solution and one to fill with clean distilled water and no cleaning solution.

Audio Desk (AD) - this machine is a hybrid; it relies more on its four soft rotating brushes to clean a record with assistance from a single ultrasonic transducer. AD does not disclose its operating frequency. Because of the rotating brushes the AD operation is mechnically more complex than a machine without brushes. The brushes will get dirty over time. They can be cleaned several times in a washing machine, but ultimately will require replacement from the manufacturer; at ~$100 the brushes are somewhat pricey.

The AD also uses cleaning fluid, one vial of which (~$20) is claimed to clean 100-150 records. The downside here is re-using the same tank of solution over the time it takes to clean those records. The tank solution grows dirtier with each record cleaned. The AD has no rinse step, thus the water on the record when it is dried by the unit's fan is the wash water with residue in it. The Audio Desk does have a smallish non-spec'd sponge filter that operates passively; this filter will collect dirt but does not thoroughly clean the tank solution.

All None of the single-slot desktop machines have easy access to their cleaning tanks and are very difficult to clean. Over time residue (sludge) builds up in the tank and on any operating mechanics exposed to the cleaning solution. That means that whatever solution is in the tank will have residue in it. When the record is dried by a fan that residue can be left on the record. A key to avoiding (or at least reducing) that problem is to use active filtration with a decent absolute rated filter anytime a record is in the tank.

Unfortuneatly none of the current machines have decent filters (although KLaudio had an option with a more robust filter.) The Degritter has a small in-line replaceable plug filter but its porosity rating is not spec'd. It is possible to assemble an effective filtration system to use in conjunction with a desktop machine, especially if the tank has a drain plug.

All of these machines will get a record cleaner than it was before cleaning. Under nominal conditions each offers push button convenience. Each has its advocates. It is also possible to get a record cleaned using a vacuum type machine (such as the OP's VPI) and to get it just as clean as using an ultrasonic. However, the horizontal oriented RCMs take more time (only cleaning one side at a time) and with water flying all over the place are considerably messier than putting a record in a tank. But with patience they can do the job and they do make rinsing simple. One option is to use an ultrasonic to clean and a horizontal vacuum to rinse and dry. This takes more time and uses more space.

There is no clear methodology for gauging cleaning effectiveness. (You cannot clean the same record twice.) Imo the best judge is listening: if the record sounds clean, it is clean.

Imo, a key to the viability of the vinyl medium is keeping records clean. All efforts to do so are applauded.
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Old 11-25-2020, 09:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tima View Post
... KLaudio machines sold well and were popular. Made in S.Korea, KLaudio did offer US based support. The company started adding some interesting tank solution filtration options and various add-ons, then unfortunately they went out of business.
This is mistaken. Klaudio remains very much in business and the company still offers excellent US-based support.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tima View Post
None of the single-slot desktop machines have easy access to their cleaning tanks and are very difficult to clean ...
Do you have any first-hand experience with the Klaudio?

Quote:
Originally Posted by tima View Post
... It is also possible to get a record cleaned using a vacuum type machine (such as the OP's VPI) and to get it just as clean as using an ultrasonic ...
I think that is very much subject to debate.
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Old 11-25-2020, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tima View Post
Another brand named Kirmus is also on the market, though in my own view it cannot be recommended.
Why do you state this? Did your Kirmus fail or did it not clean records well? Poor service from the company?
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Old 11-25-2020, 04:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tima View Post
There are many paths open to you. At a top level are two broad categories:
1. the out-of-the-box manufactured desktop USC (ultrasonic cleaner) that is essentially a one button full cycle machine capable of processing a sinlge record at a time.
2. the DIY approach where you assemble a few off-the-shelf components to make your own USC which is typically capable of cleaning 3-6 records at a time.

The main variables for all USC cleaners include: a) a cleaning solution composed of distilled/purified water and surfactants (cleaning chemicals), b) the number and operating frequency of the ultrasonic transducers (devices that create the ultrasonic energy in the cleaning solution,) c) the temperature of the cleaning solution, d) the length of time the ultrasonic energy is applied to the record, and e) how the wet record gets dry.

The main thing a manufactured desktop machine has going for it is convenience. Follow the manufacturer's instructions and use the manufacturer's supplied chemicals and you will get the result the machine is capable of giving. Not all machines are equal and generally you get what you pay for. Most (all?) have a warranty. If the machine breaks while under warranty you're in luck. All will break at some point.

The main thing the DIY approach has going for it is the user is in control of the variables (above), the components that make up the system, and DIY typically is capable of higher throughput, ie, more records get cleaned quicker.

Cost? Decent manufactured desktop machines run $3000-$4000. Decent DIY systems can be built for $2000 and up; you determine the quality of the components. You can assemble a better DIY machine than any of the out-of-box units on the market today based on how much you want to spend. Both will require replacement of consumables such as chemicals and filters.

At present the two main out-of-the-box units are the Audio Desk from Germany and the Degritter from Estonia. The Audio Desk uses a single ultrasonic transducer and 4 rotating brushes to clean the record. The Degritter uses two ultrasonic transducers. Both are primarily mechanical devices that rotate a record, drain and fill the solution tank, and run a fan to dry the record.

The Degritter company is newer and has much better marketing. The Audio Desk has been around much longer. Audio Desk was the pioneer developer of the desktop record cleaner and early models had some problems as the design was refined. Any discussion of Audio Desk inevitably attracts complainers who experienced some of those problems, but the current machines are reliable. Both machines have pros and cons. As is the case of much in audiophilery, owners of each will testify to the wonderfulness of their purchases.

I've been a student of record cleaning machines and ultrasonic cleaners for several years now. My survey of many audio forums suggests there are likely at least as many people doing DIY as using manufactured units and there is quite a bit of active discussion on various DIY options. Ultrasonic cleaning has been used in various industries for decades and there is far more knowledge about it than you'll find in the audio world where there is a lot of misinformation.

I've owned a Loricraft PRC-3 cleaner (a point nozzle vacuum machine based on the Keith Monks machines), an Audio Desk (sold) and now use my own DIY system. I've written three articles on building a DIY system - these are published on The Vinyl Press:
Tima's DIY RCM
Tima's RCM - followup #1
Tima's DIY RCM - followup #2

There is an excellent highly detailed technical paper by Neil Antin, an ex-Navy professional, published for download at The Vinyl Press: Precision Aqueous Cleaning of Vinyl Records

If you opt to continue using your VPI HW-27 (basically a vacuum), you might be interested in my review of cleaning chemicals for those types of machines: Audio Intelligent Vinyl Solutions • Record-Cleaning Products
Thanks Tim....very informative. I really don’t want to spend that much. Budget is $1,000-$1,500 if I can help it but you know how that goes.
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