Hopefully someone knows of something. In the meantime, what I do is flip the switch on and immediately put my index fingers on each ear while it runs.
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Since I'm 62 and already have a measure of hearing loss I use a pair of shooter's ear muffs - they look like headphones but attenuate noise. I just pop 'em on while cleaning records. You see them, sometimes, on people operating leaf blowers and mowers for a living. They're available at sporting goods stores for $30 - 60.
Try putting the 16.5 on a large folded towel. If that works, you might want to try a couple of gardening knee cushions . . . not the ones you attach to your legs, but the rectangular pads with an oblong hole on one side, like these:
You can usually find them at any store that has a gardening section, like Home Depot.
Neither will make the machine whisper quiet, but ought to tone it down a bit and make it somewhat tolerable.
I doubt the machine can be made more quiet without compromising it's function or VPI would have done it. The Typhoon is supposedly much quieter but is a different design. Muffling the motor or adding internal sound deadening I would think may cause added motor strain and heat build up unless you also used a fan. It's a worthwhile machine and the best value in that type of cleaner available. I just cover my ears as others have suggested. It's become like a game with my four kids. Do look into the steam possibilty but use it in conjunction with your 16.5. It's easier and probably more effective that way.
Added insulation, like the guys put inside thier car doors-panels might be an idea? Something that would be asily cuttable with a utility shears, and peel, and stick would be the way to go. Provided you're not covering the very small slotted vents on the bottom, this shouldn't make the machine run any hotter than it already does.
I will note that when I added a cooling fan to my 16.5, that sound levels did slightly increase, due to adding another hole to machine. Mark
Two suggestions I have tried:
1. Obviously, if you are worried about the noise, you should close the lid when you vaccuum. This alone will be a slight reduction.
2. Place the machine on top of piece of carpet. My machine placed on my bare shelf runs very loud. However, when I turned it on once while it was on the floor (carpet), it was drastically quieter. I recently picked up a new remnant, but haven't yet had the time to cut and use.
As mentioned above, the one concern is heat. Mine gets hot when I clean a few LPs (three separate vacuums per side). Placing the unit on top of the carpet may cause the temp to go up a bit. I'll still definitely do it, as I rarely clean more than 3-4 LPs at a time.
Heat is the reason I wouldn't add any sound absorbing materials to the inside of the machine. Try these easy fixes first.
If the budget will allow, buy a Loricraft. Not only is it far quieter, it does a better job (though at the cost of being slower).
Steaming is not a substitute for vacuuming. Heating the fluid in the grooves may (depending on the fluid) help it dislodge contaminants. But unless you remove the now scummy fluid from the grooves before it can evaporate, suspended contaminants will end up right back where they started. No towelling with any sort of microfiber cloth removes a fluid layer from a surface better than a focused, high velocity air stream, which is what RCM's (especially string types) provide.
The best fix for a VPI 16.5 would be to get the vacuum out of the machine all together, isolate it as far away from the machine as you could get it.
There might be a possible way to do this, where you are connecting to the Arm Wand from underneath, via Plastic Hose, and the Vacuum Motor-Recovery Tank outside the machine, perhaps in a cabinet below the machine, or? Just a thought? Mark