Audio Desk Systeme RCM - what's been your experience?


Hi All,

I have owned an ADS RCM for a little under 3 years. During that time, I've been able to work through my 3500 LP collection at a cleaning rate that just wasn't possible with my former RCM, the reputable VPI 16.5...so, in general, because of the ease and effectiveness of cleaning LPs, I've savored my time with the ADS RCM.

That is until now...

"Both the pump and ultrasonic transducer are failing" was the diagnosis delivered by the US distributor after the RCM abruptly stopped working. Essentially DOA...and out of warranty.

Before I formulate my next move, I'd love to hear from current or former owners of ADS RCMs - what have been your experiences with the reliability of the Audio Desk Systeme RCM?

Thanks for your time - appreciated!
soulbrass
Hello, I am the owner of a ADS RCM that failed after 3 years of use. My unit the pump failed. I sent it to the US distributor for repair and was told that repairs with shipping both ways would be over $1000 and about 4 months. They offered me a deal for my broken unit and $1450 for a new late 2015 production machine that contains several upgrades of the Pro machine that was coming out later in the year. Upgraded pump, fan motors, ultrasonic transducer and better electronics controls. I decided to go with the upgraded machine. The new machine is much better in build quality and performance. The machine seems to operate much smoother. It is the machine ADS should have produced from the very beginning. One complaint is that the drying fans are much louder than the old ones.

My feelings about ADS as a company, I think they SUCK. Anyone who bought one of their machines paid over $3500 and up for the machine and they have failed at a very high rate. They should have recalled the machines because they knew that the build quality was low and the failure rate was high. And for the people who's old model is still working, trust me it is going to fail. The prices we are paying for this equipment it should last many years without issue. Like you soulbrass, I also own a VPI 16.5 RCM and it is 17 years old and still works flawlessly! I thought that when I purchased the ADS RCM I was buying a well built machine that would last for many years. I hope this new upgraded machine lasts longer than 3 years. If this machine does fail again, I am done with ADS.

As for the cleaning aspects of the ADS machine, it is very user friendly. It makes cleaning albums a breeze. Like you I also have a large record collection and the ADS machine makes cleaning almost painless. I think the ADS machine does a good job cleaning for the most part but sometimes you need chemicals to remove the dirt and grit from an album to get that pristine sound. That is why I keep the VPI 16.5 machine around.

Let's hope that ADS got it right this time.
I too had a 3 year old ADS in which the pump failed after about 3 years.
That was after the electronics failed in year 1. To my recollection, I also paid about $1450 for a pre-Pro version with different parts including a supposedly new and improved pump. I too was not very happy with the price I paid but the new ADS is superior to the old in all aspects of operation, especially the drying cycle which now removes all moisture without fail. Hopefully, the pump issue has been resolved in which case I will be happy overall.  
I had the original version of the AudioDesk and returned it after a couple of weeks: I could tell it was going to be problematic over time.  I therefore bought the KL Audio and never looked back: it has worked flawlessly.  

I'm very glad to hear of the new version of the AudioDesk: Hope it resolves all the problems of the original.  
KL Audio is the best machine nothing to replace works wonderful.

From what I could learn through research prior to purchasing a top-quality medical grade ultrasonic cleaner, all ultrasonic transducers eventually wear out and require replacement. That clinched my decision to avoid all expensive audiophile-vetted units with mysterious parts inside, and instead purchase the best commercial unit I could find(German-made Elmasonic with dual 37kHz and 80kHz frequencies). I added an LP spinner from ebay and am in the process of adding a pump circuit with 1 micron filter. Total cost was around $1700.

My VPI 16.5 worked for twenty years without requiring service. I don’t expect as long a life from an ultrasonic cleaner without servicing, but it does do a better job than the VPI.

I also had the pump failure upgrade scam.  I love my new pro machine, but very costly.  Nothing better for cleaning/convenience, but can only recommend with caveat regarding reliability, only time will tell.

Jeff

I think the semi-DIY route @dgarretson described is not only more cost effective but offers more flexibility, particularly if you are willing to forego some of the convenience of the "one button" fully automatic audiophile models. The commercial audiophile machines (and I have owned both the Audio Desk and KL) have some limitations compared to what you can achieve with the semi-DIY route.
I am in the throes of planning another machine (not for resale, just for my own use).
Dgarretson-can you speak in a little more detail about the pump circuit with filter? One of the desirable features may be the ability to filter the water in the bath between cleaning cycles. I don’t know if you are using any kind of surfactant to enhance cavitation effect. I’m still trying to sort out the filtering issue as it relates to using a surfactant, since I assume the filter is designed for particulates- and I don’t know how the surfactant impacts the filter's effectiveness. (This is a work in progress for me- still learning). Thanks....

@whart

I followed advice on a couple of DIY sites with respect to chemistry and filtering. A surfactant like Kodak Photo-flo 200 definitely helps, together with isopropyl alcohol, a drop or two of Dove detergent, and maybe a drop or two of Finish drying agent. The filter circuit will be a Little Giant 1-AA-OM pump(originally purposed for hot beverage dispensers), a Hydronix HF2 filter housing for 2.5" x 5" filters, and Hydronix SDC-25-0501 one micron filter cartridges. According to another DIYer, the Little Giant pump is strong enough to push through the fine mesh of a 1 micron filter.

The pump solution dgarretson describes above is what I'm doing. You can see some pictures and video at this link to the VPI thread discussing this, which contain links to the information in the very long-running thread on the diyAudio forum:
http://vpiindustries.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=2289&p=25954#p25922

The Little Giant 1-AA-OM pump has been discontinued but I was recently able to purchase a new old stock pump from this eBay seller who apparently has several:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Little-Giant-531001-1-AA-OM-Pump-/252508771367
Let me join in here with my experience of the Audio Desk.  I have had a machine for a little over 4 years and have cleaned more than 1500 lp's. It is a very complex machine which makes it simple/great for the user but it does mean there are lots of moving parts/mechanisms.  I did have a bump in the road a while back when the lp's stopped turning and sent it in to the US Distributor (Ultra Systems).  I was bit worried as the machine was out of warranty at that point, but they found and fixed the problem
 ( needed new o-rings) and had the machine back to me within 2 weeks with all new barrels and a new filter and could not have been nicer/more professional.  I am sure that eventually the machine will break - all mechanical machines do - and at that point, I will likely get another one as I can never go back to playing lip's that aren't pristinely cleaned.

@dgarretson 
@rushton 
Thanks, both. That thread on DIY is about 230 pages long now! I've been slowly working my way through it, and have been doing a little additional research and inquiry on the side. My interest is less about cost cutting and more about improving results: a set up that allows the higher frequencies, permits the use of some sort of surfactant, is robust, takes heat into account and can address filtration of contaminants in the bath between cycles. I  can do a reagent water rinse and dry on the Monks, rather than forced air. I'm not so concerned about stacking multiple records for one cleaning cycle. I'll take a look at the VPI board as well. 
regards,
bill hart
@whart
Bill, I’ve waded through the entire diyAudio thread (it is a monster!) and also another large thread on Audio Kharma about the chemistry of the various solutions we use for cleaning. Until some of the trolls at Audio Kharma ran him off in utter frustration, a chemist (guest110) who is also an audiophile and vinyl lover, was posting answers to all sorts of questions about differing solutions for cleaning vinyl.
http://audiokarma.org/forums/index.php?threads/record-cleaning-youre-doing-it-wrong.689430/

The bottom line I came away with is: Tertigol (a detergent and surfacant) or Triton X-100 is a good way to go. BUT in very diluted amounts - less is generally better. And rinsing with Reagent grade water, then vacuuming dry, is also an excellent practice.

I’ve concluded to pursue the following set up for my ultrasonic cleaning:

Trusonik 10L - a 40khz 10-liter ultrasonic tank that seems well built and has been used for several years in the Ultrasonic V-8 setup
VinylStack Sonic Spin, with four-LP 1" spacers (because I have the larger tank)
In-line water filter for in-between-batch filtering, using bbftx’s design
Tertigol S-15-3 and S-15-9 (50-50 combination) from TALAS

I’ll use my VPI HW-17 for the rinse and vac.

I’m certainly no expert in any of this. I’m heading down an experimental path myself. But, for what it may be worth, this is what I’ve decided to try after a lot of reading and discussions elsewhere.

Best wishes in your journey! Tell us what you decide to do.

Rushton
This is great. Let's stay in the loop on this. BTW, that DIY thread is 'only' 145 pages. Many thanks again, Rushton, and to DGarretson for raising the topic of DIY in this context. 
All this makes me glad I own a Loricraft PRC-4 - - - 10 years of ownership and no problems.
@rshak 
Absolutely agree with you! The Loricraft is superb. But I have over 6,000 LPs I need to clean and my 4-step cleaning process on my trusty VPI is just not allowing me to get as many cleaned as I need to accomplish. I've been listening without cleaning because otherwise I'd not be listening - not cleaning is not a good choice. LOL.
...but we digress...

Any other ADS RCM anecdotes on reliability from current or former owners?

Thanks!
I agree with Dgarretson et al: DIY is both better and cheaper. Like DG, I use the Elmasonic. I have cleaned most of my 3000 records, some of them three times, with no hint of trouble.

Let me save you from my mistakes.

First, make sure than your cleaning chemistry is hot, about 45 C.
Second, make sure that there is enough space between the records as well as between the records and the tank walls for the ultrasonic wave to develop. For 80 KHz, that means 0.75 inches, IF IF IF the records are perfectly parallel. Which they are not. Since records have been known to have warps, that means, in practice, a gap of 1 to 1.5 inches.
Third, I rinse heroically. I flush with running filtered water, immerse in filtered water, flush with twice-filtered water, and immerse in distilled water. Water from the final rinse flows off the record like water from a freshly waxed fender.
Fourth, I air dry without a fan, since my basement is not a clean room.
Fifth, new sleeves. This identifies cleaned records, as well as stops the spread of contaminants.

That’s what works for me. YMMD
Whart, about filtration.

The Elmasonic is well made from top to bottom, and that includes the drain valve. If I let the solution sit for a few hours, sediment settles to the bottom, I open the drain valve to a very thin stream, and leave it to drain overnight. Result: 90% of the crud at the bottom of the tank, ready to be washed away, and a virtually clean cleaning solution.

I would not be too worried about microscopic particles, because  ultrasonic cavitation should prevent their attachment to the record. That is, if you use a recommended detergent, so that grease goes into solution. Which is the best reason to use a detergent.

I like VersaClean from Fisher Scientific, which is said to be specially formulated for plastics; and since that is from a scientific supply company, where things have to work as advertised, I would tend to trust it. Further, my experience tends to confirm it.

Hot chemistry - should have mentioned that it can warp your records right smartly if something jams and the record stops turning. Conversely, a slightly warped record can straighten out after 10 minutes or so.

My suggestion:
Audio Desk Systeme clean.
Rinse with reagent grade water on VPI. 
Despite my problems with the earlier ADS machine, I think they have solved it and rinsing cannot hurt.
@terry9 : extremely helpful on several fronts.
I don't want to hijack @soulbrass 's topic about reliability of the ADS, so perhaps we can start another thread on the DIY approach. 

Soulbrass, at least from my experience with both the ADS and KL, the commercially branded "audiophile" solutions like the ADS and KL are both pretty well thought-out machines that are effective record cleaners; that Robert Stein who brings ADS into the States has been very good about supporting the ADS here;  that some of the customer problems of the ADS may have been due to the fact that the machine was a pretty innovative, early effort to address a " complete one step solution" for record cleaning, but with the rollers and computer functions to activate it, is more complex than a plain vanilla ultrasonic bath. (I gather that the "Pro" version embodies improvements, but haven't used it). But, to me,  part of the answer to your question about "what next"  is a digression into DIY, which isn't just about a cheaper alternative (though it can be) but a more effective one, for some of the reasons stated. You might consider exploring that path as well. 
whart - by no means am I discounting the DIY approach (and thanks to those who have shared their ideas)...

...but my original question was specific to the ADS RCM because I haven't yet decided if I should take advantage of the distributor's exchange/upgrade offer...a decision that would require essentially a "re-investment" in ADS.  The convenience of the ADS RCM is addicting but I am loath to begin a cycle of replacing a [not inexpensive!] RCM every 3 years.  Just trying to inform my decision.
Well, your existing unit is dead, and costly to repair, I gather, so if the price difference isn’t crazy to trade in on a brand new unit, assuming transferable warranty, you could always sell it, no? I don’t think enough time has passed to make any meaningful assessment of the longer term reliability of the new "Pro" unit. (I also don’t know if some of the industrial/medical type units are cheaper to repair with replacement parts reasonably priced and available for repair in the field, rather than sending back to the factory, a question that I have now added to my own list for due diligence on those).
Just in case anyone is interested, I use the Elmasonic P60H, and think it to be a highly cost-effective solution for cleaning two records at a time.

Furthermore, I defy anyone to get records as clean, without one. I tried cleaning 4 records at a time with 18 mm spacing. They cleaned up beautifully, no trace of soiling, etc.  But then, after cleaning 2000 records this way, I did the unfortunate test: two at a time. The result: grunge in the bottom of the tank after cleaning 12 records which had been previously cleaned 4 at a time in the same US machine. That's the objective evidence - subjective evidence is that they sounded far better.

I also did a few records (2 at a time) for the local high end store, and they were more than impressed on subjective sound. So, the jury is, as they say, in. Two at a time: 75 watts per record, 1.5 inch spacing.

I've had my ADS cleaner for almost three years. I don't doubt it'll fail at some point. I've done much more preventive maintenance than required by the manufacturer. Do you feel the pump failure was the fault of the parts/design or the lack of preventive maintenance? I think I've cleaned at least 2000 lps. (I always steam the lps first then an additional rinse on my VPI before I use the ADS.)
What is the "extra" maintenance that you've done?

To answer your question - both.

In brief, my thoughts are:

1) it stands to reason that a machine with electronic/software-driven sequences and so many moving parts will require maintenance over time,
2) some of those moving parts will fail and/or require replacement,
3) it's extremely irksome that the design of the original ADS RCM (and to a certain extent the Pro) does not have better quality parts and is not of a design that allows easy (by user or in-country distributor) maintenance or replacement of parts,
4) I'm frustrated by the need for a repair/replacement solution 3 years into a $4000 "premium class" purchase exacerbated by the appearance that these failures are not rare.

I signed up for a premium RCM whose marketing has proven more robust than the machine itself.

That said...when it works, it's an effective, convenient machine that has added enjoyment to my record collection.
There is only one way to avoid repair: Don't use it


As I'm reading the responses to my post, I'm cleaning one set of barrel rollers hoping I can outlast others. I will post when mine breaks, until then, I'm going to enjoy it.