The most economical vacuum system is the Disc Doctor sold by Audio Advisor, which is made by Nitty Gritty for Audio Advisor. It requires manual turning of the record. Price for a new one at www.audioadvisor.com is about $199. Used ones on Audiogon sold anywhere from $99 to $125 depending on the condition.
I purchased an older version of a Nitty Gritty vacuum cleaner and I am very pleased with the results.
I would try the discdoctor fluid and brushes or use it with a nittygritty or vpi. it does a great job with reducing static buildup as well as getting the surface and groove grime off of the records.
I am not sure how much you plan to spend, though you say "without spending hundreds of dollars". If that means no more than a hundred, and you want to get a vacuum cleaner (and IMHO you should) you are limited to the ones mentioned or a DIY project.
If you can go a bit more, I can tell you from experience that spending another $200 on a VPI 16.5 (as opposed to $200 for the Nitty Gritty) is money MORE than well spent. The 16.5 can be found used in the neighborhood of $325-$350 if you shop around, and I consider that a bargain. Mine is the best investment I've made in analog.
Of course, you can go all the way to spending a grand on a VPI 17 (or more on other machines) which is fully automatic, and can do more LP's at one sitting, but I find the 16.5 more than sufficient. I can do about 7 LP's per sitting. Couple the 16.5 with Record Research Labs fluids and you will have a permanent answer to your record cleaning needs. I cannot speak to the longevity of the Nitty Gritty machines, but the VPI 16.5 is tank-like and will likely survive after I am gone. I paid $350 for mine used and I've cleaned about 2,000 records - or about 18 cents per record (and decreasing!).
For a buck no quiestion, VPI.
You can also shop at kabusa.com to find the record cleaner adapter to your home vacume cleaner as well that can save you some but not as much as you can buy used VPI 16.5.
I have used both Nitty Gritty and the VPI 16.5 I agree 100% with 4yanx. It does not get much better then a 16.5
Built for a life time.
I use to sell both Nitty Gritty and VPI and was happy with both. A clean LP is much better. If you have a sizeable collection , or intend to have one , it is worth the investment. Stan
Another vote for the VPI 16.5, it's worth the investment. Also Record Research is the best fluid I've used, the Super Deep Cleaner is amazing.
Audio Advisor sells the Record Doctor, not the Disc Doctor, which is a whole other thing. Just picked up a used Record Doctor here in Agon. I'll be happy if it lasts half as long as the Nitty Gritty I that I bought in l984!
Ditto on the 16.5 machine, record research super deep cleaner and vinyl wash. Takes approx. a minute to clean both sides.
Ditto on the Record Research products.
I did the DIY route and have about $50 bucks in my vaccum record cleaner. The only complaint I have with the DIY is that the motors can be alot noisier than what you will find on the VPI and other RCMs. Mine works great otherwise. Also, I use a VPI brush with my DIY RCM.
Another Record Research fan, great products.
For vacuuming on the cheap, go to to Walmart and buy the little 1HP Shop Vac for $25. Pick up some self-stick felt too. Cut pieces to cover the bottom edges of the main attachment that comes with the Shop Vac, the one that's about 2" x 6". (Other people modify the crevice tool, but the main attachment works fine for me. YMMV.)
Apply your RRL solutions manually. I use the Last brushes recommended by 4yanx, a separate brush for each solution. Vacuum off after each application. Using a GroovMaster keeps the labels dry and gives you something to hold onto and spint the record with.
Vacuum your applicator brushes and the felt on the vacuum attachment frequently, especially after any notably dirty side. Store the brushes and attachments in seperate ziplock bags to keep them clean.
This is probably slower than using a machine, but I think it works just as well.
Thanks, Dopogue, for correcting my error on the Record Doctor.
VPI 16.5 is reliable and does a great job. It gets my vote. Also, the unit's enclosure is easy to laminate with a wood or synthetic veneer if its stock black appearance doesn't appeal to you. Best Regards,
Yet another Record Research Labs fan. No sonic signature, no residue left behind that takes multiple rinse cycles, nothing that disolves the plasticizers in the vinyl compound, and it's completely safe to use on 78's too. I've poured my bottle of Disc Doctor down the drain. What am I going to do, give it to a friend?