The main benefit of a Nitty Gritty, VPI, SOTA or similar device is speed: I can clean an LP on my Nitty Gritty 2.5 in about 40 seconds. I do use Disc Doctor in really stubborn cases, and it works quite well - (although I still use the NG to vac-off the rinse water). The Disc Doctor method is, however, quite a bit more time-consuming - takes me at least 5-6 minutes per LP - - once I get into it.
If you have a lot of LPs - or are planning to purchase a lot - A Nitty Gritty or VPI machine is a very worthwhile investment.
Well you can argue all day about what method of cleaning is the most effective, but I personally bought a VPI 16.5, which is a semi-automaic machine. It's effective, simple, and solidly built with quality materials.
I like the "semi-automatic" because the manual scrubbing allows me to give just the right amount of attention to each vinyl, then it's just a flip of a switch and everything gets sucked up, and I have a very clean record. It's intuitive and not at all awkward to use.
I also personally feel the VPI is more attractive than the Nitty Gritty machines, appearance-wise. It's not a big deal, and I bought it mainly because I preferred the feel of it, but it's nice that it can blend into my room pretty easily. No complaints about its performance; the only thing that I would change about any of these machines is the noise of the vacuum.
I use the VPI as necessary, and I have Decca and Hunt brushes that I use for light dust each time I play a vinyl.
A machine does a much better job than hand cleaning. It actually sucks the suspended dirt off the vinyl. Nothing else works as well. Some discs play better than new afterwards ; they came from the plant with gunk in the grooves and we never knew...
You can get away with a cheaper machine if you do more hand work. A manual rather than motor-driven turntable costs less but you turn the platter. More expensive machines clean both sides at once. All of them can do a good job.
There are do-it-yourself designs around. Check at Audio Asylum or the back issues at UHF magazine ( www.uhfmag.com--UHF also sells a quality cleaning solution at a good price ). You need a platter to turn the disc as you apply fluid and scrub, and a wet vacuum with a nozzle that won't damage the disc as it sucks from the vinyl surface.
One tricky point is keeping the vacuum nozzle clean, so as to avoid putting the gunk right back where it came from.
Thanks for the input. I play mostly vinyl, maybe 80/20 vinyl. I really have about 300 albums and they all need cleaning. I currently just brush them with Record Research fluid. So I guess I should buy a machine. I don't mind all of the manual labor part. Actually I kind of enjoy it. Would the basic machine from Audio Advisor be ok?
Besides the convenience of being less labor intensive, the more expensive machines do a better job because they have more powerful suction. I had the entry level AA machine and it never got all of the fluid off the record no matter how long I spun it around. The VPI I have now gets it off in a couple of revolutions.
You CAN, and I have, cleaned with out a vacuum machine. I've come to the conclusion, though, that they are essential for doing the BEST job. My investment in a VPI 16.5 is probably the best money I've ever spent in audio.
You are right on target with Record Research fluids. They ARE the best, IMHO. And, a little #9 for the stylus is a good idea, too.
To answer your question, the Record Doctor unit is just fine and, as these things go, a real bargain. Go for it!
I think that making your own record cleaning machine is one of the most cost effective DIY tweaks you can do if you're a vinyl lover. A basic record cleaning machine is just a vacume. Application and spreading of fluid can be done just as effectively by hand. I was amazed at how effective my home-made record vac is for cleaning. Search the archives for "record cleaning" on this site and also audio asylum and the internet and you will find several descriptions of DIY record vacs that will cost next to nothing and clean with the best of the commercial models
I tried lots of methods for cleaning LPs before I bought a SOTA LPC. The other methods worked okay, but the LPC is much better and easier to use.
The only other thing a true audiophile could want is a racoon!
If you don't mind the extra elbow grease and a bit more noise and you're handy, definitely build your own vaccum cleaner.
Now that we have central vaccum I cannibalized my wife's old Hoover upright. Then I used some scrap cabinet plywood and mounted the motor and hose outlet to a platform that is roughly 12" x 16". From there it was easy to build the sides and completely enclose everything. I used my bandsaw to spin some circles out of MDF for the platter and a label cover that is used to spin the record. A trip to Home Depot to get the lazy susan bearing and a dowel for the spindel. Then I modified one of the hose attachements with a slit down the length and lined both sides with velvet. The whole thing cost me about $40.
I do use a VPI replacement brush for a 16.5 cleaner to scrub with, Record Research cleaners and the little disposable VPI brushes as applicators.
I can't say that this works as good as a commercial cleaner but it has made a big improvement in my analog enjoyment.
Question: Are any of these machines practical or versatile anough so as to clean one record at a time or do they make sens, economiquelly or otherwise, only when a series of record need to be clean at one time ?
Phoutin - I generally clean only one LP at a time on the Nitty Gritty. The whole process takes less than a minute, which is the beauty of these machines. Sometimes I clean several LPs at a time, but the machine tends to heat up a bit if used for more than a few LPs per cleaning session.
Rshak- Agreed and neat, yet does'nt the machine required some kind of assistance once your done with it ? I know my juicer can deliver a carrot juice in less than a minute, yet the thing's gona be in a sorry state the next time if I dont devote some time cleaning it afterward, each time that its being used.
I have tried 'em all save the Keith Monks and the other super-high-cost cleaning machines. Without a doubt, the best method is the Disc Doctor System, and I say this not out of user pride, and nor do I enjoy cleaning records this way. But if you really want a clean record, this is the best way save the tooth brush method, which is far more than I am willing to deal with to clean a record. I'd go back to CD before that.
The other day I asked my friend to bring over a recent copy of a record he had purchased specifically to use as a demo disc for various systems. It was used, but upon close inspection, it looked pristine. Nevertheless, as we all know, looks can be deceiving: Rice Krispies.
He had cleaned it thoroughly with a very powerful homemade vac and his own solution, several times over. He is an engineer, and a fastidious one at that, and his DIY cleaner is far more powerful then is the thing NG sells (and which I bought). Anyway, I also gave this LP a crack on my own RCM (Nitty Gritty), just in case the fluid was somehow at fault: Rice Krispies.
That was weeks ago. Fast Forward to earlier this week:
I showed him the simple DDr. method, and in 120 seconds his record was getting a final rinse on my Nitty Gritty. His jaw dropped when we heard the results. Sure there was some noise on the record, but nowhere near its previous state, and now he has an LP that is at least worth what he paid for it, in that it can be enjoyed, and is in excellent condition and near mint on many grooves. In any event, its conditon was transformed from a blight to a light.
Another nice thing about the DD is that once done you only need to store it. A second cleaning is rarely necessary, and usually redundant so long as you use an anti-static brush before and after playing.
The only other solution that comes close is the Record Research Labs, but having used those and all the rest, the Disc Doctor is the best. It is FAR less cumbersome than the directions might lead you to believe, mostly becuase the brushes really take to the grooves. You feel as if your work is going to be worthwhile.
It is so good that any records previously cleaned with anything else get a DD treatment before they are played on my better cartridges.
As an aside, I run a Shure V15VxMR as a budget cartridge and will often not bother cleaning some of my non DD cleaned records, preferring to deal with the few blemishes here and there in the interest of saving time.
But, for ALL critical listenening, the better arm/cart/table is fired up and even new LP's get DD'd. This is the only "absolute truth" in vinyl, at least until somebody can invent and market a RCM that does the DD one better, I state it without equivocation. Wish it weren't so, BTW, b/c I HATE to clean records!
Phoutin - the Nitty Gritty machine requires very little maintenance. Mine has an automatic fluid dispenser, but I don't use it. I keep a plastic, six ounce container next to the machine and just squirt a little bit of cleaning fluid on the cleaning pads. Then I put the LP on the machine, turn on the machine, which slowly rotates the record's surface over the wet pads. After a couple of revolutions, I switch on the vacuum, and as the LP continues to turn, the fluid and dirt are sucked away. Flip over the LP and repeat the process.
The fluid is caught is a shallow tray, which I empty every week or so. Other than emptying the tray (which takes about 30 seconds) and periodically replacing the pads (once every month or two) and the rubber capstan (once a year or so), there is no maintenance.
Thanks Rshak- very desirable indeed. Changing pads every month or two... I wonder how many records does that come up to ? and what would the replacing pads and rubber capstan cost ?
Phoutin - over the past few months on average I've been cleaning about 10 LPs per week. I last changed the vac-sweep pad about two months ago, and it's time again. So - - figure a pad lasts 75 cleanings or thereabouts.
The pads come in packs of four (4) for about $15. The rubber capstans also come in packs of four (4) and (as I recall) cost about $20 per pack.