A new cartridge on dirty records is not worth the investment. So you must have a record cleaning solution. Even a SpinClean or a DIY US device. Assuming that's in order, and your turntable, tonearm, and phono amp are up to the job, a cartridge will bring a significant improvement. However, a poor phono amp won't even allow your existing cartridge to shine. Neither will a poor support structure under the turntable. Or dirty power. See where were going here? It's all interdependent, and without more information on your system, you're not going to get the best value answer.
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Just figure out a budget, get the best cart/table and phonostage. Until you've invested at least $5K-10K+or so, a US cleaner isn't necessary, IMO. Buy good records to start, and you can postpone a US cleaner. I've done this for years, and get away with a $75 Spin Clean.
The proof is hearing the very same records and playing them on uber systems, and hearing them how they were meant to be-noise free, organic sounding and dynamic as no file or CD can match.
I only buy used LP's, so my saying buy "good" LPs to start is a challenge. That's another thread.
Just FYI - my current system is a Rega P6 w/ upgraded Groovetracer platter & sub-platter & a Hana SL cart paired with an EAT Petit Glo phono stage. It's all sounding pretty good but i've recently wondered if a new cart would take it to another level - then I thought about how clean my vinyl was...and so on. I have clean power with Audience Adept conditioner, so I should be good there.
If you were considering any of these changes, which one would make the most immediate improvement without narrowing it down to a specific phono stage or cartridge.
In this case you have narrowed the question down to where it cannot be answered. This is audio, not philosophy.
If you're going to clean records, the Walker Enzyme 4 Step is the best, period. But not as huge an improvement as a better phono stage, or cartridge. Unless.... it all depends on which ones and how much, see?
Most of the work in cleaning records is in getting them out, moving them around, and putting them back away again. The actual cleaning is only a part of the process. And yet most guys for some reason focus in on this one thing and feel it is worth spending thousands to have this one box that all it does is what you can do yourself with a brush for $3.
The thing about cleaning records, it is all about getting every last trace off. So you use a machine, the last thing it does is wipe the record with the same brush that has been used on a hundred records. In other words it smears the same crud around, only thinner, less of it. Unless you wash and rinse the vacuum tube between records, which no one ever does.
So if you are going to buy a machine you either pay twice what you're talking for one that does it right, or you do without, or you do like me and only use something like the VPI to suck off the final rinse. Because by then the records are all pristine, so the vacuum bristles stay pristine. No one does this, I doubt you will either. I just like to put things out there because I find people do pick up on these things.
Use this approach, buy the Walker Enzyme, maybe a cheap used VPI, and have money left over for something that will make a much greater difference, a good phono stage like the Decware ZP3. Recommending phono stages just got a whole lot easier because the best one under $10k the Herron at only $3k, they are all gone. Pretty sure. You might get Keith to sell you the last one. But it is probably gone. He was down to 2 last week. Anyway, the ZP3 is what you want. You can get it and all your cleaning goop easily under $3k. With maybe money left over for a nice high output Soundsmith cartridge. Now you are talking killer combo, all for only about $3k.
Sell the P6. Based on reviews, the P8 is a significant upgrade from the P6. Forget additional tweaking of the P6.
To be "all in" Rega camp, P8/10 with their Apheta/Aphelion cart. You can continue the madness after that by further upgrading phonostage. By then, you discover the rest of the system is not keeping pace, and wondering if you should jump ship and try another brand table/cart.
Record cleaning does not have to be that expensive, especially for ultra sonic. Buy a tank off ebay, and spend a bit more for one with separate power supplies for heaters and ultrasonic devices. The tank is essentially disposable, as you spend about $200 for one. Get a Vinyl Stack spinner with the 4 record option. That's about $350 or so. Now the question becomes how to dry the records. Many folks have good results with air drying, and when it comes out of the US that only takes about 15 minutes. Or you can buy something like a Record Doctor V or Nitty Gritty where the wet side of the record faces down and you can vacuum off the excess fluid and put it right in a sleeve. If you do the Record Doctor you are into the system about $800 to $900 for all new pieces. I found a used record Doctor V and paid $180 for whats basically a new looking machine. The results from this basic set up are excellent, I just did some Ella Fitzgerald from the 60's on Verve label and the results were better than what I got on a VPI 16.5 with Audio Intelligent chemicals.
I’ve been cleaning my records in the sink now since 2007. That’s when I quit using an US. Lots of really bad, piss poor advice! ^^^
Unless you have more $$/€€/££/¥¥ than brains. Many in here do.
Keep your P6. Upgrade your cartridge. That’ll get you the most from what you have. Then to match your cartridge (later), upgrade your phono preamp. Again, that’ll maximize your setup; you’ll be at the limits of your table. Then, upgrade your table.
See how this REALLY works?
Sorry to burst many bubbles, but you’ll hear an improvement upgrading your cart first, then preamp, then lastly your table. You have to push to find the limits of what you have; you start with your cartridge. The other components will then rise to the level you set with your cartridge.
Expertly cleaning records (pristinely clean!) needn’t require more than $20 of materials. In the last 10 years I’ve set up 8 record reseller businesses on how to expertly and cheaply/quickly clean records. They’re all still in business and doing well. If you’re spending more than 5 minutes per record to clean and dry them, to absolute cleanliness, you’re doing it wrong.
I have a clearaudio performance DC with tracer tonearm along with the Hana ML1200. I had a musical surroundings Nova III and upgraded to a Rogers. How many hours do you have on the cartridge? I'd say get your hours out of it and then take the 500 trade in towards an upgrade that musical surroundings gives you. In the meantime upgrade your table or phono stage. Buy a 500 cleaner like a project.
A cheap ultra sonic solution as suggested by @neonnight coupled with a Project VC-S2 ALU to vaccum the record dry from a distilled water rinse. The Project is $699.
I like to use Tergikleen. 10-20 drops per gallon of distilled water. Then a distilled rinse.
Tergikleen is what the Smithsonian uses to clean and preserve its vinyl records, from what I’ve read.
You’re all in for around $1200.
Listen to some nice clean records to help you decide if a cartridge or a phonostage is your next right move.
The Library oh Congress, the BBC, many dealers and others use the Keith Monks RCM. Dealers use them as a service for clients and some charge. It is a vacuum system that uses a German medical grade vacuum pump attached to a tone arm like arm with a nozzle at the end. Their fluid is also special. Their model without the fluid pump allows one to just apply the fluid with a squeeze bottle. It cost much less. You apply the fluid and then spin the record while holding a brush down. The the arm placed on the label moves like a tone arm in reverse over the record vacuuming up every bit of fluid and dirt. It does this unlike other vacuum VPI types and ultra sonics.
Upgrading to the P8 is a good idea. It is very much like the P10 for a lot less. And improve you phono stage, then think about a RCM.
Clean records are a must. I have been using a Nitty Gritty for many years and it did a fine job of cleaning the record, visually. I have focused on my turntable, phono cartridge, and phono stage first and have made significant sonic improvements every step of the way. Then, I upgraded my record cleaning system to a Degritter. I still use the Nitty Gritty for used records and once cleaned by that vacuum RCM the record goes to the Degritter. The results with all of my records (current collection or used purchases) after US cleaning in the Degritter is that I am a little closer to the music. For example, the music is more detailed in a manner that I am hearing a sizzle cymbal trailing off for a longer period than I had heard it in the past (same record, very familiar with it). Vocals (again, same records that I am familiar with), if recorded well, I will often hear lips smacking or vocal chords vibrating that I had never before heard. Many other examples, but that should give you a good idea. These finer details in the recording, however, will not be revealed by US cleaning if the turntable, cartridge, and phono stage are not up to the task in the first place.
So, as I did, I can recommend that you first focus on upgrading the analog front-end, and then upgrade to a US cleaner. Until then, be sure to keep your records clean. The Record Doctor is a very good entry level vacuum record cleaner, low cost, it does a great job, and it's made by Nitty Gritty for them (a quality product). I can wholeheartedly say that the Degritter is an excellent choice, providing it is within your budget. It is engineered from the ground up to clean vinyl records. It is not an off-the-shelf US tank made for cleaning jewelry or other items. It does the job better for vinyl than any of its peers, but it's also a lot more expensive.
I hope this helps you make a decision(s).
Clean the records! Be sure your cartridge is aligned properly in the arm and that the bearings are super free. Check the anti-skate so that the cantilever stays centered when the record is playing. I had a friend whose alignment was so bad he thought particular record was a trio, but once we got the cart in alignment, he discovered it was an orchestra!
It really bothers me when these Rega TT get upgraded so much beyond upgrading the carts. You have a really good setup. I wish you would have sold and traded up to the P8 and the Apheta3 cart. You would be done for a long time. You have a really versatile phono stage due to it can dial in almost any cart on the fly. I agree with MC 100% on the cleaning. You don’t wash your car and then dry it with a towel laying on the ground in the dirt. Buy the Ania pro “not the Ania” if you will keep the P6 for a while or even better the Apheta3 cart if you will go to the P8/P10 in the future. Keep a lookout for the Herron phono stage. Bottom line buy the Apheta3 cart first then work on the rest.
I forgot to support my local Hifi store in the Chicagoland area. https://holmaudio.com/They carry Rega, EAT, and Kirmus US cleaners. They also take trade ins.
I have personally demoed all of this. I am still trying to decide between VPI and Rega.
I get a chuckle from people who insult the intelligence of anyone who spends money differently that they do. Pretty comical, really.
If you are serious at all about vinyl, you really do need a cleaning system. An inexpensive vac cleaner is well worth the outlay. That's where I would start. Your current vinyl rig will thank you.
That said, and since you asked about it, I'll comment on the Degritter. I used a Nitty Gritty vac for a few years and then a lower-end Clearaudio Matrix vacuum for another decade. Both did the job well but they were a hassle to use, so I ended up cleaning LPs a lot less often than I should have. Two months ago I broke down and bought a Degritter. I think it is a fantastic piece of gear. I've already cleaned more records than in the previous 5 years combined. I keep it in a walk-in closet so I don't hear it, slip in an LP and go listen to some music. In under 10 minutes, voila, the LP is clean and dry. And every record sounds great--better than all my careful scrubbing and vacuuming ever produced. Expensive? You bet, but worth every penny to me. YMMV, but I would not think you idiotic if it does.
@wrm57 ....exactly.... i can borrow the degritter for a few days from my local audio crack dealer because i have a relationship with him, he is a great dude. There are of course brush and wiper cleaning steps that can be easy to implement with Nitty Gritty and other vac machines. i use an aerospace grade disposable cloth wiper system w adhesive to attach to the Nitty Gritty manifold.
Had a nice conversation with Lloyd Walker just now, his system on order and i have a spare NG to implement that on. Will see how it does.....
The DeGritter is definitely the way to go. I just upgraded my entire vinyl front end. This was my order: Turntable, phono stage, arm, degritter, cartridge. (JR TRansrotor Rodino, Allnic H-3000, SME 5009, Airtight PC-1 Supreme - totally mind blowing upgrade from my VPI TNT jr, Rhea, Clearaudio Strad II and SME 309. I haven't played digital since I upgraded.