VPI. Best investment I've ever made. I bought mine way back in 1980 and it is still running strong and I have never had a problem with it.
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A while back I did an experiment with the help of a friend. I have a VPI 16.5 and he has a PRC3 Loricraft. I first cleaned a group of records on my VPI and then hauled my cleaning supplies with the records to his place. We first listened to the records on his system and then re-cleaned on the Loricraft. There was a consistent improvement in sound after the Loricraft cleaning. To verify that it wasnt multiple cleanings that was responsible for the improvements we heard, I returned home, listened to the 1st disc and then re-cleaned on the VPI. The sound went backwards. I stopped at that point. I think the root of the problem with the VPI it leaves a residue of fluid in the groove that you can hear. The conclusion is while the VPI is cheaper, the Loricraft will do a better job of cleaning. You have to descide which is more important to you.
yes the Loricraft is quite a step up, no question about it.
I have the same PRC3 machine and can only ask you, are your records worth it?
First used Disc Doctor and now use Walker, both are very good in my opinion, have not used any others so cannot fairly give a view on them.
There will always be better as well as worse, what works for you ultimately is what;s important.
I'm sorry but I'm a bit skeptical, to say the least, about your experiment. The actual cleaning is done by hand, not the 16.5. Considering how strong the vacuum is on the VPI machine, I seriously doubt it leaves residue that would progressively degrade the sound of the records cleaned with it. Perhaps you need to perfect your cleaning technique or use different brushes. I also seriously question paying well over $2000 for a cleaning machine for an individual use unless you're very rich. I've used the VPI machine and it's a fantastic performer for the price.
Actusreus,you are free to be skeptical. Run the test your self and make your own conclusions. I ran the test because I wanted to know for myself first hand. Now I do to my statisfaction and I have passed on what I've learned. IMO, it's equivelent to a component upgrade.
Is 2k alot for a RCM? Depends on how much time and money you have sunk into building your collection. Just starting out, probably not. For those with a large collection, it's worth it.
Would I like a $2500 RCM better than a $600 RCM? I certainly would and should. I know I would also like a $300 stylus gauge that tells me the VTF to five decimal points better than a $70 one that only tells me only three decimal points (God forbid I used the Shure!). However, just as I don't think you need to get the VTF correct to the fifth decimal point to get fantastic sound out of your vinyl I also don't believe a $2500 RCM is necessary to get a record clean enough to have a superb sound as opposed to a $600 RCM. In fact, a lot of vinyl lovers don't even own a RCM and it doesn't stop them from enjoying their collections.
I think it's doing the OP a disservice to be putting down a $650 RCM (pricier than some of the decent tt/cart combos for beginners available on the market) when he's been cleaning his record without a vacuum pump at all.
I have no doubt your RCM is great.
Not to start a whole new debate thread here of which is better, but maybe some suggestions might be in order?
I own-use the 16.5, but never the Loricraft (yet). I've heard a bit of pro, and con about the Loricraft. I do understand it is a bit more complex machine that can have it's issues, and perhaps much of the con about it, was largely due to a lack of proper user set-up-maintainence.
I know that in the past, Doug Deacon who seems to know quite well, the ins, and outs of the Loricraft has offered much help, and tips to others about extracting its best performance.
I believe the same can be said about the VPI Machines as well, that one needs to examine, and insure the Vacuum Wand is properly adjusted for height set-up. It is adjustable, via Collar on the Vacuum Tower. There is also a bit of adjustment as to the angle of the Vacuum Slot in relation to the record.
I seen a recent thread on vinylengine which some claim the slot needs to be exactly perpendicular to the record's surface. I don't believe this is correct, that the Slot does need to be ever so slightly tilted to enhance efficient fluid pickup.
If this is uncertain to some as to which is true, it's nothing more than a simple email off to VPI to get the straight dope from the horse's mouth.
While it is probably true that the amount of physical contact that the wand creates upon a record could be detrimental versus a string feed type machine, I believe those detrimantal effects can be lessened with some fine tuning.
This characteristic of a change in sonics could also possibly be enhanced by dragging a Wand with flithy protective strips from a perviously cleaned record across the following record. Another claimed dislike, is the possibility of cross contamination of fluids, and/or rinses.
These issues I feel can be lessened with regular periodic cleaning of the wand, and as well, the use of at least another spare Vacuum Wand Assembly. The cost for at least one more additional Wand to dedicate for the final rinse is not that bad, I believe around $70.
I have heard of one person going to the greater length of having a dedicated Vacuum Wand for each step of a multi-step cleaning process.
In any case, virtually all will tell you the great importance of a final rinse step. I myself personally would not believe any cleaning product manufacturer's claims that thier cleaners come completely off a record, without leaving any traces of residues. Mark
I guess I'll throw my two cents in. I recently picked up an old used and abused VPI 17 rcm, the vacuum was weak, the wood rotted from leaks, etc. but all mechanical parts were functioning.
I was very suprised at the poor build quality and design of this old 17 especially for the price that was paid for it new. I hope many of the design issues have been addressed in the newer models. Examples are vacuum and fluid reservoir tanks had no tops to them and allowed liquid to be exposed to bare partical board, vacuum seal was cheap foam and was leaking badly. I was a bit disappointed, but with a bit of effort and some time I was able to remedy all of these issues and turn my old 17 into a great rcm.
It really works nicely to clean records, the fluid dispensing system is nice but I would say is not required, plus if you want to do an additional rinse with different fluid (ie distilled water) there is no easy way to do that other than with a spray bottle so all in all if I were to buy new I would go with a 16.5 over the 17 for the price difference. But I would also do further investigation on the build of the machine. Hope this helps.
Some ideas about RCM..Had a 16.5 and someday I got a Monks. I was very impressed from that one.
Some additional info (generally)
The most famous and (and the most expensive by far ) was the Point nozzle from Keith Monks (Monks RCM..some sizes...some modifications).
He made a superior Design 30 years ago and it is still unsurpassed (from the idea and the way it works).
That one was the only one which was used in Studios, Record libraries and Radio stations all over the world. Reason was (or is):
-superior cleaning Result
-very, very silent compared to others
-it is a workhorse, nothing gets hot or breaks
-the cleaning result is exceptionally good from the №1 record in the morning to № 400 in the evening
(Problem: the Price, is was very hard to sell with the Mark Ups which are used in High end ---> Copies started)
Monks got older, his RCM was still expensive and the first copies were made.
Loricraft is based on the Monks System (Point nozzle), it is a good machine based on a competitive pricing.
Source Odyssey is made from the former Monks Importer in Germany (Keith Monks passed away some years ago), same System but with the "Made In Germany" Parts Standard and Function. The overkill :-)
Monks jun. is back in Production and the Keith Monks from GB is available again.
Then you have those RCM's from VPI, Hannl, Clearaudio etc.
They clean in a different way, they are very fast, but the noise is something special and the cleaning result can't reach a Point nozzle (simple Physics)
Fastxr, What you are saying, about poor build quality of a VPI Model 17, is virtually akin to saying you bought a 1978 Chevy Camaro, and the engine knocked, leaked oil, had bald tires, and was in a poor state of repair.
This model 17 you acquired is most likely many years old, may have seen a number of different owners, cleaned 70,000+ records, and was a unit that went through much use, much misuse-neglect.
I'm not sure, but what you say about an open top to both resovoirs on the 17 having open tops to them, is still possibly true today, that the resovoirs are buttoned up to a bare sheets of MDF, thus exposed to the ravages of moisture, and time.
These can be addressed by an end user, but perhaps many would agree for the price that is paid, they shouldn't have to be.
Rubber Foam Gaskets, which are commonly used to seal Vacuum Motor to Resovoir tank will dry, rot, shrivel, and go bad over time. Nothing, especially parts like this last forever. It would be like saying "my oilpan gasket should've lasted forever on my $60,000 Mercedes", but eventually all things can wear out.
I've done a number of mods to my own VPI 16.5 RCM to enhance its performance, and increase its longevity for long term, heavy duty use.
They are not that hard to work on, and inspect, repair, and modify. I'll agree that MDF is not the ideal material to ever be used in the vicinity of fluids, so with that said, one should take measures to insure swelling, and water damage will not occur, or can be minimized. It is as simple as a small can of Polyurethane Varnish, and a Caulk Tube of RTV Silicone Caulk.
The 16.5 RCM has been kept cheap for more than one reason. One reason is of course to keep profits up by the company, and the others are to produce a machine that can be affordable to the masses. Should VPI themselves address every single possible issue that could ever occur to this RCM, you can best believe the price tag will rise significantly. That many of the needed modifications, and improvements can be implemented by the end user for a much lower cost.
Those issues are, needed additional cooling (fan in many instances), replacement of a poor material choice of a Cork Mat, the sealing of exposed MDF Surfaces within the machine. Nothing a weekend project, and roughly around $50 in costs to alleviate-rectify. Mark
I had a long explanation typed out, hit submit and my computer crashed, arrgghhhhh.
Anyway I am not typing it all out again. So heres the short version.
- I was merely trying to let the OP know that if he was possibly thinkin about looking for a used machine, that he be very careful and what ever he gets may need some maintenance to get it to optimum operating condition.
- I knew what I was getting into when I bought this machine, however I was a bit suprised by what I found cause the problems it had.
- I'm not bashing VPI, I just think that on MY machine they could have done a much better job for little extra cost.
- With repairs and some upgrades (similar to what you mention above) the VPI 17 works fantastic, mechanicals (motor, vacuum, pump) are actually very well built.
- Yes the tanks (simple stainless sheet boxes with flanges) were open to the particle board (not mdf on mine anyway)
- Vacuum seal was more of a cheap soft foam seal (think cheap weather stripping foam that comes with budget window a/c units)
- I'm more of a 69 Camaro guy than a '78 but to each their own. :)
- For what it costs to get the oil changed on a Mercedes at the dealer, I wouldnt be surprised if they changed the oil pan gasket each time :):)
OP, good luck in your search for an RCM, when functioning properly I think all of the ones on the market work well (or they wouldnt still be making them), just do your homework when buying and know what youre getting and you'll happily be cleaning records for many years.
I do agree, that just a few improvements could have been implemented. Although the costs of materials needed is not high, I reckon in a manufacturing process, time is money.
Let's say, that a company like VPI took a Polyurethane Sealant, or even something like that spray on bedliner material, and coated the entire interior of something like the 16.5 machine.
Probably not that much money per unit in materials, maybe what, $10-$15 at most, but the labor, and time to do such costs.
I also agree, that many folks who buy these machines aren't shadetree mechanics, (like I consider myeslf as being.) They want a plug, and play piece of equipment without these sort of unforseen issues. And I do believe that many owners have gotten the unpleasant surprise-discovery, often when it's too late, when they see fluids exiting the bottom of the machine, and find considerable internal damage due to leakage.
Or a prematurely burned out vacuum motor, due to not following some basic common sense precautions with such a machine. All of the Ametek-Lamb Vacuum Motors used in all current VPI machines are not waterproof. These motors are commonly used in commercial vacuums, and other vacuum systems, and those systems commonly use a internal baffled recovery tank.
The VPI Machines do as well, but tip the unit on its side, while fluids are in the recovery tank, and you'll introduce those fluids directly into the Vacuum Motor. That mistake can ruin, and even possibly electrically short the motor. VPI will possibly void a new warrantee if they find such evidence of misuse.
On occasion, like any other manufacturer, there is margin for manufacturing errors, and VPI has continually prooven in the past to be a company who stands behind what they sell.
Three years ago, when I was in the market for an RCM, I researched every machine within my monetary means, weighing pros-cons, features, or lack of. I did spend many weeks, if not months, and concluded the VPI 16.5 was the best personal choice for myself. I didn't desire a highly elaborate machine, with dispensing tanks, or as sophisticated, and costly a machine as say the Clearaudio Double Matrix.
I knew beforhand, that I would most likely be using multiple step cleaning processes, and thus, those added features would be in essence useless to me. I liked the fact, that the VPI 16.5 was simple, and relatively inexpensive, that in the event of a Vac, or Platter Motor Failure well out of warrantee, I could personally replace-repair those parts with not too much cost, or work.
As I close, I of course haven't forgotten the original poster, and that I hope some of my comments will help that person make the best logical choices for themselves. :-)
I went from a home-made machine to the Loricraft. The home-made machine did a decent job but the Loricraft was probably a 50% improvement in cleaning quality and a 1000% improvement in noise/convenience. Not cheap but my used LP collection is probably $50K or more so it's a drop in the bucket. The Clearaudio looks to be a similar machine for less. In any case, I cannot imagine owning LP's without some reasonable RCM soluton.