Record Cleaner Advice?


The recent refurbishment of my analog front end has me thinking it would be wise to get myself a new-fangled record cleaner.  My old Nitty-Gritty still works, but I'm sure you all have much to tell me about newer, better options.  Advice please!

Not that it matters much, but my front end: SOTA Star Sapphire with new bearing, SME V overhauled by Alfred Kayser in Canada (dismantled, cleaned, new ceramic bearings and shotgun Cardas gold litz cables from cartridge to preamp) and new Audio-Technica ART9XA.  I need clean vinyl!
keegiam
For what it’s worth I too have a Sapphire , a Nitty and just plugged in an AT ML.
Today I ordered a rolling record cleaner for in between, if I decide to pop for ultrasonic.
I don’t think I will ever put $1500 into a cart though. You should be ultrsonicing that plastic before you ever drop the needle.
Too many questions/concerns regarding ultrasonic cleaners. I've read pros and cons and talked to dealers. I'm saving for the new Monks Prodigy cleaner. About $1000. 
I use a Monks-- the traditional model than relies on a thread to act as a buffer between the point nozzle and the record surface. (It is one of the newer models that was introduced after Keith’s son rebooted the company and is called the "Omni"). I also use ultrasonic. The combination of cleaning methods is synergistic in my estimation.
I have not had any "hands-on" with the newer, less expensive Monks design that dispenses with the thread altogether.
Frankly, most of the results obtained from vacuum type RCMs are based on method rather than the machine itself (although I prefer the point nozzle type to the wand type vacuum cleaner for several reasons).
I can get very good results using an old VPI with a good cleaning fluid, rinse, and using separate applicators and vacuum wands for the cleaning and rinse steps. I’ve done back to back comparisons using the old VPI (which is still sold) against the Monks, and for most purposes, I suspect the VPI would be fine at a fraction of the cost of the Monks Omni.
As to questions and concerns regarding ultrasonic, I suppose you must be the judge of that for your own record collection-- I have cleaned thousands of records in my own collection using ultrasonic in combination with vacuum and have experienced no instances of damage, deterioration of sound quality or any of the other potential hazards raised about the risk of ultrasonic cleaning. I’ve owned the Audio Desk and the KL and when the KL dies, will go DIY (with a caveat noted below).
At the end of the day, your objective is to get the record clean and leave no residue of cleaning fluid or other contaminants. This is another reason why method is more important to me than the particular machinery involved. There is merit in DIY ultrasonic, which doesn’t require enormous skill; many go this route for cost-effectiveness. To me, the DIY route would be an avenue for additional features and functionality not found on the commercial made for LP US machines currently on the market and likely cost more than the commercial LP cleaning machines. Obviously, the first commandment applies here: do no harm.
Sounds right. A $1500 cartridge deserves a +$2500 record washer. Or two.
I have a LOT of dirty vinyl, my old ones and many that people gave me when they quit vinyl, as well as garage sales, ...

Cleaning is more important if using an advanced stylus shape which goes deeper in the groove and makes more side wall contact.

I simply scrub them myself in batches of 10 with kit I bought. Brush made for baby scalp, got on amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005EJ7YH4/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

See cleaning setup in this listing of an LP I sold on eBay. I listen to music while scrubbing away.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/133612076659

I would be very disappointed if a machine didn’t get them as clean and noise free as I do manually.


Here is how to clean seriously dirty records.  This is better than any ultrasonic cleaning machine according to all who have tried it.  For routine cleaning I have used a VPI HW-17 for years, but recently started using Tergitol in accordance with the instructions in this same paper and it definitely works better than other cleaning formulas I have tried in the VPI.
Vinyl Record Manual Cleaning Process - PAC-Vinyl-Records_2020-05-19.pdf
@billstevenson -that paper, written by Neil Antin, seems almost overwhelming at first but Neil does an excellent job of methodically explaining not only what he is doing, but why. Neil was responsible for the cleaning protocols of oxygen systems on submarines as part of NAVSEA and dealt with life-critical systems. He knows the chemistry, and has methods to evaluate effectiveness, including whether any residue of cleaning agent remains (which is regarded as a contaminant). 
I think Neil is registered to Audiogon, so can be reached to answer questions. Disclaimer: I published the paper (which was an honor to do so).
Bill Hart
Ultrasonic cleaning is the best. There is now unit that is very inexpensive that also dries the record. Sorry I can remember the brand. If your records are very dirty you might want to use a Spin Clean first with distilled water and a surfactant prior to ultrasonic cleaning again using distilled water.
@billstevenson & @whart,

Hey guys thanks for the compliments.  Bill Hart, Bill Stevenson and I have conversated over at the VPI forum.  I am working on the "Second Edition" to the paper, and so far have added 25 pages of new info - its about the lessons learned and further; deeper research into some areas to better understand the why. 

For my own cleaning - for mixing chemicals I now just use disposable pipettes - they are cheap and easy to use  moveland 5ML Transfer Graduated Pipettes Plastic Essential Oils Dropper - 100 PCS: Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific.  For those that do not use a vacuum-RCM (or blow dry), like a Spin Clean or full manual, this cleanroom sponge sucks up water like crazy, leaves no residue, and is cheap  -  PVA Clean Room Sponges, Wipes, and Mops (super-cool-products.com).  I use the sponge to remove DIW only, squeeze out if necessary and store damp/wet - if it dries it will dry hard as cardboard - but will rehydrate.  I have cleaned >50 records and the sponge is fine.  Then I do a final light wipe with the Kinetronics Anti-Static Tiger Cloth  Anti-Static Tiger Cloth | kinetronics; and put the record in the rack, and by the time I have cleaned the next record - the 1st is dry and ready to resleeve.

Take care,

Neil
@mijostyn,
 
The unit you are talking about is the  HumminGuru | All-in-One Ultrasonic Vinyl Record Cleaner.   HumminGuru | All-in-One Ultrasonic Vinyl Record Cleaner by Happywell — Kickstarter.  Is it going to be better than the Degritter - no.  Its a lower frequency 40kHz unit and using very little water it cannot be very powerful, and it has no filtration capability and you have to refill for each use.  

Is ultrasonic better than manual or vacuum-RCM - technically no, but it eliminates the user as being a variable, and as @whart so nicely captures - "method is more important to me than the particular machinery involved".  But, for many it will be very convenient and much quieter than a vacuum RCM; reliability is TBD.  Also, for 'dirty' records you would still want to pre-clean with a manual process like the Spin Clean (as you say) or vacuum-RCM.  I know the drying process will be convenient, but not sure of how well it will filter out ambient dust and rack drying can be better then blowing ambient dust into the record.  

My one concern with the  HumminGuru is that it is going to significantly expand the user base of ultrasonic record cleaning, and people are going to experiment.  You can bet that they are going to try isopropyl alcohol and recognizing that IPA at 20% is very flammable and vapors are explosive - and the device is not explosion proof - who is going to light themselves or blow themselves first.  
Thanks to all for the thorough and informative advice.
Knowing myself and my less-than-fastidious tendencies, I think I'll want a very convenient do-it-all unit for records that have already been thoroughly cleaned so I can pop them in, pull them out dry and play them.  I'll use the more manual deep-cleaning approach for older records that are really gunked up.
That said, which do-it-all unit do you think would work best as part of day-to day listening?
@keegiam,

For a hands-off RCM, that will clean/dry automatically, there are currently only three units in manufacture available that I know of.  Which cleans the best - they will all do a decent job. Can you get better automated cleaning - yes; but not in the same footprint, and not with the automated drying and therefore not with the same push-here convenience.  

1.  Degritter - list price ~$2995 -  Record cleaning machine that is easy to use - Degritter.  This is the newest design.  It uses a 120-kHz ultrasonics for cleaning.  It has received pretty much universal praise and the various forums discuss very strong customer support.

2.  Clear Audio DOUBLE MATRIX PROFESSIONAL SONIC list price $5995 clearaudio electronic GmbH - double matrix professional SONIC, deep record cleaning with sonic.  This device uses sonics to vibrate brushes.  It appears to be very well built and is provided with a 3-yr warranty.  Note that  Clear Audio will void the warranty if you use other than their no-foam cleaning solution.

3.  Audiodesk - list price $4495 - generally on sale at $3995 -  Home - Audiodesksysteme Gläss GmbH .  If you read the forums, there is some debate as to how much ultrasonics are actually used for cleaning; or whether it is mostly using brushes to do the cleaning.  This unit has seen quite a number of design changes with the latest being 2020.

Other designs such as the KL audio record cleaner that use ultrasonics are no longer in manufacture.  Overall, as any automated clean/dry  devices, they can be quite sophisticated, and some such as the Audiodesk do have significant life cycle cost associated with replacement pads & rollers; the Degritter has replacement fluid filters but they are very low cost (simple porous plug).  Given the prices, decent customer support and vendor stability (will they stay in business) is highly recommended.  

Given the prices above, you can see where the Chinese made HumminGuru at what will likely sell for about $399 (import fees not included) will be very appealing,  And, for people who in the past have just used a Diskwasher pad or equal, it will likely be quite a revelation; how well it actually cleans notwithstanding.  But, recall that for every use, you will have to refill the HumminGuru (and the fluid is not filtered - you can collect and filter - but so much for convenience), and assuming the fans have filters - you will have device maintenance and life cycle costs; service life notwithstanding.  
@antinn did a good job of summarizing what is available as a "one button" type pop in the record and walk away type ultrasonic. @keegiam- you are astute enough to appreciate that the ultrasonic cleaning is not a complete solution and if you are buying used records (not necessary bargain bin/Goodwill sourced cast-offs), you may need to resort to manual cleaning (in combination with ultrasonic). The high cost of made for LP ultrasonics is what drove people to the DIY camp- which was, as far as I know, already involved in ultrasonic cleaning of LPs before the Audio Desk was first commercialized.
I think most of us experiment a bit, and based on results, find a method or series of methods that is effective and meets the needs of the user for both efficiency and cost.
Although the Monks was around circa 1970, and the VPI and Nitty Gritty came to market in 1981 if memory serves, my take is that it was only after the Death of Vinyl™ that people really began using RCMs more broadly since they were buying used records, including a lot of the audiophile stuff recommended by HP, Sid Marks and others (older RCA dogs, Mercury Living Presence, Decca, etc).
I honestly don’t know why I got sucked into the record cleaning area as a subject of interest. I had arranged to visit the intake facility of the Library of Congress located in Culpeper, Va. mainly to talk to them about cleaning, but the archives, old equipment, new technologies to read fragile media and the shelves of material on deposit and awaiting intake and accessioning fascinated me. I eventually published a piece on that visit which was one of the first of many on the topic (the recording cleaning part was really subordinate to story of the facility itself, but later installments on record cleaning followed).
Keegiam,
My answer to your question is different than Neil's.  For the ongoing maintenance of records that are in good shape to begin with I will continue to rely upon my VPI.  These machines do a more than adequate job of preservation, are extremely reliable and very easy to use.  Mine cleans in both directions under power, which I like, but even their most basic model 16.5 can clean counterclockwise manually.  All have a very effective vacuum drying system.  Current price for a 16.5 is about $650.
Well I need to interject here
My Vibrato, assembled in SC. Works on 80khz, (4) transducers, has a frequency sweep function, a heater. Retail is $875.00

www.vibratollc.com

Just had it refurbished. It's unclear if Louis will continue making these.
This site sells 132-kHz units -  CleanerVinyl Ultrasonic Record Cleaning.  I know of at least person that uses their 40-kHz unit for pre-clean and then the 132-kHz unit for final clean.  The individual has some physical limitations and this setup can pretty much clean anything.  

1. Step 1 - 40kHz; use the Tergitol 15-S-9 at 0.05 to 0.1%; for your 6000 mL tank that is 3-6 mL (no benefit for >6 mL/0.1%). For his 6000 mL tank he just adds 60-70 drops. This concentration will develop a wetting solution and micelles that will provided detergency. When he removes the record - gives it a few seconds to drain into the tank. As a wetting solution it will drain very quickly - this will minimize carry-over to the 132kHz tank.

2. Step 2 - 132kHz; use the Tergitol 15-S-9 at 0.01%; for his 6000 mL tanks that is 0.6 mL - to keep it simple just use 10 drops. For the 132kHz this is the final polish and the amount of Tergitol 15-S-9 is only to achieve a 'wetting' solution. You want the US and low surface tension fluid to do the work - he should not need detergency at this level.

I had an old nitty gritty that I thought did a good job. Then I purchased a Degritter and the improvement is clearly audible. I’m cleaning old records that I thought were clean but didn’t sound so good so rarely played them.  after using Degritter they now are wonderful. At first I used the included cleaning solution that came with the machine and was very happy with results. Now I’m trying Tergikleen to preclean records then using Degritter with just demineralized water. Not sure if it is better than the included solution but trying on different records. Highly recommended 
Yes....there is a sonic difference, but too much of a Pia for me.   I have a Nitty Gritty that I use occasionally.   I use a brush before playing....
@lxgreen - your response raises a number of good issues, none of which are confined to the Nitty Gritty machine. One is multiple cleaning methods and steps, which I have found to be synergistic. Despite your delight with the results of the Degritter, you may want to keep your Nitty Gritty around as a pre-cleaner for records that aren’t effectively cleaned with an ultrasonic process.
The other issue is whether you want to use a surfactant as part of the ultrasonic cleaning process. We are told (and have seen photos showing) that the surfactant in the bath enhances the cavitation process by lowering the surface tension of the bath water.
The question then becomes how one effectively removes the residue of that surfactant in completing the cleaning process. Forced air drying will not do so; I had that experience when I owned the AD and could see how records cleaned with it exhibited a different behavior when wetted than a record that had not been run through the AD.
This suggested to me that some surfactant remained on the record surface, though frankly, I never heard a sonic signature from it. (I used little more than a capful of the AD fluid, rather than a whole bottle, based on comments from some early adopters).

I know the Degritter allows you to change out water containers which means you could conceivably clean with a surfactant, then change the water "cartridge" to a "pure" water container for a rinse cycle-- but that "pure" water bath is going to get polluted pretty quickly with surfactant residue.
Distilled water is certainly cheap enough in the States to enable you to change out the water constantly, but you’d probably have to clean the inner walls of that container (and Lord knows what the innards involve in terms of removing any surfactant traces from the inside of the machine itself).
Am I being a bit anal about this? Sure. One solution is to finish the record using pure water and a vacuum process, but the Nitty Gritty may not be conducive to that.
I also wonder if not doing a "pure" water rinse step when you were using only the Nitty Gritty resulted in less than satisfactory results- that is, there was residue of the cleaning solution along with other contaminants (that you were trying to remove) that were still bound to the record surface.
Good luck with your Degritter- in the current market, that seems like the unit to go for "one button" LP cleaning. I’ve only heard good things about the unit, including from @albertporter, a longtime Audiogon member who has owned and used virtually every high end RCM.
I’m still thinking of a design for an industrial level ultrasonic that might accomplish it all for less than 10k Dollars. :) In the meantime, we soldier on.
Bill Hart
When you are using surfactants for the final clean step, and you are not going to do a final rinse, you can do it, but the surfactant and its concentration has to be near perfect to get a near residue-free surface.  In my discussion above, 0.01% tergitol which is equal to 100 ppm (or 100 mg/L) will achieve a surface tension of 30 dynes/cm.  If  you were to leave 2 mL on the surface to dry, you would leave a residue of 0.2 mg which is essentially insignificant.   Now this assumes a clean tank, but most good DIY setups are filtering the tank.

But, if you are using who knows what at  who knows what concentration, you are asking for trouble if you are not going to rinse.