Record Cleaning Machine

I'm looking for a good quality RCM for about $500-$700. I've narrowed down my choices to the VPI HW-16.5 and the Nitty Gritty 1.5.

A friend is suggesting the Nitty Gritty due to the fact that the design of this unit minimizes the chances of "decontaminating" the cleaned side of the LP.

I've used a VPI for 20 years and I have never experienced any "contamination" issue flipping the record over on the platter. I find the VPI platter a great platform for cleaning LPs using a good cleaning fluid such as Walker Prelude, Disc Doctor or AI. Recommended.
Just would like to comment some. Yes, as you say perhaps an advantage in one way, but a disadvantage IMO in two other ways. One, with the NG Platterless design, there is a lack of support under the LP when you scrub. Two, after application of fluids, and scrubbing, you then must flip the LP to Vacuum, and I can visualize fluids running off the LP, and going everywhere you don't want it.

At least with the VPI, like the majority of other cleaning machines both processes are done the same side, and any excess fluids-mistakes are always contained within the case, eliminating any messes.

The only "minor" gripes I have with the 16.5, and could be dealt with for not much money, is the design shortfall with Acyrlic Cover, in that you can damage the Arm Wand if it is in the rearward position, and you drop the Lid on it. The Lid Should've been slightly larger, sat on top of the Case with a dufferent style set of hinges.

Two, the machine lacks good ventilation, has a tendency to run warm-hot after a number of LPs. It could benefit from additional venting being placed at the Bottom Cover, and the addition of a small side mounted AC Pancake Fan. A huge 4" Fan probably wouldn't be necessary, and would only add to the machine's already almost intolerable noise from the Vacuum Motor.

Lastly, the Cork Platter Mat wasn't exactly the best choice of materials IMO, due to it's porous nature, and an inability to easily clean, or even see contaminants (dust-etc) if they were there. Again, could be easily dealt with cheaply, with self adhesive backed Rubber Sheeting available in 12" widths from people like McMaster-Carr. Stick to platter, use Platter as Template to cut Sheet, simple. One could easily cut three small holes for the Platter-Motor Arbor Mounting Screws if one perhaps needed future access to these Screws. One sheet should last many years of use, and would be a simple wipe with a clean towel in between LPs, or whenever one desires.

When you think about the cost of parts, and labor to make the 16.5, there actually isn't a whole lot of mark-up on these. Replacement Velvet Strips for the 16.5 Wand, as well as other Machines can be more cheaply gotten from Disc Doctor.

All in all, even with the minor gripes, I am very happy with this machine, and only regrets are I didn't buy one sooner. Hope this helps, and sorry for the long post. Mark
The VPI. I used one for several years and "upgraded" to a Clearaudio Matrix: wish I had the 16.5 back. It was bullet-proof. The NG is a little primative. I never "recontaminated", but then again, I usually cleaned each side before play.
The VPI-16.5 is a reliable machine at affordable prices new or used. I formerly owned a Nitty Gritty that I found to be less user friendly than the VPI.
I've been a Nitty Gritty fan since the early 80s and retired that first one (still working) with a newer one via Audiogon several years ago. Both are the strictly manual 1.0 models. Definitely a satisfied user, but I don't think you can go wrong with either Nitty Gritty or VPI as long as you respect their limitations (they're loud and they get hot if you try to do too many records at a time). Good luck, Dave
If you move up to the FI (fluid injection) NG models, you eliminate the problems listed above about fluids going everywhere. I also don't think there is that much fluid on the LP to really be too concerned about that, but everyones technique is different.

I've used a NG 1.5FI for years and really like it. My best friend audiophile has a VPI and likes it a lot. To me the VPI is a little more work than the NG FI models, but not a big deal.

Good listening.
Just a couple comments re Markd51's comment about the Nitty Gritty. I can scrub discs just fine on mine. Can't imagine wanting to bear down on them more than I already do. And I never spill anything when I flip them, but I have to confess I used to before I stopped overdosing with fluid. Just takes a little practice.
I use a cheap Nitty Gritty [Model 1 manual type] . Beside the unit I have an old DD Turntable that doesn't work [cheap] that I do the srubbing on . Then I turn the LP over and place it on the Nitty Gritty to suck off the solution . For a couple hundred $'s [cheaper if you find the Nitty Gritty used for $100 or so] this is a lot cheaper than the VPI or the Fluid Injection Nitty Gritty's .
I have had 3 VPIs since they were first introduced. Initially, I bought a Nitty Gritty to compare with the first VPI with the wand in the lid. I sold the Nitty Gritty to a friend who still has it. I had had a Keith Monks string cleaner in the early 70s, but sold it as a pain to operate. In 2001 on Sept. 14th while stranded in London, I went to the Hammersmith Show and heard the Loricraft. I bought one on returning to the States. Its main benefit is a clean string on which the vacuum arm rides as it crosses the record. One never has a contaminated wand crossing the vinyl.

The Loricraft also cleans better. I had very many records previously cleaned on the VPIs and found they sounded even better when cleaned with the Loricraft. The one liability of the Loricraft especially in these days of the weak dollar is that it is expensive. Record cleaning fluids also matter.
I agree with Tbg....Record cleaning fluids matter a great need to pick the right one.....
Owned a 16.5 for lots of years. Nice unit, worked fine but I used it rarely. I was afraid to become deaf while using.
I currently own and use the VPI 16.5. I previously owned and used the Nitty Gritty 1.0 for about 13 years. The VPI is superior in all ways. It cleans better and its automation is a plus for speed and if you want to go to a multiple step cleaning process.
Buy used the first time. I recently bought a co-workers used NG 1.5Fi for $125 - a steal IMHO. My first RCM - wished I had done it sooner. It clenas the LPs so ggod and they look prisitne when I remove them from the RCM. I will replace the scrubbing strip and capstan drive roller. I am very happy with this model.
agiaccio: A good RCM is just one part of the plan ... Do remember that Steam Cleaning is a perfect marriage to any RCM ,,,The cheaper the RCM the better !!
I have the vpi love it but I don't think there is a wrong choice here.
I would go for the VPI. There are many advantages to the VPI. It has a platter and washes right side up!

You can scrub with the fluid/brush of choice and then rinse with distilled water if required. The NG washes upside down and there is no way scrubbing manually. You cannot see what's going on. I have gone through 2 NG machines (2.5fi) without getting any good success. I cannot and would not recommend. Just got a VPI typhoon a couple days ago. What a difference.
I use a set of Beretta shooting protection "earmufs" while cleaning with my VPI. I'm protecting what hearing I have left after 30 years in the military. They're easy enough to use, so I do.

OTOH, I've never had the machine overheat, perhaps I clean (as I do everything else) too slowly.

Either machine would do the trick. I do notice, tho, that 16.5 users seem to get 20 years out of the machine without trouble.
Re the longevity issue, I got 20+ years out of my first Nitty Gritty and 3+ out of its (Record Doctor) successor. For that matter, the first one still works, but I figured it couldn't last forever and the second one cost just $85 here on Audiogon.