Good decision to get one. I recommend the VPI 16.5. Not automatic, but I think it's by far the best in your price range. You hardly see them used (you won't see mine on the used market). This is one purchase I thought about a long time--now I kick myself and wonder why I didn't do it sooner.
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Someone needs to stick up for the Nitty Gritty concept. Sucking the used fluid DOWN seems to me inherently better than sucking it UP (who wants to be a suck-up anyway?). I much prefer the manual Nitty Gritty to any of the automatic machines -- gives you much greater control over the cleaning process. My original NG I was going strong after 22 years, but I found an irresistibly-priced Record Doctor II (same thing as a NG I, essentially) here on Audiogon. Thinking of donating my original to the Smithsonian. Seriously, it does a great cleaning job.
I have had the Nitty Gritty and sold it in favor of the VPI 16.5 and am very happy with my decision to do so.
The VPI has more vacuum and with the record on a firm platter you can really scrub the record and suction tube being clear lets you know when it is dried. Th NG was all face down and trial and error played ing to whether the record was dried or not.
For an interesting and informative take on the topic, take a look at this link to a page on an audio enthusiast's website where he very neatly outlines his own thoughts and processes behind cleaning records and the methods he supports. It's an excellent and informative read, regardless of your decision to adopt his methods.
I have had the VPI 16.5, Record Doctor (made by Nitty Gritty), and Currently Nitty Gritty 2.5. I prefer the Nitty Gritty. As said above it is quieter, and is semi-automatic (you have to manually pump the fluid), for same price as VPI 16.5. It is more compact and aesthetically pleasing. It fits on a 12" shelf. VPI is large and ugly, looks like a box with an acrylic lid.
They both do an equally fine job cleaning records.
I have a VPI 16.5 and like it. Good cleaner, very sturdy and stable. I agree, it's nice to have a solid platter under the record should any good scrubbing be needed--and the motor is torquey (sp?) enough to take it, too.
It is noisy, unfortunately, and so are the Nittys. Someone above said they found the VPI ugly; I personally think it's elegance through simplicity. I don't care for the awkward Nitty look...to each his own, I say!
Hi, Sean. We probably do have similar cleaning routines: I use Disc Doctor fluid and brushes and use the VPI RCM to vacuum off a double rinse with distilled water. For years, I used one of the home brew alcohol-based fluids and was a skeptic about Disc Doctor. Then I experienced a not-subtle demonstration of the benefits of the Disc Doctor fluids on one of my "clean" LPs, courtesy of Lloyd Walker, and I've become a convert. The benefits are huge. See my last post to the "What's on your turntable tonight" thread for the most recent reminder of the benefits.