Remember back in the distant 80’s when the promise of perfect sound forever was first bandied about? Any decent record cleaner is going to get you closer to that promise than the digital format that they were touting.
Everyone who uses vinyl as their main medium was heard the comments: you still listen to scratchy old records?
There are many reasons why Cartridges, Tonearms, Turntables, and even Phono Stages are still easy to find and better than ever. Many of us old timers still have stacks of those LPs, which will never be available on the shiny little discs.
Then there are also those relics who believe LPs really sound better than CDs. This is a group, which if I follow the threads on AudiogoN correctly is growing rather than waning.
Regardless of whether the audiophile belongs to the first category, the second, or both they still need to take care of their treasures. A well maintained LP can last generations, and in many cases already has.
So how can the audiophile accomplish this? Other than the obvious, using good playback equipment every LP listener should own a record cleaner.
There are some very good manual record cleaners. Disc Washer, and Last are some of the more well known but there are many others. There is no reason these approaches cannot be very effective if done correctly. Since many audiophiles are more interested in listening to music than expending time and elbow grease, other options have been developed. Nitty Gritty, VPI, and Keith Monks have designed and sold some excellent vacuum record cleaners. These range from manual cleaners to some nearly automatic cleaners. Their designs vary greatly but all do about the same thing, in theory anyway.
As my LP collection continued to grow I recognized the need for a better method of cleaning than the occasional use of Last cleaning supplies. An old friend was getting out of Audio about the same time I was getting involved in earnest. About ten years ago I bought a Sota Sapphire Turntable and a VPI 16 record cleaner. I have put many miles on the VPI over the years and never had a problem. Several years ago I upgraded it to the 16.5 which was a great improvement.
Last year I sent the Sapphire back to Sota for possible upgrades and ended up trading it for the Star Sapphire. While talking to Donna she mentioned Sota also made a record cleaner. I asked her to send me the information she had about the unit. I realized from looking at the pictures and reading the promo material that the Sota LPC was positioned between the VPI 16.5 and the 17 as far as features. It is not quite as manual as the 16.5 but not as automated as the 17. The cost falls between the VPI models too. Since a friend of mine had gotten into vinyl and was interested in the VPI I sold mine and ordered the Sota.
A few weeks later I had it in my grubby little mitts. I spent a minutes setting it up, really that’s all it took. They send a bottle of their proprietary cleaner along. After putting the dispenser top on the bottle and placing the bottle in its well the unit was ready to go.
I come from the Oscar Wilde School of audio where we believe “Nothing succeeds like excess.” Sota recommends one pump of cleaning fluid. I have a tendency to over use the cleaning fluid so I have to run the vacuum longer than what would normally be required, but I have not had any trouble with this yet.
The LPC is a breeze to use, and the Sota cleaning fluid works better than the VPI fluid I bought when I still had the 16.5. I clean everything from old rummage sale vinyl to new LPs from the record shop and the LPC has left me anywhere from pleased to stunned depending on how dirty the LP was when I began cleaning. The LPC has cleaned everything I have thrown at it.
I like having the fluid set right in to the cleaning unit. It is much more convenient than the former system. The LPC has one switch where the VPI used two switches, which is neither better nor worse, just different.
The thing I disliked most about my VPI was the sponge it used to collect the fluid after vacuuming the LP. The sponge eventually got moldy, smelled bad, and gave me a headache when cleaning too any LPs. I had to replaced the sponge, which was no big deal, but it took me a while to realize this was the problem.
A record cleaning machine is a must for the serious LP listener. There are many choices, all of which work fairly well. I personally did not like the Nitty Gritty cleaners I used. The VPI 16.5 worked well for many years and I have no real complaints about it. The Sota worked as well if not better and was more convenient to use. It is not as nice as the VPI 17 but it also costs about $250 less. I can buy a lot of LPs for $250!
If you find yourself in the position of needing to care for your growing LP collection you owe it to yourself to check out the Sota LPC, it is an excellent record cleaner. Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products