146 responses Add your response
Rushton: great article. I posted on the site, but wanted to encourage all who have looked at DIY record cleaning to look at what you put together. I really liked the motor set up for the records to be turned in the bath. Your experience is very similar to mine on the key points of the process. Clean water, good Ultrasonic bath with enough energy to create the bubbles, right temperature (needs to be warm not boiling hot) and a slow turn in the bath were the key performance metrics for me. Also the point about needing a small amount of isopropyl alcohol was right on point. Big, big difference with versus without. However, too much can cause a lot of odor issues and could result in a fire as the isopropyl alcohol evaporates in the bath. Finally a good dispersant like tergitol (i use triton ) that doesn't produce too much foam. Nice article!
Oilmanmojo, thanks for your excellent contributions here and in your comments to the Positive Feedback article. One thing I would add is that the Triton you use in your tank solution (another variant of Tergitol as you point out in your comment) is an important addition. When I've used only water and isopropyl, the results are not nearly as good as the Tergitol/Hepastat/Alcohol mix that I posted the formula for.
Sbank, thanks so much! Good to cross paths again.
Thanks for this Rushton. Very enlightening and very informative; your recommendations provide for an entry into ultrasonic cleaning that is very affordable, which is very appealing.
Good manual cleaning is pretty labour intensive and time consuming and the idea of making it a bit less so and improving upon the results of manual cleaning at a reasonable price is definitely something to consider.
Wondering if you've have ever used the Audio Desk? If so, how does the end result compare between the two methods?
The Audio Desk is more mechanical in nature. It has it's share of detractors. I'm sure that mine will fail at some point. I am still a proponent of steaming as the first step in my own regimen. (I use the enzymatic Audio Intelligent solution as a pre-cleaning agent before I steam.) This allows me to keep the water in my AD cleaner, longer. Steaming does, by it's very nature, introduce the heat that you say is best for good cleaning. My regimen is labor intensive but I'm OK with that. Also, one of the positive effects of US cleaning is that the cleaned lp, has no static charge.
( A valid point to my steaming first, even though I have an AD cleaner... just today, I was playing a lp that I had previously cleaned without steaming years ago and ran in through the AD. It had quite a few ticks and pops. I put it through my AI/steaming regimen, then through a 5 minute AD cleaning. The end result was a quiet lp. This is why I'll always keep steaming in my personal regimen.)
(To put an US cleaned lp through a vacuum drying, seems somewhat counter-productive. But there are always trade-offs.)
I can see how I can convert my AD cleaner to include your filter/pump. Later on, when my AD fails, I'll have that portion to mate with an US cleaner/spinner.
Hi Astro58go, I have not used the Audio Desk, but have read about it and talked with people who have. For me, the biggest issues are: it cleans only one record at a time; it air dries; it’s expensive. I presume you can elect to use some cleaning fluids with it.
The quats in the cleaning fluid plus the kinds of detergents are the keys to low static on the records. Neither vacuum drying nor ultrasonic impact the static, but dry brushing certainly can. Humidity is certainly the next. If you’ve not searched the AudioKharma thread on cleaning solutions for "static" and "antistats", I recommend it:
I’ve always read good things about results from steam cleaning, but that amount of concentrated heat around my vinyl has always scared me, so I’ve never tried it.
I do realize how important filtering is. I do regular maintenance on my AD. This includes: washing the rollers/ filter with a bleach/distilled water solution/nylon brush, rinsing again and again... rinsing/washing out the tank as best I can with a very diluted bleach/distilled solution and a nylon type brush. then rinsing again and again with distilled water.
Just today, after my last thorough cleaning on May 22, ( yes, I keep track) I was cleaning the filter,... just rinsing it out in my sink, I can see particles in the bottom of my sink. Mind you, this is after all of my careful pre-steaming and such. So, around 5 months since I last did a major cleaning and I can visually see these contaminants in the bottom of my sink.
People that use the AD by itself with no other pre-cleaning methods are not aware of just how many contaminants are on their lps!
In my experience, one cannot damage a lp as long as you are moving at a mindful rate. Common sense mode needs to be used.
The AD (fan dries). I do respectfully disagree that vacuum drying does not cause a static build up. I've experienced this too many times. If one wants to say that static in really caused by the air or humidity in a closed environment is actually the culprit, that may be accurate in a technical sense but what happens with an audiophile in there home is using too many rotations with a vacuum machine does induce static. This is my long experience.
Again, I'm thankful to you and will be considering mods to include a filter/pump on my AD for now.
"Neither vacuum drying nor ultrasonic impact the static, but dry brushing certainly can." Is not vacuum drying another form of dry brushing?
What, if any difference is there from vacuuming drying vs. dry brushing, other than in the vacuum mode, one is removing fluid? On my 16.5, if I use more than two rotations, it negatively impacts the positive aspect of vacuum drying as it introduces too much static.
I have many times taken a AD cleaned lp to my TT and then dry brushed it, only to have static re-introduced.
I'm very passionate about this subject...
I noticed today, again, when draining the dirty water out, the glob of minerals on the back of the drain plug, also a fairly large glob in the bottom of my sink. I assume if I used more pure water, this would not be as much of an issue. I can be thankful that the material used in the AD cleaner is of the nature to reject these minerals so they will not cling to them!
I could also perceive one using the Walker TT may notice the difference in the sound of a cleaning solution based on distilled water vs. a more pure water?
I think I'm through. Thanks for reading.
Astro58go, good stuff! LOL, yes you’re certainly right about extended vacuuming. I concede your point. I never vacuum more than two revolutions on my VPI RCM. :-)
And, I’ve become convince that the cleaning agents we use can make static better and worse. The value of the neutral PH chemicals is to reduce the imbalance that creates static. The value of adding antistats (like quarts) to our solutions is to further help reduce static. They all work to our advantage. Just as higher acidity additives make matters worse. This is all why I’ve become convinced that selection of cleaning solutions is important.
I can definitely hear the differences with the rinse using higher purity water. And can hear the slight but consistently observed improvement when doing a final rinse with the Type 1 Reagent Grade water and a bit of ethanol as discussed in my essay about all of this.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and challenging shorthand comments!
rushton, two things UltraSonics has assembled a tank and recycled high purity water up to eight record cleaner that costs about what yours does with the exception of rising the records. It air drys the records.
Second I reviewed the Audio Desk Vinyl cleaner and also had a VPI vacuum and used Lloyd Walker's four stage cleaning system with a Delrin tube for one revolution drying. The Audio Desk was simple, namely put the record in, push a button, and go back to your music in another room. The other method took twenty minutes per record!
I also discover that using both cleaning methods gave better sounding records, no matter which came first.
I have about 5000 records as well as very advanced quad DSD digital. I think it imperative to clean every record I have once and do redo many that I often listen to, but I hate the time commitment to cleaning records.
I found your article very informative and through and printed it off.
tgb, thanks for the interesting contribution to this discussion! Clearly, we both share the belief that clean records really do sound better. I was listening this evening to some records I know well but have not had the time to clean. After cleaning, they sound SOOOO MUCH BETTER!
I’m very familiar with the Ultrasonic Records V-8. I’m just not convinced that eight records in that 10L tank is a good thing. But even halving the number of records still misses the key factor for even better results. Experimentation has completely convinced me of the need to use a detergent cleaning solution in the tank for best results. That then requires rinsing. And then vacuum drying further improves the results. So different strokes, and different outcomes. As you can imagine, I was seeking to get the best possible cleaning results, not just fast. Both were important to me.
Isn't there a math formula for calculating bath size, number and frequency of US transducers and surface area to be "cleaned"?
I agree that multiple methods seem to work synergistically. And in exploring the industrial side of US cleaning (not vinyl) I've been told that the use of a surfactant/detergent hugely improves ultrasonic cleaning results. I'm pretty agnostic on the machines themselves- had the AD, have the KL and rely heavily on the Monks. The real bonus to Rush's approach is that you can, ideally get all three: good, cheap and fast.
May your records always be clean (and unwarped)!
Whart: Isn't there a math formula for calculating bath size, number and frequency of US transducers and surface area to be "cleaned"?Whart, somewhere in this diyAudio thread on ultrasonic cleaning is a reference to the formula for tank size and surface area to be cleaned. I know this has been discussed in the thread.
The size of the tank and the number of records you clean will impact how much energy or "number" of transducers needed. I related in a couple of articles a quick test to see how particular bath or tank would perform concerning the creation of cavitation sites or bubbles (which actually promotes the cleaning). YOu can insert a thin piece of aluminum foil at various places to see how effective the energy is dispersed. with the thin aluminum foil you will see holes and dents appear where the cavitation starts and where it is the strongest.. In my DIY bath, i found three records were the best i could do without adversely impacting the cleaning. Getting very close to the wall, the "cavitation" was not as strong as say backing off by about 1 inch. I also had dead zones which were not as energy intense as other areas. Also, this test helps show the impact of water vs water+ alcohol. A little isopropyl makes a huge difference in how the system works
Astro58go--Thanks for feedback. having a large record collection that was fundamentally put together with yard sales, flea markets, etc, led me to finding ways to restore or clean records to get the most out of them at min cost. I guess a am a cheapie. However, i found that experimenting around with various ideas led me to some interesting discoveries and substantial cost savings. I was on the cusp of trying to build a Keith Monk type cleaner as its design is very good but the cost is just too much when i learned about the Ultrasonic bath idea. THere is a lot of data out there and hence i piddled around with a lot of ideas before coming up with my DIY design. Again, thanks for feedback
Oilmanjojo, I also thank you for your contributions. Very helpful! FWIW, here is a YouTube video showing the aluminum foil test presented by a U.S. manufacturer of ultrasonic tanks, Vibrato LLC. They manufacture high quality tanks in South Carolina.
And, here is a picture of the results when I ran this test in my own tank. This was with heavy duty Reynolds Wrap brand aluminum foil, as was the test demoed by Vibrato. I just left my aluminum foil in the tank for longer and eventually the cavitation will make holes in the foil. As oilmanmojo says, the key result to look for is uniformity across the foil.
whart: Isn't the point of rotating the disc in the US cleaner to even out the effect of the standing waves?Yes, precisely so. But the transducers in the ultrasonic tanks can gradually decline in function or fail, and the foil test clearly demonstrates why you need to position your records an inch or two from the sides of the tank that are parallel to the surface of the LP.
Whart--what i found was the intensity was not uniform. The ideal situation is equal intensity at every point. However, depending on the tank size, number of transducers, location of the transducers and the amount of surface area in the bath impacts the intensity pattern. the quickie test tells you two things, is the bath functioning, and are there dead spots in the bath. I initially tried 4 records and found i got poor results on three of the records but one of them was really clean. When i ran 1, 2 or 3 records, all were done well. i was curious of what was going on so i did some checking online and talked to a couple of guys on a DIYaudio site and found out about the test and checked it out. With 4 records, they just barely fit in the bath (about 3/8-1/2" off the side wall), where when i did three, or less, there was about 1 inch on each side. That was how i found i had a very low intensity close the the wall on my bath. There are some guys actually designing their on transducer layout on some of their DIY ultrasonic baths.
Oilman-makes sense to me. What US unit are you using? I had mentioned in another thread that having field replaceable parts would make great sense. Your 'foil test' seems to be one some manufacturers themselves use, which led me to wonder whether there is a purpose built instrument used to measure cavitation intensity. I was in discussion with a manufacturer of large industrial US systems for parts (not vinyl), who was a very solid source of information, but he would not/could not make a custom built machine for me. (I have had both "audiophile" units and like Rush, am interested in optimized performance, rather than simply a cost-effective alternative to those). This seems to be something of a dark art. The DIY/crowd-sourced information is invaluable.
As to which tank to buy, I would chime in that I've read very positive comments about the Sonix IV tanks and the Vibrato tanks. If I had the extra cash, a ~60hz tank from one of these manufacturers would probably be my go to choice. For less than half the cost, the Trusonik tank I have is working well and seems to have a good track record in the field. But, with any tank, we have no idea how long it will continue to work well. Thus the regular foil testing.
I am using an old Branson unit. I will look at the unit id card to get the specific model number when i get back home. I was able to get this one pretty cheap and it was the dimensions i was looking for. As far as an instrument that could measure intensity, I am not aware but likely there is one. Finally, there are several threads on the Ultrasonic cleaners on DIYaudio but here is one that i used extensively when i developed my DIY version. Several years worth of knowledge and efforts in this thread.
Sure the AD cost quite a bit. I do appreciate the time, research, evaluating, building, times 3 or 4 or more you both have put into this issue.
I guess one of my sticking points regarding the cost for the AD vs the above... I value and put a price on my time spent on those things. For me, It would be around $25.00 an hour to be fair. So for me, to perform all of your testing, building, etc,.. in the end, the only thing I lack is the ability to clean more than one lp at a time. Also, I haven't had to buy and sell cleaners only to come back to what works best as some have. (Quite a bit of time and money and stress there).
I do appreciate the desire of an audiophile to invent a better way. I am like this on certain aspects of this hobby too.
Thank you both.
I do appreciate the time, research, evaluating, building, times 3 or 4 or more you both have put into this issue.Astro58go, glad you’ve enjoyed perusing the thoughts we’ve been sharing and for contributing! For me, and I suspect for oilmanjojo also, this is all a part of the hobby and the investment of my time is just part of my enjoyment in exploring how I can get better results from my vinyl. Playing records that have been cleaned adds to my enjoyment. I just needed to find a cost effective way within my budget to clean faster with similar results. So, happy to share.
FWIW: I was listening to "Moon Shaped Pool" this morning. I had cleaned it per my previously posted regimen. Upon listening, I found there was still some slight ticking and the bass seemed constrained. I re-cleaned it, paying more attention in the steam cleaning mode, then the AD for 5 min.
On track 2, side 3.. there is near the first portion, one/(I) can now hear the movement of the fingers sliding on the guitar strings. I did not notice it before, At least, it did not stand out.as much as to be a moment that I remembered hearing..
I have been listening/comparing Radiohead's "OK Computer/UK 1st press to "Moon Shaped Pool" this morning. After listening to side 3 of "MSP" before a re-cleaning and after, I hear a greater transparency, more "clean" and clear. (Not in a digital way). I think you refer to this as "smooth".
( Oddly enough... my "OK Computer" lp was THE only lp I've ever purchased (it was years ago) that I had to clean several times because I'd get a white substance on my velvet cleaning tools). ( I assumed this was the mold release compound). This lp is a great one. One of the best rock lps ever!
This brings me to wonder...what affects "deep cleaning" more?... heat, heat/steam/ concentrated US bubbles/with or without heat?
( I kind of lean towards the more manual way of cleaning as it is more intensive and thoughtful). Kind of like my/our passion with the "lp experience"?? This process gives me a deeper appreciation of what is to come.
I think it may all come down to a quicker way of getting 85-90% or a more intense/manual way of getting 100%?
I wonder... does the lp playback experience... done well, benefit us more by skipping a more intense method of lp cleaning? IE: a quicker method?
Food for thought.
Astro58go-- What affects deep cleaning more? this is a very interesting and tough question to answer. As with most complicated questions, it depends. I don't mean to be feaseasus, but it depends on the nature of the issue you are deep cleaning for. If it is an issue with just finger prints(ie oil from a person), which are typically tough to remove, i find that the detergent/surfactant added with a little heat is the key. if it is a dirt or grit deep in the groove, the concentrated bubble just excels in rooting this out. I have used so many versions from the original discwasher system (my first record purchase, i also brought a discwasher back in early 70's) to the Ultrasonic process followed by the rinse/vacuum. Each approach whether using a brush with vigorous scrubbing or implementing a steaming regiment as part of the scrubbing was based on trying to solve a particular problem. I remember two old records from my fathers collection. the first was an old Chet Atkins record and the second was a Bobby Darin album. The Chet Atkins was one of my fathers favorite and he played it so many times. Long story short, both records did not have a sleeve and due to many years of bad habits led to these being pretty hard to listen two. As i would learn or try a new way of doing something, i would try to clean both of these to see if the sound improved. I could look under a scope and tell there was crap in the grooves, but i couldnt get it all out. As i did the steaming and scrubbing, the record got much clearer sound. That is when i really understood the importance of a little heat. However the ultrasonic cleaner with a little heat actually made the Bobby Darin album a lot better. Both still had a lot of surface noise but they were now listenable. Sorry for such a long answer to one of your questions.
Nice story about the records from your father's collection, oilmanjojo. I enjoyed reading it.
For another point of interest, today I have 4 audio friends over to listen to music. One wanted a demonstration of the ultrasonic cleaning regimen. Two others both had ultrasonic cleaning systems and said they had no interest in a demo, but were polite enough to sit through it for the one. The one coming for a demonstration brought vinyl already well cleaned to his satisfaction using his multi-step enzyme cleaning process (similar to the one I've used for years before changing to my current regiment).
After listening selections from to his already cleaned LPs, I put them through my US regimen. Then we re-listened. And everyone agreed that all four records sounded better in very noticeable ways after the US cleaning: greater openness of the soundstage, more extended highs and harmonic overtones, deeper tighter bass. We also listened to some records not previously cleaned to see if we heard the same sonic results. The one who wanted the demonstration is now convinced he needs to shift his cleaning process to ultrasonic plus the cleaning solution in the tank, plus rinse.
More interesting, the two who already used ultrasonic and didn't need a demo heard significant improvements they were not hearing from their own US processes and are now planning to make some changes based on what they heard here.
I share this story because there are many people using some variation on ultrasonic cleaning. For me, this was some validation that there is more to getting great results from US cleaning than just getting a US tank. As I learned in my own experiments, and as these existing US cleaner users heard for themselves, it is the combination of factors: the right cleaning solution in the tank, keeping the solution in the tank very clean by filtering between batches of records, heat in both the tank and the rinse, rinsing, and ultrapure water second rinse. It all adds up to improved results.
Your last post was very informative, yet, on par with the current climate.
I, like you, can appreciate the process... I, like you, can appreciate the results. ...and so on. While I feel that you have obtained, maybe, THE best solution, I too have a great solution.
(This is not to say which one is right) Read on...
I think my point is, while you have considerable time and expense in your posting, and while others can easily hear the result, in the end, (just like many of my posts and thoughts here), people will read these posts and maybe respond (once) or even better, add a post or two, but in the end, (they) all revert back into their own universe. I'm sad to say this, but it's true.
What I have found that kind of keeps me going... even when I think I have had something... some little piece of useful info to share...then, only to have one or even no response, can be deflating.
I, like you, (I think) wish more people that find one's research useful, would just post their findings!
Is this too much to ask!
..on a lighter note... oilmanmojo, your using the word (feaseasus), WOW!, reminded me of the Andy Griffith show. Barney, well I hope you get it?!
astrog58go: What I have found that kind of keeps me going... even when I think I have had something... some little piece of useful info to share...then, only to have one or even no response, can be deflating.astrog58go and slaw, it is kind of you both to comment. All any of us can do is offer the information, whether on this current topic, our experiences with different turntables, our experiences with different configurations of gear, of tweaks, of room treatment, of household wiring, etc. etc. As you say, it is nice when others add to the discussion or at least acknowledge. But, when I look at the number of views a given post has obtained, that often will be very gratifying.
For example, a review I posted 12 years ago on the Walker Audio Proscenium turntable has received over 250,000 views but only 40 comments. Was this contribution useful or interesting to the community? My guess is "Yes", and so I will keep contributing where I have an interest in something.
Hopefully the information on diy solutions for ultrasonic cleaning will find some resonance among members of the community even though the discussion here is somewhat limited.
And I appreciate the support on this topic, astro58go! I think cleaning records well is one of the most important things we can do to enhance our enjoyment of vinyl.
My wife came into our listening room earlier this morning as I was playing something and asked "Has this record been cleaned with the new ultrasonic regimen?" When I said yes, she said "I thought so. It sounds wonderful. You need to keep going with your cleaning. It beats the pants off what you were doing before with your other RCM process. This is like having a new piece of equipment in the system."
I, for one, have found Rushton's postings on this very useful, and his very detailed and thorough instructions on the process spurred me on to set up an ultrasonic system of my own. I'm very appreciative of his efforts and his generosity and time spent sharing this with the community. I simply commented (and hopefully contributed a little) in another forum where he also posted, as it's a forum I post on more frequently.
I do agree with your general comments on the sharing of info though. Even in the forum linked above, there's not a lot of activity on this subject. Probably due mostly to the general apathy you point to, but I think on this particular topic there's a number of people that just don't care about cleaning their LP's. I've known 3 different guys with expensive and meticulously set up analog front ends that never did anything beyond running a carbon fiber brush over the LP surface before each play. My comments to them about the benefits of wet cleaning/vacuuming (before US cleaning ever surfaced) did nothing to change their minds. To each their own.
My experience with US, in order of importance:
1. record spacing should exceed 1.5 wavelengths (one wavelength is 1.5 inches at 40 KHz, 1.0 inch at 60 KHz, 0.75 inches at 80 KHz);
2. US energy should exceed 50 W per record, or more if the tank is filled to more than 70% capacity;
3. cleaning chemistry should consist of distilled water and a good lab grade detergent at recommended concentrations;
4. cleaning chemistry should be 45-50 C (added benefit is that it tends to straighten warped records);
5. 80 KHz;
6. 15 minutes;
7. multiple rinses in pure water, ending in distilled water rinse. Don't worry about exotic distilled water - by the time you've washed or rinsed a few records, the only difference will be a hole in your pocket.
That information is all in the DIY thread, some of which I posted.
Thanks for the additional information, Terry. Great to see more experiences shared.
I'd continue to encourage the use of a higher purity water second rinse with about 3% by volume of Ethanol added. I find it makes a further improvement. Type 1 Reagent grade water is a luxury if you have a FREE source for it. Otherwise, the RO/DI water I'm getting from my local Whole Foods bulk water dispenser is excellent at $0.39/gallon.
I should add that correct record spacing and adequate energy concentration are very important. I cleaned about 2000 records without regard to these factors, and removed a lot of grunge; but I removed as much grunge again by scrupulously attending to these factors.
And now I'm almost back to where I was a year ago! One lives and learns.