Absolutely agreed. Once you've cleaned an LP with an ultrasonic cleaner, you realize no other method even comes close.
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Phil - Thanks for this post - finally a cleaning system that looks like it's a winer!
I've looked at the brush/fluid/vacuum varieties and read countless reviews and still could not decide.
After seeing this video - I was sold!
If ultrasonics can remove graphite from a ceramic ring (granted the tank is industrial) - then a "personal sized" variant should be able to handle some groove crud.
I got some pressing from the 50's and 60's that should spring back to life
SOLD! - I'm gonna get me one :-)
Cheers - Steve
Good choice! I completely agree with your conclusions. May I make the following suggestions, based on my experience?
1. Make sure that there is enough space for the ultrasonic wave to develop. That means spacing between the tank and the record, and record to record, must exceed 1.5 inches at all points, even when records are warped (assumes a 40KHz machine operating at full frequency spec).
2. Keep your cleaning chemistry between 40 and 50 C.
3. Finish by rinsing off the cleaning chemistry.
When I failed to do one or more of the above, records came out looking clean, but further cleaning revealed that much more gunk had been left behind. Had to re-clean 2000 records, which I do not recommend.
I’m sure the 1&1/5" spacing is optimal. No doubt. The Vinyl Stack unit that I own and is quite an excellent unit doesn’t allow for this if you use more than two lps. (I happen to most times, clean while I listen, and spacing out two lps on my Vinyl Stack achieves this goal and is more conducive to the listening day in that I can vacuum dry the two previously cleaned lps, in a timely manner in order to go forward to the next two without any (build up) of cleaned lps.
This was a long way in saying, that in spite of my regimen, I’ve tried 4 lps in my 10 liter tank/Vinyl Stack, and I really prefer cleaning two lps at a time, spaced appropriately. I'm taking an extremely long way to say, I agree.
I own an Audio Desk and my Rushton copy is superior in every way even with using plain distilled water.
Yes, the Rushton thread. I copied exactly, his recommendations. I only have a different pump in my filtering system as his original one is no longer available. On the DIY Audio thread, he recommends another RV pump that I have. I just got all of these parts in house now for the filtering system and am planning on getting it up and running this weekend?
I do a 30 minute cycle with the heat setting @ 45C, with the Vinyl Stack set at 12volts.
Amazing ultrasound! I’ve rescued 40 year old records from unplayable to like new.
And, in that I’ve just recently learned the effective way to use my Zerostat, I’m a happy vinyl lover to be sure.
The bath formula offered by Rushton is very effective, much more so than plain distilled water —which is subject to surface tension problems at the vinyl surface.
Btw. 40mhz, as most tanks in diy US setups are, results in a wavelength well under 1/2 inch. Mounting records at 1 inch spacing is plenty. Also it’s important to remember that some of the debris is loosened by the resonant US movement of the vinyl not just the fluid.
Happy listening, all.
I agree that ultrasonic helps, but there is a limit to how strong it should be. I had one that broke off some vinyl pieces.
I am now using the Audio Desk Pro that uses better parts than the first version. It works perfectly and shows no vibration damage as the cleaning water has no black particles. I love it because you put the record in and can leave and return later for a clean and dry record.
I’m not sure what you mean by "broke off some vinyl pieces"? Could you be more specific?
I can only assume by your post that you previously had an earlier version of the AD and now compare that one to the (PRO)? Did they change the khz cycling?
Yes, the "set it and leave " function of the AD is compelling but all of the benefits of a more manual option are more effective and much, much less expensive...and may I say more logical.
Thumbs up on this - I've been using the Audio Desk Pro myself and I swear by it. It's easy to underestimate the value of convenience IMO. I'm always happy to spend time fooling around with a new toy, but what about a year later? The fact that I can press a button and come back to a sparkling clean record with the Glass cleaner is no small thing. It means I can realistically keep LPs clean and preserve expensive styli over the long term.
Two caveats though - the expense really is crazy with the high-end cleaners like the Glass and KL. I lucked out on a used model but I can see why many users would opt for having more fuss and less money spent on something DIY.
Also - and this may sound heretical - but I'm not convinced that ultrasonic is necessarily better than a vacuum cleaner with a top notch fluid. I use Audio Intelligent fluid with a VPI cleaner as a backup or for 10" LPs etc. I have to say the effects of the Audio Intelligent fluid stop me in my tracks more often than the ultrasonic. I haven't done a back to back test so I don't have anything more than anecdotal evidence. but still.
Despite being submerged, vinyl rejects pure water. Particularly deep in the grooves. Hence the Library of Congress reccommending surfactant in record cleaning formulas.
And lots of audiophiles getting good results with a wee bit of Photoflo in the US baths.
does lead to a need for rinsing, but that’s advisable anyway.
@slaw - a few years ago, I was doing some research for a piece on DIY US (after having owned both the Audio Desk and KL). One of my sources of information was a long time manufacturer of factory line sized ultra sonic cleaning systems. (He didn't focus on vinyl, but was willing to spend an hour and a half over the phone and provide me with a lengthy email). He was emphatic about the value of a surfactant as part of the US process- it improved cavitation effect immensely. He showed me metal parts cleaned with and without surfactant (granted, not vinyl LPs, but still). When I jumped on the KL after the Audio Desk, I thought- simple- no chemicals to rinse off, no kludgey spinning applicator brushes, etc. But, the KL doesn't allow for the use of surfactants (I haven't confirmed that directly with KL but suspect I am right). The DIY US, from my perspective, actually brings more to the table than either commercial, made for vinyl, US cleaner. You can add surfactant, and avoid some of the complications of the Audio Desk design; you can control heat, degas, and build a recirculation system with a filter (something KL now offers, but still no surfactant). And, your price of entry can be cheaper. When my KL finally dies, that's the way I'm going. (I still pre-clean on the Monks, and for certain records, do a reagent water rinse after the KL). For now, I'm changing out the water at 30 records or less, even though with pre-cleaning there is very little residue in the KL tank. (If I put a new record straight into the KL without precleaning, there will often be some grit in the tank when I drain it).
Nothing you so elliquently stated is lost on me. I've always appreciated your thoughtful posts and your mission here.
I guess I assume that others will automatically remember all of my past posts regarding my regimen that includes (a pre-steam)...VERY IMPORTANT, to me, at least.
I have no doubt that a cleaning agent of some sort will be a positive improvement.
My posts recently have been focused on my transition from the AD cleaner w/ their fluid to the Rushton DIY w/ just distilled water.
I hope this will come through in a way that will draw others in to the US cleaning method and that it is low cost and better performing and when ready, the owner can try cleaning methods to their own personal way.
I note that lwal questioned wavelength. The calculation is easy, from the physics formula V=fl (velocity = frequency x wavelength). Since the speed of sound is 5000 feet / second in water (60,000 inches per second), the equation is
60,000 = 40,000 x l
from which it is trivial to solve for l.
l = wavelength = 60,000 inches per second / 40,000 cycles per second
= 1.5 inches / cycle
Note that the units match what we want to calculate, as they must if the formula has been used correctly.
For surfactant I use a lab grade detergent, Versaclean from Fisher Scientific.
I have owned a Loricraft PRC4(8yrs ago) and clearaudio double matrix(6yrs ago) among others. I have been considering a new RCM purchase for some time. I strongly considered the KLAUDIO, Audio Desk and ultrasonic. I read a lot of reviews and opinions but in the end I bought the clearaudio double matrix Pro sonic. I am thrilled that I did. Automatic, Quiet and really really cleans well. It is so quiet, easy to use and good looking, it earned a spot on my rack next to my tt. I now clean often. My vinyl was/is quiet. The difference is I no longer have concerns of damaging my cart or vinyl. It’s built quality is superb. It may be the most attractive component on my rack. It makes me want to clean and that’s saying something!
I think one of the values of terry’s input is the number of records you can effectively clean in one batch. There is a temptation to stack a bunch of records on a skewer and clean a lot at the same time. As someone upthread pointed out, bbftx started that monster thread on diyaudio that led to a lot of experimentation and was the starting point for Rush Paul’s seminal piece. bbftx did a similar computation, and noted that the upright 12" LPs act like baffles that block the bubbles, so you need some calculation for size of bath, power and frequency of transducers and spacing and number of LPs to optimize cleaning.
The science is a necessary part of it-- I’m not a scientist, but I can grok it with some research and help. I guess my point is not to dismiss the science as offputting- most of the hard core DIY’ers are pretty proficient people, but I think the DIY ultrasonic trend has reached beyond that hard core group to "regular" audiophiles. Thus, the anecodotal, the practical, and the scientific all have their place in the process.
Here’s to clean, quiet LPs!
BTW & FWIW... the filter housing that Rushton recommended is white. Upon looking on the website he provided, I noticed it is offered in clear which ...being the kind of guy I am, it made sense to me. A dollar or so more but the kicker is they are only sold in cases. I placed and order for a clear one on Amazon. This took around a couple of months... although if interested, they still may have singles now.
All of the parts I ordered for the filtering system are now confirmed working. I’ll be using this coming weekend heavily. I do have several bottles of the AD fluid I will try as well.
One of the reasons I’m now using just plain distilled water after going from my AD cleaner/AD fluid.. to the DIY cleaner w/plain distilled water was to have a better handle on any differences I hear. It’s just the now built in/second nature way I compare things. Looking forward to your results/initial impressions.
I had no idea this post would generate so much traffic, I was merely intending to endorse the notion of US cleaning (and btw I have no affiliation with Cleaner Vinyl or any other US or record cleaning company).
As there is more interest and lots of questions - many of whom have been answered by people far smarter than - I will simply tell you how I’m using it and some observations.
Before I get there, please note, I’m in the "good enough" / "incremental improvement" camp and not the seeker of total audio perfection. So I’m more interested in moving quickly through my record collection than cleaning one or two records at a time to perfection. So some of what you see here may be far from optimal, maybe even heretical to some of you.
Lastly, I know there are bonafide chemists who contribute to this subject and much has been written on the subject of which products and mixtures should be used, I just made my own home brew from info I read and haven’t looked back. If my vinyl dissolves into an unplayable oily heap I will regret my cavalier approach, but right now I’m a pretty happy camper.
I'm using the Cleaner Vinyl Pro - it's supposed to allow for 12 records at a time, but I only clean 6 at a time.
My US machine is a PS-30A 6 litre unit.
I brew the cleaning solution as follows
3 oz of 99% isopropyl alcohol
A couple drops of clear dish soap
1 Teaspoon of photo flow
150 ounces of distilled water (approximately)
So, I’ve got a solution of about 50 to 1 distilled water to alcohol
Turn on the tank for 15 minutes before doing anything else - I read that this agitation removes some oxygen/gases from the solution (degassing)
Turn the temperature to 35 centigrade. I haven’t experimented much with this, but it seems that I have a hard time getting the temp over 30c with the lid off of the unit. I leave the unit on till I see 30c. Based on some responses above I will experiment more with this.
I then load 6 records on to the spindle and place them in the tank for a period of 15 minutes.
When time is up I hold the spinning spindle above the tank for maybe 1 minute and let excess solution drain off.
Then I place the motor / spindle on a flat surface and take each record and put it on the Record Doctor. I give them a light scrub with the solution that is still on the records and then vacuum them dry.
1. I think 6 records at a time is too many for optimal cleaning. I think I only have about one half inch between records and it should be more. As pointed out above more space would likely improve cleaning. But again, I’m trying to move smartly through a collection of records that are generally in good to very good shape. If I start buying more used records I will likely have to give them more individual attention. Likewise if I play a record and it doesn’t sound right I can give another cleaning.
2. Pay attention to fluid levels. The fluid evaporates pretty quickly. You’ve got 1-n rotating disks drawing warm water up from the tank and pretty good surface area on each record and fluid evaoporates quickly. When you fill the tank use the label as your guide and not the run out grooves. Obviously the run out grooves vary greatly from record to record.
3. I skip the rinse step in favor of vacuuming with record doctor. I’m hoping this is a reasonable compromise.
4. I will clean up to 30 records in a single batch of fluid. I have no filter (although I think one would be cool / useful). After thirty or so records I drain the fluid and mix up a new batch. However... I keep looking in the tank and assessing. In one instance, after one batch of records the solution went from clear to almost milky so that necessitated changing the solution immediately. Based on what I’m seeing in the tank much of what is removed (at least what you can see with the naked eye) is particulate which seems to fall to the bottom of the tank and stay there. Also, while I know the solution is getting dirty with each use I’m guessing / hoping that whatever is left in the grooves will at least have been loosened by the US treatment and then the Record Doctor will suction off these loosened particles.
5. I would use a vacuum device as a last step. For one thing it saves a great deal of time over letting records air dry, and for another I think it’s just prudent to suck all of the remaining solution off the surface of the record. The Record Doctor is $200 and while probably not as good as some other products I think it’s great for this application.
6. Using the above I’ve cleaned roughly 120 records over the last 4 days. I work from home and so I can set some up to clean and when I find a few minutes I can vacuum them clean and start a new batch.
All in all, a very worthwhile endeavor and most importantly it’s getting me to play and enjoy all kinds of music.
Yours in cleaner vinyl.
I cannot answer all of your questions, in part because I am not mixing any solution for my ultrasonic for the reason stated above (I use a KL machine right now).
One issue I see as a potential hazard is the flash point of isopropyl even diluted, given the vapor. I believe that the chemistry suggests it should be below 3% of overall volume for the temperature you are achieving (Note, i am not a chemist so this should be checked). Is 3 ounces of alcohol in 6 liters really a 50/1 ratio? My maths suggested it was about 5% but there is a reason I didn’t major in math- somebody check me here.
Alcohol will work as a solvent, I’m not sure how effective it is as as surfactant (to break surface tension of the water, which is the goal). I believe one of its long time values in record cleaning generally is that it evaporates quickly. For effective formulae, you should read Rushton Paul’s article if you haven’t; there are others, including a formula Tima (Tim Ackerman adopted) that is posted on my blog; others, including @terry9 (who does have a scientific background) can offer more on the chemistry they have found effective and also weigh in on whether I’m being a nervous nelly about the amount of alcohol being used.
In general record cleaning- whether ultrasonic or conventional- the main points are effectiveness of the solution/method and the ability to remove the solution from the record, once done. I do know old school record cleaning folks that used Photoflo and no rinse. My impression is that it leaves a residue as do most of these chemicals and cleaners. That’s why I employ a rinse step. (Even though I’m not using chemistry in my ultrasonic, if I have a record that I’m especially concerned with, I will, once removed from the ultrasonic bath, do a rinse step using reagent grade water and point nozzle vacuum system (Monks or Loricraft- which doesn’t have the same issues as wand or velvet ’lips’ type RCMs)).
You said you just want "good enough" and don’t want to go all white lab coat-- there are some who say vacuuming after ultrasonic defeats the whole purpose of US cleaning given the potential for contamination and static caused by some conventional RCMs. You have to make a choice here- by experimenting with the chemistry- Tima does not do a rinse step using his brew (which I think is an adaptation of the London Jazz Collector mixture meant for conventional cleaning); others, like @@terry9, @slaw might be able to tell you what their experience is. But I think first stop is Rush Paul’s article if you haven’t read it.
Number of records per load- this has also been calculated- is in the original diyaudio thread and has been verified independently by other’s empirical experience-- I can give you links to some of this if you can’t find it but for a smallish bath it’s more like 2 records at a time with space in between.
There is good proof that a filter goes a long way- again, not to rely on what I publish but Tima did a follow up on his results using a filter-- pretty much the same one outlined in the diyaudio one that Rush adapted- and there was a lot of crap picked up by the filter. See [url]http://thevinylpress.com/record-cleaning-timas-diy-ultrasonic-rcm-followup-1/[/url] How long can you go before changing the water without a filter? I don’t know. Part of it depends on how much crap there is on the records to begin with I guess. (I pre-clean, so less of an issue).
You are too modest, whart.
As far as alcohols are concerned, the issue is 'flash point', the temperature at which a vapour ignites. Since the US machine operates on electricity, there is always the chance of a spark, hence a constant hazard. That can easily be managed in an industrial environment, in a laundry room, not so much.
The issues vary from mathematical to the idiosyncrasies of the equipment. Calculations are a little opaque because of our antique measuring system. For example, ounce and fluid ounce are quite different. Concentrations can be measured by mass or by volume; chemists are very careful about this, they even have their own vocabulary.
Remember too that US cleaners work best when filled to 2/3 full. That means a 6 litre tank contains 4 litres of fluid. Temperature can vary quite dramatically in the fluid column, so the position as well as accuracy of the sensor matter. Then too, the machine might be left on longer than intended, causing an unexpected rise in temperature. These are all sources of potential error, and hazard.
Botom line: I would only use an alcohol if I had a good reason to do so. IMO, records do not demand it.
About soap - don't use it. It can form a soap scum, especially in hard water. Detergent does not. I use a lab grade detergent, VersaClean, from Fisher Scientific. First, it doesn't have crap like perfume mixed in. Second, it is said to be formulated for plastics. Third, it is recommended for US, based on their experiments, so I don't have to experiment.
Fourth, it is sold by a lab supply company - their stuff has to work as specified, or there is hell to pay, because zillion dollar facilities rely on it. And zillion dollar facilities have the expertise to analyze their supplies and reagents. And they punch above their weight. So I align my interests with theirs.
About rinsing - I do. First is highly purified running water, second is a distilled bath.
Just my opinions. YMMV
Good stuff. I appreciate all the feedback / guidance. And hopefully others will too.
I agree that my methods are compromised in an effort to move more quickly through my collection.
The alcohol to distilled water should be about 50 to 1. Roughly 150 ounces of water (a gallon and then some) vs 3 ounces of alcohol.
Based on the above I will tone down my use of alcohol and I will likely look into Versaclean as an alternative to soap products. I may also look into getting a pump/filter - it can only help.
About how much Versaclean should I add to my 150 oz mixture?
Also, I think I need to buy a thermometer to get an alternate reading on fluid temperature.
With respect to filling the tank only two thirds full to optimize performance I don't think I have a solution to that as I need the water level to cover the entire surface of the record.
I did go back and clean a couple of previously cleaned records putting just two on a spindle to see if I'd notice a difference. Did this a couple of times and I couldn't see any noticeable particulate in the tank, but I think this is a suspect test as I imagine much of what gets removed is hard to see with the naked eye.
In any event, it's clear that my solution and approach is less than optimal, but it does seem to be a big step forward so I think I will make the changes to alcohol and look into Versaclean and a pump/filter and continue to forge ahead.
Thanks again for all the input.
Pleasure to help, Phil. We're all in this together!
I use VersaClean at 40:1 for clean records, the minimum recommended. For garage sale records, 20:1. A gallon goes a loooong way! (guilty secret here - also works brilliantly for good wine glasses)
I cleaned about 2000 records at insufficient heat, spacing, and rinsing. Then I upgraded methodology to 45C, 1.75", and heroic rinsing, changed the chemistry and re-cleaned 30 records as an experiment. I found almost as much debris at the bottom of the US tank as the first time (which was US cleaning of previously VPI cleaned records). I observed no discoloration the second time. Listening tests confirmed the improvement. Machine was an Elmasonic running at 80KHz.
I've already started to make slight mods...
Backed off the chemicals - basically cut everything in half.
Only cleaning 4 records at a time instead of 6
Not sure if my machine will be able to get temp up to 45C with the lid off, but I will give it a go.
I also took a closer look at the water / solution and I can see from certain angles that there is more going on than I imagine. There are things suspended in the water - not just the particulate that I see at the bottom of the tank. I think this means either more frequent cleanings of the water or that I should get a pump.
Not sure that I want to take on the heroic rinsing right now, but perhaps going forward I will spot clean/rinse some of my favorites as an experiment.
And thanks for the tip regarding VersaClean on my stemware.
All this is really interesting, thanks so much.
Now, this is a budget question:
I buy new and used records, very often I get them from the thrift store or the bargain bin as I am really open about my compulsive money spending habits. Records from the latter source are usually somewhere between bad and really bad shape. I pass all my records through the Spin Clean machine, which makes a great job for most of the records but some of them seem to be really irrecuperable as they will keep on making really much crackling noise even when they show no visible signs of damage (there's the other way around as well, some records look damaged but they still manage to provide an acceptable sound quality). I ultimately tried the method from this guy:
... To very little improvement to be honest.
Now my budget question is: should I give a go to the ultrasonic cleaner? Or would I be better off upgrading my records that are too damaged, considering that I would probably end up spending approximately the same amount of money? And again, I am not looking for sound perfection but I am feeling somehow Samaritan and want to save these records and am looking for a bearable listening experience.
Your opinion is highly appreciated!
Have a great day.
I think that an examination of this thread will show you a better way. IMO, US is the best way.
I have a record of 60's folk music that looks terrible, grade about 'Good', but that plays NM. That said, I also have a sealed Chopin which is unlistenable, and no US treatment, 40KHz or 80KHz, improves it. US or not? I would say, definitely. But don't expect miracles, and be sure that the machine will meet its specifications: frequency and power.