Oh and I forgot to mention that both pics were taken of the exact same spot on the record.
81 responses Add your response
"Can you tell which one is the ultrasonic??"
My guess is the pic on right. The grooves do appear cleaner.
I've been waffling for years in purchasing a machine. MIC Amazon specials are becoming more attractive.
Because I'm picky with my used LP purchases, my Spin Clean has been sufficient.
This is confirmed by hearing them on Uber decks.
Ok. Here is the thing that I think makes a difference. With the ultrasonic you use a boars hair brush and surfactant which I did use when I I did the cleaning. I am betting that if I incorporate that into my systems cleaning routine the grooves will be about as clean, but your right. Test 2 is the ultrasonic cleaner. However if there is a difference I don’t know if I could justify spending the coin for the ultrasonic.
Furthermore. The listening test proved to be in inclusive as I heard no sonic difference between cleanings. If it was I certainly could not detect it. Also the downside. The process takes way away longer using the machine. I could clean 10 records by the time it takes me to clean one using the machine. Ok I’m getting a little bias now because that should not matter but I have over 400 albums and it will take me a year to clean them all with the ultrasonic. I guess if I were buying old dusty records maybe but I only buy new or used in mint condition. I guess for the one offs where I run across an original pressing of an old record I will just borrow the machine again lol. Now I will tell you that this machine is not one of the more expensive ones. (Under $2k) so I’m not comparing this to one of the more top of the line cleaners either.
"do you use Tergikleen in your spin clean?"
I see tergikleen mentioned on many threads.
After using up the supplied cleaner with the Spin Clean years ago, I never bothered to look into a replacement.
My formula is very crude/low tech. A couple drops of clear dishwashing liquid and 99%alcohol. I'm sure the LP cleaning purist are cringing after reading this. Make matters worse, I RINSE it off from the tap-BLASPHEMY! No doubt there' still stuff in those grooves under a microscope but I don't sweat it. Maybe if I had a $50K arm/table I would be more into it.
The results with US is obvious to my ears. I want one. The itch just hasn't been strong enough yet for me to hit the "buy now" button.
I have a collection of 50-60 divas that MUST be quiet. I've done US on my treasured Billie Holliday,Ella, Sarah... and have been blown away with results.
It does start with the LP. I try and find the best condition albums when I bin dive. No funky mold covered saves from floods or whatever.
I've got an Audiodesk Systeme PRO and I would never go back. Garage sale or very dirty LP's go through a Spin Clean first. But, it seems like there are more affordable options than the Audiodesk.
However, I have to say, with the level of investment and sheer time that you have put into your gorgeous system, it doesn't seem like the cost of an ultra-sonic RCM would be at the top of the list of your priorities. Buy one. Sometimes it will make a negligible difference, and sometimes a crappy looking $1.00 record will turn into audio magic. Walking home from work one day I rummaged through a stack of records at a garage sale and found a bad looking copy of Breakfast in America by Supertramp. Cleaned up by my machine, put on my deck, and BAM I was transported back to the summer when it was on the radio all the time when I was 11 years old and my mom and I were in a new city looking for a house. That was wonderful and I probably wouldn't have picked it up without knowing that I could clean the heck out of it at home. Also, I wouldn't have bought that record new or used from any of the usual audiophiley places, or even put it on a streaming list; I had kind of forgotten about it. Having a good ultrasonic machine has been a great investment for me and my stereo (though pretty damn nice) aint quite like yours ;)
I know that feeling of being transported to a better place once the needle drops on something heard 40 years ago. I think it's part of the allure of table insanity-a decent setup, that is. My rig is low on the food chain...
under $8K new MSRP- table/cart/phono stage. Just enough to get an idea what the fuss is all about.
The AD is the model I want. Like anything else there's conflicting owner experience with it, but I always got a kick out of using it, when I have.
All those MIC Amazon specials are great for the price, but still not turnkey enough like the AD. I'm patiently waiting for the killer used deal.
I think it is impossible to see at that magnification what is going on; as to ultrasonic "getting into the grooves," we are really dealing with far smaller microscopic levels.
The traditional factors include transducer power, placement, bath water size, frequency and rotational speed or the amount of time exposed.
As to using a brush, I’ve been "cross-cleaning" for years, using various US machines in combo with traditional manual cleaning and using a point nozzle vacuum machine to remove fluid and/or rinse water.
There’s also the question of surfactants and whether they are effectively removed.
If the question is whether ultrasonic works, I’d say yes, having used both the commercially available machines (before the Degritter): the AD and the KL. As to how to buy, it depends on whether you want one step convenience or are willing to devote more time to the process but perhaps improve your results. You can also save money doing DIY, but that’s only one consideration, and not always the case if you go industrial or medical grade.
I will go the industrial DIY route after the KL dies, not to save $, but to benefit from a more robust feature set while maintaining quality of equipment (Some of the cheap machines you buy online burn out and are disposable).
There’s a lot more than this, but most of the science isn’t applied to vinyl, since US has been used in industry for quite a while for other things. Neil Antin has been working on an update to his original paper on Aqueous Cleaning which should soon be available for free. It will contain some interesting insights into the ultrasonic process, and addresses filtering and pumps as well as the transducers, placement, etc. as applied to the vinyl LP.
Well the jury is still out for me on the US machine. I think maybe I need to find a dirty record of which I have none to actually see what this think will do. So maybe both my cleaning test and listing test is skewed from the perspective of I’m cleaning clean records or relatively clean anyway. Might go to the record store and find a dirty record. Just a little reluctant to test it with my cartridge just to prove a point.
There is no one best way to do this, and as to the OP, the idea that ultrasonic is going to show its stuff on a "dirty" record is, I think you’ll find, not necessarily true. In many cases with used records we have no idea what contaminants they have been exposed to; ultrasonic is one tool in your arsenal to deploy. I combine cleaning methods, pre-clean used records (some of which are rare and of high value) and use ultrasonic, but the latter is not the only solution-- it may be good for records that have been maintained in pristine condition by audiophiles, but even in those instances, I often wonder what "cleaning" methods were used that left residue.
There are best practices to this starting with what archives do, including the Library of Congress.
There is no one wonder chemical and dealing with ultrasonic, there are trade offs-- you want to lower surface tension of the water, perhaps have some detergent to bind the contaminants, but the other side of the equation is how that stuff is removed once it has done its job. That, to me, is where the rinse step plays a role.
I’m not a materials scientist or bio chemist but have spent a fair amount of time digging down into this stuff and can defer to those with more knowledge than me. Unfortunately, most of the science of making records, at least in the published papers of journals like the AES, stopped in the ’70s. Cleaning agents are regarded as proprietary by their makers and in some cases, the manufacturer of an ultrasonic machine may insist that you use their fluid lest you violate their warranty.
If you are DIY, you have more options and there are a lot of fluid concoctions that people have shared on the web. Often, it is based on trial and error, or someone’s suggestion that a particular chemical or combination of chemicals works for them.
There is science to this, and it requires a methodical approach. As mentioned, Neil Antin has done an extensive study on record cleaning, the chemistry and methods. He is in the process of revising that study to account for ultrasonic cleaning and I hope to publish it soon. It will be available at no charge, and Neil has been generous with his time in working with users to help them address issues of detergency, foaming, removal of surfactant and the like.
As to investing in an ultrasonic machine as a one time proposition, the transducers will eventually burn out; there are equipment failures (witness the early AD teething problems which I gather have been sorted with the PRO model).
If one is looking for a simple, drop a record in and push a button type approach, the current in vogue machine is the DeGritter, with which most users report positive experience. I think you’ll find if you spend time with the made for LP machines that they are a compromise; thus, the need to use conventional manual cleaning for used records, in combination with ultrasonic. There is no one size fits all solution to this in my estimation.
I went ultrasonic a couple of months ago and found a unit on Amazon for $200. Comes with a drying rack and can do up to eight records at a time. Bought some Degritter fluid from music direct to use in the water and all is good. I find it certainly makes a difference but whether it makes a significant difference between my old Spin Clean and this unit I’m not sure. For 200 bucks I don’t really care. LOL
When I decided to get back into vinyl a year ago, I first wanted to get a cleaning machine. There are so many to choose from I almost went crazy researching. I finally decided on the ProJect VC-E. It had only one issue and that was the vacuum exited back on to the underside of the record. I engineered a fix and it now exits on the side. Every new and used record I acquire gets cleaned. "just the way I roll".....!
I agree that the US works. The first time cleaning a single record takes a while. Maybe 10-15 minutes. After that it’s 2-3 minutes on the same machine. My local store in the Chicagoland area has one setup on display. They will do a demo to show you how it works. https://holmaudio.com/ They are open late a few days a week till 9pm. Plus, you can listen on a really nice system. Bring in a record or two to see the US cleaner in action. If I can swing it financially I would rather have a cleaner with a vacuum feature. Who wants to have their car washed and then have to dry it themselves. It does cost $1500 to $2000 more to be fully automated. That can buy a lot of records. Also, A lot of people say you only need one deep cleaning. One friend told me he sold his cleaner after he deep cleaned all of his records.
There is no question that cavitation or ultrasonic record cleaning is best. That is, as long as you believe in science, facts and your hearing ability. That being said, your cleaning process or ritual using any machine is as important as the machine itself. There are, of course, a whole host of other factors that come into play (e.g. type of cleaning solution; quality of turntable & cartridge used for play; handling & storage of records; ritual in playing records; etc.). You don't have to spend thousands on an ultrasonic record cleaning machine. Visit the "CleanerVinyl" site. Using one of their systems with something like a Knosti Antistat or Spinclean for a final rinse will make all the difference but, by all means, keep the bath water clean!
Everyone has made some good arguments and thanks. This tread was my first attempt at dipping my toe in the pool of US record cleaners. As with most things I’m researching when deciding to purchase a new “thing” to buy to take my audio listening to the next level or make an improvement in my system is to first gauge the audio listening community on how they feel about the topic or item. With that said up until now I have not done much reading on the science behind these products or the pros and cons. I had an opportunity to try one out because a friend of mine bought one and he was kind enough to let me borrow it for a few days to see if I liked it. My first test while a little crude was to compare the US cleaner vs the process I currently use was inconclusive. The record I chose to use in this test I think represents a good cross section of all the records in my library (near mint to new). From a superficial visual perspective both methods appear about the same but that was to be expected. Going a step further and comparing both methods using a microscope was very close between the two to about identical as you can see from the photos. Granted I don’t have a microscope that can actually get into the grooves to see at the micron level but hey I’m not a scientist that has access to that type equipment, but I used what I have. Now the listening test which I can count on was identical. I hear NO difference between cleanings of this record. Now I have to admit that I can’t remember every little snap or crackle when listing to a record two times back to back with an hour between listening and also if a dust particle would fall in the record during one session that would contaminate the sample. However not really trying to be that critical either, but overall the sound quality was the same to me. Prob not a fair assessment because after all it was one record out of over the 400 I own. So. Since yesterday I have done some reading and I am learning that there are other factors to consider with these machines when deciding to buy one. There are a ton of them on the market ranging in price from $200 -$10k and even higher. All boasting this or that. Some are a one stop shop, others like the one I’m using requires a lengthy cleaning process. Also there is the safety considerations. Some of these machines heat the water, some just get hot because they have ceramic materials which heat that can lead to warping. Some you have to be careful of the frequency used for the cleaning or you can damage a record. Going to tell you right now that is not an option for me. I own some very expensive copies of records that would really wreck my day if damaged in a cleaning because the machine malfunction or got to hot. There are chemicals to buy and thats a whole different conversation with just as many options to choose. Lots of things to consider I’m finding out. Anyway. Thanks again for all the replies. I have to admit I was expecting to hear some comments from people who have negative things to say about US cleaners but not so much in this case. Might be the first time that most people agree on a topic involving this hobby lol. Usually it’s a pretty evenly divided conversation for those for and against. So I guess that is a positive in the column of seriously considering one. So I will continue to do my research and make a decision.
I’m planning to order a Kirmuss based on Fremer’s review:
“...gleaming, shiny, like-new-looking record, even more brilliant than a similar record cleaned with the Audiodesksysteme“
which seemed to be at least or better than the Audiodesk. Not looking forward to cleaning all my vinyl.
I may also get a fully automatic Degritter - a newer design with a filter and at least $1k lower cost than other automatic cleaners
I’ve had a VPI cleaning system for something like 3 decades, but the overwhelming feeling I am getting now reading these threads, as my hands get ever more shaky in my sixties, is thank goodness for streaming and great sounding DACS. I used to tune my rake angle with Van den Hul or Shibata styluses to change the tonal balance dependent on the quality of recording and type of music I wanted to listen to. Ie, I was as fiddly as anybody. But the danger of destroying insanely expensive and delicate styli is something I am no longer interested in.
This said, ultrasonic cleaning can be remarkable in its effects on some old records. I am a believer.
@barnettk First of all, your system is lovely. Do enjoy it in good health.
I wanted to add a suggestion that in your further search be certain to check out the Degritter. I have been an audiophile for near 45 years, growing in understanding through all of them. I still have more to learn and always take the time to research and understand the technology and philosophy behind the products. Over the past several months I did just that on the category of ultra sonic cleaning and finally landed on the Degritter as my choice. It just arrived yesterday and this weekend will be a fun test on cleaning some of my noisier (call it, vinyl noise) albums and some of my quietest and best sounding albums. I found, during my research, that the Degritter made the most sense because they developed it from the ground up, applying ultra sonic technology to the world of vinyl record cleaning. In other words, they didn't take existing ultra sonic tanks meant for other cleaning purposes and apply those to vinyl records. They researched for the proper ultra sonic frequency combined with the appropriate wattage, location of the devices, rotation cycles, etc. and developed a completely bespoke machine specific to vinyl record cleaning. I encourage you to research this brand. The audiophileman did the most thorough review that will be very helpful to you. It's a long read, there are Part 1 and Part 2, but well worth the time.
Degritter Ultrasonic Record Cleaning Machine - The Audiophile Man
I posted the link, for your convenience. Enjoy your journey to the next level of vinyl SQ.
Before buying a Degritter, I researched what the Library of Congress, Better-Records and many, many dealers use: The Keith Monks RCM. You apply their special fluid to the record which spins on a TT-like plater with a brush and then a TT-like arm with a nozzle on its end attached to a German medical grade vacuum pump cleans up every bit of dirty fluid. The pump is so powerful that it can pull the record off the plater. So, the record is completely cleaned leaving no residue what so ever. And the whole process takes a little over a minute. They offer several models ranging from $1500 to $2700.
Keith Monks is the very best of all vacuum type RCM, there is no doubt about it. However, it is not ultra sonic and thus can not clean down to 2-5 microns (the deepest bottom of record grooves). There are many opinions on which method to use and in some cases people choose to use more than one method, basically as a regimen. All are worthy of researching. Do enjoy the process.
By the way, I just completed a dozen records cleaned in the Degritter. My tubes are warming up now and I'll soon be playing some records to listen for proof in the pudding (so to speak). I have to say, the materials, build quality, and fit & finish is absolutely first class. The menu and operating system are very simple to navigate & operate. Functionally, this machine is an absolute gem. Listening to some records today should be good. Listening to more, later tonight, should be even better. Music always seems to be better in the evening, when the light is a bit dim. Maybe a couple glasses of wine adds to that...😊
This and other threads point to Degritter being "flavor of the month."
I guess since the AD isn't available now, a used one wouldn't be a smart buy(service)?
Looks like another year of waffling for me. That, and low tech Spin Clean.
Should I hold my breath for a used Degritter for...$1K? Yeah, I didn't think so.
So after reading up more on US RCMs (see I even have the acronyms down now) I have decided to go with the degritter.
The link Mammothguy54 Provided answers to my questions and put my mind at ease in regards to the machine causing damage to my vinyl. The machine manages the water temp, the transport system was highly touted by the reviewer and nothing is pressing against the record when inserting in the slot. I even cringe when sliding my records between the felt brushes on my spin clean. The review also goes into detail as to why degritter chose to use 120 Hz frequency as the best and safest to use in vinyl cleaning (I’m sure that is debatable but I like what I read). It seems that the degritter was designed with vinyl record cleaning in mind as opposed to adapting a machine meant for multiple purposes to cleaning records. I like the fact that it’s software driven and allows for future updates. Many of the features I would want in a RCM are packaged in the degritter. I won’t go into all of them here but the link is a couple post above and if you are looking to buy one of these machines and are on the fence it’s a worthwhile read. Oh and the price is right. $3k is a lot of money but from what I have read it’s about mid point price for these devices and if it does as good a job as anticipated its worth it to me. Will it make a difference in sound quality? I guess we will find out. If this thing does as good a job as the review implies it would almost have to. Also there is a retailer in my local area which is a plus. I like to do business with a smile and a handshake. Life is all about relationships.
I plan to pick one up this week. I will report back on my experience.
Please excuse any typos as this was written in my cell.
@barnettk I am glad to report to you that after cleaning my first dozen records yesterday on my new Degritter, the results are rather staggering. I cleaned and then listened to several records that I am very familiar with in order to have the best understanding possible. I used records of various SQ levels in order to get a grip on the range of what the machine can provide. What I found was that with records of less than satisfactory vinyl quality but great music and detail (such as true vinyl noise due to lower grade pressing and/or grade of vinyl) that problem can not be eliminated. I used the album from Jeff Beck, "Truth" for that example However, where there is noise from micro sized debris and remaining contaminants from previous cleanings, the noise floor is substantially reduced to nearly zero. That aspect was very impressive. More importantly, is what I realized in musical information. The finest nuance of information was revealed in an almost startling way. Guitar strings trailed off like I have never heard before. Sizzle cymbals seemed to go on forever. Layers of musical information had an overall improved dimension, whereby everything seemed more well defined.
My system is sensitive and of very high resolution. I have always heard a depth of music that I had thought was fabulous. I heard it better than ever last night. I had no idea just how much I was missing by only using a vacuum RCM. Ultra Sonic is the state-of-the-art for vinyl record cleaning. There is no two ways about that.
Enjoy your forthcoming purchase. It easily qualifies as a newly added component to my hi-fi system.
So you just purchased your degritter? Sounds like you have found the secret sauce. Now you have me really anticipating seeing this thing in action and hearing for myself. I have tried but cannot find anyone who has a bad thing to say about it. That in itself is pretty impressive. The salesman at the store spoke highly of it for sure. Said he can’t keep them in stock. That usually would go in one ear and out the other because what else would he say right.. however everything I have read about it is positive so his comments were right in line what people like you who own it are saying. Seems like there is no ambiguity in what folks are saying either. I am a firm believer and have always known the importance of record cleaning and if this works like everyone says it does I will be over the mountain happy. Honestly I hate cleaning records. I’m not a very patient person, but I do it. So if this will add a little fun to the task and actually do the job I’m all in. My dilemma was spending the money on something that I could achieve the same result with a manual process. Also there are a lot of machines like the one I borrowed where you spend the money and then still have a very time consuming manual component to get the right result. The salesman says this is basically drop the record in and your done. I’m sure mileage may vary depending on how dirty the record actually is but that record I would hope to never buy in the first place 😂. Keep me posted on your experience as it will be a few weeks before I actually get it delivered since it has to be ordered. One question. How loud is it during operation? Can you speak to that?
@barnettk I recently changed from a high mass turntable, Micro Seiki, to a completely different philosophy. I chose the latest top end unit from Rega, the Planar 10. I had purchased a Lyra Delos cartridge for my Micro Seiki just a few months prior so I thus chose not to get the Rega cartridge and instead carried over my Delos to the Planar 10. I have it placed on a Symposium Acoustics Ultra Platform (which is the top platform on their Foundation Rack Ultra). I also removed the feet from the turntable and am using Symposium Rollerblock Jr HDSE. It's a killer isolation and vibration control system.
I would say you'll find it to be about the same level of noise as most vacuum RCM. I have my unit in a separate room from my listening room so eventually I will have a record being cleaned/dried while listening to some music. It would be way too loud to have cleaning under way while listening to music if the machine were in the same room. It is not a noise problem unit and is what I had expected. Especially after having lived with a Nitty Gritty RCM for so many years. Just too loud to use while playing music in the same room.
Also, if you do buy a used record it is wise to clean it first via a vacuum RCM and then follow with an ultra sonic cleaning. I got that from reading up on the matter and it makes perfect sense.
nice. Yeah I considered the Delos but opted for the Kleos instead. Can’t go wrong with Lyra. Nicely done.
I agree on your cleaning method however once deep cleaned I should be fine to forego the vacuum. However I do agree doing both with a used record and the first cleaning. So just to be clear when I talk about record cleaning mainly my considerations are the second cleaning onwards.
The machine like yours will be setup in a separate room than the listening room. Usually I clean on one day and listen another. Unless I’m streaming, or listening to reel. Yeah I’m still a reel to reel guy. Always have been. Always will be. Not a lot of us still in captivity lol.
There's an extensive thread on the Hoffman board about the Degritter with a few users trying different approaches. Might be worth a look. The Degritter seems to be the best alternative right now in the made for LP one button approach.
I use a big Monks and the KL, as mentioned. When the KL dies, I'll go full industrial. Have guys wearing orange hazard vests and those white suits, flashing blue warning lights, etc.
Neil got me to use a UV light. It does show some stuff that you can't see by naked eye, but the visual really isn't that instructive. You can see plate out issues in the vinyl though. Some stuff is very consistent, other stuff is rather frightening. Unfortunately we have little to no info on vinyl compounding and even less control over it-- you buy what's made. While I don't necessarily like the sound of the old MoFi, that JVC super vinyl is still tops in my book. But, a lot of the records I'm chasing were pressed at a nadir in vinyl quality in the U.S. early-mid 70s so-called spiritual or avant-garde jazz.