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I have a VPI 16.5 and an Audio Desk US cleaner.
If the records are really dirty, you may need both. The vacuum followed by the US cleaner.
The vacuum cleaner is like washing your car. The US is like getting it detailed. In the case of really dirty records, you need to get the crud off before you can use the US effectively.
I recently purchased an Audio Desk System. I have been cleaning records prior to playing them and then putting a new jacket on the records. I haven't been cleaning the records after every play and haven't considered a need.
The reduction in noise - either static or dust - after cleaning is noticeable.
I perceive the clean records will also minimize buildup on the catridge.
My records are not dirty per say - simply dust and particles from the paper sleeves. No candy, gum or dog food has shown up on them yet!
I am using Walker Prelude for some time now and even though considerable cleaning time is required, especially first time cleaning, it it does a great job and lp's stay clean for a long period of playing time.
So i do about 10 lp's per cleaning session, as work is done manually on a DIY rotating platform.
The Audioquest super conductive anti static brush is doing a nice job prior playing.
I would get a VPI 16.5 and an inexpensive US record cleaner.
Or a spin clean and a more expensive US cleaner
Most guys would rather spend the money than do the work and if that is you then go US. It is probably faster, certainly easier, but whether it gets as good results as Walker I have to wonder.
Walker wins hands down in terms of cost-effectiveness. At least as good as US for a fraction of the cost. Walker charges a lot for their kits but their refills are very reasonably priced and so I bought just the refills, use my old Disc Doctor brushes and this brings the cost way down. Also use my old VPI to vacuum off the final 2 rinses.
That is the only thing it is used for. A big problem with all cleaning systems is to eliminate all traces of your cleaning solutions. The problem with VPI, if the brush gets even slightly contaminated then it is smearing dirt not cleaning. Same for US, it cleans the first record everything after that goes into dirtier and dirtier cleaning solution.
Don't drink the Cool-Aid. To get a record clean is easy as pie. To get a record perfectly clean is almost impossible. Walker and some other multi-step processes will get you there, but it is laborious and time consuming. Frankly, for a lot of records, probably not worth it. Inherit 200 records, be real happy if 20 are worth cleaning at all. You will have ones that skip, are noisy, or just not anything you would ever listen to.
I would put em in two piles- ones you might like, ones you might not. Maybe clean a few you are pretty sure will be worth it. The vast majority I would decide after playing what if anything it is worth cleaning.
Right now it seems like you want US just because you have a lot of records. This way you realize nah, could do em 20 at a time with Walker, not such a big deal, maybe never even clean a lot of em.
I have been using a Nitty Gritty for ages, and it is a must when you have second hand vinyl. The VPI and other record cleaners which use a cleaning solution and vacuum combinations do the same thing as the basic Nitty Gritty does, just with more convenience, but exact same efficiency.The NG is good enough when you have a low-fi mid-fi system. If you want to make the record super clean, then NG treat it several times! I have an 1812 overture that was an unlistenable wild campfire with some background music, and it has cleaned up to a very dynamic and enjoyable record after cleaning it five times with the NG. (Did not remove ll the noise, but turned frisby into a playable, and more importantly, enjoyable record.)
When you have a very high resolution system, then you can take advantage of the ultrasound (US) cleaner. I have a DIY US cleaner that I have been using for 5+ years. For a very good system, you can clean 4 records at the same spin, and hear MAJOR improvement, as if they have been NG 3-5 times. In case you have a system with the highest resolving power, then you are kicked back to US one record at a time, and you will hear major improvement VS multiple records sonicated at once, or ran through NG multiple times. If you have a large record collection and a top notch system then the US cleaner is a must - otherwise you are missing out 90% of your collections potential. For example, a record that sounds quite poorly can clean up to give a superb experience. You do not know what is on the record until it is clean... especially in the bass. With dirty records you are missing out the lowest octave entirely.
That's my experience. (I have an audio buddy, and he had the same experience with US cleaning.)
Ultrasonic is superior. I learned this from experience and formulated my opinion. I had a very expensive VPI cleaner top of the line (like 4K), vacuum etc. It cleaned my records well and I had no complaints. There was noticeable improvement on some of my used LP purchases.
Then I read a thread on Audiogon not much more than 2 1/2 months ago on the subject of LP cleaning. An engineer in this group talked about his Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner that he paid $150.00 for and raved about it. I figured for $150 I didn't have a lot to lose and I'd sell which ever one performed the lesser of the two.
I bought it. Instructions were not too good. I think it's made in China, but the pictures were enough to figure everything out. I put it to work. I can do 5 records at a time, no sweat. It is amazing how clean the ultrasonic has gotten my records. As it vibrates the water and infiltrates the grooves, it cause tiny particulates to fall to the bottom of the silver tank/pan. I could see in the bottom of the pan from records I had already cleaned with my VPI, specs of dirt that came loose. As a bonus I even shined up some of my wife's jewelry using it.
So now my VPI is up for sale. I will gladly give you a good price on it if you want to go that route. Otherwise if you want to go ultrasonic just log on line and type in Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner and see if they still come up. Good luck.
If you've only got 200 to do, I'd strongly recommend BORROWING a cleaner (either vacuum or ultrasonic), paying the lender a few bucks for its use, and call it a day after you do the cleaning. Since these are inherited and not a collection you've assembled yourself, you'll probably find that you really like about 20 out of the 200 records, and any expense purchasing a record cleaner will have been wasted.
I was using one of the Nitty Gritty cleaners for years, then got a deal on a VPI HW-17. Much easier to use. You might want to get the VPI 16.5 though. No point in using the liquid dispersal pump. Just squirt 3 or 4 lines of fluid around the record. (This can't be done with the Nitty Gritty, as it cleans the bottom side). VPI cleaners clean the top side. Much morelogical. Quicker too. A bit less noisy, and cleans in both directions. Plus, one rotation with the vacuum and it's done.
I haven't used US cleaners (except for my airbrushes). To me it's about how long it takes and ease of use.
The answer to your question depends, primarily. upon your answers to these questions:
Do you plan on keeping those records and playing them for your own enjoyment?
Do you have a good quality turntable & cartridge to play them on?
Do you plan to sell the records and make the most money you can on the sale(s)?
How much money are you wiling to spend getting them clean?
There is no question the cavitation or ultrasonic cleaning method is best but don't take my word for it. Visit Michael Fremer at Analog Planet. If you don't know who he is, find out. He's forgotten more about records than most humans on this planet will ever learn.
Generally speaking, the least expensive and easiest record cleaning machine is something like a Knosti Antistat or Spinclean. If Spinclean still uses cleaning pads, get the Knosti. It uses brushes that will get down deep into the grooves. There's no sense using pads, even high quality microfiber cloth pads, to, essentially, push microscopic dirt particles around the grooves. Quality, non-abrasive brushes get down deep into the grooves and get the crud out, rather than pushing round & round.
For a few hundred bucks more, even less on the used market, get a vacuum machine system but something that does NOT have the record(s) bottom sides on a flat surface while you're cleaning the top side. The last thing you want to do is clean one side and then flip it over and put it on a contaminated flat surface while you clean the other. What's the sense in that?
The most effective approach is cavitation or ultrasonic cleaning and you do not have to spend thousands on a machine like this. Check out the "CleanerVinyl" site. You can put together a system like this for considerably less than a grand.
Finally, I would encourage you to do some research and read all you can about "Last" record preservative and "Last" products, in general. No pun intended but "Last" is the last step in my cleaning process. Additionally, if you plan to keep and play those records or have a vinyl collection you care about keeping in great shape, there are a few things you should be doing. For example: learn how to handle & store records properly; use good quality anti-static poly sleeves instead of those funky paper ones; insert the record in the sleeve and, then, into their respective jackets so the openings are not exposed to the air; use a good quality carbon fiber record brush and safe stylus cleaner, like an Onzow, before & after every play of every side and use a good quality record clamp.
These are the basics and don't require as much time & fussing as you might think. If you love music and care about getting the best sound you can, it's a minor labor of love.
Thanks so much to everyone for your input. I have been reading a lot over the last week. So much info out there, reading is way faster than trying everything you guys have learned. I'm going to keep all of the records and use them for my enjoyment, at least the ones that are actually listenable. In addition to what I just got, I have a small collection of about 300 that I've bought since 1975. Even though I use my Discwasher, many need a good cleaning too. I moved to the CD media, but have gotten back into analog again. Some have mentioned carbon fiber brushes. Is an Audioquest record brush better than say Discwasher and are they really soft enough not to damage the record grooves? It sounds like I should replace my daily cleaning brushes do to the wicking of the fibers. Going to do more research, but think I need several new cleaning supplies. US, Walker and more. Of course a bunch of anti-static sleeves to replace the ones that still have paper.
I use a Vinyl Stack single cleaner with a drying stand. I wipe off using old undershirts, very soft cotton, or the Vinyl Stack comes with a microfiber. I use a goat hair brush, I believe it was from Sleeve City. In a spray bottle, I have a solution of water and Triton X-100 (water initially hot for mixing, then kept at room temp). Run faucet. I am adding a carbon water filter underneath my faucet. Water takes care of most static.
After, I do use an Aerostat, and a Mapleshade grounded stainless steel brush (silky soft).
For the stylus, I use the Onzow, etc., but usually a watercolor brush ordered from Zem brushes w/distilled water in mini bottle. The poor man's Onzow is Blu Tack or similar, and that works well. These stylus tricks are adapted from Peter Lederman's Soundsmith website. Lately, I have been experimenting with Last stylus protector.
I think there are almost as many ways to clean records as there are audiophiles. If you are considering ultrasonic, n.b. that Vinyl Stax offers a spinner which can be used with any ultrasonic bath of a certain size.
Lastly, after you clean, I've found it best, in most cases, not to reuse the old sleeve. I purchase new archival sleeves, 3 mil. If a record was dirty and staticky coming out of an old sleeve, why would you put it back into the potentially dirty and staticky sleeve?
I use out sleeves for records that have especially nice, or damaged, covers.
Once the record is on the table and static has been removed, I use this record dust brush: https://www.amazon.com/Record-Stylus-Cleaner-Anti-Static-Cleaning/dp/B07C1J9QPJ/ref=sr_1_17?dchild=1. Sometimes, I follow that with a camera lens blower: https://www.amazon.com/Giottos-AA1900-Rocket-Blaster-Large/dp/B00017LSPI/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&key. Lastly, I use an LED light or high-powered LED flashlight to inspect the record. Sometimes, a record looks mint under regular lamplight, and you will hear artifacts or skipping even after cleaning. Often, when one inspects under LED, one sees otherwise invisible scratches or marring that explain the noise heard and rule out insufficient cleaning.
"For a few hundred bucks more, even less on the used market, get a vacuum machine system but something that does NOT have the record(s) bottom sides on a flat surface while you’re cleaning the top side. The last thing you want to do is clean one side and then flip it over and put it on a contaminated flat surface while you clean the other. What’s the sense in that?"
I purchased an inexpensive rubber TT mat for my Okki Nokki to use when flipping the clean side down.
Thing about cheap US units is, well, they’re cheap. They may not be very powerful, they may not distribute the energy very well, they may not even meet spec. Just sayin’.
I suggest that you rent or borrow a VPI 16.5 and clean the lot. Then select what you want to keep and pay someone to do a good US clean of only those. You’ll come out ahead unless you want to keep most of them.
NEVER use tap water unless you know FOR SURE that it's near distilled spec. Otherwise you may get mineral deposits which can only be removed by US cleaning. Ask me how I know.