So, I have been rolling along for years quite happily with my VPI HW17. I am aware of its "issues" (noise and the danger that the velvet pad on the vacuum bar will trap and smear dirt). But I clean LPs in my basement, far from either of my audio systems and where noise is not an issue, and I take precautions to avoid the velvet pad problem. Recently, however, I have been offered the opportunity to pick up the Loricraft at a very nice price, I must admit I am tempted, even though I was not shopping for a new RCM, at all. This is an appeal to anyone out there who has some experience with both machines or who has a reasoned opinion; should I go for the Loricraft? I would then have to sell my HW17, and I don't look forward to the issues associated with doing that. I tried out the Loricraft last night; it's got it's own set of quirks for sure.
The question I would ask myself is: Am I happy with how clean my set-up is getting my records now? If satisfied, save your money. Plenty of people with a Lori craft and similar type machines are now moving to Ultra Sonics. Learning to be satisfied with what you have has rewards. However, I don't always follow my own advice.
The fact for me is that record washing is so low on my mental totem pole that I always felt the HW17 must be "good enough", and I never worried whether some other machine would do a better job. I did wash one of my most often played LPs on the Loricraft that is up for sale, and the owner of the Loricraft and I both heard an improvement in noise and treble response, but that LP has been played quite a bit since it was last washed on my HW17. (We played the LP before and after the Loricraft washing.) Thus that little experiment may only prove that the LP needed another good washing after many plays and that the Loricraft is certainly capable. I've never heard of the KL Audio company or their washing machine. I really was not in the market for a new washer until this Loricraft came up for sale right close to home and at a very attractive price. So, it's buy the Loricraft or keep the HW17. I have no intention of moving to ultrasonics, either.
Lewm: I use a Monks which is similar to the Loricraft as a point nozzle vacuum; I have also used a VPI since the early ’80s and still have it. I have also owned both commercial ultrasonics, the Audio Desk and the KL Audio. My experience with point nozzle (Monks/Loricraft) v wand style is: both get the records dry; whether dry really = clean is another question. I think the point nozzle is more effective in pulling the fluid with suspended contaminants off the record. I also found that with the VPI, I got better results with enzyme fluids, like AIVS 15, followed by a rinse. With the Monks, it seems like its effectiveness is less dependent on fluid used. I know there are some quirks to the Loricraft that others have addressed in threads you should be able to find- tweaks to make operation more effective. As I recall, Loricraft have an affiliate/representative operation in the States, so that may give some comfort in knowing you can get parts or service. My current method- for the last several years- has been to use both vac cleaning and ultrasonic. I like the ultrasonic, but with old records (of which I buy many), it doesn’t always tackle some of the noise problems caused by ’gunk’ in the grooves. Thus, the combined methods. Without owning a Loricraft I can’t really offer more insight, so take this as a general set of observations involving machines of the same type. Just to make it more complicated, the Library of Congress preservation facility/archive uses both a big VPI and Monks! I didn't ask them why.
I really do appreciate these thoughtful responses. I did a bit of internet searching before starting this discussion. The results of that search included nothing of a very compelling nature as regards which machine to choose. With the VPI, I bought several extra suction wands. As I clean consecutive records, I also clean the wands that are not in use, by soaking them and wiping down the velvet, so as to always keep relatively clean velvet in contact with the LP surface. Then I periodically rotate a cleaned wand into use. I also wipe down the velvet after every side, manually. What I like about the VPI is the speed with which I can clean a side and the automated steps that would become manual steps were I to switch to the Loricraft. But it's nothing too tedious. I suppose I was looking for someone who could say that one machine (probably the HW17, since most seem to give a slight edge to the Lori) is decidedly inferior to the other (probably the Loricraft), and base it on some direct experiences.
The velvet "lips" on the suction tube obviously will get contaminated with particles on the LP that stick to them, rather than being sucked up with the cleaner solvent. This dirt can, in theory, then be spread around on the surface of the LP, which is not a good thing. (In reality, I usually see only a little surface gunk on the velvet, which is easily removed between cleanings by brushing or by scraping with a finger nail. I really think 95% of the bad stuff goes up the tube with the solvent.) To ameliorate this issue, I bought a few extra tubes from VPI. I keep one or two of them immersed in cleaner or deionized, distilled water, when they are out of use, so as to soak out any accumulated dirt. During a cleaning session, I swap tubes in and out every few LPs. You may want to have an extra tube around, in any case, in case the velvet pads come unglued; this has happened to me at least once.
Thanks Lewm. The unit I purchased came with 3 vacuum tubes, labeled 1-3. The previous owner apparently used a three step cleaning process, switching out the tubes for each cleaning step. Not sure I will have that level of patience....maybe 2? Anyway, thanks for your input, it makes sense to keep the tubes as clean as possible. I am going to fire up the HW17F this weekend for the first time and look forward to hearing some clean vinyl! (I used a Spin Clean prior to this, and believe or not, it seemed to make my records worse...more static, etc?)
When you guys talk about vacuum tubes, I assume you are talking about them with the mounting pillar? That way, you can have a couple of different wands mounted and swap them out in seconds- I color code them, one for cleaning fluid, one for water rinse. Otherwise, agree with Lewm- it is good practice to keep any brushes, pad, applicators, etc. that come in contact with the record surface as clean as possible. I rinse my brushes repeatedly while cleaning.
lewm - - I've owned a Loricraft PRC4 for about 10 years, during which time I've cleaned many 100's of records and gone thru a lot of cleaning fluid and a couple of spools of thread. The thing runs quietly and has never failed me. I stopped using the brush supplied by Loricraft years ago and switched to softer brushes offered by Osage Audio.
Fluids of choice are (1) Nitty Gritty Pure 2 for new records and older LPs in visually excellent shape and (2) "Smart" fluid for "dirty" records.
The Loricraft replaced an aging Nitty Gritty 2-point-something. The NG did a good job, but the Loricraft is far superior.
The VPI 17 has received good press, but I have no personal experience with it.
I use a 16.5, with 1 extra VAC tube, in conjunction with AIVS. If I'm in lazy mode, the AIVS #6 one step, plain and simple. I also like the #15, as Whart mentioned. I designate one Disc Doctor brush just for the #15, as it needs a rinse. When using the #15, I also have a designated VAC wand for it. Then I have another DD brush for a distilled H20 rinse, and then my backup wand does the VAC duties.
Dear fjn04, Sorry for my acronymic deficiency; what is AIVS? One thing I noticed while washing with the PRC4 in the company of its owner, there seems to be more steps, at least in his preferred method. I use a home made mixture of distilled deionized water, isopropanol (lab grade, not rubbing alcohol) and a pinch of detergent (lab grade Tween20). I load that into my HW17 dispenser. The LP gets a squirt of that, then rotation in both directions for about 30 sec each, then suction. Then I squirt the same side with just water, spread it around, and suck that up. Done. Sometimes I do two water rinses.