VPI versus Ultrasonic cleaners


There have been rave reviews concerning ultrasonic record cleaners of all types.  But no ones has ever put the records under a microscope.  I am posting this because I have at 130x.

I purchased 2 of the same records, 1 ultrasonic cleaned and 1 not.  I examined them and the ultrasonic cleaned record while cleaner was not fully clean.  I contacted the seller and this was one of the drip dry cleaners.

I gave the ultrasonically record the following light cleaning (which did help it)
1 Docs miracle record misto sprayed and spread with a cotton makeup remover
2 Steam with distilled water
3 Vacuum with my VPI with a Delron tube (much better than the cheap clear one)
4 VPI record cleaner misto sprayed and spread with VPI brush
5 Steam with distilled water
6 Vacuum with my VPI
7 Steam with distilled water

The other record received the above process but repeating steps 1-3 and 6-7.  So twice the cleaning

I re-examined them under 130x and showed the results to a couple others who agreed that while clean the double VPI processes looked better.

Listening wise they sounded the same.  Listening was done on a SME20/3 with a Sumiko Palos presentation cartridge.   Any difference should have been picked up.

Shame I can't quickly post the pictures.  But in short if you have a good VPI process perhaps invest in a USB microscope and look at the record before buying another cleaner.  If you do get an ultrasonic cleaner I think it needs to be the drying kind.

ajcrocker1
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aj, my listening comparisons align with your conclusion that ultrasonic cleaning needs a rinse step followed by a vacuum drying. Folks who are not doing a final ultrapure water rinse and vacuum dry are missing that final step that makes a big difference in results. At this point, my VPI RCM is my final rinse and vacuum dry station to my ultrasonic cleaning regimen.
I agree with Rushton. I use the AudioDesk followed by a quick rinse with reagent grade water with my VPI.  

I was told by the rep for the Audio Desk cleaner (at RMAF) that vacuuming the record adds static to it. This is why they choose to air dry the record after the wash cycle.

ajcrocjer1: What ultrasonic cleaner did you use? Were the 2 test records equally dirty to begin with?

Use quats in your cleaning solution and detergents with a neutral PH balance to eliminate static. I get no static from vacuum drying. Air drying leaves the residue from whatever was in the tank solution, including the contaminants that were on your records originally (now just diluted).
I have an Audiodesk and sounds like a good idea to use the VPI to give a final rinse. Also have zerostat, Mapleshade zerostat and Furutek d'stat. I will post after I try
Rushton is right again. The minimal amount of static I get from the VPI which dries in 3 rotations can be eliminated with a Furutech Destat or similar tool. This is better than dried solution left on the record after an AD blow dry. That said, I have used the AD without a final rinse to great effect. But, when you are already in the insane clean program: Why have any impurities on the record? Why not go all the way? 
What final rinse do you all use? I see that Audio Intelligent makes Ultra-Pure Water available from music direct for $16. I also see several reagent grade water types on amazon.
I have a commercial grade RO filter. I think that this is clean enough for me. $100 will get you a 2or3 stage filter.
There is a thread on DIY ultrasonic cleaners on the VPI website forum.

A must read.

A potential issue is if the water bath gets dirty, and is left on the cleaned record after it is removed. Do you then clean with a different machine that removes the water residue?

ajcrocker’s method does address this, but it is over kill, and takes too long IMO.

I use a Nitty Gritty. It does a very good job, and takes 2 minutes. I do not have OCD!
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of threads on the Internet about different methods of cleaning records. Leaving aside some of the more extreme methods--using hair shampoo with conditioner to reduce static or scrubbing a record with melamine foam (yes, that one is out there), most methods that don’t do damage to the record or leave a residue are all probably within a range of "acceptable" to most users. For years, I used a basic VPI with a variety of fluids (there weren’t as many choices back in the ’80s) and got good results. In fact, I occasionally pull out a record I haven’t listened to in a couple decades, know that I had cleaned it at one point long ago given the inner sleeve used (those old Discwasher VRP sleeves) and they play fine.
When I first switched to an ultrasonic machine -the Audio Desk-- I was delighted by the convenience. I reduced the amount of manufacturer supplied fluid that I used, based on advice of some early adopters, and didn’t have much of an issue.
But, in some cases, with older records that had been exposed to who knows what sorts of contaminants, a pass through the Audio Desk didn’t get rid of noise- at first I attributed it to groove damage, but in the case of a couple pretty valuable albums, I re-cleaned on the old VPI, using an enzyme fluid and rinse. After some work, those problem records achieved a high state of play. (This isn’t always the case- some records are damaged by prior kludgey turntable set-ups or other problems and heavy cleaning won’t resuscitate them).
This led me to play with a variety of techniques and methods. I typically combine conventional vacuum cleaning (using a point nozzle, like the Monks- no static) with ultrasonic. If I am really after the best results, I will vac dry, rather than blow dry the record after an ultrasonic wash.
But, so much is about method and good practices. I can still use the VPI machine with some Disc Doctor type applicators, an enzyme like AIVS No. 15 and pure water rinse and generally get great results.
On water purity, the folks at the Library of Congress told me during an interview that while they can’t vouch for purity of grocery store distilled, all they consider necessary is D/I water. I use grade 1 reagent water which is probably overkill and buy it in quantity from a lab supply house. The higher grades of water typically go through multiple processes to eliminate all sorts of potential contaminants, organic and inorganic.
My general reaction to the OP’s observations is that multiple cleanings, using different methods, is going to produce better results than a single cleaning by one method.
As far as leaving surfactant residue on the record, I’m definitely of the "pure water" rinse school--and I do this not just for sonics-- I didn’t really hear any negative artifacts from the AD fluid (using a reduced amount), but because I also want to leave the record in as pristine a state as possible. I have no idea what chemical interaction might occur with a given cleaning fluid and a poly-lined sleeve over time. (I’m not focused on Audio Desk here, but any cleaning fluid). These records will outlive me. I’m just a care-taker.
Whart, nice post. Thank you.

I've invested a fair amount of time exploring ultrasonic cleaning over the past several months because I've fallen way too far behind in my record cleaning. With over 6,000 LPs, I needed a faster way to clean than my trusted multi-step manual wet/vac cleaning process. It got the best results I've ever found, but I was not keeping up with my collection and it is just painful to me to play a record that I've not cleaned. I suppose my angst is related to Whart's comments that I'm only a caretaker of the vinyl on my shelves for the time being.

In exploring ultrasonic cleaning, my hope was to find that I could do multiple LPs in a single US cleaning cycle and greatly speed up my rate of cleaning records. My goals were FIRST to do no harm. Then see how close I could get to the results of my manual cleaning regimen.  I've posted the results of my experiments in bits and pieces on the various threads where I found good advice to add to my experimentations. If you visit the VPI forum thread on cleaning, or the diyAudio thread on diy ultrasonic record cleaning, or the Audio Kharma thread on record cleaning solutions, you'll see my comments. 

Perhaps I should summarize what I've learned in a new thread here on Audiogon to capture it all in one place. That might speed up someone else's explorations if they are serious about taking cleaning to the best result they can achieve. After 40 years of cleaning vinyl using a variety of methods and fluids, I think that's where I've finally arrived with my new cleaning regimen. My listening partner agrees and I trust her ears more than mine. :-)
I read a test result recently which revealed an inexpensive source of ultra-pure grade 1 water. It combines reverse osmosis (r/o) with distillation then pouring it into bottle that will not excrete plastic residue into your h2o. The machines available are at Whole Foods. Be careful to push the buttons to combine all the different processes. I believe three all told . Buy the reusable blue bottle they sell there. Cost per gallon is 29 cents. R/O alone allows certain chemicals thru. Distill alone leaves volatiles with boiling point less than h2o in the solution. 

I read a test result recently which revealed an inexpensive source of ultra-pure grade 1 water. It combines reverse osmosis (r/o) with distillation then pouring it into bottle that will not excrete plastic residue into your h2o. The machines available are at Whole Foods. Be careful to push the buttons to combine all the different processes. I believe three all told . Buy the reusable blue bottle they sell there. Cost per gallon is 29 cents. R/O alone allows certain chemicals thru. Distill alone leaves volatiles with boiling point less than h2o in the solution. 

kavakat1: ...an inexpensive source of ultra-pure grade 1 water. It combines reverse osmosis (r/o) with distillation then pouring it into bottle that will not excrete plastic residue into your h2o. The machines available are at Whole Foods.
Kavakat, I obtain my RO/DI water from the bulk water dispenser at Whole Foods. The stores in my area use Fresh Pure Waters dispensers and it is very high quality water when drawn from the DI lever (only one lever to turn, not multiple). The DI lever dispenses water that is RO filtered then pushed through an additional DI stack; is is not distilled. Fresh Pure describes its filtering process at their website: http://freshpure.com/your-questions-answered/

The cost at the Whole Foods Market near me is $0.39 per gallon and I believe this is their standard price across all of their locations.