IMHO if you're into vinyl, a good RCM is a necessity. I have a Nitty Gritty 2.5 that I bought in 1986 and I use it regularly to clean "new used" LPs I pick up here and there. The NG has paid for itself many times over, and if and when it finally craps out, I'll definite buy another RCM.
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A good record cleaner is important to have if you value your records and phono cartridge stylus. I had a VPI 16.5 for several years and found it very worthwhile. Early last year I replaced it with a Loricraft, as my collection and system have become much more 'serious' in recent years, and it does a much better job. Either way, I urge you to get something, to enable you to listen happily to your records for many more years to come. Personally I would recommend a VPI or SOTA (very similar to the VPI 16.5), or if budget allows, a Loricraft.
Brian, I had the VPI 16.5 for several years. I replaced it with a Sota which I thought did a much better job. I recently sold the Sota and want to buy a VPI HW 17, but they are all but impossible to find used.
I have a hard time justifying full retail for a record cleaner where the seller did nothing to get the sale. Several companies offer the 17 for $1100, but I did all the homework and studying involved in the decision making process. All the seller did was have the item. I even have to pick from several sellers. They do absolutely nothing and make full markup??? NO thanks!
There in lies my frustration. I did not think it would be so hard to find a used VPI HW 17. I was too slow on one for sale, and outbid on an auction on ebay.
I'm just waiting for something to come along, but it looks like lots of others are too!
Nrchy, I've seen the SOTA a number of times but never compared its performance directly, although the extra features look to be nice to have. I think if the price difference between them were, say $50, the choice would be obvious.
The VPI 17 is a step up from the 16.5 by virtue of its automated features and the ability to clean in both directions. Whether it's better than the SOTA could be debatable.
I mentioned the Loricraft mainly because it uses a completely different approach, with a nylon thread which comes in contact with the record instead of the 'velvet lips' approach that almost all other record cleaners employ. The machine's operation is QUIET, and the results speak for themselves. It does take a little more time per side to clean, about a minute, and a little more manual operation is involved. The performance and the lack of sounding like a loud vacuum cleaner were what sold me on it.
How the $1795 Loricraft PRC3 compares with the $1000 VPI HW-17 is at least somewhat subjective. Does it do a better job? Based upon feedback from an HW-17 owner who loaned me three of his most valuable records to see how the Loricraft would do, it seems there is a nice improvement. Was it mind blowing? Perhaps not, but he heard improvements on each record. As a result he is considering a Loricraft. He has a fully loaded VPI TNT with ET arm, well isolated and fully tweaked and precisely leveled.
Information on the Loricraft can be found at http://www.loricraft.com.
Try the KEV1 from KABUSA.com. A nitty gritty without the vacuum. You plug in your own home vacuum. First wash your record in a Knosti Discoantistat then dry them on the KEV1. The results are amazing. Your records are pristine, static free and stay that way with just a pre play wipe with a carbon fibre brush. The whole lot including the carbon brush is available for £100 (about $150). Ok so it is completely manual with no motorized assistance at all but when you are an impoverished vinyl lover you have to shop carefuly and make well judged compromises.