Yet another VPI 16.5 thread

I am considering buying an RCM and am looking at the VPI 16.5. I was looking at some of the threads about it here on A-Gon and I still had some questions.

As best I can tell this thing works by mannually applying the cleaner and the all the machine really does is vacuum it off? Is this correct or is there some other function to the machine? Does it have a resevoir for the used fluid that can them be emptied?

The one thing that concerns me is build quality. There are a lot of people who seem to have them long-term without trouble, but there also seem to be some folks who get them to find wires detached and other QC issues. Does reliability seem to be an ongoing issue with these things?

Finaly, would there be an advantage to spending a little more on somthing like the Sota machine which is a two-arm automatic application setup? The main disadvantage that I can see with automatic application is that it only pumps one kind of fluid, where with a manual machine you can easily use a multi-step process like the Walker system.

Hi, I've had mine for 7-8 years. Yes all it does is spin the record (one direction) and suck the fluid off into a tank. (empty it via a tube out of the back)

I have never had one single issue regarding quality. For the money, it's built very well.

If you are only going to use one type of fluid or you think push button makes that easier for you, then go for it. Other than getting a Loricraft or Monks, I think the 16.5 is just fine for me...

My cleaning regime: 1st Microcare Premeir, brush in using Last brush...2nd Record Research Deep cleaner brush in with a separate last brush-vac 2 rev's, 3rd Record Research wash, brush in with a 3rd last brush, vac with a separate wand 2 rev's. Zap record with a zerostat. Insert into new sleeve.
I've had mine since 1980! Best investment I've ever made and the only piece of gear I still haven't upgrade, (several hundred times)...
To Mofimadness,

What? You haven't put a $1000 power cord on your 16.5? You have no idea how clean your records can be!


No, I haven't tried the power cord, but the Tice Clock made it spin backwards. :-)
I've owned a new 16.5 for about 16-17 months now.

The build quality of the machine is professionally executed, in, and out, totally first rate. Nothing I've found was haphazardly put together, to give any dislike to. All internal wiring is neat, bundled, properly executed, the assembly of the MFD Laminated Case is done precisely, is extremely neat, no sloppy assembly at all in that regard.

Fancy woods-materials, or better quality materials for Wand Tower Assembly, which is Delrin, the use of something other than MDF Platter, and some more costly components would add to cost, but essentially do nothing to improve the cleaning efficiency of the prouct.

As I once believe Harry said himself a long time ago, his priorities, were to make a good machine, that the masses could afford, and I believe he has accomplished that goal. Mark

Mine has been worry-free for many years. Coupled with Walker Quartet, I am very happy with performance and relative value. If ever needed, VPI support is friendly & expert, although not always easiest to reach(Tues-Thurs only).

Wendell, my teleportation tweak allows me to clean LPs located in other time zones. Cheers,
If you have never owned a record cleaning machine, once you get one, you will wonder why you didn't buy one sooner.

I have owned three models of RCMs over 25 year period, however I wish I kept my highly reliable and efficient though "noisy" VPI16.5.

A VPI17F replaced it a few years ago, this was prior to discovering how effective Walkers Prelude and Step 4 are.
I would of kept the 16.5, it IS a real work horse.

To answer your questions, yes you manually apply the cleaner fluids with the 16.5 while the platter spins at about 15 rpm.
Apply brushes and vacuum off.

Yes these are simple functions however they are HIGHLY effective on vintage and new Lps.

The vacuumed off fluids are drained away through a hose out the bottom into what ever you have on hand, jar , bucket, coffee tin ect.

The 16.5 is built to a price point, it will not take ruff handling, it simply is not built with that in mind, why should it be.

I think most of the problems you read from other users are related to careless use and handling,however there could easily be the odd lemon that left the factory.

In any case I highly recommend the VPI 16.5.

I thought that I might chip in on this since I may have about as much experience using the HW-16.5 as anyone. It has been used regularly for our extensive laboratory testing.

First, I have no affiliation whatsoever with VPI other than being a customer for just this one product. I am a competitor of theirs in other product lines.

For the development and testing of our products, and for my personal use, the HW-16.5 here has now recorded in excess of 150,000 cleaning cycles without any parts failures. The only issue that I have had to date is realigning the platter shaft in the motor arbor because the screws worked loose. It took about 30 minutes total to fix it.

Being in the business, one of our development projects has been to "build a better mousetrap" in regard to record cleaning machines. I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the engineering that went into the functionality of the HW-16.5 is beyond reproach.

For instance, using the physics of vacuum and moving fluids, the pickup tube on the HW-16.5 is exactly the right size and the slot is exactly the right size to ensure that the spent record cleaning fluid is removed rather than dried on the surface of the record. Only someone with the ability and willingness to do the math could have worked this out.

Using the cloth strips to drastically reduce the venturi effect at the pickup orifice was also no accident. This is a result of Harry's knowledge of physics, and it also helps prevent dirty fluid from being dried on the surface of the record.

Concluding, I don't think you can find anything that will do the job better, and certainly not for the price. It's one of the true values in high-end audio.

Jim Pendleton
Osage Audio Products, LLC
I have had mine for about 20 years, no problems with it. Occasionally if you do a lot of records the fluid tank will fill and the unit will shut down until it all evaporates, but that's clearly noted in the manual and is normal. I like the fact that I can scrub a record as much as it needs it on this machine; in that regard I like it better than the fully automatic machines. Highly recommended.
Yo Grimace,

Back in August, I sold a Series 3 Sota Star Sapphire turntable with vacuum and Electronic Flywheel to a friend who wanted to add vinyl playback to his system. He had the turntable a few weeks and then invited me over for a listen. In the meantime he had upgraded the tonearm, the tonearm cable, the cartridge, bought a VPI HW-16.5, and a Perfection steamer.

My JAW DROPPED at how good his system sounded; his system killed mine (Sota Series 5 Nova, SME V, Koetsu RSP, Pass Labs Aleph Ono) and he had only been into vinyl for a few weeks or a month at most.

The first VPI HW-16.5 I owned was an older version and another friend borrowed it to clean some of his record-convention aquistions and never gave it back. He said let me write you a check for the record cleaner and I said "fine". That was a couple of years ago. Also, at the time I owned the first one, I was not aware of how steam cleaning your records can improve the removal of the mold-release agent used on records.

So, I am now the proud owner my second HW-16.5. I bought it new from a dealer who advertised it on Audiogon.

Watch the videos on YouTube by searching on the phrase "steam clean your records"... and then rush out and buy a Perfection Steamer (you might still be able to find one at Walgreens... they are about $30).

I also own the entire assortment of Osage record cleaning solutions that I bought from Jim Pendleton at RMAF last year. (BTW Jim's stuff is great and I am not affiliated with Osage in any way, just a satisfied customer.) His products plus steam cleaning improves the sound quality dramatically on new (unscratched) records. It takes an average sounding record with the occasional clicks and pops and reduces the surface noise to near CD quality.

The last thing that you will need is a package of Last Microfiber applicators (pun intended) from lastfactory dot com (also about $30).

The combination of the VPI HW-16.5, Perfection Steamer, Osage Solutions, and Last brushes will dramatically improve the sound quality of your records by allowing you to effectively clean the dried-on mold release off of your vinyl.
I recommend VPIs 16.5 highly. I am using mine with a hand held steamer and have been using 16.5 this way for quite a while. No ill effects from the spray are evident. 16.5 is loud but so are most every vacuum ive used. Save the money needed to acquire a more expensive unit and buy more vinyl.

The only extras for my 16.5 are another tower and tube for the last rinse. Another platter cover for the first side cleaned to be removed when cleaning the second side. I use these to reduce contamination spread. Also i use three VPI 17f brushes with my steam cleaning method. One for wash/steam one for 1st rinse and the last for final rinse.

I have cleaned lps in many different ways but for my ears steaming along with lab grade water for rinse included with your vinyl cleaning method produces the best sounding and quietest lps yet IMO.

Like most RCM users once you get one you will wonder why it took so long to make the move. If you are a lp buyer and get a fair amount of lps or have a large collection that needs cleaning this is when you know you made the right decision on a RCM purchase.
OK. Couple other questions. It seems that a cork mat would not be the ideal material for the mat because dirt, etc. could get into it and contaminate the newly cleaned side-one as you do side-two. I see the cork can be replaced. Does anyone use a different type of mat that is easier to keep clean? Something rubber perhaps that can be washed?

Also: Can you clean the vacuum brush and/or how often do you have to replace it?

Thanks for everyone's responses. It does seem to be overwhelmingly possitive.
Grimace, I've gone through about 360 LPs so far in my collection, trying to "thin the herd" so to speak, with AIVS Cleaners, and I am still using the original Wand for the AIVS Cleaners, with original Velvet Strips, and they look no worse for wear than when they were brand spanking new. Replacement Strips can be gotten from the Disc Doctor at a reasonable cost, that are a simple peel, and stick for the Vacuum Wand.

I pre-clean any "deadbeat" LPs gotten used from the thrifts, with an AQ Carbon Fiber Brush, and Canned Air.

I, like you, was concerned about a Cork Mat, that would only become dirtier over time, and I set out to do something about it. I believe your ideas hold promise, that a Rubber Mat can be easier to clean whenever one feels the need.

I purchased 1/16" self adhesive backed Neoprene Sheeting from Mcmaster-Carr, and also had a machinist friend fabricate a bramd new Acrylic Platter, cloning the MDF VPI 16.5 Platter. His work of course is impeccable, but the Rubber Sheeting I bought could have been better quality. Evidently, there's different grades, and I must've "cheaped out" only spending about $9 per 12"x12" sheet. I currently got my eye on some better grade Neoprene, that will cost me nothing, but will mean adhering the Mat with a Spray contact cement Adhesive to the new Acrylic Platter.

Thinking about it some, I think I'm over-obsessed about the worry of ever changing such a good mat in the future, and trying to get it off the Platter if I ever needed to.

The good quality Neoprene Mat should last quite a number of years without a worry to be had. A simple wipe with a lint free cloth, and you should be good to go.

As I close, and in restrosepct, there was probably no advantage that I went to a Acrylic Platter versus the MDF, other than a material that has been lathe turned and will never warp with submersion with fluids . The machine won't clean any better, and the MDF Platter shouldn't go bad, unless you take the 16.5 for a swim in the pool.

I'll try soon, to have Jim Pendelton of Osage-AIVS post some pics of the Platter, and Neoprene Mat on his website, complimenting the Fan Mod Article he kindly placed there for me. Mark
Hi All,

Instead of changing the mat when cleaning the 2 sides of an LP, I am using a throw away LP (after cleaning) as the mat for my VPI 17. Since the mat (LP) is thicker at the lip and the label section, the grooved areas should never touch each other, so there should be no contamination. It works well for me so far.
I have a HW-19 Jr. platter. Can it be fitted in place of the mdf platter? How do I do that?

I use old platter mats, if you dont have any lying around you could source out similar material from a fabric store and make a couple to fit, or what ever.

The vacuum head will last a long time, inspect it every 1000 or so Lps.
Hello Narrod,
It probably could be done, but not without some substantial fabrication. Not to mention, would sort of be a sin, hacking up a Jr Platter to make it fit aboard the 16.5 RCM.

The stock 16.5 MDF Platter is .500" thick, roughly 11" in Diameter and I know the 19-Jr. Platter is thicker than .500" thick.

The 16.5 Motor-Platter Arbor's Spindle would no doubt be too short to protrude far enough through the Jr. Platter, and then be able to button up an LP with the Knurled Nut. As well, the stock Platter attaches to the Motor Arbor via three 6-32 Screws, which in my instance, looked like three self-tapping screws.

Other problems, would possibly be, due to higher Platter Height because of thicker Platter, now the Arm Wand is bumping into the side of the thicker Platter.

That's why I went with an exactly identical Clear Acrylic "clone" to the VPI MDF Platter, so that the stock Motor Arbor would be used, and that no issues with the Vacuum Arm Wand would occur. The other reason I decided as well to stay with the exact same Platter diameter of 11", was evidently Harry+Co had thier thinking caps on quite well, and I'll explain.

Often, when cleaning LP's, I've noted on occasion, that fluids can, and will dribble over the side of an LP Lip to the underside of the LP. (I'm only concerned when it is the previously cleaned side of the LP facing down upon the Platter.) With the smaller size Platter diameter that Harry smartly chose, these fluids then stay right at the Lip, and will not travel any further on the underside of the LP due to wicking-capillary action.

I then find it a simple matter while Platter is spinning to wick up this small amount of fluid while vacumming, with a small, unscented Kleenex.

The cost for fabrication-machining of my clone Acrylic Platter, was $50, plus the costs for the Acrylic, and Neoprene Rubber Mat. Looking back, the Platter mod was really not necessary, as one can easily change to a better Mat material on the Stock MDF Platter if one chooses. If end users should find they're dousing thier Platters-Mats with fluids, then IMO, they are more than likely using way too much fluids to clean with.

Of the mods I have done to my own 16.5 so far, I see the cooling fan as being the most cost effective, and the most beneficial. Next I would say would be a better Mat Material. A good Neoprene Mat that would replace the stock cork one should last indefintely, and IMO should proove to be a material that is a lot easier to keep clean. Hope this helps. Mark