For some time used-record-dealers tend to advertise their product as cleaned before sale. I actually do the same! Sounds good at first but often ain’t that good in practice, at least to my experience. Why? That’s the reason for this little excursion into the world of record-cleaning.
Basically you could clean your records with everything from a damp cloth to a sinfully expensive professional cleaning-machine and everything inbetween. The question is: what are you aiming for? Given the audio-quality of used records that I bought in recent years the basic goal of most dealers seems to be: It just has to look good!
Acoustically though most of these cleanings turned out to be more or less useless. What’s the reason for that? Basically most record-cleaning-machines work like an ordinary turntable: you place the record on the turntable, the cleaning brush(es) disperses the cleaning-liquid all over the record and finally the liquid gets vacuumed after several rotations. That’s the way most record-cleaning machines from Clear Audio, Hannl to Keith Monks, Lautlos, Loricraft, Moth, Music Hall, Nessie, Okki Nokki, Opera Audio, Project or VPI work. Dependant on model and manufacturer you have to fork out from 400.- to 4000.- Euro for it. But to be honest, I’ve never heard a convincing result by such a machine. ‘Cause with this cleaning-method you simply spread the grease all over the record. For a deep-groove-cleaning the pressure of the cleaning-brushes apparently seems too low and the vacuum too weak to extract the liquid AND the grease. In the end the record actually looks fine but still has more or less audible surface-noise because the persistent dirt is still in the grooves, at different places only.
An alternate cleaning-method starts with a cheap Knosti-handcleaner – “machine” would be a real overstatement – and ends with Gläss’s highly expensive Vinyl Cleaner. The difference: the record is cleaned upright, so the liquid and the dust could drain off the record. That actually makes much more sense to me and the acoustic result is far more convincing than the usual flat-cleaning. The Vinyl Cleaner additionally uses ultrasonic, something I will get back to later.
Crucial for the result of both methods though is the quality of the cleaning-fluid. If you gonna use the 28th filtrate of some stock that has been in use for a year already you shouldn’t wonder about the results. The cleaner the fluid the better the results. But if that’s true, who needs one of these highly expensive cleaning machines?
Quite honestly, I don’t know! If you have lots of records to clean – for instance if you own a record-store – it might be more comfortable to use a machine than to do it all by hand. On the other hand the cycle-time on a machine is more or less the same. Your only benefit is the time for drying.
A third method doesn’t need any liquid at all: The Ultrasonic-cleaner. If you wear glasses you probably know what I mean: your greasy specs go into an ultrasonic-device at your optician and come out like new. All the grease is like blown away. Basically this also works with records and the result is pretty good! But an ultrasonic-device big enough for vinyl-records would also cost you from 300.- to 1200.- Euro and I can’t tell the difference between the cheap and the expensive ones. The 2450.- Euro retail for the above mentioned Gläss Vinyl Cleaner also doesn’t sound like a bargain! By the way, has anybody actually had the chance to test that machine? I would be really interested in the results but I don’t know anybody who has one. But at least by description this seems to me the only really useful offer on the ever more inscrutable market of record-cleaning-machines, if it weren’t for the bloody expensive price.
Since probably everyone has his own philosophy on this issue I’d love to hear your feedback! So let me know about your experiences.