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Record Cleaning Machines – the best tool for the job is …

I receive frequent queries about the best record cleaner to use.  My short answer is:  “the one that you actually end up using”.  This may seem like an off-handed quip, so let me provide some background …

On photography forums you’ll find endless conversations about the performance of this camera or lens vs. another.  People are splitting hairs further and further – debating over choices that all exceed the creative skill of the photographer.  At one extreme, you’ll find a pro who can compose a prize winning photo on his smart phone, and at the other extreme, an amateur with deep pockets who produces mediocre snapshots with his Nikon D800.

None of this is intended to set up a straw-man argument in favor of a skilled professional using “inferior” tools.  The point of this analogy is that the camera you have with you is the photograph you end up taking.

Back to record cleaning …

I’ve had several cleaners which have done from acceptable to very good jobs.  Some of them were so noisy that I didn’t want to be in the same room with them.  I find the sound of loud vacuum cleaners to be particularly offensive.  Others may be more tolerant.

Another non-starter for me is the time required to clean an LP and the amount of interaction required on my part.  One very effective process I employed involved using two highly regarded solutions and a distilled water rinse – taking approximately 7 minutes per side.  I won’t name the RCM, because that isn’t the point of this comment – save to say that it’s a vacuum based machine that takes approximately 70 seconds to remove fluid from the LP – that’s 3:30 in vacuuming time alone (for 3 fluid removal steps).

After a mass effort to clean some 70 LPs for a show with this machine, I found myself not wanting to clean another record for well over a year.  Now I ask you … how good is that RCM in the context of how many records are actually cleaned?

In terms of low user interaction (automation), we have a convergence of easy to use and excellent cleaning performance – machines like the ultrasonic Klaudio and Audiodesk.  A slight bit down the hierarchy, are some solutions you can assemble for about 25% of the cost.  They’ll do an equally good job, but require more user attention.  Having said that, some of these systems are actually be faster for mass cleaning operations, but are not as user friendly as the Audiodesk and Klaudio for one at a time cleaning.

Stay tuned for more comments on alternative ultrasonic cleaning approaches.

2 comments

  1. Bill McCormack says:

    Tom said “an amateur with deep pockets who produces mediocre snapshots with his Nikon D800.”

    Yeah exactly – he should have bought a Canon! lol

  2. Thom says:

    Hi Bill,

    Good to hear from you.

    As a former Nikon enthusiast, I’m growing to dislike both of the Big 2 (Can-ikon). I’ve been shooting with an Olympus O-MD E-M1 for the past couple of years. Apart from a bit slower autofocus and high ISO performance, I’m loving it. DSLRs still reign supreme in those two areas.

    Still, those Peter Rowan Danny Shafer photos in a previous post was taken at ISO 6400 (photos were reduced to 1200px for the web).

    Another use-case metaphor (to the above) popped up in a conversation with an audio buddy …that of high-end espresso machines. I wrestled with a replacement a few years ago. The 30 minute warm-up time doesn’t fit my life style as far as caffeine infusion is concerned 😉

    … Thom

    Cheers,
    Thom

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