So Which Machine is Right For You?
The most basic model we sell at Acoustic Sounds is the Model 1.0 made by Nitty Gritty. With this machine everything is done manually. The fluid is dropped on a brush and applied to the record. The LP is then flipped over and turned by hand while the vacuum does its job. While certainly effective, this method is a bit tedious. The upgraded Model 1.5 by Nitty Gritty provides rotation to the LP and is thus much easier to use than the basic model. Most Nitty Grittys vacuum from the underside so it is sometimes difficult to be assured that all the fluid is completely removed without physically turning the record over. But because the record is only supported by the label, there isn't the problem of the freshly-cleaned record coming in contact with a potentially dusty platter. The Nitty Gritty models small size and the option of various cabinet finishes make them quite unobtrusive.
The other brand of vacuum cleaning machines offered at Acoustic Sounds is VPI. Many customers are familiar with the line of VPI turntables, which we recommend highly. Unlike the Nitty Gritty machine, the VPI models employ a turntable "platter" which is turned by a high-torque motor. This can be used quite effectively for all sorts of "pre-cleaning" fluid application and initial scrubbing. On the basic VPI model, the HW-16.5, cleaning fluid is dispensed from a bottle to the top of the record. This liquid is then distributed with the supplied hand-held brush. A vacuum arm tube is then swung out over the record to remove the fluid. The advantage here is that one can see the entire drying process without having to turn the record over. In addition, VPI's more-powerful vacuum completes the process with fewer revolutions, greatly minimizing static charges. The disadvantage here compared to the Nitty Gritty is that the cleaning machine's platter must be kept clean to prevent contaminating the LP¹s freshly- cleaned side.
For the ultimate in record-cleaning machine luxury, the VPI HW-17F is certainly at the head of the class. An integral unit that applies the fluid via an internal pump replaces the manual brush system of the HW-16.5. The platter on the HW-17F is also bi-directional, allowing for more-effective cleaning action. In addition, the vacuum on the HW-17F is equipped with a cooling fan for hours of uninterrupted cleaning. It is the record cleaner of choice for such people as Michael Fremer of Stereophile, Harry Pearson of TAS and for The Library of Congress. Our HW-17F at Acoustic Sounds has seen continuous, daily use for the last 12 years, and it is still going strong.
While the investment in a record-cleaning machine may seem a bit steep at first, why not look at it like this: If you have 1,000 records in your collection, the price of the top-of-the-line VPI works out to only $1 per LP! A small price to pay to extend the life of both your records and phono cartridge. And the enhanced fidelity resulting from a freshly-cleaned LP will make your entire system sound better and your listening sessions more gratifying.
As you can see, while there may be some differences in the design of the Nitty Gritty and VPI cleaners, they are both aiming for the same goal: A pristinely-cleaned LP.