Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner
For the last 15 years, record-cleaning machines have been
limited largely to vacuuming devices. But now there is an innovative, convenient,
effective, and expensive alternative -- the Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner ($3495 USD).
Record cleaning has evolved greatly since the days when all
anyone did was blow off the dust. Next came washing records at the edge of the kitchen
sink or perhaps the Diskwasher brush and cleaning liquid. I think, however, that
"real" record cleaning sprang from the vacuum machines of Nitty Gritty and VPI.
These were followed by the small vortex, string supported, vacuum machines of Loricraft,
which came after the early and cantankerous Keith Monks machine in the 1970s. Of course,
the Keith Monks machine is now once again available.
The Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner represents a sharp departure
from the labor-intensive vacuum idea. For one, there is no vacuum on this machine.
Moreover, it is also virtually automatic. As their information says:
Audio Desk Systeme's Vinyl Cleaner is the first and only LP
cleaning machine that incorporates an ultrasonic cleaning cycle in addition to a more
conventional mechanical cleaning via bi-directional rotating microfiber cleaning drums,
and the result is the cleanest LPs ever.
Ultrasonic is sound generated above the human audible
level. A physical effect called "cavitation" results from the generation of
ultrasonic frequencies in a liquid. In this cavitation process an ultrasonic transducer
creates ultrasonic "compression waves." When the amplitude of this soundwave
increases to a level where the surface tension of the liquid is broken, the fluid will
"tear" apart leaving behind millions of microscopic vacuum bubbles. These vacuum
bubbles then rapidly compress or implode creating millions of tiny liquid jets small
enough to clean inside the smallest grooves of an LP. This process, also called
"microagitation," displaces any contaminants on the surface of the LP.
And it is fully automatic -- just put the LP in the slot,
push the button, and come back in five minutes for a thoroughly cleaned and dried LP (both
The basic operation of the unit is simple. You insert the
record into a long narrow slot in the top between two sets of microfiber brushes and two
white plastic lips on the right side. The instructions say to then slightly rotate the
record counter clockwise to get the lips facing upward against the record surface. The
cleaning brushes move to embrace the record to assess its thickness and then retract for a
brief moment. Counter rotation then moves the lips up and the record remains engaged. I
did not find this counter rotation to work well as the wheels that drive the record
counter clockwise did not properly engage it. A kind gentleman on an audio forum suggested
doing this counter clockwise rotation after the start button was pressed and as the tank
was filling with water from the reservoir below. Nevertheless, about five minutes after
hitting start, you can return to find a cleaned record ready to pIay.
If you are there immediately after it alerts you that it is
done, you may find some drops on the record, particularly at the bottom. Also you have to
be careful in removing the record to avoid the cleaning brushes or they will wet the
surface. However, you see no evidence of deposits left in the fan-drying process. This is
no doubt to the benefit of the cleaning fluid as well as the continual filtering done by
This cleaner is a sturdy metal unit measuring 12" wide
by 7.8" deep by 10.6" tall. It weighs just over 12 pounds without the just over
one gallon of water and cleaner used in the cleaning.
The cleaning fluid is unique. In order to treat the vinyl
as gently as possible, and create the best possible sound, the cleaning fluid,
specifically developed for the Vinyl Cleaner, avoids the use of alcohol, instead relying
on a mild biodegradable mixture with excellent cleaning properties and outstanding
antistatic characteristics. Just one container of cleaning fluid concentrate ($14.95 per
bottle) -- two are included in the delivery package -- is enough to clean approximately
100-200 discs (depending on the level of disc contamination).
A convenient bathroom sufficed for setting up this cleaner.
One would not want it in your listening room, especially during the drying cycle because
it is noisy. Also as the fluid needs to be drained after each 100 records cleaned, the
availability of a sink is quite useful.
I should note that I presently own a VPI 16.5 with the
Walker Delrin nozzle and use Walkers Prelude four-step cleaning system. It typically
takes me just under ten minutes of attention to what I am doing to clean both sides of a
record. The Walker displaced my Loricraft for two reasons. One, records cleaned with the
Walker/VPI system after having been first cleaned with the Loricraft unit also using
Prelude, sounded better. Two, the Loricraft unit using Prelude took me over 20 minutes per
Once I had the Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner loaded with 4.5
liters of distilled water and the bottle of cleaner, I chose a record that I had just
played the night before -- Duke Ellington and Ray Browns This Ones For
Blanton (AcousTech/Pablo 2310-721), a double-record 45rpm pressing. This record had
been previously cleaned on both the Loricraft and VPI/Walker setups. I was quite attentive
to the cleaning on the Audio Desk this first time, although it functioned flawlessly. When
finished I immediately put it on my Shindo Labs turntable and played it again. What I
heard was clearly more extended on the top end and very involving in that the soundstage
was wider and deeper than before this cleaning. I listened through the whole of the first
side because I was so engrossed in the music. Ray Browns bass was realistic
and his presence was vivid in my room. The Ellington piano was less recessed than it had
been in the previous listening. The level of detail, such as Browns fingerings, lent
great realism to the music.
My next cleaned record was Ella Fitzgeralds Clap
Hands, Here Comes Charlie! (Verve VG-4053). This record has always been a problem on
the lead-in grooves. There are many pops and clicks that have resisted many efforts to
remove. No, the Audio Desk did not remove them, or at least all of them, but it did have
the above noted impact on soundstage as well as adding top-end extension. Again, I had a
hard time moving on and listened to both sides of the record delaying my getting to bed
The next day I decided to clean Ella Fitzgeralds Ella
Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book (Verve 314 539 759-2). I had
recently acquired this multiple-record release and had not yet cleaned it. I listened to
the first record uncleaned, then I cleaned it on the Audio Desk and immediately
relistened. The noise level went down greatly and again the top end became more extended
as though the stylus was better tracking the grooves. Perhaps because of this, the
soundstage was more realistic.
I then cleaned Harry Belafontes Belafonte Returns
to Carnegie Hall (RCA lSO-6007), again, a Classic reissue. I have used this album
repeatedly because it is live, there is an expansive left-to-right soundstage, the
audience is noisy, and the city outside the hall is quite audible, including the subway,
which often approaches, stops briefly, and then goes on its way. All of this was more
evident when this previously VPI 16.5-cleaned album was recleaned with the Audio Desk. The
performance became more engaging, sounding like one was on stage or perhaps just behind
it, and when the audience applauded, they sounded as though they were in front of you.
This apparent extension on the top end, great realism in
the soundstage, and reduction in the noise level was evident in all of the many albums I
cleaned. Also, when there was profound bass energy in an album, it was cleaner and deeper
than before. I should say something about one last record, Dave Brubecks Time Out
(Columbia CS 8192). "Blue Rondo A La Turk" and "Strange Meadow Lark,"
were just awesome. On these recordings, Brubecks piano has always seemed poorly
captured and off to the right, and as much as I enjoyed the music, I could not hear a
well-defined soundstage. This was true on several vinyl releases of this album that I own.
Not after this Audio Desk cleaning, however. I was transfixed and enjoyed the piano for
the first time and heard a soundstage that I could really grasp.
The Audio Desk's designer, Reiner Gläss, says, "The
Vinyl Cleaner is a disc-cleaning machine that follows a different path: the cleaning
process is fully automatic, simultaneously for both sides, ultrasonically, and by means of
counter-rotating microfiber cleaning barrels, with subsequent drying. This form of
cleaning is not only quieter and more convenient, it is above all highly effective and
extremely gentle on the disc's surfaces." I can take no exception to any of these
claims. But it is a complex piece of equipment and a good deal more expensive than my
reference record cleaner, the VPI 16.5 with the Walker Delrin tube. Certainly, the VPI is
much less convenient but is it less effective? This question troubled me greatly.
Early on I found that the sound of a previously VPI-cleaned
record improved after a further cleaning with the Audio Desk. Does this prove the Audio
Desk is more effective? I thought so initially but somewhat accidentally I found this was
not necessarily true. The earlier mentioned Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira
Gershwin Song Book led to an interesting finding. I had not cleaned this album earlier
with the VPI. Having cleaned one of the four records in this album with the Audio Desk and
being quite happy with the improvements I noted above, I thought why not see if the VPI
adds anything. I took this record and further cleaned it with all four steps in the Walker
Prelude cleaner on the VPI.
Much to my dismay, listening after further cleaning with
the VPI, I heard greater transparency, more detail, a noticeably more delineated
soundstage and more detail. I took another record and first cleaned it with the VPI. I
found it was much improved. Obviously, the next test was to clean it with the Audio Desk,
and yes this was again a major improvement. Many further tests of the hypothesis that
cleaning with both machines was better than with one, confirmed it. What an unsatisfying
conclusion! Who is going to own two record cleaners, and what does this mean anyway? Does
each machine clean up what the other leaves? Does the Walker enzyme better remove the
molding compound, or does it leave something on the record that improves its sound? Does
the Audio Desk's cavitation remove deep dirt in the grooves and keep both sides from
contaminating each other, as each is face down on the VPI platter while the other is being
cleaned? And would another combo of cleaners outperform these excellent units? Life is too
short for me to entertain these further questions. All that I can say is that cleaning
with both of these cleaners gives a more satisfying vinyl sound.
As I noted above this is a very convenient automatic
machine, but it is very complex. Water has to be filtered and brought to the tank where
the cleaning takes place. The thickness of the record must be assessed and the drive posts
engaged on the record. The brushes then have to be engaged for one minute per press of the
On button as the record is rotated. Once this is completed, the water has to be drained
into the lower tank before two fans turn on in order to dry the records surface as
it spins through a cycle of three different speeds.
At the end of my test of the Audio Desk, I did have a
problem: The records stopped rotating. I reported this to Ultra Systems, the US importer,
who examined the unit when I returned it and reported that "one of the drive rollers
attached to a spindle had worked lose from the spindle. [We] had not seen this problem
before, but apparently Germany has, because they had already changed the adhesive used to
secure this roller in the next production run." I therefore expect this resolved the
I will sorely miss the convenience of the Audio Desk Systeme
Vinyl Cleaner, as the VPI with the Walker Prelude that I own takes about four times as
long and you have to be constantly present while cleaning a record. The Audio Desk Vinyl
Cleaner is very convenient and effective. I would certainly recommend it to anyone.
. . . Norm Luttbeg
|Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner
Price: $3495 USD.
Warranty: Three years parts and labor.
127 Union Square
New Hope, PA 18938
Phone: (800) 724-3305 or 215-862-6570