There are a few alternatives when it comes to cleaning that dirty, well loved vinyl of ours. Firstly the Disco-Antistat landed in NZ a few years back, then the Spin Clean record washer (reviewed here) impressed with its no-nonsense ability at removing gunk from those treasured black discs.
Of course both these products are manual devices, requiring a bit of elbow grease to work and while that in itself isn’t a bad thing, there’s nothing like a bit of automation when it comes to making the process easier. Problem is the powered devices are a magnitude more expensive. Until now that is!
Inventor, Real Groovy shareholder and all-round vinyl-phile Ralph Brayham has created NZ’s first powered record cleaning device in true Kiwi fashion in his garage. Number 8 fencing wire attitude? You betcha – here’s what Ralph had to say about his RCM.
“Even though I own part of the store, I still go into Real Groovy on weekends and pick through the bargain bins at the back of the store. As the bins change every week, it’s a bit like panning for gold, you never know what you’re going to find. However, one thing I did find is that 40 year old records almost always have 40 years of dirt!
I started cleaning my records like most people do, with dilute dish washing liquid in the sink. They mostly sounded better but it was tedious and messy. At the time Real Groovy had a Nitty Gritty RCM that I would pop in and use on the weekend. But even this didn’t do what I wanted. I started researching RCMs online and found both the exotic (who wouldn’t want a Keith Monks in all its vacuum pump glory), and the humble DIY machines out there. I looked at buying a commercial machine, but just couldn’t bring myself to plop down the $1000 or more it would cost to get it to NZ.
So like all good Kiwi blokes with a shed, I built one! And like a proud father I took it into Real Groovy to show the team, and pretty soon they were using it in preference to the Nitty Gritty, and asking me to make them one.
An RCM is a pretty simple device, it needs to rotate around 15-20RPM, needs a strong high torque motor, should be waterproof, and needs some sort of suction. How hard can it be to build 50 of these things I thought? Well 3 years later I now have 50 that I am putting the final touches on. I’ve been through 6 quite different designs, had springs and motors custom built, learned more than I ever wanted to know about plastic gluing and welding, but am really pleased with what I’ve been able to create.
The focus is on value. Of all the designs I looked at and tried there was always one thought that drove me “What DON’T I need to include to make this more affordable, more robust, and easier to build”.
So born out of frustration and a refusal to pay $1000’s for a simple device I built one… and a darn good one at that.”
The RCM will retail for $450 (inc GST) and in order to use it you’ll need a wet/dry vacuum (Ralph recommends the Ryobi VC23 at $99), but the benefits of a motor-driven platter and the suction effect will have your vinyl looking and sounding better than ever. Here’s a pic showing a gunky record before and the result after a 60 second spin on the Kiwi Record Cleaner:
It’s a stunning looking machine too, crafted out of acrylic: hell, even the platter is made of the stuff, in the flesh it’s too good to store away in my opinion.
I’m going to grab one for a trial next week and although my vinyl isn’t caked with chocolate biscuit crumbs or splattered with Lion Red (I’m a Beck’s lover, after all), quite a few of my collection is starting to become crackly – a sure sign of ingrained grime and dust. For those who can’t be bothered labouring away cleaning LP’s manually, here at last is an affordable and more effective alternative.
I’ll get the review on the site within a few days after pick-up 🙂