Ralph Brayham’s Kiwi RCM signals the end of grubby vinyl as we know it.
Creating audio products that combine effectiveness with value is nothing new, but in NZ the HiFi market is a boutique one and targeted towards the higher end. Bucking that trend is Inventor/investor and dedicated vinyl buff Ralph Brayham – he’s a director of Real Groovy Records in Auckland and knows a thing or two about vinyl and how to handle it. As a retailer specialising in imported second hand records (container loads of ‘em), the staff at the shop have to take each disc out of the cover, inspect it for damage and give it a damn good clean. Ralph’s staff were using a Nitty Gritty machine until he had a ‘Eureka’ moment and decided to design one for himself.
After a lot of trial and error, various prototypes and dead-end tangents, he has finally put the finishing touches on his affordable powered RCM. Ralph has decided to market the machine and produce it for sale, and going by the results I’ve had (esp considering the hugely attractive price) I’d say he’s created a winner.
It’s a sturdy design crafted in white and clear acrylic – just the ticket for those Mac vinyl hounds amongst us, and apart from either making or buying some cleaning solution and distilled water, all that’s needed from the user is to supply his/her own vacuum cleaner.
I’ve had the Kiwi RCM at my home on trial for a couple of weeks now and have cleaned roughly a quarter of my collection (250 albums), so I’ve got to grips with the way it works and its effectiveness. Suffice to say the Kiwi RCM is a real eye-opener in terms of the results I’ve been getting, and those with even modest collections should really have a serious think about investing in one.
You see, anything remotely this good costs well over a grand here in NZ, the only alternatives being the manual ‘spin it yourself’ type cleaners which are fine, but don’t combine rotation with suction – a more efficient and effective process.
That’s where the Kiwi RCM comes in: it has a grunty 17rpm motor and combined with the suction from my vacuum cleaner, did a much better job at extracting gunk from the grooves than my Knosti AntiStat. Now that’s not to say the Knosti is a waste of time of course, but records cleaned with this product and then played still produced the odd crackle and pop.
I took them off immediately and cleaned them on the Kiwi RCM – once played again there was hardly any surface noise whatsoever. That’s after two cleans admittedly, but I definitely noticed better cleaning comparing both on discs with a similar amount of grime on them (double LP’s like ELO’s Out Of The Blue for instance were used to check the effectiveness of both the Knosti and the Kiwi RCM and then compared).
One aspect of vacuum assisted cleaning: the suction really does remove just about all the moisture from the vinyl, and because the disc lays flat I didn’t see any streaking effects on the vinyl or water marks on the record label. Also the adjustable vent on the clear gunk collecting tank means you can attenuate (love that word) the amount of suction required depending on the strength of your Hoover.
Creating a home grown record cleaning machine is one thing, but retailing it at just under $500 is another. The Kiwi RCM should be a mandatory acquisition for those keen on keeping their vinyl in good nick