Hi-Fi: ClearAudio Vinyl Record Cleaning Machines

05/16/2017
Melvyn Teillol-Foo

The Lost Generations

 

Vinyl LP Records

I just realised that I am a Hi-Fi ‘dinosaur’ and that two generations of humankind do not know what a vinyl LP is, let alone how to handle the “strange plastic platters”. My neighbour’s daughter does not even know what a ‘compact cassette’ tape is!

These ‘millennials’ have only known MP3 downloads or have faint recollections of CDs and no idea that music storage material can be perishable, scratched, or be “dirty”.

Vinyl LPs fall prey to three evils:

  1. Dirt and oil from fingerprints or other foreign objects will degrade the information from the grooves that the stylus / needle detects.
  2. Scratches can make the stylus skip.
  3. Wear-and-tear is irretrievable.

 

The Rules of Vinyl LP

  1. Don’t touch the grooves.
  2. Store the LPs vertically so they don’t warp and always put them back in their sleeves.
  3. Set up the playback equipment and maintain correctly to reduce wear-and-tear.

Even with ‘The Rules’, you still need to clean the records. We all know that anti-static brushes and fluids or dustbags are 2nd-best choices; only a professional cleaner will do. Record Cleaning Machines (RCM) have been around since the 1960s. Percy Wilson wrote the definitive paper: “Record Contamination: Causes and Cure” (Audio Engineering Society, April 1965). Recently, enthusiasts have used ultrasonic cleaning instead of ‘dust bags filled with isopropyl alcohol’.

 

Clearaudio Electronic GmbH of Germany

Clearaudio has been making turntables, tonearms and cartridges for decade so it understands exactly what is going on at a molecular level. Clearaudio has engineered record cleaning machines to do the job at the luxury end of the market.

Clearaudio RCMs have the advantage of being produced by a constructor of the audiophile devices that actually play the LPs.

 

Clearaudio Smart Matrix Professional

Smart Matrix Professional: GBP 950 or USD 1250
Total weight Approximately 10.5 kg
Dimensions
Width:13.58 inches   Depth:13.58 inches   Height:9.84 inches

Clearaudio Smart Matrix Professional

The Smart Matrix Professional (SMP) is supplied with a vacuum arm, record clamp, 100 ml of cleaning fluid to get you started, a microfibre brush to apply the fluid, spare microfibre strips and an optional Perspex lid.

If you don’t like the proprietary branded fluid, you could buy IPA (Isopropyl Alcohol) to make up some cleaning solution but that ain’t luxury…..

 

The SMP construction is a solid wooden box covered by a thin aluminium veneer as waterproofing. The operating buttons – power on/standby, platter rotation and vacuum on/off are on the front.

The platter with soft foam mat is on top of the box, together with the slotted metal tube (vacuum arm). Microfibre strips on either side of the slot protect your records from getting scratched. Clearaudio specifies that the strips should last the cleaning of 200 sides of very dirty records. The vacuum to suck fluid off your records is from the slot in the arm.

At the back is a power connector with an on/off switch and a plastic tube for emptying the dirty water tank.

Simple Cleaning Process

Turn on the machine with the power switch at the back. Remove the vacuum arm. Place your record on the platter and secure it with the screw-down record clamp. Replace the vacuum arm.

Push the power button to spin the platter clockwise. Place the cleaning brush against the record and squirt a small volume of the fluid onto the record. Let the record spin round a few times in both directions; the direction is changed by pressing the “platter” button. The number of repeat cycles with vacuuming depends on your judgement of the amount of dirt.

The vacuum is started by pressing the “vacuum” button; the arm is sucked onto the record surface to dry the record. Switch sides by turning the machine off, swing the arm out of the way, turn your record over and repeat.

Vacuum Arm

 

 

UPGRADE

Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic

Double Matrix Professional Sonic:  GBP 3450 or USD 4500
Total weight Approximately 16 kg
Dimensions
Width:16.14 inches   Depth:15.16 inches   Height:10.87 inches

The cleaning of vinyl records is a key discipline in maintaining a high quality record collection and Clearaudio’s research and development team continue to strive for the perfect equipment for the job.

The Double Matrix Professional Sonic (DMPS) is Clearaudio’s best solution yet.

ClearAudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic

With both automatic and manual operations, the Double Matrix Professional Sonic offers the simplicity of the whole cleaning process at the touch of a single button, as well as the option to control each step in the process with a user-friendly operating panel.

 

Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic controls

 

Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic manual controls

With manual operation, you can control the direction of disc rotation and the ‘Double Matrix’ refers to the cleaning of both sides of an LP simultaneously, as well as the ultrasonic brushing on one half of the record and the vacuuming on the other.

The cleaning head automatically adapts to vinyl records of different diameters and thicknesses. The microfibre cleaning strips are easy to change.

Clearaudio supplies the necessary cleaning fluids and the cleaning brushes are easy to replace.

 

Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic

The Sonic refers to a cleaner option when sonic vibrations enable deep cleaning while being gentle and almost noise-free. Variable speed operation and static electricity removal as part of the cleaning process ensure perfect results.

 

 

Made from high quality and heavy-duty materials, the Double Matrix Professional Sonic is designed for continuous operation so it can serve record dealers and shops.

An LED light indicates the cleaning fluid level in the internal tank and, as an additional safety feature,  the suction turbine features overheating protection.

Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic fluid level indicators

 

Fluid Drainage

Made from high quality and heavy-duty materials, the Double Matrix Professional Sonic is designed for continuous operation so it can serve record dealers and shops.

 

 

AlphaLuxe Conclusion

While such an uber cleaning machine might seem like overkill, please consider the priceless value of your record library.

With the resurgence of vinyl records, a brand-new LP now cost £30 (USD $40) each, so a modest library of 200 LPs far exceeds the cost of either Clearaudio .

We say it’s a good thing to have…a very good thing!

Obviously, we’d go for the super duper Double Matrix Professional Sonic….

 

Previously on AlphaLuxe

Spiral Groove Vinyl Record Turntable

 

 

 

Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)

Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.

Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).