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REVIEW: AcousTech AcousTech Ultra Record Cleaning Machine Accessory

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Model: AcousTech Ultra Record Cleaning Machine
Category: Accessory
Suggested Retail Price: $2,199
Description: Record Cleaning Machine
Manufacturer URL: AcousTech
Model Picture: View

Review by Dogface1956 ( A ) on December 15, 2006 at 13:45:14
IP Address: 67.169.139.2
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for the AcousTech Ultra Record Cleaning Machine


First let me apologize in advance for my lack of writing skills, as it has been pointed out by some folks here, my English skills are not the best. Ok, now that is out of the way let’s take a look at the AcousTech Ultra Record Cleaner.

Background

I purchased the AcousTech Ultra Record Cleaner (from this point on I will refer to it as the AcousTech) from Acoustic Sounds, which from what I can tell seems to have an exclusive distribution deal here in the US. The AcousTech is made by a German company, Hannl and costs $2,199.

A year ago if you would have told me that I would be willing to pay over two grand for a record cleaner I would have told you that you are nuts. My previous machine is the VPI 16.5, which is a fine machine, and before I purchased the AcousTech I figured that the VPI does just as good a job as any of the higher priced record cleaners on the market. So why did I go looking for a new record cleaner? One word “noise” the VPI 16.5 was driving me crazy, all I could do was clean records, no listening to music, no watching TV while I cleaned, nothing could drown out the noise, not even using my iPod with my Ethmotic ER-4P earphones. The VPI 16.5 is loud, way too loud if you have a lot of records to clean and I have a lot of records to clean, about 10,000 at last count, I have cleaned just about 1,200 records since purchasing the VPI 16.5 and as that great American Popeye The Sailor Man once said, “I can stands no more” I just could not put up with the noise any more. So I went shopping for a quieter record cleaner, I knew that I was going to have to spend big bucks to get quiet, but it now seemed worth the money if I could find something that was quieter and if it did a better job, well than that is even better.

So I looked at the Clearaudio Matrix, Loricraft PRC-3F, VPI Typhoon and the AcousTech. So why did I purchase the AcousTech? I thought the Clearaudio was a little pricey for the feature set and it was back-ordered everywhere I looked and I was ready to pull the trigger right NOW. I know the Loricraft does a great job and is super quiet, but I was concerned it might be too slow and I have a lot of records to wash. I heard the VPI Typhoon at a local dealer and while the noise level is lower then the 16.5, it was still pretty loud. So I called the good folks at Acoustic Sounds and asked them if the AcousTech was quiet, and now much more quiet was it then the VPI 16.5. The salesperson told me that I would be very pleased with the AcousTech that it was like Night and Day between it and the VPI 16.5. Plus the extra features of the AcousTech were just the ticket to quickly clean my record collection. So I decided to take the plunge and fork down my hard earned cash on the AcousTech.

AcousTech Features

- Push button operation via 7 push buttons on the front panel
- Electronic suction control 30% to 100%
- Electronic speed control of platter 30% to 100%
- Very heavy, chrome plated label protection puck
- Overheat protection
- Aluminum parts polished and chrome plated
- Made of acrylic for easy cleaning
- 3 year warranty

What’s In The Box

- AcousTech Record Cleaner
- Instruction manual
- Replacement set of brushes
- Replacement set of velvet sheets for vacuum tube
- One bottle of X2000 Cleaning fluid
- Power Cable

Fit and finish

The build quality is as you would expect for a two grand record cleaner excellent, everything has a very solid feel, the buttons have a very nice touch and are easy to operate, one small issue is that while they are big, they are very smooth and flat it is easy for your finger to slip while pressing them. Even the cap for the cleaning fluid container is a very heavy and chrome plated. It comes with a soft rubber mat that is washable and I like it much better than the cork mat that comes with the VPI. The platter is made out of aluminum that is about ¼ inch larger then a 12” record. The footprint for the unit is very small about 15x15 inches, much smaller footprint than the VPI 16.5, but is much heavier, I would say about 10 pounds heavier. The vacuum tube and fluid applicator is very substantial well-machined and very solid. The AcousTech definitely is better made than the VPI as you would expect.

Fit and Finish 8 out of 10

A word about my record cleaning procedure

Before I cover how the AcousTech cleans records, I think it is important that I explain my process for cleaning records.

- I use RRL Super Deep Cleaner and RRL Super Vinyl Wash. For records that have mold or mildew I use Buggtussel Gold Zyme Cleaner.
- I use the Disc Doctor brushes (three different brushes for each type of fluid), which I clean in distilled water after every record.
- After cleaning the record I shoot it with my ZeroStat eliminate static and put the record in a new anti-static inner sleeve.
- One change in the process with the AcousTech is that ability to change direction for the scrubbing and vacuuming so now with each step I turn the record in both directions.

I have developed my cleaning technique over time and found that the above works best for me.

With the VPI 16.5 the application of cleaning fluid is a manual process, the AcousTech allows for automated fluid application, but the tank obviously only can hold one fluid and I use a two, sometimes three fluid process so I would still have to apply at least one fluid the good old fashioned way. I decided that it made the most sense to have the machine apply the last step the RRL Super Vinyl Wash and apply the Buggtussel (if needed) and RRL Super Deep Cleaner manually using my Disc Doctor brushes. Instead of using the Disc Doctor brush for the last step I would use the brush build into the fluid applicator on the AcousTech.

How It Works

So the main problem is how do you compare two different record cleaning machines after all it is impossible to have two records that are exactly the same in terms of dirt, right? So after giving the problem some thought I figured I would take a album that I have two copies of (in this case Fleetwood Mac Rumors) both copies were exactly the same, same catalog number, same info in the dead wax so from what I could tell identical pressings. I cleaned both using my VPI 16.5 then left them in the garage for 48 hours (flipping them over after 24 hours), next I put them in the kitchen next to the stove while I cooked bacon so both were coated with a nice film. The next step was to clean them again one copy on the VPI and one copy on the AcousTech.

The VPI 16.5 did a good job of getting everything off the record, it took a little more elbow grease (no pun intended) then usual and I had to use the Buggtussel twice to get everything off the record (the second time letting it sit longer than usual). But the record was clean and ready to play.

The AcousTech did a really good job I only had to use the Buggtussel once, and I used less fluid then with the VPI 16.5, I think maybe the motor having more torque then the VPI motor and the fact that it reverses direction allow it to do a better job of cleaning with less effort. Anyway it took about half the time to clean the record on the AcousTech then on the VPI 16.5.

As far as noise, I can now watch TV and listen to music while using the AcousTech, while not as quiet as the Loricraft, it is much more quiet than the VPI and when listening to music on my iPod with my Ethmotic ER-4P earphones which provide about 23+ dB of isolation, I could not hear the AcousTech at all tells me everything I need to know about the relative noise levels of the VPI 16.5 and the AcousTech. At 30% suction the machine is very quiet and it only takes two turns (one in each direction) to get the fluid off the record, at 100% the machine can suck the label off the record, but it is still pretty quiet, but I can just hear it with my Ethmotic earphones one (the VPI is much louder with the earphones on then the AcousTech at 100%) BTW with all this talk about 30% to 100% turbine (vacuum) power I feel like a fighter pilot. Anyway I don’t see why you would ever need to set the suction power more than 30% it sucks just fine at that level. The VPI usually takes 4 to 5 revolutions to remove the fluid.

Having the adjustable speed does make a different, when scrubbing the record you can set it at a higher speed, and when vacuuming it automatically selects the slowest speed which is about half the speed of the VPI 16.5.

Both records played and sounded great so I can’t say that the AcousTech delivers a cleaner record then the VPI 16.5, but it does clean them faster and with a lot less headaches. The AcousTech also does not get near as hot as the VPI so it can handle those long record-cleaning sessions. In the week I have had the machine I have cleaned about 200 records on the AcousTech, my VPI will soon be going up on eBay.

Ease Of Use 10 out of 10
Noise Level 7 out of 10 (if it was silent it would be even better)
Speed 8 out of 10
Enjoyment 10 out of 10

Bottom-line

Is any record cleaner worth over two grand? I think that depends on how many records you need to clean, if you only clean a few records a week or month then the answer is no. But if you need to clean 40 or 50 in a week then the answer is yes, the AcousTech will do it faster and easier then other products on the market and with a lot less noise.

The built quality is great, it works as advertised, and I think I have purchased my last record cleaner. And as I use it more I am sure that I will become even more efficient using the machine.

Highly recommended if you have a lot of records to clean.

Overall Rating 8 out of 10


Product Weakness: Cost
Product Strengths: Built quality, quiet and fast


Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: DK Design VS-1 Reference Mark II
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): N/A
Sources (CDP/Turntable): VPI ScoutMaster
Speakers: Sonus Faber Cermona
Cables/Interconnects: PS Audio Speaker Cable, DH Labs Revelation IC's
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock, Pop, Classical
Room Size (LxWxH): 15 x 15 x 12
Room Comments/Treatments: Room Tunes
Time Period/Length of Audition: 7 Days
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Monster HTPS 2000
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner




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Topic - REVIEW: AcousTech AcousTech Ultra Record Cleaning Machine Accessory - Dogface1956 13:45:14 12/15/06 ( 14)