Opinions please

Which is your preferred Record cleaning machine?
I am considering the SOTA, VPI 16.5, and the Clearaudio Smart Matrix. I would love a Loricraft but the price is prohibitive.I am also interested in cleaning fluids being used. I live in the high desert and static is a major issue.
I've used the VPI for years and it has served me well. These days I use Record Research Labs cleaning products. You may also want to invest in a Zerostat (Milty) gun if static is a problem.
I have the SOTA cleaner and it is has been trouble free and it is easily one of the best investments I have made in audio. I use RRL products also and Clio's advice for a zerostat is excellent.

I don't think you can go wrong with a VPI or SOTA. Clean them, LAST them, and get some MO-FI inner sleeves and you are set.

Have Fun.
The VPI is highly-regarded by many here. As for your static issue, you might consider investing in a humidifier. It will significantly reduce the static your experiencing and will also feel better to your nasal passages and lungs.

One cheap and easy fix is to place a "Bounce" dryer sheet next to your equipment and touch it before handling any of your gear or records - it really works.

"Save your money and do it by hand. No RCM machine can touch it."

I've never know a single person who gave up a record cleaning machine and returned to hand cleaning. Incredible statement, IMO.
No hand comes close to the Result from a Loricraft or Keith Monks RCM. Save money, you will get a long time Satisfaction.
Narrod; if you ALREADY HAVE a RCM, by all means...knock yourself out. However, if the decision is one between a RCM machine and hand-washing, the only advantage a RCM give you is convenience and time savings. If that's of value than that's the solution, if you have the time, wash it by hand.

Thomas; "No hand comes close..." I don't belive that.
You don't mention the Nitty Gritty machine, so I thought I'd make a few comments on it after using a 2.5fi for more than 12 years.

* The vacuum is LOUD. I use earplugs or my Etymotics when I'm running the vacuum.

* I'm using the two RRL fluids, so I don't use fluid injection. Who knows what gunk builds up in the tank, anyway. And mine leaks.

* Got a very off-center record? Forgedaboutit.

* You will need to replace the felt lips and the rubber capstan now and then, but it's pretty easy.

Aside from the leaking tank, the vacuum and motor on mine are still working fine after more than about 12 years.

Looking at the prices now, I'm not sure the Nitty Gritty is still competitive. But I don't have any experience with the VPI machines to compare it to.
VPI 16.5 owner for 6 years...not one problem...retail is 499, but they sell a "package" for a few dollars more thats a great value..inner sleeves, cleaning fluids... i also use record research labs products...other nice feature is the ability to adapt to clean 45s...im not sure if other brands offer this...as for static, i use the zerostat milty gun...it works...for example if i dry brush a record while its is on top of a plastic inner sleeve, then pick up the record, it usually sticks like glue to the sleeve from static. with the Gun, a few squeezes of the trigger and the record comes away freely from the sleeve.
If you do not have a big collections (100 or so records), you can use the manual procedure.

But If you have a bigger collection than that, you only need the VPI 16.5 its very sufficient and an excellnt RCM.
Now If you want you can put in more money but every RCM will do the same work but for more money.

Now I woud suggest that you invest a spare brush and vaccum tube for the VPI and use the Disc Doctor silution and follow their procedure. I have over 5000 records, LP's and 78's. I have used multiple RCM's from different brands but have found that the 16.5 does the same thing as the rest but for less money.

I hope this will be helpful
Had a Keith Monks RCM which I sold for a friend here on Agon and it was fantastic. It was also expensive as hell. I own a VPI 16.5 which does a fine job with almost zero effort on my part and it cost me around $300, also here on Agon. It's loud, but since I don't actually live in a library, it is of no concern at all. Hard to beat it for the price. Hand is great, RCM is easier.
I think, there is probably a misunderstanding: The Problem is NOT how to clean them (manual with a brush or with a motor), or how long you want to leave the cleaning fluid on the surface, the REAL Difference is the way to remove the fluid. Here are big differences and I think, that's the reason why there are so many opinions. And real clever solutions (Best is K. Monks, Loricraft copied it) have their price.
Good Luck.
Ditto the above. The major advantage of the VPI 16.5 is (relatively) low cost. The major disadvantage is the noise that it makes, which is pretty much like that of your vacuum cleaner. If you want the RCM to be in your listening room, you might want to spend extra bucks for the higher priced units that evidently are quieter. I keep my 16.5 in my basement workshop with no problems. I use a homebrew cleaning solution based on VPI recommendations (isopropyl alcohol/distilled, deionized water/non-ionic detergent). This works great, but I recently discovered in a controlled experiment that Walker Prelude works even better.

As far as the comment that hand-washing is as good as or superior to machine washing, I find that hard to believe. The vacuum-ing step is when most of the solubilized dirt, etc, are actually removed most effectively. You can't duplicate that action with any amount of rinsing by hand, IMO.
Lewn; regarding your last comment; I vacuum mine by hand. I have a 1.5hp ShopVac with a small attachment that I wrap with a white t-shirt. I also use RRL products along with Vinylzyme. I also steam clean with distilled H20. Believe me, my records CANNOT be any cleaner when I'm done. They sound spotless.
Point about using a shop vac taken. But a good shop vac is not cost-free, either. I guess you can justify purchasing it for its many other uses. Really, an RCM just makes cleaning simpler and easier, due to the rotating platter which makes it easier to distribute and scrub in cleaning solutions and to the built-in vac, which I cannot help but think is a whole lot easier to use than a hand-held shop vac. But there is no right or wrong in this discussion.
Lewn; you are absolutely 100% correct! A RCM will make life really easy for you. I spend literally hours cleaning records. However, I have more time than money right now. Also, I enjoy it. I have a little station set up in the basement. Every Friday (I buy lots of used records) I spend 1-2 hours with a few beers, maybe catch a game and take my time cleaning. It's a little stress relief and an escape. Then, upstairs to some listening on nice quiet, clean vinyl. I love it!!
Thank you for your responses. I find them informative and valuable in reaching my decision.It seems as if the VPI provides the best job for the money and time invested in cleaning vinyl.
Thanks again,
Hmm, interesting… I feel the main advantage is for myself… RCM is no doubt 30 seconds of cleaning oppossed to 30 mins of setting up a clean, safe, and easy to use environment each time to do something so silly… But mainly I feel saftey is the key here… It is much less of an issue scrapping, dropping, banging around a piece of vinyl in a utility sink somewhere, or on top of a counter or whatever… so in a way to keep everything compact, super simple, and easily accessable seems to me to be worth 300 to 500 bucks if your serious about this.. Now for me(and I am speaking for myself) I use to clean by hand… and never got the results or pleasure in the end as you can somewhat choke down using a record machine for a minuet. They do make the process a little more reasonable, and safer if you don't want the risk of rough handling on vinyl you don't ever expect to replace.. At least get a really crappy turntable to place them on to have some control.

That being said, I would just not care so much about vinyl if I was forced to clean without a machine, cause it is necessary to have them clean no doubt.. I am not going to push anything about Sonic advantages, but just facts..
Cause I know if I go and pick up 3 new albums next week.. They will sit for about 3 months till I finally get the Motivation to mess around with trying to get them perfect by hand… RCM's Have a large amount of advantage, its on a rotating controlled platter, No shop vac nozzle will go BAnging into it, or flying off the table… and I won't be drying my lables with a hair dryer if a mistake happens :)

Kinda like somebody saying today they would just live with an outhouse in the backyard, even though people tell them all about this nice indoor plumbing, but they will still refuse the huge benefits..
RCM potential buyers do yourself a huge favor, get one, and get the vinyl under the needle for listening…
If you want a REAL good car wash do you drive through somewhere or, do you do it yourself in the driveway?? If music is important to you, don't cut corners, do it right and don't be lazy. It'll be worth it.