Rushton's DIY approach to ultrasonic record cleaning published by Positive Feedback

Over the past several months I’ve invested a fair amount of time exploring ultrasonic cleaning because I’ve fallen way too far behind in my record cleaning. With over 6000 LPs, I needed a faster way to clean than my trusted multi-step manual wet/vac cleaning process. That manual process got the best results I’ve ever found, but I was not keeping up with my collection and it is just painful to me to play a record that I’ve not cleaned.

In exploring ultrasonic cleaning, my hope was to find that I could complete multiple LPs in a single US cleaning cycle and greatly speed up my rate of cleaning records. My goals were to FIRST do no harm and then SECOND see how close I could get to the results of my manual cleaning regimen.

My past experiences with ultrasonic cleaning demonstrations were completely underwhelming. What I heard did not approach the excellence I was achieving with my multi-step wet/vac cleaning regimen.

What I’ve learned, and now apply in my new ultrasonic cleaning regimen, are multiple elements to the cleaning process that must be used in combination to achieve the best possible results. And these results have far exceeded my expectations.

I’d thought of posting here on Audiogon the summary of what I’ve learned and am now applying as my new record cleaning regimen, but the inability to post images and to apply formatting here caused me to send my summary to David Robinson at Positive Feedback who has graciously published my comments as a guest essay. Please read that essay, and then come back here to Audiogon with comments and to share your experiences:

I look forward to some further discussion and sharing of experiences.



Thanks for sharing your experience! 

I've looked at the Vibrato tanks, and while much more expensive than the generic 40kHz machines like mine, they look to be designed and constructed at a significantly higher level.  And for an 80kHz machine, $675 is actually a very reasonable price based on other machines at that frequency.  Have you used the Vibrato for the whole 2 years since you started, and if so, how is it holding up?  Any issues or problems with it?

Cedar, thanks for contributing to the conversation! The more we share experiences, the more we each learn. And I really appreciate your contribution.

It is helpful to get some reports of actual experience comparing results with the different frequency tanks. That's not something most of us get an opportunity to do.

When you made your comparison with 60 vs. 80Khz tanks, how did you go about it?

It is so difficult to control for all the variables. I'm getting ready to experiment with 2" spacing in my 40Khz tank to see if the results are better than my current 1" spacing, but if I use an existing LP that was cleaned with the closer spacing, I know the first challenge will be controlling for the simple fact that the LP will now have been cleaned TWICE.

The VibratoLLC tanks have an excellent reputation. Louis is doing great work with his build quality from everything I read. I got an email reply from him yesterday that he will be announcing a new 80Khz ultrasonic tank WITH A DRAIN sometime after the first of the year. No pricing available yet, he says. I am very interested in seeing what he is able to offer.

Yes, I've used the Vibrato machines in my record cleaning systems.  I found Louis, at Vibrato, to be a very reliable guy.  
I was influenced initially by the work of a Texan who published his methods and materials on a different forum a few years ago.  He got me thinking about particle sizes and ultrasonic frequencies.  
I began with a 60 kHz Vibrato machine, which worked very well.  A number of factors led me to believe that longer, gentler cleaning was a more effective and safer approach.  So, I bought the 80 kHz machine.  While the cavitation bubbles of the 80 kHz machine are most effective at removing smaller particles, I found that if I ran the record for a longer time those smaller bubbles did remove larger particles as well as the 60 kHz system did.  Also, I experimented with timing motor speeds and the cleaning solution mix.  
My testing has been by ear.  I listen to a record and clean it until I am satisfied that it has stopped improving.  This listening test led me to conclude that the 80kHz machine would clean more effectively than the 60 kHz machine.
One downside of my approach is that record cleaning takes more time.  Since I enjoy the process that is not a burden for me.  
I use cork stoppers large enough to cover the record label between the records as I mount them on the spindle.  These cork rings are 1.25 inches thick.  I mount three LPs at a time, which leaves them approximately uniformly distributed between the tank walls in the bath.  I did not perceive improved listening results when I have increased the distance between LPs (2 LPs per cycle).  When I tried more than 3 LPs per cycle I did begin to see some impairment of the water circulation movement.  So, I've stayed with 3 LPs.

@cedar , thanks for the additional information. I like your approach of listening to the results and stopping when you don't hear further improvement. Trust your ears! I'll be interested to see how Louis prices his new 80KHz tank to see if I can convince my wife to make the additional investment in the new tank. It's hard to make the decision without actually hearing the additional benefit given the great results I'm getting now. So, it is VERY HELPFUL to learn of your actual experience with this.
We hobbyists can be drawn too far down a path sometimes.  Since LP enjoyment is so dependent on the LP surface condition, I felt the extra step was warranted in this case.  Also, I built a couple of extra machines and sold them to other audiophiles in order to fund my experiment.  My largest investment in ultrasonic cleaning has been my own labor to develop, build and operate the machine.  It has been a pleasing way to spend my time.
One thought to keep in mind.  If Louis uses a new tank with a drain, that may alter the outer dimensions of his machine.  That might have some impact on the cleaning system into which you are placing the new machine - just something to check before purchasing.