Best Vinyl Record Cleaning Machines

Marc HenshallCleaning Vinyl, Record Care, Reviews8 Comments

If you’re the proud owner of a large vinyl record collection, or you want to step up your record cleaning game, a record cleaning machine is one of the best investments you can make.

Yes, they require some investment up-front, but in the name of priceless record preservation and the pursuit of audio nirvana, they are worth every penny. 

There are numerous ways to clean vinyl records, but a record cleaning machine has the distinct advantage of boosting cleaning results and saving you time in the process. You can achieve great results cleaning records by hand, but this may not appeal if you’re the custodian of an extensive collection. 

The Best Record Cleaning Machine Options Available

To set you off on the path to crystal clear, squeaky clean vinyl, we’ve compiled our pick of the best:

Pro-Ject VC-E

The Pro-Ject VC-E is my day-to-day record cleaning machine here at Sound Matters. It’s the baby cousin of their flagship model, the VC-S2 Alu. It works, essentially, as a vacuum cleaner for your records. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Secure the record using the clamp provided.
  • Apply a generous amount of record cleaning fluid. 
  • Pro-Ject supplies their own, but you can also use your preferred solution (I use GrooveWasher).
  • Allow the fluid to work on the record surface for a minute or two before lowering the vacuum arm to the record surface.
  • Turn the machine on and rotate the record at least once in both directions.
  • One rotation clockwise and anti-clockwise is usually enough to remove all the fluid—taking the dirt, dust, and grime away in the process.

The VC-E is based on exactly the same vacuum technology as the larger S2-ALU but is around half the size. Having reviewed both units, I can vouch for the VC-E in retaining the same cleaning power as the larger model while offering a space-saving form factor for those living in accommodation where storage comes at a premium. 

VC-E Price: $499 (£329) VC-S2 ALU Price: $699 (£429)

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Okki Nokki One

Okki Nokki makes superb record cleaning machines. The new ‘One’ is the latest incarnation of their popular MKII model and comes completely re-designed with many improvements. 

For those that prefer a full-sized platter, the Okki Nokki may be a more attractive option. The new ‘One’ also sports a single operation button and a really clever adjustable arm for cleaning 12″, 10″, or 7″ records. This feature negates the need to purchase a separate 7-Inch arm kit as required by the Pro-Ject model. 

Price: $599 (£499)

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Record Doctor VI

If you’d like to step into the world of vacuum record cleaning machines without breaking the bank, then a Record Doctor VI could be just what the doctor ordered (see what I did there). 

Record Doctor models work similarly to other machines on the market, but without the expensive rotation motor. So if you don’t mind turning the record by hand, you can achieve very similar cleaning results at a much lower cost.

The new VI model offers quite a few improvements on the hugely popular Record Doctor V, including an improved chassis that comes in gloss black or carbon fiber. The top is now brushed aluminum, which is much stronger than the previous design and helps to reduce noise and improve heat dissipation. The manual handle now completely protects the record label and is much easier to turn than the previous design.

Price: $299 (£265)

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VPI HW-16.5 RCM

VPI arguably set the standard for vacuum record cleaning machines with the original HW 16 over 30 years ago. It’s safe to say they know a thing or two about building a great machine. A VPI will set you back more than many of its modern contemporaries, but the build quality here is sensational.

My favorite signature feature of the VPI design is the integrated dust cover and the fully enclosed design, which helps to ensure no spilling of fluid onto table surfaces. 

Price: $950

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Clearaudio Smart Matrix Silent

As the name suggests, the flagship record cleaning machine from Clearaudio aims to keep noise to the absolute minimum, and while it’s not strictly 100% silent, it’s about as close as you’ll get considering the very powerful 500-Watt vacuum motor. 

The Smart Matrix is also one of the most luxurious feeling models available, with its automatic fluid distribution and sleek brushed aluminum push-button operation. If you can stomach the cost, this very stylish option feels more high-end HiFi than record cleaning utility. 

Price: $2500 (£1500)

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Degritter Ultrasonic Record Cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaning (or cavitation) as a method for cleaning records has grown in popularity over recent years. The process works by creating lots of tiny cavitation bubbles in a cleaning bath. These bubbles form and collapse, releasing energy as heat and a small amount of pressure, which is great for microscopic cleaning.

Machines such as the Degritter are purpose-built ultrasonic cleaners designed to deep clean your records. The catch is, they’re a little on the expensive side! ($2990 or £2450).

A few companies have popped up offering adaptors designed to sit on affordable Chinese-made ultrasonic tanks to reduce the cost of entry to ultrasonic cleaning. Check out this example from WEWU (pictured below), who make an adaptor product that will clean up to five records in a single ultrasonic tank. For $500, there you have it; you’re into cavitation cleaning. 

These adaptors do a pretty good job, but they often don’t perform as well as a purpose-made ultrasonic machine. Much of the performance uplift in a machine like the Degritter is down to the frequency of the machine. Most affordable ultrasonic tanks produce bubbles at a frequency of 40KHz, whereas the Degritter produces much smaller cavitation bubbles at a higher frequency of 120KHz. The smaller bubbles are more effective at deeply penetrating the record grooves.

Have we missed off your favorite record cleaning machine? Let us know what you recommend and why in the comments below.

  • davidkeith says:

    I can vouch for the Record Doctor. We have the Record Doctor V, and bought the upgraded brush that is now included in the VI. Works great, maybe not quite as much vacuum power as one of the big expensive machines, but it gets the job done and done well.

    • Hey David. Yes, great units so long as you don’t mind turning by hand, which isn’t really a big deal at the price I don’t think. Gets the job done as you say!

  • Floyd ONeil says:

    I was originally going to buy the Okki Noki MKII but ALL 200 that were shipped to the Distributor were damaged in shipment and there was no resolution in the works. Turns out these machines are no longer made in Europe but in China and there is where the problem arose. Anyway I decided to go with my original first choice and purchased the Pro-ject VC-S2 Al and I am so glad I did. This machine is GREAT! Well made, not as loud as you would excpect, it does an outstanding job, fast and efficient. I’ve cleaned over 150 vinyls so far and it does a great job. I use both the Proj-Ject Cleaning Solution and now started using Groovewasher G2 (G3 for some very old or really dirty vinyl purchases). It’s a solid machine, well built, I highly recommend it. (oh I also still have my old work horse manual Spin Clean system and I’ll sometimes run the really rough looking vinyls through that first as a way to remove the first bad layer of “grunge”. Lastly there is a Dust Cover available for it but the unit does not have hinges so it just is supposed to sit on top of it, however, mine shipped with a pair of hinges and short screws so I attached them to the back of the unit, carefully drilling very small pilot holes, screwed in the hinges and Viola’ I now have a nice attached dust cover. I have picture if anyone wants to see.

    • Hey Floyd. That’s a shame about Okki Nokki – I had heard about some supply issues with the new Okki Nokki One, but wasn’t aware about the MKII issues.

      I love the Pro-Ject model, as I have the baby version of your one – although I have reviewed the full-sized model a few months back. Great unit, and nice to hear you managed to get a cover sorted for it. Clever stuff! I’d love to see a picture of that.

      I still have a Spin Clean too. Good idea to use it as a first pass.

    • Paul Cama says:

      I guess yours didn’t leak? yours is the one made out of the particle board right? when you get the chance please read my post above mine leaked the Pro-ject people upgraded me to the VC-E Machine free of charge Just to let you know if yours leaks. Happy Spinning!!

  • Paul Cama says:

    Originally I Just bought a ultrasonic machine and build everything else my self to spin my records (I’m a Machinist.) It did buzz and make quite a lot of noise I then found out Trial and Error it was my aluminum frame I made so I put some cork under it & that helped out a lot. This machine works great!! the record sounded like New! But, I still had no way of getting all the water off? So I did make but, then bought the small Vinyl Vac but my vacuum cleaner was not designed to suck up water. So it broke down 2-3x. So right before the pandemic I broke down and got the Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaning machine. Based on one of Michael Fremers review. I loved it worked great, it was quiet & did it’s Job! But, it was big and made out of particle board (Ikea furniture is made out of.) Well after 3 weeks into cleaning records I turned it on & it sounded louder then a Jet taking off. I found out it leaked on me causing the particle board around the L shaped wand that sucks up all the water was all buckled up and water was everywhere. I called the people I bought it from & then mad a post on FB in one of my TT listen/ rooms, some one there told me to get in touch with the Project people who told me to return it.

    They gave me the up grade the VC-E machine the one on the list above. I have to say It’s quiet & smaller and works great if you have the money I would highly recommend this machine or one like it. The down fall for me is the record spins off on the corner not in the middle like my other one. So if you put too much fluid on it, it all spill all over on to the floor or your table and there Drain hole is on top underneath the record so as you clean it the water shoots up hitting the under side of the record? so it gets all wet again!! why couldn’t they put it on the side like my the other one? . They did give you a clear plastic record to put underneath your record so the water wouldn’t hit your record. I bought this machine mostly based on that it was just grabbing on the label only and not laying flat on a platter like a turntable. I did some research I took a few Ideas from people on what they did and cut a plastic soda bottle in half & put it over the drain hole to vent the water out not up! Well it works!! the other was when I took off the wand I noticed the fan is mad of plastic and the nut was rusted you think they would have gave you a Alum or a stainless steel nut on there not just a metal one Metal Rust’s!!! so Far it’s holding up. the Pros It’s a much small machine then the VC-S the out side made out of Alum which works for me. it’s somewhat quiet not to noise does it job in a couple of spins and grabs just on the Label which I like. . . Again it’s a great machine and I would recommended or one like it.

    Some times on the weekends (I live in a Co-Op I have a neighbor above me) or my day off I’ll use my ultrasonic machine then use the Project-VC-E machine to get all the liquid off after I have it spinning above the water for a while to air dry most of the water off. I only use Reverse Osmosis water 2 gallons cost me $0.98 at Whole foods. I got two gallons of water at the dollar store, when I was finished with it I air dried them out then filled them with reverse osmosis water. I am some what satisfied with both machines they work and do there job well. In the future I would like to get one of those audiodesk machines but they’re over $3,000 Ouch!… I’ll stick to what I have now. Hopes this helps some people.

  • RR says:

    What the heck will a $300 to $2,500 machine do that I can’t do by buying spraying on a quality record cleaner and cleaning the surface with a soft microfiber towel will do? If you keep your records clean and use special vinyl covers you shouldn’t have to deep clean your records. This is more of that psycho babble crap that follows this sort of hobby, very similar to paying $74,000 for a pair of 3 meter of speaker cable, funny thing about that is a person took a pair of lamp cable and had a audiophile person do a blind sound test between that and a pair of $10,000 speaker cable and the audiophile guy picked the lamp cord!

    https://www.machinedesign.com/community/editorial-comment/article/21832227/5-myths-about-speaker-wire

    If a machine is “must” then why wasn’t the Disco Antistat Record Cleaner reviewed? it only cost about $120. In fact I would venture to say that it’s possible to over clean a record to often, if you have to scrub the record all the time you will damage the record, this isn’t unlike a car paint job, you could have a brand new paint job and start waxing it to protect it every week, but then you start to notice fine swirls in the paint why? because somewhere along the line a bit of dirt got on the buffer or on the polisher and did that to the paint, so it is with cleaning your vinyl too much, while you won’t see the damage on the vinyl like you can with the paint but you will hear it. There’s even discussions found on the internet that ultrasonic cleaners will damage vinyl over time.

    Besides that most LP’s people use regularly are not rare one of kind albums, the ones we get we can still buy new today, it’s far cheaper just to buy another album when the old one goes bad then it is to pay $2,500 for a cleaning machine! If it’s a rare one of kind record then why would anyone in their right mind be playing it regularly? The needle itself over time will ruin the record. OR, simply record the vinyl onto a high quality reel to reel or cassette deck, or onto a DAT player, or even onto a CD recorder and preserve the record and not be bothered with cleaning a record all the time and eventually wearing it out. I have many bricks of Maxwell XL II tape that I use to record my vinyl so that I not only preserve the vinyl but I also preserve the analog sound.

    By the way, speaking of tape, reel to reel (or open reel) is making a comeback, there are even brand new recordings coming out on reel to reel because the analog dynamic sound of tape is superior to vinyl. The only issue is the high cost per tape is around $450(!) but sound purists are all on board because of the quality of the sound.

  • Dana says:

    I have used the second generation Okki Nokki for a few years – it’s excellent. However, about 4 1/2 months ago I purchased the Degritter – it’s a game changer. Not only did it improve the noise floor of many LPs previously cleaned with the Okki Nokki, but I swear I hear sonic improvements as well. Might be my imagination, might not. I have cleaned 2200 LPs in these past 4 1/2 months, and the unit has performed without a glitch. I still use both machines in conjunction – the Okki Nokki to get the surface stuff, fingerprints, etc – and the Degritter to get deep inside the grooves.