The relatively new HumminGuru record cleaner promises to deliver ultrasonic record cleaning power at an affordable price. Its compact size and all-in-one design will undoubtedly pique the interest of record collectors far and wide. To see how the unit performs, Sound Matters put the HumminGuru through its paces.
Ultrasonic cleaning for vinyl records is an interesting concept. It works by using high-frequency pressure sound waves to agitate a liquid, producing tiny cavitation bubbles. Lots of tiny bubbles produce forces, which help to gently lift dirt, dust, and grime from the record grooves.
Many collectors sing the praises of ultrasonic cleaning for its ability to deep clean vinyl records without the need for brushes to scrub the surface physically. The process has long been popular in the jewelry industry for cleaning tiny cavities.
Traditionally, all-in-one ultrasonic record cleaning machines are notoriously pricey. Some units can cost thousands of dollars, making them prohibitively expensive to your average record collector.
A series of adaptors hit the market to make ultrasonic record cleaning more obtainable, enabling collectors to use cheaper general-purpose ultrasonic cleaners to clean records. These products work well, but are far from compact, making them difficult to store.
The HumminGuru began as a Kickstarter campaign seeking to design an affordable and compact all-in-one ultrasonic record cleaner. After a successful campaign, the unit came to market late last year. Immediately, I was curious to see how the unit performed, given the very reasonable price tag.
As I unboxed the product, my first impression of the unit was very good. It comes well packaged, the design is smart, and it’s certainly compact. In fact, you can easily fit the HumminGuru inside a standard Ikea Kallax storage unit, making it an ideal size for record collectors with compact listening rooms.
Included in the box are plenty of spare rollers and filters, a very clear set of instructions, and two adaptors for cleaning 7-inch and 10-inch records.
Cleaning Records with the HumminGuru
For the cleaning test, I picked up a thrift store copy of The Pretenders self-titled album. In terms of cleanliness, this record was in pretty bad shape; it was caked with dust, had significant finger or grease marks, and almost certainly, a touch of mold.
As a test subject, this record is perfect… Let’s see how the HumminGuru performs…
Cleaning records with the HumminGuru is remarkably easy:
Step 1: I recommended (with any record cleaning process) starting by removing the loose dust first using a carbon fiber record brush. This will greatly improve the result and avoid the potential of creating a “dust sludge” or simply moving dirt around.
Step 2: Remove the water tank and fill it with distilled water up to the appropriate markers depending on whether you’re cleaning 12inch records or 7inch singles.
It’s important to use distilled water as ordinary tap water contains impurities and mineral deposits that can damage your records and the HumminGuru machine.
Step 3: Poor the water into the basin of the HumminGuru and place the water tank back into the side of the machine. After the cleaning cycle is complete, the dirty water will drain back into the water tank.
Step 4: Place your record carefully into the basin and choose your cleaning and drying cycle. You can adjust the unit to clean a number of combinations based on a two-minute or five-minute cleaning cycle and a five-minute or ten-minute drying cycle.
As my record was very dirty, I chose the heavier five-minute clean combined with a 10-minute dry cycle. In auto-mode the HumminGuru automatically switches between the cleaning and drying cycle, meaning you can leave the room, make a cup of coffee, and simply wait.
Cleaning Results: Distilled Water Only
On first visual inspection, the record looked significantly better. However, some of the stubborn surface grease/finger marks were still present.
For the listening test, I sampled the record onto my computer to compare the record pre and post-clean. The record did sound significantly better. Not perfect, but better nonetheless.
During the cleaning cycle, I did notice a fair bit of water surface tension. You could see how the water sat on the record surface and struggled to penetrate the groove.
This is a common issue with pure distilled water that is usually rectified by adding a tiny amount of surfactant to the water. Adding just a small amount of surfactant can break the water tension and aid the cleaning process.
The drying cycle worked fairly well, but a few droplets of water did remain on the surface. I dried the last couple of drops with a microfiber pad, but for me, this shows that a ten-minute drying cycle is a requirement. I struggle to see how five minutes would be enough.
Cleaning Results: with added Surfactant
Curious to see how a surfactant could improve the result, I added a drop of GrooveWasher’s G-Sonic concentrate to the water tank. G-Sonic is a surfactant and emulsifier blend that helps aid the cleaning process and break water surface tension.
Note: while I regard GrooveWasher products as safe to use in this machine, I must stress that the owner’s manual clearly specifies distilled water only. Adding any additional cleaning substances is at your own risk and may void the warranty.
During the cleaning cycle, you could clearly see how differently the water behaved on the record surface with the addition of just a small drop of G-Sonic. Instead of moving over the record surface in patches, the water now consistently and evenly spread across the entire surface and was clearly entering the groove with ease.
The sound of the record improved significantly, but the stubborn stain still remained in part. Granted, this was a particularly stubborn record, but it seems a little spot cleaning is required here to remove the final surface grime.
Sound Matters subscribers can try G-Sonic for 10% less using the discount code SOUNDMATTERS10 when shopping directly at groovewasher.com
Cleaning Results: GrooveWasher Spot Cleaning
While the record did sound significantly better after two cleaning cycles in the HumminGuru, I decided to spot clean the final trouble spots using a little GrooveWasher and their Black Magic pad.
The Black Magic cleaning pad has very fine, soft tracking fibers that lock into the groove—perfect for rocking back and forth over trouble spots. After this, the record was in great shape.
HumminGuru Ultrasonic Record Cleaning Machine: The Bottom Line
The HumminGuru did succeed in significantly improving the sound of this record, albeit I would say you need the surfactant to unleash the full cleaning power of this machine.
My test subject record was particularly challenging to clean and without a time machine to go back and clean the record using my normal day-to-day Pro-Ject record cleaning machine, it’s impossible to say whether or not a different cleaning machine would perform better.
Only time will tell over the coming months whether or not the HumminGuru replaces my Pro-Ject cleaning machine or not. Watch this space as I continue to test the machine with vintage vinyl finds.
The HumminGuru is a well-designed machine when you consider the price point. Does it perform as well as competitor machines costing thousands of dollars? Perhaps, in reality, this is an unfair comparison.
In the HumminGuru, HappyWell (the company behind the product) has succeeded in making ultrasonic record cleaning easier and more accessible. For that, they should be applauded, and we can’t wait to see how they develop the product from here.