Living in a home where space comes at a premium, the VC-E was a breath of fresh air as I’d long been eyeing up how I could fit the original larger design (or an Okki Nokki equivalent) somewhere in my listening space.
The new VC-E2 promises several improvements, including a solution to criticism voiced by some record collectors about the vacuum steam vent position.
As the owner of an original VC-E, I was keen to investigate the new design.
Can it deliver the goods? Continue reading or watch the video embedded below.
The Pro-Ject VC-E2 is the compact version of their VC-S3 model (previously the VC-S2 ALU). The more compact design will appeal to collectors with storage or space challenges.
Unless you’re cleaning a very large amount of records in one sitting on a regular basis, the smaller tank is more than adequate for home use. In any case, the tank is easy to drain if required, but for light to medium use, the cleaning fluid will simply evaporate on its own.
Pro-Ject VC-E2 – What’s New?
There are several changes to the design, including:
1 – A new cabinet design, which to my eyes, looks more aesthetically pleasing with its braced corners that mean it looks less like a utilitarian metal box.
2 – A new magnetic clamp, that is said to speed up the cleaning process. The previous design requires you to screw the clamp on to secure the record and seal the label to prevent water damage.
3 – A new self-adhesive strip design for the vacuum cleaning arm. Pro-Ject claims this is for better cleaning.
4 – Most significantly of all, the VC-E2 features an improved vacuum steam vent design. Unlike the larger VC-S2 or new VC-S3, which vent from the side, the compact models vent from the top. Without a vent cover, the original VC-E received criticism from record collectors, experiencing small amounts of splash-back onto the record.
The new VC-E2 features a neat vent cover that hopefully puts this issue to bed.
5 – Lastly – All Pro-Ject record cleaning machines now ship with a ready-to-use version of their WashIt record cleaning fluid packaged up with a goat hair brush for applying the fluid.
Previously, WashIt was a concentrated formula that you’d need to dilute with distilled water. While I have no issue with Pro-Ject’s record cleaning fluid, I typically use GrooveWasher record cleaning fluids, so to keep my tests more consistent with my previous experience, I used GrooveWasher G2 record cleaning fluid while testing the VC-E2.
On-Test – The NEW VC-E2
Being familiar and comfortable with the original unit, the first thing I noticed was the new orientation of the design. The power input is now on the opposite side, which, unless you want a power cord coming in from the front of your desk or tabletop, essentially forces you to use the machine the other way around.
The reverse orientation puts the vacuum arm in your right hand and control of the motor and vacuum switches to your left. At first, I thought this might feel odd, having gotten used to operating the other way, but in reality, it had no bearing on machine operation whatsoever.
I initially tested the machine on a pre-owned copy of Stevie Wonder “Songs in the Key of Life” which had been cleaned by hand when I first picked up the record, but could do with a more thorough clean and spruce-up.
I expected equivalent cleaning results to my original VC-E, and the VC-E2 certainly didn’t disappoint.
The magnetic clamp works well and does speed up the process as advertised while protecting the label just as well as the screw-down clamp.
The biggest improvement in performance is undoubtedly the new vent cover, which seems to do a good job of preventing that dreaded splash-back.
Many collectors across the vinyl community expressed their confusion as to why the vent is positioned on top in the first place. I can only conclude there must be a design reason for this, as the new vent cover appears to be a solution to this criticism while maintaining the same position of said vent.
Either way, I’m happy with this modification as a solution, and would love to see a modification kit released for the original VC-E (hint hint, Pro-Ject…)
Another point worth mentioning is the record overhang and how this affects the placement of the machine…
The new unit orientation means the record overhand is at the front, not the rear, giving it the distinct advantage of being able to stay closer to a wall in a permanent cleaning position. See the image below as an example.
With my original model, I would always have to pull the unit away from the wall when cleaning records to allow room for the record to sit on the platter.
Cleaning a Very Dirty Used Record with the VC-E2
So far, so good, but what about very dirty records? How does the VC-E2 measure up?
Finding good test subjects for record cleaning machine reviews is always a challenge…
After all, no self-respecting record collector actively seeks out records in bad shape. Nobody wants to make their life deliberately more difficult, so we instinctively shop for used records that are in the best shape possible.
The other challenge is copyright protection…
In my view, it should be perfectly reasonable to sample 30 seconds of a track for A/B purposes, though most record companies don’t see it this way.
One thing I can do is sample the run-in groove. So as a compromise demonstration, I sought out a cheap bargain basement type record that was caked in dust.
For this review, though, I was curious to see what would happen if I simply took the record straight from the record store and cleaned it up with the VC-E2.
The results are immensely impressive, and although run-in grooves are typically quite noisy places anyway, the audio sample of the before and after shows significant improvement (watch the YouTube video embedded in this article to hear for yourself).
Pro-Ject Record Cleaner Review – The Bottom Line
The Pro-Ject VC-E2 is a markedly improved unit, mainly for the addition of a vent cover that addresses criticisms about the vent’s position.
Aesthetically it looks a little nicer than the original, and many will undoubtedly welcome the new magnetic clamp for ease of use and safety of the record.
The cleaning power is just as effective as my original VC-E, which I’ve been using as my main record cleaning machine now for some time.
One thing I did notice was a slight delay in the vacuum arm meeting the record compared with the original. On closer inspection, the velvet pads on the arm are slightly thinner than the original, which would explain this delay. Performance-wise, this really had no bearing whatsoever.
Using the machine the other way around did feel unusual at first, but I quickly adapted. I can see a great deal of logic in why they flipped it this way — particularly when you consider placements near walls.
The Pro-Ject VC-E remains (for me) the best option for those seeking a high-performing vacuum-based record cleaning machine that doesn’t take up a lot of space in the home, and doesn’t break the bank financially.
For those seeking to clean a large number of records regularly, the VC-E2’s bigger brother (the new VC-S3) may be a safer option. Keep your eyes peeled on this channel for a review of that model coming very soon.