Does the VC-E compact record cleaning machine from Pro-Ject match up to its bigger brother, the VC-S2 ALU? Sound Matters put the device through its paces.
When Pro-Ject upgraded its popular vacuum record cleaning machines with shiny new aluminum chassis, we quickly investigated the new VC-S2 ALU.
As a direct replacement for Pro-Ject’s flagship VC-S, the new VC-S2 ALU brought about several improvements. Out went the old MDF construction, and in came a more durable aluminum design that withstands fluid better, feels more robust, and is also lightweight.
At the same time, the motor and vacuum received a nice little upgrade, making it the quickest and most effective Pro-Ject record cleaning machine to date.
But that wasn’t all….
Pro-Ject also introduced a second, more compact model. The baby brother of the VC-S2 claims to clean your records in just one to two rotations (just like the larger model) but features a chassis about half the size.
Given that I live in a fairly modest-sized home, I was intrigued. After reviewing the larger model, I was suitably impressed and considered buying one at the time. But before I did, I wanted to see if the compact model would perform just as well.
Pro-Ject VC-S2 vs VC-E – How Do They Compare?
The only difference between the VC-S2 and the VC-E is the chassis. The former has a large 2.5 liter tank, while the latter features a much smaller 0.5 liter version.
On the larger tank, the vacuum exhaust is on the side of the unit, while the smaller version places the exhaust on top.
Positioning the exhaust on top has caused some collectors to complain about fluid splashing back at the record if the tank starts to fill with spent record cleaning fluid.
While I agree the exhaust would be better placed on the side, I didn’t personally experience any issues with splash-back during regular use.
This might change if you clean many records in one sitting, and for this very situation, Pro-Ject now ships the unit with a clear plastic disc. The idea is you can use the clear disc to protect the record’s underside.
What’s In the Box?
Just like the bigger VC-S2, the VC-E ships basically ready to go. There’s a detachable vacuum arm, two pairs of self-adhesive felt pads, a metal record clamp, a 100ml bottle of Pro-Ject’s “Wash it” record cleaning solution, the solution mixing container, and a goat hair brush for fluid application.
The only real anomaly is the clear plastic disc for protecting the underside of a record when cleaning huge amounts of records in one go.
Cleaning Records with the VC-E
Cleaning records with the VC-E is fast and easy.
Simply place your record on the platter and screw the clamp on top. The clamp secures the record in place, but also seals the label – preventing fluid damage.
Start the motor and carefully apply just enough cleaning fluid to cover the record surface, but not so much that you risk breaching the label clamp and saturating the label.
Next, position the vacuum arm over the record surface.
Enable the vacuum. One to two spins is usually enough to remove all the record cleaning fluid, taking the contaminants away in the process.
To ensure a thorough clean, you can alternate the rotation between clockwise and anti-clockwise rotation.
Pro-Ject Wash-It Cleaning Fluid
While Pro-Ject recommends explicitly using their own Wash-It fluid with this machine, I’ve found I can also achieve great results with other third-party cleaning fluids.
I really like Pro-Ject’s Wash-It solution, and I use as part of my cleaning arsenal (particularly as it’s alcohol-free and safe to use on shellac records). But for very dirty used records, I’ve found GrooveWasher’s G3 formula to be highly effective.
G3 is a stronger cleaning fluid that requires a secondary rinse stage, but it’s worth it when dealing with older, pre-loved records.
Whichever cleaning fluid you choose, make sure it’s a fluid you trust that won’t damage your cleaning machine. Avoid using standard household cleaning products or tap water.
Conclusion – Which machine is best?
Both the VC-S2 ALU and the VC-E are highly affordable and effective record cleaning machines.
The larger VC-S2 ALU just about pip its baby brother to the post as the most refined design, but then again, the size is still an issue for many home users.
So while the exhaust positioning of the VC-E might be a deal-breaker for some, I couldn’t replicate the issue under what I might conclude as normal everyday use.
Put it this way, the plastic disc they supplied out of caution never gets used and instead sits in a container full of old record accessories that I no longer use.
In the end, I picked up a VC-E for its compact design and powerful cleaning capability and didn’t look back. It makes light work of thoroughly cleaning my used record finds, resulting in audibly cleaner playback. That said, if I had the space, I’d probably pick up the larger model without hesitation.
Commercial users, such as record stores and DJs, should bias to the larger unit if they can afford it and have the space—the main reason being tank size.
The VC-S2 ALU benefits from a large tank that rarely needs emptying unless you’re cleaning an absurd amount of vinyl. In commercial situations, though, you could be cleaning hundreds of records in one sitting, and that’s where a larger tank comes into its own.
Lastly, when applying cleaning fluid to either machine, I recommend investing in a spray bottle. Using the cap provided can make it difficult to control the amount, and I found it highly beneficial to transfer the Wash-It fluid into a different container.
For more information on record cleaning, and to see the VC-E in action against other cleaning methods, check out our full guide on how to clean vinyl records.