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March 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner
Far more fun than washing the dishes!
An elegant and effective record cleaning machine too!

Review By Rick Becker

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

Raison D'être / Existenzberechtigung

  In the early 1990s, as I was starting my audiophile journey, I scurried from garage sale to garage sale collecting old LPs that people were dumping in the belief that vinyl was dead. Having bartered for a vintage Linn LP12, vinyl was just being born in my mind as I purchased records for dimes on the dollar that I couldn't afford "back in the day." Even though I inspected each one before purchasing, it was clear that most needed cleaning – dust and fingerprints being the biggest culprits, and sometimes mold. Sunday afternoons I would set up the kitchen sink and countertops for the cleaning operation and several hours later the walls of my condo would be lined with naked LPs doing their final dry-time. Even so, I couldn't keep up with recent acquisitions.

Bartering once again, I acquired a new VPI-16 record cleaning machine. It liberated both me and my collection from the cleaning ritual by giving me random access, 24/7, allowing me to clean them right before playing. Not only that, it did a better job with home-brew cleaning fluid than using mild dish soap with a sponge in the sink. And so it went for nearly three decades as I periodically hot-rodded my LP12 and upgraded my phono stages. By combining a good cleaning with a quality contemporary cartridge the dreaded clicks and pops greatly diminished while those that remain become a lot less audible. Given at least 2000 LPs I've cleaned and the current $800 street price of the VPI, the cost per LP works out to $0.40 apiece. Weigh that, if you wish, against the cost of buying new, remastered LPs. After close to 30 years of service (and still going strong), my VPI doesn't owe me anything and it still runs like a champ.

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

Paying The Cost
Of course, there are other record cleaning machines and gizmos that cost less than the VPI 16.5, as well as some that cost more, such as the fabled Keith Monks machine originally designed for the BBC back in 1969 in the UK. It was the first commercially available RCM but its high cost kept it in relative obscurity. I finally caught up with one at a Canadian show in Toronto just this past decade. And in recent years there have been a number of ultrasonic cavitation cleaning machines that reportedly do a more thorough job than the scrub & vacuum designs…for a price. Some are a lot more and the Kirmuss machine, manufactured in China, is substantially less. But each design has its drawbacks.

More basic types don't do as good a job and the ultrasonic ones take more time. Even the VPI 16 has an Achilles heel. It's even louder than my 12 gallon Craftsman Shop Vac which measured either 80dB or 83dB, depending on which side I stood. The VPI puts out 81dB of noise, measured at 1 meter, and a whopping 89dB at ear level when cleaning an LP. That's about the median level of music when I'm sitting in my chair. It's disturbing enough when I'm home alone but it will startle my wife when she's in the kitchen or even in the bedroom late at night. At parties, when someone pulls an LP off the shelf and makes a request, the VPI is downright embarrassing.

 

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

RMAF 2019
It didn't exactly take an eagle eye at RMAF 2019, yet but on a table off to the side in the MoFi Distribution room, I found two elegant looking Nessie record cleaning machines on a cluttered table. Jon Derda, National Sales & Marketing Manager, came to my aid and explained the line-up for me. It was the small size (relative to the VPI) that caught my eye, but my ears picked up when Jon mentioned the quiet operating level. "How quiet?" I asked. Well, he couldn't really plug one in, but the brochure claimed 62dB for the entry-level Vinylcleaner ($1495), 57dB(A) for the Vinylcleaner Pro ($1999) and only 48dB for the Vinylmaster ($2995). At the time, I didn't know what the VPI measured, but I was pretty sure it was a lot more than 57dB.

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

Keep in mind that a –10dB difference is perceived as half as loud. Here are the in-room measurements I took at home with my Radio Shack SPL meter from 1m in front of the machines and at ear level standing at operating distance (less than one meter).

VPI 16 @ 1m = 81dB (A Weighted)
VPI 16 @ ear level = 89dB (A)

Vinylcleaner Pro @ 1m = 58dB (A)
Vinylcleaner Pro @ ear level = 62dB (A)

 

With the Nessie platter spinning in wash mode, the meter read <50dB, lower than the range of the meter. For a real-world comparison, I measured my German-made Miele vacuum cleaner @ ear level, @ 1.6m, 63dB.

The high gloss acrylic mimicked the piano black on my speakers, the large chrome record weight had a seal that protects the record label, automatic left-right rotation, a timer function, made in Germany, and more. What's not to like? Well, the Nessie logo is a bit gimmicky, but overall, it had a very classy look. The three Nessie models, plus the HANNL Mera Professional (a more expensive model with even more automation) are all made by DRAABE Technologies GmbH in a small town just south of Hamburg in northern Germany. When Jon called a few months later, I requested the middle model, the Vinylcleaner Pro, which seemed like the best value of the three.

 

Operating Procedure
It's not as "plug 'n play" as the VPI. It takes an IEC detachable power cord (included) and there is a blue-ringed power switch on the front. Pressing the blue switch on the front starts the platter spinning, allowing you to use a typical hand-held anti-static brush or the supplied microfiber cloth to remove the visible dust A small bottle of their non-alcohol based cleaner is included, but I eventually reverted to my spray applicator to douse the LP with my alcohol-based home-brew cleaner. The closest arm on the Nessie holds the dual-row brush which drops down on the LP after it has been swung into place. The arms are a bit "notchy" when swinging them into position, but with repetition, it becomes second nature. The brush is said to compensate for 2mm vertical displacement of warped LPs, but of course, I never collected any of those.

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

As the brush cleans the LP the platter periodically reverses direction – a feature that seemed to do a better job than my single-direction VPI 16 (though VPI has since come out with a machine that reverses.) There has to be an LP on the platter and the suction arm has to be swung over the LP before the suction feature is automatically activated.  After vacuuming in both directions, the vacuum automatically shuts off while the record continues to spin. A slight lifting of the armtube is necessary to return it to rest and remove the record, but no line of residue was ever left on the newly cleaned side. The platter can then be turned off with the front switch.

And wow, is that suction feature quiet! To give you an idea of how quiet the Nessie is, I had to walk the length of my listening room, down a hall and turn a corner into the middle of my home office, a distance of more than 60 feet (20m) before the VPI 16 measured as quiet as the Nessie. My wife was equally impressed when she heard the Nessie in action. The words in the cartoon bubble above her head read: "Buy this!"

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

The magic ingredient of the Nessie design is their use of Basotec® acoustic foam for insulation, but I suspect the vacuum unit itself is of high precision and runs very smoothly, too.  The unit has very low vibration in the vacuum mode. The feet slide easily on the surface of the table if you wish to spin it to facilitate draining the waste.

To those who might object to having to put the clean side of the LP down on the anti-static foam platter that may contain dust from previous dirty sides, I will share my secret technique: I only clean one side at a time. If, after deciding the first side was enjoyable and I want to continue on to side two, I will then clean the other side. Sometimes I only get through a couple of songs before deciding that life is too short to listen to the entire album. "Clean cup, move down!" said the rabbit to Alice. "Feed your head" sang the Jefferson Airplane.

 

The Zen Of Nessie
Some cavitation cleaners are quiet, too, others can emit noise when cleaning and in the automatic drying phase. They also demand time, which is all well and good if you plan to engage in meditation between listening to records. And depending on the brand, you may have to follow the cleaning with a manual drying process, further disrupting your listening session – something that is definitely not welcome during a party or listening session with a friend.

With the Nessie, cleaning is an island of quietude between LPs. With its automatic turntable and scrub brush you can let your mind drift or engage in conversation with friends rather than count the revolutions while you hold down a manual brush. The slight noise of the vacuum doesn't interrupt a conversation and should your mind drift off the Nessie will shut down automatically after two revolutions, reminding you it's time to get back to the music. Once you internalize the routine, it takes only 1:50 minutes to clean per side. (On the flagship Vinylmaster, should an LP prove exceptionally difficult to clean, holding down the blue button will set the platter to continue for 20 minutes with periodic automatic dispensing of fluid while the brush does the work.) The value of such a serene process? Priceless!

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

Another Zen-inspired appreciation of the Nessie involves the beauty of the machine. It looks as good as a lot of components you will find in High End audio and better than most. (I eventually became oblivious to the oversized Nessie logo.) Compare the elegance with the competition that looks like it should be in a science lab, or sounds like it should be in your garage. There is no comparison. I placed it proudly on a table one step away from my wall-mounted turntable where using it becomes a modest Tai Chi dance between the two.

 

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!
The idea of a record cleaning machine is generally thought of as something that removes the dust, grit, and fingerprints from a record. And I can attest that the VPI 16 largely succeeds in that task. As I've said, combine this with a good cartridge and you will be hard-pressed to argue for spending a couple thousand dollars or more on an electronic "click and pop" machine, especially if you can learn to listen through the first track of a side where these gremlins are most persistent. If your LPs are in really poor shape with prominent scratches, consider replacing your favorites with used copies in better condition for small bucks, or remastered/reissued LPs for big bucks. Used-record stores are emerging in the most unlikely places these days as older vinyl junkies make peace with the symphony of life. Here's one I came across in Cleveland that coincidentally has a German name.

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

At the other end of the spectrum is the Kirmuss cavitation system that touts a record restoration regimen that will likely get rid of all the grit in your grooves at the cost of more time and physical effort. The Nessie falls somewhere between these two. If your LP collection consists of highly collectible or rare LPs that might eventually be donated to an archive, perhaps the cavitation approach is justifiable. In my case, most of my LPs are of the One-and-Done variety. I listen once, then offer them to my kids, and if they don't want them, they go into next summer's Garage Sale bin. Those that I hang on to will get cleaned more than once, improving a little each time.

The unexpected benefit from the Nessie was an increase in transparency of the music and the accompanying absence of surface noise. The increase in transparency revealed more inner detail, brighter tonal colors and a bit better resolution. It also brought the soundstage a bit further forward and the music jumped out toward me with greater dynamics. The reduction in surface noise was the elimination of a faint scraping sound. This allowed the music to sound more liquid, or "analog" if you will. At first, I heard this as a loss of resolution, but closer listening revealed the improvement of both liquidity and resolution. I almost hesitate to make too big an issue out of this as my rig is of fairly high quality, especially since the recent addition of the AGD Audion monoblocks and Synergistic Research Foundation cables. It is also very well dialed into the room and further refined with numerous tweaks.

My Linn LP12 is also highly hot-rodded with only about 40% still original Linn parts. A moderately-priced Charisma Audio 103 moving coil cartridge was used throughout this review. Will you be able to experience all of these same benefits with an entry-level or even mid-level rig? I'm not sure. Certainly, you will hear a decrease in clicks and some degree of improvement in sound quality. The lack or reduction of clicks will certainly lead to greater enjoyment. You will also experience an absence of dust bunnies on your stylus that will make you wonder if you should clean your stylus before every play. (I did – using AmCan Audio DuSt-ylus silicone stylus cleaner which seems to work as well as the high-priced brands.)

 

Methodology
To reach the conclusions above, I used a variety of sequencing. Some records that had been previously cleaned with the VPI were first played, then cleaned on the Nessie and played again. Other used records that had not been cleaned before were first cleaned with just the hand brush, played, and then cleaned with the Nessie and played again. Other used records were cleaned with the hand brush, played, cleaned with the VPI, played, and then cleaned again with the Nessie. I also did this with a couple of brand new records to verify that cleaning them before playing is advantageous in removing mold compounds. (Yes, it is.) I could also directly compare the Nessie with the VPI by using each machine on a different side of an uncleaned record. The Nessie proved superior. And yes, I used a Disc Doctor hand brush with a fresh pad with the VPI. The combination of the forward and reverse scrubbing seems to be superior to scrubbing with the LP spinning in the clockwise direction only, just as you might suspect.

The Nessie also comes with anti-static mats and extraction (vacuum) arms for 10" and 7" records. Since my Linn still operates only at 33.3 rpm, I didn't try 7" records, but it looks to be a simple conversion.

 

Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro LP Washer / Cleaner Review

 

Value
At $1995, the cost of the Vinylmaster is equivalent to about 80 new remastered LPs that would constitute a very nice collection if wisely chosen. But even new records benefit from cleaning as I've learned here. Furthermore, the closer you get to the signal path and the closer you get to the musical source, the greater the opportunity to improve the sound quality of your system. Starting with great sound at the front end improves the chances of having great sound coming out of your speakers. The record groove and the stylus tip are the interface of that music and your system. The cleaner the groove, the more music quality and detail you can extract from the record and the less wear and tear you will inflict on your stylus tip. At the very least, you should have an anti-static record brush and a stylus cleaner.

Beyond that, look at the size of your collection and the condition they are in. Ask yourself how a record cleaning routine would fit in with your life circumstances and where you would use it in your home. Does it fit the lifestyle you have or anticipate? The perceived value of any record cleaning machine will also depend on your personal financial condition. You will have to weigh these factors yourself. I'm not about to hack your bank account. I started out washing garage sale records in the kitchen sink. I've come a long way since those days. From what I've seen on the market and used in my home, this Nessie is a very sweet proposition.

 

Summary
In recent years, with the resurgence in popularity of LP records, the record cleaning machine has become a category in its own right, ranging from "spin-clean" to ultrasonic cavitation devices. As always, it has been a "good-better-best" proposition. But this category is diversified by time consumption and physical labor as well as the degree of effectiveness. The Nessie Vinylcleaner Pro, by virtue of its compact size, elegant design, and quiet operation reaches a unique pinnacle in this category making it a top choice for quick and quiet cleaning – right next to your turntable, even in the finest audiophile settings. That it also is highly effective in reducing surface noise and enhancing the transparency of the music was beyond my expectation.

Moreover, cleaning records immediately before playing became a delightful, serene experience filled with anticipation of how great the newly cleaned vinyl might sound. If its virtues coincide with your commitment to vinyl and the size of your collection, I highly recommend it. I've purchased the review sample and look forward to exploring my great unwashed collection as well as re-visiting previously cleaned gems.

 

Evaluation
Since the record cleaning machine operates on the record, any perceived shifts in sound quality are really the property and condition of the record and varied from record to record as a result.

 

 

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

 

Specifications
Type: Vinyl LP record washer / cleaner
Speed turntable 30 rpm.
Tank capacity suction 450 ml
Massive glossy plate weight with label protection seal
Three pieces of anti-static mats for 12", 10", and 7" records
Extraction arm for 12", 10", and 7" records
Brush arm with easy swivel feature
Operating Instructions (English)
Included: Power cord, microfiber cloth, records brush, and a funnel
Dimensions: 300 x 330 x 250mm (DxWxH) 
Weight: 14.4 lbs
Price: $1999, with acrylic dust cover adding $150

 

 

Company Information
DRAABE Technologies GmbH 
Bei den Kämpen 4 
21220 Seevetal

Voice: 04185 / 797 48 43 
Fax: 04185 / 797 48 45 
E-mail: info@vinyl-master.de 
Website: www.vinyl-master.de 

 

United States of America Distributor
MoFi Distribution
1811 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660

Website: www.MoFiDistribution.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

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