Product: Record Cleaning Machine MK11
Manufacturer: Moth - UK
Cost: Built 450 UKP, Kit 250 UKP
Reviewer: Geoff Husband
Reviewed: March 2001
This is an odd review. First I'm going to send you to my previous review of the Moth RCM mk1, otherwise I'll be repeating myself.
OK back now? So what's new, what changes can justify a review of a cleaner which is basically a wet/dry vacuum cleaner specially designed for records? Well this time it's the same machine but you can make it run backwards - no don't go! I'm serious and so are Moth because this machine is the living expression of a theory that's been knocking about for some time.
So the standard machine runs clockwise, the same as a record being played, the MK11 can run first one way then reverse at the flick of the on/off motor switch. The theory runs something like this...
When you play a record the stylus traces the wobbly furrow that
is a record groove. It actually exerts very high pressure on the groove wall,
enough to momentarily melt the vinyl.
As it's doing this it sweeps muck out of the way, often building up as fluff on the 'needle', but overall keeping the groove swept clean - but only where the stylus contacts hard i.e. the leading edge of each wave in the groove.
Imagine sweeping muck across a piece of corrugated iron. The slopes going up will be well swept but the downside, in the shadow if you like, will gather the dirt.
This is what happens with the record groove, the leading slope will be swept clean by the stylus but all sorts of debris will build on the trailing slope preventing the stylus from riding down the 'slope' accurately.
The steeper the slopes the worse the problem, so high modulation (loud bits) and inner grooves will suffer most. The result will be a fuzzy quality to the sound as if the needle were fluffed up despite it being clean.
Sound familiar? Just like a worn stylus - how many cartridges have been written off as worn out when in fact it's dirty records that are at fault? The fact that the stylus remains clean doesn't guarantee that the record isn't dirty, and using standard carbon fibre or whatever brushes is likely to aggravate the problem rather than solve it... The answer is to clean the record in the opposite direction to the direction of play, this the Moth RCM mk11 allows you to do.
It's identical, save for the two-way switch and a modified suction tube, to the mk1. This time though instead of building a kit Moth sent the ready built option and very well put together it is to - though both are still available as kits. A powder coated metal box with a clear lid - two switches on the front. It looks much better than the one I build but then I keep mine out of sight.
The process of cleaning is exactly as with the mk1 (which you've just read about...), the only difference is that at both the wetting/scrubbing stage and the vacuuming stage you can reverse direction.
First the downside... The mk1 uses a narrow slot angled to the direction of rotation. The mk11 cannot use this and so has a wider slot. The effect is that the suction is slightly less and so the record which comes out dry after 3 turns on the mk1 needs 3 turns in each direction with the mk11.
This aside there is no doubt that the cleaning is more thorough. The mk1 will clean a disc very effectively as long as it's not too filthy. Really dirty records need two or even three goes, but I have to say that a binocular microscope showed the grooves to be free of detritus afterwards. The MK11 will handle this sort of thing in one forward/backwards session. Both produce near spotless records the MK11 is just faster...
But... This is with 'normal' records where you can use the solvent qualities of alcohol. 78's are damaged by such solvents and so can be cleaned only using distilled water and a little detergent. Here the reverse action helped greatly and if your collection includes a lot of 78's the mk11's lead increases considerably.
You've read the mk1 review - you know what I think - if you
have a large record collection you need a vacuum cleaning machine - period...
Despite a rather irate correspondence with a manufacturer of some wonder
chemical/brush (who refused to supply samples...) I remain profoundly unconvinced
by cleaning methods other than those using vacuums. At best the alternatives
sweep the muck around, removing some and leaving the rest as a line of crackles
every 2 seconds, at worse they sweep much harmless muck deep into the grooves
and impact it into the vinyl.
Correspondence from people who've bought the mk1 after my review confirm this. To quote one such email - "after years of fannying about with cloths and brushes and sticky rollers and sprays and magic potions I've finally got clean records". And before you claim that your records are clean think carefully... Are they really clean?
I habitually clean even new records and the difference in quality before and afterwards is quite noticeable. Originally I bought my RCM as a share with a friend. I've just bought him out and he's gone off with the mk11 totally convinced that a decent record cleaner is the best value upgrade he's ever made...
So there you are. Either Moth RCM is excellent, the mk11 better and probably worth the extra but I wouldn't loose sleep over it unless you have very dirty records or use 78's. Other vacuum based systems may be as good but until I get my hands on any I can't say for sure.
© Copyright 2001 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com
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