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The Moth Record Cleaning Machine

[The Moth Record cleaning machine]

[Italian version]

Product: Moth Record cleaning machine
Manufacturer: Moth Group - E-mail: support@britishaudio.co.uk - UK
Approx. price: 400 UKP/700 US$ (200 UKP as DIY kit)

Before I begin this review I think it important to make a few things plain about this machine.

  1. IF you have lots (say 500+) of records.

  2. IF you ever buy second hand records.

  3. IF your house has any dust at all


Wow! - What a statement, and one I doubt if I'll ever make again. I suppose I'd better justify this otherwise my credibility, as TNT's cheapskate, will go out of the window...

Firstly this machine is, as far as I know, unique in that it is available as a kit for around 200 pounds sterling or ready made for 400 pounds. To put that in perspective, as if I needed to, that's the cost of a decent second hand LP12/Ittok or 400 records from a car boot sale.

[The Moth Record cleaning machine]It takes the form of a wooden box the size of a record player topped by a small turntable platter the size of the record label, powered by a powerful geared motor. Next to this is a tube with a slot in it and felt on either side of the slot.
Inside the box is a very powerful vacuum motor with a reservoir to catch liquid sucked from the record. To use it is simplicity itself.
You place the record onto the platter and clamp it with the small screw-on clamp supplied. Then turn the motor on and the LP rotates very slowly, 3 rpm or so, and spread the cleaning fluid using a hand held brush. A thin coating is enough, and the machine will work with any of the solutions to be found elsewhere on TNT though I use a 1:4 alcohol/distilled water + a few drops of detergent.

Once coated just flip the disc over and reclamp it and switch the motor and vacuum on. As the disc turns 3 or 4 times you have time to wet the upper side. Then just turn the disc again and vacuum the other side. The record is now squeaky clean and dry - ready to play.

So what is the effect? Well surface noise falls, grit will have caused groove wall damage so it will still have some noise. But then the music starts... My first test record was a disgustingly filthy and worn copy of Alex Harvey's *Sahib Stories* left over from my student days.
It was unplayable and I had thought to throw it away. 2 minutes later, after a few crackles on the lead in groove, there followed crystal clear music. Apart from the gentle crackling it sounded new all the way to the centre, I was gobsmacked.
There followed an orgy of record cleaning and playing ending with the usual detritus of record sleeves all over the floor. I tried old, worn, filthy and brand new disks.
All showed an improvement ranging in a slight increase in clarity with new discs due to the removal of Mould Release Agent (MRA), to unplayable discs becoming listenable. BUT the biggest surprise was it's effect on my cartridge.
I thought my Ortofon MC 20 Supreme was loosing grip and ripe for a change, but no - it sounded new, the problem had been with the discs themselves. So the machine paid for itself on day one by putting off a cartridge change.

Before anyone says "I can do that with my brush or dust buster" - no you can't. How do I know? Because I've tried every other method of cleaning records - solvents, brushes, sticky pads, scrubbing them in the sink - and though often they come out looking shiny and new, none - not one comes close.
Basically the fluid acts as a solvent and loosens/dissolves the crap on the disc. If you then just brush it, or wash it under the tap, or anything else you will wash the muck down to the bottom of the groove, the worse possible place for it. Only a proper vacuum based machine will get this out. As a guide to it's ultimate effectiveness I normally clean my stylus after every play, since using the Moth it has remained untouched for 30 sides or more and is pristine.

So - a resounding success. In my case I built the machine from a kit, and this was simple, though needing a bit of fiddling to get all the plumbing right. If you can make a speaker enclosure then this is a similar level of difficulty.
The instructions were a bit basic, and presented as sketches and photocopied sheets, but in the end it went together - so what the hell... The recommended material was formica covered conti board, but I used exterior grade chipboard which though not pretty was easier and seemed to be resistant to alcohol.

With me the Moth had an easy time as my records are often second hand and I have smoky wood fires, but I would recommend it to anyone who falls into the catagories at the beginning of this review. Armed with this machine cheap second hand records are not the risk they once were.

There are other vacuum based machines out there, and I believe that any would be excellent though I cannot see how the performance of the Moth could be bettered. However the Moth is the cheapest and in kit form is not a luxury but an essential purchase for any record buyer.

Contact Moth Group at moth.group@mcmail.com

© Copyright 1999 Geoff Husband - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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