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Audiodesk PRO Ultrasonic Vinyl Cleaner Review

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I wanted to relate my recent experiences dealing with the importer of the Audiodesk Ultrasonic vinyl cleaner (Ultrasystem). I received one of these units for review a little over three years ago and was impressed enough with the performance to purchase the review sample. For three years, the unit was relatively trouble-free; however, all good things come to an end. Several weeks ago I began having intermittent problems with the pump as it sometimes failed to move water into the cleaning tank from the reservoir. I immediately contacted the importer, Ultra Systems, who tried to troubleshoot the unit over the phone. With the early units, some of the 24 volt power supplies over time did not deliver the rated power which affected the pump. As it turned out, this was not the problem, so I sent the unit to Ultra Systems for repair. Unfortunately, the problem was the pump. The early units secured the pump to the bottom of the case with glue necessitating a return to Germany for repair. Given that the unit was out of warranty, this would have meant paying all shipping and repair costs and probably a substantial delay in getting the unit back. In lieu of repairing the unit, Ultra Systems offered me the following options: 1) replacement of the unit with the latest model at a fraction of the cost of a new unit;  or 2) replacement with the PRO version for an additional 20%. Both of these units were brand new with a full warranty and completely modular so that they could be repaired in the U.S. Given that I had used the existing unit for over three years, I felt that this was a very fair resolution.

Fast forward three weeks, I have had the chance to use the PRO version of the Audiodesk for a couple of weeks and I could not be happier. It no longer leaves droplets of water on the record after the dry cycle. In the new units, the metal drain plug (which was subject to corrosion) has been replaced with a plastic assembly that does not have that problem. Like the older machine, the new machine allows the user to vary the length of the ultrasonic cleaning cycle up to 4 minutes. The addition to the PRO is a two-minute dry-only option by holding the START button down until it stops beeping.  This can be useful in drying records after a final rinse with distilled water and avoids the need for a separate vacuum drying machine. I continue to believe that the cleaning solution supplied by Ultra Systems is an integral part of the cleaning process, but that it leaves an audible residue which needs to be rinsed off with distilled or ultra- pure water. Prior to the final rinse, the sound has a slight veiling, a foreshortening of the field of depth and occasionally a bit of added brightness or grain.

On a related topic, much has been said about the superiority of the KL Audio Ultrasonic cleaner (KL). I recently had the chance to compare the KL and the Audiodesk, first cleaning records on the Audiodesk, followed with a distilled water rinse, then on the KL. In some instances, there was an audible difference in favor of the KL, in others there was none; in other words, the results were inconsistent.  In further considering why this might be the case, I noticed that the records that improved sonically when they were cleaned on the KL were ones in which I had subjected them to only 1.5 minutes of cleaning on the Audiodesk (one beep).  The KL uses a 4.5 minute cleaning cycle.  The records in which there was no improvement were the ones which had gone through 4.5 minutes on the Audiodesk. While this was not dispositive of the reasons for differences, it at least suggested a way forward.

Fast forward several more weeks during which I cleaned more records on the Audiodesk but this time I used the longest cleaning cycle followed by a “pure” water rinse. At this point, a record which has gone through an extended cleaning on the Audiodesk is close to if not indistinguishable from one cleaned on the KL. Regardless of which machine is used, a “pure” water rinse results in an improvement in sound. Keep in mind that with either machine you are continuing to use the fluid over a large number of records plus in the case of the Audiodesk, you have the addition of the detergent/surfactant. In addition, neither ultrasonic machine is effective in completely removing certain types of contaminants from records. One example of this is my repeated cleaning of Oistrakh performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (on an early EMI Columbia SAX) to remove a swishing sound in the left channel which I initially believed to be groove damage. Multiple ultrasonic cleanings did nothing to lessen the noise; however, one enzymatic cleaning with Record Time removed the noise. A close friend, the “Evil Weed” had the same experience using the excellent Audio Intelligent No. 15 enzymatic cleaner.

The takeaway from all this is that any serious record owner who can afford to do so should purchase an ultrasonic vinyl cleaner for use as his primary cleaning tool, always followed by a rinse with “pure” water. In some instances, it may be necessary to resort to the use of an enzymatic cleaner or even an alcohol based cleaner as an adjunct to the ultrasonic cleaner. Almost any competent cleaner (vacuum or ultrasonic) will lessen surface noise. An ultrasonic cleaner used in conjunction with a “pure” water rinse will take the sound to a new and somewhat surprising level of clarity. A four-minute ultrasonic clean has a remarkable effect in terms of opening up the full spectrum of sound, especially, for some reason, in the middle of the sound stage. My ears tell me that, if there is any “blur” or congestion left after an ultrasonic clean, it is in the recording. This is based upon listening to numerous records previously cleaned with enzymes and vacuums only, compared to subsequent ultrasonic cleanings. It has been rare that the ultrasonic cleaning failed to bring new clarity to the sound. In this sense, I confess that I have come to find the ultrasonic cleaning to provide a psychological advantage that is nice to have: whatever the record sounds like after an ultrasonic clean is “all there is.” If I don’t like it after that, there is no point in keeping it…with the exception of the occasional (and usually very old) record that responds to a post-ultrasonic enzyme clean, like the Oistrakh. Indeed, the post-ultrasonic clean did not improve the sound – only the surface noise issue. And that seems to happen only about 1 in 4 or 5 times.  Several times I’ve tried an enzyme clean after an ultrasonic clean with no improvement in surface noise level.

 

Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden
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5 Responses to Audiodesk PRO Ultrasonic Vinyl Cleaner Review


  1. Randy Krelle says:

    Good review. How do you perform the pure water rinse? What kind of applicator do you use to treat both sides of the record? And do you dry the record with the Audio Desk? Thanks for clarifying.

  2. Randy Krelle says:

    What technique do you use to perform the pure water rinse? What kind of brush(es)? Do you use the AD to dry the record? Thanks for clarifying.

  3. Fred Crowder says:

    Prior to purchasing the Audiodesk RCM, I owned a Loricraft PR-3 which I have retained for rinsing records. I believe that vacuuming off the rinse water is key to getting the best sound and leaves the fewest contaminants. I apply laboratory/reagent grade water to the record surface with a VPI brush (which should be frequently rinsed) and then let the Loricraft do its job. I have also waited until I accumulated a pile of unrinsed records then drained the tank of the Audiodesk and refilled it with reagent grade water and used the Audiodesk for rinsing which also seems to work well. The problem is that this means I accumulate about 100 records between rinses since I only drain the Audiodesk after about that number are cleaned.

  4. Joseph Lazaroo says:

    My experience on the Audio Desk either standard or Pro should be thrown into the garbage bin.
    I had sent 6 six times to Germany for repairs with my expenses on shipping. I had purchase the unit from Cable Company they did not honor there warranty they advise me to ship direct to manufacture as I purchase the unit from State side. Problem from water pump, Would not spin, Blown PCB board, Solenoid will not retract the rollers, Pincher roller will not turn. And I had 2 of my LP first track on both side damage with a dimple on the vinyl unplayable.Finally had to Sue them. With that money went and bought the KL Audio and had it with no problem for the past 2 years. I also use a Loricraft PRC3 which I am very happy with.

  5. Fred Crowder says:

    Joseph, as I stated in the article, my original unit died after about three years of use. The people at Cable Company explained to me that in the early units the pump was glued to the bottom plate of the unit and that any repair would be at my cost and would require shipment to Germany. In my particular case, that was not an option which I was willing to pursue and they agreed to sell me a new PRO at a discounted price. Note that the new units can be repaired by Cable Works in the U.S. and that at least with the PRO version, the new pump with ceramic bearings is thus far trouble free. Note that I clean about 100 records a month so it has gotten heavy use. Also understand that I am not condoning the manner in which you were treated, merely passing on my own experiences which were much more positive. Further, based on comparisons of records cleaned on both machines, I am a firm believer that a surfactant/detergent is the right approach.

    Fred

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