Only two things are certain in life: death and taxes. So, apparently, said Benjamin Franklin.
To which he might have added (if he had been feeling particularly far sighted that day) “Loricraft record cleaning machines.”
Loricraft machines are everywhere. I even encountered one in a London lending library a couple of years back – legacy of when many public libraries in the UK used to lend LPs as well as hardback books. The Loricraft was stuffed in a corner under some shelves, unused, unloved. I don’t think the staff knew its value.
Those of us who own Loricraft machines – and other types of cleaner, too – know very much how valuable they are. Like many, I buy used vinyl from charity shops and record fairs, and being able to subject new finds to a really deep clean can pay dividends by releasing good recordings from the burden of decades of abuse by spilled beer, food and other detritus. Of course, sometimes one encounters a record that simply doesn’t respond. It’s beyond redemption by Loricraft, and fit only for heating and moulding into an ashtray, or other Dali-esque curio.
I should declare an interest of sorts here. Terry O’Sullivan who owns Loricraft is a near neighbour of mine here on the chalk downs of West Berkshire in England. He runs Loricraft from a converted piggery on the outskirts of the racehorse training village of Lambourn. Terry has a certain direct style about him, a product of London where he was born and bred. You can take the boy out of London but you can’t take the London out of the boy – much as, I am told, a New Yorker is forever a creature of his surroundings.
Terry’s company Loricraft is, as well as the maker of the record cleaning machine also a restorer and tweaker of the Garrard 301 and 401 turntables. And, my word, can he talk the hind leg off of the proverbial donkey? He is also hugely entertainingly acerbic and wry about life and people. Alas, I see him infrequently, even though we live close by. My wife spots it instantly. “You’ve been to see Terry today.”
‘Uh. Yup. How dye know?’
“You have a silly grin about you. What is it about that man that makes you smile?”
‘I dunno. He’s just got a directness that cracks me up.”
Some years ago a man ordered a record cleaning machine from Loricraft. It was duly made and shipped. The customer phoned Loricraft. O’Sullivan answered the phone.
O’S: ‘Is there a problem?’
“Well, it cleans very well, but I can hear the platter motor.”
O’S: ‘Look. It’s a ******* washing machine, not a turntable.”
If O’Sullivan’s approach to customer relations is somewhat idiosyncratic, then the counter is that a washing machine is exactly what his PRC series of machines is. Nothing more. Nothing less. And, as a user of one of Terry’s machines for the last five years or so, I can witness to the fact that they do a very fine job indeed. Should anything wear through use – and it probably won’t in most folks’ lifetimes because the Loricraft machines are if anything over-engineered – then the Loricraft team provides swift service with a smile.
I bought my Loricraft PRC 4 direct from O’Sullivan. Alas, and even as a local yokel, I got no favours price-wise. He can sell every machine he makes and more, so has no need to discount or offer favours of any other kind – even for near neighbours. Still, I have no complaints. My PRC 4 has provided fantastic service and continues to do so.
Am I alone in cleaning every record I play, even if it has been cleaned many times before and doesn’t need it? I think not. We do it because we own a machine and therefore we can. The upside of this obsession is that our styli will likely last until Hell freezes over. I used a powerful loupe to inspect the tip of my Audio Note IO II cartridge at 1,200 hours and it showed no signs of wear. None.
The design principles of the Loricraft PRC machines are pretty much unchanged from those of the original conceived by the late Percy Wilson who was technical editor of Gramophone magazine – even if the execution is now a little different.
A PRC chassis is not much larger in plan than a portable record player. It houses three motors: a medical grade fluid pump, a high-torque washing machine motor to drive the 12-inch platter that supports the record to be cleaned, and a third motor that drives a gearbox to traverse the cleaning wand over the vinyl.
Cleaning fluid – Loricraft recommend L’Art du Son – is squirted on to the turning record, then pushed into the grooves by hand with the help of a nylon brush. The turntable can be spun in both directions and this important feature means users can thus use the brush to agitate the fluid more fully so that dirt and contaminants are better carried into suspension. A brass arm driven by the third motor carries the suction tube to a PTFE nozzle which is held off of the record surface by a woven nylon thread that both creates a venturi effect and protects the vinyl. After every side the thread is advanced by hand for a few fractions of an inch so that the next side sees only clean thread. Fluid cleans a single side only and is then deposited in a container that sits next to the body of the cleaning machine. It could hardly be simpler, safer for treasured vinyl, or any more effective, which is why there is, in truth, very little difference between the successive generations of machine.
The PRC 6 – subject of this world-first review for Dagogo – is Loricraft’s latest. Students of the product – oh yes, I am sure there must be some out there – will notice that the new cleaner has a larger, as in taller, chassis, but that in every other respect it looks just like existing models. The bigger chassis houses a larger pump that provides the same suction as other models but is quieter. Standard finish on the flanks of the chassis is matt black, but for a little more you can have walnut or cherry veneer.
O’Sullivan drove up the hill and came to my house with a PRC 6 in the back of his ridiculously pampered Land Rover. We plonked the 6 next to my PRC 4 and cleaned a record first with the 4, then the 6.
I have no measurements to back up this observation, but I’d say that the 6 is about half as noisy as the 4 – that is to say it is very quiet as opposed to just quiet. As with the other PRC models, the 6 takes about a minute to clean a side of an LP. If you want to clean records while listening to records, or you go all phobic at the gentle hum of a medical grade pump running, then the PRC 6 is likely the machine for you.
And, if the preceding paragraph is not the shortest subjective audio review yet on Dagogo then I’ll eat my hat.
Deceptively, record cleaning can be interesting. Really. Mark Baker at British turntable and arm manufacturer Origin Live published a video for YouTube in which he picks apart the why and the how of record cleaning. As of now, it has had getting on for 38,000 views.
Guess which machine Baker favours?
View the Origin Live video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUbC2ANXRqY
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Terry O’Sullivan; Englishman, Labrador and collie dog lover, Land Rover aficionado and maker of probably the best record cleaning machine in the world. You buy vinyl? You need a Loricraft PRC 6.
- (Page 1 of 1)