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Nitty Gritty 1.0 Record Cleaning System Review

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Nitty Gritty 1.0 Record Cleaning System in Black Vinyl Cabinet

While stuck in quarantine like the majority of Americans, I have been playing a lot of records every day. A big part of my record playing experience is keeping my records clean. Since most small audio companies are closed and cannot ship products to me, I decided to write an article about the importance of keeping your records clean and the method I use to do so.

The record cleaning machine I have been using for the past 22 years is the Nitty Gritty 1.0 Vacuum Record Cleaning System. Some of my records are over 50 years old and still sound pretty close to new because I clean them regularly. I honestly feel a number of noisy records are due to dust, dirt, static, mold, film, and other contaminants that if, cleaned by a vacuum record cleaning machine, can be brought fairly close to the quality of the original brand new record. Even new records sometimes benefit from cleaning. A case in point would be my recording of Gustav Holst’s The Planets (London CS 6734). This record had a film on it when I purchased it and no amount of using a record brush could get it quiet. After cleaning with the Nitty Gritty system, the film was completely removed. This is one of my records that is over 40 years old and still sounds close to new despite being played numerous times over the years.

The first thing I do is pour a generous amount of cleaning solution on my records and then scrub the record lightly with the special Nitty Gritty VAC-Sweep brush, being very careful that the edges of the brush do not come in contact with the record. Next, I use the record vacuum system to suck all of the moisture along with all of the dust, dirt, static, mold, film, and other contaminants, leaving a nice clean record. The vacuum is very noisy, so you may want to keep your youngsters and pets away while you are cleaning your records. Since there may be some residual moisture left on the record, I let the record air dry for a few minutes before playing. The Nitty Gritty machine gets hot after cleaning several records, so I limit my cleaning to maybe four or five records at a time. I also tend to use more than the recommended amount of solution, so underneath the machine there is a little accumulation of used cleaning solution.

I find if you use one of the many cleaning brushes to clean your records every time you play your records, you only need to vacuum clean the records in this manner periodically. I do not use stylus cleaner as often anymore because a number of cartridge companies do not recommend their use and, also, clean records mean your stylus stays cleaner.

Since I clean my records often, I find that buying one of the many concentrates out there (Record Doctor, VPI) combined with a gallon of distilled water makes, for less than $25.00, enough solution to last a long time. I have read about some homemade solutions on the internet, but I am not willing to risk damaging my records. The Nitty Gritty needs the lips on the vacuum replaced periodically and you can purchase and replace them yourself. The VAC-Sweep brush is also available. The fact that I have been using this machine for 22 years with no problems is a testament to quality construction.

Records cleaned with a vacuum record cleaning machine, such as the Nitty Gritty, is important before using the most expensive turntable, tonearm, cartridge, and phono stage because it will remove the noise that degrades the listening experience. I listen to a lot of classical orchestral music and jazz, which have a lot of complex passages. The Nitty Gritty has no trouble keeping these records pristine and quiet. The combination of clean records and a decent phono playback system (turntable, tonearm, and cartridge) negates one of the big advantages of digital listening by keeping the noise floor really low.

Cleaning your records regularly with the Nitty Gritty is an absolute must to reach the full potential of your record playing enjoyment. Most of my records are well over 30 years old and the sound is very often better than a newer but dirty record. The only thing the Nitty Gritty system will not do is remove skips and scratches.

The Nitty Gritty company sells a wide assortment of record cleaners ranging in price from $529 to the Mini-Pro 2 at $1,579. The Mini-Pro automatically wets, rotates, scrubs, and vacuums both sides of the record simultaneously. They also sell a special solution for 78 RPM records that I have not tried. Their products are widely available in just about every high-end stereo shop along with a number of record stores. Just about every online high-end retailer also sells the Nitty Gritty line. Coincidentally I purchased my Nitty Gritty from the same place I purchased my Hana EH phono cartridge: Reference Audio Video in Gardena, CA.

Cleaning your records and playing them all day can make the boredom from the quarantine a little more bearable. I like this product so much that I purchased a second machine to keep as a spare. I use both machines regularly.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


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