Project have a well deserved name for producing great products at great prices, but £299 for a vacuum record cleaning machine really does seem to be very good value, at least on paper. Ian Ringstead puts a few of his grimier charity shop finds through the VC-S to find out if it sucks or not!
Project are a no nonsense company who have taken the hifi industry by storm since their humble beginnings back in the nineties with the Debut turntable and now command a major position in the budget to serious audiophile sector. The range of products now produced by them is amazing and I love the fact they champion value for money.
Just before the Bristol show it was announced that Project were bringing out a record cleaning machine which used a vacuum pump system. Now this isn’t a new idea by any means but what staggered me was the price £299, yes you read it right £299. How can this be true I thought as all other machines I had seen with that technology cost a good deal more. Seeing the VC-S in action at Bristol intrigued me and I was offered the chance to review it there and then.
As we all know anyone who has been brought up with records or recently discovered their allure can’t avoid one of the formats biggest enemies, dust. We all take dust for granted in our lives and when you have to keep cleaning your system regularly if you take a pride in it, you know it’s always there. What is dust made up of? Dust consists of particles in the atmosphere that come from various sources such as soil, dust lifted by weather, volcanic eruptions, and pollution. Dust in homes, offices, and other human environments contains small amounts of plant pollen, human and animal hairs, textile fibres and paper fibres, minerals from outdoor soil, human skin cells, burnt meteorite particles (Really? – Ed), and many other materials which may be found in the local environment.
You will tend to find that the vast majority of dust we encounter in our homes is probably human skin cells. We shed them constantly and are surrounded by an invisible cloud of them, so we only have ourselves to blame for dirty records. I have tried just about every type of record cleaner over the years from the dust bug you used to put on your turntable and track your record whilst it was being played, to what I use now which is the Spin Clean wet cleaning system. I opted for the Spin Clean because it was far cheaper than the machines I would have loved to own but I couldn’t justify the expense of. But now I think Project have answered my prayers and yours.
The VC-S as the title suggests is a Vacuum Cleaning System. Heinz Lichtenegger decided that this was the only viable system that would effectively clean our precious vinyl quickly and easily, but he wanted to make it affordable so he commissioned his design team to come up with a no nonsense solution. Has he succeeded? Let’s see.
CONSTRUCTION AND USE
To look at the VC-S is a plain black rectangular box which houses the motor, pump and associated electronics along with a storage chamber for the dirty solution sucked off the records. On top of the unit is a motorised sub platter onto which you place your record. You then screw a top clamp onto this which just covers the record label so that it doesn’t get wet and damaged. You then apply some cleaning solution to the record surface whilst switching the motor on which causes the sub platter to spin in either a clockwise direction or anticlockwise. Using the excellent brush provided spin the record once or twice in each direction with the motor rocker switch and then swing the vacuum cleaning arm over the record lower it onto the record surface and switch the pump on. After just a revolution or two the dirt is magically lifted off the record and you are left with a pristinely clean record. Repeat the process for the other side of the record and you are done. It only takes about a minute or so to do this and once you get into a routine you find you can clean a whole batch of treasured or newly acquired charity shop vinyl in an hour or so. The great thing is the records are dry straight away so you can place them back in their anti static record sleeves or play them immediately.
What’s not to like. The VC-S comes with a record brush to apply the solution and a 100ml bottle of Wash It that is diluted by a ratio of about 10:1 to 20:1 with distilled water. The solution should clean about 135 records. Of course larger bottles are available if you have a large collection. Also supplied are a spare set of the cleaning bristles that attach to the underside of the vacuum arm assembly that touches the record and aids the effective collection of the dirty solution out of the record grooves.
Project has an online demonstration video on how to use the VC-S and it really is easy.
I cleaned a fair few records old and new and some recently acquired ones from a charity shop that were rather dirty and they came up like new and played brilliantly.
If you collect a lot of vinyl or have a large collection already this is a no brainer product you must have. You spend a small fortune on your system and if like me your cartridge costs £650 and my collection is worth thousands, then £299 is pocket money for enhancing your listening experience and extending the longevity of your stylus considerably. Even if your system is more modest I would still recommend thinking about investing in a VC-S or similar cleaner. My Spin Clean does a good job but it is a tedious process to manually clean my records and dry them. Stroll on; in the time I have taken to prepare the Spin Clean for use I could have cleaned several records on the VC-S. This is not a criticism of the Spin Clean as for £80 it is great value, but if you are prepared to invest in an easier quicker solution then do it. If you have a group of friends who are into vinyl but like you don’t have a large collection or are reluctant to spend £299 then why not all club in to buy one between you and share the benefits.
There’s a saying we have which is “suck it and see”. Well the VC-S certainly sucks it and you end up seeing a pristine record as if it had just been manufactured.
Build Quality: Not classy, but functional, very solid and well put together.
Sound Quality: When thoroughly cleaned the records tested were all like new bar any scratches or faults in the original recording.
Value for Money: £299 is a very small price to pay for such a superb easy to use cleaner. Compared to the competition it’s a no brainer.
Easy to use and quick
Excellent cleaning results
An optional lid can be purchased to keep the dust at bay when not in use
Noisy, so I suggest using in another room. Don’t clean too many at a time to protect your hearing. This is not to scare anyone, just a health and safety warning as the vacuum is loud, just like most domestic vacuum cleaners are. I found doing about ten at a time was ample.