Record care has been part of the vinyl experience from the dawn of the LP. Over the years the process has evolved from a simple wipe of an anti-static cloth or a squirt from a dust blower to an all-out-assault on uncleanliness via record-cleaning machines equipped with vacuum pumps, rotating platters, cleaning brushes, and single-to-multistep fluid-dispensers.
Recently, a few of the latest commercial units have added a new wrinkle: the use of ultrasonic transducers to scrub the record grooves the way printed circuit boards or surgical instruments are cleaned after sterilization—through cavitation in a cleaning bath. Cavitation bubbles are the result of the high-frequency pressure waves generated by ultrasonic transducers agitating the liquid inside cleaning machines. Not only does the agitation produce these tiny cavitation bubbles, but it also pushes them into the nooks and crannies of the groove walls and valleys of our records. The force exerted on the vinyl by this cavitation bubble-action dislodges and removes dirt and debris that standard cleaning brushes just can’t reach.
In May 2013, Klaudio (based in Auburn, Washington) introduced its own version of an ultrasonic record-cleaning machine, the KD-CLN-LP200. What is unique about the Klaudio unit is that it uses ultrasonic cleaning exclusively (no brushes), is fully automated, and, perhaps most importantly, requires no special cleaning fluids. The unit only needs distilled water to work its magic.
The KD-CLN-LP200 Ultrasonic Vinyl Record cleaner arrives wrapped in clear plastic, surrounded on all sides by approximately two inches of dense, closed-cell-foam inserts precisely cut to neatly fit into the triple-walled shipping box. Included with the unit are a user manual, marketing/feature brochure, treated fabric dust cover, rubber funnel (more on this later), PVC drain hose, and AC power cable.
If you follow the user manual, setup is pretty straightforward. After setting the unit on a level surface in its final location, use the supplied funnel to slowly add 2.5 liters (0.66 gallons) of distilled water through the fill port on the top of the machine. (The use of the supplied funnel prevents you from too rapidly filling the wash chamber and creating an overflow condition that could potentially damage the internal electronics. In other words, be cautious when filling the reservoir with distilled water, and avoid the temptation to use a larger funnel to fill the Klaudio more quickly, or you may be asking for trouble.)
Once the unit has been filled so the water line is between the Min and Max fill-level in the reservoir window on the front panel, this part of the set-up process is done. The next step is connecting the power cable and turning the unit on. After that, all that’s left to do is to select washing and drying times.
There are three controls on the Klaudio: a rotary switch for wash time (which can be set from 1–5 minutes), a rotary switch for dry time (2–4 minutes), and a toggle switch to select a “wash & dry” or “dry only” cycle. Ease of use and operation is where the KD-CLN-LP200 has the biggest advantage over any other cleaning method I’ve used in the past. The cleaning cycle goes like this: Put the record in the top-loading slot; the cleaning starts; in 3–9 minutes (depending on the “wash & dry” settings) the green “completed” LED illuminates; and you are done.
After spending some time with the Klaudio, I’ve settled on a 4-minute wash cycle for most of my new and used records, with an occasional 1–2 minute rewash on a few newer LPs. A 2-minute drying time has worked for nearly all of the records I’ve cleaned so far. If the record needs more drying, set the toggle switch to the “dry only” mode and reinsert the LP to start an additional rotary-switch-selected dry cycle. (A nice undocumented feature is that if a record requires additional dry time and you notice this before removing the LP from the unit, after the full “wash & dry” cycle is complete a simple flick of the toggle switch to the “dry only” cycle will restart the previously selected drying cycle without any need to remove the record from the unit.)