What is going on inside the KD-CLN-LP200? Inserting a record into the top loading slot triggers a lever switch; the priming pump fills the stainless steel wash chamber while the record is supported—half-submerged in the bath (below the label area)—on four internal rollers, three of which are belt-driven to rotate the record. When the wash chamber fills, the priming pump continues to run, circulating water to maintain the proper level, and the four 50-watt 40kHz ultrasonic transducers (two horizontally placed per side) start the cleaning cycle for the selected wash time. On my review unit, the record appears to complete approximately seven rotations every two minutes. The display panel shows current status and washing progress. (The amount of record wetting during the unsubmerged rotation of the cleaning process can vary from barely damp to what I call “juicy.” This wetting difference appears to be related to different vinyl formulations. In no case has water made its way on to the record label.)
Once the wash cycle is complete, the priming pump stops, the water drains from the wash chamber and the drying cycle begins. During the drying cycle, two centrifugal-type, air-blower fans dry the record surface while the display panel shows drying progress. Once the dry cycle is complete, the Klaudio beeps twice when the “completed” LED illuminates and flashes green until the record is removed.
The Klaudio accepts only full-sized records in the range of 11.65–12", according to the user manual. Every one of my 12" LPs worked in the unit, including a few warped ones, without any problems. However, recognizing that there are KD-CLN-LP200 users with a need to clean 7" 45-rpm and 10" 33/78-rpm records, Klaudio has recently introduced two adapters that allow these smaller records to be cleaned in the Ultrasonic cleaner.
The four 50-watt ultrasonic transducers tend to generate some heat that increases the bath temperature during repeated cleaning cycles. During my testing of up to 21 continuous 4-minute wash-time cleaning cycles, the temperature of the water bath in the wash chamber increased slowly in a linear fashion with each consecutive cleaning cycle, from a room temperature of 72 degrees to upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the last record in the batch. I first took note of this when I observed an LP going through what I would call a “yoga exercise”—or flexing— during the heated wash cycle, only to return to being perfectly flat during the dry cycle. It should be noted that the record never stopped rotating or got stuck or suffered any damage I could discern. When I observed this occurrence, I started measuring the record temperature as it emerged from submersion during the wash cycle. What I noticed was that as the water temperature increased with continuous use, the submerged surface of the record would follow suit. This heated water created a temporary thermal imbalance (via thermal expansion of the submerged grooved area) between the outside of the record and the inner label area, which caused this temporary flexing of the vinyl. This thermal exercise, in my estimation, may increase the cleaning benefit since the record temporarily flexes under the temperature imbalance during ultrasonic cleaning, helping the cavitation process with debris removal. In short, if you see a record in the cleaner begin this little “yoga exercise,” don’t panic. Things will return to normal during the dry cycle.
Besides its ease of use, the Klaudio cleans records deep in the grooves better than any unit I’ve observed to date. I’ve viewed the before-and-after images of cleaning results under 400x magnification with my own records. This has been with lightly dusty records and also with used records that are pretty filthy. In both cases, the resulting images showed groove walls and valleys that were much cleaner than before. I’ve also tried putting some fresh oily fingerprints on test records; they were also, somewhat surprisingly given there is nothing but distilled water in the unit, removed by the ultrasonic cleaner.
Subjectively, Klaudio-cleaned record tend to show across-the-board sonic improvements, most notably in the perceived depth of recording venues, the clarity of images and surrounding areas, and more natural tone, density, and texture on instruments. One example would be Duke Ellington’s Jazz Party In Stereo. The opening track on this record, “Malletoba Spank,” is a horn and percussion festival of dynamic delight. After I ultrasonically cleaned the disc, the impact, tone, and decay of every percussion instrument had greater clarity and less haze, and the horn section went from a moderate wave of occasionally aggressive sound to a full set of instruments with greater resolution of individual players than I’d heard before. On this opening track, the percussion instruments closely followed by the horns are the stars of the show, but what’s interesting is that I could also more clearly follow Jimmy Woode’s bass rhythmically plucking along, providing a solid foundation in the center background. Additionally, Sam Woodyard’s stick work on the cymbals was much clearer after Klaudio ultrasonic cleaning, to the point of having increased noticeably throughout the entire performance, even though the drum kit is deep in the background on the right side of the stage. The Klaudio ultrasonic cleaning took this particular track on the Classic Records reissue from moderately enjoyable to clean, clear, and very near to great sounding. On the other end of the musical spectrum, large-scale classical recordings gained an abundance of depth and recording-venue expansion from Klaudio ultrasonic cleaning. I want to point out that this isn’t the type of effect, similar to a speaker positioning change, where the entire soundstage takes a wholesale step backwards. This ultrasonic cleaning keeps instruments where they were, but allows the recording venue’s full expanse and reverberant clarity to be heard more clearly.
Value is always something of a personal choice, but for me this unit has proven to be an unflagging asset in the enjoyment of vinyl playback. Of course, there are many factors to consider when purchasing something like the Klaudio ultrasonic unit. Some of you may have a backlog of records numbering in the thousands that are in need of a good cleaning. Others may have come to the conclusion, long ago, that it is highly unlikely they are going to perform a multi-minute, multi-step cleaning exercise for each side of their LPs. To them, let me just say that as the quality of analog playback continues to advance it may be that the level of sonic engagement conveyed by Klaudio’s ultrasonically-cleaned records will become increasingly difficult to do without, even if you hate the time spent washing and drying your vinyl.
SPECS & PRICING
Type: Ultrasonic record cleaner
Dimensions: 7.12" x 11.65" x 17.12"
Weight: 45 lbs.