Pro-Ject VC-E Record Cleaning Machine

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Equipment report
Categories:
Record-cleaning machines
Pro-Ject VC-E  Record Cleaning Machine

Ergonomics
Using the VC-E is simple, but good technique is essential to maximize the VC-E’s cleaning potential. The machine comes with a small bottle of concentrated cleaning fluid, along with a larger bottle for the mixed-with-water cleaning solution, as well as a cleaning brush. One useful item that is missing from the VC-E accessory kit is a small applicator bottle to apply the solution to your records. I had a spare spray bottle around that I used for that purpose. 

The entire record cleaning process goes like this: Remove the record from its sleeve, place it on the VC-E spindle, screw down the label plate which holds the record firmly on the spindle while protecting the label from any moisture damage, apply the record cleaning solution, use the brush to spread it evenly over the whole record, turn on the vacuum and motor, lift and place the vacuum wand over the record surface, let the VC-E suck all the fluid off the record, and you’re done. The most important aspect of technique when using the VC-E is your brush work. The brush should always follow the grooves of the record. It should never go vertically across the grooves. Ideally, the brush will loosen any debris that liquid alone could not unbind from your record’s surface. I had several brushes from other manufacturers’ record cleaning systems to compare with the Pro-Ject brush. The VC-E’s brush definitely has softer, more flexible bristles than the one I use with my VPI machine. You are less likely to scratch a record’s surface with the VC-E brush, but it also may not loosen all the dirt from an especially recalcitrant disc. I would recommend getting a second brush with stiffer bristles for those difficult-to-clean records.

The only tricky part of using the VC-E record cleaning machine is the fact that since it does not have a platter under the entire disc, you must be careful how much downward pressure you use with the record cleaning brush. While you would have to exexecute a karate chop to break a record while it is mounted on the VC-E machine, it’s fairly easy to put a bit too much downward pressure on the brush and bend the record downward slightly. I found I had to “lighten up” compared to the pressure I routinely apply to a brush when using the VPI 16.5 record cleaning machine. 

Sound
If there is one incontrovertible fact in audio, it’s that a properly cleaned record will always sound better than an uncleaned one. That being said, I have summed up the primary sonic advantage of a record cleaning machine. Don’t like pops, clicks, and low-level rubbing sounds emanating from your LP? Cleaning is a better connection to sonic bliss. Since I know that, I clean every record that I purchase before I play it—especially used records. Perhaps that’s why my phono carts tend to last for many years.And while cleaning will not remove the deepest scratches, it will get you much closer to those deep black backgrounds that we audiophiles all favor.

Summary
While acquiring a record cleaning machine does require an outlay of cash, if you are an avid LP listener it will soon repay you with better sound and cleaner discs. In the end you might actually save money since clean records will cause less wear on your cartridge, so it may well last longer than if it had been fed a steady diet of uncleaned LPs. 

After a bit of practice to refine your technique, the VC-E cleaning machine is capable of transforming your average semi-clean record into a shiny thing of beauty. I’ve found during many years of cleaning records, that whether one manufacturer’s cleaning machine can produce a better final result than another depends more on the user’s technique than the machine itself. Practicing and perfecting your brushwork can make a huge difference in the level of clean you can obtain.

The Pro-Ject VC-E supplies the basic tool necessary to clean records efficiently and easily. For any LP lover who wants to hear every bit of potential sonic goodness from his LPs, the VC-E would be an excellent way to boost your record collection up to a cleaner state of being. 

Specs & Pricing

Rotational speed: 30rpm
Included accessories: Brush, vacuum arm, extra self-adhesive arm strips, plastic clamp, Wash-it bottle, mixed-solution bottle, power cable
Power connection: 110/120, 230/240 50/60 cycles
Dimensions: 310 x 266 x 210mm
Weight: 6.5 kg
Price: $499 

Sumiko (US Distributor)
2431 Fifth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 843-4500
sumikoaudio.net
project-audio.com