I’ve been an enthusiastic user of the KLAudio KD-CLN-LP200 ultrasonic record cleaner for many years. Running an LP through the KLAudio resulted in lower surface noise, fewer ticks, a blacker background, and improved resolution of low-level detail. Alas, KLAudio has exited the ultrasonic LP cleaner business; however, there’s a worthy—and less expensive—replacement called the Degritter.
About the size of a breadbox, the Degritter’s curved front panel gives it an art deco vibe. Even the front-panel logo is set in a script reminiscent of a 1950s Chevy Bel Air nameplate. Two front-panel knobs control operation, with a round display keeping you apprised of the machine’s settings and the status of the cleaning cycle. You start by filling the removable water tank with 1.6L (0.35 gallon) of distilled water. The company supplies a bottle of concentrated cleaning fluid that the manual says is optional rather than required (to be properly removed, some impurities require a detergent). The water should be replaced once a week or after every 30 records, and the water filter must be cleaned after every 50 LPs. Just drop an LP through the slot in the top panel, select the wash and dry cycle times, and the Degritter does the rest. Although you can adjust the wash and dry times independently, it’s easiest to select one of three pre-programmed settings for light, medium, and heavy cleaning. You can even select the drying fan speed; the slower speed takes longer, but is mercifully quiet compared with the KLaudio. (That cleaner sounds like a 747 taking off. I can’t be within 20 feet of the KLaudio when it is cleaning and drying a record.)
The water tank is removable, which makes emptying and refilling it easier than carrying the entire machine to a sink (a la KLaudio and Audio Desk). I also liked that the water is constantly filtered to keep the dirt that has been removed from a record from contaminating the next LP. The open-cell foam filter can easily be removed and cleaned. There’s quite a bit of software in the machine; in addition to offering control over every conceivable cleaning parameter, the Degritter monitors the water temperature, water level, sensor malfunction, and other operating conditions. The software can be updated via an SD card.
A lot of thought went into this design. The 300W ultrasonic amplifier drives four transducers, two on each LP side. The ultrasonic frequency is nominally 120kHz, with a frequency-sweep feature that presumably improves the cleaning function. The comprehensive owner’s manual is a model of clarity and presentation.
In practice, the Degritter delivers all the incontrovertible benefits of ultrasonic cleaning. I pulled out a copy of Joni Mitchell’s classic Court and Spark that I bought more than 40 years ago (and have since replaced with a remastered version), and listened to it before and after cleaning. I also compared the sound before and after cleaning with another record I’ve had for decades, Bill Evans’ You Must Believe in Spring. I also tried a couple of recent used acquisitions, Linda Ronstadt’s For Sentimental Reasons (a spectacular recording, by the way), and Dexter Gordon’s The Monmartre Collection, Volume Two (that was sent to me in a Montmarte Collection Volume One jacket). This record, not available in any digital format, captures Gordon in his prime (1967) with a terrific band. With all these LPs, a cycle through the Degritter didn’t just reduce surface noise, as you’d expect; it also presented a startlingly blacker background that made the music seem to exist independently of the physical medium. The effect is a more believable presentation and a heightened sense of contemporaneous music-making. I really heard this on the Dexter Gordon record; the feeling of hearing a four-piece group play in a jazz club was more pronounced after cleaning. Ultrasonic cleaning also seems to make it easier to hear individual instruments, as though each exists as its own entity rather than being fused into a single fabric.
The Degritter was easy to use, has many sophisticated features, appears well built, and delivered on all the promises of ultrasonic LP cleaning. It’s also priced about a thousand dollars below the competition, making it a solid recommendation.
By Robert Harley
My older brother Stephen introduced me to music when I was about 12 years old. Stephen was a prodigious musical talent (he went on to get a degree in Composition) who generously shared his records and passion for music with his little brother.More articles from this editor
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