Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine Reviewed 19

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I’ve championed the Pro-Ject VC-S as being the best value for money vacuum record cleaning machine on the market since the introduction of the original model. The second generation brought some welcome improvements with only a slight price hike. In typical Pro-Ject fashion, the VC-S has always been a well made, well featured and keenly priced machine. And with the launch of the next VC models, of which there are now two, the bar is raised to new heights.

Features

Vc S2 Alu Top View

The two models of machine now available are the VC-S2 ALU (£399 SRP) and the smaller VC-E (£299 SRP, available in October). There’s a £100 difference between the two machines at retail accounting for the improvements of the VC-S2 ALU, though the two machines are principally very similar. A record is spun at 30RPM on a rotating platform barely larger than the label, and fluid is applied with an included brush. The fluid is then sucked away by the vacuum into either a 500ML (VC-E) or 2.5L (VC-S2 ALU) tank. Both machines include the necessary accessories to clean 12” and 10” discs, and a 7” cleaning kit is optionally available at £110 (UK RRP).

Vc E Top

While printed lettering and a few screw caps were the only real cosmetic changes between the original VC-S and VC-S MK2, the new models have undergone a significant facelift. Now made from sheets of an Aluminium/PE composite with engraved switching and fluid scale trim plates, the aesthetic is quite a welcome departure from the veneered wooden box of the previous machines. It eliminates the possibility of excessive fluid spills damaging the chassis. It also reduces the weight considerably, the vacuum motor now being by far the heaviest component within. This is certainly a welcome change for those of us who have to store and move our machines between uses.

The basic design of the VC-S has otherwise remained the same, with the same robust vacuum arm and a slightly revised valve assembly with a central separator preventing fingers reaching the motor beneath.

Power is still via a rear-mounted IEC jack and the control layout is identical. So too are the accessories provided in the box, including the clamp and platter, vacuum arm for 12” discs, a draining spout, a spare pair of strips for the arm, a goat’s hair brush and a 100 ml bottle of Pro-Ject’s excellent Wash It cleaning concentrate with a mixer bottle also provided. Even the packaging is vastly improved, with a sturdier box and far better internal packing material. It’s a far more premium first impression.

The remainder of this review will focus on the VC-S2 ALU, making some comparisons with the VC-S MK2. Physically the new machine is roughly 10 mm smaller in width and depth, and less tall at only 210 mm to the top of the case as opposed to 230 mm (approx). Naturally, the most obvious difference is the aluminium casework, though there are some welcome alterations too. For example, the drainage hole is now covered with a permanent grille as opposed to the poorly fitted removable grille of the older VC-S models. I noted also the lack of hinge screws for a dust cover.

Initial Impressions

Actual measurements (width x height x depth) are 415 x 325 x 272 mm (fully assembled), with a weight of 8KG. The VC-E is more compact at 310 x 266 x 210mm (fully assembled) and lighter at 6.5 KG.

The machine is nicely made, with the front, side and rear panels being a single folded piece, rebated into both the top and bottom panel. The large dome-head Torx screws in each corner do detract from the machine’s aesthetic appeal, but the machine otherwise feels well put together. There is some flex in the aluminium if you’re picky enough to pull on the panels, but nothing that is of any concern if the machine is used properly and carefully. Out of the box, my machine had a slightly loose front right foot which was easily tightened but didn’t affect operation in any way besides a small panel rattle. This is one of the first models off the line, however, so I’ll allow some leeway as I’m confident this is a one-off.

Noise

Contrary to what is sometimes stated, I’ve never found the VC-S to be an especially noisy machine – far quieter in fact than the competition. Being a vacuum it’s never going to be silent, and it’s not as quiet as a Numatic Henry, arguably the most widely recognised consumer vacuum machine. But I’ve always been able to use one quite happily with music playing and without hearing fatigue.

The new machine is perhaps a little quieter than the old model but not significantly so. The wood did resonate somewhat, making the vacuum perceptively louder. The aluminium does vibrate, but it can be felt as a physical vibration more than heard. I don’t think the noise level between the two is so significant as to be the deciding factor in justifying the upgrade, but any reduction in noise, however slight, is always welcome. The new casework does have some modding potential in terms of adding sound deadening material, which is something I might explore should I feel the need.

Vc S2 Alu Side View

Performance

Moving from the original VC-S to the MK2 I did note a slight improvement in cleaning performance, though the difference in the new model is a far bigger jump. You can hear the fluid being sucked through the arm, though as the Wash It fluid is quick to evaporate it would take some considerable use to fill the tank. Air exits through the tank and gradually warms as the machine is used, so any fluid that’s in the tank is likely evaporated into the air by the passing air. Because of this I’ve never seen the need for such a large tank in these machines, though I suppose if one were to use an alternative fluid it may be necessary.

I use the wash It fluid exclusively on my collection and have done since the purchase of my original VC-S. It’s an eco-friendly, alcohol-free fluid which a pleasant fragrance, but most importantly of all excellent cleaning performance and lasting anti-static properties. I mix at a 1:10 ratio with triple distilled water and leave the fluid to sit on the record for 30 seconds or so before vacuuming it away.

AA reader John recently tried this fluid in a manual cleaning machine and reported great success without an undue increase in drying time over the alcohol-based recipe he was previously using. Though the debate surrounding the use of alcohol on vinyl has never been definitively concluded one way or another, I do prefer to err on the side of caution where my collection is concerned and prefer not to use an alcohol-based fluid unless I’m testing one for a review. I certainly wouldn’t discredit or discourage them entirely. Just as there is no definitive proof showing that alcohol is a safe ingredient, there is none to prove it isn’t. I’m sure that Pro-Ject’s choice to remove alcohol from their formula is at least in part related to the restrictions on shipping alcohol-based products, as their original Wash It formula was an alcohol-based mix. Mine is just an opinion, and the fluid you use is a matter of your own opinion and preference.

This new VC-S2 ALU does an exceptional job at bringing dirty old discs back to their shiny former glory. It seems to get deeper into the groove than ever before and copes admirably with records of varying thickness. I cleaned 120, 180 and 200-gram discs in a single session without any adjustment and all came out perfect.

It takes only a couple of rotations to completely dry the record. Pro-Ject recommend one rotation in forward and one rotation in reverse. I usually double this, and though I don’t fully see the advantage to vacuuming in reverse I do tend to do so as I’ve become so used to the VC-S that muscle memory now takes over the switching action.

Summary

This is another evolution of Pro-Ject’s excellent vinyl cleaner line. The two new models bring more welcome improvements to what was already a top-class product. It’s lighter, better looking and quieter than before, and raises the performance bar even further. This is one of the best investments you can make if you’re serious about vinyl. Highly recommended.


About Ashley

I founded Audio Appraisal a few years ago and continue to regularly update it with fresh content. An avid vinyl collector and coffee addict, I can often be found at a workbench tinkering with a faulty electronic device, tweaking a turntable to extract the last bit of detail from those tiny grooves in the plastic stuff, or relaxing in front of the hi-fi with a good album. A musician, occasional producer and sound engineer, other hobbies include software programming, web development, long walks and occasional DIY. Follow @ashleycox2

Share Your Thoughts

19 thoughts on “Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine Reviewed

  • rochrest

    I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has used this machine and supplied cleaning fluid with shellac records. Would the cleaning fluid damage a shellac record? Also, labels on many 78 rpm records are smaller than on LP records and I wonder if the spindle clamp would cover any inside grooves of a 78.

    • Ashley Post author

      The provided Wash It fluid is fine for use on Shellac 78s as it doesn’t contain alcohol. Cleaning Shellac 78s on these machines works well providing you do so with care, remembering that shellac won’t flex like vinyl will and can crack or shatter on impact. So go gentle with the brush, leave the fluid to sit on the record for 30 seconds to a minute and don’t lift the vacuum arm from the record until it has almost spun down completely. It’s also a good idea to check the platter height as 78s are usually quite a bit thicker than a standard vinyl LP.

      As for the clamp, I’ve never found it to be an issue though I believe the labels on early 78s varied a little in size until they were standardised, so to a degree it depends on the specific records. The position of the final groove in relation to the centre label can also vary. If you find the provided clamp too big, you could always purchase a 7″ kit and use the clamp from it but I’ve never found the included clamp to be a problem.

      The only other consideration is that when cleaning a 10″ 78, you will find about 2 inches of the vacuum arm slot is left open and a lot of suction is lost as a result. Covering this with a strip of plastic or card wrapped around and taped improves cleaning for both 10″ 78s and 10″ vinyl.

  • Andre

    Hi. I just bought the VC-S2 ALU. Build seems to be nice and solid. I use the Wash-it in a 1/10, maybe 1/12 Ratio. First wash was very good, but when the lips at the vacuum get wet, they leave some traces on the record, not immediately, but when I switch vacuum off. Okay, the liquid evaporates / vaporizes (not sure about the right word), but there are still traces of the (dried) fluid. And – and that’s the strangest thing about it – there is more noise / crackle / rustle / sizzle at the start of the record. I tested it with 2 or 3 near mint records, which had no noise before washing but now have very heavy noise. Do you have any recommendations on that?

    • Ashley Post author

      Firstly, I presume you’re using proper distilled water, not the type you buy for car batteries.

      Secondly, what is your cleaning technique? I vacuum in both directions and then switch the vacuum off with the record still spinning. When the vacuum is almost spun down I lift the arm from the record, still with the record spinning. I don’t get any traces of fluid left behind with this method. You never want the vacuum arm to sit on the record when the record is not moving.

  • Ron Cronovich

    Excellent review, Ashley, thank you so much.

    How do you think the smaller VC-E model might perform differently with respect to cleaning performance, noise level, or anything else?

    Do you think the new models are enough of an upgrade that you’re thinking of purchasing one or would recommend them to owners of the original?

    • Ashley Post author

      Hi Ron – thanks for your kind words on the review. I think that if anything a different vacuum motor in the VC-E may result in slightly lesser performance, perhaps equivalent to a VC-S MK2. I don’t have confirmation of this however, and I haven’t had the opportunity to test or look inside a VC-E to see whether that is indeed the case. Obviously the smaller size means a smaller tank, but unless the machine is in constant 24/7 use with a non evaporative fluid I doubt you’d come close to filling the tank anyway.

      I have already asked to purchase the review sample following this review as an upgrade from my VC-S MK2 and would certainly consider it a worthwhile upgrade.

    • Paul

      i found the smaller vce to have a few problems first is mine didn’t dry the records that well,second the exhaust exits under the record and i found it put condensation on the vinyl even before youve attempted to clean it ,and even a cleaned side get condensation on so i could possibly be re contaminated with what its cleaned already

      • Manfred

        Dear Paul , unfortunately I experienced the same problem with the VC-E RCM I have a really wet record on the opposite side of the cleaning arm , what did You do in the meantime ? Today I asked my dealer in Austria about this problem , he told me that is the first claim concerning this condensation. To me it’s a no go You cannot clean a record really like it should be with the VC-E

        • Ashley Post author

          I’ll ask the UK distributor about this. At what point are you lifting the arm from the record? If you lift the arm right at the end of the vacuum’s spin-down, just before it stops and while the record is still spinning, you shouldn’t get condensation build-up on the record.

          • Manfred

            Dear Ashley , thank You for asking, I am also in contact with Audio Tuning in Vienna, Austria since Friday . I am lifting the arm exactly at the point You are suggesting , some turns back and forth with suction turned on and then lifting the arm with the switched on turning motor.

            My experience is that I have always condensation , as long as the liquid in the cesspit is heated up from the fan . Usually starting with the second record and stopping after some hours when the liquid inside has again room temperature. The main reason of condensation is the position of the exhaust which blows the warm and humid air directly under the record

            • Ashley Post author

              I can see this being an issue. I have not use a VC-E, but the VC-S ALU does produce warm air from the tank after a few records. The older machines had a removable grill with angled vents so you could direct the air. Perhaps as a temporary solution, you could find a cardboard (or plastic) tube the same as the diameter of the grill and cut a 45-degree angle in one end. Then stick the straight end over the grill of the VC-E with the angle pointing down, so that air is directed downwards rather than flowing over the underside of the record.

              • roncron

                Hi, all. I have just acquired a VCS2 ALU and my unit came with a removable angled vent like Ashley describes.

                Initially, I had one issue-which is probably not the issue others here are describing, but just in case: The platform that the LP sits on was 1-2mm too low, resulting in a slight gap between the vacuum arm and the LP, so the vacuum did not remove all the fluid. I followed the instructions in the manual to raise the bottom platform slightly and now everything works perfectly.

                To others having these condensation issues, this is not normal behavior for these units. If it’s not prohibitively inconvenient, I’d have your retailer replace your unit with a new one.

                Kindest regards,
                Ron Cronovich

                • Manfred

                  These condensation issues do only appear with the smaller model VC-E , VC-S2 blows the air in a completely different direction

              • Manfred

                You are completely right with this temporary solution , and I hope that the engineers from Project come soon with a professional exhaust pipe or something else to rectify this constructional fault.

                Right now I really would love to grade up to the VC-S2 Alu .

      • Thorsten

        Dear all, just purchased the VC-E and experienced the same issue. It is indeed a construction failure. However, you can easily help yourself: I just took a small piece (ca. 15cm) of 3/4‘‘ hard PE garden tube, filled it with sand and heated It in the oven at 150 oC. After ca. 15min it is ready to be formed to a 90-degree angle and flaten the part of the tube that is beneeth the record to avoid contact. You can do this in a bench vise. It works very good and the exhaust is led from now to the right and off the lower side of the record.