Like many audiophiles out there, I love the vinyl format – as such, I've built up an extensive record collection, and am constantly adding more.
However, when building a collection of your own, you soon come across a problem: some of the albums you want are no-longer in production, are expensive to buy new, or have terrible reissue pressings. So you turn to auction sites such as eBay, or your local record shop, and pick up a bunch of used albums, sometimes for as little as £0.99.
Many of these records will have collected dust, dirt, finger marks, and all other kinds of muck over the years. In order to enjoy maximum fidelity from your record collection, it is necessary to keep them clean. There are many products available – from simple cheap fluids that you apply manually with a cloth, to elaborate record cleaning machines that use vacuums to remove the cleaning fluid from the grooves, leaving the record totally 100% dry.
One such solution is the 'spin clean' record washer system. The spin clean was introduced in 1975. It's made in the US, and is arguably one of the most affordable record cleaning "machines" on the market. In the UK, it can be had for £80 (give or take a few p).
The spin clean is a very simple device – it consists of a plastic trough, with 2 flat brushes that slot into the centre (with just enough room to squeeze a record in between), and 2 rollers that slot into each end of the machine, allowing you to roll your vinyl through the brushes, fluid and water without getting the label wet. 2 Cleaning cloths are provided, as well as a bottle of cleaning fluid that is supposed to clean up to 700 records.
Operation is simple. Pre-wash the drying cloths, and rinse the brushes. fill the trough up to the line with water (distilled water is recommended, and that’s what I used for this review), pour 3 caps of the provided cleaning fluid over the brushes, and place the rollers into the appropriate slots depending on the size of the vinyl’s you wish to clean (12”, 10”, or 7”). Take your dirty vinyl, slot it in between the brushes, and rotate 3 times clockwise and 3 times anti-clockwise. Then remove and place on a clean cloth or towel and wipe each side dry using the provided cloths.
So how well does it work? To find out, I took a particularly dirty copy of Meat Loaf’s ‘bat out of hell’. This was an eBay purchase – covered in finger marks, dust, dirt, and other grime. It was so bad; it wouldn’t play from beginning to end without skipping. I inserted it into the spin clean, gave it 3 turns each way, pulled it out, and spent 2 minutes thurrerly drying each side with the provided cloths.
The cloths certainly soaked up quite a bit of fluid – a good sign. So, over to my turntable it went, and here is where the problems started.
Upon dropping the stylus, 1 thing was very apparent – the record had an inordinate amount of surface noise that wasn’t present before. Still, I let it play on. I was amazed to find the record played all the way through without skipping – this was previously impossible. However, this surface noise was still present. I removed the vinyl, and gave it another run through the spin clean – same result. Lots of surface noise, after thurrerly drying the vinyl.
It was then that I noticed the sticky residue that now coated my stylus. This proved tricky to remove… fortunately; this wasn’t my 2m black!
Feeling somewhat disappointed, I decided to try a 45. Queen’s ‘I want to break free’ was the test subject. Guess what? Same result.
I thought that perhaps the vinyl’s hadn’t had enough time to dry – so I took a soft towel and gave them a good drying. I then left them both for an hour to air dry. Still, no joy. It seems that some of the spin clean fluid had been deposited in the grooves, and didn’t want to come out.
I did some reading and found that others have had the same problem. Some had started using different cloths than those provided. Some had switched to using custom fluids (80% water and 20% alcohol) with better success – however, this wasn’t a rout I was willing to take. If I pay £80 for a cleaning machine, I shouldn’t have to make my own fluid!
In summary – I find it hard to recommend this unit. Perhaps I just had a bad unit, perhaps I had some dodgy fluid… either way – for me, this unit simply doesn’t work.