tima's DIY RCM

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#1
I've written three articles about my adventures assembling an USC RCM - that's an UltraSonic Cleaning Record Cleaning Machine. The third installment was published today at Bill Hart's The Vinyl Press, so I thought to put the links here.

Over the decades I used a variety of record cleaning machines after going through a sad manual phase. I started with an Audio Advisor Disk Doctor 1.0, switched to a Loricraft PRC-3, then moved to the USC+rotating brushes approach of the Audio Desk Systeme (pre-Pro model.) I still have the last two units.

The Loricraft was used with the Walker Prelude system and AIVS Enzyme Cleaners (review). This method works very well for a majority of dirty records if you're willing to spend a fair amount of time using multiple steps to clean both sides on an LP while enduring a fair amount of mess in doing so.

The Audio Desk Systeme (and KLAudio) units are all about convenience. Stick a record in a slot, press a button, wait a while and voilà (ideally) - a clean record. Then, do it again for another record... and another. The ADS does a pretty good job. It uses a somewhat pricey bottle of ADS supplied surfactant and has a modest passive filter. It is convenient. But I felt records passed through it could still be cleaner. I don't believe the KLA machine allows use of surfactant, but maybe that's changed. Neither unit is oriented toward cleaning its tank. I do admire the pioneering work of Reiner Gläss for going through several years of iterations of his ADS to bring an automated record cleaner to market.

So I read multiple lengthy threads on DIY USC RCMs and decided to give it a go. What started as an experiment turned into a project over the past year. At this point I am very satisfied with my method while having very clean records to show for it.

tima's DIY RCM

tima’s DIY (Ultrasonic) RCM – followup #1

tima’s DIY RCM – follow-up #2: Compelling Changes – Improved Results

Here's a teaser: In my opinion drying wet records is the biggest challenge faced by the USC user. It's not a matter of how the air is moved - it's all evaporation. There is no difference in drying records by fan or open air. The critical element of any form of air drying is not having record detritus, dirt or other gunk (solids) in the water on a record when it dries.

tank shot 1.JPG

edit: fix links
 
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tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#3
Great articles Tima. Thanks for sharing. One of these days I will put one of those together.
Thank you. It's a surprisingly easy build though it did take me a bit to gather the various parts from multiple sources. Easily superior results to a single-slot desktop machine for the same or less money.
 
May 3, 2017
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#4
Tima, when you have a few minutes could you create a parts list for your filtering system? I would like to add it to my setup. Thanks in advance.
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#7
Tima, when you have a few minutes could you create a parts list for your filtering system? I would like to add it to my setup. Thanks in advance.
All parts purchased in USA.

Pump - the pump, it is a Little Giant 1-AA-OM model that is no longer offered by the Little Giant company, but several vendors have surplus inventory. It is a sturdy little industrial quality pump that was used in hot liquid drink dispensers. Because it was wired into a machine, you will need to add a cord (wire and a plug) to connect it to an electrical socket. Fwiw, I looked at using aquarium pumps; most were too noisey or too cheaply made, or meant to be submersed.

1 Little Giant 1-AA-OM, 531001 In-Line Pump, 115Volt LG1-AA-OM
Purchased from www.pumpvendor.com. There are other vendors.

I don't remember the thread dimensions on the intake and outflow. You should be able to find specs at the vendor or Little Giant. I used a nylon hose barb on the intake and a brass hose barb on the out. The intake is threaded on the inside and outside, so it can handle two different sizes.

Pump Box - Cantex Industries #5133710U 6x6x4 PVC Junction Box. I drilled/reamed holes in the box for: hose from USC, hose to filter, electrical cord, and mounting the pump to the base of the box. One hole in the box lid to mate with the output. I put small stick-on bumpers on the bottom of the pump so it wouldn't rattle, used small bolts and nuts to hold it to the bottom of the box. I put the same sort of bumpers on the bottom of the box to give it a little clearance with those bolts. I drilled several small holes in the box on the side where the pump's fan is mounted for air flow. Check the picture below you can see most of the details. It may sound complicated, but if you have the pump and box in hand, you'll see what needs to be done. Took me maybe two hours to complete once all parts were in hand. It is quiet in operation.

0.35 micron Filter - Flow Max FM-0.35-975 2-1/2” x 9-3/4” aka 10" (half the price amazon wants here)

Cannister - Pentek 158116 ¼” #10 Slim Line. There is a plastic wrench (recommended) available for these but I don't have a part number. You can buy the cannister with different size thread holes. I used 1/4-inch and brass hose barbs.

Tubing3/8″ intake from the USC and 1/4″ output to the filter and back to the USC.

Here's a picture:

DIY-RCM_Filter_Detail.2jpg.jpg
note: this shows a small cannister and 1 micron filter, not the newer setup for .35 micron 10" filter , but you get the idea.
 

Stacore

Industry Expert
Feb 23, 2017
516
88
28
Gdańsk, Poland
stacore.pl
#8
I've been experimenting with USC in the past months, having cleaned about 40-50 2nd hand classical Lp's so far. I've added USC as a second stage after my regular Okki Nokki vacuum cleaning, giving in total a painfull 3 step process: vacuum clean, USC, vacuum rinse.

I must say it has not been so far such an epiphany to me as it seems to others, rather incremental. The biggest disappointment is that it does not seem to reduce clicks&pops, sometimes making them even more pronounced, probably due to quieting the background. I'm quite sensitive to clicks as I'm listening on high efficient Stax headphones, so all is in my ears.

Whats it does seem to do, provided I use right chemistry (see below), is increase of micro and macro dynamics, and detail retrieval (so perhaps all the clicks I hear are due to permanent vinyl damage). On some LP's the sound becomes more direct which is a big plus for me.

Here is the hardware and procedures I use:

GT Sonic 6L 150W 40kHz machine + 1um filter+ 1rpm motor for rotation. I clean at most 3 Lp's at the time as evenly spaced as possible. I can clearly see the standing waves between the vinyls. The filter now goes to 0.3um ceramic.
Currently I'm using 5% IPA + 0.05% Tergitol S7, which is available in Poland albeit v expensive. This Tergitol concentration is recommended by the archivists and the solution is already foaming. I was afraid to use the higher 0.13% concentration as recommended elsewhere after my failure with PhotoFlo. I used it instead of the Tergitol and it was giving me irritating "plasticky" sound despite a mandatory 2 step rinse on the vacuum machine. Had to US rinse all vinyls I cleaned with PhotoFlo and clean all that had contact, incl. the tank, the filter, brushes, etc.

The procedure is:
*1 step vacuum: Apply the above solution, let it soak for 5mins, biderectional scrub, vacuum.
*USC: 70% power 40kHz, 32-33C, 15mins, 1rpm rotation (first degass for 10mins, filter before the batches) <-- the motor could be slower but cant find one with 1/3rpm
*2 step vac rinse: First high purity DI water then 3% ethanol for the final rinse

I've once heard opinion that alcohol dries vinyl surface and one can never get rid of pops&clicks. I tried just DI water USC too but no real change and Tergitol softens the cavitation action at 40kHz, lowering the surface tension. I'm thinking of investing in a second 80kHz tank to see if the more refined cavitation would improve. Perhaps my initial vac + scrub is quite efficient in removing what's easy to remove.

Cheers,
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#9
I've been experimenting with USC in the past months, having cleaned about 40-50 2nd hand classical Lp's so far. I've added USC as a second stage after my regular Okki Nokki vacuum cleaning, giving in total a painfull 3 step process: vacuum clean, USC, vacuum rinse.

I must say it has not been so far such an epiphany to me as it seems to others, rather incremental. The biggest disappointment is that it does not seem to reduce clicks&pops, sometimes making them even more pronounced, probably due to quieting the background. I'm quite sensitive to clicks as I'm listening on high efficient Stax headphones, so all is in my ears.

Whats it does seem to do, provided I use right chemistry (see below), is increase of micro and macro dynamics, and detail retrieval (so perhaps all the clicks I hear are due to permanent vinyl damage). On some LP's the sound becomes more direct which is a big plus for me.

Here is the hardware and procedures I use:

GT Sonic 6L 150W 40kHz machine + 1um filter+ 1rpm motor for rotation. I clean at most 3 Lp's at the time as evenly spaced as possible. I can clearly see the standing waves between the vinyls. The filter now goes to 0.3um ceramic.
Currently I'm using 5% IPA + 0.05% Tergitol S7, which is available in Poland albeit v expensive. This Tergitol concentration is recommended by the archivists and the solution is already foaming. I was afraid to use the higher 0.13% concentration as recommended elsewhere after my failure with PhotoFlo. I used it instead of the Tergitol and it was giving me irritating "plasticky" sound despite a mandatory 2 step rinse on the vacuum machine. Had to US rinse all vinyls I cleaned with PhotoFlo and clean all that had contact, incl. the tank, the filter, brushes, etc.

The procedure is:
*1 step vacuum: Apply the above solution, let it soak for 5mins, biderectional scrub, vacuum.
*USC: 70% power 40kHz, 32-33C, 15mins, 1rpm rotation (first degass for 10mins, filter before the batches) <-- the motor could be slower but cant find one with 1/3rpm
*2 step vac rinse: First high purity DI water then 3% ethanol for the final rinse

I've once heard opinion that alcohol dries vinyl surface and one can never get rid of pops&clicks. I tried just DI water USC too but no real change and Tergitol softens the cavitation action at 40kHz, lowering the surface tension. I'm thinking of investing in a second 80kHz tank to see if the more refined cavitation would improve. Perhaps my initial vac + scrub is quite efficient in removing what's easy to remove.

Cheers,
Thanks for sharing your means and technique, Jarek. As I see it, we're still in a phase of experimentation, which is good as long as we share.

Alas, no amount of cleaning fixes already damaged records. The hard question is when do you stop cleaning a record that you really really want to be clean. :)

Don't use Photoflo. (As you've discovered.) I don't have the references at my fingers, but there are chemical interaction reasons not to use it on vinyl.
Tergitol is expensive everywhere.

If you want to clean with the record flat, try AIVS fluids and my technique described here. No scrub, gently agitate. Let the solution do the work. At least that's how I did it.

Not sure I'd use 3% ethanol for the final rinse, maybe diluted more, but I've not experimented with it. Lloyd Walker's Prelude solutions include alcohol or ethanol in the final rinse; maybe there's something to it. He only told me it's a very tiny amount but wouldn't say exact. I assume tiny TDS with ethanol.

I bet you could get an Elmasonic machine much cheaper in your part of the world than here in the states. If I had to do it all over again, that's where I'd start. I do think using two frequencies can help.
 
Apr 7, 2016
38
3
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#10
Based on the diyaudio forum thread, I, too, bought an USC machine that was recommended. It does not have a spout that would allow you to connect to an external filter.

I’ve always thought about adding a filter to my machine so your post will probably give me the extra push to go ahead and do it.

Before I bite the bullet, Will there be a problem with simply inserting the tubing into the water bath whenever I want to do any filtering? I can’t imagine it would...
 

Stacore

Industry Expert
Feb 23, 2017
516
88
28
Gdańsk, Poland
stacore.pl
#11
Dear Tima,

Having entered the USC subject was suprised to discover it's far from being settled. So yes, experience exchange is v important and I'm happy to cintribute to the common knowledge pool.

I felt USC alone is not always enough. Visible size debris and fingerprints don't get removed by my USC. To scrub or not to scrub seems like an endless question with less experienced adepts (like me) preferring to scrub while more advanced users not necessarily. ould be interesting to hear your arguments against scrubbing. Mind you I have a simple Okki Nokki, not a nozzle suction machine, so I feel I have to put some force to take debris from the grooves. I use Keith Monks brush for that.

I've found somewhere that Photoflo contains glycol, which might be responsible for the irritating "too soft" reading of the grove I've experienced. Fortunately it's easily dissolved in water.

The ethanol trick I took from Rush Paul and the big diyaudio thread. Being Polish I feel comfortable marinating things in vodka ;) Ethanol evaporates quickly.

Elmasonic - yes, that would be my next step in USC.

Cheers,
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#12
Based on the diyaudio forum thread, I, too, bought an USC machine that was recommended. It does not have a spout that would allow you to connect to an external filter.

I’ve always thought about adding a filter to my machine so your post will probably give me the extra push to go ahead and do it.

Before I bite the bullet, Will there be a problem with simply inserting the tubing into the water bath whenever I want to do any filtering? I can’t imagine it would...
A decent filter is a wise choice, imo. In the absence of a drain, I would place the input tube away from the transducers and draw from the bottom. If you do it let us know how it works.
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#13
Dear Tima,

Having entered the USC subject was suprised to discover it's far from being settled. So yes, experience exchange is v important and I'm happy to cintribute to the common knowledge pool.

I felt USC alone is not always enough. Visible size debris and fingerprints don't get removed by my USC. To scrub or not to scrub seems like an endless question with less experienced adepts (like me) preferring to scrub while more advanced users not necessarily. ould be interesting to hear your arguments against scrubbing. Mind you I have a simple Okki Nokki, not a nozzle suction machine, so I feel I have to put some force to take debris from the grooves. I use Keith Monks brush for that.

I've found somewhere that Photoflo contains glycol, which might be responsible for the irritating "too soft" reading of the grove I've experienced. Fortunately it's easily dissolved in water.

The ethanol trick I took from Rush Paul and the big diyaudio thread. Being Polish I feel comfortable marinating things in vodka ;) Ethanol evaporates quickly.

Elmasonic - yes, that would be my next step in USC.

Cheers,
I've never used Okki Nokki, so I don't know that experience.

Re: scrubbing: I suppose if you had big chunks of stuff stuck on the record then friction from a brush may help. I'd soak first, which I think you're doing. But no amount of scrubbing really gets bristles into the groove, even micro-fiber brushes such as Mobile Fidelity. (A reason for higher frequency USC time.) The AIVS solutions (mentioned earlier) work as enzymes, so a different approach than alcohol and wetting agent; I tried several other solution formulations from other vendors (Disk Doctor, RRL, Walker) over the years. They can be done in different steps, with different solutions.

I did that for many (too many) years with my Loricraft point nozzle machine and I had the full complement of their fluids available for review. I believe that with enough time for AIVS type fluids to sit, I can still get a record equal or nearly as clean as with a USC+surfactant. The longer the enzymes sit the more effective they can work. Imo part of the trick is to keep the solution agitated so loosened debris does not settle back to the record but remains suspended in the solution. But it is sooo time consuming, sometimes 20 minutes per side, not counting the rinse, which was typically at least twice. Vacuum, then flip the record to do the other side. Don't forget to rinse the brushes, etc. etc.

I still have my Loricraft, but I'm quite happy with my USC - it is too convenient, effective, much less mess, and time saving doing 5-6 records at once.

One way I gauge is by sonics of course, but another is amount of gunk on the stylus after play. I'd say 85% of older records out of a 20 minute USC session leave the stylus as clean as when play started. But sometimes I think mold release compound only gets softened and the stylus will dredge it up. Such a record gets a second cleaning.

I'm happy to learn of your efforts and different approaches - thank you, Jarek.
 
May 3, 2017
51
7
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#14
Thanks for the Parts List. I built your Filtration System. I have the Cantex PVC box but it is much bigger than it looks. I may use it someday. For now I have the Pump screwed into my table with a layer of Dense Foam in between. Works great.
 

Stacore

Industry Expert
Feb 23, 2017
516
88
28
Gdańsk, Poland
stacore.pl
#17
Looks like we've lost some posts. A quick update on my ceramic 0.3u filter - it did not work. My miniature pump is waaay too weak to pump through about 1cm thick ceramic clay. I'm back to 0.5u polyprop. Another issue with ceramic - it looks like it is initially releasing some particles and needs to be flushed for at least 5mins.

BTW, great idea Tima with the TDS meter! Check my (filtered) tap water - 500ppm, checked my cleaning solution 3ppm :cool:

Cheers,
 
Likes: tima

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#18
Hi Jarek,

Yes our posts just prior to the forum re-launch are gone.

I think some of those may have been about the ceramic filter. I looked at using a reverse-osmosis membrane as a filter but came to conclude it was too dense and the pump could not push water through it at a rate for a sufficient return. 0.5u polyprop should do well, I suspect. Clean some n records with it then compare to new! Thanks.
 
Likes: Stacore

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
762
338
63
#19
I continue to read about ultrasonic cleaning and ran across an informative comprehensive article that, best I can tell, contains little BS. (Perhaps because it doesn't talk about cleaning records.)

The more I read about ultrasonic cleaning from outside the "audiophile industry" the easier it is to separate the wheat from the chaff within it.

Along with the references mentioned at the end of my own article 3 (post #1 above), here is more recommended Reading:

Questions and answers about Ultrasonic Cleaning
 
Jan 7, 2015
21
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#20
Hi guys,

I am writing to add my input on record cleaning, having had many years of experience.

I originally posted this on the "Degritter ultrasonic record cleaner" thread: https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/degritter-ultrasonic-record-cleaner.25281/ , but after a conversation with tima, I decided that it might be more appropriate here.

I am using both an ultrasonic cleaner and a Loricraft record washer in what I believe is a very effective manner.

The methods are different, but the results are similar to what Peter has described in this thread: https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/degritter-ultrasonic-record-cleaner.25281/page-9#post-507814

“I have both a Loricraft PRC 4 Delux and a KLAudio. I will not be selling the Lori. I find that I need both for best results. The Lori with 4-step AIVS fluids gets mold release compound out and I like the super pure water rinse. So right now I am first using 2 X 5min clean and one 4 min dry on the KLAudio and if I care and want to spend the time for even better results, I use the Loricraft with 4-step solutions and double pure water rinse. Super quiet vinyl surfaces and I can hear deep into the music for very subtle details and hall ambiance if it is on the recording. The double cleaning removes a slight greyish veil even on new LPs, and is wonders for used, second hand LPs. The ultrasonic cleaner might be slightly better at removing hard crud/grit that causes clicks and pops as long as it is not actual groove damage, but the Loricraft also brings something to the results. The bottom line is that the surface noise is reduced and the backgrounds are blacker allowing one to hear more of what is on the LP. YMMV.”


I had a VPI 17F for years but never really liked it. I spent too much time cleaning the brushes to keep them from transferring from one record to the next. The Loricraft was a big step forward. My records sounded cleaner/better and no residue transfer.

I bought an Elmasonic P60H and really got clean! But I kept using the Loricraft after the ultrasonic because I liked the improvement from L’Art du Son cleaning fluid.

The L’Art instructions are to mix the bottle with one gallon of distilled water. I mix it with FIVE GALLONS of distilled water. With any stronger mix I can hear that the sound is veiled. With my dilution, the benefits of using L’Art du Son as a final cleaner and surface treatment are optimized. Music comes alive with this additional step. Records have increased soundstage depth and sense of musical ease.

I clean three records at a time in the ultrasonic. A mixture of distilled water and alcohol (actually, Everclear – grain alcohol). The alcohol can give records a slightly thinner/brighter/dryer sound, but I don’t care because I’m going to L’Art them afterwards. 30 minutes revolving in the ultrasonic is good for most records that are new, or near mint, or cleaned before.

After the ultrasonic, I wipe the records down with a quilted microfiber cloth.

Then I do the Loricraft while the next batch of 3 records cooks in the ultrasonic. It usually takes about two hours to do 6 records. If I do this for two hours a day for 3 years, I’ll be close to being finished with my current collection. Glad I’m retired!

Some words about my DIY Ultrasonic. Like tima, I got many of my ideas from this thread: https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/analogue-source/218276-version-ultrasonic-record-cleaner.html

My ultrasonic cleaner is an Elmasonic P60H with both 37 and 80kHz options. I normally use 80kHz. Three records rotate at 6 RPH (3 revolutions in 30 minutes). I warm up the fluid to about 35 degrees C with the built-in heater. After 30 minutes of running, but without the heater, the temperature is up to about 45 degrees C. I then cool the fluid back to 35 degrees with a circulating pump and radiator (from a water-cooled computer). The fluid passes thru the same 1 micron filter that was described by tima. I’m not sure if finer filtering is necessary for me since I finish the process with the Loricraft.

[See photos in attached file.]

I hope that this is helpful to some of you.

Don
 

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