The Gruvy Awards Record Cleaning Machines

Record Cleaning Machines Under $500
Spin Clean Record Washer System
This circa $80 manually operated vat-type cleaning machine is the least expensive absolute necessity for any vinyl spinner. A record cleaning machine is 100% mandatory even if you only buy new records, but if you are a crate digger, you cannot live without one. The Spin Clean requires hand rotation but it gets the dirt off the records and suspends it in a ball that drops to the bottom of the vat. It works as advertised. Let your records dry in a dish drainer and you'll know what clean means.
Record Cleaning Machines $500-$1000
VPI 16.5
The latest version of one of the original vacuum operated cleaning machines, the $650 VPI has been around for decades. It uses velvet lips to suck the fluid from records upon which you've manually brushed your favorite record cleaning fluid.
Record Doctor V
A manually operated vacuum machine in the "Nitty Gritty" style. It takes up less room than the platter-type machines and for $199 cannot be beat.

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Nitty Gritty 2.0
Similar conceptually to the Record Doctor V but automatically turns the record and is sufficiently attractive in Oak to sit on the same shelf as your expensive audio rig.
Record Cleaning Machines $1000+
Audio Deske
The original cavitation-based cleaning machine combines soft rollers to spread the heavily diluted cleaning solution and a totally automatic drying cycle. Put a record in the slot hit the red button and in about five minutes you have the cleanest record you've ever handled. Early versions had mechanical issues but the problems have been fixed and this remains the standard against which the others are measured. Expensive but worth it.

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KLAudio KD-CLN-LP200
This Korean made machine is similar to the Audio Deske but built to a far more rugged standard and includes a few unique features including a stainless steel fluid tank to which you have easy access for complete cleaning as well as adjustable washing and drying cycle times. The drainage system is also steps ahead of the Audio Deske's. No applicator roller system is preferred by some and dismissed by others. The warranty is void if you use any kind of detergent cleaning fluid.

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Ultra Sonic V8
This open vat based cavitation cleaner is the least expensive of which I am aware. It cleans 8 records at a time. Records can be dried in a dish drainer, or with the addition of a new $795 Dryer Cube, fan dried via filtered air—as many as 40+ hourly. Owners with whom I've spoken love it, claiming it works as well as the far more expensive one-at-a-time cavitation based machines, but it's not for those in need of instant gratification. Seen in action at audio shows but not reviewed on

gbougard's picture

I havent found a way to PM you, so please excuse this comment.
I run a small label called TABOU1 and would like to send you our productions.
can you email me your mailing address

Daniel Emerson's picture

This is the only Gruvy-winner I actually own (sounds great, too!), and I would be interested in Mikey's opinion of the 3-point Rega mounting. Is it "good enough" or does using the traditional 2 bolts and doing a really meticulous set-up make a big enough difference for it to be worth the effort?

I enjoy the 3-bolt mounted sound of this cartridge on my modified NAD 533 and the lack of need for neurotic checking and re-checking. This is especially the case for those of us who are nervous about fiddling with delicate things like cartridge setup. But every now and then, I do wonder...

Michael Fremer's picture

Rega's 3 Bolt mount uses what I believe ends up being the Stephenson alignment. While it is commonly considered to be one that minimizes distortion at the inner groove area for classical music crescendos, in fact it is more complicated than that but I prefer Löfgren "A" generally. "B" produces lower distortion over the central portion of the record but produces higher distortion closer to the inner and outer groove area. 

 This article will give you more than you want to know about this subject!

Michael Fremer's picture
Daniel Emerson's picture

Not being particularly dextrous with delicate things (took me ages to set the weight after installing the Origin Live counterweight/stub upgrade), I think I'll leave it as it is, as it does sound good.

I suppose was really looking for reassurance that Rega's solution is at least one version of the right setup.

coaster92's picture

D. Emerson, Rega and others (Technics) do use something close to Stevenson alignment. Rega (or Roy Gandy) says all the alignment theories are compromises and opted for the one which deals best with "IGD" (inner groove distortion). Aside from alignment, Rega considers the mechanical interface of the cartridge and arm to be of utmost importance- I've done both 2 and 3 fixing points on the Exact (with 2 bolts I used Baerwald alignment) and for me its 3 bolts hands down. The sonic difference of giving up the third bolt is greater than the change in alignment. There is a very precise quality with percussive instruments and more rhythmic grip and snap to the music with 3 bolts, and the vinyl plays slightly quieter too. The Exact pulls off the trick of having some drive and excitement, while at the same time being a nicely musical cartridge. Really anyone with a Rega table should at least try one. Its only shortfall is it might not be for "Soundstage" listeners. The stage is good but others like Ortofon and Goldring are better there. Read the Stereo Times review of the Exact. He covers the differences of bolts also.

Daniel Emerson's picture

It means peace of mind, too, which also adds to the listening enjoyment.

pbnaudio's picture

Thanks so much for the "Gruvy" for our little Liberty B2B-1  Greatly apprectiated !



Peter Noerbaek

PBN Audio

Paul Boudreau's picture

Thanks much for the roundup.  Minor quibble:  The Nitty Gritty 2.0 is the oak-clad manual machine while the 2.5 is the semi-manual you described.

jazz and cocktails's picture

thoughts on the combo of a Traveler w/ Otello?

Michael Fremer's picture

The cartridge is available in both high and medium compliance. I think you'd want medium compliance but I'm sure Soundsmith will know which works best. It's a very good cartridge. The Ortofon 2M Bronze would be the competition at about $50 less but I've not done a comparison.

jazz and cocktails's picture

to a Carmen vs 2m Black vs Dynavector 20, all on the traveler?

TheThing72's picture

Any thoughts on the Ortofon Red 2m vs. the Grado Red? I have a Music Hall MMF 2.2 that I am looking to swap out the stock Tracker cartridge. I have been getting great results from it for about the past year with fairly heavy use. But, it is getting time to either replace the stylus or get something different. My local shop is recommending the Grado Red.. but I have not had much experience with either carts. In the past I have used Shure M97's and AT95E's.. and am looking for something a bit better. Will the Grado have issues with the MH motor?? Any advise would be a great help.

Rudy's picture

I think this is the first list I've read in a dozen or two years that includes equipment I actually own!  Yes, it's been that long since I've seriously upgraded anything.  And I tend to hang on, so what I got this year will likely be around for a decade or two.

Cartridges--2M Black vs. 20X2-H: how is the 20X2-H as a tracker?  Would the Dynavector 17D3 be preferable in that respect?  (I already realize it has more of a "romantic" sound to it, and I'm totally OK with that.)  I want to change things up a bit and might go with an MC cart.

Michael Fremer's picture

I haven't directly compared but the 2M Black's Shibata stylus is probably a slighty better tracer than the microridge found in the Dynavector but really it is splitting hairs. Haven't heard a 17D3 in a while so can't really say. But if you really want to "shake things up" with a MC, I'd get the low output 20X2 and add a step-up transformer if need be...

Rudy's picture

A late reply...

I ended up going to the 17D3, partly due to the microscopic cantilever having such a low moving mass. That did the trick, along with the MicroRidge stylus. (Anyone know if this is the same MicroRidge diamond stylus the V15VMR/V15VxMR used? Seems as though it should be a trademarked name.)

To say it tracks circles around the 2M Black is an understatement--my ancient Grado F3E+ tracked about the same as the 2M, and only cost me $55 circa 1980. The 17D3 is still maybe a small notch below the V15VMR (which I wore out my last stylus for) in trackability, but it goes right through vinyl passages that the 2M Black couldn't even cope with. (And if you recall my handful of emails, I had to do a lot of fussing with the 2M Black just to correct its alignment and sloppy build quality.) This was also the first cartridge to play back the Nat King Cole "Just One Of Those Things" LP (the S&P reissue) without Nat "lithping" throughout (and I've heard more than a few complaints about this particular LP). Also, the Dynavector seems to be meticulously built--it feels like you're handling a precision device. The 2M just feels like plastic imported junk in comparison (not to mention having a very dangerous stylus guard which broke the second time I used it).

I can now hear why MCs edge out most other cartridge types: the music just seems to "pop" out of the soundstage...maybe more holographic, I'm thinking? I notice a little more detail as well (not the treble end, but the way it picks little things out of the mix I hadn't heard before). It reminded me of last winter when I finally got the crappy Pioneer DV45A out of my system and put a new Oppo 105 in its place--I have these moments where I have to put down what I am doing since the music grabs my attention that much.

BogdanR's picture

Have you tried one on your V15VMR before plunging over $1200 on the DV?
Just curious...

Leo Quinonez's picture

It is not necessary to have Trademark.

jazz and cocktails's picture

I pulled the trigger on a Traveler/Carmen combo, should be here next week.

2channelguy's picture

Based on the Gruvy award I just ordered the ifi iPhono to go with my Traveler/Grado Sonata 1.  Should be here next week.

Michael Fremer's picture

Later today (Friday) I will post files of four MM phono preamps (3 also have MC capabilities that will be covered in the near future). You will be able to compare the four, priced from $99 to over $500. One is the iPhono but of course you will be listening "blind". 

mschlack's picture

I have the one with the big red blinking light in the middle. Having recently upped my digital game with the Auralic Vega, I now find my VPI Scout with Benz Wood SM a little behind my digital experience. Was wondering if you have any thoughts on what would be a reasonable step up. The rest of my chain is ARC LS 26/Simaudio Moon 5.3/B&W 70s. Also, are you going to review the new Phonomena?

Dr. Frankenheimer's picture

Time for me to consider a new cartridge, but not a whole new rig. So the cartridge will have to ride along in an old(ish) Origin-Live modded Rega. Which means, no fine adjustments of SRA and no azimuth adjustments. What's a decent cartridge that isn't too fussy about that sort of thing?

adidino's picture

Curious why the JC3+ is not on the Gruvies list but is on the Stereophile A Recommended Components? Vice-versa for the Lehmann Black SEII. Not on Stereophile RC but made the Gruvies list.

What's up with that Mike? :)

Dorian Workman's picture

Or was this just a one-time thing?

Shirly Coomer's picture

Can I order this in Canada?

kevemaher's picture

The performance in the London ffrr LP of Gershwin is better in every way than the Fiedler performance that Analog Productions has remastered. I have the SACD from a previous remastering and the original issued LP but not the Analog Productions remaster. I cannot comment on the technical merits of the AP issue. However the other two I have are severely limited by the awful interpretations by Fiedler and the quirky piano playing of Earl Wild. My ffrr release from somewhere post 1972, but pre 1980, conducted by Lorin Maazel with Ivan Davis on the piano is dynamic and powerful with wonderful hall acoustics. It is impeccably performed, especially by Ivan Davis. The actual LP itself has a huge soundstage, warm mellow sound, wonderful bass dynamics and is extremely quiet. My copy, bought soon after original release, was mastered by Harry Fisher. Both sides are from the first master lacquer. Side one was from the second metal master, first stamper. The second side is from the fifth metal master, fifth stamper. I wish this performance could be remastered although I can't imagine a better vinyl could be created than the one I have.

Some performances recorded by RCA in their "Living Stereo" series are not of the highest quality. The technical merits of the new AP release may be many and wonderful, but, in the instance of the Fiedler Gershwin, cannot correct for an almost unlistenable performance. Anyone have a similar experience?

latinaudio's picture

Hi Mickey.
It has been a long time since you made the Gruvy Awards.
Don´t you think it´s time to include/exclude some products and give them a new "class" treatment?

Bob257's picture

I'm considering upgrading from my current Technics SL-D20 with Audio-Technica SL450 P mount cartridge to the P6 with the Exact cartridge. I'm hoping to hear an improvement. I can upgrade later to a MC preamp and a Ania cartridge if I desire. I'm using a Yamaha a-s801 integrated amp with its preamp. My main speakers are a set of EPI 320 T/E with new drivers, and the secondary speakers are Elac 6.2 and two sets of RCA bookshelf speakers and Polk PSW10 subwoofer. Do you have any other suggested TT?

Bob257's picture

Do you think that using a preamp like the Schiitt Mani would have better sound than the preamp in my Yamaha a-s801 integrated amp?

tnargs's picture

An update of these awards would be interesting, especially at the lower price points. Thanks

Duke86fan's picture

I really need to upgrade from my simple schiit mani, Uturn orbit with grado black setup, if i really want to get into real mindblowing musical experiences

brednjam1's picture

Hi Mr. Fremer,

I actually just e-mailed you asking for some recommendations. Are these still your favorite turntables? Is there a better one in the under $1000 range?

brednjam1's picture

Hi Mr. Fremer,

Hi Mr. Fremer, I actually just e-mailed you asking for some recommendations. Are these still your favorite cartridges? Is there a better one in the under $500 range?

brednjam1's picture

Hi Mr. Fremer,

Hi Mr. Fremer, I actually just e-mailed you asking for some recommendations. Are these still your favorite preamps? Is there a better one in the under $500 range?

Boomer's picture

Mikey, thanks for all of your hard work getting all of these reviews to everyone. Just wondering if maybe it might be time to update your Gruvy Awards on the phono preamps. Are most of these units still being produced or have they been upgraded? I'm a new member and I love your website. Thanks in advance.

DrWatson's picture

Keep your vinyl record safe and dust-free by elevating it during cleaning.

One of the problems of cleaning a record is that after you clean one side, you must reverse the record and set it down on a surface to clean the other side. Meanwhile, that annoying stray speck of dirt or dust on your record jacket or towel will get stuck to your record. A good solution is to use The LAST Stand. This device elevates your record so that nothing will touch the grooves after you've cleaned them. This video shows the easy cleaning process.

Analogue+Fan's picture

Have you ever thought about incorporating the Gruvy Award Tonearms category.?
Thank you,

Donn Rutkoff's picture

So, after not being on-line for a few years; am I really, or just theoretically, harming my vinyl by cleaning with 20% of 91 pure isopropyl and 80% distilled water?

Analogue+Fan's picture

Hello team Ana\ogPlanet.

Have you ever thought about incorporating the Tonearms category for the Gruvy Award .?

Thanks in advance.

Rubikaa's picture


mschlack's picture

I'm starting to detect needle wear in my Micro Benz Glider SL. I've enjoyed this cartridge and the MB Wood I had before it, but it seems like MB is not really a player in the US anymore. What cartridges in the $800-$1500 range of MC lower output cartridges would have a similar sound? This is on a VPI Scout into Musical Surroundings Nova II/ARC LS26/Simaudio Moon W5.3/B&W 703 system. I would say my taste runs to neutral on the warmth spectrum, decent detail and excellent soundstage. I listen to mostly small group jazz and like a good bass response, life-like instruments and human-sounding vocals.

mememomo188's picture