Nitty Gritty’s Compact $839 Model 1.5 RCM, Despite Shortcomings, Does Its Job Well

During my initial two years of record collecting, my dumb self rarely bothered to clean my records, and as an 8-year-old, I didn’t think grabbing records by the grooves it affected anything. Three years into the hobby, I began, with a MoFi brush and ONE solution, obsessively hand cleaning my LPs (as well as handling them properly). However, I never owned a vacuum record cleaning machine (RCM) until AnalogPlanet editor Michael Fremer gifted me one this summer and requested this review.

Overview

The Model 1.5 retails at $839 for a 110-120v unit ($100 retail more for a 220 volt unit, although Elusive Disc, whose Kevin Berg recently revived Nitty Gritty, sells the 220v for $855). It features Nitty Gritty’s Capstan Record Drive that rotates the record’s edge, a set of microfiber pads that apply the cleaning fluid to the record, a vacuum between the pads that removes the fluid along with any remaining dirt, a platter that contacts only the label area (meaning it doesn’t contaminate your newly cleaned record), and an exterior made of MDF and plastic. Viewed from the front, a switch pressed forward spins the record, and adds the vacuum when pressed backward (center position is “off”). The RCM is quite compact, measuring roughly 9x15x8.5”, and also has a compartment for the supplied liquid, a 4oz bottle of Nitty Gritty’s 90% distilled water, 10% alcohol (what kind, we don’t know) Pure 2. There’s a slot underneath the machine for catching the vacuumed fluid, but most of the time the fluid inside the hot machine instead evaporates.

The Model 1.5 In Action

A few months before receiving the Nitty Gritty machine, I tried the VinylStyl manual record washer, which much like the more popular SpinClean, washes records in a bath of liquid after which you place them on a drying rack (essentially, treating records like dishes). While the VinylStyl quiets records’ surfaces, it leaves on them a residue that attracts VinylStyl’s poly inner sleeves, and during playback, the residue adheres to the stylus.

In contrast, the Model 1.5 rarely leaves any mark on your records, and when it does it’s barely noticeable. To operate the machine, you pour fluid on the microfiber pads, for 2-3 rotations let them brush the record, and then vacuum up the liquid for 3-5 rotations (at a slower than 33rpm speed and counterclockwise). All of the records I cleaned on the 1.5 quieted down as best they could given their condition (and considering that the Nitty Gritty is a cleaning, not a “restoration” machine), which oftentimes resulted in very quiet records. Really, there’s not that much else to say aside from that it cleans records better than will any manual cleaning method will.

However, there are a few downsides. As expected from vacuum RCM’s, the vacuum is very loud, which I sometimes find stress-inducing (and I’m not easily stressed by sound). The rubber feet marking up the surface it’s placed on is only a minor annoyance, but worse is that, as the edge motor only works on 12” LPs, 10”’s and 7”’s have to be manually spun. Sure, LPs make up the vast majority of my collection, but this is an obvious oversight in the Model 1.5’s design that, in comparison to other RCM’s, might for some, be a deal breaker. Lastly, it warms up very quickly, meaning that you can only clean a few records at a time before your room begins to smell like record cleaning fluid (ah, the sweet, wonderful smell of cleaning alcohol and distilled water!). Still, machines that alleviate these issues take up several times more space than the Nitty Gritty, and if your room effectively absorbs sound, the machine’s loudness wil be less of an issue (my listening room is a “reverby” space without acoustic treatment—but I listen “near-field” so it’s not an issue).

Conclusion

Overall, the Nitty Gritty Model 1.5 is a compact vacuum record cleaner that, despite several design oversights, cleans LPs just about as well as other machines in its price range (while I’ve never had another vacuum RCM at home, I occasionally used my favorite NJ record store’s VPI 16.5). The small-platter design keeps records dirt-free, and the 1.5’s convenient size is great for those living in small spaces (or big houses completely consumed by records). Even though it’s not the most budget-minded RCM, if you’re looking to go all-out on a holiday present (whether that be for a friend, family member, or yourself), the Model 1.5 might be worth considering.

COMPANY INFO
Nitty Gritty
gayle@nittygrittyinc.com
(888) 447-4889 (USA only: 909 625-5526)

COMMENTS
Intermediate Listener's picture

I have used what is now called 2.5 FI for many years and it works beautifully. The FI means you just press a button to inject cleaning fluid from a reservoir. $1099 according to NG website.

vinylspinr's picture

I have the KAB EV-1 model. It's basically this, but it's manual and you have to attach your own vacuum (and it's under 200 dollars). Works great (probably as good as the higher end models), if you don't mind adding the elbow grease. I have an older BSR turntable that I use to scrub the records with the cleaning solution, then take it over to the EV-1 to vacuum it off. I also have a spin clean knock off that I use for newer records and records that aren't as dirty to give them a bath so to speak, and again, over to the EV-1 to vacuum them off. I think a vacuum is the only real effective way to clean records. Just cleaning them with a cloth and fluid leaves buildup in the groove, which then gets caked onto your stylus, which could cause problems for your stylus and record. With vacuuming, you don't have to worry about that. Just clean and play. Also, I don't know if this particular unit you reviewed comes with it, but they have a manual hand turner that works on all models of their record cleaning units, so you can clean your 7 and 10 inch records.

volvic's picture

The Nitty Gritty was the first machine I was introduced to that properly washed and cleaned my records, although these days I use the VPI machine. There was one flaw that I discovered that I am not sure has been rectified. The felt brush on the machine would wear over time and if one wasn't careful exposed hard plastic that could damage the record. The weakness of not having an actual platter for the record to rest on made this possible as you pressed down on the record with the brush when applying pressure.

Lazer's picture

Is pretty much the only music format I listen to. I have roughly 1000 albums. They have have all been vacuum cleaned and then ultrasonically cleaned( Record Doctor V and cleaner vinyl ultrasonic, both reviewed by MF in the past). Believe me, clean records make a huge difference. Restoration by Kirsmuss would probably make another improvement, just not sure I have enough spare time to “restore” 1000 albums.

ravenacustic's picture

For many years. You can cut its noise level by taking a bath towel, folding it, and placing under the unit.

OldschoolE's picture

Not if the vents are underneath as that would overheat the unit fast and burn out the vacuum motor

Paul Boudreau's picture

I’ve owned three NG RCMs over the last 30 or so years. The first one lasted forever before I gave it away to try out a 1.5. Unfortunately the turning function didn’t last long so I replaced that machine with a Record Master, basically a 1.0 fitted with a piece of plastic to cover parts of the vacuum slot to permit easier cleaning of 7” & 10” records. Earplugs recommended for all three machines!

Paul Boudreau's picture

Like these, although there are many others on the market. As far as the machines heating up, which they do, I find that after cleaning for 45m or so I’m bored stiff and go do something else so it has never become an issue. In that time I can clean about 10 records.

https://www.amazon.com/Etymotic-Research-ER20-Plugs-Standard/dp/B07QSW3B...

Wimbo's picture

in the 80's and 90's. It had a container to put the fluid in and you pumped it until the felt brush was soaked.You would apply "The First" by hand onto the felt and after using that you would pump the Pure 2 up and finish the job off.Amazing what it did to both old and new LP's.

Mendo's picture

Great review. The problem here is the pricing from ultra sonic machines has now crept into the territory of vacuum machines. I have a nice semi-diy set-up that cleans records way better and faster than my VPI 16.5

rl1856's picture

The NG machines are generally effective, but have drawbacks. The velvet lips scrub a dirty LP surface, retain dirt and effluent, than transfer dirt etc to the other surface when the LP is flipped over. Instead, use your Spin Clean to scrub LPs (as much as you want), then rinse with distilled water, then Vac dry using your NG and CLEAN velvet pads. You will hear an improvement in cleaning efficacy.

Slammintone's picture

My only issue is the rubber backed puck that sits on the record label loses its tack after awhile and won’t grip the record so you can turn it. I’ve messed up a lot of labels because of that weakness in the design. A screw on clamp system would work better.

s_greeneanalog's picture

I bought a Nitty Gritty 3.5Fi way back in 1987. Absolutely the best investment I have ever made for my large record collection! It still works perfectly. The 3.5Fi has a solid oak case that extends to the top of the unit which slightly decreases the overall sound level produced by what is essentially a robust vacuum cleaner motor. It sounds just like my old Eureka cannister vacuum we still use to get dust off shelves! The Nitty Gritty's motor is responsible for its very fast drying ability. Two rotations and the record is completely dry. And yes, you must replace the velvet lips periodically which scrub and lift dirt off your record as it rotates.

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