Pro-Ject's Most Excellent $499 VC-S Wet Vacuum Record Cleaning Machine

AnalogPlanet.com editor Michael Fremer describes the features of, and shows you how to use Pro-Ject's recently updated VC-S wet vacuum record cleaning machine. The usual occasional hilarity ensues. Though in the video it appears that more than 2 revolutions are required to dry a record, 2 will do it for most records.

What's great about this machine:

1) It is quiet plus has powerful suction (1-2 revolutions)
2) It features a metal vacuum tube
3) The platter-less design clamps the record and covers the label
4) The chassis is MDF not particle board
5) The drain is vented and has a spent fluid gauge
6) Extra set of "lips"
7) Non-alcoholic anti-static concentrate plus mixing bottle
8) Goat's hair applicator brush

What's not great about this machine:

1) Nothing. It's a well-thought out, extremely well-made wet vacuum type machine priced right at $499.

COMMENTS
cdvinyl's picture

Michael,

How you suffer for your art. :)

francisalbert's picture

Michael ,
I really enjoy you’re informative and very funny videos . Please keep them coming .
Thank you for the time and effort you put in to making them .

mraudioguru's picture

...as a comedian :-)

I have been looking at this machine for awhile now. I have a VPI HW-16.5, (started as a HW-16, then when the kit came out, I upgraded it). The serial number of my unit 15. It has cleaned tens of thousands of records, but after almost 35 years, it's starting to show it's age.

I like the build and the price of the Project unit better. Plus it seems to be quieter.

cdlp4578's picture

You don't have his comedy LP from '76?

mraudioguru's picture

...I actually do have his album "I Can Take A Joke". I was being facetious.

JC1957's picture

I caught your comment about the John Entwisle album being "released in 1971, the same year you were born." Nice try since you've talked about working in record stores in 1968 and '69 when you got first copies of The White Album and Abbey Road. It did give me a chuckle.

OldschoolE's picture

I have an use a VPI 16.5 that is still going strong. Takes two passes to dry a record. However, I like the project machine better for 3 reasons.
1) Platterless - I do stick a mat I made from a poly inner sleeve for the clean side on my VPI. (I should really get something better). Having the platter-less design though is better in my opinion. I did not used to think so, but it makes perfect sense.
2) Metal vacuum wand
3) May be a lot quieter than my VPI comparatively.

The one thing I do like about my VPI is that rather than lift that heavy machine and try to take it to the sink, the VPI has a drain hose. Also the parts inside are replaceable. Ok, that is two things.

That said though, as with many things Pro-Ject, their RCM is most impressive in my opinion. I almost wish my VPI needed replacement so I could get the Pro-Ject RCM, but the VPI is still going and I have cleaned upwards of 600 records on it, some more than once.
If I need a second RCM though while the $5000 ClearAudio is a bell and whistle candy store and pretty neat, I would opt for this Project RCM without hesitation.

Michael thank you for introducing more record cleaning fluids to try. I am going to get the TM-8 for sure to try. I have tried many and my go-to is the Audio Intelligent fluids, I have had good results from them, but I am always willing to try new ones that are safe. It's healthy.
I'm still a bit hesitant to try something that stays on the record though like Gruvglide or LAST even though you recommend LAST. I worry about stuff like that getting on the needle and even wicking up the cantilever.

I also stand fully behind you in purchasing cleaning fluids by people who know what they are doing. I have seen it all including guys who use scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner on their records claiming it is the best. People like that do not realize that most proper, good record cleaning fluids are not expensive at all when you do the math. A 16 oz bottle of AIVS fluid will easily clean 200 records for example.
It pays big dividends to use the right tool for the right job!

theboogeydown's picture

They would build this exact design but without a built in vacuum. I think many if not all own a shop-vac. It would be a ton smaller and likely have a lot more suction that what they have in there (I'm guessing about that one). Additionally, if a person doesn't own a shop-vac having one is a good idea and can now be used for more than one purpose.

isaacrivera's picture

It's called turntable. LOL!

OldschoolE's picture

Yes, I had a manual set up using an crappy turntable as a base for cleaning and I got a small 1 gallon shop vac and modified the crevice tool for vacuuming the records. There was more than enough suction from the vac for sure, but it was also too much because no turntable motor has enough torque to move the record under the force of the shop vac! I had to manually move the record along and it was not easy.

My VPI 16.5 has an exceedingly loud, but powerful vacuum and dries a record in two revolutions. Having not seen the Proj-ect RCM in person i can not know why Michael stated it takes more then two revolutions in the video, but states that it usually only takes two in writing. I suspect it likely takes only two revolutions, which is very good. There are two factors in this: 1) the speed of the platter or semi-platter in this case and 2)the opening width of the wand. The narrower the width of the opening the stronger the suction and thus less power needed. If the speed of the platter is too fast, then it would take more revolutions to completely vacuum off the fluid.
That said, for my money, the Proj-ject RCM from what I know so far is fantastic value if the size of your collection is 100 records or more.

atomlow's picture

If I was in the market for a vacuum rmc this would be the one I'd buy.

1. Platterless (brilliant!!)
2. Sounds pretty quiet (if it needs to spin 5 times to fully dry, so be it)

AnalogJ's picture

Michael, do you know if this is the latest version, the Mk.ii that apparently came out last October?

Michael Fremer's picture
The MKII but it isn't so identified on the box, or on the unit itself or in the instructions so I didn't say it was. Pro-Ject needs to straighten this out!
MicallefK's picture

The unit pictured at the top of the review is the older model which had both an aluminum arm and aluminum base.
After complaints about the "feel" of metal on metal, ProJect changed the base to nylon, which comes on all newer models. Cheers!

Wimbo's picture

Michael make the world a better place. Always good to have a laugh mate,
plus a bit of info as well :)

jstrube's picture

Everybody seems to think platterless is brilliant, please help me understand. I would think that having the record unsupported would lead to it being put under stress while brushing. Am I missing something?

MicallefK's picture

On a VPI machine, for example, when cleaning Side 2, you're placing the newly cleaned Side 1 down on a dirty platter (unless you place a clean record mat over the VPI platter). Platter-less eliminates the problem. I have the ProJect and find I can place almost the same amount of down-force on the record when cleaning. The ProJect vacuum is more powerful so no need to press as hard.

AnalogJ's picture

It would not provide a firm surface if you were to use, say, Disc Doctor fluids and brushes to clean before drying with the vacuum and lips. That IS an advantage to a VPI unit.

However, if you're using the record cleaning machine, itself, to do most of the cleaning, most of the work is then done with the lips and the vacuum. The fluid merely loosens dirt and acts as a surfactant (to get the offending crap to the surface) where the lips act as the scrub and the vacuum lifts off the crap and the fluid. That's the intended design of a traditional RCM (as Gayle Van Sickle of the former Nitty Gritty Record Machines personally explained to me). The supplied brushes are not supposed to do the scrubbing, only the fluid application. Therefore no overt support is needed for the LP.

jokerman's picture

How does the wand do with the typical record warps? It seems like it would jump over the warped areas.

AnalogJ's picture

I'm tempted to get one, but with the arm set in place rather than be on a spring, it seems as you have to readjust the height for different thickness records (from 100gm to 200gm, they're different). How does a fixed set armtube handle warps? Good question.

analogdw's picture

I just ordered one.

airdronian's picture

Nice review. Time to go clean some rekkids !

Cal Liedtke's picture

This new Pro-Ject RCM operates just like the OKKI NOKKI for about $100.00 less -- which I have owned. I'll stick with my SPIN CLEAN. PS -- this Pro-Ject (like the OKKI NOKKI) is not meant to completely dry the record. The vacuum motor will burn up.

OldschoolE's picture

I don't know exactly what kind of vacuum motor the Okki Nokki uses, but I have seen them demoed and they dry a record in two revolutions. Vacuum RCMs are designed to nearly completely dry records within 1 to 3 revolutions without burning up. Excessive vacuuming be it deliberate by the user or something not right with the pickup tube will burn up the vacuum motor. With most vacuum RCMs it should not take more than two revolutions to get a record to the point of being 10 seconds away from completely dry and ready to put away or play and I suspect the Project and Okki Nokki to be no different. I clean many records in one sitting with my fanless VPI 16.5 and have yet to have it even get uncomfortably warm or show signs of overheating or vacuum troubles and in two revolutions it gets the record 10 seconds from 100 % dry.

Vinyl_Rules's picture

Thank you for this well-written review.

I have a VPI 16 that has served me well for 30+ years. My only complaint is that it shuts down after about an hour of continuous use. I presume there is some kind of protection circuit in it to keep the motor from burning up.

Do you know how long the VC-S will run in continuous use?

TTSW's picture

Michael,

I've been following you for a long time here and on youtube. This'll be my first comment on anything you've written, or recorded.

I've had a VC-S for over a year. It's proven to be fairly reliable for me. I'll get to that later. But a little insight on the RCM.

1: Mk II, may actually be Mk III, unofficially.

2: Mk I - The first release had a plastic/nylon ball knob at the top of the clamp and a different label seal, also the want and the wand base were all metal. This could cause the wand to lock up. Also replacement velvet strips would not stay on the want. Black nylon end caps on the end of the vac wand.

3: Mk I.5 - revisions (when I got mine) - changed the ball knob to something more cylinder shaped and easier to grab- still plastic/nylon. Changed the label seal (supposedly inferior to the first seal, I do get fluid on my labels if I really go to town), changed to a nylon/plastic wand base to eliminate lock ups. Better adhesive on velvet strips? Or removes a coating on the aluminum vac wand? Or whatever they did to make the strips hold better.

All of the above - had cheap sticker labels for the control switches that easily peel off. And a wooden handled goat's hair brush.

4: Mk II (or is it 3? Or Mk 1 revision 3 in Michael's hands?) - aluminum knob on top clamp (Michael's review model has it). Aluminum, or at least aluminum LOOKING end cap to the wand (Michael does not have it). Supposedly quieter vac? Screen printed switch labels? Michael can confirm. Plastic handled goat's hair brush. Maybe some of the specs changed?

5: Platterless design is great.

6: My Mk I, or Mk I 1.5, or whatever is loud, but not ear splitting.

7: Dries great in two passes, at most 3. I do a fluid application, followed by a distilled rinse.

So the issue that I have had is that after one year my vac motor started making a rubbing sound as it winds down to a stop. Sounds like something is bent possibly. But I am no vac tech.

At the moment, my RCM is sitting at Sumiko being diagnosed. Should have it back, or a replacement unit sometime shortly. Sumiko IS taking care of it though.

As far as I know, I am the only person I can find who has had this issue.

Catcher10's picture

Very pleased with the VC-S, does an admirable job at cleaning my records. I too prefer the platterless design so I have zero worry of re-contaminating the clean side.
Mine takes 2-3 turns to dry, no issues. What I just started experiencing is the vacuum sound changed to a higher pitch whine, the suction has not been affected, but it has gotten louder.

Dual direction motor is very nice too.....

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