Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner Page 2

Fred Kaplan wrote about the Audio Desk in September 2013 (Vol.36 No.9):

In his June 2012 "Analog Corner," Michael Fremer hailed the German-made Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner as "the best record-cleaning machine in the world" (also see www.analogplanet.com/content/worlds-best-record-cleaning-machine). Then came the punch line: it cost $3995. That seemed just silly.

In April 2013, the machine was on display at the New York Hi-Fi Show, and I asked its importer, Robert Stein of Ultra Systems, Inc., what the big deal was. I'd just bought a two-LP 45rpm album, Rickie Lee Jones's It's Like This (Artemis/Acoustic Sounds AAPP 51056). Stein offered to clean one of the records; when I got home, I could compare the cleaned with the uncleaned. I accepted the challenge.

Back home, I listened to track 1 of the cleaned record: sounded great. Then track 1 of the uncleaned: it sounded very good, but Jones's voice seemed recessed and a bit muffled; the background instruments were one-dimensional. I thought, WTF?! I did the same with each record's second and third tracks, and so on. Same results. Could the two sides of the original album have been recorded differently? Could the two slabs of vinyl have been pressed differently? Stereophile's editor, John Atkinson, suggested that I ask for a review sample of the Vinyl Cleaner and report on the results.

As soon as I got it and set it up (idiot-proof simple), my first task was to clean the other Rickie Lee Jones record. Result: The two slabs of vinyl now sounded the same.

This machine does more than clean records. Or rather, many of us haven't fully understood the effects of truly cleaning a record, which the Audio Desk does like no other record cleaner I've come across. It doesn't just remove the dust; it clears out gunk from deep within the grooves—gunk we may not have known existed—so that the stylus can track the groove with greater accuracy and less strain. As a result, the silence of the music's backdrop is deepened; this clears, improves, and in some cases transforms the sound. Keep in mind, the Jones set wasn't some dirty old record bought at a garage sale; it was a brand-new album, pressed on HQ-180 vinyl for Acoustic Sounds. Before getting the Audio Desk Systeme, I'd put the uncleaned Jones disc through my VPI HW-16 record cleaner: It made no sonic difference.

I performed before-and-after comparisons with lots of albums that I know very well: old, new, dirty, clean. In some cases, the improvement was small; in some cases, it was huge; in every case, there was improvement. Bass instruments always sounded much better—not so much deeper as more musical. I could hear (and, if I had perfect pitch, I could have transcribed) the value of each note. I was stunned to learn that I'd never really heard some of Scott LaFaro's solos on Bill Evans's Waltz for Debby (LP, Riverside/Analogue Productions AAPJ 09). I could hear more of the wood (if it was a double bass) or brass (if it was, say, a tuba or trombone). I could also hear more of the ambience around instruments, if the original recording had captured that. Voices were almost always more articulate and up-front. The music was more lifelike; the musicians were more there.

Generally, the better-recorded the album, the better still it sounded after a spin in the Audio Desk Systeme. Classic Records' four-disc, single-sided 45rpm pressings of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (Columbia/Classic TCCS 81631-45-I) sounded pretty awesome before the cleaning. Afterward, I could hear more of Miles's lips on his mouthpiece, more of Coltrane's breath whooshing through his tenor sax, more of the rhythms-within-rhythms of Jimmy Cobb's brushstrokes, and more of Paul Chambers's fingerwork on the bass (and more of the wood on that bass, too). This wasn't just me, the audiophile. My wife, who tends to be skeptical about such things, heard it clearly, as did a neighbor who has some familiarity with high-end stereos but doesn't own one himself.

Joni Mitchell's Wild Things Run Fast (Geffen) had always struck me as a great-sounding album except for a bit of compression: the instruments always sounded a bit shmooshed together, a bit homogenized. Not so after a trip to the Audio Desk. They were all dynamic, distinct, and rounded. In one of the before/after comparisons I ran for my neighbor, I played a 180gm pressing of Bonnie Raitt's Nick of Time (LP, Capitol/DCC Compact Classics 2025). It already sounded great—I figured the cleaning would have only a marginal effect. Nope, the difference was significant: Raitt's voice was clearer, more up-front; guitar twangs were twangier, their overtones bloomier; the drums were more percussive, the bass more plucky.

I could go on. In the interest of saving space, I refer you to Fremer's review, which explains how the machine works.

A few caveats: Sometimes I had to tap the record gently to get it to start spinning in the Vinyl Cleaner. On three occasions, the machine, which usually segued instantly from wash phase to drying phase, stopped after the wash; I had to start the process over again. (The second time, it always worked fine, footnote 1.) And the Audio Desk did not silence the pops and ticks caused by scratches or old, baked-in dust.

Finally, we return to the big road bump along this trip: that $3995 price. Look at it this way: Consider the Audio Desk not an accessory but a component. If I'd heard the most stunning of my before/after tests and someone had told me that the improvement was caused by a $3995 component, I'd think it a bit pricey but not at all out of line by high-end standards. If your stereo system cost tens of thousands of dollars and you play a lot of vinyl, you need to check this thing out.—Fred Kaplan



Footnote 1: My one operational complaint about the vinyl cleaner—that it sometimes shut down after the wash cycle, before moving into the blow-dry phase, forcing me to start the process all over again—has now, so it seems, been fixed. The distributor, Ultra Systems' Robert Stein, called to say he hadn't heard this problem before. I sent it back, he replaced the logic board, and sent it back. The machine now works flawlessly. Reader, I purchased it.—Fred Kaplan
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john abramson's picture
Audio Desk

no doubt it does a magnificent, god-like job at ca. $4000i.. Another toy for the 1%...and an ever so necessary, 'must have' accessory for reviewers... at accommodation pricing.

enjoy..

GeorgeHolland's picture
Do It Yourself

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/analogue-source/218276-my-version-ultrasonic-record-cleaner.html

Of course it will require effort and you don't have the satisfaction of spending $4000 and bragging to your friends how gullible you were.

volvic's picture
A beautiful machine

I was very impressed with how clean and quieter a noisy album of mine was after bringing it in to the NYC Audio show to try the machine.  Thinking how I can bring it into the house without my wife asking how much it's worth.  My only concern is that I did notice a lot of moving parts as it goes from wash to dry etc and was concerned about its longevity in doing all this work on a regular basis.  Other than that I believe this record cleaner might spawn a new generation of record cleaners from other manufacturers - I believe it represents a paradigm shift in record care.  Would love to have one.   

stereophilereader's picture
Can you still buy Orbitracs ?

They were a great manual, pre-machine cleaner.

I thought they went ot of production years ago.

mauidj's picture
The most improvement from any component ever!

I've had my Audio Desk for about 8 months now. I am not one for superlatives and look skepticaly at reviews and reviewers that use phrases like jaw dropping etc. But this thing represents the most profound improvement I have ever heard in any system I've owned.

I've had a Keith Monks cleaner for about 30 years and thought it did a wonderful job of cleaning records. It did and still does. But the Audio Desk doesn't just clean records, it transforms them. Whether old or new, a clean in the Audio Desk uncovers sonic virtues not heard before.

Shortly after getting the machine my wife and I had been enjoying an original Seraphim of Maria Callas's 1953 recording of Norma.....We were both in awe of the recording and the pristine condition of that particular 60 year old disc. Not a pop or click. Wonderful sound in all respects. how could it be better? Then I cleaned it on the Audio Desk. When I cued it up I swear Callas was in the room with me. It was almost scary.

A while later my wife returned to the room and I cued up the record again. Within two bars my wife, not an audiophile at all, exclaimed with a start..."my god, she's in the room!"

Every record I clean reveals, to a lesser or greater extent, all the atributes we search for in our quest for better sound. 

I have a very nice system comprised of individual components each costing about 5 times the price of the Audio Desk, but not one of them has had the impact that this machine has on my listening pleasure.

It is hands down the best component I have ever purchased during the 40+ years I have been involved in the hobby.

Oh...btw I am absolutely NOT one of the 1%. Nor do I brag about being gulible ;-)

Doubters doubt-on but vinyl lovers with large collections and/or wallets should get this cleaner now. You absolutely will not regret it.

Fred: I find that turning the record just slightly in an anti clockwise direction after inserting it into the slot will always result in it rotating when it should.

John Atkinson's picture
No flames, please

I deleted a comment from GeorgeHolland that was negative and added nothing to the discussion.Please, everyone, if you post a comment to this website, be constructive and if you disagree with someone, be respectful. Address the argument, not the arguer.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture
Deleting Negatives?

If you do that then it's no longer a discussion but just yourself deleting anything you don't agree with.

Please explain how my disagreeing with the following is being negative:

"But the Audio Desk doesn't just clean records, it transforms them. Whether old or new, a clean in the Audio Desk uncovers sonic virtues not heard before"

I'm sorry but just cleaning a record will NOT uncover sonic virtues. Perhaps changing the cartridge or even changing the stylus WILL. A record that has been already played several times will have any dirt or dust "welded" into the walls of the vinyl and no cleaning machine can remove that.It will remove some surface dust and grit. You will recall that I posted a link to a DIY cleaner or I wouldn't have bothered if I didn't think it was worthwhile. Simply changing the stylus to another type oe even a different brand(conical versus eliptical) allows the stylus to play part of the groove not reached before. It's simple mechanics.

".We were both in awe of the recording and the pristine condition of that particular 60 year old disc. Not a pop or click. Wonderful sound in all respects. how could it be better? Then I cleaned it on the Audio Desk. When I cued it up I swear Callas was in the room with me. It was almost scary."

So how does a 60 year old record that doesn't have any pops or ticks improve by a simple cleaning to becoming "life like"? Expectation bias is my theory. You spend $4000 and of course the sound gets "in the room"

How many times have we all heard the "wife" story ?  Just asking because most wives can't be bothered and don't care.

"It is hands down the best component I have ever purchased during the 40+ years I have been involved in the hobby."

This is the part I find hard to swallow. So different speakers, speaker placement or room treatments haven't made as big an improvement as this record cleaning machine?

ChrisS's picture
Using your Imagination!

Have you been to mauidj's house, Georgie?

Disbelief is also an expectation bias...

John Atkinson's picture
Re: Deleting Negatives

GeorgeHolland wrote:
If you do that then it's no longer a discussion but just yourself deleting anything you don't agree with.

You keep throwing out that false canard. I didn't delete your post because I disagreed with it - you can, in fact, find many, many postings where it is obvious that I don't agree with the content but didn't delete them - but because you were being insultingly disrespectful of another poster to this forum.

If you cannot behave in an adult manner, then I will eventually have no choice but to block you from posting. Consider this a formal warning.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture
So

No one had anything worthwhile to say against the points I made so I assume  no one thinks they are wrong. Thank you.

ChrisS's picture
So So

No response = agreement?

Sorry, Georgie, that's not good logic.

mauidj's picture
Just my observations........

 

I wasn't going to be drawn into this silly fracas but GeopregHolland is suggesting that he and only he is right well.......he's wrong!

First up GeorgeHolland...what points did you make? They were not points. They were kind of insulting and full of inuendos that contain absolutely zero factual elements. But hey...I've got a thick skin so no worries!

I have been involved in the hifi business since 1970. First as a technician. Then in sales and marketing. Then as a part time writer and reviewer and now as a hobbyist and fan. I have in those years had many revelatory experiences vis a vis equipment, software and sound. I am not prone to exagerations or lies and your suggestions not withstanding, I will not have you imply that I am.

Why are you so insistant that my experiences are bogus?

What do I have to gain from stating the things I did? To make myself feel better about my purchase. Are you kidding? Life is way too short.

"I'm sorry but just cleaning a record will NOT uncover sonic virtues. Perhaps changing the cartridge or even changing the stylus WILL. A record that has been already played several times will have any dirt or dust "welded" into the walls of the vinyl and no cleaning machine can remove that.It will remove some surface dust and grit. You will recall that I posted a link to a DIY cleaner or I wouldn't have bothered if I didn't think it was worthwhile. Simply changing the stylus to another type oe even a different brand(conical versus eliptical) allows the stylus to play part of the groove not reached before. It's simple mechanics"

So I assume you have heard records before and after cleaning on this machine...right? Otherwise how exactly can you make this statement of FACT? Simple mechanics eh. There is nothing simple about it! You state that it will only remove surface dust and grit. Well sir you are 100% wrong. That is the point of the Audio Desk. You challenge my personal observations but offer none of your own that are not born out of your own bias and suppositions. A stylus change MIGHT alter the sound? Come on....that is just silly. Of course it alters the sound. Just as this cleaner does.

"So how does a 60 year old record that doesn't have any pops or ticks improve by a simple cleaning to becoming "life like"? Expectation bias is my theory.

How? Well I really don't know. But I do know that it did. And it's anything but a "simple" cleaning. Why are you calling me out over my actual experience? You have had ZERO expereince! Go try one of these cleaners then come back and dispute my findings. Until then you are the one guilty of expectation bias. You offer absolutely no proof that I am wrong...NONE! I said that the results varied from record to record. Some were very subtle..others quite the oposite. This particular disc was the later.

You spend $4000 and of course the sound gets "in the room"

I spent more than that on power cables and conditioners and they did not even get close to improving the sound like the Audio Desk does....as I said on many but not all records! I certainly did not find it necessary to justify those purchases by fooling myself or others.

"How many times have we all heard the "wife" story ?  Just asking because most wives can't be bothered and don't care."

Well mate, my wife is bothered and she cares! She has helped us, through her years of hard work and interest in good sound, to assemble OUR hifi rig and she has ears too! Pretty nice ones :-)

"This is the part I find hard to swallow. So different speakers, speaker placement or room treatments haven't made as big an improvement as this record cleaning machine?"

That is correct. And you can refuse to swallow it if you chose but that is what I and my wife heard and continue to hear. I'm sorry (actually I'm not) if you can't or don't want to believe my impressions but that is what we heard. THE END. Not subtle. Big difference!

And I'm not the only one. Read the reviews from writers and users. Most gush forth with superlatives as much as I have...for good reason.

GeorgeHolland...you should be excited by the fact that there are things out there that can improve sonics and the hifi experience. Not so down about a product and person (who you don't even know) that it causes you to be so negative.

Come on mate....put on a record and enjoy the hobby we all love. It's supposed to be fun not confontational.

If you're ever on Maui bring over a disc or two and we can play "who can hear the difference" ;-)

Peace and Aloha to you!

GeorgeHolland's picture
"So I assume you have heard

"So I assume you have heard records before and after cleaning on this machine...right? Otherwise how exactly can you make this statement of FACT? Simple mechanics eh. There is nothing simple about it! You state that it will only remove surface dust and grit. Well sir you are 100% wrong."

"This machione" isn't some wonder machine that uses unknown technology. If you had bothered to read the link I provided way above your post, you would have seen a DIY cleaner that works just as well and costs far less. Either a cleaner can remove surface grit and that embeded into the walls of a record or it can't  and I say NO cleaner can remove grit embeded into the vinyl by the friction and heat of the stylus after many playings.

"Until then you are the one guilty of expectation bias. You offer absolutely no proof that I am wrong...NONE! I said that the results varied from record to record. Some were very subtle..others quite the oposite. This particular disc was the later."

Sorry but just because you wrote a lengthy post isn't proof that what you "heard" was real. Since you are the expert on this machine please explain how just cleaning a record gave such profound results? It's not possible. MAYBE it reduced the surface noise a bit but then again I doubt it.

"I spent more than that on power cables and conditioners and they did not even get close to improving the sound like the Audio Desk does"

I don't doubt that you did spend more than that on cables and power conditioners. Doesn't mean that they made one ounce of difference though. Expectation bias does do that ya know.

 

"That is correct. And you can refuse to swallow it if you chose but that is what I and my wife heard and continue to hear. I'm sorry (actually I'm not) if you can't or don't want to believe my impressions but that is what we heard. THE END. Not subtle. Big difference!"

This is where your credibility falls apart big time. Sorry but simply moving a speaker a few inches would make more of a sonic difference than ANY record cleaning machine. If you don't realise that then you have zero knowledge or experience of doing so and what acoustics are all about. No I don't believe your impression.

 

"And I'm not the only one. Read the reviews from writers and users. Most gush forth with superlatives as much as I have...for good reason."

 

Uhhhh so what?  You can read the same thing about power cables, audio cables and magic bowls but it doesn't mean they are correct.

 

"GeorgeHolland...you should be excited by the fact that there are things out there that can improve sonics and the hifi experience"

Oh I know what those are too, just not a $4000 record cleaner. Remember that I did link to a DIY record cleaner. Carefully placing the speakers, taking care of room acoustics and having some idea what does or doesn't work goes a long way towards better sound. I'm happy you like your record cleaner, just not convinced that it's all you make it out to be.

 

 

ChrisS's picture
Knock, Knock! Who's There? Knock, Knock...

Georgie,

The best and only proof needed is that you have absolutely no experience with anything that you write about.

If you would like more than 2 sentences, then mauidj said it much more fully and eloquently than I.

[gratuitous insult deleted by JA]

volvic's picture
George Holland this thing works

I used to work in the jewelry industry and we had an ultrasound machine to clean rings and such, it got all the grime out of rings and bracelets that nothing else could.  If you put your hands in it you  could feel it start to prick your hands.  Of course we would never put a watch in as it would penetrate the casing. When I heard it used the same method I knew it would not be snake oil.  give it a spin.  

GeorgeHolland's picture
Big difference between

Big difference between cleaning jewelry and a record with ultra sonics. You all seem to be ignoring that I did post a link to a DIY model that uses such. I'm not arguing that it won't clean out surface dirt, mold or other nasties BUT it won't remove grit that has been already embeded into the walls of the grooves themselves by the playback stylus. Those nasties are in there for good,

ChrisS's picture
Curiouser and curiouser

"BUT it won't remove grit that has been already embeded into the walls of the grooves themselves by the playback stylus. Those nasties are in there for good"

How do you know that?

GeorgeHolland's picture
How do you know it will come

How do you know it will come out?

ChrisS's picture
The Imagined vs The Real

What you've never experienced, you can only imagine.

People who use these products, they actually hear.

ChrisS's picture
Ask them...

People who have heard the results of using this product say so.

"Getting a review sample of this unique ultrasonic record-cleaning machine took me years; apparently, Audiodesksysteme Gläss, a small German manufacturer, couldn't keep up with demand...."

I'm asking how do you know it won't....

mauidj's picture
"Carefully placing the

"Carefully placing the speakers, taking care of room acoustics and having some idea what does or doesn't work goes a long way towards better sound. I'm happy you like your record cleaner, just not convinced that it's all you make it out to be."

I have a way better idea of what works in this instance.

I've tried it and heard it . By you own admition ...you have not. Everything you have said is conjecture until you actually try one.

Have a nice day.

GeorgeHolland's picture
Ho Hum

Way better idea hmmmmmm? Happy for you. Happy for myself not spending $4000 on a record cleaner.

Conjecture abounds everywhere it seems.

ChrisS's picture
Harrumphing...

You are happy that you don't buy things that make you unhappy? Is that right, Georgie?

Apparently, "conjecture" sells $4000 record cleaners very well!

(Even to those who don't have $4000 to spend on such things!-

"This wasn't just me, the audiophile. My wife, who tends to be skeptical about such things, heard it clearly, as did a neighbor who has some familiarity with high-end stereos but doesn't own one himself. ")

volvic's picture
I have to say

"Big difference between cleaning jewelry and a record with ultra sonics."

No it isn't the principle is the same the ultrasound gets out dirt using the same methods. As much as I appreciate and respect (George Holland) your comments in your posts, I have to say that if anyone hasn't tried this unit with their own records or a demonstration of its sonic benefits, then one is undermining their own position by criticizing it.  I am one big doubting Thomas when it comes to a lot of gear, usually finding it overpriced with laws of diminishing returns kicking in, and sometimes take years before I make a decision to drop my hard earned money on an upgrade.  But if I was working at JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs and was due for a bonus, I would order this conraption, and I have never come out to say this about any gear that has appeared on Stereophile, this machine really  impressed me.  

EnergyGuy's picture
Not a 1%

Amusing feedback...I am not a vinyl junkie by any means but $4000 for a cleaner is definitely for the 1% IMO...this is the problem with high end audio...its turned into a hobby about the equipment. I have been there too.

 

The quality of the music starts with the source...music from the 50's for the most part has been well produced and recorded...the idea that a machine can improve upon whats there to begin with is ridiculous IMO. IF the record in question is dirty then yes of course it will sound better..while I have not purchased this 4G machine I have taken records to a local dealer that has cleaned them with a VPI and ClearAudio machine...NO difference at home..those were sub 1G machines that had little effect.

Needless to say I have never purchased a record cleaner..I have cleaned them myself with some RO water and dish soap...works just as good for my set up.

Is there not an expectation that vinyl has clicks and pops because thats the medium?

The earlier poster is the 1% IMO...living in Maui? Really? To be able to live there and buy expensive audio goods..hats off to you sir..I am sure you have worked hard to be where you are but the average joe doesnt have a chance to afford this..maybe that makes you the 2%

I would love to see the breakdown of cost for charging such a large sum of money for technology that has been around for decades..is it made in Germany? Even so, still overpriced like everything audio these days.

Oh to be rich...I will take 2 one for the den and one for the garage:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Record Genie's picture
Ultrasonic record cleaning that's affordable for everyone!

The Audio Desk Vinyl Cleaner has been improved since it launched in 2009, and the Klaudio KD-CLN-LP200 has been available since May 2013, so there are now choices for those who want their own machine, as both the Klaudio and Audio Desk are excellent machines that give great cleaning results.

Or you can use an affordable service like Record Genie to try ultrasonic cleaning, and just pay for what you need, by the record.

See www.recordgenie.com or www.facebook.com/recordgenie and read what customers are saying.

Pricing as of 3/1/2014: 5 minute "single" cleanings are $2.75 per record including new inner sleeve (your choice of Audio Desk or Klaudio machines) OR for the ultimate "double" clean it's $5.00 per record for 10 minutes of ultrasonic cleaning using BOTH machines, Audio Desk first, then Klaudio, gives the benefits of both! New customer "Try It Out" special available, and bulk discounts too!

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