Nice column, Stephen. I was pleasantly surprised to see the cover of Henry Cow's "Unrest" as I turned the page. While I won't say I'm a "fan," I first heard them in the seventies and still enjoy listening to their music. Considering how polarized opinions of their music seem to be, I was wondering if you would care to comment. It's pretty adventurous stuff; what did you think?
Stephen: I enjoyed your comments on this machine. Very disappointed to see it is yet another over $500 record cleaning machine. I thought I remember that the original projections for this machine were in the mid $400 range. Oh well, another company that won't get my money. Currently using the Merrill system that Mike F. reviewed and liked about 2 years ago, but being lazy, would like a machine.
All the best,
I'm still a big fan of the VPI HW-16.5, and, though I completely understand that $550 seems like a lot of money -- it's $100 more than the Rega RP-1! -- I also feel that it's worth every penny and it pays for itself pretty quickly in bringing great old LPs back to life.
Let me say up front that I enjoy your writing, your magazine, and your participation in the reader forums (fora?).
When John Atkinson first mentioned The Entry Level, he said it would be about audio equipment that cost under $1,000. Your first column was about getting into music in general, which was pretty good, but now I see the "under $1k" category this month is for something that is not an active part of a home audio system. It's a $500 record cleaner. That's not really something that a person who has only $1k to spend on his whole system is likely to buy. A review for a $500 record cleaner is something that would fit in any other section of the magazine.
While I understand the letters to the editor from serious audiophiles who are not interested in reading about $300 speakers, my attitude is that I still like to know who's producing the best equipment at low prices. Those pieces won't go in my listening room, but I might want a low-price/high-value bookshelf system for my office, garage workshop, my wife's studio, my daughter's dorm room, or even a small system to take to a rental beach condo for a week.
To me, it's like a car magazine. I enjoy reading about the Bugatti Veyron I will never ever own or drive, and I enjoy reading about the technical breakthroughs that improve the driving experience in small inexpensive cars.
I'm sure that I'll never be able to give everyone what they want or expect, which is why I spent so much time in those first two installments of the column attempting to show readers who I am and where I'm coming from. I was trying to adjust expectations.
I don't want my column in the magazine to be like any other column you've ever read. And I don't want readers to expect from my column the things they might expect from other columns.
I close each piece by asking readers to share their stories because, 1., I'm interested in your stories, and, 2., I'm emphasizing the fact that I'm telling stories and not just providing straightforward reviews. I hate explaining things like this because explanations can kill art, and I want people to discover things on their own, but I will say that I hope readers will think of each column as a chapter in a long novel. My goal is for each column to flow from the one previous, so that if you were to read them consecutively, it would all make sense. (I don't know how long I can do this, but I plan to have fun trying to keep it going.)
We're only three issues into the column -- and I plan on writing this thing for a very, very long time -- Art Dudley has just logged the 100th installment of "Listening," and that's a fine starting point for what I would like to achieve. So, I hope you'll hang in there with me as I tell my stories.
Cleaning records happens to be a significant part of the story of why I love hi-fi and it's a part of who I am, as an audiophile -- so I figured I should tell that part of the story early on. It fits the story, perfectly, right where it is, in our March issue.
In the future, there will be stories about all kinds of other things. In April, I go deeper into the Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 and PSB Alpha B1 loudspeakers and the Rega RP-1 turntable and its upgrade package. In May, I'll discuss the Music Hall USB-1 turntable, Head-Direct HiFiMan HM-602 portable music player, and Audioengine 5 loudspeakers. In June, I'll play with the Jolida FX10 tube amp, NAD 316BEE integrated, and Klipsch Synergy B-20 loudspeakers. In July, I think I'll talk about cables and power-line accessories. In August, I think I'll talk about some very small amplifiers. In September, I might talk about cheap CD players. In October, I might make people crazy by enjoying the cassette revival. In November, I might spend a lot of words on 45RPM singles.
This is all to say: I have a plan, and you'll either like it or not.
In all of those months, I'll also talk about music and girls. And probably food, too. Because these are the things I cannot live without, and they are parts of my story.
I would like stuff like....the best interconnects under $100. Is it possible to get better sound with power cord upgrades in mass market gear. What about under $1000 tubed gear?
Good stuff again Stephen regarding your review this month. I enjoy your humanity instilled in your reviews. But regarding your comparison synopsis of the product vs. the long-standing VPI HW-16.5, it left a lot of questions for this reader.
"I don't know if it wast that strange fragrant fluid, that soft bristled brush, or what, but the Okki Nokki seemed more efficient at cleaning records than my VPI, restoring my filthiest records to like-new condition with just a couple of revolutions."
Perhaps you or others can already see where I am going with this- there are still a lot ambiguous inferences I am trying to draw from the most important statement of your review. Does it take more revolutions for the VPI? Did the vacuum leave something behind? Were there lps not as clean with the VPI? Did they need another cleaning process after or before the spin on the VPI? I got that "Off White" sounded very good after the cleaning on the ON, but what about the VPI? A quiet operation means far less to me than great build and excellent operation. That omission of comparison with the VPI still leaves questions for me as a prospective buyer.
Clearly, by the statement you are saying "I don't know", it seems less than conclusive. This is critical to someone with $550, who is trying to make a decision about their investment. And given that I've never been enamored by Nitty Gritty, and I own a VPI HW-19 turntable (and I've owned Sumiko products before), I need a concrete reason to flirt with Sumiko.
I am not trying to bust your balls here Stephen. By bringing up these minor review flaws, I am hoping to make a better review next time, and a better reviewer of you. (I can hear JA groaning right now...)
I've used the VPI HW-16.5 for a couple of years now and I know it very well, and, as I say in the review, there are records (such as the James White album) that I wouldn't have attempted to clean on the VPI. The Okki Nokki made quick work of it. The VPI would have needed a couple of rounds, plus some soaking time. The VPI might've been able to clean it just as well, but would have taken much longer. Thus, "I don't know if it was that strange, fragrant fluid, that soft-bristled brush, or what, but the Okki Nokki seemed more efficient at cleaning records than my VPI, restoring my filthiest records to like-new condition with just a couple of revolutions."
I could have repeated these details in my review, but would have had to leave out the bits about loneliness and record-shopping, which, to me, are much more interesting.
I think $550 would be better spent on the VPI, which is built to last, built to a higher quality, and is much easier to use. But that's just my opinion; others may be more interested in quiet operation and pretty looks. I think I was very clear about my disappointment with the Okki Nokki's build quality. More: While at CES, Sumiko had an Okki Nokki on display, and it suffered from the same problems, which leads me to believe that my sample was not an aberration.
I missed whether one needed to scrub the record, with the goat hair brush or was it used to merely spread the cleaner around. Are there cleaning pads in the vacuum arms?
For a budget system, I would have thought you would have mentioned how it stacked up against the $80 Spin Clean that was so highly touted by MFremmer.
I've never used the Spin Clean, but I trust Mikey's review. I imagine the Spin Clean does a fine job for $80. I buy lots of dirty, used records and don't want to spend the time manually cleaning and drying them; I'd rather play them. Plus, I think that any vacuum system will do a better job than a non-vacuum system. But, if $80 was all I had to spend and I didn't buy lots of dirty, used records, I would consider the Spin Clean. (I would consider it, and then I would save my money for a VPI.)
I appreciate the clarification. "The VPI would have needed a couple of rounds, plus some soaking time."
That's exactly what I was looking for.
You did imply that the Okki Nokki was more efficient by your statement in the review, but for someone who as never owned a cleaning machine, I had no idea that the cleaning process takes that long on the VPI.
That finding does weight the scales towards the ON, but given its suspect build quality (which you did mention very clearly), the ON gets a pass at its price, for me. For the reasons you mention here and in the review, the VPI is still at the top of my list for this year. (There are at least 100 records I won't play because they demand a serious cleaning.) Thanks again.
I highly recommend the VPI.
I get exactly where you are coming from, mostly because you essentially write your column like a slightly more solid blog entry. Like long-from blogging I guess. And I like the story format, though some other writers in the mag. could use some lessons from you in keeping it closer to topic! I can't deal with some of the "old man" ramblings that certain lovers of French equipment, ahem, seem unable to control. Each to their own though.
Record cleaning machines: someone needs to figure out how to get a VPI knockoff for $250. Hell, I made mine nearly identical to there's for less than a $100 and that was buying retail cost parts!
I'll be with you for your 100th dude, even if by then you'll be 40-ish like I am now, and I'll be...somewhat older. Heh.
BTW: the new album by The Low Anthem is excellent. Check it out if you haven't already!
I saw your response last week, and thanks again. Here's to both of us finding love before we die. ;)
How 'bout a Nitty Gritty knockoff:
I don't think you will be able to find a machine that does what the VPI does (auto cleaner injection, motorized turntable,) for much less than what they charge for it, but my Nitty Gritty model 2 does an excellent job of cleaning records, I just have to apply fluid and turn the record by hand. The Record Doctor looks almost the same as the NG, although I've never tried one.
You have to remember that there's not a whole lot of demand for record cleaners, so economies of scale may be harder to realize. I could never enjoy my record collection without one.
If the friggin' Gallery section worked (yo, web monkey! that ever getting back online?) I'd direct you to my DIY project that looks and functions nearly identically to the basic VPI cleaner. The TT portion is a real used TT platter and motor I got at an old electronics shop, the vacuum an ultra mini shop vac, the box is painted MDF. Works like a charm and cost me about $100 give or take. But that's sourcing the shop vac. as a RETAIL item at Home Depot, which is many times more than if it were just OEM parts (and I threw out half of it) and the TT parts the same deal. I used maybe 20% of the entire TT to get the parts I wanted.
Believe me, if I could build this whole thing on my own for a hundred bucks and it only took about a day (half the time was disassembling the vac and TT) you could set up a small-run production assembly line and crank these out easily for a $75 manufacturing cost and get it to the consumer for $300. Building it as one-off project is the most time consuming way to do it there is, and it still was pretty easy. To my mind, it's a case where you pay what they are being sold for because there are no good alternatives.
Sorry about the long delay, Doug. Jon Iverson is currently working with a team of developers to figure out the best way to implement the Galleries. If it seems like they've taken an awfully long time, please consider that they must first get the Galleries working properly on Shutterbug.com, which has a much stronger focus on images. Once they've accomplished that, they'll use what they've learned there to streamline our Gallery.
It just takes a long time to get these results across all of the Source sites for which Jon is working. Again, sorry for the delay.
But actually Stephen FAR, like a 100 times more, important is the general layout of the forums!
I just measured and do you realize the discussion space is a tiny 600 pixels wide, and even worse, the columns listing of the topics is only 147 pixels wide! No wonder it's impossible to follow what is going on and what the threads are. That's small even if all your viewing was going to be on a smart phone!
With average screen size starting at 1024 wide, and most wider still, it's just crazy to a fixed width format like this. It's like it came from a can that was designed for computers 10 years ago.
We're beggin' you dude. Give us something wider than book margins to read on! ;)