I sent some crazed e-mails to my audiophile friends, all like: Dude, I'm at my wit's end over here. I can't make sense of any of it. I know so-and-so uses a VPI and what's-his-name uses a Nitty Gritty, but what's YOUR method? Huh, huh, huh?
Everywhere I turned, it was the VPI or the Nitty Gritty, the VPI or the Nitty Gritty, the VPI or the Nitty Gritty. And I figured that that would be the case. I suppose I was hoping for some alternative; something that would prove appealing to my particular blend of wants and needs. Meaning, what, exactly? I don't know. Maybe my record-cleaning machine dances salsa and cooks some mean cuchifritos, maybe my record-cleaning machine loves the Mets and looks good in a pair of jeans.
Whatever. I doubt there's a company in the world manufacturing that particular record-cleaning machine. Still, a guy can hope. Of course, there were some alternatives placed in my path. Several of you suggested that I construct my own cleaning machine. I considered this option for a second or two, imagining myself with a bra slung over my head and a Barbie doll strapped to a revolving platter. But I know myself too well. I'm not the DIY kind of guy. Even when I was in the band, I made the other guys write my parts and carry my instruments. Do it myself? No, thank you. I never did anything myself.
Just when I thought no other alternatives would arrive, Stereophile forum member Douglas Bowker introduced me to George Merrill's wonderfully affordable and appropriately-named GEM Dandy Hydraulic Record Cleaning Apparatus. Though its price ($149) is attractive, the GEM Dandy has the looks of something that belongs in a chemistry lab. In a way, I suppose this is kind of cool. Made of what appears to be PVC piping and held together with elbows and tee joints, I doubt it would blend well with anything in my small apartmentother than the stuff hiding beneath my kitchen sink. And while it seems quite easy to operate, I wonder about the mess it might make. It's designed to sit inside the sink. Which means I would have to wash my dishes firsta problem. It uses a puck guard to hold the record vertically in place while you douse the record with a small hose attached to your faucet.
I'm intrigued by the GEM Dandy. It makes some sense. I like its price and its apparent ease of use, but I am turned off by its lack of superficial refinements. I can see myself in a welder's apron and safety goggles, breaking dishes and favorite LPs while spilling water and cleaning fluid all over my kitchen floor. The obvious solution to such potential hazards would be to use care, stupid, and put down a towel. And, regardless of how much of a klutz I might be, at only $149, the GEM Dandy is affordable. Even the stingiest audiophile can care for his record collection. I believe Michael Fremer has a GEM Dandy HRCA on loan right now. I'm looking forward to his report.