Analog Corner #287: The Charles Kirmuss Vinyl Restoration System Page 2

While Kirmuss's process is said to kill the fungus and prevent its further growth, in my experience it doesn't remove the fungus's visible after-effects: a cloudy white patch on the record surface.

Obviously, this half-hour procedure is not a casual record-cleaning process to be used after returning from a garage sale with a nice haul!

According to Kirmuss, even though new records are assumed to be free from baked-in cleaning fluids, the heat and pressure of the pressing process can cause mold-release compound—a chemical added to the PVC to make records easier to remove from the stamper—to migrate to the record's surface. That's why even new records can produce white paste and may require the full cleaning regimen. At Munich High End 2018, Kirmuss demonstrated that using a new Monty Alexander album I'd picked up at the show—but it took only three cycles be fore the white paste ceased to appear.

And for maintenance
As with any record-cleaning system, maintenance is key. I can't tell you how many homes and businesses I've visited where I've seen Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaners with filthy, damp microfiber rollers that have gone from white to brown. (I could name names and ruin people!) That's crazy] Those machines are just spreading bacteria, fungus, and dirt—I don't even ask how many records have been cleaned with the same vat of water and surfactant...

At least the water in the Audiodesk systeme cleaner is automatically filtered during each cleaning cycle—something the Kirmuss KA-RC-1 can't boast. That's not a problem as long as you change the water every dozen or so records and avoid putting truly filthy records into the machine without first removing the copious dirt by some other means (footnote 5)—and never reuse water that's been left in the machine overnight. Distilled water and small quantities of alcohol are cheap, though the thought of lugging home gallons of water can tempt some to reuse the same bath for too long a time.


Jackson Pollack's Scorpion Crossing a Blue Highway.

Each time you empty the vat, you must clean it out using alcohol and dis tilled water. You must also clean, with tap water, the bottom of the motorized cover and, most critically, remove the foam record guides that line the "slits" into which you place the records. Clean them per Kirmuss's instructions, because the wet foam will absorb dirt and other contaminants. It's also critical to rinse the microfiber cloths (I bought extras on Amazon), and—especially—the goat-hair brush. Fail to do these things and you will not get the desired results. Fail to brush your teeth and they'll rot and fall out—just saying!

M is for the man and the madness
Charles Kirmuss is a take-no-prisoners advocate for his system, and he is highly critical of other record-cleaning systems. According to him, wet-wash/ vacuum-dry machines, whether their contact points are velvet-lined lips or a thread-cushioned nozzle, are no good: They draw dirt into the grooves, he says, and no matter how clean you keep those velvet lips, they press that dirt into place. Fan drying is awful for records, Kirmuss contends, because it blows dirt and contaminants onto the record and dries in place the residues of surfactants and other fluids. The only effective means of drying a record, he says, is to do so physically, with the microfiber cloth.

Other cavitation machines are mostly no good, Kirmuss says. They operate at the wrong frequency, or their "spits" place the records too close together.

And according to Kirmuss, those that don't use surfactants—the KLaudio is one example—can't emulsify grease and fingerprints because cavitation alone isn't up to that job.

When Kirmuss first visited—shortly after I'd met him at AXPONA 2018—he claimed that the Audiodesksysteme machine was not cavitation-based at all: news to me! I did some research and am satisfied that the Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaner does, in fact, use cavitation. Kirmuss, though, is adamant. Later, he contended that the Vinyl Cleaner's cavitation frequency is not high enough and, more critically, that the cavitation generator is incorrectly placed.

I've been using the Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaner for years, as have thousands of other people. Early reliability issues aside, it cleans records, and does so better than any other type of machine I've tried and/or owned.

Does that mean it's the best?
Not necessarily, but I see no reason to dump on it. The same is true of record-cleaning machines from VPI, Nitty Gritty, Clearaudio, Loricraft, Keith Monks, Oki-Noki, Pro-Ject, and others, including other cavitation-based machines. These are all useftil record-cleaning machines.

In some of his early emails to me, Kirmuss made claims that eroded rather than fortified his credibility: the guy has been all over the map. In the months since, he has backed some of his claims with science—but others not so much. Kirmuss once claimed that the white paste was "sugar," or a molecule related to sugar. He continues to call old 78s "shellacked records," a term I've never before heard, and one that surely doesn't describe the vast majority of 78s made entirely of shellac.

And in another series of e-mails, Kirmuss told me that "LOVE" was one of the worst chemicals ever used on LPs, that it produced sonic degradation and was difficult to remove—difficult but not impossible, since, he claimed, his machine and regimen could re move it. I told him I'd never heard of "LOVE," and that it must be extremely obscure. Eventually I learned that he'd meant LAST, the vinyl-preservation treatment co-developed in the 1970s by chemist Walter Davies and used by a great many collectors and institutions. My understanding of LAST, which I've used for decades without a single instance of noise or any other sonic alteration, is that it is not a coating and thus cannot be "removed." Indeed, according to The LAST Factory, "LAST Record Preservative chemically enhances the molecular stability;...[it] affects the vinyl to a depth of about ten molecular layers and becomes part of the groove wall There are no surface residues that can be picked up by the stylus." Anyway, why pick a fight with LAST? All we need is LOVE!

The 7th M: Mikey likes it!
Let's just say Mr. Kirmuss and I have had a contentious relationship: I have been respectful, yet highly skeptical of claims, which often have a whiff of hucksterism about them. We've gone back and forth, bickering for more than a Year—last thing (or should I say the "love" tiling?) I want to do is damage my reputation recommending a product of dubious merit.


This Ortofon cartridge had to be returned to Denmark to have the crud removed from the stylus following an incomplete record-cleaning via the Kirmuss method. (Photo: Ortofon.)

That's why I've withheld my recommendation of the KA-RC-1 Ultimate Ultrasonic Vinyl Restoration System for some time. But now that I've spent a great deal of time using it, testing it, and clearing away some of the hype, apparent misinformation, and mystifying instructions—that "sugar" business really bothered me, as did the early instructions that overlooked the need to clean the paste-polluted goat-hair brush—I wholeheartedly endorse the Kirmuss system as long as you follow the directions, which include remembering that, when the unit heats up beyond a certain point, you must turn it off (This is now covered in the manual; the previous instructions said "stop using it," which is not at all the same thing.) I endorse it because it works.

I have an original UK pressing, on Track Records, of The Who's Tommy (2 LPs, Track 613 013/4, limited edition #16137), which I bought new in the fall of 1969 and have been playing constantly ever since—more than 50 years! I can never get enough of Keith Moon's drumming on this LP, or of how well it was recorded. (Quadrophenia was such a sonic disappointment.)

The last time I played Tommy, I realized it had gotten noisy. Worse than that, it seemed to have lost its top end—and worse than that, the music seemed to have faded into the distance. "It's finally wearing out," I told myself, sadly.

After the first dip into the Kirmuss vat, the record fairly joamed with pulled-up paste. It took five cycles to reduce the foam enough that an application of the propylene glycol evaporated, leaving no paste behind,

I followed the rest of the instructions and was left with a gleaming, shiny, like-new-looking record, even more brilliant than a similar record cleaned with the Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaner. That's pretty stellar.

Best of all, when I played it—holy crap! The top end was fully restored, the backgrounds were superquiet, transients were sharpened, and the amount of inner detail—particularly the microdynamic shifts in Pete Townsend's rhythm guitar strums—produced an almost new listening experience. That's not hype.

Then I tried two original "six-eye" copies of Miles Davis's Kind of Blue (Columbia CS 8163). The results were the same. Then an original UK pressing of Abbey Road (Apple PCS 7088). And then both of my copies of The Beatles (2 LPs, Apple PCS 7067/8). All of these records sounded very good prior to "restoration," doubtlessly because I took good care of them and kept them clean using, in recent years, the Audiodesksysteme cleaner. Now their top ends sparkle as never before. I brought a 24/96 needle-drop file of Abbey Road to last February's Tampa Audio Expo and played side two for a roomful (60 people) who sat transfixed throughout. It sounded quieter, and more musically lustrous, than it had for years.

So yes, the Kirmuss KA-RC-1 Ultimate Ultrasonic Vinyl Restoration System works as promised—and it's reasonably priced. I enthusiastically recommend it—but I'm not getting rid of either my Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaner or my Loricraft thread-drive wet-wash/vacuum-dry machine. Both do a damn good job, at least until it's time for a full restoration. I don't always have half an hour to clean a single record!

Footnote 5: Precleaning can be done with any simple method: the Allsop Orbitrac, a Discwasher brush (with fluid), or whatever. Just remember to clean those cleaners, too!

Jack L's picture


The bottom line of any record cleaning liquids is to leave NO residual chemical craps inside the record grooves.

So for cleaning my 1,000+ LPs since day one years back, I only use ionized distilled water available in 4-litre (or 3.5 gallon) plastic bottles dirt cheap from any grocery stores.

However, not all commercial distilled waters are made equal. I've found only ONE make is 100% pure = 0 ppm (part per 1 million parts) measured with my water purity tester.

I got an expensive undersink osmosis purifier system in my kitchen, which pumps out pure water of 10ppm, healthy for drinking for sure. But not yet good enough for cleaning my vinyl.

FYI, I measure my city's raw tape water: 150ppm, & 'natural' spring bottle water: 155ppm. IMO, Not even hygienic enough for pets, let alone human beings.

So I've settled down using only this make of bottled ionized distilled water (measured 0ppm.) for cleaning all my LPs, pre-owned & brandnew. No chemical additives allowed !!!!

This cheapie cleaner works chime with my vinyls. I always play WET by spraying the said distilled water onto a nylon paint brush & apply it wet to any LP before I play.

Sound so quiet (killing the statics due to the moisture) & so FLUID which dry play can never come close sonically.

Listening is believing

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

It's amazing how many 33.3 folks don't ever clean thier vinyl.

Steve Gutenberg just reviewed a cheap cleaner on his YouTube Channel with 150,000 Subscriptions. Phew. Steve admits that he's never been keeping his vinyl clean ( maybe now ).

The Ultimate Jazz Archivist and Curator "The Jazz Shepherd" says he's never cleaned any of his vast collection.

I'm a Cleaner and I can't imagine any of my beautiful ( and pricy ) Phono Cartridge Collection getting clogged up with filth from stored vinyl which is loaded with yuk.

A complementary explanation on properly cleaning phono cartridges should accompany this reporting. Cartridges don't have to be sent back to the Manufacturer!

Overall, the need to clean 33.3 properly is probably the best dam reason for playing music some other way. Properly cleaning one unit can take quite some time and capitol investment in equipment. It's a pain in the ass and very much the territory of the ultra perfectionists.

I personally gave up!

I feel for those poor souls with 10,000+ filthy records begging for a proper bath & scrubbing, I have a hard time keeping my eyeglasses and phone screen clean.

Tony in Venice

ps. thanks for the reminder of what audiophile life used to be like.

Jack L's picture

Hi Tony

I did not know you're so "slobby" until you just told me now.
Keep it up, pal !

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

...standards of cleanliness.

How could you infer that I fit that adjective? I don't think that I do and most folks would say I work too dam much. Hmm.

You just might be attempting a lazy insult.

Abandoning 33.3 because of the work load it imposes is not Slobby or me.

I've owned injection moulding equipment. It's a dirty business. 33.3 needs a thorough cleaning!

Properly cleaning a Large Collection ( and continued maintenance cleaning ) is too much of a commitment now that Digital Audio Converters are good.

Tony in Venice

Jack L's picture


Just a bit of fun on you. Take it easy! Don't mean to offend at all.

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

I'll take it.

Tony in Venice

Jim Austin's picture

Some people like vinyl. Others like digital. Why is that threatening? Listen to whatever medium gives you pleasure.

This is directed at everyone in this thread. Be nice.

Jim Austin, Editor

Jack L's picture


Tony is being a bit too over-reacting ! So are you too.

What "threatening" ??????

If you care to read again the caption of my above thread to Tony:

"I have a hard time keeping my eyeglasses and phone screen clean."

I pointed out his being sorta kinda "slobby" for not cleaning his personal stuff. NOTHING ever mentioned about vinyl or digital !!!!!

Jack L

Jack L's picture

........ begging for a proper bath & scrubbing." quoted Tonykaz.

Thanks goodness, I only own 1,000+ vinyl (95% dirt cheap preowned from thrift stores). I never need any record cleaning machines + consumable cleaning liquids. Yet I don't ever get any issues of surface noise problems due to dirts hidden inside the record grooves. Surely no stubborn dirts glued to the the needle tips yet.

Lucky me? Nope. I rinse & scrub each every one LP in a ionized distilled water bath with a lintfree cotton cloth & hang it dry before I ever start to play it. Effective yet costing me peanut !

Play smart !

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

Do you make trips to the NY used record shops? ( and/or the Audio Salons like Andy Singer or Stereo Exchange )

I think you're committed to the format.

Tony in Venice

Jack L's picture

Hi Tony.

Yes, I am addicted to vinyl though I still keep my digital gears for casual convenient listening: CD, DVD-audio, Blu-ray players, DAC streaming.

I live in the Great White North, & I can't cross the border now due to the pandemic !

Jack L

tonykaz's picture

Seems the Frozen North has extraordinary clean ambient Air and Water.

I'd abandon my "American" citizenship to live in Yellow Knife if it wasn't for the ambient temperatures. Phew Canadian Culture is otherwise worth the sacrifices which include high Postal rates for shipping eBay sales.

It was 65F here in this Venice sunrise morning, quickly warming up to the mid-80sF. Swimming remains miraculous at all temps above 82F.

I have some Montreal & Quebec neighbours I'm awaiting, they summer along the St.Lawrence and fish from our Jetty. They typically catch 10+ lb. ( 5kg. ) kinds of fish.

Tony in Venice

Jack L's picture


If you don't mind very short summers & sub-zero COOL winters + slippery icy roads driving up here, Welcome to Canada !

My younger son & wife live & work in the Silicon Valley with their young family, They still keeps their Canadian passports!

Why? What Canada beats USA is healthcare: FREE healthcare to all Canadians living in the country.

I got relatives & friends living in USA. Those still working want to keep on working after retirement age to retain the medical coverage by their employers ! My cousin still working in the Bay area does not want to visit his doctor as the medical deductible he got to pay is staggering !

For us to live in USA without medical coverage? Thanks but no thanks.

Jack L

Glotz's picture

of how Steve didn't have a cleaning process at all...

"I just watch the dust go round and round" I think that's what it said... lol..

So funny, and that guy is Very Important to the audiophile world!

tonykaz's picture

NY is a dirty place.

I represented Nitty Gritty and VPI in my Esoteric Audio and realised that the majority of my Customer base wouldn't own any sort of advanced cleaning tools. I sold plenty of the simple brushes. 33.3 has static charges attracting dust particles.

People have a wide range of comfort when it comes to Cleanliness. I would like detailed clean if I could but my life kind of mandates me avoiding filth more than pursuing ultimate New/Fresh in all things. I'm annoyed by dirty window glass. My General Motors Career was in filthy engine Manufacturing Plants, working on improving efficiencies. A clean machine is more efficient than a dirty one.

Injection Moulding uses and needs mold release. The person in this report is correct, I think, Injection molded things like 33.3 will need appropriate cleaning before safe usage. I once owned a Injection Molding outfit that made Surgery tools requiring certified cleaning before sealed packaging.

Living Clean is wonderful, Florida rains keep our Cars nearly spotless ( unlike the constant filth of Michigan Roads ). My Florida House HEPA Air filter seems to capture only about 2 grams of airborne per week. ( Florida breaths Ocean Airs which are super clean ).

Tony in Venice

ps. I cleaned CDs with a microfibre towel and Car detailing solutions, I could restore some scratched Library Loaners.

Glotz's picture

I sincerely say that. You are more interesting than the Most Interesting Man in the World ads... seriously.

I cannot stand dirty windows nor dust covers, nor tv screens of any kind.

I've sold in a leather tannery for a stint, and That was dirty. And smelly beyond belief.

I've also worked for P&H Harnischfeger in the 90's and while it was very clean for a crane manufacturing plant, it was still dirty with dust and oil mist from machining large winch parts.

I personally am amazed that even the highest priced LP releases don't have some kind of wet cleaning process. But I imagine that a business doesn't innovate until there is a need to drive it effectively.

I also loved the weather in Florida for the year I was there in Tampa. Simply gorgeous white sands groomed daily for tourists to make a mess. Lol.

I still think the lowest bar for anyone in vinyl care is Record Doctor 3, AI NO.6 solution for the wet clean (and distilled water to alternate), a real carbon fiber brush (Ursa Major), a real anti-stat tool (Furutech), a good Art Dudley stylus brush (sable art brush cut to a gentle size for stylus'), HiFi plus ultrasonic stylus cleaner (just seriously clean and safe).. and whew! That doesn't even touch the rest of the supporting accessories... (Tony is right..) this an expensive and invested process!

All of my records were bought 40 plus years ago up to today and most are Mint, as I use a damped dust-cover that does a great job of staying out of the way during playback, and I make Sure that there is no dust on that slab when the cover comes down. It's a pain to be sure, especially in the winter months, but my records are testament to good, borderline crazy care.

Not Kirmuss or Tracking Angle nuts... mind you! (Kidding!)

tonykaz's picture

We sail in the same Seas.

I suspect that we might think of 33.3 as it's own world & hobby: Phono Cartridges, Headshells, little Litz wires, various Arms, Players, Mats, Cleaners, Interconnects, step-up devices ( my favourite was the Electrocompaniet ) Preamps, Racks, Record Storage systems, and at least 1,500 cu.ft. to house the collections.

Done properly Vinyl is a house filling hobby.

and of course it needs: significant disposable funds to buy new Acoustic Sounds, Linn and European releases.

33.3 Vinyl is at least a $40,000 investment, not counting the residential space costs or the happy spousal/marriage costs! )

My personal Will arrangements include being buried with a little Solar powered Digital Player, there won't be enough room to include a vinyl system. ( I'll have music in my next life as a wandering Albatross while wearing Elinore Rigby Sunglasses ).

Bon Voyage & Bon Vivant

Tony in Venice

Jack L's picture


Yes. I still recall I was given a 5-day free trip with my wife down to South Bay, Florida years back as a reward for my performance achievement in my company.

Fresh air indeed.

Jack L

volvic's picture

The idea of sitting and wiping down a record with a cloth after cleaning is a deal breaker. Also, even if it cleans really well, why would I want to redo the whole cleaning process until I removed a white film that appears on the record? No thanks, the Degritter or Audio Desk is a better proposition.

Elikestunes's picture

Wow, what an eye opening article! I am currently in the process of "cleaning" and digitizing my Dad's 78 (and LP) collection...discs going back to the 1930's that were not given TLC...the amount of "gunk" is incredible, but thanks for this article...not sure I will jump into this, but very informative!

barevinyl's picture

Thanks Michael for bringing this cleaning machine to your column. There is no doubt that this Kirmuss guy is a bit of a kook and I don't understand the stuffed rabbits at all but who cares. I absolutely love my machine and it does a fantastic job. The two times that I've called Kirmuss headquarters he's dropped what he's doing and took my call. He's nice and jovial and does his best to answer questions. Once he pulled his car over to take my resupply order for more cleaning supplies. Brother that is good customer service and rarely found these days. Sure it's a process to clean the records but they sure come out nice in the end. It's a bit of a cleaning ritual (much like keeping your bong clean) but well worth it. I love buying old Deutsche Grammophon records from decades past and restoring them with the Kirmuss. I only listen to vinyl and keeping them clean is just part of the game. If you're really into vinyl, this is a cost effective essential piece of gear that I recommend completely.

shawnwes's picture

It works exactly as Michael says it does. Yes it's a PIA to do the full prescribed scrub but when you have a noisy pressing the end result is often a completely noise free record groove. I spent about half an hour yesterday working of a Blue Note 75th anniversary pressing of Ike Quebec's "Blue and Sentimental". Lots of intermittent noise due to the mediocre pressing by you know what pressing plant. A single pass through the cleaner helped a little but after a half dozen repeated scrubs followed by a few minutes in the tank gave fabulous results with just a couple of minor ticks left which may be permanent.
It works as advertised.

Jack Pot's picture

For a comprehensive overview of vinyl cleaning, read no further than the exhaustingly researched articles by Paul Rigby, the Audiophile Man at
Paul actually investigated all manner of cleaning devices and came to definitive conclusions. I follow his findings re ultrasound cleaners and now operate my Glass Audiodesk vinyl cleaner as he suggests:
1. fill the vinyl cleaner with 4.5 ltr distilled water (as per the manual) to which I add 1% by volume alcohol
2. apply a tiny amount of wetting agent (diluted Tergikleen in my case) with a pipette to the record surface and rub in with a Kabuki brush; treat both sides of the record
3. wash in the vinyl cleaner for 5 minutes (optional: interrupt the drying cycle to shorten the procedure)
4. repeat the 5-minute washing cycle and allow the drying cycle (another 4 minutes) to complete
The (pleasant) procedure takes abt 20 minutes, no white sugar or black magic involved
5. replace the water in the tank every 50 records
The above process improves the washing process dramatically. I was abt to put aside my Audiodesk vinyl cleaner because Glass recommends adding his proprietary formula to the water in the tank. This always leaves a “sonic veil” on the LP (though even in that case the sound already improves substantially compared with non-washed LPs). Therefore, never add wetting agents or other to the water in the tank of an ultrasound cleaner. Always apply directly, in tiny, diluted amounts, to the surface of the record.
(Re)washing LPs along the lines of Paul’s recommendations truly reveals the spectacular sonic improvements achievable with ultrasonic cleaning. I suspect ALL vinyl ultrasound cleaning machines will benefit from Paul’s procedure. The vast majority of my records are bought new.
My own recommendation re Audiodesk: never buy 2nd hand, the machines invariably break down after some use and are unrepairable. I exchanged mine (after 500 washes only) for the latest version confusingly named The Original. The trade-in cost me a fortune. But this latest version is a dramatic improvement over earlier versions. I have no experience with other cleaning machines, except for the Spin Clean Record Washer: it used to remove “dirt”, even from new records, but did NOT improve the sound at all. Ergo: ineffective.
Diluted Tergikleen: 3 drops in 500 ml distilled water

Enjoy the music