Have a Degritter ultrasonic cleaner and want to clean 7” singles and 10” discs? Paul Rigby explains how
Cleaning records using a machine of some sort – manual, semi-automatic or automatic – is pretty straight forward after you get to grips with the basics of each system.
For a simple manual cleaner, like the Disco Antistat, it uses a straight-forward approach, supporting a disc via an axle that dips the record vertically into a bath of cleaning liquid. You then manually rotate it to clean. This works well for all disc sizes including 7” singles and 10” releases.Similarly, when using a vacuum-based, Record Cleaning Machine that demands you place a disc horizontally onto a rotating turntable-like, platter-based system the only variable in cleaning terms is your own technique. That is, you’ve got less disc room to brush on the cleaning liquid and vacuum it off again with a 10” or 7” disc. Hence more care is demanded during the cleaning cycle. Apart from that? There’s no extra problem.
In my opinion, the best cleaning systems currently on the market are based upon ultrasonic technology. But not all ultrasonic systems are made in the same way or to the same standard. And that’s where things begin to get a little complicated.
In terms of sheer numbers, most ultrasonic systems currently for sale on the market utilise a basic, low-cost, Chinese-made ultrasonic bath of the type you might see for sale on Amazon. Although these baths are not designed to clean vinyl discs and are thus less effective than high-end systems, they remain great buys for those on a budget and are often modified to accept a basic record suspension system and integrated motor to rotate the discs within the bath of liquid.
These machines take the Disco Antistat route in terms of cleaning multi-format discs but you are sometimes able to mix, match and swop multiple discs, often of varying sizes onto an axle-based system, dipping the disc into a bath for cleaning while, unlike the manual Disco product, the built-in motor does the disc rotating for you.
The ultrasonic machine offered by Kirmuss also uses an off-the-shelf bath system of the type mentioned above but adds a bespoke top plate that can clean multiple disc size formats at once. The problem with this item is that it can sometimes be unstable (the disc doesn’t always sit vertically when first inserted), the disc rotation mechanism is relatively complex and thus runs the risk of breakdown while you are given no choice in terms format cleaning choice. That is, the Kirmuss system offers four slots to clean three disc types – whether you want that choice or not. Which increases the initial asking price, of course. Thus, you may be paying for features you don’t want or need.
Ultrasonic cleaning machines specifically designed to clean vinyl arrive with a bespoke chassis, better positioned ultrasonic generators, tweaked ultrasonic cleaning frequencies and gentle transport systems to provide a more effective clean.
There’s two problems with these products. Firstly, they cost. You have to pay more to buy the things. This is understandable. Let’s not forget, a bespoke system includes more development and production costs. Secondly, bespoke ultrasonic cleaners might be better at cleaning vinyl but their inherent designs often mean that, while cleaning 12” discs is a breeze, cleaning any other format size can introduce problems.
Often the basic transport is not designed to handle smaller discs. If you tried without using an adaptor of some sort, then either the smaller disc would fall into the chassis, would rattle around and you’d have issues rescuing the thing or the smaller disc wouldn’t be cleaned properly because it wouldn’t be held at the correct place/position to be effectively cleaned by the built-in, carefully situated, ultrasonic generators.
Hence, for smaller disc formats to be cleaned by expensive ultrasonic cleaners, you need to buy in an adaptor to do the job.
Because bespoke ultrasonic cleaners feature unique chassis designs it makes sense that adaptors to hold 7” and 10” discs, ready for cleaning, will also vary in design.
The issues here are three fold. Price, design and installation. High-end ultrasonic designs tend to be designed around a 12” disk size. Other disc sizes have to be adapted to that machine. Hence, the sense of putting a square peg into a round hole is palpable. There’s also a feeling that such adaptors are over-engineered and over-priced considering the task in hand.
Take the KL Audio ultrasonic cleaner adaptors – both 7” and 10” – which asks you to insert your vinyl into the centre of specially designed rings which hold the discs in place. The basic idea is sound but I have heard reports that the tabs used to hold the vinyl in place can break off while each brass/aluminium adaptor is priced at £350! An immense mount of money for what the adaptors actually do.
For the Audio Desk Pro ultrasonic system, you’re presented with a four-piece, magnetic system that needs to be installed on top and also just inside the chassis.
I found the installation of the system easy to install, despite the high number of components involved although I can understand if others might see it as awkward and fiddly.
The issue here is price again at around £235 for the kit plus the fact that only 7” discs are supported. There’s no plans to introduce a 10” adaptor.
Which brings us to the Degritter adaptors. The company offers two separate adaptors – one for a 10″ disc and other for a 7” disc – that you can purchase, as and when you need them. At €60 each they are, certainly in relative terms, remarkably cheap.
The package is simple and to the point. Each adaptor arrives in simple white, sealed card. As you might receive a vinyl LP. outer sleeve with illustrative instructions displayed on the rear. Inside is a transparent plastic ring. The outer diameter of the ring spans 12”. The inner diameter of the ring varies depending on the adaptor type. That is, the central hole is larger for the 10” adaptor and small for the 7” disc adaptor.
Each ring holds four rubber grommets within that inner section by friction alone. It’s these grommets that hold the record in place. Because the grommets move freely on the adaptor. You are given a couple of spares in a small plastic bag, just in cash of accidents. And that’s it. So, how does it work in practice?
To use the adaptor, you need to insert the 7” or 10” disc into its own adaptor and keep it there, ready for cleaning. To do this, you can place the adaptor on a soft, non-scratchy surface then place the disc in the centre. Once the disc sits within the adaptor, this is where the grommets spring into action. The latter normally sits, snuggled up into the inner ring itself within a cut-out or insert (see image below).
The idea is to pull each grommet down it’s cut-out and allow it to make contact with the vinyl disc. Each grommet is split along its circumference (see image below).
The vinyl disc sits inside this split. That is, the grommet grabs onto the outer rim of the vinyl, holding it in place. Once each of the four grommets of the adaptors are fixed onto the out edge of the vinyl disc, you are ready for cleaning.
Rather than installing the record with the record and adaptor laying flat, I tend to lift the adaptor up and wrestle a bit with the disc, inserting the disc into two grommets to find a purchase and to keep the record loosely in place. At the point I then manoeuvre the final two grommets into place. The task takes a few seconds to compete but the time reduces when you get the hang of it.
You may need to get used to how the grommets fit the outer rim of the vinyl and how everything sits in place but the learning curve is shallow enough.
Three points of note here. Firstly, the disc is held within the adaptor carefully and gently. Unlike the KL Audio adaptor, no hard materials come into contact with the Degritter adaptors. Only the four soft rubber grommets ever actually touch the vinyl itself. That in itself is reassuring.
Secondly, the grommets provide only minimal force to keep the disc in place. That means you have to take some care when handling it. If you start waving the adaptor around like a flag in the wind, while the vinyl is in place then the grommets will quickly release the disc and that disc will be sent into orbit. So be gentle and carry the loaded adaptor vertically to keep the weight of the vinyl disc manageable by the adaptor.
Also, if you add surfactant as part of your cleaning regime, you might want to experiment by applying it before you add it to the adaptor or while it’s in place. I did the latter but you might prefer otherwise.
You might think that this lack of solidity is a bad thing but I would disagree. I actually prefer this light approach. Why? Because I want as few forces acting upon my precious vinyl as possible. I don’t want any rough clamping, I don’t want my vinyl pressed upon, strained or stressed. I want my vinyl to be treated with kid gloves. The Degritter adaptors certainly offer that.
Thirdly, the inner ring of each adaptor has a little bit of ‘give’ in terms of size so if your disc is slight ‘out’ in size terms (slightly over size or under size, that is) then there’s a good chance that the Degritter adaptor will be able to handle that variation. This is one reason why the grommets are movable, to cater for this possible size variation.
Once the vinyl disc is installed within the adaptor, you place the entire thing in the Degritter’s cleaning slot and you clean as usual.
I didn’t find any issues with the adaptor during the cleaning process. The disc never fell out of the adaptor, the grommets stayed in place, the adaptor moved smoothly during the cleaning process and there was no adverse effects on the vinyl itself afterwards.
I must applaud Degritter once more here. Not only has the company managed to design a workable vinyl adaptor for use with its Degritter ultrasonic cleaner, it has done so with a minimal parts count. The adaptor is light in weight, takes up as much space as a LP, is easy to install, it takes care of your vinyl in a non-aggressive manner and is, just as importantly, dirt cheap! At least in relative terms, as these adaptors go. You can also buy each one, as and when funds allow. In short, these are brilliant little devices and, for any vinyl fan, essential purchases for any Degritter owner.
DEGRITTER RECORD ADAPTERS
Price: €60 each
Tel: +372 5884 8839
GOOD: price, installation, kind to vinyl, easy to use, does the job
[Don’t forget to check out my new Patreon Page at www.patreon.com/audiophileman, for exclusive postings, giveaways and more!]
Icon PS3 phono amplifier
Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp
Icon Audio MB845 Mk.II Monoblock Amplifiers
Quad ESL-57 Speakers with One Thing mod