Clean sweep



Keeping your vinyl clean is an essential task – but often a tiresome one.

Mark Osborn tries out a new machine from Pristine Vinyl that aims to make it as simple as possible.


There's no getting away from it – while for most of us the sound of needle in groove will always beat digital, vinyl does have one major drawback when compared to CD. No matter how careful you are handling your records those grooves become congested in a way that silver discs do not – often translating into a less-than-perfect sound as the diamond tip of your needle cuts through the gunk.

   So keeping records clean is a vital task – but it can be time-consuming and less than easy. But Pristine Vinyl think they may have the answer in the form of their ViVac cleaning system.

Admittedly, I was initially sceptical when I heard of a record cleaning system that was well engineered, as aesthetically beautiful as a good turntable and didn't sound like a pneumatic drill. I thought this was too good to be true until I met Jason Walker from Pristine Vinyl himself. 

   Jason understands what it takes to create a successful product and his attention to detail is evident when exploring his cleaning system. Everything has been considered, right down to the last nut and bolt. 

I first encountered Jason’s dedication to his record cleaning system at the High End Show in Munich earlier this year. His passion for well-engineered products was evident during his demonstration. Compact and elegant were just some of the words I could hear being bandied about the room when the ViVac RCS2 was demonstrated. 



One arm of the machine applies the special cleaning solution while the

other sucks  it off and deposits it into a waste jar.


Completely unobtrusive in its appearance and available in a wood finish or five colour options, I could happily live with this on permanent display in my listening room. And for three months I did (and so did my wife). Occupying very little space, I was able to clean my collection as I played. Although audible it was no worse than my German Shepherd Collie’s snoring, the process taking a minute each side. 

There are two ViVac models available, the RCS1 uses a separate squeezy bottle operated by hand to apply the cleaning solution. The flagship model, the RCS2 (reviewed here), encompasses an electrically-powered precision liquid pump and a separate applicating arm tube to accurately control the amount of solution applied. 

   The entry level RCS1 model is fully upgradable to the top spec of the RCS2 for approximately £350. The ViVac system is very easy to use and practically foolproof. I was purposely careless in the respect of leaving drips of solution on the platter overnight without detriment to the wood finish. All Pristine Vinyl systems are fully serviceable.

   The system utilises two jars, one that stores the new cleaning solution comprising Pristine Vinyl's own blend of vegetable-based anti-static cleaning solution with distilled water, whilst the other collects the expelled solution. These attach to support tubes on the wooden plinth that hold the main platter.

   This platter has a heavy-duty bearing to take care of the extra load applied whilst cleaning. This features a torque-limiting clutch to avoid any overload, should it accidentally occur. I can only imagine that most turntable bearings would be designed to cope with the downforce of an arm and cartridge weighing only a few grams and not that of the human kind wielding a carbon brush - however careful we think we are.

Indeed, every major component on the ViVac has been specifically selected for the job, right down to the mechanically locking and quick release tubes at the point of entry and termination. A medical grade pump has been assigned for its quietness and reliability. No parts have been taken from a standard turntable, including the dual-directional platter motor. Cross contamination from the platter has been kept to a minimum by using small round contact pads that can be cleaned easily.

   There are two separate arms that are fixed to the solid wood plinth. The smaller of the two applies the cleaning solution, the amount  controlled by pushing the button on the right-hand side. The solution enters every groove on the disc and once the solution arm tube is brought to the outer edge of the record by hand it continues to move automatically to the centre of the record. When it has completed its sweep the arm tube must be returned to the starting position ready for use again. The solution is then spread manually using a nylon brush working its magic and reversing the years of grime, to be extracted by the main arm tube into the waste jar.

A nylon reel is stored under the platter, from there it runs up internally through the solid wood plinth via a tube into the main arm tube. The nylon thread's purpose is to create a micro air gap to separate the record from the PTFE suction nozzle to avoid it sticking to the vinyl.

   There is certainly enough nylon thread for a thousand records to be cleaned for sure. I did manage to accidentally snap the thread and was relieved at the ease with which I was able to rectify my mishap. 

A new piece of thread is cocked automatically from the spool by bringing the main arm tube to the centre of the record,  before setting off on its cleaning sweep towards the run-in groove finishing the cycle. 

The waste jar sits hidden inside the unit although a cut out and blue light allows for monitoring  solution levels until emptying is required. 

   I really got into the swing of cleaning records whilst playing my music - feeling like I was at the helm of a factory record cleaning programme and quite enjoying myself. 




Underneath the main platter is a nylon spool that feeds the main arm tube,

and a waste jar that collects the used solution after cleaning.


I cleaned both old and new pressings, varying in quality and condition. This included nearly 60 Frank Zappa originals. These are some of my finest in terms of condition and cleanliness, or so I believed. But after a mass cleaning session I peered into the waste jar and there was indeed a murky solution. Surprising to me as I had always handled my prized Zappa collection with kid gloves using a clean carbon brush so they didn’t appear dirty at all. 

   The next morning I had a second look to see if the solution had settled. Shockingly, at the very bottom of the jar was a thick tar-like substance. 

I went on to clean some more varied pressings. Of which most benefited from the noise-floor significantly reducing, allowing more of the music detail to become evident. not now disguised by surface noise. Even new pressings became pleasantly brighter. 

  Overall, most pressings truly benefited from the clean, all sounds had a more dynamic impact including the defects - although scratches became equally more prominent. 

There are many reasons that warrant using the RCS2 on a regular basis if not only to preserve your records and cartridge life.  As a serious audiophile this should be fundamental.



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