Record Doctor VI Record Cleaning Machine Review Page 2

All slot-type cleaners I know of do an excellent job and are roughly equivalent when it comes to their cleaning ability, but there are big differences in how automated the cleaning process is with each machine. Some use a motor to turn the record and a pump to apply cleaning fluid, while a few even clean both sides of a record at the same time. At $300, the Record Doctor VI is pretty much the most affordable slot vacuum record cleaner on the market, but you don't get any of these fancy fripperies and virtually everything is done manually.

Call the Doctor
Operating of the shoebox-shaped Record Doctor VI couldn't be simpler. A spindle and record label-sized rubber pad that you sit the record on is located on its top surface. Under the pad is a small metal roller bearing so the record can spin as you rotate it using a second pad called the record turner. Both pads have grippy rubber surfaces that sandwich the label area of the record; these let you get a good grip to turn the record as you brush the fluid on. The vacuum slot is aligned radially under the record and stretches across the entire playing area from the label to the outside edge. A pair of replaceable velvet strips running along either side of the slot create a semi-seal for the vacuum and act as cushions so the hard-plastic slot doesn't damage grooves in the record.

There have been earlier versions of the Record Doctor, and as of this writing the Record Doctor V remains available for $100 less than this new version. The two machines are very similar, with a larger record turner and a quieter, cooler-running vacuum motor representing the key upgrades for the new Record Doctor VI. Although I haven't used the V, If the VI is quieter, then the earlier version must be pretty deafening, because I would seriously consider earplugs to be an essential accessory for any extended Record Doctor VI cleaning session.

Fit and finish is quite good considering the Record Doctor VI's fairly modest asking price. My review sample came with a black brushed aluminum top panel and carbon fiber-effect cladding on the sides, but high gloss black is another no-cost option if you want a somewhat more formal look.

Mr. Clean
To use the Record Doctor VI, you place a record on top of the lower pad, then hold it in place with the record turner pad sandwiching the LP. A line of the provided cleaning fluid is then dribbled in a radius across the playing area, which you spread around the record by turning it under the supplied brush. Record Doctor says you should rotate the record two to three times to ensure proper coverage and allow the fluid to penetrate all of the embedded muck in the grooves. Once the record has been scrubbed, you flip it over, switch on the vacuum, and rotate the disc another three or four times while the dirty fluid is sucked up, leaving a dry surface. Repeat the process for side two and you're done.

According to Record Doctor, unlike earlier versions, the new Mk VI runs cool enough so you can clean records continuously, although you should take a break to drain the dirty fluid catch tank after every 20-25 LPs. To do this, you simply hold the machine over a sink and pull the drain stopper on the bottom of the tank to release the waste fluid.

I was able to get excellent results with the Record Doctor VI even with its fully manual, hands-on approach. Records that were plagued with finger- prints and other dirt came out looking shiny and bright, and surface noise was substantially diminished in listening tests while the clarity of the music itself was enhanced. Of course, cleaning can't repair scratches or fix existing groove damage, so caring for your records remains important.

In the course of cleaning a bunch of records, I discovered a few techniques to more efficiently use the Record Doctor. First, if you keep the brush over the vacuum slot area while turning the record under it, the slot will provide support, making your brushing more effective. (In some ways, the Record Doctor's lack of automation can be a benefit, as it lets you focus extra attention on areas of the record that are especially grungy.) I also found it useful to brush any leftover debris from the velvet strips with a toothbrush after cleaning a side, as this keeps them clean for the next side. The velvet strips do eventually become worn out, but replacing them is easy and inexpensive. For my review I used the supplied brush and cleaning solution, but there's opportunity for further experimentation in this area, with a host of third-party cleaning formulations and brushes available. Some vinyl collectors also like to mix up their own home brew solutions, with plenty of suggested concoctions available online.

The Record Doctor VI represents the entry level into the upper echelon of record cleaning, doing an excellent, if somewhat noisy and operator- intensive, job of scrubbing your vinyl. It's just the thing to take care of your latest thrift store finds, or an uncle's long- forgotten classic jazz collection that you discovered in the attic.

Pangea Audio

brenro's picture

I had the V for a short time and it was definitely very loud.