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Vinyl is the preferred format for music lovers everywhere, and was on track to outsell CDs last year for the first time since 1986.
Records have bigger cover art, better sound, and often come with extras like posters or liner notes, but maintaining your collection takes some effort. You should keep your LPs in plastic sleeves, store them vertically in bins or crates, and clean them regularly, preferably after every spin.
If you haven’t cleaned your albums in a while, or prefer picking up vintage vinyl, you may hear surface noise, or clicks and pops that can distract from the music. The most effective way to fix this problem is to use a record cleaning machine, which uses suction to collect dirt, hair, and grime from its grooves. Record cleaning machines get deeper than a vinyl cleaning cloth or brush, which are better tools for after you spin an LP.
They’re an investment, but record cleaning machines are worth it if you plan on keeping your record collection pristine.
What Are The Best Record Cleaning Machines?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best record cleaning machine for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Size: Record cleaning machines are pretty big, but our picks are all roughly 18 inches wide, and up to 22 inches tall. This amount of space is required to adequately hold a 12-inch record, and house a motor.
Loudness: A record cleaning machine sounds about as loud as a vacuum when in use, so consider using one during the day, or when you’re alone.
Cleaning fluid: Some of our recommendations come with cleaning fluid, which should be applied to a record before using this type of machine. Keeping a full bottle on hand at all times is a best practice.
Compatibility: All of the record cleaning machines we’re recommending can be used to clean 12-inch LPs, 10-inch LPs, and 7-inch singles.
1. Okki Nokki Mk II
We’ve tried Okki Nokki’s MK II for ourselves and it worked so well recommending it as our top pick.
The machine is 16 inches wide and 13 inches wide, which puts it right in the middle of the pack size wise, and comes with both a 50ml bottle of cleaning fluid and a goat hair brush. Its motor can go forwards and in reverse, in case you’d like the bristles from its brush to run across your record’s grooves in two directions.
Okki Nokki says the MK II’s motor is fairly quiet, and it may be compared to other record cleaning machines, but you shouldn’t expect it to sound soft while it’s in use. The company says the motor it uses is designed to work for hours at a time without overheating, which is a good sign. We’ve only tested it with fairly small batches of LPs. Cleaning the Okki Nokki itself is pretty straightforward: gently clean the bristles on its brush, and empty out the water tube on the back of the machine. That tube holds all of the dirt and dust from your records, and Okki Nokki recommends draining it every 20 records or so.
The MK II couldn’t save all of our records because it can’t fix scratches, but it did a good job of reducing the amount of surface noise and pops from our records. Your experience will vary based on the general condition of your records, but expect some level of sound quality improvement on all of them. Again, if a record has physical scratches, especially deep ones that run across it from edge to edge, the Okki Nokki will not be able to fix that damage.
If you’re considering picking up a record cleaning machine, the Okki Nokki MK II is a great all-in-one package that does a great job cleaning without getting too loud.
2. Record Doctor V
Record Doctor’s V is a more entry-level record cleaning machine that’s great if you don’t have a lot of space.
Instead of having a vacuum suction tube on top of your record, the machine sucks dirt from the underside of your album. The Record Doctor V uses the same type of cleaning mechanism as our other recommendations, but it’s only semi-automatic. You need to physically turn the album using a “record turner,” which is included in the box. It requires a little effort, but you’ll end up clean records at half the price of the other record cleaning machines in this guide.
The lack of motor also makes this our smallest recommendation: It’s just 12.5 inches wide and 7-inches tall. Record Doctor includes a 118 mL bottle cleaning fluid and an applicator brush that makes the liquid easy to apply thoroughly. The company doesn’t say anything about how loud the suction tube is but it shouldn’t be too overwhelming, especially since there’s no motor inside. Maintaining the machine is simple: clean the brush attached to the vacuum tube gently, and drain the liquid from its reservoir by pulling a plug on its back.
If you don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease, the Record Doctor V is a powerful way to thoroughly clean your records.
3. Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU
Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU is a premium record cleaning machine designed to help you save the dirtiest of records.
The company calls the VC-S2 a “reference grade” cleaning machine, with a motor that takes just two seconds to completely turn a record. Pro-Ject recommends spinning the record one rotation forward and one rotation in reverse for the best results, which means you can fully clean a record in under five seconds.
An aluminum clamp keeps your record in place while it spins to ensure the vacuum can thoroughly clean every inch. Pro-Ject includes a 500mL bottle of cleaning fluid, so you can start using it right of the box. There’s no information on how quiet this record cleaning machine is, but it’s probably louder than our other recommendations because of its more powerful motor. That motor also contributes to its size: at 21.8 inches tall and 17.2 inches wide it’s the largest record cleaning machine we’re recommending.
Despite its power, the Pro-Ject VC-S2 is actually easier to maintain than the other machines in this guide. The dirt it collects is stored in a 2.5 Liter container, which Pro-Ject says doesn’t need to be cleaned very often because of its size. The liquid inside will evaporate, so as long as it doesn’t get full (this takes thousands of records) you should be fine.
Pro-Ject’s VC-S2 ALU is the biggest, most powerful record cleaning machine we’ve come across, and it’s the ultimate way to restore and maintain your albums.