Degritter is a compact automatic cleaning machine designed by a very young, very passionate team in Tartu in Estonia. Very solidly built and beautifully finished, it features four 120kHz ultrasonic devices powered by a 300W amplifier. The manufacturer claims this much higher frequency makes cleaning more efficient and effective.
However, what marks the Degritter out is its sheer simplicity and elegance. It does a thorough cleaning job in a short space of time with minimal fuss. You just put an LP in, select one of the three washing options, and in about 5 to 10 minutes you have a clean, dry LP. That’s it – easy-peasy!
Because some records are dirtier than others, there’s a choice of Quick, Medium, and Heavy wash cycles. These last for 2m 15s, 3m 45s, and 6m 45s respectively. Drying times can be increased or decreased as required, as can the fan power. Increasing fan power speeds up the drying process but results in more noise. The reverse is true, too; reduced fan power lowers noise, but lengthens drying time. The choice is yours. Use the Medium (3m 45s) wash for typical LPs that are not too heavily soiled.
Degritter’s recommended cleaning fluid is distilled water, which you buy locally. A small bottle of ‘cleaning fluid’ comes with the machine. You use about 2ml of this fluid per tank of water; it acts as a wetting agent to enable the ultrasonic process to work more effectively. A replaceable filter keeps the water clean and free from debris. Still, it’s advisable to change the water regularly, especially if cleaning old dirty ‘charity shop’ LPs caked in dust and finger marks. If you see drying marks after cleaning, then the water needs replacing.
Degritter supplies optional inserts for 7” and 10” records, its record cleaning fluid and the replacement mentioned above filters should you clean records at a prodigious rate. If you go into a full-on cleaning frenzy, you might also decide on the optional external water tank, as it allows faster changes of distilled water.
After cleaning 50 LPs, Degritter tells you the foam filter needs cleaning. It’s straightforward to do, and – unlike some rival ultrasonic cleaners – there are no expensive pads or brushes that need regular replacement. If you stick to distilled water, Degritter is exceptionally cheap to run.
However, this is perhaps running away with the review. To clean, or not to clean, that is the question! Every serious audiophile playing vinyl eventually has to consider whether or not to invest in some form of wet record cleaning machine – especially once you start buying secondhand vinyl.
There’s an old argument about not cleaning records. This states that it’s less damaging to play at most use a record brush, and the only cleaning required is to remove crud build-up at the stylus. In fairness, wet cleaning LPs can be a messy and involved process. It’s potentially harmful too; ham-fisted wet cleaning can leave LP surfaces sounding noisy.
But the keyword in all this is ‘old’; the argument comes from when most record sales were of new LPs. Moreover, even if you’re meticulous in the handling and storing LPs and always treating new vinyl with the utmost care and respect, wet cleaning is still beneficial. It can reduce surface noise, improve sound quality, and extend your pick-up’s peak working life.
Good-quality vacuum suction cleaning machines are now fairly common, and many do the job exceptionally well. However, the last few years have seen the emergence of cleaning machines using ultrasonic technology. These usually work around 35–40kHz and bombard the vinyl’s surface with ultrasonic waves that help the liquid dislodge dirt – even in the tiniest crevices. Degritter is a fine example of this new wave in record cleaning. Nearly all LPs, regardless of age or country of origin, respond positively to wet cleaning. Lightly brush the edge of your hand over the surface, and you’ll feel a slight ‘pull’. After cleaning, the surface feels much smoother – your hand encounters less resistance if you gently brush it.