Pro-Ject VC-S3 Record Cleaning Machine Review

Posted on 17th July, 2023

Pro-Ject VC-S3 Record Cleaning Machine Review

Chris Frankland tries out a neat new, affordably priced record cleaning machine…

Pro-Ject

VC-S3 Record Cleaning Machine

£499 RRP

Do you have records that sound as if someone has eaten their breakfast off them? I can hear shouts of 'yes' already because, let's face it, we all have albums like that – especially if, like me, you buy lots of secondhand vinyl. Help is at hand because Pro-Ject Audio Systems has just improved its range of record-cleaning machines…

A while ago, I borrowed a VC-S2 from my local hi-fi dealer and spent an intensive but rewarding weekend cleaning my vinyl collection, and I was mightily impressed with how good a job it made of the task. Since then, I have bought many new and secondhand records that could use a clean, so when I heard that Pro-Ject had brought out an improved VC-S3 version, that trail of dust was me as I rushed to the phone to order one to try!

The original VC-E and VC-S2 machines came out in 2016. Pro-ject has made many refinements to the new one – a sturdier cabinet with 5mm thick aluminium composite panels, a magnetic record clamp, improved motors, new vacuum arm strips to improve the interface between it and the record and eco-friendly, pre-mixed, alcohol-free cleaning fluid. The smaller VC-E2 is intended for use in more compact spaces and for smaller record collections, whereas the S3 is designed to handle bigger cleaning jobs.

GETTING GOING

Setting up the VC-S3 was a doddle. Simply attach the bush to the shaft of the record platter and then push it to the motor spindle, locking it in place with the Allen key provided. You may need to fine-tune the height at which it sits. I initially set it too low, and the suction of the vacuum arm lifted the record off the platter and stopped it rotating. That done, the magnetic clamp will hold that grubby little LP that has been bugging you with its nasty crackles and pops firmly in place. Finally, place the vacuum arm on its mount, and it's ready for action.

Pro-Ject says to use 3ml of fluid per side. No measuring device is provided, but I used a half-teaspoon measure (2.5ml) and added a bit more for luck. You could also use a 5ml medicine measuring spoon and guesstimate 3ml. The motor toggle switch on the side of the machine has three positions, allowing the record to be rotated in both directions, and below that is the switch for the vacuum function.

To clean a record, simply clamp it on the platter, set it rotating, pour on the fluid and use the brush provided to spread it evenly and at the same time, dislodge any stubborn dirt or residue in the grooves. Pro-Ject recommends reversing the direction of rotation and giving it another good brush. Then stop it, swing the vacuum arm into place, start it rotating again and switch on the vacuum. While most of the fluid is removed within a couple of rotations, it can take a minute or so for the final traces to be removed. I suggest letting it dry for a minute or so before putting it back in the sleeve. Pro-Ject says the fluid tank should not normally need emptying, due to evaporation.

IN USE

Don't think this machine's usefulness stops at secondhand records, because new albums also benefit from a clean. Why? Because pressing plants add a so-called 'release agent' to the vinyl to make it easier to eject albums from the mould, and this stays in the groove and attracts dust and other contaminants. Cleaning a brand-new album will help remove these and, in turn, also improve its sound. This was clear to hear when I played my new copy of the classic Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto album that features Girl from Ipanema sung by Astrud Gilberto. After a clean, the record sounded crisper, vocals were better defined, the bass line seemed tighter, and Astrud's vocals were even more sensual.

I also treated a gaggle of old Bonnie Raitt albums that I was lucky enough to pick up secondhand recently, and there is no doubt that the clicks, crackles and pops were dramatically reduced or even eradicated. At the same time, the sound again was cleaner and better focused. I had similar success with many more of my slightly less-than-pristine secondhand purchases, too!

THE VERDICT

Project's new VC-S3 is a doddle to use, and in my case, it got rid of annoying crackles and pops and in some cases, improved the sound. It can't work miracles, though, so if your noise is down to record damage, you are stuck with that. Yet it certainly makes LP records sound better and removes the irritation caused by accumulated dust and debris. It also makes new albums sound better if you clean them before the first play. It isn't the world's best record cleaner, but its combination of high performance and relatively low price is rare. Indeed, I call it a bargain!

For more information visit Pro-Ject

    Chris Frankland's avatar

    Chris Frankland

    One of StereoNET’s most experienced reviewers, Chris has written for a multitude of hi-fi magazines, from Hi-Fi Answers and Hi-Fi Sound, to The Flat Response and Hi-Fi Review. A regular concert-goer, his quest continues to find hi-fi that gets as close as possible to conveying the raw emotion of live music.

    Posted in:Hi-Fi Turntables
    Tags: pro-ject  henley audio 

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