Kirmuss Audio Versus The LAST Factory! Gloves On! Rabbits Off!

If you've watched the "RMAF Wrap-up" video on the AnalogPlanet YouTube channel (which today hit 30,000 subscribers), you no doubt remember the surprise "name check" encounter with record restoration expert Charles Kirmuss. It wasn't a "set up". I happened to walk into the room where he was restoring records for attendees as he talked about LAST Record Preservative and said "unlike Michael Fremer who...."—well watch the video below.

Mr. Kirmuss avers that I claim that LAST is not a "coating," while Kirmuss insists it is, using high resolution microscopy to prove his point. He also claims that his cavitation process can remove the "coating" and greatly improve the sound. You'll see that on the video. I respond that I don't really know but that all I'm doing is repeating what The LAST Factory claims, which is that the preservative is not a coating.

Once home from RMAF I decided to contact The Last Factory to get their side of this. So, below you'll find the video excerpt of my surprise encounter with Mr. Kirmuss and below that the downloadable PDF of the letter I received from the folks at The LAST Factory disputing Kirmuss's claim. I have The LAST Factory's permission to offer you the PDF.

Please watch, read and comment!

Fremer walks in as Kirmuss "name checks" him regarding LAST Preservative
Please download and read The LAST Factory's response to Kirmuss's claims about its preservative fluid.

COMMENTS
cdvinyl's picture

I think both products work well. Probably better that Charles just stick with what his machine does well rather than presenting it as the last word in cleaning.

Anton D's picture

The 11 micron claim is bogus.

That doesn't mean people can't like the Kirmiss Solution, just that that data point is in error.

I sort of choose not to believe any of them completely.

Do people still believe the 24 hour vinyl recovery time myth?

ckirmuss's picture

As explained, we have applied cleaning products to many records. We have then cured the record for one month in a hot box after following manufacturer's instructions. Then we took signal and thickness measurements. Please check the Keyscience web site for what we can do with their microscope. As it relates to a coating, with a two step process using the prescribed cleaner, then the prescribed preservative, we measured a 9 to 11 micron difference on records. Our process sees sheets of water and water beading on a record likewise processed appear. This is not normal. Using now a 2 minute cycle sees our restoration process remove not only a coating/residues but also the release agent, considered also a coating.. Using the microscope: seen in the image, a dust particle embedded in the groove of which a simple brushing cannot remove. Added where air bubbles are present in the left over material on the record. If you wish to receive the imagery taken of records before and after our restoration process, please use the Kirmuss web site portal and ask for information. Imagery has been shared with journalists such as Mr. Fremer.

Anton D's picture

Here are EM images of a LAST treated and untreated LP...

https://www.stereophile.com/images/95last.grooves.jpg

At the EM level, do you realize the differences that should be evident with a 11 micron "film?" Are these differences present in the EM image? I think they are not.

The full article about LAST.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/last-record-preservation-treatment

The 11 micron film claim is not correct.

For fun, we can talk about the surface area of an LP...

12 inch diameter, but with added surface area from grooves...so let me be lazy and just call it a 12 inch disc, we can say the label area makes up for the added surface area of the grooves being cut in.

So, call it 113 square inches. Almost 80,000 square millimeters.

2 oz of LAST will treat 90 records.

So, about .02 oz LAST per LP. That's about .6 milliliters.

80,000 square mm with 11 microns deep film...would require too much fluid to match your claim.

My math may be off, but wouldn't that be about .00000014 ml of LAST per square mm of LP? That won't get you 11 microns thick.

Again, feel free to correct my math.

Am I off?

ckirmuss's picture

Noted your email, thank you. You are missing the point of the exercise. First and foremost and respectfully, one should not take for gospel everything that one reads at times. In this case we have provided measurements and the like of record height and groove size before and after using our process. As to the image shown, perhaps an image taken a dozen or two more decades ago, kindly send me your email address via our portal. This as I am unable to attach the images that we took in our process with a current state of the art 2D/3D microscope. In the images that I have referred to they are highly detailed, much more than the rendition you sent as a link. We are able to see in the 3D renditions the full details of the music in the groove, not just a 2D surface view as depicted in your link. Using the Keyscience digital microscopy system we can also measure the record before and after restoration. I am not discussing record groove wear and the like. Or molecules. The crust of the matter, pardon the pun, is where our process removes all coatings, including the release agent and thus exposing the breath of the music for the needle to pick up. As to the application of product in our testing, noted where ideally the cleaner was to have removed the release agent, the preservative changing the structure of the record. In the previous email the embedded dust particle in our image taken does not come out unless we use our process. We cannot determine if it was fixed in the groove by way of the cleaner or by the preservative. For us it does not matter as we remove all materials including the remnants of the release agent. As Mr. Fremer has stated later, no need to do anything to a record, just to play it. (Munich 2019 I believe).

As to the article on LAST referred to that was published in 2015 all that I can say is where if indeed molecular structure of the record was changed one should not be able to measure a change in the record size and it should not affect signal level when measured. It should also not embed dust or dirt, one would think. It should not lock in air bubbles as seen in the 2D imagery taken by our camera. If we have changed the structure, why then does the application "wear out".
Is there an issue with the release agent and the cleaner/preservative? Not of our concern or our discussion. The issue is moot as we only focus on record restoration.

We further do not care about what is being applied to the record and its advertised functions. That is not the point. It serves no purpose to us, only how our agent applied to the record affects our time cycle to restore a record. Mr. Fremer of course is a journalist and thinks this is a boxing match for rabbits and where perhaps readers see us attacking our peers. This is furthest from the truth. Surrounding all of this and our take , we have reflected on the fact where PVC should by nature repel water. That is one of the qualities of PVC. We noticed where using the habitual 5 minute cycle in our process to restore records, noted where whatever was found on the record's surfaced was repelling our ionizing agent prematurely. This discovered by the sheets of water appearing on the record as the record was removed after the first five minute cycle in our process. Thus, we changed the process to 2 minutes and removed all contaminants in record time, and the measurement of the record after processing saw the measured result. It speaks for itself.
In our lab tests we purchased many cleaners and agents for records. All in an attempt to note on something that was repelling our ionizing agent and washing it off prematurely.

Back to our imagery:
To summarize: The point being made is where we have noted if we have sheets of water on the record we need to modify our process.

...By changing the process to 2 minute cycles from 5 minute cycles, we then restore a record in 12 minutes on average versus the 60 plus minutes experienced if we did not note the ionizing surfactant being washed off prematurely as described.

I am not making any suggestions as to what products claim they do. Only how to remove them.

Do send me a request for imagery via our web portal.
Will gladly send you imagery. Seeing is believing as well as hearing the difference our process offers. 1,800 users in a year so far have witnessed first hand what restoration is about. Again, we are interested in aiding music lovers on how to use our system, not comment on what cleaners etc. do.

Goatboy's picture

Notwithstanding that Kirmuss' system can clean vinyl, he presents as a man out of time who wold be more at ease handing out potions from the back of a wagon to frontier rubes.

mraudioguru's picture

...of the first LAST dealers when they went retail. That was in the early 1980's. I have used LAST product since day one and have NEVER encountered any problems of any kind.

No record hits my turntable(s) until it has been cleaned and LASTed...period.

Anton D's picture

Sometimes, the long time product doesn't have the 'sex appeal' of new stuff. LAST's longevity is a good statement, and your endorsement is useful.

Keen Observer's picture

I just wish I hadn't put those LAST stickers on my album labels back in the 70s/80s.

Zardoz's picture

Every time I pull out an album with one of those LAST stickers on it, I ask myself how could I have been so dumb as to put a sticker on the cover? Live and learn, I guess.
I haven't use LAST in a long time, but now I'm thinking I should start up again.
Good listening,
Z

Paul Boudreau's picture

I did that too and also can’t believe I did it. Resealable outer sleeves solve that problem but back then I didn’t care about the album covers that much. So it goes...

Michael Fremer's picture
I had one on my original copy of Peter Townshend and Ronnie Lane's "Rough Mix" album. Classic Records reissued it and asked to borrow my copy to scan the cover, which they did. The scanned the "LAST" sticker too of course and so every reissue has a LAST sticker that definitely won't come off!
Vinyl On Tubes's picture

I have that album. Where is the sticker? It's a very busy cover with all the postage stamp.

arlissed's picture

I just looked it up on Discogs. Yup, it's there, on the back! Love it.

ChrisM's picture

very similar, good choice.
I bought a bottle of last a year or two, and never used it. I'll wait until the end of the match.
In between I like the explanation from Last about the change of the vinyl's molecular structure, they made a good point.
Kirmuss : 1
Last : 1

kmp14's picture

I was actually considering a Kirmuss, and I am also due to order some more LAST preservative. My gut instinct after watching this video and reading LAST's thoughtful response is to order more LAST as planned, and not purchase a Kirmuss. I may still order a different cleaning system though. Just my gut reaction, no affiliation either way.

Michael Fremer's picture
Because of his excesses. The machine is quite good, and very reasonably priced. It's the easiest to use "vat" type machine IMO
ckirmuss's picture

Our process sees sheets of water and hundreds of water droplets remain on the record after our first 5 minute cycle. One of the attributes of vinyl less a coating whether or not is a release agent or other residue...is where PVC by its nature repels water. A view of one of the images taken using a process that was described in another post sees a dust particle embedded in the residue of the cleaning agent, i call it a coating. Cannot say more but if one were to "clean a record", a dust particle should not be cemented into a record's groove or surface, a reasonable person would think. In any event, this beading leads us to change our restoration and not cleaning process to 2 minute cycles instead of 5, and then finally remove the original release agent which has captured the micro welded dust and dirt and contaminants for decades.

Lincoln Matt's picture

Kirmuss can be his own worst enemy. Why go after another manufacturer? Promote your product on its capabilities without disparaging another product - in this case one that doesn't directly compete against a product he is selling. His machine looks like a good product, I'm just a bit reluctant to deal with him.

Matt

Uncle Taiji's picture

The LAST Factory began in 1979 according to its website. I've been preserving my vinyl with LAST Record Preservative for about that long it seems. Never have had any problem! In the past two weeks, after getting a new phono preamp, I've been playing a discovered cache of about 50 albums I ultrasonically cleaned and LAST treated in January 2015. I'd not played any of them back then. A number of the albums are un-played 'new' MoFi's and the rest flea market treasure/trash. The new/old MoFi's are impeccable, and the flea market stuff variable. Not a hint of a coating masking the sound. My cartridge has a Fritz Gyger FG80 stylus profile.

Let me put into play a strong recommendation for Mr. Davies 'other analog' preservative, i.e. his reel-to-reel tape preservative. I have a large collection of the Barclay-Crocker 7.5IPS Dolby reel-to-reel prerecorded albums, mostly classical. The special LAST 'Tape Preservative' is also great stuff. Just got a Project cleaner as an accessory to my ultrasonic cleaner (its the 'Hillbilly' one, a bit of a PITA). I'll be LAST treating all the new vinyl albums I have on hand (a bunch).

Linmon's picture

I'm Curious, what phono pre-amp did you get?

Uncle Taiji's picture

PS Audio Stellar Phono Preamp (SPP).

Previously I'd been using the PS Audio New Wave Phono Converter with a "Bob's Devices" Step Up Transformer (Blue cans model). I'm had a long history of being a recordist/archivist, hence the ADC of the NPC was part of the decision set. Upgraded both ADC/DAC to the German RME Adi-2 Pro FS, which seems awesome for the purpose/price.

The current cartridge is the Ortofon Rondo Bronze (very little time on it); with an upgrade arriving tomorrow if UPS is to be believed of the Soundsmith Sussurro Mk.II - all bucket list stuff for me since I've apparently gotten old.

John

One Good Ear's picture

Full disclosure: I was the Canadian Sales Manager for CKirmuss until roughly 6 months ago.
As such, I worked closely with him at trade shows and saw first hand the development of his "schpiel".
First thing everyone needs to know is that I believe that the machine, which is awfully similar to the one available from Alibaba ( https://www.alibaba.com/product-detail/Codyson-used-household-digital-pr...) is a good unit.
It does, however, have a couple of issues which have been outlined by others in numerous blogs and conversations: the "restoration" process being too long, the surfactant (an unmarked bottle of ??) that costs $80/300ml to replace (in Canadian Dollars...so probably only $5 US...LOL!) doesn't LAST very long, and yes...the unit overheats...often! My guess is that the lid is part of the problem for this LAST issue.
Truth be told, had Michael not pASTed by CK's booth with his video camera at Axpona, the machine would probably not have had the success that it has had.
Mr. (NOT DOCTOR!) Kirmuss then showed his process to Michael again in Munich (with the famous "Fungus among us") and the subsequent report which was titled "If Charles Kirmuss's Record Cleaning Machine and Regimen Are Correct, Are Everyone Else's Wrong? *"
Please note, at that time, the companies he was "against" were his direct competitors: KL Audio, AudioDesk and the Codyson unit mentioned earlier. Not one mention of LAST. We were at THE Show in California and clearly the bulk of his efforts were geared toward defending the lack of a drying system (or vacuum) on his machine. At one point in Chicago, he had said that he would make one which would be an "add-on" but then switched it up by mentioning the "Venturi Effect" instead. This became his new "schpiel" and sounded more scientific!
Then came the "wait at least 24 hours before re-playing a track on your record"...which leads to the point that these were all things he was adding as we went from show to show. In Toronto, he started talking of the "dB gain"...a new addition to the repertoire! It is at this show that someone brought us a record which took roughly 20-25 x 3-5 minute cycles to clean ...it was pearling and his surfactant simply wasn't cutting through. I think he would still be going at it had we not both decided that something was wrong after roughly an hour of cleaning. At that moment, WITH ZERO PROOF OF WHAT HE WAS CLAIMING; LAST & L'Art Du Son became his new targets! He could not prove which product had been used but there and then, he started the "anti-LAST" rant.
It was then added to his presentation in Washington DC the second his process would see "pearls" on a record...
I would like to point out the obvious, until that show in Toronto, he had NEVER mentioned issues with LAST. It is also at the Toronto show, roughly 6 months after the initial launch of his product, that he started advertising it as a "Restoration System"...a good marketing verbiage but unfortunately something that lead me to begin doubting him. Too many changes from show to show for my personal taste... I actually believe that he began drinking his own Kool-Aid (or surfactant!)!

His latest addition is that his machine can clean records in 2 minutes...because I believe the pushback to the length of his process is finally wearing him down... Even Michael points out on numerous occasions that we have better things to do than CLEANING records; Like "listening to them for one thing" or having a normal life for another! Here is the bottom line: The real process takes typically 25-30 minutes (for 2 LP's) but the machine will be overheating roughly at the 30 minute mark, if not sooner... so this is the real issue: How many records will you be able to clean in an hour? 2? 4? Even if we make it 6... when your collection is in the thousands, you may want to hire someone to start cleaning your records! It simply becomes too much of a chore!

As for LAST, I appreciate their fight back because their answers are based on scientific data which really does make sense...
My 2 cents (which equal about $10 Canadian!)

DaveyF's picture

Seems like your points are fairly well known to most here, but if there are folks who have not seen the light about Mr.Kirmuss and his machine, your post is something to ponder.
I was one of the folks who asked Kirmuss about his drying issue ( one of the BIG reasons why i wouldn't touch his machine) at that show. His response was laughable. I left questioning why he did not just come out and tell me that it was one of the problems with his machine and that this is what one gets for the price....after all his competitors are multiples in $$, an answer which would be understandable. Instead, he 'BS's me about the issue and makes himself look more like a snake oil salesman...NOT smart IMHO.

Michael Fremer's picture
I am glad you disclosed your former affiliation and we are in agreement that Mr. Kirmuss can be an "over the top" presenter and that he's made some outrageous and/or malicious claims over the couple of years he's been in business, including insisting to me that the AudioDesk unit does not include a cavitation generator, which of course it does. He had to back off of that one among others, but your claim that the Codyson unit is "awfully similar" to what Kirmuss sells is really your "cop out" because you don't know (nor do I) whether or not it's identical to the Codyson. I spoke to someone at Codyson who told me that Kirmuss buys them from them and what he buys is the stock one they sell. Kirmuss claims he modifies them in his facility. Unfortunately, because of his many misstatements and exaggerations, it's difficult to take him at face value and I've told him so. So until someone does some kind of measurement analysis we simply do not know. That said, his spinning mechanism (whatever its shortcomings re: clips, etc.) is easily the best of its kind and he should be commended for that as well as for the reasonable price he charges for the unit. I am also convinced that his "restoration" process does in fact remove layers of "baked on" cleaners and surfactants, based on listening tests using before and after recordings, though I've not done an SPL test. As for overheating, there are two easy solutions: one is to use clean blue freezer packs and the other is to just spend $2.00 and change the water!
ckirmuss's picture

The Owner of KirmussAudio, here… I usually do not respond to a forum of this nature and unlike the homeland security technology arena that I operate in for 4 decades it has come to light where in the audio world everyone has their own views and opinions and in some of these postings individuals even attack each other. Also when sour grapes are involved, one should not hide behind the guise of a very well respected forum. Not saying this is the situation here but where I, as a tenderfoot in this industry, recall where a year or so ago I read in one of these forums where some record enthusiasts were making their own cleaning solutions. Mentioned was 30% Tergitol mixed in with other chemicals including an anti-water agent Photoflow to clean records. In reading this and in seeing the danger I responded based on scientific proof referencing the Dow Chemical Company MSD sheet as to California Proposition 62 where Tergitol with Ethelene Oxide is both a cancer causing agent and is not very favorable to PVC per the PVC Chemical Compatibility Chart. To my surprise, out of the woodwork came dozens of arm chair experts stating the contrary. I then let the arm chair experts fight it out amongst themselves. Some journalists dissuaded me from doing so in the future after seeing the barrage created. It was my first and last effort to assist as an Educator and to provide generic information in such an unfamiliar medium to me to an Audiophile market.
I do appreciate where a well moderated blog sees merit. Hence this response to the post made from the land of the great white north and respond to points raised. Most if not all false. This forum again is not to disparage any manufacturer or product. Our reference to LAST is where we have to change our process as you will see. As a precursor, in our investigation of vinyl as well as wax cylinders I have published a technical paper presented at the ARSC this past spring that was also submitted to the Record Academy regarding record restoration. Obviously this also covers surface cleaning. This is an industry first. Why, because of our scientific method.

Overview: All of our statements are backed by measurement of various kinds as to the effectiveness of our restoration process. …And also the results of using other cleaning topologies, I might add. This indirectly as we have to change our process to accommodate films and perceived coatings discovered, other than the release agent. Measurements, hmmmm. For cleaning???? We discuss gain over floor in decibels, groove size, (before and after restiration), effects of needle dyne, pop count (using SC-1 Sugar Cube from Sweet Vinyl), and the like. Surprisingly my contemporaries in the cleaning arena do not do this. Further, as I work with lithium ion batteries which have restrictions, we disclose fully the composition of our ionizing surfactant and needle cleaner, this for safety, compatibility to PVC, as well as to meet shipping regulations. So we are uniquely different, certainly Disruptive of the establishment perhaps, but working with scientific information that is openly shared. We do not merit the fairy tale necessitating this reply. In all this there must be some method to the madness as where our end results in record restoration have been globally validated by industry veterans/journalists such as Mr. Fremer, Mr. Rigby, Lynette Smith, and Custodians such a Lowell Graham, UofTEP, among others. To further receive consideration from companies that are in the high end sector that also use our process to aid their demonstrations of their own developments surrounding vinyl as the audio source is very heart warming. Indeed they also see this pooling of water on a record at times.. I doubt they would drink our Kool-Aid if not real. So some information to share, and in no particular order.

1) Venturi: Not a term that we have invented. If you recall your high school automotive and physics classes or have worked within a lab or in a technical or aerospace environment, “Venturi” or “Venturi Termed vacuum generators” both categorized, create vacuums using a venturi chamber that is designed to move gases or fluids out of a region of space. (to another). Venturi or fluid jet vacuum generators rely on the flow of compressed air, gas, or liquid or rapidly moving air or water (with pressure differential) as the "motive" fluid or power to pull or create a vacuum at a desired port. If we relate to a wet and/or a dry vacuum as used in vacuum based record cleaning machines , water with soap first, then dust particles are drawn into a plastic tube and are pulled. Areas of high and low pressure exist. Liquids first, then air and dust follow in these processes. It is the latter I also comment as a known result of result of Venturi on plastic where air and these moving particles cause the build up of static electricity and “charges” the record with the air moving across the record. In reviewing images taken of records, (before and after process) they acknowledge the fact where the pressure differential in operation of these systems then sees dust brought back ultimately onto the record and into the grooves. Also with air and non mechanical drying the addition of a film or residue resides on the record which we can easily measure, both mechanically and audibly, depending the solution used as a cleaning agent. The mention of the Venturi effect thus relates to records and record cleaning processes using a vacuum. Coincidently, many audiophiles have commented as to their witnessing of added static on the record using such a cleaning method even if water and soap were mediums brushed onto the record, and added dust. I cannot say more but where we have seen as a result anti static guns as well as anti static turntable pads and brushes advertised and sold.
I can spend more time on this. I believe I have responded where I have not created this term.
2) Coatings: I personally am not concerned about whether or not LAST or L'Art du Son or another agent was used in a record, this as our Canadian knows full well.. And whatever was used prior on a record as a cleaner, or anything else. Liquid or process. Or any other product sold as a cleaner that leaves residues on records. We need to remove these to reach the release agent. We need to also do so efficiently. Mr. Fremer always has an eye out for a good story. At the RMAF 2019 in Denver a potential customer came in with a record. While our system was being operated he asked us why in the demonstration we all saw after our first cycle of 5 minutes with our ionizing agent applied where there was left on the record tremendous amounts (sheets) of water, as well as hundreds of water droplets collecting on the record’s surface. Known: Clean records should totally repel water. In the post I am responding to our former agent who for one reason or another failed to note in the post where both he and I had seen this phenomenon emerge at the Washington DC Capital Audio Show (2018), and where this also was witnessed at the Toronto Audio Fest. (2018) The fact of the matter has nothing to do with hardware. (To note at these shows as well as others globally we accommodate visitors and restore their records at no charge). In Toronto we were told where records showing this water sheeting were cleaned originally using L’Art du Son, this by record reseller selling the used record. Note taken.. In DC the record owners stated as to the discovery of sheeting and water droplets to both of us after observation where they used LAST. (Also validated later by finding by accident the LAST sticker on one of the processed record’s outer sleeve). Note taken once more. My colleague and I in DC reverted to 2 minute cycles and were able to restore these used records in 12 minutes versus trying to restore the record with 5 minute cycles that we originally prescribed in our manual. The latter saw us taking over an hour to no avail. Same was the case in Toronto. Why state otherwise, I ask? Now the change in procedure is part of the Kirmuss training program. … So back to RMAF: (as we do at all global record washing events), we then further now instruct potential users and our audience where if they now encountered this phenomenon, (sheeting etc..), one must revert to 2 minute cycles. This as there is a “coating on the record”. General term, coating. Using more than 2 minutes in our machine in such a case sees our ionizing surfactant being washed off too quickly by the water used and thus not seeing the attacking plasma wave touch the groove.

To close the loop: Back at the lab it was necessary to do a scientific study, not just an ad hoc change to the 5 minute process as in DC and Toronto, even if at these two shows the modification to our process worked and resulted in dry records coming out of our machine after restoration, all this needed more analysis. So in the lab: Records from the same pressing were purchased. Records were measured physically and for sound. Measurements noted. Records were cleaned following manufacturer guidelines. Some had a 2 step process prescribed with 2 product SKU’s. Then they were cured in a thermal chamber for one month at 95 deg F, and 42% humidity. (accelerated ageing). Records saw measurements taken once more (signal, size)... Records were then also subject to our restoration process. Then more measuring. Added: Before and after pictures were taken using the Keyscience VHX 7000 series 2D/3D microscope. The visual end result was very well noted with a 9 to 11 micron decrease increase in record height after processing with our system. ...Indicating a coating... thickness depending on the product applied and also process used. We of course removed this. Records do not grow by themselves. Pre and Post audio signals were also measured. In all this to our surprise we also discovered a piece of dust captured in the groove of one of the cleaned records, and with also air bubbles caught on the surface of the record in the coating measured. Brushing with a wet or dry brush did not dislodge the trapped dust particle. (With this visual inspection any reasonable lay person would assume if something changes the molecular structure of a record one should not see contaminants “glued” into a groove, or see added height or change in size.). Our process is to remove films, contaminants and release agent. Correctly noted in another post: When you are using a 2000 X magnification it is very hard to see the exact same spot. Especially where I personally did not MARK in a permanent fashion by way of a scratch and paint the area. I could see where someone would think this is not accurate. While this mistake is acknowledged, the coating of the measurement of the record throughout stands. The before and after process images are true.

To not confuse the effort made at RMAF 2019 it should be restated: we were trying to explain to potential users of our system to know when users need to change to 2 minute cycles from 5 minutes. That was the intent. Not a rabbit boxing match! Noted at RMAF where after our changing to a 2 minute cycle based on what was learned in DC and Toronto last year, the record’s owner stated and confirmed to us where LAST was on the record as their own. Just as some in Toronto stating they used L'Art du Son. Our observation was totally validated by the owner of the record.

The video captured by Mr. Fremer is just a portion of the demonstration, one of several videos now presented. To note where our restoration process allows us to identify many of the past cleaning processes used on records. My former colleague can attest to this: vacuum cleaning, manual cleaning, cavitation systems by manufacturer.

3) To the machine: I have been using cavitation systems of many different types at various companies that I was either owner of, or chief executive of, since my work on the Canadarm of the space shuttle, this in 1978. Appreciating in our now 6 years of study of record cleaning processes of all kinds where a proper cavitation system with special processes attracting a plasma wave resulted in our patents received and pending. I use in my own factory the base ultrasonic manufactured one of the word’s leading sonic manufacturer for my own products. A different model was taken and modified by my own staff. Anyone dealing with overseas manufacturers knows never to diveluge the changes one is making to an existing design and to the base manufacturer who is an outside vendor. (Refer to my IP protection sessions that I present at the Global Sources HK Shows since 2007 on the web). Indeed, there is nothing hidden. That is where the similarities of sonics stop. Mr. Fremer was provided with pictures as to the difference of my product as it relates to control and function and MCU of an off the shelf product. Further, displays are totally different. Any laman can see by way of product and manual. Anyone with design and manufacturing experience knows full well where it is very reasonable for one to develop a product for a boutique, small volume industry, to first use at times strategic partners for base elements. With a base engine identified, in our case we developed a product and a solution and by creating a new product with engineered changes met our design directive. Not just a cover assembly, the process and the embellishments based on SWR studies resulted in a designed and patented product and process that we make changes to ourselves and manufacture as well ourselves as to the record assembly. With full disclosure given all our employees, hard to fathom the misinformation represented that I am now responding to. A process and model design changes not only validated by Mr. Fremer, but also seen by others. Proof is in the end result: now a year ago where Andre Jennings, Enjoy The Music, Steve Hoffman, and a host of others that all realized the genius of the development and gave us the momentum starting at AXPONA 2018. Not just Mr. Fremer alone.

4) To chemical mix and pricing to the audiophile. There are only three global manufacturers of my base mix. They are not located in the United States. To imply perhaps where my Company is perhaps gouging users cannot be further than the truth. We could have even sold our restoration machine for $2,000 or more, which we did not, as we believe everyone is a custodian of music and should have access to great original sound. Any reasonable businessman understands what costs are in manufacturing. In our business model, one cannot ship by sea our chemical base due to the high temperatures involved in a container that may be out on the open waters for 7 weeks or more. Internal container temperatures depending on where the containers are placed on the cargo ship can rise to over 150 deg F.. This adversely affects the structure of the chemical. Neither via Air Cargo can we ship without the agent being diluted. So, a shipment of five hundred 300 mL bottles premixed comes out to $9,800 by FEDEX, landed in Denver. That amounts to $19.60 per bottle. Final packaging, customs handling costs and duties, MDS Certification by a third party lab with annual renewals, as well as the cost of the solution and bottle, all not included in this $19.60. To see a Full Retail Unit Price of $90 with shipping with both a distributor and dealer as well as a factory agent making their percentage sees I believe the product to be very reasonably priced. My colleague knows the costs involved and to see someone say anyhing else is mis-representative of the facts. The offering is very honest and fair, would you not think? I nor my Company are cheating anyone. This comes out to an average cost to the audiophile of between 0.18- 0.28 cents a record. My contemporaries in the sonic side have time limited product usage of their mix and as such are significantly more expensive.

Indeed, I respect the comments made by everyone. I have taken the time to respond in kind unlike my peers to provide full details as to the our product listed in the MDS as well as referring to the PVC Chemical Compatibility Chart. Images taken from the Keyscience 2D/3D microscope and their measurements may be provocative, but the scientific method was followed. Indeed we are disruptive as we are using measuring instruments to back our claims.

Some have commented to my taking the lead at the forum that was moderated by Mr. Fremer at RMAF. I was invited, I came prepared with scientific documentation. I did not present myself with any equipment or liquid bsolutions for sale. As an Educator, it is important for any panelist to see a baseline standard set, for all lovers of music to “see the forest between the trees”, and to do so, to first understand how records are made, what is in the PVC mix, and then to relate to the PVC Chemical Compatibility Chart and to see what if any cleaning agents are PVC friendly. Study also of the plasticizers are needed as well. Hence my setting the stage for my Peers.

We are all custodian of records, records cannot be replaced once the artists, studios, sound board mixers and original pressing plants have left this earth. I take personal pride in seeing records owned by others being restored and to hear their brilliance as best we can to reflect on the original lacquer.

Please keep those records spinning, we are all custodians of records As a part time Educator, knowledge is power. The above responds to some of the points raised in two of the subject posts.

To Mr. Fremer's audience, I am sorry for bending your ear. I decided to make one concise reply and to counter a less than professional allegation made of my person and Company. Thank you for your time. Respectfully, Charles

Jeffrey Lee's picture

Kirmuss, you’re an idiot, but a truly dedicated idiot. Gotta respect the effort.

Bskeane's picture

I for one appreciate the post from One Good Ear a past employee of Kirmuss. You have confirmed what I believe many of us were already thinking. As I have previously stated, I had this machine and sold it for one of his competitors that takes much less time.

Thank you for coming forward with this response.

Michael Fremer's picture
Just curious because a few minutes' cavitation followed by a microfiber wipe takes very little time and I'm sure does as good a job as any other cavitation machine that doesn't claim to remove previously "baked in" fluids and surfactants.
OldschoolE's picture

Hi, "one good ear", I think I met you last year at a show. Thank you for the insider view of this. I have come to know Mr. Kirmuss and yes, he is over the top, but as you said, his machine is good. Sometimes one needs to judge the product separate from the representative.

I am not taking anyone’s side on this except my own. I would also point out that the machine you reference on Alibaba is a skewer transport system. Mr. Kirmuss is correct in his observations on this one, as far as he goes. I have done (and still do) my own studies on record cleaning from fluids to transport systems to methods, you name it. I ran tests for two years solid before finding the best methodology (I’ve been cleaning records for far longer). I did not and do not do this to try to become some expert or authority or what have you. I do it because I am a custodian of records for lack of a better term. I am passionate about records (music in general really) and I view records as historical documents of importance to be preserved and yes, enjoyed (that means played)! Rotating a record on a skewer for two minutes at 80-degree temperature or less will not likely do much harm if any. However, increase the time and temperature and you exponentially increase the potential to warp the spindle hole etc. Of course, Mr. Kirmuss uses the same bath machine but with modification to the temperature regulator and of course his transport invention, which I must admit is ingenious.

I also agree that there are actually two weak points to the system One is the over-heating. I agree that this is partly at least caused by the transport cover. As we know, cavitation itself produces heat and more so towards the surface of the water (it’s all molecular physics we don’t need to bore ourselves with here). The cover as you pointed out, traps that heat, like putting a lid on a skillet over a burner. This in turn cause the machine to overheat quicker. Mr. Kirmuss knew this and that is why he has an indicator light and instructions to lest the machine rest for 15 to 20 minutes every half hour or when the red light comes on, which ever occurs first. What his instructions fail to mention is to take the lid off during that time. Yes, I have one of his machines and this is what I do currently. I find that I can do about 12 records (two at a time) every other ½ hour or so at 5 minute runs. Recently though Mr. Fremer mentioned a good idea to speed up the cooling process that does no harm. His idea is to put a small blue ice thing or two in the vat during cool down! This would speed up the cool down period. I have not tried this yet, but I will soon as I will also be testing it to see if it extends the cleaning sessions by any measure as well.

The second weakness I have noted are the foam insert stabilizers. Mr. Kirmuss recommends taking them out and cleaning them after every session. I recommend against that because they are weak. The clips are plastic and thin to allow for springing. The problem is that the heat weakens them, so once you take them out a couple of times, they break off without touching them. My thought is since one is not supposed to put a very dirty record in any cavitation bath, the foam inserts stay relatively clean anyway. So, the only thing on the foam inserts is water, no worries, just leave them in. I do recommend getting a set of spares anyway, just in case. I feel the foam insert holders should have been made at least from aluminum or stainless steel or something that can resist weakening for heat or at least bounce back right away.

As for cleaning times, first let me say we agree again that we are “cleaning” records, not “restoring” them. Restoration infers replacement of worn or missing parts, make new again, etc. Nobody and no machine can do that (other than a record pressing machine making a new record, which would then be “replacement” and not “restoration”). That said though, cleaning records, getting the contaminants out of the grooves and what have you does indeed improve things greatly. The trick is to do it safely. Mr. Kirmuss’s machine is at the correct transducer frequency and temperature regulation, not to mention the ingenious transport. I waited a long time for someone to come out with a purpose-built cavitation machine for vinyl records that was correct in all ways, and the Kirmuss machine is that unit. The other thing about it that is good is the maintenance. Easy to drain and clean unlike some other $4k and $5k units I know, which are at the wrong frequency to start anyway.
I too was taken by surprise at the mention of a 2-minute clean cycle. I’m glad it was mentioned though because it got me thinking: Not every record needs a 5-minute cavitation cycle. As with any other valid method, cavitation cleaning goes so far and also depends on the item being cleaned. I already started experimenting with durations just before the mention of the 2-minute cycle. I have found that in some cases a 5-minute cycle makes no difference from a 2-minute cycle. So, I have determined that it depends. If a record has a substance on it that is difficult, such as dish soap residue or a lube-like product, then longer cycles (and often numerous ones) may be required. This is true even with other systems. However, for maintenance cleaning or records that don’t have such contaminates, shorter cycles will do.

As for drying, I also have a VPI 16.5 that I use for initial cleaning and treatment with AIVS fluids (Mr. Kirmuss doesn’t like enzymes either but doesn’t know or mention that there are different types such as synthetic (bad for records) and bio or plant-based (effective and safe for records) that rinse off completely. His thing about vacuum drying is a bit skewered as well. Yes, there is the venturi effect with poorly made vacuum systems, but well-made ones (such as the VPI) do not produce such risk. Its all about the seal. I also debunk the claim of static charging a record by vacuum drying. Yes, easily done if you over do it. It only takes two revolutions on the VPI and that is just under the threshold for that machine of building up a charge. (Of course, the number of revolutions and such can differ from machine to machine. Microfiber drying is fine (and more convenient for cavitation cleaning) as long as there are no contaminates remaining on the record that can be rubbed in or what have you.

As for LAST and the like, I have long been against such things as LAST, Gruv-Glide, etc. years long before this dust up. I don’t believe in the need to put any product on a record after cleaning. As we know, the needle generates heat as it travels the grooves, in turn any substance on the record or in the grooves will attach to the needle and potentially wick up the cantilever and into the cartridge workings. I don’t even agree with Mr. Kirmuss’s suggestion of spraying some of the “surfactant” on the record after cleaning. I mean, why do that? Makes no sense. I find it interesting that he calls it “polishing”.

Finally, this bit about waiting 24 hours before playing a record again, I say “nonsense”. Can one wear out a record? It is plausible, but not under normal conditions. If your tracking force is excessive and your cartridge is out of alignment, then yes, you are doing damage on first play, but that scenario is unlistenable, so you aren’t going to play a record that way anyway. Another way is if you were to play a record on the same side over and over without let up for 8 hours or so, you could potentially wear it down enough to change the sound and you would know it was worn. However, the catch here is that you will wear out hearing the record long before you wear it out physically. If you play a record twice within even a half hour, you are not wearing it down anymore than the normal microscopic level. It takes decades to wear out a record under normal conditions. I’ve got records that are 60 years old plus, and who knows how many times and on what they were played and they still sound good.

XjunkieNL's picture

Thanks for your input. On which experiment or research have you based the statement the KA-RC-1 is working at the correct transducer frequency.

OldschoolE's picture

I started researching cavitation cleaning of records when the first machines came out. Something about it bothered me. I spoke with a couple of undergrads and a professor who were studying the effects of cavitation on materials and one of the students happen to be using vinyl records as one of the materials. They were studying various aspects including frequency, time, array, etc. That is how I learned about it. They discovered that 35kHz at around a max of 5 minutes is the safe spot for soft PVC although recommended 3 to 4 minutes as most effective citing that more than that was unnecessary in a single bath. They also suggested that 40kHz could be used with a max of 2 minutes, but removal of plasticizer was higher risk. (Some plasticiser lives on or near the surface of the record. You would see this if you were to press your finger nail into the record...I don't recommend doing this just to prove yourself a point. I did this on the very edge of one of my records to see for myself, but you don't have to). They also found that array depends on the shape of the bath and volume of the vat as will as volume of materials being cleaned. So Mr. Kirmuss's claim of perfect array is a stretch.
This research is why I decided not to save up for a cavitation machine until someone came out with one at the correct specs. Despite Mr. Kirmuss's proclivity to the dramatic and stretching the truth, he did manage to come out with the correct machine that meets all foundational requirements so as to not turn records into pieces of plumbing. (Higher frequency transducers can turn records brittle over time).

XjunkieNL's picture

Interesting to learn that ultrasonic cleaning can remove plasticizers from the vinyl. I know with ultrasonic bubbles you have the chance to erode the surface. Although I believe higher frequencies lower that chance. Do you know with which mechanism the ultrasonic can remove the plasticizers from the vinyl? Is it a mechanical or chemical effect?

Michael Fremer's picture
Your comments are sensible and reasonable and I mostly agree with them. However, I have used LAST for decades and think it works as advertised with no downside. I remain skeptical of Kirmuss's claims about LAST when used as intended. Kirmuss's machine and especially the means by which the records spin is easily the best solution and the machine is reasonably priced. Also re: overheating, if the water gets too hot, just change it! Cost is a few bucks. And you are back in business.
OldschoolE's picture

I do acknowledge that LAST as it were, does not leave behind an obvious or clearly harmful residue as products like Gruv-glide and such, where you can see it with the naked eye at a glance. I have some skepticism with LAST claims as well, but not over the top skepticism. I just have a personal strong belief in not putting anything on a record except a carbon fiber brush for dusting or the like and the stylus for playing. I think it is really a “to each their own” thing frankly when it comes to LAST or really any other “record preserve or enhancement” product. Use at own risk.

There are a few claims Mr. Kirmuss makes even from the beginning that I remain skeptical of and I have come up with my own regimen. One example: the “polish” step of spraying the propyl surfactant after cleaning the record before playing or putting away.

As for overheating: Part of the issue is that it happens rather quickly with the machine, about after 45 minutes pass or so (assuming 5-minute cycles). So, credit to you, I personally think your idea of dropping a blue ice thing or two in the tank during cool down is ingenious, even more cost effective (if the water is not dirty enough to be changed). Of course, if the water is somewhat murky or what have you, then yeah, it best be changed.

I agree about the machine completely, it is easily the best solution thus far! Therein lies the rub, it would be much better if Mr. Kirmuss let it sell itself as it were, and he can just stick to the facts and why and the idea behind it without the over the top stuff and wild claims. He is creating too much work for himself. Like you said, “his own worst enemy”. I believe his intentions are nothing but good, I think that is pretty clear, I think his passion is real, he just needs to stay grounded.

Michael Fremer's picture
You can change the water for $2.00 and be back in business rather than waiting for the cool down. I also find the microfiber drying regimen takes less time than fan-drying and I like the results. I still use the AudioDesk too...
OldschoolE's picture

and the microfiber drying is far more convenient in this case. Yes, if one is in that much a hurry, change the water for $2, nothing wrong with that either. Nothing wrong with using as many things as one has. I still use my VPI and AIVS fluids for initial cleaning for newly picked up records. It is hard to give up a good workhorse too.

XjunkieNL's picture

The SEM photo is fantastic. Would the mold release agent layer show up in a SEM photograph? Does Last cut through it, or stay on top of it? Or is there no mold release layer?

OldschoolE's picture

Mold release agent will not show in a SEM photo. If you read the information of LAST they claim their product to penetrate the record to a measure and mix with thus changing the molecular structure of certain materials in the record to preserve it. So it can be assumed that LAST cuts through the release agent.
However, there are flaws in that. Mr, Kirmuss's paranoia on release agent is a bit over the top. Yes, release agent does exist and one should be concerned with removing what there is of it on the surface. Where Mr. Kirmuss gets dramatic is in the claim that only his machine can remove it. It is not that hard to remove the agent. First of all, it is not a uniform consistent layer on the record. Note as well that used records won't have much release agent near the surface, if any in some cases. It seeps from the overall mix of the PVC formula, so it is splotchy on the surface, but does need to be removed all the same. The real matter of the release agent is that it can act like a product that leaves a residue such as Gruv-Glide, LAST, dish soap, etc. that can attract dust and contaminates to the stylus and wick up the cantilever and into the cart. Just as with finger oils, which is why we are told to handle records in a certain way. This "removal" can be done on a vacuum RCM and the right fluids easily.
*Plain distilled water will not do anything, so you can't just rinse it off. I use AVIS fluids personally which have no problem removing any release agent in one pass. That said, any good, safe, properly formulated fluid for cleaning records will have little trouble with the "release agent".

XjunkieNL's picture

Too bad it doesn't shows up. Would have made a great visible presentation of what is happening on the surface. Good to hear it's easily removable. Do I understand correctly the release agent is of an oily type? And like finger prints easily attracts all kinds of dirt.

Michael Fremer's picture
of that I remain skeptical
bassrome's picture

If you do not follow the directions and apply too many drops of the LAST Preservative to the brush and record, it will leave residue. The schmear that remains can be removed by most decent cleaning methods.

OldschoolE's picture

Mind you, I approach this from a physics slant. Ultrasonic cleaning can remove some plasticizers that are closer to the surface. It is mechanical mainly. Higher frequencies can actually increase the chance because the bubbles or waves are smaller and hitting at a greater rate of speed. On top of that, you also generate more heat, so you have extra weakening of the materials with the heat, making it more possible to remove plasticizers. In other words, a greater chance of erosion. The trick is that you don’t want too big a bubble or wave because then it won’t fit nicely in the grooves. On the other hand, too small a bubble or wave and you increase the sonic frequency too far as well as the heat to get those waves or bubbles and that can weaken the material you are trying to clean. That is partly why you see far greater transducer frequency on ultrasonic cleaners that are for medical equipment or industrial parts, such as aircraft parts. Those need to be clear of all contaminates (adhesives, sealants, grease, etc.), the higher the frequency the more intense the cleaning or erosion, if you will. Things like medical tools are designed to take 120 kHz with no problem. Records on the other hand are far and away more delicate. (This is partly why one should never put a very dirty record in any ultrasonic machine. The dirt becomes projectiles effectively sand blasting your record).
The crucial thing is that you also do not want to remove any of the plasticizers from your records. If you do, they become brittle.

I have read complaints from owners of other machines that are 40kHz or more state that immediately, they enjoyed records with incredibly reduced noise and great sonic clarity. However, another 10-minute cycle or two and a year later or so when they go to play the record again, the noise is back double or triple fold from what it was, and the record is hard to listen to if not impossible. This is at least in part, because too much of the plasticizer has been leeched from the record by improper ultrasonic cleaning. I think if one put a record in a 40kHz machine for one or two minutes one time, without too much heat, you likely would not do much in the way of damage, if any and end up with a clean record that is fine. But repeat that a few times and the odds start to stack against you.

It should be noted though that one can leech plasticizers and other critical components from records even with a 35kHz machine! How? Too long a time in the bath combined with heat as mentioned earlier. So, if you put a record in a cavitation machine like the Kirmuss unit for say 20 minutes and let the temperature get over 94 to 95 degrees you exponentially increase the chances of leeching the plasticizers just as you would in shorter time with higher frequencies.

Ultrasonic cleaning of records can be positively effective and safe if done right, with the right methods and machines. I’ve been using the Kirmuss machine for a good 5 months with modified methodology different from Mr. Kirmuss’s suggestions with good results. I have checked records I cleaned with it several times at 4 and even some 5-minute sessions five months ago and everything is fine.

It should be noted that many of the folks complaining of noisy records a year later after cleaning them with 40kHz or higher machines also report black bits (from black records of course), that are not hard but more like furry at the bottom of their tanks. The jury is still out as to whether this is definitively plasticizer and other soft crucial parts of formula of the PVC or dirt, could be a bit of both. Since both would look identical to the naked eye and even a microscope unless the scope was molecular, the leap can be made that it could be plasticizer or other crucial components leeched out.

The release agent is kind of like skin oil, you could say only a bit more anti-adhesive quality. It can also be likened to Gruv-glide and similar. Release agent can take up to a couple of cleanings with a good fluid to remove or one or two passes through an ultrasonic, such as the Kirmuss unit (Just as fingerprints can be removed with alcohol or the like). Products like PAM or dish soap and such are harder to remove taking several cleanings or for faster result, a stripping agent.
The takeaway is that release agents are designed for a specific job, releasing substances with adhesive properties. This requires a layer much thinner than 11 microns.

jazz's picture

So happy there are sites like this avoiding mass putt-on.
This kind of marketing is what we hate in high end and everywhere else.

XjunkieNL's picture

I agree with your comment bubbles with less energy are beneficial. They are less powerful, create less force and heat. And reduce the total risk involved with ultrasonic cleaning.

Not sure if by mechanical removing dirt it's possible to leech the plasticizers alone. Most probably they come together with the vinyl loose from the surface. Not good if you see it at the bottom of the tank. As you write, maybe the duration of cleaning is too long.

Would be great if by ultrasonic cleaning you can also remove adhesives, sealants and grease. All attract and hold a lot of dirt in the groove. When this is possible at a 120kHz ultrasonic frequency, it would be perfect.

At 120 kHz the bubble is much smaller and cleaning is more gentle. The energy released is much less compared to a bubble created at 35 kHz. Although you seem to say the opposite.

OldschoolE's picture

Whoops, sorry, I may have misplaced a conjunction or something while trying to explain complex physics in super simple form. Not being a physics professor by any stretch myself, just a life-long learner and it is easy to take a wrong turn. Here is where folks get confused and even me when trying to explain. Yes, higher frequencies producing smaller bubbles also produces less energy. Here is the rub though: The quantity may be higher, but it would still require a longer time to clean. The bigger problem is that the higher frequencies are fine for fine cleaning such as microelectronics, printed circuit boards and other precision items. One might conclude that smaller bubbles with less energy would be better for records. However, records are none of those and there are tiny dips and valleys within the grooves as well as micro-width differences that account for frequency dynamics and the required time cycle would be long enough to actually wear down the groove valleys and walls erasing data. Also, high frequency transducers such as 120kHz can damage stainless steel over time for instance (That is why basins for higher frequencies 100 and above are made of materials resistant to such damage). Lower frequencies (bigger bubbles) will take far longer time to do damage, if any. Believe it or not, 35kHz is gentle yet powerful enough to clean records safely (despite Mr. Kirmuss describing world war three going on in the tank sometimes). While higher frequencies will give better distribution of cavitation bubbles, lower frequencies also have more even “energy” distribution.

I should also note that alcohol helps remove “release agent”, fingerprints and dish soap residue and the like. I would use either about 40mL (1.3 oz) of 70% (that is all you need, not the lab grade stuff) to 6L (about 2 gallons) of water. If you have a vacuum RCM, you can use AVIS 3-step with Super Clean instead. The “propanol” solution Mr. Kirmuss provides is a surfactant and not the same thing as 70% alcohol, it helps the alcohol, but won’t take care of fingerprints and other such things itself.

XjunkieNL's picture

No problem. By discussion this topic I learn a lot. Most probably all ultrasonic vinyl cleaners are safe to use following the instructions. Although we both are aware of the risk of eroding the surface or as you describe wearing down the groove valleys and walls.

Minimizing the risk of eroding the vinyl surface, is minimizing of the risk of losing musical information. The ultrasonic frequency seems to play a big part in this. Not being a specialist myself, I have to rely on others and common sense. There are many contradicting opinions. Many without a fundamental background.

A recent scientific publication on this subject gives some interesting information. The title is "New evidence for the inverse dependence of mechanical and chemical effects on the frequency of ultrasound". The research done is specific on the effects on the surface of a plastic material as a function of the ultrasonic frequency. Published in 2010.

To compare the effects of varying ultrasonic frequencies they look at weight loss and surface erosion by SEM pictures. They conclude that the collapse of bubbles near the surface can cause significant erosion and abrasion. This effect is inverse dependent on the frequency of ultrasound. For example the weight loss is halved by increasing the frequency from 20kHz to 40Khz.

If interested here is also a link https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1350417710000854?via%...
The summary is public. Also some of the graphs and pictures.

OldschoolE's picture

Interesting, but careful what you find on the internet. I’m not implying the articles are wrong at all. I am familiar with that site and it offers solid info. However, I point out that they want a lot of money for folks who might want to read anything on it! Information like this should be free!

Whether ultrasonic cleaning of records is safe or not is not in question, it can be safe. Many things can be cleaned ultrasonically. Some exceptions do exist though such as phono cartridges. However, I also draw your attention to the fact that some important info is missing such as duration of baths. Remember it takes longer in a higher frequency bath and that time while seemingly harmless because the power is not as great, can be misleading. The effects of time need to be accounted for. Damage doesn’t always show up immediately. Case in point: The maker of the AudioDesk USRCM previously came out with a CD trimmer “lathe” ($350), claiming that by using the device to “trim” the outside of CDs will improve the sonics and lessen transport noise. The folks whom used the device reported one to three years later that their CDs rotted. In other words, air had gotten in and oxidized the aluminum layer causing tiny holes rendering the CD unplayable. While the company claims that the trim done is microscopic, so are the tolerances of the seal on CDs! The aluminum layer in a CD is extremely thin and the tiniest compromise of the seal between the polycarbonate discs that sandwich the aluminum layer is enough to do damage. (By the way, rumor has it the company has stopped making them a few years ago). So, what does this have to do with vinyl records? Similar principle, time is a brutal task master and the plasticizers can be leeched from a record through ultra-sonics. It doesn’t have to be all the plasticizer, leech enough and the record over time, can become brittle enough to increase the noise and render it almost unplayable.

So, yes, in theory, ultrasonic record cleaning is safe, no question as long as procedures are correct as you stated. 35kHz is the sweet spot in this case. Higher frequencies will work, but the problem is that they take longer giving more time for unwanted things to occur such as leeching plasticizers, etc. This doesn’t mean that all this will happen with just a single run through a higher frequency machine though. It is however, a cautionary note. There have been reports even at 44kHz of seeing a lot of black specs in a tank and having records with returning noise two to three times worse than before (we do not know if the run time was doubled or multiplied or if something was added to the mix or not, all of which could be factors). The problem is that we don’t know if that is just contaminates or stuff like plasticizer or both. The theory is that you really should not see such things in the tank.
Note: Murky water after a few cleanings is normal. It is also a sign that your records are in fact, being cleaned.
Of course, on the opposite end of things 30, 25 kHz and lower is too intense for records and loud as hell for human ears too.

So, yeah, I say clean records ultrasonically and do it right with the right gear. (I like the Kirmuss machine myself and use it in my regimine when needed). The sure bet is to avoid homemade US vats using the medical grade stuff with the heaters and adding stuff like photoflo, or too much alcohol, etc. Stick with stuff like the Kirmuss machine or even the AudioDesk or KLAudio, etc. and just be cautious with any of them as one should also be with using fluids and a vacuum RCM. Do that and you will have clean, great sounding records for a very long time.

XjunkieNL's picture

That's a valid point you never want to see black specs at the bottom of the tank. We know 20kHz is bad. With repords stating black specs at 40 kHz. And scientific research suggesting the inverse dependence of abrasion and the frequency of ultrasound. It would be more save to move away from the lower end of the ultrasound range. And go to higher frequencies.

When the acoustic power intensity is similar the cleaning time doesn't need to be longer with higher frequencies. Although lower frequencies are better at removing larger particles. Smaller particles are easier removed by higher frequencies.

OldschoolE's picture

Higher the frequency, the lesser the energy of the bubble. 35kHz is as low as you can go for records safely at 5 minute cycle and the bubble size fits into the grooves. this still gets into the grooves, which is the very nature of US cleaning. Particle size and frequency have nothing to do with each other. It is space and frequency that are related. The higher the frequency the smaller the space the bubble fits into.
For certain materials and contaminates the energy needs to be stronger or times need to be longer. Notice the default cycle time on the Audiodesk (40kHz) is 10 minutes.

XjunkieNL's picture

It's a misconception to think if the bubble fits in the groove all particle sizes are removed. The ultrasonic frequency has a direct effect on particle removal efficiency.

Branson Ultrasonic Corp. has investigated this. They sell ultrasonic baths with a wide of frequencies. Results show that a 40kHz ultrasound starts missing to remove particles smaller than 3 micron. Particles removal at 0,3 micron is just below 60%. For 25kHz only 30% is removed. For 80 kHz the removal efficiency is 75%.

Their conclusion is small particle removal efficiency increases with
frequency. The reference for this information "The Impact of Ultrasonic Frequency on Particle Removal" Harman & Lamm.

Anton D's picture

I use a Nitty gritty two sided wet/vacuum cleaner, then go to an Auto Desk System unit, and then....I never do it again and simply use my Ursa Major carbon fiber brush for playback.

I don't think I add anything to my LPs when I play them that would require repeated wet cleaning.

Do people wet clean each time, at specific play-intervals?

It's fun learning how other people approach this!

OldschoolE's picture

No, most folks I would think, do not do wet cleaning each time at specific intervals. If you are not putting anything on your records, you need only to clean them initially and when they are where you want them, your done. Just carbon fiber dusting and stylus brush or dip for each side at play.

Anton D's picture

Thanks for the reply!

DaveyF's picture

Interesting that it seems that there is a possibility that US cleaning can damage your vinyl.
With that caveat in mind, I am personally not going to invest in a US machine at this time, better to let those folks who love them tell us what they think of the process and whether they have irreversibly damaged their records first....after a few years have gone by. I still am quite pleased with the results from my vacuum machine...and it has been tested over decades. All IMHO.

OldschoolE's picture

Yes, US cleaning can damage your vinyl records if not done correctly, but so can vacuum cleaning! I've seen people damage records on a VPI 16.5, all you have to is not maintain it or run the vacuum too long on the record or indeed, use the wrong fluid and game over. The point is that any method we use to clean our records needs research and care to do properly. (I do both methods by the way).So yes, US cleaning can be done safely as well.

ckirmuss's picture

…Charles, the Owner of KirmussAudio, here… I usually do not respond to a forum of this nature and unlike the homeland security technology arena that I operate in for 4 decades it has come to light where in the audio world everyone has their own views and opinions and in some of these postings individuals even attack each other. Not saying this is the situation here but where I, as a tenderfoot in this industry, recall where a year or so ago I read in one of these forums where some record enthusiasts were making their own cleaning solutions. Mentioned was 30% Tergitol mixed in with other chemicals including an anti-water agent Photoflow to clean records. In reading this and in seeing the danger I responded based on scientific proof referencing the Dow Chemical Company MSD sheet as to California Proposition 62 where Tergitol with Ethelene Oxide is both a cancer causing agent and is not very favorable to PVC per the PVC Chemical Compatibility Chart. To my surprise, out of the woodwork came dozens of arm chair experts stating the contrary. I then let the arm chair experts fight it out amongst themselves. Some journalists dissuaded me from doing so in the future after seeing the barrage created. It was my first and last effort to assist as an Educator and to provide generic information in such an unfamiliar medium to me to an Audiophile market.
I do appreciate where a well moderated blog sees merit. Hence this post and many points of concern were raised. As a precursor, in our investigation of vinyl as well as wax cylinders I have published a technical paper presented at the ARSC this past spring that was also submitted to the Record Academy regarding record restoration. Obviously this also covers surface cleaning. This is an industry first. Why, because of our scientific method.
Overview: All of our statements are backed by measurement of various kinds as to the effectiveness of our restoration process. …And also the results of using other cleaning topologies, I might add. Measurements, hmmmm. For cleaning???? We discuss gain over floor in decibels, groove size, needle dyne, pop count (using SC-1 Sugar Cube from Sweet Vinyl), and the like. Surprisingly my contemporaries in the cleaning arena do not do this. Further, as I work with lithium ion batteries which have restrictions, we disclose fully the composition of our ionizing surfactant and needle cleaner, this for safety, compatibility to PVC, as well as to meet shipping regulations. So we are uniquely different, certainly Disruptive of the establishment perhaps, but working with scientific information that is openly shared. In all this there must be some method to the madness as where our end results in record restoration have been globally validated by industry veterans such as Mr. Fremer, Mr. Rigby, Lynette Smith, and Custodians such a Lowell Graham, UofTEP, among others. To further receive consideration from companies that are in the high end sector that also use our process to aid their demonstrations of their own developments surrounding vinyl as the audio source is very heart warming. I doubt they would drink our Kool-Aid if not real. So some information to share, and in no particular order.
1) Venturi: Not a term that we have invented. If you recall your high school automotive and physics classes or have worked within a lab or in a technical or aerospace environment, “Venturi” or “Venturi Termed vacuum generators” both categorized, create vacuums using a venturi chamber that is designed to move gases or fluids out of a region of space. (to another). Venturi or fluid jet vacuum generators rely on the flow of compressed air, gas, or liquid or rapidly moving air or water (with pressure differential) as the "motive" fluid or power to pull or create a vacuum at a desired port. If we relate to a wet and/or a dry vacuum as used in vacuum based record cleaning machines , water with soap first, then dust particles are drawn into a plastic tube and are pulled. Areas of high and low pressure exist. Liquids first, then air and dust follow in these processes. It is the latter I also comment as a known result of result of Venturi on plastic where air and these moving particles cause the build up of static electricity and “charges” the record with the air moving across the record. In reviewing images taken of records, (before and after process) they acknowledge the fact where the pressure differential in operation of these systems then sees dust brought back ultimately onto the record and into the grooves. Also with air and non mechanical drying the addition of a film or residue resides on the record which we can easily measure, both mechanically and audibly, depending the solution used as a cleaning agent. The mention of the Venturi effect thus relates to records and record cleaning processes using a vacuum. Coincidently, many audiophiles have commented as to their witnessing of added static on the record using such a cleaning method even if water and soap were mediums brushed onto the record, and added dust. I cannot say more but where we have seen as a result anti static guns as well as anti static turntable pads and brushes advertised and sold.

2) Coatings: I personally am not concerned about whether or not LAST is a cleaner, preservative, coating, or anything else. Or any other product sold as a cleaner that leaves residues on records. Mr. Fremer always has an eye out for a good story. At the RMAF a potential customer came in with a record. While our system was being operated he asked us why in the demonstration we all saw after our first cycle of 5 minutes with our ionizing agent applied where there was left on the record tremendous amounts (sheets) of water, as well as hundreds of water droplets collecting on the record’s surface. Known: Clean records should totally repel water. In one of the posts of a former agent of ours the person failed to note in the post where both he and I had seen this phenomenon emerge at the Washington DC Capital Audio Show, and where this also was witnessed at the Toronto Audio Fest. (At these shows we accommodate visitors and restore their records at no charge). In Toronto we were told where records showing this were cleaned originally using L’Art du Son, this by record reseller selling the used record. In DC the record owners stated to both of us where they used LAST. (Also validated later by finding the LAST sticker on the record’s outer sleeve). My colleague and I in DC reverted to 2 minute cycles and were able to restore these used records in 12 minutes versus trying to restore the record with 5 minute cycles that we originally prescribed in our manual . The latter saw us taking over an hour to no avail. … So back to RMAF: We then further explained to our audience where if they encountered this phenomenon, (sheeting etc..), one must revert to 2 minute cycles. This as there is a “coating on the record”. Using more than 2 minutes in our machine in such a case sees our ionizing surfactant being washed off too quickly by the water used. Thus not seeing the attacking plasma wave touch the groove. Back at the lab to it was necessary to do a scientific study, not just an ad hoc change to the 5 minute process as in DC and even if at these two shows the modification to our process worked and resulted in dry records coming out of our machine after restoration.

So in the lab: Records from the same pressing were purchased. Records were measured. Records were cleaned following manufacturer guidelines. Some had a 2 step process prescribed with 2 product SKU’s. Then they were cured in a thermal chamber for one month at 95 deg F, and 42% humidity. (accelerated ageing). Records were then also subject to our restoration process. Before and after pictures were taken using the Keyscience VHX 7000 series 2D/3D microscope. The visual end result was very well noted with a 9 to 11 micron average increase in record height seen (indicating a coating), depending on the product applied. Records do not grow by themselves. Pre and Post audio signals were also measured. In all this also discovered was a piece of dust captured in the groove of one cleaned record , with also air bubbles caught on the surface of the record in the coating measured. (With this visual inspection any reasonable lay person would assume if something changes the molecular structure of a record, one should not see contaminants “glued” into a groove, or see added height or change in size.). Our process is to remove films, contaminants and release agent. Correctly noted in the post: When you are using a 2000 X magnification it is very hard to see the exact same spot. Especially where I personally did not MARK in a permanent fashion by way of a scratch and paint the area. I could see where someone would think this is not accurate. While this mistake is acknowledged, the coating of the measurement of the record throughout stands. The before and after process images are true. To not confuse the effort made at RMAF it should be restated: we were trying to explain to potential users of our system to know when users need to change to 2 minute cycles from 5 minutes. That was the intent. Not a rabbit boxing match! If the record’s owner stated and confirmed to us where LAST was on the record as their own. Our observation was then totally validated by the owner of the record. The video captured by Mr. Fremer is just a portion of the demonstration, one of several videos now presented. To note where our restoration process allows us to identify many of the past cleaning processes used on records. My former colleague can attest to this: vacuum cleaning, manual cleaning, cavitation systems by manufacturer.

3) To the machine: I have been using cavitation systems of many different types at various companies that I was either owner of, or chief executive of, since my work on the Canadarm of the space shuttle, this in 1978. Appreciating in our now 6 years of study of record cleaning processes of all kinds where a proper cavitation system with special processes appreciating the plasma wave resulted in our patents received and pending. I use in my own factory the base ultrasonic manufactured one of the word’s leading sonic manufacturer for my own products. A different model was taken and modified by my own staff. Anyone dealing with overseas manufacturers knows never to diveluge the changes one is making to an existing design. (Refer to my IP protection sessions that I present at the Global Sources HK Shows since 2007 on the web). Indeed, there is nothing hidden. That is where the similarities of sonics stop. Mr. Fremer was provided with pictures as to the difference of my product as it relates to control and function and MCU of an off the shelf product. Further, displays are totally different. Anyone with design and manufacturing experience knows full well where it is very reasonable for one to develop a products for a boutique, small volume industry, to first use at times strategic partners for base elements. With a base engine identified, in our case we developed a product and a solution and by creating a new product with engineered changes. Not just a cover assembly, the process and the embellishments based on SWR studies resulted in a designed and patented product and process. Not only validated by Mr. Fremer, but also seen by others now a year ago where Andre Jennings, Enjoy The Music, Steve Hoffman, and a host of others that all realized the genius of the development and gave us the momentum starting at AXPONA 2018.

4) To chemical mix and pricing to the audiophile. There are only three global manufacturers of my base mix. They are not located in the United States. To imply perhaps where my Company is perhaps gouging users cannot be further than the truth. We could have even sold our restoration machine for $2,000 or more, which we did not, as we believe everyone is a custodian of music and should have access to great original sound. Any reasonable businessman understands what costs are in manufacturing. In our business model, one cannot ship by sea our chemical base due to the high temperatures involved in a container that may be out on the open waters for 7 weeks or more. Internal container temperatures depending on where the containers are placed on the cargo ship can rise to over 150 deg F.. This adversely affects the structure of the chemical. Neither via Air Cargo can we ship without the agent being diluted. So, a shipment of five hundred 300 mL bottles premixed comes out to $9,800 by FEDEX, landed in Denver. That amounts to $19.60 per bottle. Final packaging, customs handling costs and duties, MDS Certification by a third party lab with annual renewals, all not included. To see a Full Retail Unit Price of $90 with shipping with both a distributor and dealer as well as a factory agent making their percentage sees I believe the product to be very reasonably priced. The offering is very honest and fair, would you not think? I nor my Company are cheating anyone. This comes out to an average cost to the audiophile of between 0.18- 0.28 cents a record. My contemporaries in the sonic side have time limited product usage of their mix and as such are significantly more expensive.
Indeed, I respect the comments made by everyone. I have taken the time to respond in kind unlike my peers to provide full details as to the links of MDS as well as referring to the PVC Chemical Compatibility Chart. Images taken from the Keyscience 2D/3D microscope and their measurements may be provocative, but the scientific method was followed.
Some have commented to my taking the lead at the forum that was moderated by Mr. Fremer at RMAF. I was invited, I came prepared with scientific documentation. I did not present myself with any equipment or solutions for sale. As an Educator, it is important for any panelist to see a baseline standard set, for all lovers of music to “see the forest between the trees”, and to do so, to first understand how records are made, what is in the PVC mix, and then to relate to the PVC Chemical Compatibility Chart and to see what if any cleaning agents are PVC friendly. Hence my setting the stage for my Peers. We are all custodian of records, records cannot be replaced once the artists, studios, sound board mixers and original pressing plants have left this earth. I take personal pride in seeing records owned by others being restored and to hear their brilliance as best we can to reflect on the original lacquer.
Please keep those records spinning, we are all custodians of records As a part time education, knowledge is power. The above responds to some of the points raised in two of the subject posts.
Sorry for bending your ear. I decided to make one concise reply.

ghn5ue's picture

"Further, as I work with lithium ion batteries which have restrictions, we disclose fully the composition of our ionizing surfactant and needle cleaner, this for safety, compatibility to PVC, as well as to meet shipping regulations."

So what is the compositon? In Paul Rigby's review, he mentions a reaction he had to the suractant spray and stated this:

" I asked Kirmuss on three occasions to reveal the full contents of the supplied surfactant liquid but it was reluctant to do so. Even when I promised to keep my mouth shut about their surfactant secrets. When pushed, it did reveal a rather confusing and murky chemical/brand name but refused to supply further information or links. "

ckirmuss's picture

Thank you for your question. I do not see your name in any emails that I have received. Those requesting details have seen us share our information openly. Our manuals are clear. We use a diol-1-2, 178, propan-diol. A 1-2% mix in 98-99% distilled water. This information accompanies every machine, every export shipment, as well as is listed with FedEx and UPS in our TSCA statement required for shipping. This data and full compliance safety statements mandated by the regulators was supplied to both Mr. Rigby as well as Mr. Fremer including but not limited to the product transport, safety and toxicology details, staying where it is safe to use. It is not etelene glycol as some journalists have written.

To assist further: This said, in using any chemical, water soluble or not, work must be performed in a well ventilated area. More so as you are removing or handling records with fungus on them or see fungus in the record covers and sleeves. Disturbing the fungal spores while handling records will see some people start to sneeze or have a nose irritation. Severe fungus coated records should see one wear gloves and a mask.

I do wish to take the opportunity to warn those that have ultrasonics that are 40 KHz and higher and where applying our ionizing agent to the record will see damage occur to the record as the plasma wave created of the imploding/exploding 40 KHz and higher frequency systems are now finally attracted to the record that our spray has been applied to. This as where the known 40 KHz systems known to be sold do not ionize the record and rely on distilled water with or without a soap in the basin to only surface clean the record. I say this to caution those not familiar with sonic technology.

I do urge anyone to not apply anything on a record without receiving full details as to the solution's composition and then to check the PVC Chemical Compatibility and Resistance Chart. Summation: The Propane family we use is PVC and plasticizer friendly.

ghn5ue's picture

So is this is a form of propylene glycol? That is interesting to note, as Paul Rigby mentions in his review that he has tried he own home made mixture of propylene glycol and a surfactant, and it does not react the same way as your product does (no white foam or 'toothpaste'). I am glad to here it isn't ethylene glycol, which can be quite toxic!

davi's picture

The mentioned reasoning why 35 kHz is less harmful than 40 kHz in the case of vinyl cleaning is definitely not correct. Generally, the lower the frequency of an ultrasonic longitudinal wave, the larger the volume of a bubble that results from the cavitation will be. A larger imploding bubble involves a higher amount energy that is finally converted into kinetic energy (=higher local fluid velocity).

Or in other words: the energy affecting the vinyl is higher at 35 kHz than 40 kHz. 40 kHz is less harmful, IF damage takes place.

However, Mr. Kirmus cleaning machine could benefit from this fact as the cleaning effect should be theoretically higher compared to the usual cleaners if his machine works at 35 kHz. But any way, the reasoning for using 35 kHz is wrong.

Regards
David

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