Tuesday, 30 July 2013

The Siemens Aa Weitverkehrsröhre – DHT Tubes for the Connoisseur

I would like to bring together some posts that rarely come together normally. So I already started the summer brake some weeks ago with a series of portraits of my major female singers, I will certainly continue this series in the upcoming time. Today I would like begin to address the posts about tubes. Before I introduce design concepts of amplifiers in the coming months, I want to begin to present individual tubes in functional groups. I want to start with my beloved directly heated triodes, briefly called DHT. I will start with those types to be useful in preamp circuits.

For the past 10 years, accelerated by the communication in the internet, some forerunners like Kevin Kennedy, Jim de Kort and also in this country Thomas Mayer widened existing limitations in preamp circuits with this sort of preamp designs. In many cases early U.S. types as the UX-type 26, 45 or 801 are used and these concepts have now made school and have been copied countless times by diy builders. Formerly used in radio receivers mostly in the 1930ties to 1940ties, these tubes have been once widely common. Today, specially in Europe these tubes are hard to find in good qualities.

German Post tubes are originally called "Weitverkehrsröhren" or "Behördenröhren".
From left the original Siemens Aa with tip, in the middle the Valvo Aa and at right the Neuhaus Aa with metal socket.

I would like to present some less common implemented German tube types. The so called "Weitverkehrsröhren" or "Behördenröhren" are normally known as post tubes. The are very early first generation tube designs made by Siemens in the 1920ties called A, B, C, etc. The second generation of this tubes added a second a to the name, so they were called Aa, Ba, Ca, etc.. These tubes have been produced from the late 1920ties over all the wartime into the early 1950ties for official use in telephone applications in both German countries. In the 1950ties the German Post developed the C3-type tubes as indirect heated multi grid successors, more about these phenomenal tubes in some weeks time. The post tubes have been always produced to match extremely high specifications of the German post administration. Best materials were used by companies like Siemens, Valvo, Neuhaus and others to fulfill a general service lifetime of 10000 hours professional use, a very high standard in DHT times, compared with any other brands. The tubes have a specially designed five pin post socket. They were equipped with a thoriated tungsten filaments of different voltages (3,5 to 3,8 V) acting as cathode. This old design of tubes is known for its sonic advantages, in particular their better linearity and their more natural soundstage. The most people do know directly heated triodes mainly as power tubes in modern retro single ended power amplifiers. Here the WE300b and its copies are a very well known DHTs, widely accepted in the hifi community for its unique sound capabilities.

Today I want to concentrate on the Aa tube as one of the best sounding line amplifier devices, when well implanted. For this reason I would suggest a amplifier design with anode chokes instead of a matching output transformer (the first choice with lots of other DHT's). With a nominal impedance of 30 kilo ohms, it is almost impossible to find a output transformer matching the tube for low impedance output of around 600 ohms. I did use the Aa with Lundahl LL1667 anode chokes, configured with a air gap for 5mA anode draw (the tube draws 3mA). In this configuration it will have an inductance of 600 henries, exactly the amount which makes a flawless low frequency response down till 30 hz possible. Together with very good coupling caps like copper or silver foil paper types, this constellation is truly amazing in every respect and outperforms everything I have heard. 
For the anode supply I use a Parmeko mains transformer with tube rectified output, followed by a double choke/oil capacitor filter rail and finished with a three tube regulated output stage. For the heater supply I use Rod Colemans modules. Thomas Mayer here sets the pace with completely passive filtered heater supplies. I am sure this might give another further improvement, if you have the space and money.
This Aa preamplifier gives the most open soundstage I have ever heard from a line preamp. The gap to classic amplifier designs (even to well named and established makes like AN, AR or similar well designed preamps) with indirectly heated tubes is tremendous. The Aa-preamp is so much more refined, with a lot better and wider, almost three-dimensional soundstage, meticulously spread harmonies and finest dynamic details, that I personally will not find back to later IDH-Tubes. It is a perfect solution for mainly line sourced amplifier chains, like digital streaming or digital discs. It brings a unbelievable naturalness back to digital sources, that they can par with very good analogue players. For professional marketed products these designs are not manageable, since the outlay is to expensive to make real profit and good tubes in countable amounts are not in the market for the same reason. So this delicacy is reserved for a solely market of handmade luxury or for the crafted diy aficionado. A parable which covers sooner or later any quality mass product in our globalized world.

On top the Neuhaus Aa with ceramic spacer, underneath the Valvo with ordinary mica spacer.
The Aa has been made by Siemens, Valvo and later on after wartime as well by East German Neuhaus tube factory for their telephone system. All these tubes sound quite different in some aspects, but all will show very similar characteristics. All Aa's are quite microphonic, the internal construction will show a big influence on its sensitivity to mechanical movement. The original Siemens tubes are very complex designed and are very rigid made, so they are favored by some people like DHTRob. They have a glass arm as inside support which carries the heater, the plate and the grid. If you look inside these tubes you will notice that they are made like art pieces. Today they are quite rare and therefor expensive. The more common variant is the weaker Valvo type, I like this tubes a lot as my standard type, but it needs mechanical decoupling from the chassis of the amp. As well very rare is the Neuhaus type, with ceramic supports and metal socket. Where the Valvo shows already the typical mica spacers, which became standard with the most later made tubes. Both tubes are very similar in fidelity.

The masterpiece of all Aa's, the tip-type Siemens Aa with glass support.

Read on soon about line amps using these tubes and their exquisite successors as later IDH-Tubes for hifi, Volker

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Nina Simone – The First Decade on Vinyl

Nina Simone is born as Eunice Kathleen Waymon in February 21st 1933 and died at April 21st in 2003 in France. She was an american singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classicaljazzbluesfolkR&Bgospel, and pop.

Her musical style arose from a fusion of gospel and blues songs with classical music, in particular with influences from her first inspiration, Johann Sebastian Bach. 
She injected as much of her classical background into her music as possible to give it more depth and quality and accompanied with her expressive jazz-like singing in her characteristic contralto. Her intuitive grasp on the audience–performer relationship was gained from a unique background of playing piano accompaniment for church revivals and sermons regularly from the early age of six years old.
To fund her private lessons, Simone performed at the Midtown Bar & Grill on Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, whose owner insisted that she sing as well as play the piano. In 1954 she adopted the stage name Nina Simone. "Nina" (from niña, meaning 'little girl' in Spanish) was a nickname a boyfriend had given to her, and "Simone" was taken from the French actress Simone Signoret, whom she had seen in the movie Casque d'or. Simone's mixture of jazz, blues, and classical music in her performances at the bar earned her a small, but loyal, fan base.

In 1958 she befriended and married Don Ross, a beatnik who worked as a fairground barker, but quickly regretted their marriage. Playing in small clubs in the same year she recorded George Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy", which she learned from a Billie Holiday album and performed as a favor to a friend. It became her only Billboard top 20 success in the United States, and her debut album Little Girl Blue soon followed on Bethlehem Records. Simone lost more than $1 million in royalties (notably for the 1980s re-release of "My Baby Just Cares for Me") and never benefited financially from the album's sales because she had sold her rights outright for $3,000.

Early vinyl records almost  in chronological order. In the background the first three releases with Bethehem Records, the mono version of "Little Girl Blue" at right, the stereo version in the middle and a sampler with other female singers under Bethlehem contract at left.
In the foreground several first releases of the Colpix era in stereo as well in mono.

Despite this terrible facts the album is by far the best album of all her career. It explodes from energy, intensity and musical input. I think she did know very well about the importance of that first recording. If there is one Nina Simone record to own, that it is this one. It is as well a very good recording in terms of fidelity. This is said about both versions, the stereo and the mono version, even if I do like the mono record better that the stereo one.

Nina Simones first recording "Little Girl Blue", released by Bethlehem Records in 1958

After the success of Little Girl Blue, Simone signed a contract with Colpix Records (a subsidary of Columbia records), and recorded a string of studio and live albums. Colpix relinquished all creative control to her, including the choice of material that would be recorded, in exchange for her signing the contract with them. At this point, Simone only performed music to make money to continue her classical music studies, and was indifferent about having a recording contract. She kept this attitude toward the record industry for most of her career. 
The half of the colpix albums are recorded live at different public concert houses. So these early recordings give a very well insight into the atmosphere of the concerts and Nina Simones presence at stage. Here mostly a unique opportunity is given to get part of a extremely intimate moment of performance, as to listen to a very present singer in the other event. Even if the recorded fidelity of the most of the colpix albums is not very good, I like these recordings together with following phillips and rca recordings as her major work. I believe that colpix did not use not own recording equipment like other companies in these days (famous Mercury living presence), instead they seem to have used the inhouse installed equipment of the concert halls.

A typical Colpix record of that time with golden label. The company changed in the early 1960ties several times the color of the labes.

In 1964, she changed record distributors, from the American Colpix to the Dutch Philips, which also meant a change in the contents of her recordings. Simone had always included songs in her repertoire that drew upon her African-American origins (such as "Brown Baby" and "Zungo" on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962). On her debut album for Philips, Nina Simone in Concert (live recording, 1964), however, Simone for the first time openly addressed the racial inequality that was prevalent in the United States with the song "Mississippi Goddam", her response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four black children. 

A typical Philips deep groove first release with rainbow stripe. This records are generally a lot better recorded than the earlier Colpix records.

From then on, a civil rights message was standard in Simone's recording repertoire, becoming a part of her live performances. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights meetings, such as at the Selma to Montgomery marches. Simone advocated violent revolution during the civil rights period, rather than Martin Luther King's non-violent approach, and she hoped that African Americans could, by armed combat, form a separate state. Nevertheless, she wrote in her autobiography that she and her family regarded all races as equal.

Some of the Philips first releases and two early RCA releases in front.

She covered Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit", a song about the lynching of black men in the South, on Pastel Blues (1965). She also sang the William Waring Cuney poem "Images" on Let It All Out (1966), about the absence of pride she saw among African-American women. Simone wrote "Four Women", a song about four different stereotypes of African-American women, and included the recording on her 1966 album Wild Is the Wind.
Simone moved from Philips to RCA Victor during 1967. She sang "Backlash Blues", written by her friend Langston Hughes on her first RCA album, Nina Simone Sings the Blues (1967). On Silk & Soul (1967), she recorded Billy Taylor's "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" and "Turning Point". The album 'Nuff Said! (1968) contains live recordings from the Westbury Music Fair, April 7, 1968, three days after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.. She dedicated the whole performance to him and sang "Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)", a song written by her bass player, Gene Taylor, directly after the news of King's death had reached them. In the summer of 1969 she performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival in Harlem's Mount Morris Park.

I did take care about her first decade of album releases between 1958 and 1968. From everything I know, I think it was her most productive time in her live. She continued on with record releases, but she never could build on the same level of intensity comparing her first years. 
Nina Simone died in 2003 in Carry-le-Roue in southern France. She was one of the absolute most  soulfull and remarkable singers in the 20th century despite of genre and as well a brilliant piano player. A real solitaire.

Read on soon about other lady singers, Volker

For further informations on records from Nina Simone visit her illustrated discography:

Simone & Cleary 2003, Nina Simones personal web page and wikipedia

Saturday, 13 July 2013

The Giant Loudspeaker Housing...

Hi to everybody,

today I would like to tell you about a never ending running rivalry in the hifi-world. Probably everyone who reads here knows he competition about the most efficient loudspeaker designs in history. All these well known speaker designs are huge space occupying concepts, enclosures as big as furniture. Everybody who knows about the facts knowns, only big cabinets, mostly horns speaker designs, will do the best efficiency. This article is not meant to serious and more dedicated to entertain owners of large volume Altec, Western Electric or Tannoy enclosures.

Owners of these classic speakers will learn now, there are some much bigger professional concepts existing, than they did know. And even when not well known at all, they are made for highly professional demands.

Two HF-horn units per opening in the first four rows and one MF-horn driver in the middle three rows, combined with LF-drivers of 15'' size in the lower four rows, all with funnels made from concrete.
The HF-units share one caving

For many of us such speakers have to score as a one to the models from the "Voice of the Cinema " range, or the huge WE Cinema Systems like the WE 15 and similar types. Even the described "Tannoy Autograph" speakers use cabinets of such dimensions for a competition. But all named examples are "small-scale" transducer for home use, when compared against the speakers I want to present here now.

Each HF-unit is connected to three drivers

In a tv documentary I recently saw a reportage about Taiwan. In this film it was shown how the politicians tried to liberate from the historic guardian of the People's Republic of China. To get rid off the electronic eavesdropping from the mainland they installed giant loudspeaker enclosures along the coast to China in order to drown Chinas directional installed surveillance microphones.

The enclosures are house sized concrete buildings with almost 100 different drivers installed in a multiplied molded horn funnel design. I do not know anything about real efficiency and the used amplifying systems, but taking the time into account, it must have been fed by tube amplifiers in the 1950ties.

So this is an invitation to collectors in the asian pacific area to get hold of  these installations, they are still intact. And there a lots of these housings around the western coast line. Maybe it will be a very exotic extension for your hifi collection to get the biggest speakers of all time, may be for the outdoor summer season in your park...?!

Read on soon, Volker

Billie Holiday – Long Playing Records on Verve Label

Billie Holiday (born as Eleanora Fagan at 7th of April 1915 died at the 17th of July 1959) was an african american jazz singer and songwriterBillie Holiday was one of the most extraordinary singers of the 20th century.
She was one of the first black stars in the media business and the first foremost female jazz singer known to a wider even white skinned audience. Her distinctive delivery made Billie Holiday's performances instantly recognizable throughout her career. A master of improvisation, Billie's well-trained ear more than compensated for her lack of music education. Her voice lacked range and was somewhat thin, plus years of excessive drug use eventually altered its texture and gave it a prepossessing fragility. The emotion with which she imbued each song remained not only intact but also profound.

First release long play records from Verve label, in the background on the left side the extremely rare record  "The Mellow Side of...".

From that point of view her late recordings are some of the most extraordinary songs in all jazz music history. These late recordings are made by Norman Granz, the founder of 
Nogran Records (1946), later Clef Records (1953), which got 1956 absorbed into Verve Records. Verve was created just as the twelve-inch long playing album became the industry standard, its ten-inch counterpart for the most part discontinued. Holiday's late recordings on Verve constitute about a third of her commercial recorded legacy and are as popular as her earlier work for the Columbia, Commodore and Decca labels. In later years, her voice became more fragile, but it never lost the edge that had always made it so distinctive.
Holiday's autobiography, "Lady Sings the Blues", was ghostwritten by William Dufty and published in 1956. Dufty, a New York Post writer and editor then married to Holiday's close friend Maely Dufty, wrote the book quickly from a series of conversations with the singer in the Duftys' 93rd Street apartment. He drew on the work of earlier interviewers as well and intended to let Holiday tell her story in her own way. To accompany her autobiography, Holiday released an LP in June 1956 entitled Lady Sings the Blues

The album featured four new tracks, "Lady Sings the Blues" (title track), "Too Marvelous for Words", "Willow Weep for Me", and "I Thought About You", as well as eight new recordings of Holiday's biggest hits to date. The re-recordings included "Trav'lin' Light", "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child". On December 22, 1956, Billboard magazine reviewed Lady Sings the Blues, calling it a worthy musical complement to her autobiography. "Holiday is in good voice now," said the reviewer, "and these new readings will be much appreciated by her following." "Strange Fruit" and "God Bless the Child" were called classics, and "Good Morning Heartache", another reissued track in the LP, was also noted positively.
On November 10, 1956, Holiday performed two concerts before packed audiences at Carnegie Hall, a major accomplishment for any artist, especially a black artist of the segregated period of american history. Live recordings of the second Carnegie Hall concert were released on a Verve-album in late 1961 called The Essential Billie Holiday. The thirteen tracks included on this album featured her own songs, "I Love My Man", "Don't Explain" and "Fine And Mellow", together with other songs closely associated with her, including "Body and Soul", "My Man", and "Lady Sings the Blues" (her lyrics accompanied a tune by pianist Herbie Nichols).

Late Release in 1961, but recorded live at Carnegie Hall in 1956, "The Essential Billie Holiday" the narrated autobiography "Lady sings the Blues".

The liner notes on this album were written partly by Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who, according to these notes, served as narrator in the Carnegie Hall concerts. Interspersed among Holiday's songs, Millstein read aloud four lengthy passages from her autobiography "Lady Sings The Blues".
The critic Nat Hentoff of Down Beat magazine, who attended the Carnegie Hall concert, wrote the remainder of the sleeve notes on the 1961 album. He wrote of Holiday's performance:
Throughout the night, Billie was in superior form to what had sometimes been the case in the last years of her life. Not only was there assurance of phrasing and intonation; but there was also an outgoing warmth, a palpable eagerness to reach and touch the audience. And there was mocking wit. A smile was often lightly evident on her lips and her eyes as if, for once, she could accept the fact that there were people who did dig her.

Several Verve covers are illustrated by the well known designer David Stone-Martin

Billie Holiday recorded extensively for four labels: Columbia Records, issued on its subsidiary labels Brunswick Records,Vocalion Records, and OKeh Records, from 1933 through 1942; Commodore Records in 1939 and 1944; Decca Records from 1944 through 1950; briefly for Aladdin Records in 1951; Verve Records and on its earlier imprint Clef Records; from 1952 through 1957, then again for Columbia Records from 1957 to 1958 and finally for MGM Records in 1959. Many of Holiday's recordings appeared on 78 rpm records prior to the long-playing vinyl record era, and only Clef, Verve, and Columbia issued Holiday albums during her lifetime that were not compilations of previously released material.

Early Verve "trumpeter label"  (icon by David Stone-Martin) with deep groove indention.

Lots of records are late published transcriptions of earlier 78 rpm recordings, these are mostly very poor transcripted to vinyl, but the worst quality comes from the early digitalized versions for CD release from the 1990ties. The most of them do sound very poor and thin. The only recordings of quite good sound quality are the Verve records taken in the LP era to be issued on vinyl. Here a quite realistic insight into Billie Holidays performance practice is reproduced. Some of them are previously released as 10'' versions with Clef Records, these first Verve releases are clearly identified by their "trumpeter label". The Nograns, the Clefs and this early "Trumpeter-Verves" are highly collectible, no question that they reach today already serious money lines. Some of them are live recordings and give a good idea of the presence and intimacy of Holidays performances at this period. Unforgotten is the recording taken in Los Angeles during a gig in a private club were you can here the airplanes of the nearby airport crossing the club. 
The long play Verve albums are the records with the best fidelity available from the Billie Holidays legacy. Amoung them is the studio record Songs for Distingue Lovers, the only true stereo recording of all of them. 

One of the best recorded albums from the Verve series, as far as I know, the only true stereo recording of all Verve albums with Billie Holiday.

Read on soon about other lady singers like Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln or Cassandra Wilson, Volker

For further informations and discography look:

"Full of lies, But It Gets at Jazz Great's Corre" San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 31, 2010.
and some basic informations from wikipedia

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Record Washing Machine for the Vinyl Collector II

When I was staying in the US I did buy almost 1000 vintage first release jazz records. When I did come back to Germany I desperately needed to use a record cleaning machine. I was rethinking the design of the Keith Monks machines and decided that three motors for different tasks and a lot of details can be improved, beside these facts I wanted a more compact design to store it away when not in use. This brought me to the principle of cnc operated machines do work. A linear track for the sucking nozzle and one motor for all moving elements.

Here it can be seen how the angled gear does transmit the platter turns into the linear slide. The ball point lever positions the nozzle to the surface, while it gears the unit into transmission. Underneath there is the brush turned to the camera lens into dripping position, A row of holes opens to the record surface for the cleaning solvent. As well it can be seen the original filament for protection as first version.
Here in upright position the underside of the sliding unit can be seen. The brush with wholes and the felt padded nozzle.

I did use a ac-motor from a garage door with integrated gear box for the turning of the record. With this motor I had a speed of 60 turns per minute and loads of torque. I did use a former winding plate from a Revox tape recorder as platter for the records. The center spindle got a thread inside. I used a linear slide for industrial applications for guiding the nozzle over surface. I did further use a angled gear to transmit the turning of the platter to the advance of the linear slide. So it takes 30 seconds to move the nozzle from the inside groove to the outer rim. At the end of the slide the nozzle will be mechanically lifted off the record.

The Revox platters with laminated rubber discs to introduce the friction to the record and to prevent the label from the solvent

After pumping some solvent to the surface, the brush can be moved sideways and as well forward and backward to introduce the solvent perfectly into the grooves

For the introduction of the cleaning solvent into the grooves I do use the typical goat hair brushes from other cleaning machines underneath the linear slide. It is  mounted around a tubed axis, so it can be turned left and right with a lever. The tube guides the cleaning solvent coming from the pump through a silicone tube. The holder of the brush is perforated to one side, so that the brush in parking position will give way for the solvent over the surface of the record. Pushing the button for 2 seconds will bring the right amount of solvent on to the surface of the record. Turning the brush down and moving the record two turns forwards and two turns backwards will supply the solvent perfectly spread on the first side. After waiting for one minute to soak in I turn the motor on for at least 10 turns of every direction, before I start the sucking process.

The with felt rings improved nozzle is set into advance to suck of all solvent from the lever. This takes 30 seconds till it reaches the outer rim. There the nozzle will be automatically lifted off the record.

After this I push the sliding saddle into the middle of the record at the very left end. In this position I switch the turning motor on again. The lever will be pushed down, as a result the nozzle will be lowered into a perfect close position to the surface ( the nozzle is spring supported to keep contact). In the same act the lever will engage the carriage into the move of the turning motor. The geared transport of the linear slide brings the nozzle within 30 seconds to the outer rim, where it is automatically gets lifted off and disengaged. I open the knurled main screw to lift the whole unit into upright position. Now I can change to the second side of the record and start the whole procedure again.
With my machine I can clean and dry a records at both sides within 4 minutes. They are really clean and dry afterwards. It is working quietly, so quiet that I can proceed it during I listen to my records. I have built it very compact, so that I am able to lock it away, when I don't use it. Other advanced record cleaners are as big as record players, they need to be standing around. Mine is quite heavy (10 kg), but its compact box of 36cm hight, 36cm depth and 24cm width with a solid carrying handle on top. It has all necessary equipment in its lid, like a power cord, micro fiber textile and brushes. It is looking and acting like a professional functional service unit, which I like a lot better than the most "high end chichi".

After cleaning the first side of the record the complete sliding mechanic can be folded up.

Now I do use felt rings at the tip of the nozzle for the record protection. These give a much improved vacuum for the drying process. With the former filament I had a vacuum of -0.2 bar, with the felt rings I get up to -1 bar. So the record will come perfectly dried from the machine.
I use a standard recipe for the cleaning solvent, made from 70% destilled water, 29% isopropanol alcohol and 1% wetting agent. The felt rings are made from 100% woolen felt to prevent statics, but I am actually testing micro fibre pads to replace them. I have to punch them from felt mats, the micro fabrics have a more solid structure and disintegrate not that fast. I am testing a different formed tip, were a micro fiber cloth cover will be fixed with a metal ring.

I actually did built the machine just with a battery drill on top of my kitchen table. So, if I would have had better and more precise opportunities, like a mini lathe or a stand alone drill, the whole machine would have been made with much better precision, but with such archaic methods it is almost not possible. But I tried my best ;-), and it is reasonable made. So it is up to you to improve ...

Read on soon, Volker

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A Record Washing Machine for the Vinyl Collector

Those who collect vinyl, foremost quite old vinyl, do not come around in the longer term to own a reasonable working record washing machine. There are now a number of very different functional units in the market. With different technologies the cleaning and the drying process is performed. Some of these devices are made very complicated, expensive, accordingly, these are then also sold for good money. Everyone buying old records needs to think about how valuable his record collection is going to be. How much effort is he willing to contribute to clean his records. Basically a cleaned vinyl record usually runs much quieter in terms of surface noise, also a freshly washed record with still slightly wet grooves sounds significantly better than the same without lubrication (still there are a lot of arguments for the old days "Lenco clean", beside its crystallization when dried in).

My cleaning machine is a compact unit with carrying handle on top, like a service box. All necessary equipment is hidden in the lid, like the ac cord and brushes. So it can be stored away when not in use.

Basically, several record washing machines differ mostly according to two different designs for the drying process: the point vacuum tip and the slot of 10 cm length, which sucks at the complete width of one record side. The cleaning process mostly is based on a cleaning solvent brought to the records surface with brushes or micro fiber clothes. In addition, there are as well machines which use a ultrasonic cleaning bath. A basic distinction between the cleaning technology and drying technology has to be made. The cheaper devices usually clean in a manual mode with cleaning solvents. which are applied by hand or supported with tools and turn the record (the well known Nitty Gritty models are since decades in the market). These machines use vacuum cleaner motors for sucking off the solvent through a slot of the length of one grooved side. The more expensive machines use pumps, turning motors for the record and dedicated mechanic precisely positioned brushes for a more comfortable cleaning process. All these machines do their job quite good, Their increase in the price range is a increase to comfort and speed, but they are very noisy (vacuum cleaner motor). It is impossible to use them during the listening to music.

Some more meticulously designed devices use real vacuum pumps with precisely point-operated sucking nozzles to ensure highly improved cleaning results. Here, the suction pipe must be accurately guided to obtain a improvement, but greatly complicate the effort. The "Keith Monks" or similar devices, like the Loricraft set the value for years. Meanwhile, there are now devices, which drop the records in a solvent bath to thereby use ultrasonic waves for the cleaning process. Some use warm blown air for the drying of the surface. I cannot believe that this will not blow dust particles again into the grooves.

All advanced machines are quite expensive, far in the k-dollare range, so it is a big investment to go for. Some people will argument, the amount is nothing comparing the value of the records, but still a Keith Monks will be more expensive than the most record players in the market. So, if you count your money, only one option will bring you the clean records, you need to build one for your self.

I did so some years ago. When I started to think about (around 1995), I started with a simple wooden box, a build in ball geared cranked platter of label size beneath a sealed under sided slot in the box connected to a tight adapter for the vacuum cleaner to suck of the cleaning solvent (the Nitty Gritty design). It did work quite well, the alcohol/water ruined my vacuum cleaners motor pretty fast and it was very very uncomfortable and noisy. So I decided to built something more complex, like the Keith Monks. For this principle a strong old idler wheel turntable is a good base (like the original Monks). Here are the cheaper ones with 78 r.p.m. with strong torque on demand. The turntable will turn the record for cleaning and drying. Than a pump is needed, which will precisely pump the amount of solvent on to the surface needed to clean one side. In the 90ties the windshield wiper pumps of the well known Citroen 2CV have been a perfect solution. They were available as regular spares and they were cheap. These pumps were pure mechanical ball operated systems, one push and the liquid was exact dosed at the surface. Today I would go for a Ulka pump from almost any espresso machine, they will pump in three seconds exactly the right amount of solvent to the surface, but need AC power, either 110V or 220V. But you can as well bring the cleaning solvent on with a independent spray pump for gardening, this will dramatically reduce the outlay of the machine.

Here you can see the basic first design. Upper left the platter for the record and the fixing screw. Upper right the the slider with sucking nozzle (ball lever op.). The early stage design with teethed wheel lever to dose the filament advance. At the right end of the sliding unit you can see the lever to position the brush and the silicon tube introducing the cleaning solvent through it.
Down from left: the vacuum meter, the push button for the solvent pump, the switch for reversing the direction and the mains switch for the motor.

Once you have pumped the solvent to the surface, you need a fine haired brush or a micro fiber tissue for the cleaning process. With the brush you can introduce the solvent perfectly into the grooves, by turning it forward and backwards parallel to the grooves. After that soaking the dirty solvent a sucking process is necessary. Here the final quality of the cleaning will happen. The best sucking technology will bring the cleanest results. For this reason it needs a good vacuum pump. There are diaphragm pumps available, which can produce a vacuum of -1 bar. These are widely used in several technical applications, so these are quite easy to obtain on ebay.
Next you need to build a guiding arm to move the nozzle precisely over the complete surface of the record, so that it can suck off all the solvent. With a 2 mm diameter whole in the nozzle it will be operated for approximately 30 seconds from the inner groove to the outer rim in order to suck off all liquid. You need to connect the nozzle to a silicon tube (5/8 mm inside/outside) to a collecting container (marmelade jar). With another silicone tube you connect the collecting container to the pump, so this principle makes possible that the pump will not see any liquid, if necessary. On the other hand the contaminated solvent cannot stop the pump housing.

From upper left: the turning motor with gear box, the vacuum compressor. Lower row from left: underneath just a little bit red the (Ulka) solvent pump, the solvent tank on top and far right the intermediate jar glass to capture the used dirty solvent.

Keith Monks has installed at the shaft of the arm a slow turning gearbox and a dc motor, so that the arm will turn exactly that amount in a minute to cross the grooves. Several people I know have used transmissions with rubber rings between shaft and geared motor wheel to find the right speed. Additionally the rubber ring can spin at the end of the record without damaging the record.
The most problematic part of the construction is the nozzle itself and an element keeping the nozzle off the surface of the record, but still very close in order to prevent the right vacuum. Keith Monks uses for this reason a sewing filament. This filament is sucked in together with the cleaning solvent. The supplying bobbin is retarded by a spring. The nozzle itself is made from teflon to prevent surface scratches to the vinyl. It is a quite complicated procedure to follow up. Three motors at different speeds and a pump – I thought there might be other ways to come by?

So I never did built one of this machines for myself, some friends of mine did it in the 1990ties. So I could participate at their experiences. To me it was to much complication to get get working pleasantly.

Read on soon about the use of the machine, Volker