The Nitty Gritty 1.5 machine is a breeze. First, use the included squeeze bottle to apply a small amount of Pure 1 or Pure 2 to the VAC Sweeps, then set your dirty LP on the spindle. Flip the power switch one way to begin rotating the record. The VAC Sweep fibers scrub the record as it rotates. Flip the switch the other way to turn on the powerful vacuum that cleans and dries the record. Now flip the record over and repeat.
The Nitty Gritty 1.5 FI is the model I have. Man this is the best investment I've made went comes to taking the surface noise out of the records. I found that using the nylon brush on the top works real good. If the record is not scratched the nitty gritty will take the surface right out. I highly recommend the nittyGritty.
I have owned a Nitty Gritty 2.5 for about two years. I like it but my Dad has tremors. Manually applying the cleaning solution was problomatic for him. I bought the 3.5FI for s great price used. These record cleaners really are a necessity for any serious record playing. I have used a few different record solutions including the a "concentrate," and Nitty Gritty's. Both work well for me. I was thinking about the VPI units before buying my 1st Nitty Gritty a few years ago. My only problem with the VPI is placing a freshly cleaned side of an album onto a not so clean surface when you clean the 2nd side of any album. On the plus side for VPI the record sits on a flat surface just like a turntable platter. This makes my having to press down slightly on warped records on the outside of the label near the capstain where it grips the record. I pre-clean my records using a soft brush with cleaning solution before using the Nitty Gritty on any vinyl I scrounge in thrift stores, and in used record stores. I find I can lay the side to be cleaned "up" on the Nitty Gritty, then I squirt on some record cleaner. Then I use a brush to work up a good lather so to speak and get down into the grooves. Then I turn the record over and it gets cleaned on the Nitty Gritty. These are really nice machines. I would tell anyone who listens to vinyl to buy a record cleaning machine. Be sure to place your freshly cleaned record in a nice new record sleave. I was very impressed with the reduced noise from artifacts and dirt. There are far less clicks and pops to be heard for sure on a freshly cleaned record. You also get to enjoy lowered background noise. Go out and find a Nitty Gritty record cleaner is my humble suggestion.
The product I have is actually the Nitty Gritty 1.5 FI with the fluid injection. I have used the old 1.0 and toiled with the fluid application (too much, too little) and manually twisting the record around against the vacuum suction. I always thought that manually brushing the fluid on the record was more effective. However, I found that I was less and less inclined to clean the records. After speaking with the people at Upscale Audio about a factory blem unit, I bit the bullet and ordered the 1.5 FI. The only difference between the 1.5 FI and the 2.5 FI is the vinyl finish of the 1.5 versus the wood finish of the 2.5. For the money, I'll take the vinyl.
The machine is so easy to operate that I have cleaned more records in the past month than I have in the past year.
The 1.5 FI works wonderfully. The capstan which turns the record has a groove which insures that the record makes firm contact with the cleaning strips during rotation. I do not hesitate to clean any record now if it needs it.
One point not made in the manual is about placing the record on the cleaner. I tilt the record into the capstan, rock it back slightly and then align the center hole with the spindle. This is very easy and correctly seats the record in the groove of the capstan.
I totally recommend this product to anyone with a prized record collection. I have bought used record which appeared to be dirty beyond repair and with one (or maybe two in some cases) cleanings, I was enjoying the almost like new sound of these records.
The Nitty Gritty 1.5fi is the Nitty Gritty model that has the best balance of price/features/performance for most users. It is priced to compete with the venerable 'basic model' VPI record cleaning machine, currently incarnated as the model 16.5. Unlike the 16.5, however, the Nitty Gritty 1.5fi offers a pump to dispense the cleaning fluid to the machine-mounted cleaning strip, and has a slide-out waste fluid tray for ease of fluid disposal (A minor design oversight: the tray is difficult to grab (no finger grip), and the slide lacks a backstop, so the tray ‘runs away’ from your fingers and out the back side of the machine!). The VPI has a waste fluid reservoir that must be drained via a hose into another container or a sink. While the VPI looks very much like a turntable, the Nitty Gritty is more compact, easily fitting on a bookshelf.
The Nitty Gritty differs as well from the VPI in basic operation. On the VPI, records are clamped to a large motorized platter, brushing and fluid application is manual (hand held) to the upper surface of the record. A spring loaded pick up tube ‘rides’ the record and suctions fluid and debris off during the vacuuming phase. On the Nitty Gritty, records rest on a small, coaster-sized platter and are driven by a rubber capstan, which engages the record edge under spring tension. The capstan has a modified U-section, so that as the record rides in this capstan groove, record surface contact on the underside is effectively maintained with the (replaceable) cleaning strip, which Nitty Gritty calls a ‘vac-sweep’: a two edged velvet affair with a gap in between the edges into which the cleaning fluid and debris are carried during the vacuuming part of the cleaning process. (As its name implies, the vac-sweep includes both the cleaning and vacuuming functions in one strip, dependent of course on whether you are applying fluid or vacuuming). All cleaning takes place on the side that is facing down. You pump the fluid plunger a couple of times to get the fluid flowing to the vac-sweep. Once wet, mount the record, engage the capstan, and turn on the rotation motor. Continue pumping until the record surface is fully wetted, let rotate a few times, then vacuum for two revolutions. That’s it. The only suggestion I offer is that you place the unit on an eye level shelf with sufficient light to view the surface being cleaned. You want to get enough fluid on the surface to effectively flood it, that is, until the surface looks glassy when viewed at an angle. Also, pump judiciously or you will waste a lot of fluid; just a mere jiggle of the plunger (light press of the plunger with much less than a full stroke) while rotating the record will add fluid that will be applied to the record and not wasted out the overflow basin. When the surface looks like glass, rotate a few times more, then vacuum. The Nitty Gritty 1.5fi provides the LP lover the right balance of automation and manual control, and record cleaning can’t be any simpler or easier (unless of course you opt for the model that cleans both sides of the record simultaneously!)
But all is not nirvana in Nitty Gritty land. A closer inspection of the Nitty Gritty reveals significant design shortcomings that can result in incomplete cleaning and worse, potentially damage the record’s spindle hole. The 1.5's record spindle, made of what appears to be a very hard, smooth plastic material with a metal post core, screws into a raised hub molded into the top plate of the unit. The top plate is hard, shiny black plastic, possibly lexan. On this hub rests a small diameter ‘platter’, held in place by nothing more than gravity, and made of what appears to be the same hard plastic material as the machine’s top plate, with a rubber mat on the record side. The two plastic surfaces (top plate and platter) provide low enough friction that they serve as the ‘bearing assembly’ for the platter; in other words, the platter rests and rotates on the top plate and hub. In and of itself this is OK, as the machine’s low rotational speeds, and the lack of any significant downward vertical pressure on the platter, allows this to work and be fairly durable.
What is not OK however is the spindle. The 1.5's spindle does not rotate with the record. Now, given the machine’s low rotational speed, the few rotations typically needed to clean the record, and the fact that the spindle itself is smaller diameter than a standard spindle, this would not seem to present much of a problem (after all, record changers (gasp) have fixed spindles–though changers probably account for all spindle hole wear on older records). But remember that in this machine, the record is edge driven under tension, pressing the fixed, sub-diameter spindle firmly against the record’s spindle hole as the record rotates. The inner surface of the record hole is therefore dragged, under pressure, across a contact point on the spindle. Even for only a few revolutions, this has got to have a widening effect on the record hole, if ever so slightly. Clean a record routinely and/or for many revolutions (a very noisy, dirty record), and that wear could add up. Regardless of any claims made to the contrary, this machine’s design at the very least leaves the user with the uneasy feeling that damage is being done to the record's spindle hole.
This spindle and drive design also creates a cleaning problem. Thin, flexible records, and/or records that are dished–even slightly so–will not get cleaned on the inner grooves (nearest the spindle). The reason is that the edgewise force of the drive capstan, though not excessive otherwise, can cause the record to bow upward ever so slightly at the spindle end, lifting the last few centimeters of the record grooves off the vac sweep. In my setup, I had a white wall behind the unit so that, when looking at the record on edge, I could clearly see this lack of contact. It occurred on several records that otherwise had no noticeable warp or dish when playing. The degree of separation varied; on some records it was almost half the playing surface at some points during rotation. A record already slightly dished–too slight to be noticed on a turntable–will never get fully clean when placed on the Nitty Gritty concave-face down.
What is needed is a way of holding the inside of the record down on the vac sweep, just as the cupped drive capstan performs this function at the outer edge. Clearly, this could be solved by a record clamp at the spindle. But you cannot use a clamp on a fixed spindle. Strike two for the fixed spindle design. Further, the ‘Plastic on Plastic’ gravity bearing design of the platter won’t work under clamping unless the spindle is independent of the platter, and even then wear due to pressure on the top plate would be a concern. Nitty Gritty’s designers have incorrectly assumed that the cupped drive capstan would, by itself, be sufficient to maintain record contact across the length of the vac sweep. The fact is, real-world records are not that rigid and not that perfectly flat for that to be realized in practice. Flexible vinyl and even slightly warped or dished records need not apply to the Nitty Gritty for cleaning.
In the Nitty Gritty, her designers laudably adhered to the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. But the design choices don’t always work so well, and in the case of the fixed spindle, can jeopardize the records themselves. There are no technical or economic reasons for sticking with this design. Many potential design solutions exist for a rotating spindle and platter that would likely add less than ten percent to the retail price of the machine and solve these problems. After considering the platter/spindle design in toto, it becomes clear that at best, Nitty Gritty’s designers did not do a thorough job in testing; at worst they favored ultimate cost savings over customary (read: minimum expected) design features (e.g., a rotating spindle). The latter choice would truly be a travesty: To a vinyl lover, intentionally subjecting your records to any form of damage is unconscionable. And lets be clear: a fixed spindle is simply an inexcusable design choice on any modern record handling equipment, at any price.
In its present form, I cannot recommend the Nitty Gritty 1.5fi, nor any Nitty Gritty model that uses the same platter and fixed spindle design. Hopefully, Nitty Gritty will redesign the spindle and platter to allow full rotation and clamping, and in so doing they will make the 1.5fi the best record cleaning machine in its class, perhaps relegating legends like the basic VPI machine to collector status themselves. For now though, the Nitty Gritty is, well, like the car or SUV that seems to do everything well--until the road turns rough, where the steering gets twitchy and the car becomes prone to roll-overs. Want to risk it?
Value rating: 5 stars for features relative to other machines in its price class.
Overall rating: 2 stars for design and operational deficiencies noted in the review.
This review is for Nitty Gritty's manual model sold by Audio Advisor as the Record Doctor II ($199). The record must be rotated by hand. Definitely the solution for those who don't have a big wallet or the record collection to justify spending twice as much on a machine with a motor to spin the vinyl. Operation is still simple and quick, you simply have to manually spin the record instead of having a motor do it for you. So, if you aren't lazy and/or rich, save some bucks to spend on music and get a little exercise in the process :)
This machine does a great job! I can't believe all the ticks and pops I've been living with that I haven't had to. I really consider that greatly reducing to even eliminating those ticks and pops has been as big an improvement to my listening experience as that of upgrading my table, my cartridge or my phono stage. Even though Nitty Gritty is making a killing on these things (basically a small vaccum in a box) it was well worth the money spent for the sonic improvement returned. Highly recommended!
My value rating is relative to comparable products.