Degritter is a compact automatic cleaning machine designed by a very young, very passionate team in Tartu in Estonia. Very solidly built and beautifully finished, it features four 120kHz ultrasonic devices powered by a 300W amplifier. The manufacturer claims this much higher frequency makes cleaning more efficient and effective.
However, what marks the Degritter out is its sheer simplicity and elegance. It does a thorough cleaning job in a short space of time with minimal fuss. You just put an LP in, select one of the three washing options, and in about 5 to 10 minutes you have a clean, dry LP. That’s it – easy-peasy!
Because some records are dirtier than others, there’s a choice of Quick, Medium, and Heavy wash cycles. These last for 2m 15s, 3m 45s, and 6m 45s respectively. Drying times can be increased or decreased as required, as can the fan power. Increasing fan power speeds up the drying process but results in more noise. The reverse is true, too; reduced fan power lowers noise, but lengthens drying time. The choice is yours. Use the Medium (3m 45s) wash for typical LPs that are not too heavily soiled.
Degritter’s recommended cleaning fluid is distilled water, which you buy locally. A small bottle of ‘cleaning fluid’ comes with the machine. You use about 2ml of this fluid per tank of water; it acts as a wetting agent to enable the ultrasonic process to work more effectively. A replaceable filter keeps the water clean and free from debris. Still, it’s advisable to change the water regularly, especially if cleaning old dirty ‘charity shop’ LPs caked in dust and finger marks. If you see drying marks after cleaning, then the water needs replacing.
Degritter supplies optional inserts for 7” and 10” records, its record cleaning fluid and the replacement mentioned above filters should you clean records at a prodigious rate. If you go into a full-on cleaning frenzy, you might also decide on the optional external water tank, as it allows faster changes of distilled water.
After cleaning 50 LPs, Degritter tells you the foam filter needs cleaning. It’s straightforward to do, and – unlike some rival ultrasonic cleaners – there are no expensive pads or brushes that need regular replacement. If you stick to distilled water, Degritter is exceptionally cheap to run.
However, this is perhaps running away with the review. To clean, or not to clean, that is the question! Every serious audiophile playing vinyl eventually has to consider whether or not to invest in some form of wet record cleaning machine – especially once you start buying secondhand vinyl.
There’s an old argument about not cleaning records. This states that it’s less damaging to play at most use a record brush, and the only cleaning required is to remove crud build-up at the stylus. In fairness, wet cleaning LPs can be a messy and involved process. It’s potentially harmful too; ham-fisted wet cleaning can leave LP surfaces sounding noisy.
But the keyword in all this is ‘old’; the argument comes from when most record sales were of new LPs. Moreover, even if you’re meticulous in the handling and storing LPs and always treating new vinyl with the utmost care and respect, wet cleaning is still beneficial. It can reduce surface noise, improve sound quality, and extend your pick-up’s peak working life.
Good-quality vacuum suction cleaning machines are now fairly common, and many do the job exceptionally well. However, the last few years have seen the emergence of cleaning machines using ultrasonic technology. These usually work around 35–40kHz and bombard the vinyl’s surface with ultrasonic waves that help the liquid dislodge dirt – even in the tiniest crevices. Degritter is a fine example of this new wave in record cleaning. Nearly all LPs, regardless of age or country of origin, respond positively to wet cleaning. Lightly brush the edge of your hand over the surface, and you’ll feel a slight ‘pull’. After cleaning, the surface feels much smoother – your hand encounters less resistance if you gently brush it.
Degritter is exceedingly gentle with your records. LP surfaces are untouched. There’s no chance of the machine leaving lines or marks as there are no internal pads or brushes that rub or scrape the surfaces. You can clean LPs more than once without the risk of cumulative damage as a result. Use the Degritter’s ‘Heavy’ setting to clean very dirty LPs. But, in some cases, even this might be insufficient. Therefore, you may need to do a second clean or even pre-wash the LP manually before putting it in Degritter. You can also a proprietary record cleaning fluid if desired, and this might be more effective with heavily soiled LPs. However, thus far I’m inclined to stick with plain distilled water and pre-wash very dirty LPs before putting them into the Degritter.
Notice the difference when you put a cleaned LP back in its sleeve (or better still, a new antistatic sleeve) – it slides in much more smoothly than before. As a result of cleaning, the stylus encounters less ‘drag’ from the groove. Cleaning also means a smoother, cleaner, and more effortlessly detailed sound. The vinyl looks ‘blacker’ too. You hear an increased focus and added stability that makes LPs sound more like master-tapes. Clean a record with wide/exaggerated stereo and the left/right channels sound much more independent and separated. The music sounds firmer and more solid. Quiet passages are more focused and present, while loud passages seem cleaner and less congested – as though the stylus has an easier time tracing the groove (which it is). Additionally, there should be a welcome reduction in surface noise – though not always.
Trying Degritter with Grasshopper by J. J. Cale, [Japanese pressing, Mercury], I was impressed that an LP which had previously been cleaned and was in immaculate condition, could still be improved. Each track on this album has a distinct sound – as though each track uses a different studio and engineers. It was terrific to hear subtle differences of studio acoustic and tonal balance reproduced with such crisp effortless ease. Cale’s voice is rich and throaty on some tracks, while on others it sounds thin and edgy – for example, going from ‘Don’t Wait’ to ‘A Thing Going On’.
When sound quality varies like this, you often value engineering and production, concluding that some tracks were less well-recorded than others. But after cleaning, every track on Grasshopper sounded ‘good’, albeit different.
The sonic variations between tracks felt natural and intentional – and not the result of something that went wrong. For example, that dry slightly claustrophobic acoustic on ‘A Thing Going On’ creates a vaguely tense feeling, heightening the song’s surreal mood.
I need to ‘fess up to being an enthusiastic owner/user of the original Keith Monks cleaning machine. It does a great job. Of course, I wondered, would any additional audible benefit come from ultrasonic cleaning? I could hardly wait to find out.
The answer’s a definite – yes. True, the differences made by Degritter-cleaning over the KM were subtle rather than dramatic, but they’re there – small but significant improvements in fine detail, clarity, and stability. I feel the KM is more effective with filthy records. It’s like a laundry compared to dry cleaning. For maximum deep-cleansing, I start with a pre‑wash, followed by the Degritter, finishing off with the KM. However, this is a bit extreme – most times, the Degritter does fine on its own.
One LP I’d cleaned just a few weeks earlier on the KM sounded great. But after Degritter cleaning, the music gained extra poise and an effortless clarity that was truly exquisite. It felt like listening to the mastertape – it was that good.
It’s as if I’d suddenly upgraded my turntable/arm/cartridge to something far more capable. While cleaning doesn’t always deliver miracles, it’s possible even to salvage damaged vinyl. The result might not be 100% perfect, but it sounds a whole lot better.
Hi-Fi mags in the 1960s and 1970s were full of letters from people complaining about lousy LP pressings. There was a dip in LP pressing quality in the early ‘70s after oil prices spiked. The records themselves got thinner, and pressing plants even used recycled vinyl. A good cleaning can transform these LPs.
My ‘70s UK-pressed David Bowie LPs – from Space Oddity [Philips] through to Aladdin Sane [RCA] – improved very noticeably after cleaning. While not cut or pressed to audiophile standards, they sounded so much more like 180g ‘Audiophile’ pressings I could hardly believe it.
Sadly, Degritter is not cheap. But it offers serious-enthusiasts high-level performance with simple operation and low maintenance. It’s not large or heavy and looks clean and understated. It’s the easiest-ever serious record cleaner to use/maintain, and high-quality results are guaranteed. Having fan drying is a massive benefit. Some cheaper – and even some surprisingly expensive – ultrasonic cleaners forgo this feature; a considerable sacrifice, in my opinion. It’s like having a domestic washing machine without a dryer/spinner. Trust me; whether washing clothes or washing records, it’s worth paying extra for this feature. Just remember never to use washing powder on your LPs and don’t wash your underwear only in distilled water!
I appreciate how gentle it is and how simple to use. You can clean valuable, highly collectable discs secure in knowing they won’t get marked or damaged. It’s great just to press a button and have an LP cleaned/dried to a high standard with no fuss or drama in only a few minutes.
- Type: Ultrasonic Record Cleaning Machine
- Ultrasonic Cleaning: 120kHz/300W
- Water tank: Removable 1.4ltr/0.37 gal
- Noise levels: 50dB–70dB
- Supported voltages: 100–240VAC
- Finish: Black/Brushed aluminium
- Optional extras: External water tank, 7” and 10” record adaptors
- Available replacement parts: 100ml cleaning fluid, filters
- Dimensions (W×H×D): 37 × 28 × 21cm
- Price: £2,450
Tel: +372 5884 8839
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