The Okki Nokki Record Cleaner

Vinyl lovers spend a lot of money on tonearms, cartridges, and phono stages in the effort to pull the most sound from the record grooves. However, none of these audio components can deliver their maximum performance if the record itself is a limiting factor.

Minute particles in the grooves of dirty records can diminish sonic quality, adding unwanted pops, snaps, and surface noise to the music. Even new, seemingly clean records are hampered by debris left over from the pressing process. Yes, simple record cleaning brushes can help this problem, but if the brush itself is not completely clean, it can introduce new debris – or worse – grind it back into the delicate record grooves. But nothing beats a good wet cleaning for the best possible result.

Based in The Netherlands, and imported by VANA Ltd in the USA, the team at Okki Nokki addresses this ongoing problem with their newly updated RCM-II record cleaning machine. Designed to loosen and suck out any grime present on the record surface, rather than simply re-distributing it, the Okki Nokki simplifies the cleaning process as much as possible.

The Okki Nokki package contains everything needed to start cleaning records within minutes. The main cleaning unit, which holds the platter and vacuum motor, a bottle of cleaning fluid concentrate, vacuum wand, and a cleaning brush. The team at Okki Nokki also includes an instruction booklet and links to an online video to demonstrate proper usage. The recommended clear acrylic dustcover is available separately for $50.00

The 50ml of cleaning concentrate is formulated for dilution into a liter (roughly a quart) of water. I find a pair of narrow-tipped, refillable mustard or ketchup squeeze bottles – like those you might see in a diner — serve very well for fluid dispensing and storage. If you chose to go this route; make sure to label the bottles. I don’t think this solution would be appetizing on French fries.

With fresh cleaning solution at the ready, place a record onto the Okki Nokki platter, clamping it down with the included aluminum record clamp. After flicking on the switch for clockwise rotation, about a tablespoon of cleaning solution should be dribbled onto the record. Applying the record brush against the vinyl surface evenly distributes the cleaning solution, starting the process simultaneously. After about five rotations, switch into counterclockwise motion for a few rotations, offering extra thoroughness in loosening any stray particles.

With the scrubbing process done, it’s time to remove the debris-filled solution from the vinyl surface. Merely switch the record cleaner back into clockwise motion, and turn on the vacuum motor switch. Pushing down lightly onto the vacuum wand, it rotates itself into position against the record surface for maximum effectiveness. Once the wand sucks itself into place, there’s quite a good seal against the record surface and no physical intervention is required – just let the record spin a few times. The combination of the vacuum, and the soft cleaning band on the underside of the wand, remove any loosened particles and leave the record surface completely dry. When turned off, the vacuum motor whir subsides, and the spring-loaded vacuum arm pops up off the record, swinging out of the way on its own.

For those vinyl fans who enjoy buying pre-owned records, or who have a lot of old records in their collection, it’s a good idea to purchase a second Okki Nokki vacuum arm. The wands are easy to swap, plus there’s no sense in rubbing old dirt into new vinyl. Save the “clean” arm for your new records, and keep the “dirtier” arm handy for the big jobs.

If a lot of records are shined up in one sitting, the dirty fluid reservoir inside the Okki Nokki may get full. There’s a tube on the rear of the cleaner that facilitates draining should it become necessary. With occasional record cleaner usage, most of the residual fluid will evaporate on its own.

Listening to records before and after cleaning, I find there’s a reduction in unwanted hiss, snaps, and pops, plus some improvement to the overall musical presentation. The Okki Nokki certainly lives up to its design goals.

At a price of $499, the Okki Nokki isn’t cheap, but considering its robust build quality, and features, it represents a very worthy investment for the vinyl enthusiast. The Okki Nokki can help preserve your record collection, get the best sound from it, and also save some wear and tear on your precious cartridge. After such a great experience with the Okki Nokki, I purchased the sample unit. I have a lot of records to clean!

Record Cleaning For Fanatics

Record cleaning 1Just drop by any internet forum and you can make enemies instantly by bringing up the subject of record cleaning. LIke every other aspect of the HiFi hobby/obsession, you can do this on a few different levels, and your budget can determine the results. I’ve seen plenty of DIY ways to clean records (with most of them ending in tears, or at least ruined records), but nothing that works consistently or convincingly.

After years of screwing around with this myself, here’s a method that works. You don’t necessarily need two record cleaning machines, but I admit I’m obsessed and it really makes the job move more quickly. If you don’t use two machines, at least try and use a machine like the VPI 16.5 or Clearaudio Smart Matrix that allows you to swap cleaning wands, so that you aren’t cleaning overly dirty records with the same surface that touches your brand new (or nearly new) records.
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Here’s an extra step that will make the record cleaning machine’s job easier. Start with a carbon fiber brush like the Audioquest one shown here and go around your record in a circular motion, almost like sweeping the dust up on the floor to the center of the record.

crudSee that gigantic pile of dirt? Grab a handy can of compressed air and blow that right off the record. This will make it that much easier for your RCM to get right at the tough dirt and it cuts down on the crud that sticks to the cleaning pads.

Getting down to business

For now, we’re going to assume you are cleaning a record that is somewhere between brand new and moderately dirty. My favorite all around cleaner for records in this state is the MoFi Enzyme cleaner. The directions specify leaving this on your record for 60 seconds, but if you have a fairly dirty (and possibly fingerprinted) record, apply a heavy dose of fluid and let it soak for five minutes. Otherwise, if only moderately dirty, go with 60 seconds. Once done soaking, give your record cleaner a spin and vacuum up the grime. The reason I prefer the Clearaudio Smart Matrix RCM is its ability to clean in two directions, which is very helpful if you have a moderately to very dirty record. So, if you have an extremely dirty record or are just paranoid, apply the cleaner one more time and spin the record the other way, vacuuming as you go.

You’re almost home, but don’t let your excitement get the best of you. Even the best RCM’s leave a bit of cleaner residue on the record’s surface, which will eventually require a re-clean and will accumulate on your stylus. That’s not good in either case, so we’re going to take this one step further and use MoFi’s Pure Record Rinse, and vacuum our record one more time.


Home Stretch/Bonus Round

Once you’ve done all of this, take that compressed air and make one more pass, to make sure that record is completely dry before our next step. For most of you, this will be the point that you either put that super clean record in a fresh sleeve or take it for a spin to marvel at your cleaning prowess. But if you’re really a maniac, gently place that record on the Furutech DeMag and zap it for 45 seconds. Again, we can argue about this until the cows come home, but the bottom line is this gadget that looks like a prop from the first season of Lost In Space really works. It will take that last bit of grain and harshness from the presentation.

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Now put the record on your turntable, relax and enjoy. If you’ve followed the steps carefully and the record has no surface damage, you should be enjoying analog playback that rivals a CD in quietness. No more of that “vintage sound, consisting of clicks and pops” that the mainstream press likes to go on and on about whenever they talk about the vinyl resurgence. This is the analog magic at it’s best.

While there are a number of different cleaning solutions, cleaners and brushes, I guarantee this process will work. And while I’m a fanatic, I’m lazy. I use this combination because I can get it all from one place (Music Direct) and they always have it in stock. Feel free to experiment as you get comfortable, there are a few more variations on the theme, but only if you are even more fanatical than I am.

And by the way, is that turntable level? Just checking!