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Photos courtesy of HumminGuru
Having been a skeptic of extra-curricular gadgetry when it comes to maintaining a record collection, I counted ultra-sonic cleaning equipment amongst such skepticism. Having been exposed to such technology for cleaning jewelry (which it worked wonders on), it never occurred to me that such a technique could be used on records. Ultrasonic cleaning is a process that deploys ultrasound (usually from 20 to 40 kHz) to agitate a fluid, providing a cleaning effect.
The theory of an ultrasonic cleaning is to convert the sound energy generated by the frequency generated by the HumminGuru into a mechanical vibration. The ultrasonic wave that generates the mechanical vibration is transmitted to the cleaning liquid through the cleaning tank wall so that the micro-bubbles in the liquid in the fluid reserve can keep vibrating under the action of the sound wave, separating the dirty adsorption on the surface of the record being cleaned. These tiny cavitation bubbles aid in helping to lift dirt, dust, and grime from the record surface and its grooves.
The process itself can be very quick, completely cleaning a soiled record in minutes. The HumminGuru as two cycles, two minutes and five minutes. Ultrasonic cleaning does not use any brushes or other tools of the trade to clean records, preventing further surface abrasions other techniques or machines have the potential of leaving.
HumminGuru started with a Kickstarter campaign seeking funding to design-build an affordable and compact all-in-one ultrasonic record cleaner. The campaign was a success and the unit came to market in 2021. Comparably, the HumminGuru is far more affordable than other retail units that range in the thousands of dollars. Retail prices start at $379.00 (unit alone), and $430.00 (bundled with adapters for 7” & 10” records as well as spare rollers/filters).
The design itself is smart and as promised, lightweight at 3.1 kg and compact with dimensions of 34 × 15 × 27.4 cm. The HumminGuru takes up no more space than an average countertop appliance. The unit itself comes with plenty of spare rollers, filters and adapters for cleaning 7” and 10” records (Indeed, the adapters comes with the bundle set only, or can purchase separately).
Thrift store discoveries can be challenging when it comes to condition and turns out they make great candidates for ultrasonic cleaning. Finding a 1955 pressing of Erroll Garner’s Gone Garner Gonest (Columbia) with plenty of dust and surface grime made for a great first test of the HumminGuru.
The unit comes with a removable tank from the side for cleaning solution with fill height designations for full-length LPs and 7” singles. HumminGuru recommends a solution comprised of distilled water and their alcohol-free formula (aka The Small Bottle). The use of distilled water is stressed over conventional tap water as the latter contains numerous minerals and impurities that can do more harm than good.
After the tank is filled, the solution is transferred to the cleaning reservoir before aligning the record in the center of the rollers. The surface level of the solution ends at the record’s run-out grooves so there is no contact with the record’s center labels. As mentioned previously, the HumminGuru has very intuitive controls and can be adjusted to clean based on a two-minute or five-minute cleaning cycles with drying cycle time settings of five-minutes or ten-minutes.
A record pressed in 1955 and found in a rural Colorado thrift store almost seventy years later was, to no surprise, thoroughly soiled and as such, the HumminGuru was set to a five minute cleaning cycle followed by a ten minutes of drying. These cycles can be set manually or can be selected via a the Auto mode setting that takes care of cleaning, draining the reservoir and drying automatically. What is immediately noticeable about the HumminGuru is how quiet the unit is under operation during both cleaning and drying cycles. Visually, the difference between before and after cleaning was visually impressive. While surface scratches were still present, gone was the dirt and grime replaced by a glossy sheen.
A few drops of HumminGuru’s The Small Bottle formula added to distilled water acted as a perfect surfactant, helping the cleaning process along by reducing surface tension and enhancing spreading and wetting capabilities of the solution. The drying cycle setting at ten minutes also produced a record surface immediately ready the playback. It must be stated that the sound quality before and after cleaning proved to be night and day. Particularly the quieter moments in jazz. Garner’s playing improved significantly with little to no background noise. A miracle considering the state of the record prior being introduced to the HumminGuru. With its compact size and cleaning capabilities, the HumminGuru turned this skeptic into a believer.
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