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HW-27 Typhoon Record Cleaning Machine - Dirt be gone!
as reviewed Myles B. Astor
Vinylphiles lead a hard life. So much effort for a few minutes of pure pleasure from those 12-inch round black vinyl treasures. Proper storage. Careful handling. Meticulous cleaning. Of these chores, none is arguably more important, than keeping the record's surfaces spit polish clean. Not only does a thoroughly scrubbed and vacuumed record sound better, but there's less chance of dirt and dust lurking in the record groves causing wear and tear. And it isn't just used LPs that benefit from a good bath every so often! As I pointed out many, many years ago in the now defunct Sounds Like…magazine, even new LPs, in part due to the removal of mold release compounds on the surface of the LPs, benefit from a good washing and drying.
When it comes to designing a vacuum based, wet record cleaning machine (RCM), few high-end audio analog turntable designers have the knowledge and experience of VPI's Harry Weisfeld. Weisfeld designed his first, and for the time revolutionary, HW-16 RCM some twenty seven years ago; his next effort was the upscale automated, bidirectional rotating platter, HW-17 record cleaning machine. With his latest effort, the HW-27 Typhoon record cleaning machine, Weisfeld sets his sights on—and is largely successful—in building an even more upscale state-of-the-art cleaning machine for vinyl aficionados.
The Typhoon's core essence is a vacuum motor twice as powerful as that used in the older HW-17 RCM. According to Weisfeld, the Typhoon's motor was primarily selected for its quietness–and secondarily for its suction pulling power (a water lift rating of greater than 105 mm Hg or cfm/cubic feet of air per minute rating of 97) and ability to clean large numbers of records in a single clip without overheating. Ironically, the infrequently used water lift value (ability to vacuum water) for vacuum motors in this situation as informative as the now more commonly used cfm rating (amount of air moved through an orifice and adopted because nowadays vacuums don't suck up water). In fact, Weisfeld didn't think, until he ran across some old Last Research Labs data, that the new RCM required a more powerful motor than that found in the either the HW-16.5 or -17. Weisfeld explained that the Last data showed that as the RCM sucks the record cleaning fluid off the record, the LP's surface tension rises dramatically. Thus, there's a limit to how much fluid can be removed from the record or as Weisfeld puts it, "greater and greater vacuum is needed to clean less and less record."
Like it's predecessor, the HW-17, the Typhoon has a relatively large footprint and features automatic fluid application and a dual direction motor drive. Another first for a VPI RCM is the use of a precision machined, sheet metal cabinet. The new cabinet allows Weisfeld to properly brace the motor and drop the Typhoon's noise floor by 6 dB relative to the HW-17 (I didn't have a HW-17 around to check this claim) in addition to maintaining far better Q/C during the cabinet's manufacturing process. The Typhoon also features welded stainless steel fluid tanks and a solid acrylic platter topped with a cork mat rotating on a turntable-like bearing assembly.
Priming the Pump
All owners should review the extremely well written owner's manual (the ex-editor in me though wishes that counterclockwise be used instead of anti-clockwise) before operating the Typhoon. Special attention should be paid to points 4 and 9 on page 4 of the owner's manual to avoid damaging the machine. Audiophiles familiar with VPI's older HW-17 model will have no trouble cleaning records with the new Typhoon; it's a good idea to practice, however, with a trashed LP before cleaning their vinyl treasures. New users will most likely require a few practice runs (don't forget to prime the fluid pump) before getting the hang of dispensing just enough cleaning fluid to wet the record's surface (no damage can occur though the label may get a little wet.)
Now with all the attention Weisfeld devoted to the machine's state-of-the-art design, it's somewhat surprising that the Typhoon lacks the ability to dispense two record cleaning fluids—either a pre-cleaning solution for record collectors with especially dirty records or alternatively for audiophiles wanting to compare different record cleaning fluids. Of course separate vacuuming tubes must be used to avoid fluid cross contamination.
Second, the large plastic clamp securing the record to the Typhoon's platter (the same model used on VPI's turntables) obscures the record label. As a result, it's extremely difficult to determine when as called for in the owner's manual, two vacuum cleaning revolutions are completed. This problem could be easily solved by putting a white line on the clamp (Typhoon owners can put a piece of tape on the clamp to assist in counting record revolutions).
This Product Sucks
There's no question that the Typhoon RCM definitely delivers as promised. The sonic improvements resulting from a good washing though subtle, become increasingly apparent the longer one listen to the cleaned records: greater transparency, better bass (tracking), dynamic accents and more extended and cleaner highs.
Unfortunately no record cleaning machine or fluid removes those pops and ticks resulting from groove damage (some products such as Bugtussel may help with pops and ticks resulting from bacterial products clinging to the record grooves). At times though, it seemed that the Typhoon seemed to clean the records too well. Used LPs seemed to have an occasional increase in the pops and ticks. While I suspect this observation might be due to the machine getting the records cleaner and uncovering more groove damage, Weisfeld feels this phenomena may be due to leaching of lubricants from the record's surface and is reversable.
One unexpected finding was that even with the motor's higher vacuum rating, there was still a sonic difference between different record cleaning fluids. As I found in my Sounds Like…. piece many years ago, every record fluid has a readily identifiable sonic signature (attributed to the ability of the RCMs to remove the RCM fluid from the LP). In this case, found my favorite RRL Super Vinyl Wash better than the enclosed VPI fluid (though the VPI fluid may be improved by adding alcohol to the mix). Whether these sonic differences reflect the fluid's cleaning ability or the machine's ability to remove the last vestiges of the fluid remains open to debate. The differences? The most notable is the sense of transparency, most notably the ability to visualize instruments in the back of the soundstage and the attack on the leading edge of musical waveforms.
Finally, is the Typhoon better than my manual HW-16.5? To begin with, there's the Typhoon's automation factor and the ability to clean large quantities of LPs with worrying about the motor overheating (though I still prefer using elbow grease). Then there's the more difficult to evaluate sonic differences; I did try cleaning the same disc on both machines and the same recording from the same pressing run (as far as I know closely pressed together). In the end, records cleaned with the Typhoon were slightly more transparent, possessed more air and low level resolution.
Perfect Sound Forever
The take home message is first and foremost that a record cleaning machine is an absolute must in order to unlock all the information hidden in those vinyl grooves. VPI's Typhoon is an excellent choice for vinylphiles with large record collections or collectors and dealers who need to clean large quantities of records at one time. The Typhoon is built to last a lifetime and do the same for your valuable and in many cases irreplaceable records. Myles B. Astor
VPI HW-27 Typhoon Record Cleaning Machine