REVIEW: RECORD CLEANING MACHINES
Okki Nokki has a large following amongst vinyl enthusiasts as an affordable, quality record cleaning machine potentially negating the need to spend thousands of dollars for the simple task of cleaning records. Consonance, out of China, on the other hand is the lesser-known alternative from the brand renowned for producing top quality products at affordable pricing. The Consonance RCM has been somewhat flying under the radar.
As my vinyl journey commenced a few years' ago, it didn't take long before I was picking up second-hand albums through online auction sites and Discogs, that are not yet being re-pressed on vinyl. While second-hand records are 'graded', it's apparent that what I consider 'mint' condition often isn't the same condition considered by some sellers.
My first approach to cleaning records saw me head down the 'revirginizing' path, with Record Revirginizer. The VRC 'Easy Spread 'n Peel' system has also emerged on the market more recently. With mixed results, the conclusion was that a combination of the revirginizing process and a record cleaning machine would achieve the best results. With this knowledge, I turned to my trusty friend, Google, to learn more about the countless Record Cleaning Machines on the market.
Let's face it, many enthusiasts are content with washing their records in the sink with a few drops of dishwashing liquid and a microfiber cloth, so is spending just shy of $10K on a high-end machine justified? I can't answer that as I haven't yet personally used such a cleaning machine, but a step above what could be considered the entry level, Record Washer System ($135.00) from Spin Clean, had us looking squarely at the $1000 price-point machines on offer from both Okki Nokki and Consonance.
Okki Nokki is perceived to be the machine of choice in this price bracket at $950.00, but late in our search, I discovered the Consonance RCM quietly tucked away on the Australian distributor's website, Greg Osborn, for the small sum of just $650.00. Since first publishing this article in 2016 however, Consonance has since updated to a third-gen RCM which now costs $1,080, though early-gen models can still be picked up frequently on the second-hand market.
At first glance there wasn't much between the two machines, so the only feasible approach would be to go hands-on with both units. Within days, both units were unpacked and set up on the office bench.
Both units are manufactured in China. The Okki Nokki is a German design, once made in the brand's homeland, however, to remain competitive has since moved production. The Okki Nokki is not far off price parity with the US market, which is a factor we always consider when looking at products for sale on the Australian market. The Consonance is still outright cheaper but does that come at a cost? Read on ...
The first and most obvious difference is size. The Okki Nokki (335w x 335d x 190h) has a larger footprint, but perhaps less imposing look being shorter than the competitor. The Okki Nokki also takes on the more traditional look of an RCM, at least the majority of the offerings on the market anyway. The Consonance (370w x 275d x 270h) stands taller but in some ways appears more compact.
Setup is straight forward, unpack, plug in, fit the vacuum wand and mostly you're ready to go. The Consonance user manual outlines included components and basic operation. The Okki Nokki includes quite a comprehensive manual and information relating to record cleaning and use of the machine.
The Okki Nokki features a full-size platter, whereas the Consonance uses a smaller 230mm platter. In my tests, this made no difference to performance.
The Okki Nokki includes a few accessories to get you up and running, including a small bottle of concentrated cleaning fluid. The Consonance includes no cleaning fluid, which is a little disappointing.
Unlike other machines with an MDF chassis, both machines feature steel/aluminium construction. This is preferred as some users complain about the MDF swelling over time; this is after all a 'wet' process.
The Okki Nokki weighs 7kgs, compared to the Consonance weighing in at 11kgs.
One difference noted was that the Okki Nokki uses a removable rubber mat on the platter, which given it's removable, suggests it's also replaceable and likely available as a spare part. Whereas the Consonance also has a rubbery / foam mat, but it's glued to the platter. Over a few years use I can imagine these mats will show signs of wear and use from the cleaning solution.
Both machines feature a clamping function once the record is in place on the platter. The Okki Nokki uses a small puck that screws down holding the record in place. Not only does it leave the label exposed to the cleaning solution, but I also found it appears to 'bottom out' before being screwed home and snug on the record. The Consonance uses a much larger clamp that screws down, but also covers and protects the entire label surface.
The supplied Okki Nokki 'goats-hair' cleaning brush seems better than the supplied Consonance 'nylon' brush. Initially, I suspected the goats-hair brush to be more effective, but it's not as 'stiff' as the Consonance supplied brush. Both brushes seem just as capable at working the cleaning solution across the surface of the record and into the grooves. I propose the Okki Nokki brush will likely need replacing before the Consonance supplied brush.
The operation couldn't be more straightforward. Both machines feature two switches — one for turntable operation, and the other for the vacuum function. The Okki Nokki features a two-way switch for turntable operation, which allows the platter to turn in opposite directions. I like this approach and would feel confident having cleaned each side of a record in both directions. The Consonance features only clockwise operation of the platter. Motor noise is reasonable, with the Okki Nokki not only quieter than the Consonance but almost silent.
On to the vacuum. The Consonance has a 1250w vacuum, while specs on the Okki Nokki vacuum could not be found. One thing that can be said, both machines' vacuums are loud! Too loud to do in most family houses in the evening. Save your record cleaning for a Saturday afternoon, preferably in the garage, with ear-muffs. With that said, the Okki Nokki is substantially quieter than the Consonance, and I can't help but feel by the sound of the whine of the vacuum motors, that it is possibly of higher quality. That is an assumption on my part, however.
Both machines use a plastic vacuum wand, with felt pads that contact the surface of the record being cleaned. While different in design by only a small margin, they serve the same purpose and achieve the same results. I note again, that replacement wands, and pads are available for the Okki Nokki.
Both machines also utilise a drain tube (with a stopper) at the rear of the machine. Emptying is simple, drop the tube in a bottle or container, remove the stopper and tilt the machine up. You'll be surprised how little fluid comes out even after more than a dozen records.
As for the cleaning itself, fortunately, I have some very old records from a family collection that I have just been itching to resurrect. Dust, fingerprints, smears and smudges, the perfect candidates. With the supplied Okki Nokki solution, I found that even with 2 or 3 passes, oily fingerprints remain. The makeup of their solution is a secret, but there is a subtle scent of ammonia or a similar chemical in my opinion.
The internet is full of DIY recipes for record cleaning solution. Essentially, most solutions comprise distilled water, alcohol, and a surfactant. The ratio of those ingredients is an art in itself, however. It's no secret you can make your own solution for less than $50 that will make a five year supply (and I have), but quite timely was the delivery of my online purchase from Melody Mate. Made in Australia, Melody Mate is a brand new product from creator Nigel Eriksen and is the result of years of research and experimentation.
Melody Mate is no different in its make up to others', but they make big claims as “the best record cleaning solution in the world”. Thanks to a recent discussion on StereoNET, apparently they completely sold out of initial stock in no time at all.
“I started the company to offer Aussies a locally made product that they could trust”, Eriksen told StereoNET. And while it has no secret ingredients, I can state it works, very well. Fingerprints and smudges were removed on just the first pass with either machine.
Back to the comparison between Okki Nokki and Consonance record cleaning machines - they differ in size, they have a different visual appeal, are similarly priced, but one is much louder than the other. Ultimately, they do the same job.
With the quality included accessories, a full range of replacement parts readily available online, comprehensive instruction manuals, and potentially higher quality internal components, there's a good reason why Okki Nokki has become a popular choice.
Greg Osborn has informed me that spare parts are also readily available from Consonance too, which is good news.
Either way, you'd be more than happy with the performance of either machine, and you'll be restoring old records or maintaining new ones for years to come.