DIY LEGO Record Cleaner Is Revolutionary

There are many schools of thought when it comes to keeping vinyl records clean. It’s a ritual that’s nearly as important as the one that comes after it — queuing up the record and lowering the needle. We’ve seen people use everything from Windex and microfiber towels to ultrasonic cleaning machines that cost hundreds or even thousands. In the midst of building a beefier ultrasonic record cleaner and waiting for parts, [Baserolokus] looked around at all the LEGO around the house and decided to build a plastic prototype in the interim.

The idea behind ultrasonic cleaning is simple — high-frequency sound waves pumped through distilled water produce tons of tiny bubbles. These bubbles gently knock all the dirt and grime out of the grooves without using any brushes, rags, or harsh cleaners. [Baserolokus] built two pieces that hang on the edge of a washtub. On one side, a Technic motor spins the record at just under one RPM, it spins against a 3D printer wheel embedded in the other side. Check it out in action after the break.

Cleaning your vinyl is a great first step, but you might be ruining your records with a sub-par turntable. Take a deep dive with [Jenny List]’s thorough primer on the subject.

31 thoughts on “DIY LEGO Record Cleaner Is Revolutionary

    1. Laser record players have been made, although by the time the technology became good enough it was obvious that records had a limited future. The records must be VERY clean because a laser pickup is easily disrupted by dirt. Laser record players would be an expensive technology. Also (I’m guessing here) a laser system is limited in sensitivity by the wavelength of light, and conventional stylus pickups may be able to do better than that.

      1. CD lasers wear out and so unknown deterioration. Obvious damage to CDs over time. DVD lasers more stable and good fed through hifi. Done for years on collection 5000+ LPs. Tiny amount washing up liquid spread on clean 2 fingers over record. Dribble thin stream cool water and rinse. Avoid paper centre. Turn over record repeat. Dry using flat cotton tea towel. Wonderful rejuvenation.

        1. Reading a vinyl with a laser is so much more complicated than reading a CD. A CD is made to be read by a laser, the layout and materials are perfect for a laser pickup. The laser is simply focused on the reflective layer, when a pit (dark) appears the reflection is no in focus and causes a change in signal.
          On a vinyl you have two surfaces that are analog, one for left and one for right. Each of these needs to be read analog as its the distance to the laser diode that will be the signal, not just a 1 or 0. You prob also need a third laser to keep track of where the groove is, the groove center must then be aproximated so the left and right laser distance can be corrected.
          In the end, an analog laser pickup for vinyl is so much more advanced and complicated. On top of this, as other stated, any dust will make for an error. The needle would just push much of this dust to the side, a laser might loose track of where the groove is.

          1. In the end, what you’re describing is a laser doppler sensor which doesn’t actually need to be aligned perfectly. You don’t measure the distance, you measure the speed at which the surface is advancing or receding, which is accomplished when the reflection of the laser spot back towards the emitter mixes with the emitted light and modulates it.

            The distance doesn’t matter because, as with the needle pickup, you’re actually measuring the rate of change. The error caused by the imperfect tracking is then high-pass filtered out of the signal (which is one of the reasons why vinyls have poor bass response anyways).

          2. As for the tracking itself, assuming a 33 RPM record, you already know how fast the track should be advancing so you can follow it “blind” once you find where it starts from. Alright, but we know the track isn’t cut perfectly so there will be a deviation. First you have the long term deviation where the track will advance slower or faster on average, which happens over a few seconds and doesn’t introduce audible errors – this is easy to correct. The second flaw is the record wobbling around an offset center. This happens at rate of 0.55 Hz, so again not audible. There may be some multiples of that rate, but as long as they stay under 20 Hz you’re not going to hear it.

            In other words, as long as the record doesn’t wobble so badly that the track moves off the laser spot entirely, the laser only needs to track the average position of the track over a second or two. It won’t be thrown off by a single particle of dust, or even a deep scratch.


            > the vibration amplitude and frequency are extracted from the Doppler shift of the reflected laser beam frequency due to the motion of the surface. The output of an LDV is generally a continuous analog voltage that is directly proportional to the target velocity component along the direction of the laser beam.

            So, you don’t even need any fancy digital computers and advanced processing to extract the sound. Just lenses and mirrors. Of course, that is not to say it’s trivial to make one, but it’s not as complicated as one might imagine.

    1. Valid concern, it does however rotate very slowly, leaving one to hope that drips that are gonna run, all do so before they get very far out of the tank. The ultrasonic vibrations should help in getting them moving. However, I don’t see collectors with highly valuable pieces being too trusting of it.

      1. Agreed, I think the speed of rotation, and the records grooves will all work to channel any wet away from the label, but yeah wouldn’t want to trust it with any rare record…

        Perhaps an air blade (with highly filtered air so its not trying to play sandblaster) would be a good addition.

  1. Ultrasonic cleaning works in part by producing cavitation. The imploding bubbles produce high pressure and shear forces that remove dirt, but can erode the surface. I imagine that would not be the preferred way to clean a record track.

    In actual use, it’s doubtful a consumer-grade ultrasonic cleaner would generate cavitation on a record surface in that configuration, but it still doesn’t seem the wisest way to clean a record.

  2. Just a thought, since the problem with a dirty record is dirt in the groove why not just repurpose a cheap turntable, replace the needle with a “needle” of a material softer than the record itself which will “plow” dirt out of the groove when the record is “played” and either suck up the removed dirt out with a vacuum attachment or blow it away with air?

  3. The laser turntable came out of a project to play un-playable cylinder records. It worked and read the whole groove wall not just the path worn by needles. It was largely immune to dirt-noise. This advance was ready to be marketed for LP’s. It quickly disappeared. Most likely things didn’t work as promised, but the CD was positioned to take over and render LP’s obsolete at 3 times the going price of an album. Follow the money. It finally came out after physical media was made obsolete.

    As for backwards, the use of the legendary Watts record brush (I have one) and it’s knockoffs is to spin the record backwards to remove more dirt because the needle impacts some into the soft vinyl. This action knocks more particles out. I can vouch for this hearing less noise doing it backwards. Warning supplied by them cautioned doing it on automatics.

    1. Vinyls were completely obsolete as a medium by the 1990’s not only because of CDs and the MiniDisc, but because even cassette tapes started becoming good enough with better materials and players. Try to imagine a vinyl Walkman. The vinyl survived because of the DJ and club culture, because of what you can do with it as an instrument of musical performance, but as a media format it was just unwieldy. Trying to keep it alive by improving the fidelity with lasers is kinda missing the point. The LaserDisc died just the same.

      To survive on the market, the laser vinyl deck and the records would have needed to shrink considerably, at which point the records would have become incompatible with standard players. You would still keep all the problems of a vinyl though, like having to compress the bass frequencies to make the groove fit the track width. The next logical step would have been to use pulse width or density coding to fix the track width, increase density, and make tracking more reliable, at which point you have arrived at the basic premise of a CD.

  4. I’m confused as to why you’re going to so much trouble when what your trying to invent has been around for years.The Audio Desk System Glass.I know,I own one,have for three or four years,works perfectly,every single time.My whole vinyl collection has been cleaned along with any new or used records I purchase are cleaned perfectly before ever listen.Not one time has it damaged or hurt any records.I would highly recommend it to anyone considering purchasing a cleaner.A little expensive,but well worth the investment when you consider the value of good vinyl and the cost of a higher end cartridges. John Clemons

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