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Reviewer: John Potis
Analog Sources:
Merrill-Scillia Research MS2 table, Hadcock GH Export arm, Ortofon Kontrapunkt H cartridge; 1985 AR Turntable with Merrill mods/ Hadcock GH Export Arm Garrott Bros Optim FGS Cartridge
Digital Source: Accustic Arts Drive 1/Audio Aero Prima SE DAC
Preamps: Bel Canto Pre2P, McCormack MAP-1
Power Amps: Art Audio Carissa, Bel Canto e.One REF1000 Monos, Canary CA 330 monos, Opera Audio Cyber 211 monos, Musical Fidelity A5 Integrated
Speakers: Tidal Audio Pianos, Thiel CS 2.4, Ohm Acoustics Walsh 4 with 4.5 mk.2 upgrade, Hørning Perikles, Klipsch LaScala IIs
Subwoofers: Genesis Advanced Technologies G-929, Bryston 10B-Sub active electronic crossover
Speaker Cables, Interconnects and Digital cables: JPS Labs Superconductor 3
Power Cords: JPS Power AC, Analog AC, Digital AC, Aluminata and Kaptovator
Powerline conditioning: Balanced Power Technology 3.5 Signature Plus with ZCable Cyclone power cord
Sundry accessories: Sound Mechanics Performance Platform, 2-inch Butcher Block platforms with Quest for Sound Isol-pads, Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, Ultra & Heavy ZSleeves, Viablue QTC spikes under speakers, Auric Illuminator, Gingko Audio Mini-Clouds
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling
Review component retail: GEM Dandy Hydraulic Record Cleaning Apparatus $119; Super Cleaning Solution $9 (add $1.50 for mister); $24 for GroOove Lube Kit

Do yourself a big favor. Leave completely aside the fact that the GEM Dandy Hydraulic Record Cleaning Apparatus is, by far, the least expensive record cleaning apparatus/machine I've ever used - less expensive than any I can even think of for that matter. Make the mistake of equating the value of the GEM Dandy to the price paid in dollars and you'll be doing yourself and the GEM Dandy a huge disservice. Do not make the mistake of looking at the GEM Dandy as some kind of poor man's Nitty Gritty or VPI record cleaning machine. In terms of simplicity and operational efficacy, the GEM Dandy is a no-compromise record cleaning solution. Yes, in the hands of an industrial engineer not concerned with price, I'm sure the GEM Dandy could look flashier and, well, more professional. It would also come at a much higher price to defeat the concept behind the Dandy, which was to bring to market and make available to vinyl lovers of all incomes a record cleaning system designed to increase the performance of your vinyl records while simultaneously reducing wear and extending longevity.

Let me repeat part of that again: the GEM Dandy is a no-compromise record cleaning system. I was going to add that it just happens to be ultra affordable but that's not really the case. George Merrill -- he should need no introduction to any vinyl enthusiast -- wanted to create a record cleaning system that would be affordable to all record collectors no matter what their investment in records. Merrill wanted to keep the design and execution of his record cleaner such that its purchase price could be rationalized by anyone no matter how large or small the LP collection. Merrill may have been willing to compromise aesthetics but when it came to its effectiveness, no compromise would be acceptable.

For the benefit of those who do require an introduction, George Merrill and his work in the realm of turntable modification and design go back decades. He first made a name for himself by modifying the very popular AR line of turntables and later designed his own; the Merrill Heirloom. More recently George lent his expertise to the Merrill/Scillia line of turntables, one of which received a glowing review here and another here. A conversation with George Merrill quickly demonstrates an unabashed passion for both music and LPs as his favored delivery system.

The first priority for Merrill was to produce a no-contact record cleaning system. Through the use of un-modulated LPs -- LPs with an un-modulated groove cut into them -- Merrill discovered that all record cleaning systems with some form of physical contact cause damage to the lands of the LP. The lands of the disc are the unchanged portions of the disc once the readable groves are pressed into the vinyl. They are the uppermost part of the vinyl that forms the walls to guide the stylus. In theory, they do not produce signal as the stylus reads the modulations in the vinyl below them. But as the lands do guide the stylus along, their deformation can and will distort the signal according to Merrill. The key was to produce a record cleaning system with no physical contact between cleaner and the LP to avoid damaging the lands. Enter the GEM Dandy Hydraulic Record Cleaning Apparatus.

Operation couldn't be simpler. The device is designed to sit at the bottom of your kitchen sink. It comes with adaptors for outdoors garden hose use, not a bad idea for reasons I'll get to. If you've ever used a pressure washer to clean your car, sidewalk, driveway or pool deck, you already understand everything there is to know about the GEM Dandy. It comes with a hose that attaches to the faucet to create a little pressure washer that will be used to flush away the debris from the LP without brushes of any kind.

Begin by loosening the wing nut to separate the LP label splash guard pucks. Mount record, replace splash guard, tighten down wing nut snuggly as it is responsible for keeping water out and the label dry but don't go crazy. Using the Super Solution cleaning agent, you next spritz the surface of the disc until moist but not enough to run. Let stand for a minute to penetrate dried-on groove gunk. Then turn on the water works and adjust water temperature to something like 60 or 70 degrees - it's the water pressure doing the work so you don't want it too warm. Just as a radial tone arm would read the LP, spray the LP with the output of the water hose down low to minimize splashing. Maintain a 30º angle of attack (a protractor is included to use as a guide) and twist the splash guard to rotate the record. Aim the water jet right at the splash guards and water will penetrate to get the label wet but I found things remarkably water-tight otherwise. Remove record, flip it, repeat.

Spraying the record with the pressurized water does produce a very fine mist that, at least in my case, floated free of the sink and coated the floor where I stood. Put down a mat or a towel or take the GEM Dandy outside. Otherwise Dandy was a no-muss, no-fuss operation. Following cleaning, Merrill recommends a soft cotton cloth such as Gerber flat-fold premium cloth diapers to dry.

I should also note that at $9 per Super Cleaning Solution bottle, this is one of the cheaper ways to clean a record. Your tap water is doing a great deal of the work and you need only spray on enough Super Cleaning Solution to coat the LP. It doesn't take much and there are a whole lot of cleanings in that $9 bottle.

At this point I'd been using a Nitty Gritty Record cleaning machine for years and admit here what I've been telling people for years - I've never been happy with it. I use it as a matter of routine but its operation has never made much sense. Given the tiny grooves of the LP, the cleaning system has never struck me as an ideal way of getting down into them. And since the machine operates on the inverted LP, I've never felt comfortable with the little bit of liquid used in the process. Too much cleaning liquid just drips off the record. At least it enlists gravity to remove the liquid after a cleaning. The VPI always struck me as the better machine though still not perfect. It provides a stable work surface and allows you to really soak the LP with cleaning fluid. But it also requires the use of a stiff bristle brush and when it comes time to use suction to remove the liquid and debris, you fight gravity. George Merrill himself has designed just such an LP cleaning system in the past and found that the swoosh of incoming air in the vacuum system actually dried the cleaning solution prematurely before there was enough suction to remove all the debris from the LP. To his mind and mine, the clear solution is to completely rinse away that debris before drying the record.