Keith Monks Prodigy

Hardware Review

Keith Monks Prodigy
Thursday, February 25, 2021
record cleaner
Chris Kelly

Record cleaning is a topic which can spark off some lively discussions among vinyl lovers. Some believe in it, some swear by it and some are definitely sceptical. I am definitely a believer and own a well-regarded record cleaner which has served me well for a few years. A thing of beauty it is not however, and it sits on a shelf in our office/study, to be used every so often when the mood takes me and I spend a morning in the rituals of cleaning. Once I have cleaned a record for the first time I slip into a new antistatic inner sleeve. It is a mystery to me why some record companies still ship their product in a coarse paper inner sleeve.

The latest product to emerge from the Keith Monks brand is a very different beast altogether, as you can see from the accompanying pictures, and the longer it was here the more I came to admire it, as an object but, more importantly, as a record cleaner. This is the company whose eponymous founder came up with the concept of a record cleaning machine back in 1969, and sold his first examples to the BBC. In those days of course records were ubiquitous and as a broadcaster the BBC needed to be sure that the records played on its various radio stations were as clean as possible, to minimise the likelihood of noise appearing with the music on air.

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The Prodigy builds on half a century of experience and gives the home user a device which delivers consistently excellent results with the minimum of fuss. An album is clamped on to the small turntable, a few drops of liquid are applied to the inner part of the record and as the record spins the user spreads the liquid across the rest of the record’s surface using the suppled Ecoroller ‘brush’ which is stored in a bamboo tube and raised for use. Once the surface is evenly wet, the short bamboo arm is moved into position and the soft nylon suction tip is lowered onto the innermost part of the rotating record. As the record turns the arm tracks towards the outside and the liquid and released dirt are removed. The record is then turned over and the process repeated for the second side. After final touch on the edge of the disc with a soft cloth to dry the edge the record is ready to play.

All this is accomplished to a very quiet soundtrack compared with sound of my own cleaner and others that I have seen in action, which almost require the user to don ear defenders because of the racket made by the vacuum motor. I used the Prodigy on our kitchen table but even with it in full flow I was able to hear the music from previously cleaned discs playing next door in the lounge, which was a pleasant surprise.

The process does takes a little practice. On the first few sides I cleaned I let the liquid fall too far from the centre of the record and as the rotation started liquid sprayed off in every direction. Once I had got the process right however, that stopped and all was well. There are some helpful videos on YouTube showing how to use the Prodigy – I thoroughly recommend taking the time to watch them before you start cleaning that first disc.

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Not content with creating a very competent record cleaner, the company has given it extra visual appeal by dividing the top and bottom halves of the case with a strip of LEDS. A remote control is also supplied and the colours can be changed to suit the user’s mood! (There is also the option to turn off the LEDs completely if that is preferred.)  Necessary, no. Creative, yes.  The use of sustainable bamboo wood in the construction of the machine’s body, Ecoroller housing and vacuum arm is another indication of the thoughtfulness of this design, as is the bamboo cover that can be put on the machine when it is not in use. The Prodigy is supplied with an adapter that allows 7 inch records to be cleaned, and it will also work quite happily with CDs, DVDs, BluRays, game discs and any other similar circular media carrier.

The Prodigy is supplied with a 250ml bottle of Keith Monks highly regarded Discovery Record Cleaning Fluid, which should be good for 50 to 70 12 inch albums, and a spare soft cleaning nozzle, which is should last for about 1,000 albums. Spares can be purchased from dealers on the website or Keith Monks direct, as can extra cleaning fluid. I was extremely happy with the cleanliness of records I had put through the Prodigy which runs off a robust industrial 12V power supply.

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As a test, I dug out a 1977 US pressing of the ubiquitous Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, which I purchased in LA when it came out. I first played it on my LP12 direct from its sleeve. It didn’t sound too bad, although there were a few pops and clicks to be heard on both sides. The record surface looked a little dull but otherwise was in pretty good shape given its age. I then took it into the other room and gave it a Prodigy bath. Now the surface looked glossy. Back onto the LP12 and hey presto, it sounded absolutely terrific, and the whole Rice Krispie experience was conspicuous by its absence. Slipped in to a clean non-static inner sleeve and returned to its own sleeve, that record should be good for another 43 years.

While the Prodigy was here I cleaned perhaps 100 albums, some of which I had done previously in my own machine, and some of which were new purchases. It was never a chore, and every album that went through the process came out looking and more importantly sounding better. This included some that I had cleaned previously on my own machine – make of that what you will.

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If you have even a small collection of records I would strongly recommend that you consider treating yourself to a Prodigy. It is easy to use, handsome in a quirky way but above all it will allow you to get the very best sound from those precious slabs of plastic. If you have been sceptical about the benefits of record cleaning, this might just be the machine to change your mind.

Specifications: 

Type: vacuum vinyl cleaning machine
Supplied accessories: Ecoroller microfibre wand, Discovery cleaning fluid
Features: RGB lighting, low noise
Finish: natural bamboo
Size HxWxD: 140 x 550 x 220mm
Weight: 5kg
Warranty: 2 years conditional (excludes nozzle tips, consumables, usual exclusions)

Price: 
£795
Manufacturer Details: 

Keith Monks Audio Works
+44 (0)1983 857079
www.vinyldiscovery.com

Distributor Details: