Hong Kong Audio Visual Show 2012

The VPI HW16.5 has been the benchmark record cleaner since its introduction. Often imitated, never bettered, its combination of simplicity and speed of operation make it the record-cleaning solution you actually do use. It is so quick and straightforward that cleaning each record before play is a genuine possibility, and it is in this usability that its secret (and popularity) resides -- that and the affordable asking price. Each competitor that comes -- and generally goes -- adds cost or complexity to the mix, undermining the magic formula.

So, given a burning desire to supply cleaning machines to the emerging Chinese market, what’s an aspiring manufacturer to do? I’ve seen products that ape their inspiration, products that take that inspiration a step too far, but I’ve seldom seen anything quite as blatant as this. Imagine a '16.5, identical in terms of operation, control layout and functionality, but built into a swanky acrylic box, rather than the original’s MDF. Of course, I have no idea how it works or what’s inside -- and one of the VPI’s most appealing features is its reliability, not exactly a given when it comes to machines that mix water and electricity -- but this Chinese-built device is well into "clone" territory. The price? That figure converts as approximately $410 US for this undeniably pretty machine (although I have no idea whether that’s a show special) -- but, as I said, what value do you place on safety and reliability?

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