The Soniclean VT Plus is a simple-looking $200 vacuum cleaner that claims it can outperform Oreck, Dyson, and Shark. The ace up its sleeve is "sonic-cleaning technology," which comes by way of a bar adjacent to the brushroll which vibrates 200 times per second. Like an electric toothbrush, which buzzes the plaque right out of your gums, this vacuum promises to buzz the dirt right out of your carpets.
$200 isn't a bad price for a middle of the road vacuum, and it's a great price for one that's actually capable of performing as well as vacuums like the Dyson DC65 Animal and the Oreck Touch, which both cost significantly more. In our tests, the Soniclean more or less did just that, putting up performance scores that left me pleasantly surprised. I can't say that I'm a fan of the dated, feature-less design, but for raw cleaning power from a lightweight, affordable unit, I give the Soniclean VT Plus a passing grade.
Design and features
The Soniclean VT Plus sports a skepticism-inducing, faux-futuristic design that makes it feel less like the vacuum of tomorrow and more like a relic of the early '90s. It's an aesthetic that just seems blatantly inauthentic given how basic the build is. There's no pivoting neck for easy maneuverability, no unique engineering touches, no high-end design flourishes. It's a very simple, very dated build that's been designed to look fancier than it actually is.
Still, the design gets some things right. At just over 11 pounds, the Soniclean is noticeably lighter than the Oreck and Dyson models I mentioned before, along with the comparably priced, tank-like Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean. All three of those weigh in at over 17 pounds.
Part of the reason this vacuum is so light is because it doesn't have a whole lot of extra stuff on it, or in it. Inside, there's just the disposable, HEPA-filtered bag -- the Soniclean only comes with one of them, which seems a bit cheap to me. Additional eight-packs cost $25 and are supposed to last you about a year.
Below the interior bag, you'll also find a slot for a linen-scented air freshener. Like the bags, you get one of these with the vacuum, and if you like what you smell, additional eight-packs cost $20. I certainly didn't mind having it in there as I cleaned, but I doubt that I'd feel compelled to buy additional ones after it ran out.
You won't find any extra cleaning attachments on its backside, or even a wand. From a practicality standpoint, this comes in handy when you're trying to lie the Soniclean flat to the ground and store it under your bed, but it still might feel a bit too sparse by modern standards.
The settings are sparse, too. The power button is conveniently located on the handle and clearly labeled with foolproof lettering. Click it once for hard floors, twice for carpets. That's it. There are no other settings to play with, no other buttons to press, nothing else aside from the latch to release the vacuum from its standing position. If you're looking for something feature-rich, look elsewhere. Minimalists, however, might be justifiably thrilled with this thing.
Of course, the Soniclean's true marquee feature is right there in the name: sonic cleaning. Flip the vacuum over, and in addition to the brushroll, you'll find a strange, blue bar. This is the part that vibrates as you clean in carpet mode (it turns off if you click back into hard floor mode). Soniclean claims that this vibrator helps its vacuum agitate dirt out of your carpets.
Then again, every vacuum is designed to agitate dirt out of your carpets, typically via the little brushes that spin through the carpet fibers. I wanted to see what set sonic agitation apart.
For a rough approximation of the vibration's intensity, I held a glass of water directly against the Soniclean's spinning brushroll, then directly against the vibrator bar. The brushroll had next to no effect on the water, but the vibrating bar sent steady, Jurassic Park-style ripples across the surface. Clearly, those vibrations produce a different effect than you'll get with just a brushroll.
Performance and usability
We ran the Soniclean through our usual barrage of vacuum tests to see what sonic cleaning technology brings to the table (or in this case, to the living room floor). Using multiple runs to clean up multiple kinds of debris across multiple types of surfaces is a laborious process, but it's one that gives us a lot of data.