The first popular tumblers were the viberator types and, on balance, they're still the better choice. Wet processes (Ultrasonics and steel pins) can get cases surgically clean but that only matters if you're going to do surgery with them. Wet case cleaning is slow, labor intensive, messy and then you have to wait for them to dry inside before they can be used; PITA. Steel pins are expensive and require quite costly rotary tumblers too. Few of us bother with wet systems for very long.
No brand of vib tumbler is noticably 'better' than any other. All they are is a plastic bowl/lid/base, a few springs and a motor; they all do the same thing the same way. The weak points in all of 'em are electrical; the motor and its wiring. The motor wiring connections may break due to the vibration but are easily fixed if you can use a soldering iron.
All tumbler makers use small, cheep Chinese motors so how long one lasts is a crap shoot no matter the brand or price; some last a very long time, some don't. Most low cost motor's have small diameter shafts with plan bronze shaft bushings that let the oil dry out and seize the shaft, which then burns the motor windings out. I know Lyman and Berry/Cabelas/Graf use larger diameter motor shafts with ball bearings so get one of those. Lyman's cost a little more but those made by Berry and get sold by Cabelas/Graft are just as good, IMHO. ?
Some people agonize over which media, cob or nut, is 'best'; it hardly matters because both work quite well. What does matter, for convienence, is the grit size. Most commercial reloading suppliers sell what's called 10/20 grit but the bits are so big they get stuck in flash holes. I much prefer 20/40 which is too fine to get stuck and works just as well as the bigger bits. What I love is sold by some larger home builder's supply stores as a "sand" blasting media for cleaning log homes. It's inexpensive by the pound but only comes in about 40# bags - that's been a very long time media supply for me!
Putting metal polish in the media is optional. Glitz was fun for awhile but I grew out of it and much prefer the clean matt surface finish I get without polish. Plain media cleaning leaves my cases looking factory new without the shiney 'plastic' looking finish a polish leaves.
The question of 'lead' in a vib tumbler's dust is unfounded. There is only a tiny amount lead in a tiny primer pellet and virtually all of it get's blown out the barrel. Most of the dust that causes some concerns is from the media itself - and is harmless - and the gray on the media is dried polish which is no more harmful in a tumbler than it is when polishing an auto.
Last edited by wncchester; May 8, 2013 at 10:55 AM.