* Prices may differ from that shown
The very quirky Sebo K3 Airbelt Vulcano. This is a member of the K series of canisters which Sebo intend to be direct competitors to the Miele S6 and former S4 Range.
The Vulcano is the second from Top Of Line model in the K range, with the K1, K1 Komfort, and K1 Pet being below it, and the K3 Premium with electric power nozzle being above it.
There is not much publicity about this range, and searches on K3 Vulcano do not reveal that many results, especially in the UK. I own and have used this vac and am in a position to describe its features and give my humble opinion of it, when compared to Miele's S6 model the S6220 that I also own. It cannot be compared to the S8 range as the larger Sebo D Range is the direct competitor to that range.
The K3 Vulcano comes with a 3 litre fabric dustbag which is not as good quality as the comparable 3.5L Miele Hyclean FJM bags, but the Sebo bags are half the price, in that you get 8 in a box for the same price as a box of 4 Miele FJM dustbags. The access to the dustbag is from the bottom of the K3, as compared to the lid of the S6. It has a light that glows up orange when the K3 detects a restriction in airflow, and also a bypass relief valve to help prevent strain and overheating of the motor in the event of a blockage.
The K3 Vulcano comes in a striking orange and browny red colourway, and has replaceable filters, one for the pre-motor and one for the Post motor which give it true S-Class hospital grade filtration. These filters come as a service pack from Sebo, and generally need replacing every 16 bags used, which is less often than Miele recommend for their S6 range.
It comes with a 2.1 metre hose containing an electric cable to service the slider control on the handle to vary the suction from 0 to 100%. The hose is fixed at the vacuum cleaner connection end and does not swivel. It will swivel at the handle end, and is slightly more stiff and unwieldy than a non electrified hose. I find it better to store the cleaner with the hose detached, as I feel it puts strain on the floorhead connector, where it slides into the back of the cleaner housing. This is not a problem though as I have a suitable place to store the hose, and when in use, I can cope with its limits. Its a small sacrifice to make for the flexibility of having a handle mounted motor control.
When plugged in, and the main On/Off knob pressed, the K3 is put into standby mode, and the bag full lamp glows up green. This then puts the machine at the control of the handle slider, much like the Sebo Felix. The slider is infinitely variable unlike other brands which only offer limited settings for motor speed. No member of the Miele S6 family come with this handle motor control facility.
The status light glows green all the time the machine is switched on. When the vac detects a full bag or blockage, it lights up a second LED that makes the status light glow green and orange, although I would have expected it to turn the green light off and just glow orange, but it doesn't do this.
The Floorheads supplied with the K3 Vulcano feature the Deluxe Kombi which is the most comprehensive looking non-turbine head I have ever seen, with very good attention to detail, and 4 wheels. This floorhead is very easy to push across my cut pile carpets - even at higher power,due to its wheels and good design. It does not seem to suck itself hard to the carpet like other conventional combination floorheads. The K3 Vulcano also features the full size Turbo Komfort air driven Turbobrush, similar to Miele's Turbo brush supplied on their canister range. This turbine head is tried and tested,excellent quality and ideal for cat and dog hair. No mini turbo brush is supplied however and this brush, if needed will have to be purchased extra from Sebo for about £35, as there are no cheaper aftermarket parts in the hose diameter that Sebo uses. Also included is a dusting brush which attaches to the wand, and crevice/upholstery tool which fit on the machine itself. This is because lower models in the K range do not come with the dusting brush as standard. One limitation is that the upholstery tool has to be connected to the crevice tool before it can be connected to the handle or wand, this is so that the upholstery tool can be shaped to fit flush to the top of the machine.
The Wand/Tube is a telescopic, half metal, half plastic affair, which is lighter than the Miele tube, but not quite as good quality in my opinion. Brushes and accessories clip fit easily onto the tube in the same method used on Miele cleaners, they do not friction fit, so are very easy to dismantle. The wand is not electrified, but features a clip halfway down to clip a cable to if using a power nozzle, for which there is a power socket provided on the rear of the handle assembly. This socket has been heavily criticised for being an unreliable weak point when the optional electric nozzle is used, however this is not a problem for the Vulcano if the power nozzle is not purchased for use with it. Only the K3 Premium actually comes with the electric floorhead as standard.
The Machine expels its warm exhaust air via a HEPA filter located in the top of the machine through its orange, spandex/lycra Airbelt, which is replaceable if it gets damaged - but at a high cost, so it will pay to look after this machine. This method of exhausting its air is better than the Miele method which blows the exhaust air directly upwards out of the machine's lid.
It has 3 good quality castor wheels, with one attached to the bag door itself, and moves freely across all surfaces. It is about the same weight as the S6, but the handle is smaller, due to the offset hose socket, which makes the machine move slightly skewed when pulling it along, but this is not really much of a problem as the Airbelt protects the vac and the furniture from contact damage.
My verdict is that this is a very good quality machine, its styling is however, rather quirky with a colour scheme that may not appeal to some - you will either love or hate the colour scheme, and I love it, as I love quirky colours in my vacs. I like the design and also the Airbelt feature. I think the wand is lighter than the Miele S6 range, but has a weaker joint where fixing the wand to the machine, so care will need to be taken not to shear the parking bracket off the back of the floorheads, or damaging the parking slots, as the hose can pull the wand to one side if the machine is stored with the hose still attached.
The hose I do find more limiting in movement than that of the Miele S6, but am prepared to accept this as I wanted the handle operation, which is a more convenient feature that the S6 does not have, so its a case of give and take a little here. Another point is that the vac cannot have its power varied on the machine itself, unlike the lower models, on which the power knob can be turned to vary the power.
Tool storage is better than the S6, as at least 2 tools store on the machine, and the wand mounted dusting brush is not as obtrusive as the clip on the handle Miele tool caddy.
All in all, the Sebo K3 Airbelt Vulcano is a very good alternative to the Miele S6 range, and has some good features lacking from the S6, but I feel that the quality of the Sebo machine itself is actually slightly higher than the S6, and the tools are on a par quality wise. The one area I feel the S6 is better is in the cord rewind facility which is a tug operation at full cable reel deployment on the Sebo, much like the Bosch and Siemens machines, but a pedal control on the S6 which can be used regardless of whether all the cable is deployed from the cable reel.
My final verdict is that I would give the Sebo Airbelt K3 Vulcano a score of 9/10, with the lost point due solely to the lack of a cable rewind mechanism pedal. I cannot fault the quality of build - it is typically well engineered by a very reliable German company.
For some time now I've been looking for a compromise between an upright vacuum and a cylinder vacuum and to be honest I thought I found it in the Sebo Felix, an unusual small upright vacuum in design but has the capability of being used with standard cylinder vacuum cleaner floor heads which means swiveling necks and getting under low furniture with no problems; something Dyson's Ball uprights fail to do. But oh how I miss having an auto cord rewind! It's okay if you have time in the day to unravel a 10 metre cord but in my busy life I need something that isn't going to take ages to unravel let alone wind if up at the end of each cleaning session. Then there's the small hose on the Felix; handy in a 2 bedroom flat with low ceilings but you then have to whip out tools you hide elsewhere that can't be stored on the Felix if you want extra cleaning versatility. A small cylinder vacuum cleaner with a long hose was therefore needed but one with a slight difference.
Sitting below the flagship "K3 Premium," the K3 Vulcano (model number 9684GB) model costs in the region of £200 that most sellers online charge and for the price you may well be wondering why a bog standard cylinder vacuum cleaner at half the cost wouldn't suffice let alone oodles of other choices. I nearly parted £250 on a Miele S4000 model that didn't come with the most novel feature that the Sebo K3 Vulcano sports: an electric socket. Come again? An electric socket ladies and gentlemen and it's no ordinary socket because whilst the wires and connections are away from prying eyes and is embedded within the telescopic metal height adjustable tubes and wired into the hose, the Sebo K3 Vulcano can take an optional electric motor assisted power head if you really miss the deep cleaning aspect that a standard and more traditional upright vacuum can give whilst air driven turbo brushes only dream about. There's the slight difference, folks. Online I managed to find a brand new model at the cost of £169-99 plus £3-95 for postage and packaging from www.redsale.co.uk as opposed to the usual £200 that other sellers price this vacuum cleaner at. It pays to use Google!
** This is a long review **
The difference here is that whilst the electric floor head is 2.1kg in actual weight, being a product by Sebo means you're automatically entering into a life of light gliding characteristics, near impeachable build quality and a decent clean without having to fish out screwdrivers if it clogs up or having to swap over floor heads. Yet whilst it has the option of this floor head at a cost of just £58 (Sebo) I enquired into the similar Miele options for my own S4210 model, a similarly sized compact vacuum cleaner that isn't that old and has only been replaced by the S4212 at a cost of £179-99 with a 2000 watt motor. I'd assumed that by going down the Miele route, my options would be cheaper. Oh how wrong I was proved to be! For a similar item for your Miele vacuum cleaner, you're looking at spending £70 to £100 for a similar optional floorhead and then an extra £70 tagged on for rechargeable power packs. £140 for just an attachment? Who is kidding who, Miele? There are no batteries here with the Sebo either; the power just comes off your mains power as you would normally with any vacuum cleaner. Then there's the Sebo guarantee - ALL domestic Sebo vacuums bought brand new come with a five year guarantee and an additional two year guarantee for parts and labour on top. Over to Miele and you'll find that only a few certain models chosen by Miele will have lengthy guarantees whilst models are skimping on features that are standard on the Sebo K range not least the K3 Vulcano.
In it's slightly elevated status; the K3 Vulcano sits underneath the K3 Premium model that comes with the electric head as standard. The beauty of almost every Sebo vacuum cleaner is that most tools and floor heads are interchangeable. Sebo have just brought out a new cost optional floor attachment in the form of a polisher that has its own motor (naturally) and can work off any of the cylinder or upright vacuums like the K, C and Felix series that has the same connector neck. Another tick in the box for extra cleaning versatility there!
The ET-1 floorhead (so called perhaps because it is Electric) is very similar to that of the Sebo Felix whereby there's a manual height adjustment dial, a button to stop the brush from rolling for hard floor cleaning, a switch that simply allows the brush bar to fall out from the side to clear the bristles of any tangled pet hair and a trapdoor on the underside to check for blockages. This is what you pay for when it comes to a premium price and indeed although it is cost optional, a main size turbo brush comes with the K3 Vulcano as standard as well as a suction only Deluxe floor head to get you started if you don't want the electric head. Now that's a novel idea here because unlike the standard K series, the Vulcano already comes equipped with a swiveling handle just like a proper upright vacuum cleaner to reduce hand fatigue. Over the curved bent angle of my Miele S4000 model, the K3 Vulcano is a lot easier to push and pull simply because of its more traditional handle, an idea that Miele themselves have since copied from Sebo and now included on the latest "Cat and Dog S5," model for example. Additionally on the K3 there is another swivel from the electric part of the hose at the back which means getting around corners can take as little as a pinch of the fingers on the back of the handle. I've never really been that impressed with the thought of a light cylinder vacuum cleaner and a power head jammed on the end until I've experienced the Sebo K3. They have really thought about how to get about with something heavy on the end of a lightweight telescopic height adjustable suction tube!
Not exactly the best looking but certainly novel decked out in dark Burgundy and Orange (or "Deep Red," as Sebo call it) it lends a fun and functional aspect to the vacuum's main design. The performance of the K3 Vulcano is simply outstanding. With the additional electric floor head attached there is an apparent weight on the end of the main tube but it isn't as heavy to steer like the Sebo Felix because of its main motor at the front upright design. The long hose and quiet noise of the Sebo K3 is also surprising but very welcomed; Sebo state that this vacuum has a decibel level of just 65 - that's less than a standard kettle reaching its boil. Having the new electronic suction control located on the actual handle at the top the K3 Vulcano gives outstanding versatility even if you don't happen to own or buy the separately priced electric power head. Thanks to its 5.5kg weight (all in with tubes and plastic floor heads attached) and variable 2100 watt motor, the Sebo K3 breezes through tasks quite efficiently without getting stuck between door ways or if the hose protests or going around corners. Add the electric head and it has an almost self drive mechanism that you hang onto the handle rather than pushing and dredging back! A 6 metre cord is all you get on the Sebo K series sadly so it means for the most I'm doing room by room rather than being able to get around more with the 10 metre built cable on the upright Sebo Felix.
Having two soft feet on its body when it is made to stand up ensures no floor marking or any surfaces getting hot due to the motor air and filter air being deposited and re-routed to the sides; unlike Miele's central exhaust that puts air out at top - not handy if you are bending down to change the suction setting! Let's not forget though that the electronic suction control is located on the actual handle and not on the body of the Sebo K3 Vulcano.
This also makes an ideal vacuum for cleaning stairs. For extra cleaning needs, there are three cleaning tools that are also supplied such as a flat T shaped upholstery tool that sits on top of the vacuum body flush and integral whilst around the back next to the cord/plug the same long crevice tool that the Sebo X and Felix uprights use. This means it is a long crevice tool and it doesn't provide much noise in use! The third tool is a small triangular dusting brush that is small yet has a 360° neck to make it easy to turn around for any cleaning task. It clips onto a very easy and slideable adaptor that sits on the top of the main tube. Unlike the Miele S4000 here, the tools on the Sebo for the most part sit within the vacuum cleaner design and of the one that sits on the tube part, it won't ever fall off unless you really knock at it to take it off.
Also unique to the K series generally is an LED indicator to show when the bag is full or when there is a blockage. On the K3 Vulcano however there are two lights: a green light to show that the vacuum is switched on and an orange light that will flash in tandem if the bag is full or if there is a clog. And there's Miele who rely on mechanical indicators! Like Miele, the Sebo handle can be unlocked from the main hose if anything gets clogged unlike cheaper brands such as Hoover or Electrolux who fit bonded only handles to their hoses making clogged dust removal all the more difficult and more expensive if you happen to break the handle from the hose.
Just like the lower Komfort model I owned before the Vulcano, the K3's larger turbo brush flies up to jet engine like speeds picking up hairs and threads with ease. However for deep cleaning it really does try hard possibly due to all that power coming from the 2100 watt motor and getting a deep clean is possible if all the motor has been increased. Add the electric head on however and you don't need as much power since it has it's own motor on board. The air driven floor head is however very light to add on and like all of the major floor heads supplied with the K3 Vulcano, they all lock on and lock off via a button to permanently lock it either to the tubes or the electric handle. Less suction is still available to make the turbo brush floor head float easier to glide via a slider control on the actual turbo brush itself whilst all floor heads have natural edge suction channels.
However for storage, the Sebo K3 is more compact than the Miele S4000 generally even if the Miele S4000 has a narrower body; two points on the body of the K3 Vulcano means that the floor heads can be slotted centrally at the back or at the back of the body at the top when in a "resting" period in between sessions and the "Deluxe" floor head slides easier than the main turbo brush into the positions lending a more flush and storable design here.
Another surprise are the actual castors as getting around with a cylinder vacuum cleaner is just as important as lifting it! Unlike Miele, non-flush fitted castors that seem to jump over rugs and carpet frames with ease have been fitted here. It doesn't mean that the vacuum has an unstable design but rather improves going from room to room or getting it over the power cord. Indeed over my older K1 Komfort model Sebo have improved the ease of pulling this cylinder vacuum design because the three soft rubber coated castors not only provide a 360° rotational direction (so handy to have in tight spaces and small rooms compared to 2 set wheels at the back and a castor at the front) but also are slightly elevated from the main body lending an almost "off-road," feeling. Marking is also largely absent from carpet surfaces unless you use the electric head which gives a good grooming effect once the carpets have been vacuumed and with pet hair especially the electric head just zooms right through it and sucks it all up in an instant.
Don't want to step on the power button that sits all alone on the main body? No problem; the power on can be activated by the slider located on the main handle of the vacuum (for safety reasons such as inquisitive children I rather like the fact that the main power on button on the machine can be pushed on as well to ensure children don't play with it!).
Putting everything together on the K3 Vulcano is very simple and quick to task as the hose and main electric handle have a simple click-lock system that can be easily be removed by the touch of a button. Build quality and thought go hand in hand with the outer plastic covered two piece metal tube which is also very light to lift when cleaning ceilings although naturally with the electric cord embedded they are slightly heavier than the standard K series tubes. The hose and electrical points are also double insulated so it's good peace of mind generally. Let it not be said also that the K3 exudes a certain quality missing from more modern brands.
Like Miele however there are filtration options that make up S Class / High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) but they are standard with all of the Sebo K range against Miele's decision to fit basic cylinder vacs with their microfiltration "Super Air Clean," types. On the K3 Vulcano however I was pleased to find Sebo's highest 3 stage "red" hospital grade filter alongside their usual motor filter and both have to be replaced after 16 to 32 bags have been filled, themselves a 4 layer filter type bag which like most Sebo models have separate caps you put on the dust hole to ensure no dust leaks when it comes the time to empty. Over to Miele and you'll have to replace the filter after four bags are used (admittedly you get them free) in lieu of their yearly cost optional HEPA filter cartridges that cost between £10 and £23. Price for the Sebo filters come in at £11-50 and £16-50 for the red type, £11-70 for the lower micro filter, but in both cases they offer up to 7 layers of filtration that meets the Hospital Grade factor. Spend £20 on their Service Box idea and you get the filters and 10 dust bags with sealing caps; with Miele, two boxes of 4 bags alone would cost £10 to £13. Who's the most expensive? Surprisingly it is Miele here! Longevity depends on how much dirt you're picking up; however the Sebo bags on the K series can last up to three months which makes the box of 7 or 10 bags all the more economical; a factor that Sebo seems to have thought up at the time of launch. Where it struggles is on DIY dust, a fact that is also warned about in Sebo's well photographed and explained user manual. For the health conscious however the Sebo K series is a relatively safe bet; the K3 Vulcano just offers that little bit more other than being perfect for allergy sufferers. Changing the filters means very little contact to actual dust too which is very important!
Another factor that is better than the Miele S4 is that it doesn't rock or lift up when the cord is being taken out and after all these years despite having no pedal to step on to retract the cord I'm beginning to appreciate the auto cord function of simply pulling on the cord after I'm finished vacuuming. No more bruised ankles when the cord comes back towards you running into the back of the vacuum here! After all what is point of having to walk back and forwards from the plug socket just to retrieve the cord before stepping on it to rewind and then having to lift your vacuum away? On the Sebo K series you just pull the remaining cord at the end sprouting at the back of the vacuum after you have finished your task and the cord just winds back up into the machine.
There is no denying that the Sebo K3 Vulcano is an expensive vacuum cleaner to buy but I feel its' long term running costs outweigh most protests when it comes to its super-uber cleaning efficiency, simplistic lightweight design, sheer build quality, ultimate suction performance and long lasting filters and dust bags. For buyers looking for a "bells and whistles," top of the line compact cylinder vacuum, the K3 Vulcano is particularly hard to beat given its electric control on the handle and its further electric floor head option not to mention its lengthy UK guarantee. If you're anything like me who needs carpets or floors cleaned in the fastest of times without noise and markings, the soft rubber coated Sebo will do more than protect; well done Sebo and thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2009