4 mistakes you could be making with your record player and vinyl

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We all make mistakes, and given the inherent sensitivity of record players and black records themselves, it’s no surprise that they’re relatively common in the vinyl playing hobby. We’re not here to point fingers – boy, we’ve all made them at some point in our lives and hi-fi reviewing careers – but being aware of mistakes brings you one step closer to being able to fix them. to fix. We hope that uncovering these common mistakes with record player setup and vinyl maintenance will help ensure that you get the best sound quality from your record collection, or at least reassure you that you are doing it right.

If you’re setting up your turntable from scratch, it’s worth visiting our dedicated page on how to set up your turntable. But for everyone else, let’s dive into these four common mistakes…

Your turntable is not completely level

The placement and positioning of your turntable is crucial and getting it wrong is one of the costliest mistakes you can make. Indeed, if yours is resting on an uneven desk or near other electronics, you might want to rethink your setup.

Turntables are, by nature, finicky things, so the surface your record player sits on really needs to be perfectly level for the tip of the stylus to sit properly in a record groove. You can use a spirit level (opens in a new tab) to check this.

If your support is level, then your turntable should be too (often the position of the turntable is fixed relative to the base when manufactured and therefore should be parallel when you start). If you need to make a correction, most turntables have adjustable feet in each corner to help you.

In addition to being level, the stand you use for your turntable should be low resonance (i.e. less susceptible to vibration) and as far away from sources of vibration as possible, including other electronic devices and your speakers. As already mentioned, a record player is extremely sensitive to vibrations, so the goal is to try to isolate it from the floor and from the speakers.

Most turntables have some sort of isolation built into their design. In its crudest form, that might be rubber feet, while the most effective (and expensive) example is a full-suspension design. But even the latter has good isolation support that will absorb those external vibrations before they can reach the turntable. We suggest acoustic isolators (legs), a dedicated platform or a solid shelf.

Your cartridge’s tracking weight is too high or too low

The amount of force that a cartridge (or more accurately, the stylus of a cartridge) exerts on the groove of a record is known as “tracking weight” or “tracking force”. If a cartridge’s tracking weight is too high, not only can it make the sound thick and slow, but it can also damage the record over time by putting too much pressure on its grooves. If set too low, the sound will be thin and insubstantial and may even cause the stylus to skip and damage your records. So you want to do it right.

Assuming your turntable’s cartridge comes pre-installed, as is most often the case these days, all you have to do is adjust the tracking weight by turning the counterweight on the back of the arm deck playback and adjusting the ‘bias’. ‘ (essentially lateral force) to compensate for the natural inward pull of the disc groove.

The tracking weight should be set according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, which can almost always be found in the manual and usually between 1.5 and 2.5g (unless it’s a DJ turntable – then it’s often heavier). This could, for example, read “1.8g”, giving you an exact number to set it in, although if an ideal range is provided, such as “1.6 – 2g”, go for the middle measurement to start with. and see how it goes.

Arm counterweights usually come with markings to help you turn it to the correct number, but if it doesn’t, or you really want to be precise, we suggest purchasing a dedicated cartridge gauge . (opens in a new tab). Resting the stylus on the gauge’s measuring block, itself placed on the turntable platter, will tell you the tracking weight of the cartridge.

Your vinyl records are dirty

What’s the point of spending all that effort (and probably money) on your turntable if your records aren’t sounding their best? To reiterate our advice on how to clean your records, careless handling and storage of your records can lead to scratches that cause unwanted crackling and crackling. While a few here and there might add to that analog vinyl experience, you don’t want it so much that your listening gets in the way.

First, you should avoid touching the playing surface of a disc when using the outer edges to remove a disc from its sleeve. We also ensure that the open end of a vinyl album’s inner protective sleeve is positioned inward, inside the outer cover rather than open to the elements. And generally, they should be stored in a dust-free environment.

Dust on the surface of the record isn’t as bad as contaminants from your fingers sitting in the groove, but it’s still good practice to use a record cleaning brush. (opens in a new tab) to get rid of it – especially since you don’t want too much dust being collected by the stylus. If this happens, you will find that the sound will distort noticeably.

You are using the wrong phono stage

The last thing you want to do is prevent your turntable from performing at its maximum potential, and the external component most likely to do this will be the phono stage.

A phono stage (or phono preamp) is necessary for vinyl playback because it gives a turntable’s output the boost it needs to work with amplifiers while equalizing the tonal balance. Some turntables have built-in phono circuits, but it’s usually worth upgrading as soon as possible by bypassing them in favor of an external box or amplifier with a built-in phono stage. Of course, one or the other option is necessary if a record player does not have a phono circuit.

Faced with the renewed popularity of vinyl, the majority of stereo amplifiers today incorporate phono stages. But be aware that in some cases this has led to their inclusion being more about ticking boxes than actually maximizing turntable performance. We advise you to read amplifier reviews and do your homework before buying, especially if your turntable is a frequently used source in your setup.

AFTER:

How to get the best sound from your turntable

10 affordable ways to upgrade your hi-fi system

13 of the best vinyl records to test out your turntable

The best record player you can buy

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