In troubleshooting record player problems, it can be all too easy to get sucked in to various misleading and otherwise irrelevant lines of inquiry, lacking in some holistic resource where many of the main issues with one’s record player or stereo system are collated for easy research and comparison with one’s own problems.
Cue this here article, specifically designed to help you troubleshoot record player problems of your own!
There is an immense pressure on vinyl record factories and record plants these days as a result of vinyl resurgence we find ourselves in currently. Thus, it is rare to find a disc that is not at least slightly warped, and all too common when troubleshooting record player for this to be the issue.
Most of the time these warped discs will sound fine on a decent turntable, as the stylus can judge these warps in real time (though this is by no means good for the health of your turntable in the long run). Sometimes, however, these warps are insurmountable and / or your stylus is too tired out or otherwise can’t keep up, thus leaving you troubleshooting record player. Here you can read a guide on how to fix a warped record.
This can, as I say, be very common these days for various reasons. Since the discs are very sensitive to temperature and climate, they will warp like a flag if exposed to warmer temperatures for prolonged periods of time. The same goes for stacking records on top of one another, for the disc is sensitive to any pressure or damage in this way. Just stopping and thinking about the logical effects of your actions to your records will go a long way.
There are dedicated tools, such as record weights or record clamps which are designed in such a way as to apply enough pressure that the warps will be made more regular. This is more for the preservation of the stylus than anything else.
How to Fix Warped Disc
There are several methods you might use to fix your warped disc, though this will likely be easiest and most convenient, for this method only requires owning two heavy objects. These objects ought to be large enough to cover the entire surface of the record and heavy enough to flatten the whole surface back into shape over time. Two over sized books is oft considered ideal for this, though anything of the sort will do just fine, so long as the entire surface is covered on both sides.
Begin by removing the record of any dust or dirt before placing the warped record between the two heavy objects, first placing one of the objects on a flat surface like a table, followed by the record and then finished off with the second object, all in a sort of sandwich. If any parts of the record stick out from the bounds of these objects, then they might be warped in the process, so do make sure that both objects cover the whole surface of the warped record.
Some sources believe that this process ought only take a few days, whereas some instead believe the sum total of time will be measured in months. Certain sources, in fact, believe that you should leave the warped record to its sentence, only stopping in to check its condition and playability every week.
This will be, by far, the longest method for fixing a warped disc, for you are relying on archaic and timeless forces to do the job, in applying a constant and gradual pressure to the warped record in question in order to undo this warping and return it to a neutral flattened disc shape. It should, however do the job.
What can be mistaken by some as the sound of dirt and dust might simply be a significant build up of static. This form of electricity has a habit of building up in these kinds of technologies, those that bridge the gap between the analog and the digital, and those that feast on mains electricity.
Just like dirt and dust that can nest in the grooves of the record, static electricity can cause the very same pops and skips during playback. This is rendered even more mystifying, however, as it is something that you can’t see with our own eyes. Unlike the dirt and dust commonly found in the grooves, though, this is a fairly easy issue to address and will almost certainly not cause any serious damage to the record in question.
There are several popular solutions, all of which involve acquiring a specific product. There are such things as anti static record sleeves that you might keep your records and sleeves in, to prevent static electricity from building up in the first place of its own accord.
Acrylic platter mats boast similar properties in seeking to reduce the amount of static electricity sent through the turntable itself to the disc in question, the chemical material and composition of the acrylic working to prevent this wholly.
In contrast to these more preventative measures, there are such products as the anti static carbon fiber brush, which, instead, aim to tackle static head on after it has built up, purporting to work simply by sweeping at a record and removing static in seconds.
3. Dust, Dirt & Grime
The reason for troubleshooting record player might even be as simple as dust and debris lying in the grooves of the records. Being made entirely of grooves, it is all too common for the grooves of a record to become marred in this way.
It will thus be useful to give the record(s) in question a closer inspection with a magnifying glass. Though you might sometimes be able to see the dust with your own eye from a distance, other times a magnifying device will be required to inspect the dust when it is less obvious yet still having an obvious sonic effect.
Nevertheless, it is rarely a bad idea to consistently clean your vinyl record discs, period. There are plenty of homebrew solutions littered throughout the internet that people encourage you to use, though you really can’t go wrong with a professional grade vinyl record cleaning solution made specifically for the purpose.
4. Scrapes & Scratches
Your motive for troubleshooting record player might come down to the records in question having not been looked after properly. Visible signs of this will typically appear as scratches and scrapes on the surface of a record, easily seen if viewed in a certain light. These extra grooves will no doubt spook the stylus and cause it to jump excitedly forward or backward.
Sadly, this is a not so easily remedied issue. Some choice record collectors will tell you that it is possible to fill some of the more dramatic holes in a record with epoxy or wood glue. This would fill in the scratch certainly and mean that the needle would not jump anymore. Needles, however, simply are not designed to play against such materials. Sullying the disc in this way is all well and good, but the needle will almost certainly suffer for it.
Therefore, the main solution here would simply be to purchase a new record, a new copy of the same album or a different but related one, by the same artist or other proponents of the sound contained within. There is certainly plenty to choose from out there!
5. External Vibrations
Perhaps for you troubleshooting record player has something to do both with the record player and with external factors. It is not hard for a turntable stylus to be jogged and interrupted in its vinyl voyages by external vibrations. Since these can come from a variety of different places and sources, it seems that the most logical thing to do would be to work out their source first.
Are there vibrations coming from within the very room that the turntable is playing in? Someone in the same room as the record player in my house has moved too drastically or jumped and knocked the needle / stylus off kilter, more times than I care to count. These vibrations are more obvious examples, for skipping can be caused by much more subtle vibrations too.
These could include those transmitted through local walls, walls which might be connected to the turntable in question. If the turntable is sharing a wall with a laundry room or another such room, for example, then there is no doubt that it is going to get knocked off course every so often.
If any of these things are the case and you are lacking in the finances to utterly sanctify your audiophilic environment, then some other adjustments will be necessary so that you don’t need to keep troubleshooting record player. Moving the turntable further away from the source of the vibrations will do it a world of good.
If this is not possible, however, there are such devices as isolation platforms, which seek to set the turntable away from the external vibrations, constructed with sound absorbing feet that absorb and mitigate the vibrations that would otherwise knock the stylus and have the record skip and / or distort.
6. Dirty, Dusty, Grimy Needle
Just as a disc itself can host dirt, dust and grime, a stylus, too can do much the same. We have all witnessed it. Very often, in the case of a particularly misbehaved session, several times throughout one disc the stylus will need lifting so that a little blow can be given to the dust gathering on the needle and distorting the otherwise heavenly tones being displayed.
This is, however, nothing to get too alarmed about for there are very quick and easy solutions to this issue of troubleshooting record player.
More professional solutions come with the literal solution needed to give the needle a new birth so that it can continue to serve your whim and playing the records you love. The kit also comes with the special tools needed to approach this very delicate component with the delicate attention it deserves.
7. Improper Calibration
Some turntables and record players come out of the factory with a number of specialised settings, and if you find yourself troubleshooting record player, it might be that your turntable is simply not calibrated correctly. More specialised turntables, for example, will even come with various settings for the stylus itself.
Tracking force, for example, is how people refer to the amount of force placed on the record by a stylus. If too low, skipping, and thus distortion, is likely to occur often, the stylus to light to withstand warps of fancy. Likewise, if too high, more wear than usual can occur on the disc itself, the tip dragging itself through the grooves and scraping off their goodness.
The tracking force can be properly set by adjusting the turntable’s counterweight to the proper specifications of the manufacturer of the stylus cartridge itself, if indeed there are such settings on your unit. The same can also be done with a turntable stylus scale to gauge the tracking force.
Another issue of calibration, the anti skating measures on a turntable work in the same sort of way, designed to prevent the stylus going on any unwanted excursions along the surface of the record. If your turntable has any such settings, you will need to adjust them accordingly, either to the specifications of the manufacturer or via the information of an online resource.
For all the external vibrations it boasts to absorb, the belt drive turntable is not without its cons, and can sometimes be the reason for troubleshooting record player. Being just a thin length of rubber in a circular belt, it is not exactly the most structurally sound engine component, often falling prey to the eventual fate of all machine components: certain death.
This fate can present itself in several ways: the rubber belt can be too tight to begin with and more quickly wear out against the various cogs and mechanisms inside the turntable, causing too much friction against the internal motors; the belt might also be too loose to begin with, too slack, meaning the rubber cannot exercise enough grip on the motors for a sufficient amount of tension on the spinning turntable, from the motor to the platter.
Even if perfectly rendered before release from the factory, a drive belt might simply, through seeing lots of use, wear down of its own accord. In these cases, its very common for the rubber belt to either lack the adequate friction to properly turn the platter and the disc atop (at the right or consistent speed), or simply to be torn asunder altogether.
How to Fix
The room for error is rather slim in the world of audiophilia, particularly for those more righteous, so any otherwise negligible amount of slack or tautness can be a deciding factor for some.
A loose belt can sometimes be fixed by briefly boiling the belt, causing it to shrink back to its original size once cooled. For belts with just a slight bit of slack, some talcum may be rubbed on the belt and shaft to restore some of the friction. These are, however, only short term solutions.
More simply, the belt might simply have come loose and no longer connects the motor to the platter, in which case it will likely be a matter of replacing the belt drive to its original position, or even replacing it anew.
Here is more information on direct drive vs belt drive turntables
No matter how antiquated the belt drive might seem, it is is not always the reason for troubleshooting record player. The direct drive turntable, in fact, comes with its own set of problems, all too easy to forget by comparison.
In eliding the belt mechanism, there is a more complex relationship between the drive motor and the turntable platter, no intercessory present to communicate between the two. Often, the issue with direct drives will mean that contact between the motor and the platter itself can come to a complete stand still, caused more commonly by technological and mechanical jams.
Since these are inherently more complex machinations, I would not recommend involving yourself too deeply with the direct drive’s innards without the help of a licensed professional. Such tinkering and fondling could very easily damage the turntable beyond repair, especially painful when it might only have needed a little help beforehand.
How to Inspect
Since it is best not to interfere with these inner workings too much when troubleshooting record player and its direct drive, you will need to inspect the motor shaft itself, and at most clean it of any debris, gunk and dust that might be blocking the inner workings from doing their job.
Opening up a direct drive turntable is rather similar to opening up a belt drive turntable, though there is a magnet assembly at the bottom of the platter. The platter should be lifted as carefully and delicately as possible to prevent further damage or complications. Once inside, simply clean carefully all of the elements, including (but not limited to): the speed and pitch adjustments, the motor itself, as well any other parts you deem relevant.
10. Tonearm / Stylus
There are older, more vintage turntables equipped with tonearms that have specialised that need regular calibrating in order to function properly. A turntable equipped like so will ideally require a reset at the end of each record. Simply take the tonearm and push it to the right (to the edge of the record ring) past its usual resting place. There you should hear a clear clicking sound, signifying that the tonearm has been properly reset.
If this was the issue and the tonearm just needed resetting, then the turntable should be working perfectly fine now and you should have no further problems.
11. Turntable Platter
It’s not uncommon, either, for the platter of a turntable to jam against the casing of the turntable itself, resulting in a need for troubleshooting record player. The platter can easily shift out of place and come into contact with the sides of the turntable, loose enough as it is for its proper spinning, resulting in friction and the ceasing of motion.
The platter should be carefully lifted out, examined for any damages incurred, then placed gently back into its place, ensuring that it is aligned as properly as required for its smooth functioning.
It can be very easy to start panicking that our things are not working when they are simply not plugged in. We have all been there, and it is not hard to accidentally disconnect a plug from a socket; in fact, if you really stop and think about it, it’s easier to unplug a plug from a socket than it is to plug it in! Thus, ensuring a positive and secure connection between power and the turntable in question ought to be a logical first step, for the turntable will not work without an adequate power supply.
So, there you have it! Hopefully this holistic and comprehensive guide through some of the main issues that a record player might experience in its varied and eclectic journey through entertaining you has been helpful in rectifying some of your own issues and troubleshooting record player.
FAQs Troubleshooting Record Player
This is mostly down to personal preference, though (in my humble opinion) neither sounds inherently better than the other. There will be some monumental turntables and there will be some amazing record players. It is, however, worth remembering that turntables will not be able to play sound aloud without a stereo system and speakers at the very least, whereas a record player almost certainly will.
Certainly, yes, and this is in fact a turntables job. Well, more or less, for a turntable spins the records, which the stylus runs along the grooves of, projecting the resulting vibrations through the amplifier and out of the speakers, ending the journey by entering your earholes (where many might say that the journey has only just begun).