Why is my Record Player Skipping?
For fans of records, a big part of the attraction is the buying experience. Browsing through a record shop is more social than downloading tracks from the internet, and album artwork almost makes it feel like a trip to an art gallery.
But then you get home and you find that your record player is skipping on the album you are trying to enjoy. This can be frustrating at the least and may cause damage to your record or the player at the worst. Here is how to work out why is my record player skipping.
- Why is my Record Player Skipping?
- Vinyl vs Digital Sound
- Skipping Caused By the Record
Vinyl vs Digital Sound
By far, the biggest reason people opt for records is that the sound quality of vinyl compared to digital media is infinitely superior. This is because the process of compacting digital sound files loses some of the detail. The result is that digital music lacks depth and texture.
Unfortunately, vinyl has never been the most durable of materials, and analog record players can require quite a bit of attention. One of the frustrating aspects of listening to records is the way they can occasionally skip. Skipping leads to popping, jumping, and crackling sounds, which completely destroys one’s enjoyment of the music.
The cause of skipping can lie with either the record or the record player. Let’s look at some tips on fixing and avoiding both.
Skipping Caused By the Record
Check for static
Removing records from their sleeves can produce static on the surface of the discs. Keep anti-static cloths and solution on hand. Running an anti-static cloth over a disc whenever you play it is an excellent habit to develop.
Check for warps and scratches
Warped and scratched discs can cause your stylus to skip. They can also damage your stylus, so don’t be tempted to play them.
Warping is caused by heat and pressure. Store your records in cool conditions, and don’t stack them on top of each other. Occasionally, production mishaps can result in warping. If you purchase a new record that is warped, return it to the store.
Check for dust and debris
Under a soft light, look for dirt, dust, and smudges on the disc surface. Clean vinyl records with a vinyl record brush. Never touch the surface of the disc. Hold the record by the edges or the label.
For stubborn marks, use a vinyl cleaning solution and a clean microfiber or cotton cloth. Apply pressure in circular movements. The excess cleaning solution can be rinsed off with distilled water, but avoid getting the label wet. Dry the record with another clean cloth.
Alternatively, spread a thin layer of wood glue over the disc surface and leave it to dry for 24 hours. Peel the glue off, and you’ll be removing any dirt and grit with it.
If none of the above methods work, and you face the prospect of discarding your disc, you could try light sanding as outlined in this post.
Skipping Caused By the Record Player
In the absence of any problem with the disc itself, ensure your record player is in optimal condition and set up correctly.
Check surface stability
Record players need to rest on a stable, non-vibrating surface. If stored alongside other electronic equipment, the player might be affected by vibrations from other units. This can include the player’s speakers if they are not of good quality.
Wooden floors can have “soft spots” that shift with movement. Walk the room, checking for any movement that may affect the player.
To limit vibration impact, place your setup on a rug and away from walls that might shake. Regardless of the surface, you should never store a record player directly on the floor.
Check that the surface is level
Use a builder’s level to determine if your record player is completely flat. Few houses are built precisely level. The better record players have adjustable feet for this very reason.
Check stylus pressure
Suppose the stylus (needle) isn’t making adequate contact with the disc. This will cause skipping. In this case, the pressure needs to be increased. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to adjust the stylus pressure.
Older model players might need more pressure, even when the pressure adjustment is set to maximum. You can try sticking a small coin to the head, but be careful. If a stylus is too heavy, it will place wear on the disc and distort the sound.
Check anti-skating pressure
The anti-skating mechanism keeps the arm angled outward toward the edge of the record. If it isn’t set correctly, the arm can swing either way, skipping across the disc. Each manufacturer will have a different anti-skating mechanism, so check the instructions to see how to adjust yours.
Check the alignment of the cartridge and headshell
The cartridge converts the vibrations picked up by the stylus into electrical signals for output from the speakers. The stylus fits into the cartridge, which is joined to the arm by the headshell.
The top of the headshell should be parallel to the surface of the disc. The position of the tonearm controls the alignment of the cartridge and headshell. Refer to your player’s instructions for how to balance the tonearm.
Check your stylus
Check your stylus for dirt and dust buildup. Remove anything you find without touching the stylus. Use a carbon fiber stylus brush or a specialist stylus cleaner like this one.
A worn stylus can damage records, and an old stylus that isn’t necessarily worn may have hardened to the point where it, too, damages the disc.
To check for wear, use a good magnifying glass or zoom in on a digital photo. Never touch the stylus, as the oils in your skin will adversely affect its performance. Look for nicks and uneven wear. If you find your stylus often needs replacing, considering investing in a diamond stylus, which will last much longer.
A record that skips in the same place each time when none of your other records skip strongly indicates it’s the disc that is the problem. If you are still unable to establish whether the problem lies with your disc or player setup, try playing the record on a friend’s player. If it plays fine on another player, your problem lies with your setup. Hopefully, you are now equipped to solve either situation.