It’s one of the worst feelings for a music fan — you just put a brand new record on your turntable, and the music comes out distorted. We understand that feeling, indeed we’ve been there before. To help you solve this inconvenience we have put together this guide on what to do when a vinyl record is skipping.
Some small pops can be caused by static, especially after removing a record from its inner plastic sleeve. But for the heavier skips, there are generally two possible culprits: the record itself or the listening setup. The more likely of the two when a new vinyl record is skipping is the setup, but we will dive into the usual causes in both categories.
One shortcut is to see if the record skips in the same place every time. If so, there is a pretty good chance that it is the vinyl. Another trick is to play the record on a different turntable, like a friend’s or one at a record shop. If the vinyl sounds good on one turntable, but not on yours, then you know to adjust your setup.
The two components of the turntable that are most likely to cause a record to skip are:
-Tonearm – if possible, rebalance the tonearm so that the proper weight and vertical tracking force is being applied. The process for adjustments varies by turntable type, so you will need to check the corresponding guide or find one online. Note that rebalancing a tonearm and adjusting vertical tracking force is not an option for some turntables.
-Stylus – Inspect the stylus, or record needle, for wear or foreign objects like dust. Be careful not to touch the stylus when inspecting it. Clean or replace the cartridge if necessary. Visit the Discogs guide to cleaning and maintaining a turntable stylus for more detailed instructions.
Lower-end turntables are generally more susceptible to skipping. In addition to having non-adjustable tonearms, they might not be capable of properly playing highly dynamic modern vinyl pressings, which we will get into a bit more below. The Discogs forum has plenty of opinions on some of the brands and turntable types that frequently cause skipping.
Your turntable could be picking up bad vibrations, man. Uneven services can exacerbate some minor issues. Perhaps your listening setup is adjacent to the laundry room? Of course, they look nice, but those wood floors can tremble with heavy footsteps.
DJs in loud club environments will utilize a record weight to limit the vibrations of sound waves. Think about ways to limit vibration impact in your own environment. Try placing a rug or carpet underneath your setup, moving it away from walls or floors that might shake, and, at the very least, make sure the surface your turntable sits on is level.
Check the Record
As mentioned above, a brand new vinyl record is less often the culprit of playback skipping, though it is not unheard of. Let’s run through some checks to see if the vinyl might be at fault.
Production mistakes, though exceedingly rare, can cause a vinyl record to become warped. Heat warps records. Pressure warps records. Both of these factors can be present while the record is being stored – whether it be roasting in a hot warehouse or crushed under the weight of hundreds of other records. Oh, and of course, shipping carriers are not always known for being careful with vinyl.
The record doesn’t have to look like a cresting ocean wave to skip. Even the hardly noticeable warp in the image above causes significant audible disruption.
Some will argue with me on this point, but there is little you can do to fix a warped record. Trust me, if you just purchased a brand new record, your time and energy will be better spent exchanging the album for an unwarped copy. If you picked up the record from your local record store, bring the vinyl back in and request a refund or exchange. If you bought it on Discogs, or from another online retailer, reach out to the seller as soon as possible for mediation.
Dust and Debris
Is it dusty or does it have visible prints on it? Though uncommon, this could have happened in the production process. To remove dust particles, clean the record with an anti-static brush. Consider a deeper clean of the vinyl record if there are visible smudges. Remember that a few small pops, especially after removing the plastic outer wrapping and the inner plastic sleeve, can occur due to static. An anti-static brush is a useful and affordable tool for any record collector and can help with these pops.
This ties into both the setup and the record itself. We’ll get into the weeds here a bit, but this is a good topic for a new record collector to understand, even at this basic level, and can help guide the decision on whether or not to upgrade a turntable.
“Hot Cuts” are typically records that are engineered to have a wide dynamic range. This ties into the “Loudness Wars” trend in modern music, in which increasingly loud and dynamic releases have become more prevalent.
Mastering engineers are now more likely to make a mix highly-dynamic, in contrast to decades ago when a more important goal was to ensure a record played on the greatest number of setups without complications.
This is the important part for vinyl records: To physically increase dynamic range, the vinyl grooves have to be shallower to fit the amount of material on the disc. This shallowness can also occur when cutting vinyl from a master that is made for digital releases. Regardless of the cause, many lower-end turntables on the market struggle with these shallower grooves.
Note that this issue is truly a modern malaise. Mastering engineers were much less likely to cut records with excessive dynamic range before the 1990s. So if you have an older pressing in your hands, this is probably not why your record is skipping.
We hope this article has provided guidance on why your new vinyl record is skipping. Remember the two main culprits, the setup and the record, and that more often than not it is a turntable or environmental issue when it is a brand new record. When in doubt, play the record on a friend’s turntable or record shop to rule out the vinyl itself.
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