For different people, music performs different functions. We often turn to music under different circumstances. Songs soothe our souls, encourage us, console us, reassure us, teach us, and lift us in most aspects of our lives. Some lucky people even earn money from music.
If you really love music, you need a good record player. Preferably one that isn’t broken.
Is your record player giving you the blues for all the wrong reasons? Read this article for some tips and tricks on how to revive your record player.
How Does a Record Player Work?
The science behind the sweet melodies emanating from your record player is a mixture of vibrations and conversions. What does that mean? In simple terms, a player works like this.
First, you place a grooved vinyl record on top of a turntable. There’s a fine needle connected to a cartridge or tonearm. As the table spins, the needle, or stylus, gets into the record’s grooves and creates vibrations. The turntable spins with the help of an attached belt. We’ll see how the belt affects the music quality as we continue.
The vibrating sounds then get channeled to the preamp and the amplifier, which decodes them into the tunes. From here, the speaker produces the output. You can adjust outputs to different strengths and levels, and this change is what we call volume.
When a record player jams or malfunctions, it can be because of any fault at any stage of the process. It’s either the turntable, belt, volume, stylus, or just a misconnection.
What Are the Common Issues with Record Players?
When your player suddenly stops working, consider that it might not be a huge problem. Rather, it could just be a pileup of little things here and there that you’ve missed. It’s always best to start with the most basic solutions first. Often just adjusting your volume will bring back your missing sound.
Before we dive into some basic solutions, let’s first discuss the common problems you’re likely to encounter as a record player owner. Here’s a list of some common issues:
- The vinyl record you want to play has a lot of static force affecting its performance.
- The tonearm is short, misaligned, bouncy, or swingy.
- The turntable belt is having issues running.
- The cartridge is heavy and puts too much unnecessary weight on the record.
- The needle is missing or too thick for the grooves.
- The preamp and amp are faulty. And yes, the preamp and the amp are different things.
- The wires are connected poorly.
- The power switch is off.
How Do You Fix a Record Player?
When dealing with electronics, always be sure of what you want to do. If you don’t feel capable enough to handle fixing the device on your own, please take it to any repair shop or expert near you. Otherwise, you may end up creating bigger issues than the existing ones.
If you’re reading this and feel prepared to tackle the issue, make sure to always use a light touch when attempting to fix a record player, as they can be delicate devices with many sensitive parts. Let’s dive in.
Resolving Vinyl Record Issues
If your problem’s coming from the record disc itself, we have some good news for you. This is the simplest issue to resolve. Mostly you’ll find that it’s the grooves that have some issues. It’s common to find that static force drives dirt and debris into the grooves, keeping the record from playing smoothly.
To fix this, get an anti-static cloth, place the disc on a flat surface, and wipe it clean. Ensure that you hold the record in a way that doesn’t get your fingerprints all over it because that would defeat the purpose.
Bonus tip: Try lacing the anti-static cloth with some synthetic oil or put drops of oil on the disc before you do a cleanup. This will wipe off even the tiniest of particles.
Resolving Turntable and Belt Issues
Problems with the belt or turntable can cause an overly fast or slow speed of the music. This is often due to an increase or a decrease in the belt’s size. Or sometimes, a broken belt.
Remember, the belt helps to spin the turntable. If the belt is sagging, there won’t be any spinning. When it’s overly lengthened, the speed will be slow, and when it’s too short, it’ll either be too fast, or it won’t spin at all.
Depending on the record player you’re using, there‘s a standard speed that the record should be spinning at. This is what we call the revolutions per minute, or RPM. The recommended ones for most players are 33.5, 45, or 78.
When you suspect any stretching in the belt length, you’ll want to remove and resolve it.
The answer is simple, and you’ll need to turn the device off before you start the process.
You’ll find the belt between the spindle and the platter since it’s what connects the two. Remember to double-check this with your instruction manual. You should be able to find information on the required length and thickness of the belt inside.
First, tighten any loose adjustment screws. If this option fails, then move on to the next step, which is boiling the belt.
Not what you expected to hear, huh?
Light up your stove, bring water to a boil and insert the belt into the hot water. This should return the belt to almost its original size.
Note that the hot water trick does not work on a broken belt. In that case, consider getting a belt replacement. Also, don’t boil the belt with the ribbon that usually aligns it.
How Will You Know if the Turntable Works?
To know if boiling the belt worked or not, you’ll need to monitor the turntable speed. Buy or download a stroboscopic disc from the internet and make markings on it before loading it onto the table. You’ll need a strobe light to monitor the movement of the disc marks as they spin.
With no malfunctions, the marks will be visible in a static circle regardless of the record player’s speed. If you see the markings moving, it means that the belt needs further professional repair. Like the modern ones DJs use, advanced record players and turntables have their in-built strobe lights that monitor the disc lines as they play.
If you end up having to replace the belt, make sure that you align the ribbon and platter to the access holes before you switch on your record player.
Resolving Tonearm Issues
The tonearm is an area that requires regular maintenance. It’s a highly movable part, and if not adjusted regularly, it can become heavy on the discs. This impairs proper playing and can even widen the disc grooves over time, damaging them irreparably.
The music will either be very slow, have poor sound quality, or the turntable won’t spin because of the weight. A loose tonearm will also slow the record player’s speed.
Ensure the proper adjustment of all the connecting parts and note the weight of your tonearm’s counterweight. A recommended weight typically shouldn’t be anything over 2 grams.
When you do this correctly, you’ll notice a significant change in the turntable’s speed. Also, consider oiling the movable parts regularly to maintain smooth movement and prevent rust.
Resolving Stylus Issues
The stylus, otherwise known as the needle, is a key component in any record player, be it those classic ones our parents owned or the modern ones we see in music joints. The stylus goes into the disc’s grooves to create vibrations that the amplifier picks up and translates into sound and music.
When you suspect an issue with the stylus, first check that it’s present. You may be dealing with a cartridge with a missing needle and not know it, especially if you have playful children around. If you don’t see it, you may need to replace the lost one with a new needle.
Also, check to see if your player’s stylus is fine or blunt. A new needle has about 500 hours of music to play before it’ll need a replacement. When you surpass this amount of time, the needle may damage your records by enlarging the grooves’ spaces, so make sure to check in from time to time.
Resolving Preamp And Amplifier Issues
Preamps and amplifiers handle sound strength and quality. Most belt-drive record players have separate external wires that connect to the amplifiers and speakers.
First, check behind the amplifier and flip the button to line mode. When you lack sound from your player, you might need to make some volume adjustment. If the record is playing at a decent level, but the sound quality is poor, that may be caused by poor connectivity.
Most times, you’ll notice this from the vibrations in your speakers. To fix this, disconnect all the wires connecting the record player to the audio equipment and connect them all again, making sure they’re plugged incorrectly. The chances are that if you do that, your sound will be back.
If you do the above and you’re still having some issues with your sound, it might be time to go to a repair shop or get a replacement. You don’t want to go digging around inside your record player unless you really know what you’re doing.
General Troubleshooting Tips for Record Players
Hopefully, the above tips and tricks will help to solve your record player problems. Here are a few more general troubleshooting tips to keep in mind:
- Turn it off. Always turn the record player off when not in use, even when addressing minor problems. And remember, the state of a record itself can affect the player’s speed. You can always buy a replacement disc if you need to.
- Clean it. Record players can build up a lot of dust, just like anything else. To prevent any particles from getting inside the device and mucking things up, wipe your record player down regularly with an anti-static cloth. Rubbing alcohol can also be carefully used to wipe away tougher spots.
- Get a stroboscopic disc. These are very useful for measuring rotational speed. You can also easily get a strobe light by downloading one from mobile apps like Strobily.
- Keep it in a safe place. Always keep your record player and electronics in a dry place away from moisture, dust, and children. Always tuck away the cables to prevent unnecessary injuries at home.
- Read the manual. All electronics come with manuals with details on operating them and maybe even how to fix them. Make sure you read them before you try anything on your own.
- Ask an expert. Your local electronic stores may have more insight than you would think. For advanced record player repairs, always return to where you bought it from. They’re sure to have someone who can handle turntable repairs, stylus repairs, tonearm repairs, and more.
- Lubricate the motor shaft. Try to lubricate the motor shaft and other movable parts as frequently as possible. These are like the movable joints in your body. If they stay dry or unused for long periods of time, they creak and slow down. With that, you can’t expect top performance.
Record players are works of art that allow us to enjoy other works of art. They are wonderful, complicated devices, and when they malfunction, it’s not only heartbreaking but can be difficult to pinpoint the problem. Be vigilant, and remember that many issues can be detected early and fixed before they worsen.
We hope this article has taught you a few things about how to fix your record player. With the proper attention, maintenance, and care, you’re sure to enjoy countless hours of sound.