With the rise of CDs and digital downloads, some people (wrongly) consider record players to have slowly become obsolete.
However, record players’ demand has swiftly risen from the ashes, with vinyl sales now reaching the billion-dollar mark. Record players, also known as phonographs, create sound with the vibration of a needle placed on a rotating vinyl disc.
Sometimes, the sound from a record player can, unfortunately, come out pretty quiet, which usually means there’s something wrong with it that could use some fixing.
Let’s go over some of the reasons and solutions for a record player that sounds quieter than usual.
Before discussing the reasons for a quiet-sounding record player in detail, we should first clear up some common misconceptions.
A record player will always sound a bit quieter than CD players or stereos. This is because CDs use advanced methods to record music. The audio recorded onto a vinyl record has limitations when recording extremely high and low notes.
So, the experts have had to cut down on these notes using multiple methods, whereas CDs can record any music without any special interventions.
Despite the differences between record players and CD players, record players can produce audio that mimics the original sound as it was recorded, and they produce an audio experience that sounds much more authentic overall.
Possible Reasons for Your Record Player Becoming Quieter
1. Cartridge Problems
A turntable cartridge is also known as a phonograph cartridge or pickup that ends with a tip (stylus) engraved with a sapphire or diamond to play sound from the record’s groove. All the information about the song is saved in the grooves, which usually have a wave-shaped design. The cartridge identifies these patterns and runs through the grooves to produce quality musical notes.
Various factors determine the quality of a cartridge. These include the following:
- Stylus shape – The stylus’ shape is one of the first parts that wear down after continuous usage. The tip should be very narrow to allow easy movement between patterns present in the groove. You can either go for a Conical or elliptical design to get quality sound.
- Trackability – A cartridge will only be able to identify notes if it tracks the grove’s pattern efficiently. You can easily pick out whether your cartridge needs a replacement by listening to the sound and how it works.
- Cantilever – The Cantilever is present at one of the ends to hold the cartridge and transfer information from the tip to the generating element. A possible reason your record player is getting quieter is because of the instability and clumsiness of your cantilever.
2. Needle Problems
A needle is the smallest component of your record player, but trust us, it’s the most important one. It feels like a tiny dot that rests on the groove and produces the vinyl’s sound. Mostly, the needle is made up of diamond or sapphire due to its hard texture and long-lasting usage capacity.
The needle is bound to lose its texture and sharpness after continuous usage (or more than 1000 hours of playing time). But the major reason why a needle can wear out before its time is dust.
Needles are made up of solid materials, but regardless, they are affected when dust particles come in their way when they’re working to produce sounds through the groove. Continuous contact with dust wears out the needle’s sharp edges, making your record sound much quieter over time.
The stylus can also lose its sturdiness because of over-usage. The disc gets scratches after being used for a long time, and your needle has to go through these damages to produce quality notes. This will not affect the needle immediately, but after being used for a very long time on the scratched surface, it can result in the diamond’s blunting.
3. Speaker Problems
Speakers are the last in the cycle that ultimately give out the produced tune. These are responsible for providing us with a good sound base and a controller to easily move the volume up and down.
The market mostly contains two types of speakers, one which comes with a cord and is directly connected to the record player. Another is Bluetooth speakers that can be connected using a remote without the need for any wire. People mostly prefer the second option due to the hassle-free connection and a long usage guarantee.
Cheap quality speakers get worn out very quickly. The effect multiplies if these speakers get connected with a low-price record player. If you have a chord-connecting speaker, you can install it in other applications to check its sound quality. If the problem continues, you need to change the speakers before it destroys the sound quality of the whole system.
4. Cheap Quality Record Player
Record players are not only stylish but are extremely nostalgic to listen to. It gives out an uncompressed sound that is missing on other platforms like CDs, Stereos, or even in online streaming. The quality of the player is paramount to listen to those antique songs you love so much.
If you buy a cheap quality record player, there is no way it will produce a sound in the same manner. High-quality players might feel costly but are worth trying. It is better to invest in a good player rather than always running back and forth to get a bad record player fixed or replaced. These players will last you much longer than the cheap ones and will never give you a hard time.
A cheap quality record player can negatively affect your sound in the long run. It’s observed that a low-quality record player can only run 40 hours or less, whereas diamond-engraved players can smoothly function for more than 1000 hours. The cost you are trying to save by buying a cheap record player becomes more than the expensive ones’ price in the long run.
5. Tonearm Problems
A tonearm is a long arm that supports the cartridge to run smoothly and stop the record disc. It has to maintain that perfect angle and height with accurate pressure to process its function. It is an essential element of a record player, which usually contains the most problems. Some of the problems that you may face with tonearms include:
- Tonearm swings to the side – This issue can arise if your phone is not leveled properly or the wiring between the tonearms is loose. Most of the tonearms are very delicate and need to be handled properly.
- The tonearm is not lowering – You will notice that the arm is not making direct contact with the disc, causing interruption while playing the record. This can arise when the tonearm bridge screw is too tight and needs to be loosened up.
- The tonearm is falling abruptly on the disc – This is the same situation mentioned above; the only difference is the bridge screw now is very loose and requires tightening. Ensure you get this done by experts who know the exact height or angle the arms need to be in.
Now that we’ve covered some of the problems you might be facing resulting in a quieter record player, we’ll discuss how to make your record player loud again in the next few sections.
Let’s Get to the Basics
The cartridge present on the turntable produces a PHONO output, whereas the technology used in iPhones or CD players emit LINE output.
A line output is much more powerful than a phono output. To get the same quality sound, you will have to install a phono preamp to transfer phono level signal to line-level signal.
The phono preamp is already installed in a turntable that contains LINE output, whereas if you have a PHONO output, the preamp can be fixed with the help of a receiver.
Possible Preamp Integrations:
- Pre-installed into the turntable – The turntable contains LINE output.
- Pre-installed into the receiver – The receiver contains PHONO output.
- A standalone box
If your turntable emits LINE output, this means it already contains a pre-installed Preamp. So, your LINE output turntable can easily be connected to a LINE input receiver to give a much louder sound. Some major LINE input options can be AUX, LINE, DVD, TAPE, and CD.
Now let’s say you have a turntable that emits PHONO output, which means it does not contain a pre-installed preamp. So, you have to choose either of the two options –
- Connect your turntable with a receiver that has a pre-installed preamp.
- Connect your turntable with a standalone box that will allow the flow of sound between a turntable and receiver
In the first situation, you can connect the turntable with a receiver that already has a built-in Preamp. The turntable can easily produce high-quality sound when connected with a receiver emitting PHONO input.
Now, if both your turntable and receiver do not have a pre-installed preamp, then connecting to a standalone box is your rescue option. The standalone box can connect the PHONO output of your turntable with a LINE input cable of the receiver.
After you have successfully installed a phono preamp, the sound produced will be much higher and match a CD or stereo’s quality.
But another very rare problem that could arise is the collision between MM and MC.
Even after installing a phono preamp, your turntable cannot produce a satisfactory level of sound; it can because of a clash between MM and MC. Your turntable works on Moving Coil (MC), whereas your preamp is designed to function on a MM (Moving Magnet) cartridge.
MC cartridge produces a lower signal than MM cartridge, so it requires more amplification to work together. So, you would require a preamp that can work on MC.
These cases mostly arise with very expensive turntables bought by enthusiasts who are keenly interested in this type of music.
Adopting this method will instantly boost your turntable quality and give you a much louder voice than before.
How to Make Your Record Player Louder
1. Update the Phono Preamp with a Higher Gain
If you already have installed the phono preamp but still want a louder voice, the next step should be updating the existing preamp with a higher output level. The photo preamp with a higher gain will adversely affect the quality of the sound. The updated preamp uses advanced technology to filter out songs in a more refined manner, making them very clear and loud.
There are two types of phonograph preamp, one is already pre-installed in your phonograph, and another can be attached using external cords. If the preamp is pre-installed, its output and gain level are always quite low. Ensure the preamp purchased is of higher quality; otherwise, the cheaper one can destroy the quality of the voice in the name of amplification.
2. Replace or Install an Amplifier
Changing an amplifier is a big investment. Only consider this if you have already checked your preamp and cartridge. An amplifier is also known as a phono stage, enabling the record player to connect with an ordinary sound system smoothly. It re-equalizes and amplifies the signal generated by the stylus.
Two major reasons that you need an amplifier are:
- Boosts signal – The signal generated by the turntable on the groove is very low. The stylus doesn’t even move a tenth of a millimeter while following the pattern, which creates a huge need to attach a device that makes the sound louder. This is where the amplifier comes to the rescue. An amplifier turns the sound into approximately 1.5 volts from a streamer, DVD player, or stereos. The voice generated by the amplifier is much clearer and louder as compared previously.
- RIAA equalization – Founded by the Recording Industry Association of America, it sets norms regarding reducing low frequencies and boosting higher frequencies. This is done so that the entire album can smoothly fit, avoiding it breaking into two pieces.
But if you already have an amplifier and face the same issue, then it is advisable to switch to a more powerful version so that you can listen to a much louder and finer sound. You can ask an expert to look into the problem before making any decision.
3. Consider Going for Speakers With Higher Sensitivity
In simpler terms, speaker sensitivity can be referred to as the volume of music a speaker can deliver when a specific power (watts) is passed through it. A higher sensitivity implies that most of the power sent to it is converted into sound. In contrast, a speaker with lower sensitivity translates all its energy into heat, which is of no use.
A speaker that contains higher sensitivity can produce amazing music, even with an amplifier of 10watts.
And if you save your money to buy a speaker with lower sensitivity, it will not be able to provide you the same quality sound, even with 100 watts.
Sound sensitivity is one of the major criteria to consider when facing any sound issue. Not only with record players, but sound sensitivity is also necessary with loudspeakers and home theatres.
4. Install a Phono Preamp
The voice produced by a single turntable is not enough to match with the one coming from a CD player or Stereos. A phono preamp’s job is to amplify the song and make it sound like any other high-quality device. Without using the phono preamp, the voice produced by your turntable will be very low or even zero.
5. Replace the Cartridge
The cartridge is one of the major problems that users like us face when the sound suddenly goes down. If you are using the cartridge for a very long time, it is possible that the needle has smoothened and cannot work properly. Check the surface of the cartridge to make sure that you are focusing on the right problem.
Another way you can increase the turntable volume is by replacing your cartridge with a high output level. Most turntables have an output level of 2.5mV – 7.5mV. So, you can switch your cartridge with the one which is double your existing mV. This will enhance your voice quality and make it a lot louder.
Record players are antique items that need proper care and maintenance to keep them working. We covered in this article some of the reasons that could be responsible for your record player becoming quieter over time. But if you use some of our hacks, they are sure to help your record player produce a finer and louder sound.