4 Ways to Get The Best Sound Out of Your Turntable & Prolong The Life of Your Gear
At World Wide Stereo, we're serious about turntable care. We hold regular turntable clinics and have an on-site turntable testing bench and calibration gear for seasonal tune-ups for our customers. If you're investing in a turntable — and in a record collection for that matter — we can't stress enough the importance of proper turntable care and vinyl cleaning. The right maintenance will not only ensure you're getting the best sound out of your turntable and records, but it will substantially prolong the longevity of your gear and vinyl collection.
So if you're going to get back to (or start) collecting vinyl, there are some basics that you need to know...
When we drop the arm on a record, there's sophisticated physics involved in the playback process. A very small needle (aka stylus) reads microscopic etchings in the record groove-walls (that's where the music comes from) and whether or not that needle can properly traverse those grooves is critical to ensuring perfect tracking and maximum fidelity while listening.
When it comes to vinyl sound quality, unwanted noise artifacts and vibrations are your worst enemies.
The stylus in your turntable can’t tell the difference between vibration coming through your floor, vibration from the stylus plowing through dust on the record, or the vibrating groove squiggles that contain the music. The simple four-prong attack below can help you eliminate these "distractions" and resonances to ensure you're getting the best sound out of your record player for years to come.
1. Isolate your turntable from vibration.
If your turntable does not isolate well (if it’s lightweight), you can buy “rubber-like” isolating feet that your turntable will sit on and they will absorb most vibrations before they reach the record. We recommend Pro-Ject's Damp It Damping Feet (sold in packs of four). These feet eliminate surface vibration with easy application to the bottom of your turntable — or even a pair of bookshelf speakers, an amp, CD player... anything that could potentially produce unwanted vibrations.
Pro-Ject Damp It - High-End Damping Feet
2. Clean your records.
If you have old records or are buying pre-owned vinyl, you will want to clean your records before playing them the first time. Cleaning involves applying a fluid to loosen dirt, and then completely removing that fluid, along with the dirt. This is best done by a record cleaning machine, which is a very simple device to use. It will contain a vacuum system, so your records will come out spotless. Pro-Ject makes a very fine record cleaning machine. Watch one of our product experts, Adam, demo the Pro-Ject VC-S system and how to clean vinyl in our how-to video here.
When someone balks at the price of the Pro-Ject VC-S (a $499 price point), I typically remind them that 40-50 albums can cost upwards of $1,000 for the serious collector. But if you're looking for something more budget friendly, or if you're new to the collecting game, I recommend SpinClean's MKII Record Washer Starter Kit. I think the clear version is pretty cool — available in a limited edition production with a see-through basin.
3. Dust everything.
Get yourself a dust brush to remove surface dust from records before you play them. The best brushes (still under $20) have carbon fiber bristles, so they remove static electricity along with the dust, instead of building up static like those old record brushes did. AudioQuest and Pro-Ject make good carbon fiber brushes. They don’t clean records, they dust records.
4. Clean your stylus.
This takes less than 5 seconds if you have the right brush, and it makes all the difference in the world. A stylus with dirt on it will not fit fully into the groove, so it can’t get all the music out of the groove. A great brush I recommend: Pro-ject's Clean It Stylus cleaning brush, which is under $20 and has zillions of firm bristles to thoroughly clean off the diamond tip.
We've bundled Pro-Ject's Clean It and Brush It together for your convenience, and it just so happens to be our best-selling turntable accessories package. Get the package or go with our complete vinyl quality maintenance kit, which also includes the Cork It turntable mat to help mitigate resonances and vibration under your spinning vinyl.
Meet the writer: Ken Zelin (aka - the Turntable Dr.)
Dr. Ken carefully treating a customer's turntable at the WWS Turntable Clinic.