You might not be able to play them during a long drive, and they may scratch easily or cause certain songs to skip mid-way through (despite not being able to skip songs you don’t like very easily, go figure), but vinyl records are still a hugely popular music medium to many.
There’s something about these circular discs that connects you to the music you listen to in a more physical sense, as well as the history behind it. Plus, they’re pretty cool to collect.
Listening to your favourite music on vinyl is already a heightened experience compared to listening through the speakers on your phone or a pair of headphones. You might have been keen on finding and using the best replacement styli or cartridges to keep your record player sound good. However, there are still a few more practical ways you can enhance and improve the sound your record player produces.
A Better Setup Equals Better Sound
You might think it’s enough to simply play music from a record player, but the reality is that you need to put some thought into its setup if you want to truly achieve the best sound.
It’s definitely worth investing in a quality record player and speakers, which is the first step in getting the best sound from your vinyl records, but you should also think about placement.
Turntables perform best when situated on a level surface, for example, so make sure to set your record player up on something flat, so avoid carpet or uneven surfaces. Keep your speakers at a reasonable distance and facing away from your turntable to avoid feedback.
Amplify Your Sound
The rich tone that can be achieved when you play music on a record player is usually the result of an amplifier, as this helps to increase the record player’s naturally low output.
Once the only option, then knocked off its pedestal by solid-state amplifiers for a few years before coming back out on top, tube amplifiers can alter and hugely enhance the sound produced by your record player, provided you’ve selected the right match for your turntable.
If you want to find out more about how to identify and choose between all of the different types of vacuum tubes, then follow this link for more from Top Tube Amplifier which includes a helpful infographic guide for you to refer back to.
Keep Your Cartridge in Line
The precise location point where the cartridge mounts to the tone arm varies between different types, but there will often be some sort of setup gauge to ensure the tip of the stylus is in the correct position, or alternatively, you can purchase and use an alignment protractor.
You can also find free alignment guides available online, but be sure to never skip this step altogether as a cartridge that’s out of alignment can lead to groove distortion or other issues that result in a sound that doesn’t live up to the best of your record player’s capabilities.
Tracking Lightly is as Damaging as Heavy Tracking
Tracking presents a similar issue in that it’s important to get this just right, rather than tracking too lightly or too heavily. Many people assume that it’s only the latter that can cause problems, but if the tracking is too light it can be as equally damaging to vinyl records.
When it’s not pressing down enough, the stylus can end up coming in and out of contact with the surface grooves rather than consistently tracking and resting gently on its surface. Not only can this result in some serious wear and tear, but it also distorts the music produced by your record player and can cause skipping or pausing during certain songs.
Remember to Keep Your Records Clean
This last one might sound obvious, but clean records make all the difference to the sound they will ultimately produce. Dirty records can interfere with tracking and cause crackling, popping, and hissing noises that interrupt the listening experience you’re trying to create.
Although it’s important to remove any lingering residue or sticky substances, be careful when cleaning so you don’t end up scratching or damaging the record’s surface. You can use a squirt of dish soap and some warm water to wash, but try to avoid the record’s label.
Always rinse off any soap suds and allow them to dry fully before attempting to play them again! Luckily, this simple step to get the best sound from your record player is one you won’t have to repeat for a few months or even the next couple of years.