Vinyl Record Skipping? Here's How to Fix and Prevent the Issue
A vinyl record skipping can be a frustrating experience, but did you know the most frequent common cause is the turntable and not the vinyl itself? Here are a few handy tips to help troubleshoot the problem and get you back into the groove.
One of the most common causes of a vinyl record skipping is an improperly set up turntable. Even a slight imbalance or misalignment can cause your stylus to skate across the record. There are several things you can check to ensure that your turntable is properly set up.
Adjust the tonearm balance
If your tonearm is not balanced correctly, it can cause your stylus to skip across the record, resulting in an unpleasant sound. A tonearm that is too heavy or too light will cause the stylus to track the record surface incorrectly.
To adjust the tonearm balance, first, turn off the turntable and unplug it. Then, gently move the counterweight on the back of the tonearm until the tonearm is parallel to the record surface. This ensures that the stylus sits properly in the record groove.
Check the balance of the turntable
An uneven turntable can cause your stylus to skip or mistrack across the record, resulting in distortion or unpleasant sound.
To check the balance of your turntable, place a spirit level on top of the turntable platter. If the bubble is not centered, adjust the turntable feet until it is level. An uneven turntable can also cause the record to wobble, causing mistracking and skipping.
Inspect the stylus
The stylus is a vital component of your turntable, and a worn or dirty stylus can cause your record to skip. A damaged or worn stylus cannot properly track the record grooves, causing it to jump and skip across the record surface. To check the stylus, remove it from the tonearm and inspect it under a magnifying glass. Look for any visible wear or damage to the tip. If the tip looks dirty, gently clean it with a stylus cleaning brush.
The type of turntable
Briefcase-style record players, often marketed as portable turntables, have gained popularity due to their affordability, compactness, and vintage appeal. However, many of these units can indeed be more prone to skipping than higher-quality, more stable turntables. This article goes into more detail about the reasons why.
If your turntable setup is correct, but you are still experiencing vinyl record skipping, it's time to check the record itself. Records can become damaged over time, or they can be damaged during shipping or handling. Here are a few things you can do to check your record.
Identify any visible scratches
Visible scratches on your record can cause your stylus to mistrack and skip. Scratches are often caused by mishandling or dust and debris on the record surface. To check for scratches, hold the record up to the light and look for any visible marks or scratches on the surface of the record.
Clean the record
Dust or debris on your record can cause your stylus to mistrack and skip. Dust and debris can accumulate on your records over time, and they can cause your stylus to bounce around on the surface of the record, resulting in playback issues. Inspect the grooves for any build-up and gently wipe the record with a microfiber cloth before playing it.
Look for warping
A warped record can cause your stylus to mistrack and skip. Warped records are not uncommon, but most tonearms are designed to accommodate this.
Records warp due to a number of reasons – the type and quality of the PVC, how thick the record is, and if it got too hot somewhere from the manufacturer to your door. Colour or see-through LPs are known to warp more easily than black records. So, if you care about the music and sound quality, always choose black vinyl.
A warped record will have a visible dip or bend in the record surface, causing the stylus to jump and skip across the grooves. To check for warping, hold the record up to the light and look along the edge. If you see any light shining through between the record and the surface it's resting on, your record is warped.
If the record is warped, you can either try flattening it by putting it between two heavy books or look at purchasing a stabiliser to put on your turntable.