Why do records skip more often on briefcase-style players?
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 record skipping than higher-quality, more stable turntables.
To enjoy the best sound from a record, the needle has to snugly fit into the record's groove. Here's a close-up visual for a clearer picture:
The reasons why records skip on briefcase players
Here's why a briefcase turntable isn't ideal for playing vinyl records:
Cartridge and Stylus Quality
One of the main reasons is the build quality of the cartridge and stylus. Inexpensive players often use a cheaper cartridge with a metal spherical stylus. These do not sit in a record's groove as well as an elliptical stylus, which are often made of diamond (even the reasonably priced ones!).
Briefcase players also use a lighter, rigid tonearm, which do not maintain consistent pressure on the record's surface. A heavier, better-damped tonearm with an adjustable counterweight can provide a more consistent tracking force and reduce skipping.
No Adjustable Tracking Force
Higher-end turntables often allow users to adjust the tracking force (the downward pressure the stylus exerts on the record). Briefcase-style players generally lack this feature, and the preset force might not be optimal for all records, leading to potential skips.
Lack of Anti-Skate
Higher-quality turntables have an anti-skate feature, which counteracts the inward force the tonearm experiences due to the spinning record. Without this feature, the stylus can be pushed towards the center of the record, causing it to skate across and potentially skip.
Plinth and Platter Quality
The plinth (base) and platter of the turntable can affect its ability to reduce vibrations. Cheaper players may not have the necessary dampening or weight to minimize these vibrations. As a result, even slight jostles or surface vibrations can cause the record to skip.
High-quality turntables often have some form of suspension or isolation system to decouple the turntable from external vibrations. Portable, briefcase-style players usually lack such systems, making them more susceptible to skips when there are vibrations or movements in their vicinity.
Many portable record players come with built-in speakers. Playing music at higher volumes can cause vibrations within the unit itself, potentially leading to skipping.
Turntable Speed Stability
Cheaper turntables may not maintain a consistent rotational speed, which can affect the tracking of the stylus and cause skipping.
Wear and Tear
Using a record player with cheaper, mass-produced parts can also cause more wear on your records over time due to the factors above, which might lead to more skipping in the future.
Cheaper players are great for starting out, but if you're serious about vinyl, it's a good idea to invest in a quality turntable in the long run. Not only will this provide a better listening experience, but it will also ensure the longevity of your records.
Due to the reasons outlined in the article, we do not accept returns for records that skip or show faults when played on non-adjustable turntable models or briefcase-style players. It's why we refuse to stock them in our store, despite them being readily available.