Phonograph Record Player Needle Problems

Written by andy klaus
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Phonograph Record Player Needle Problems
Despite higher-tech digital alternatives, many professionals and hobbyists prefer record players. (Polka Dot RF/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

The creation of the flat turntable was the death knell for the cylinder audio players of Edison's era. The record player outlived the utility of its predecessor by decades, maintaining a strong presence into the mid-1990s. Record players retain a faithful following as a niche product. Many common problems with turntable players are related to the needles that read the grooves of the records.

Quality Issues

The sound from a turntable is created when the needle (also called the stylus) of the phonograph traces the groove of the record, so there is significant benefit in making sure that the surface area of the stylus that touches the groove is maximised. Some cheap stylus designs use a rounded tip design. These should be avoided at all cost, as they provide minimal contact with the grooves and result in a low-quality sound. A quality stylus should be tapered to match the angle of the stylus used to master the record.

Static Issues

When playing a record album, you might notice static in the background. Although this can indicate a scratched or warped record, it can also indicate problems with the stylus tip. Clean the needle with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab. Such maintenance should be done daily to ensure the best results. If the problem persists, the problem could indicate a worn stylus. If the stylus is not new, consider replacing it.

Constant Skipping Problems

If you notice that your record consistently skip, the problem could be related to how the needle contacts the surface of the record. If the needle itself is in good condition and clean, you might need to change the physical balance of the turntable to ensure the stylus meets the record grooves evenly. Adjust the feet on the turntable (they usually have adjustable screws) until the player sits level.

Intermittent Skipping Issues

If the player seems to skip intermittently, especially long skips that cause the arm to traverse a large section of the record, the needle might not have enough force to hold it in the groove. With quality players, this problem can usually be alleviated by adjusting the arm weight mechanism. If your turntable has no such option, you can tape a penny to the arm just over the needle to apply additional pressure.

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