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Maintaining a Turntable

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A high-quality turntable is fantastic, and some would even say necessary, addition to your home audio suite.

Turntables have experienced a massive revival in recent years, and there can be found a staggering diversity of differently featured and styled examples of hifi record players to suit most budgets.

High-profile music artists and record labels have capitalized on the resurgence of vinyl. Your favorite albums, both old and new, can likely be found as brand-new, full-size vinyl pressings, and if you’re willing to give credence to purists, the inherent audio quality of vinyl records is the subject of cultish obsession.

Unlike digital media devices, turntables are sensitive mechanical instruments, and maintaining them requires some knowledge and effort.

If you’re thinking of forking up the cash for a reputable turntable, brush up on its maintenance needs so you can ensure a long and functional life for what may become the centerpiece of your audio setup.

Preemptive Measures

A record player deals in microscopic precision. Sound is produced by the player’s needle coming into contact with tiny, physical grooves in the record’s surface.

Static electricity produced when the needle comes into contact with the record will attract airborne dust, and even when not in use, airborne dust will settle on your turntable just as it does on other surfaces.

Naturally, dust will interfere with the proper operation of your turntable, so a big part of maintaining your turntable is keeping it clean.

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Doing what you can to prevent the accumulation of dust on your turntable is generally recommended. Before anything else, try to find a turntable with a built-in hinge cover, a common feature given the threat of dust.

Many high-end turntables lack such a cover; for such cases, there are turntable dust covers sold separately that should fit most examples.

Good indoor air quality also goes a long way in keeping all electronics reasonably dust-free, so your turntable, cover or not, will benefit from being in a room with an active air filter.

A properly covered record player can still become inundated with dust — from none other than your records themselves. The tiny grooves in vinyl records become a vector for dust, which is transferred over to your turntable when the records are played.

Just like the turntable, you should always keep your records in their sleeves when not in use. Make a soft brush or microfiber cloth part of your vinyl paraphernalia, and get in the habit of gently wiping down your records before and after use to clear out dust.

Dust buildup isn’t the only issue you can prevent. In order to ensure your record player’s many intricate components don’t fall into disrepair and fail over time, the device should always sit on a level surface; it is simply not designed to be operated on an incline, on its side, or in any other creative way.

It is also advisable that it does not occupy the same surface as its speakers, since the vibration of the speakers over time may dislodge or otherwise interfere with the turntable’s components.

If they must share a surface, place isolation pads beneath the player, the speakers, or both.

How to Clean a Turntable

Eventually, and ideally two or three times a month, you will want to clean your turntable. That microfiber cloth will come in handy when clearing its various surfaces of dust and dirt, but if it’s particularly grimy, don’t be afraid to use a conservative amount of isopropyl alcohol for as long.

Of course, you should always dry the alcohol off yourself rather than wait for it to evaporate, to prevent it from causing any damage. Pay special attention to the stylus, or needle.

This integral and sensitive component should be cleared carefully, with a specialized stylus brush if available. Be sure not to bend the delicate stylus, or you’ll find yourself ordering a new one.

If your turntable seems to be acting sluggish, it may be time to partially disassemble it and clean its interior. For most turntables, this process is uncomplicated.

  • Make sure the record player is not powered on
  • Lift up and remove the platter; your turntable will most likely include instructions for this step
  • Clear the platter’s underside of debris
  • Clear the spindle of debris, and lubricate it as needed
  • Remove the turntable’s belt and clean it with a soft cloth and alcohol if needed
  • Before reassembly, make sure none of the parts are still wet with alcohol

Replacements

No matter how well you care for your turntable, you will at some point run into problems that can’t be fixed with microfiber and isopropyl, necessitating the replacement of parts.

Like with a car, it is always better to replace parts sooner rather than later, to avoid reducing the turntable’s lifespan.

The most often replaced part of a turntable is its stylus. While a stylus should last approximately 1,000 hours under a recommended cleaning routine, this is entirely dependent on how much use the turntable sees.

Stylus issues will be immediately audible upon playing a record: jumping, skipping, hiss, and static noise are cues that your stylus should be replaced with a new one immediately.

A deteriorating stylus won’t just ruin your listening experience; it will wear out and damage your record collection. If your stylus is mounted onto a moving coil cartridge rather than a moving magnet cartridge, contact a professional or the original manufacturer to replace the stylus.

Additionally, belt-driven turntables need their belts replaced roughly every five years, but replacement belts are not interchangeable, so make sure your new belt is compatible with your turntable.

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