Record Store Day
2019 is right around the corner and "Spring Cleaning" has never seemed more
relevant than now, at least for your record player and vinyl collection. The
avid listener should employ these steps on a regular basis to ensure you're
It's firstly most important to recognize your record
player as a precision instrument. It requires consistent maintenance, just as
any precision device might. This bodes true for affordable systems and
especially true for higher-end systems, whose parts are finnicky at best, and
downright needy at their worst.
The result is always worth it-amazing sounding
music-but, to achieve that, follow the five tips below on a regular basis and
you'll be rewarded with the music the way the artist intended.
1. Cleanliness is next to Godliness
You need to ensure your record
player and records are spotlessly clean every time you play one. The scratch
and pop associated with listening to records is actually distortion caused by
debris and buildup on the record and record player components. It may be
romantic to some, but if you're not about the romance and want the absolute
best listening experience, you need to clean that up.
Start with a record
cleaning kit the includes a velvet bush, antistatic cleaning fluid and a
carbon fiber cleaning brush. If your
records are clean, use the carbon fiber brush to clear away dust prior to
playing your record. If the record is
dirty, use the fluid and felt brush for a deep clean.
To properly clean your records, using a cleaning brush and gently
brush with the grooves, never across
the grooves. Make sure you're handling your records appropriately by grasping
the center of the record with your forefingers and the very outer edge with
your palm. This video
is a great tutorial.
Also consider purchasing a stylus brush, which is a precision
instrument intended to clean micro hairs, fibers and debris from your very
sensitive and fussy stylus. Here's a great video on how to
clean that very sensitive instrument.
2. Store It Like You Love It
Alongside keeping your record player components clean, you will need
to ensure your records are also just as unblemished. Realistically, you should
be cleaning your records before every use, and storing them properly to ensure
they sound great every time and last a lifetime. Here are a few quick tips:
Always store your records vertically, not horizontally. Vinyl will
warp over time if left sideways. Also, don't stack records too close to each
other, give each record a little room to breathe.
Invest in archival
sleeves to reduce the amount of dust and particulates that accumulate on
the record's surface; also consider investing in a platter mat to ensure you're
not dirtying your records every time they're played.
3. Pursue Perfect Stylus Pressure
The way in which your stylus
actually contacts the record is incredibly important. In general, you want to ensure
the stylus pressure precisely matches the requirement of your cartridge. The
process for setting stylus pressure varies from record player to record player.
Generally you have a counterbalance at the end of the tonearm, which will
enable you to set pressure. Here is an easy way to ensure you're adjusting
Take a stack of business cards and a gram scale (you can get these
on Amazon for less than $15). Set the gram scale on top of the stack of
business cards at the same height your record sits on the platter, then lower
the tonearm until the stylus rests on the gram scale.
Every cartridge has a specific contact weight associated with it,
signifying the ideal stylus pressure. Generally, the lower the weight, the
better the cartridge.
Adjust the counterweight until you've achieved the stylus pressure
as signified by the gram scale, and you're done. This video is a great
tutorial on how to execute this process.
4. Cartridge Alignment Ensures
Fidelity Across the Record
Something you may not notice right away, but is also hugely
important is the angle at which the
stylus meets the record. Typically companies have specific angles at which they
set their stylus for ideal listening, but for folks looking for the absolute
best fidelity, you may want to prescribe to something a little more precise. To do this, we recommend investing in a stylus
protractor tool. This ruler-like mechanism provides two separate grids that
ensure perfect alignment with the center of the record. This way, your stylus
is contacting the record at the ideal angle from the first song at the outer
rim of the record all the way to the last song at the inner-most rim.
We found this
video to be helpful in using a stylus protractor tool.
5. Dictate Imaging with Tone Arm Positioning
The angle of your stylus to the record affects the stereo image (aka, where
specific instruments are located in space). This phenomenon occurs because the
z-axis-or vertical motion of the stylus-contains information allowing us to
extract a stereo signal from a single groove. If the angle is incorrect, the
location of the stereo image will be off-center.
To tune this, you'll need to use your ears and do some critical
listening. Generally a good vocal track
is located precisely in the middle of the image. If your tone arm is too low,
often the image will also be too low. Try a few adjustments up and down to see if
you can hear the images moving through space.
6. Record Player Isolation is
Critical for Pure Playback
We see a lot of people placing
their speakers on the same surface as the record player, which is an absolute
non-starter if you want a high-fidelity listening experience. Why? Well, your
cartridge is an extremely delicate device specially designed to translate
vibrations into amplifiable sound. Any vibrations felt on the surface of the
record will be picked up by the cartridge and sound disastrous.
We recommend investing in a sturdy
Hi-Fi rack or placing your record player on a separate surface than the
other components in your system.
With these few easy-and not so easy-tips, you will
have a superior listening experience with your record player and records right
away. Remember to check out the Record
Store Day 2019 website for additional information
on deals and updates from your local record store. Happy listening.