How to Get the Best Sound from Your Player: Step-by-Step Guide

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PLayers work by measuring vibrations. The vinyl groove causes the stylus to move or vibrate, and this turns into a tiny electrical signal that is amplified and turned into sound by the speakers. This means that to make the turntable work well, you want it to “read” only the vibrations in the groove and not distort them with vibration coming from somewhere else. If you are looking for a high-quality turntable but don’t know where to start, your challenge is to find one that will handle external vibrations. But even the best ones won’t work well if they aren’t at the right location.

The solution is to install the player on a surface that’s not going to move when it detects vibrations, for example, on a small table or shelf, not on a sideboard. Large pieces of furniture often vibrate when the speakers are playing, especially if you wave your hands near them. They need to be light, but also hard.

In order to minimize vibration, try keeping your phone from touching speakers or any other surface. If you really can’t help it, cover the speaker with a dish cloth or 2 so the bass doesn’t travel and make your phone shudder. One of the many reasons why turntables with speakers built in are subpar is that they work in a very rudimentary manner.

One thing you should never do is put the turntable on a slope. Add a small amount of alcohol and align it parallel to the front/rear and side planes. If the legs are not adjustable, you can use materials like cardboard or something similar to raise it up.

Once you find the right spot to place your deck, follow this five-point guide to extract the best possible sound.

Best Upgrades for Your Turntable

It happens to everyone. We get bored with our setup. It doesn’t sound bad, it’s just that it feels familiar.

We tend to dwell on the negatives of our turntable and Hi-Fi over time. Audiophiles are faced with many problems every day, including static interference, surface noise, rounded highs/lows, and electrical interfering. These problems can be minimized or eliminated by simply installing an add-on.

Below is a list with the top 10 enhancements that will improve the sound quality and performance of your player.

* These updates are more targeted at standard players (low mass tonearm with counterweight and anti-slip protection etc. ).

1. Set-up

Next, ensure the stylus (or cartridge) is in the correct angle when looking from the front. The majority of turntables that are affordable come with the cartridge already installed. Most are placed in the correct place and at the right angle. It is worth checking, as poorly placed cartridges can not only make your turntable sound less than a properly aligned one but it can also cause damage to your vinyl over time.

It’s important to verify that the tracking force is correct before checking alignment. If there is a 10p at the arm’s end, it is most likely not. The counterweight is usually marked on the opposite end of the arm to balance it.

The weight should be set to zero. If the stylus is hitting the platter or up in the air, adjust the weight so that it lies parallel to the turntable. After your arm is “floating”, dial in the recommended tracking weight for the cartridge. This is usually between 1.5 and 2 grams. However, be careful as too much force could damage the cartridge. Too little can cause mistracking which damages vinyl.

2. Alignment

Next, check that your cartridge is properly set up. An alignment protractor is required for this purpose. These are usually included with certain turntables, but they are quite affordable as audio accessories. The instructions can vary between brands so it is best to refer to the manual. However, the basic idea is to align the cartridge so that the stylus lines up with the groove to get the most of the vinyl.

Because most arms pivot, it is technically impossible for the stylus angle to be right for all sides. You need to compromise. This is what the protractor does.

Audio enthusiasts can get obsessed with cartridge setup. Every tweak will change the sound. But if you do the basics correctly, you’ll be at least 90% of the way. It is possible to lose sleep over the details, but it is not a must.

3. Bias

Because the groove travels more quickly at the edges of vinyl than it does on the inside, there is a force pulling the stylus towards the middle of the disc. This force must be compensated or offset. This is the purpose of bias and anti-skate system. They can be made up of a thread with a small amount of weight or a sliding marker.

This can be done by placing it below the tracking force. For example, if your cartridge tracks at 1.75g, set anti-skate up to 1.5. The thread and weight system will usually be the right middle point, but you can always listen to other options to find out if they are more suitable.

4. The Right Angle

Vertical tracking angle (VTA), which is the angle at which the stylus is in the groove from the side, is another adjustment. You can adjust it by loosening the bolt at the base of the arm and changing its height. The best results are theoretically achieved when the arm tube is parallel to the vinyl surface. However, tilting the tube up or down will alter the sound.

Many arms do not offer VTA adjustment. This is because rigidity is considered more important than adjustability. VTA is only able to alter the tonal balance. As mentioned, the only vibrations that should be heard in a record player are at the stylus/groove interface. A greater degree of rigidity elsewhere will make this more likely.

5. Simple Fix

You don’t have to mess with your cartridge or arm, but there is one trick that will bring instant results. That is, remove the dust cover from vinyl when you play it. The dust cover can be used to protect fragile parts and it can also pick up vibrations from the music and transmit them to the turntable.

Main Causes and Troubleshooting of the Distorted Sound of the Recording Player

Vinyl records at their best are my favorite way to listen to music. There are many reasons they may not perform as well as physical media. There’s a good chance that your turntable or record player is distorted.

Let’s not waste anymore time. We will get you spinning beautiful records faster than you can say “vinyl final”.

1. Upgrade your Cartridge

Although this may seem obvious, I have found that many turntable owners, not audiophiles, don’t realize that they can easily swap their cartridge or stylus.

A new cart is your turntable’s “sound generator” and can drastically change the sound signature of your deck. A cart upgrade can make your turntable sound more vibrant or create a more neutral soundstage.

You can also swap carts if your turntable has a standard (S) shape bayonet or detachable headsshell. This allows you to easily get an additional headshell along with your new cart. I switch between four different cartridges. This allows me to listen to certain genres on a specific cart and can also switch between them if I get bored.

Herb n’ HiFi recommends the Ortofon 2M Red or Nagaoka MP-110 cartridges if this is your first cartridge. Both are significantly more expensive than standard entry-level cartridges and retail at around $100.

2. Add a Weight or Clamp

I will admit that I was skeptical about weights and clamps being more effective than actual upgrades, until I tried one for myself.

Both clamps and weights can be used to press the record to the platter. Clamps and weights have one major difference. Weights can be placed on top of your record while clamps attach to the spindle to provide a tight grip. Although there is no definitive answer to the question of which option is best, weights are more comfortable than clamps.

There are a few benefits to weights and clamps. They can straighten any records that are slightly distorted. Although they won’t fix or flatten all extreme warping, they can reduce audible warping. They also add mass to the record which creates an illusion of a heavier pressing. This reduces resonance and aids in tracking (think heavy 180g audiophile pressings). A third benefit is that weights and clamps can help you track and reduce unwanted resonance.

I prefer to take a look at the turntable that I plan to add it to before deciding between a clamp and a weight. A torquier, direct-drive turntable such as an Audio Technica AT-1200 or Technics SL-1200 would be a good choice. DD motors can easily compensate. Belt-drive turntables require clamps to be used. Because of their smaller motors, which tend not to have as much torque and can slow down the turntable, or worse, cause premature wear.

Audio Technica AT618a Disc stabilizer is what I use for weights. It’s primarily used on the Den SL-1200MK2. It is made of rubber and weighs in at 600g, or 1.3lbs more. My Fluance RT85 has a Record Doctor Record Clamp. It is made from high-density injection-molded plastic and has a velvet ring that protects the record label.

3. Switch up your Mat

Most turntables today come with rubber or, worse yet, a felt platter pad, neither of which are optimal.

While rubber mats can dampen, resonance, and grip, they can also cause static noise. They can also be prone to embedded dust particles, which can damage vinyl records. Although it is better than felt options there are better options.

Felt mats, in my opinion are horrible! They can hold a lot static electricity and are very rough. They behave and feel like a Scotch Brite scrub-sponge. I have a big dislike for brands such as Rega, Pro-Ject and Audio Technica putting their turntables in sub-par felt mats. Although DJs may require more slippage, they are often referred to simply as slip-mats, the mats are not recommended for home use.

There are many options, and there are many platter mat options. You have options such as cork, leather and acrylic. They all help reduce static and dampen the platter and are also less abrasive that the rubber and felt mats.

The sound can also be changed by changing the mat. Cork and leather tend to have a deeper bass response, while acrylic and glass tend to boost the highs and make the music sound more livelier.

A hybrid cork-rubber mat from Tonar has been my favorite for the past several years. The cork reduces static noises and the rubber bits give the record a better grip than a 100% cork mat. The mat also has more weight and mass, which helps to dampen resonance.

It doesn’t matter what material you choose it will make a significant improvement over felt platter mats or base rubber.

4. Antistatic Record Cleaning Arm

Although it may seem a bit excessive, an antistatic record cleaner arm can be a smart addition to your turntable.

This is a simple idea: a metal counterweight and arm with a brush at the tip to remove dust and generate static electricity as the record spins. For optimal antistatic performance, the arm includes a grounding wire you can attach to your TT’s groundwire.

Record cleaning arms were made mostly from goat and horse hair back in the day. They are now 100% vegan and made from the same antistatic plastic bristles as handheld cleaning brushes.

The setup can be tricky and the overall aesthetics are dependent on your turntable. My Technics SL-5200 has a generic cleaning arm that I use to get that vinyl-like listening experience. It produces minimal static and surfaces noise. When it came time to tune out the Den’s SL-1200MK2, however, I realized that the design of the turntable was too iconic to ignore and gave up.

Make sure that you have enough space to place the antistatic record cleaning arm on your deck and enough room to close it. YMMV.

5. Get a Preamp/Upgrade your Phono Preamp

For more experienced players, the last tip in our rating might seem obvious. Many record player owners don’t realize how an external background preamp can affect the sound quality of their vinyl records, particularly if they have modern record players that come with built-in preamps.

Until recently I used to refer to the built in phono preamp of my receiver or integrated amp. However, a Denon DL103 moving coil (MC), cartridge made me look into other options as the MM-only preamp in my Yamaha RN303 Stereo Receiver was not optimal. After much research, I came across the Pro-Ject Phono Box. I was impressed with how it performed in comparison to the Denon. It was so good that it enhanced an already great sound signature I had from my Ortofon 2M Red MM Cart.

There are many preamp options available at different price points. They range from $15 for a basic preamp such as the Pyle PP444, to thousands of dollars for more advanced esoteric models. For an at-home HiFi setup, $80-$200 seems like a reasonable price point.

There are many great options, including the Pro-Ject Phono Box, Fluance PA10 and the Cambridge Audio Alva. All of these items cost $200 or less.

I recently replaced the Phono Box by Pro-Ject’s Tube Box S2, a tube-based preamplifier. The Tube Box S2 is a great preamplifier with a warm sound. Although it is more expensive at $450, the Tube Box S2 will make your vinyl playing experience a lot better.

You have it. Herb n’ HiFi has the best turntable upgrades that will make vinyl records sound even better.

** This article contains affiliate links to Amazon listings and/or other outlets.

6. Dirty Stylus/Needle

A dirty stylus is the easiest and most common reason why a turntable or record player might sound discolored.

The stylus, also known as the needle or a stylus, is the tiny tip of a diamond that tracks the groove on a record. It will sometimes pick up dirt and dust as it moves across the record.

Slowly, but surely, grime will build up on the stylus tip. This will make it difficult to trace the groove accurately.

What will happen? The result? Your records will sound distorted.

If you have a lot of old records, dust and grime buildup can be a problem. However, it won’t affect your new records.

Vinyl format is all about keeping dust away. A stylus cleaning kit is a must-have and should be used regularly.

By keeping your records clean, you can reduce the need to clean your stylus. Keep your records clean to make it easier for your stylus. Dirt, dirt, and grime can accelerate wear.

7. The Stylus Needs Replacing

Although keeping your records and stylus clean can prolong the life of your stylus’s lifespan, it is still necessary to replace it every now and again.

A diamond stylus should be replaced every 800-1000 hours (which is approximately four albums per year). For more information, see our guide on how long a needle/stylus will last.

A stylus for a turntable or record player is typically made of diamond (or sometimes sapphire). A typical diamond is more durable than a sapphire design because it has the hardest surface known to mankind.

Despite their durability, styluses can travel a great distance (1500 feet per side for an average LP). Keep this in mind as the surface of your LP will eventually wear down, gradually but surely, sound quality will suffer.

To check for any flat spots, you can use a magnifying glass or jeweler’s loop to examine the stylus. Alternativly, you could make it a habit to swap the stylus for a new one at minimum once a year to prevent distortion from taking hold.

Depending on how frequently you play vinyl records, it is a good idea to do so once a year to prevent damage to your records and to reduce the harshness of your sound.

8. Worn Out or Badly Pressed Records

Sometimes the vinyl record is the root cause of distortion.

A record that has been played to death often can show signs of wear. This is dependent on how well the previous owners took care of the records and their turntable.

You can try swapping the record, and listen again. You can usually isolate the problem to one or two records.

Sometimes cleaning the record can restore its sound quality by removing dirt and dust. However, it is not possible to clean records with significant groove wear or scratches.

Sometimes the problem is with pressing the record or mastering it. Mastering vinyl records is a skill that takes years to master.

Audio issues can arise if the vinyl parameters and quirks are not considered during mastering and cutting a vinyl record.

These issues can manifest as distortion, excessive sibilance, or a dull, lifeless tone.

A mastering engineer who is skilled in vinyl will be able to tap into its strengths.

9. Poorly Aligned Cartridge or Incorrect Turntable Setup

This is a common reason why turntables produce distorted sounds. It’s not easy to fix.

An all-in-one player, as opposed to separate turntables, amps and speakers, has a high chance that the cartridge position is factory-fixed.

This is why turntables and record players sound distorted almost exclusively when they have a cartridge that can be replaced.

You can’t just screw the cartridge onto the tonearm and hope for the best. To optimize the tracking of the record surface, you need to align your cartridge in a specific manner.

Simply put, if your alignment is not correct, your stylus won’t sit properly in the groove and the resulting sound may be distorted.

Your tonearm will pivot across the surface of your record at two points. These are the places where the stylus will perfectly align with the groove.

To ensure the best performance of the record, align the cartridge at both null points with a cartridge protractor.

The most common issue with an incorrect turntable setup is cartridge alignment. This can lead to distorted or muffled sounds. Other setup parameters such as tracking force, antiskate, or bias, play an important role in the tracking performance.

10. Incorrect System Setup or Mismatched Equipment

It’s often the most obvious error that causes distortion in an audio system. The issue may be due to a problem further down the signal chain.

Double-check everything to ensure it is working as it should.

Have you connected the turntable to a phono input or preamp? To amplify the signal properly, a receiver/amplifier or external phono preamp will be required if your turntable does not have a built in phono stage.

A phono stage is necessary to make the playback sound clear and loud. You can find our link to our guide on phono preamps, and why you should have one.

You may also have issues with your audio system, such as an input impedance mismatch between your phono preamp and the cartridge.

To keep this article brief and simple, I will only mention that there are two types of phono carts: moving magnet designs or moving coil.

The signal produced by moving coil designs is smaller at lower impedance levels and requires an additional gain stage at your phono preamp. They also require a lower load impedance at their input stage.

Some amplifiers and phono preamps have an additional or switchable input stage that can be used to move coil phono cartridges. Double check your hocking is correct for the cartridge type. These are the most popular.

Some phono amplifiers allow you to adjust the input load impedance so that your cartridges perform best. For the best sound quality and performance, make sure to check the manual or specifications of the phono preamp.

However, the majority of affordable phono cartridges have a moving magnet and are compatible with all standard pre-set phono inputs.

You can start your vinyl journey by plugging your deck into an input labeled “phono” (or an external moving magnet preamp).

11. Amplifier or Speaker Issues

It can be difficult to diagnose distortion or issues with sound quality caused by speakers or amplifiers.

Check the basics first. Poorly applied settings could be the problem. Some amplifiers include an EQ built in that, if not used correctly, can cause distortion. Adjust the settings to your liking.

Try plugging headphones into your amplifier to determine if it is the amplifier or speakers that are causing the problem. If the sound is clear on the headphones, then the speakers may be the problem.

If your model comes with a separate amplifier for headphones, you can apply the same procedure to a separate phono stage. If you hear a clean sound at the preamp stage but not at the amplifier, then it is likely that your amplifier is the problem.

Record Player Sounds Distorted: The Bottom Line

All this may sound simple, but it is. The best way to fix distortion or poor sound quality is to eliminate it. Begin with the input stage, and then work your way through all possible causes. Slowly reduce the variables until you pinpoint the cause.

Most issues can be resolved with a little maintenance and proper setup. It can be difficult to troubleshoot equipment that is not working properly further down the signal chain. But with patience and a systematic approach you will be back spinning records in no matter how long it takes.

How can the sound of a record player be improved?

The sound of a record player is not quite what it used to be? There are many factors that can affect the sound, such as the vinyl quality, the turntable speed, and even the type of needle used.

While there are many ways to improve the sound of a record player, there are two solutions that can help you get started. The first solution is to use a different needle and cartridge. There are many types and brands available on the market today so you should be able to find one that suits your needs and budget.

The second solution is to upgrade your turntable and turn it into an audiophile turntable by using high-quality speakers or amplifiers.

What are the best ways to improve sound of a record player quality?

Some of the most common ways to improve sound quality of a record player are:

  • Ensure that the record player is cleaned and serviced regularly.
  • Ensure that there is no debris in the needle.
  • Ensure that the stylus is not damaged or bent.
  • Ensure that all parts are working properly and there is no damage to any part of the machine.
  • Adjust the volume on your record player so it does not get too loud or too soft.

Which are the best record players for improving sound quality?

The best record players for improving sound quality are those that can reproduce sound with better clarity and fidelity.

The following are some of the best record players for improving sound quality:

  1. Audio Technica AT-LP120 USB turntable
  2. Crosley Cruiser 6″ 33 1/3 rpm Turntable

What is the difference between a record player and a sound fuzzy?

A record player is a device that is used to play records. The sound it produces is fuzzy.

A sound fuzzy is a type of toy that makes the sound of a record player as if it was playing records.

What are some of the best types of vinyl records to buy for scratching?

There are many types of vinyl records to buy, but before you do so, you should know what kind of records scratch the best.

There are a few things that can make scratching easier on vinyl records. The most important thing to keep in mind is the speed and pressure that you’re using when scratching. If you’re using too much pressure or speed, your record will skip instead of scratching.

The best type of records for scratching are those with a high-quality vinyl material and thick grooves (usually on the first five inches).

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