Turntable Maintenance: Tips & Advice
By Michael Greig Thomas
We’ve already discussed tips for protecting your records, but there’s something else to keep in mind if you want to preserve the condition of your vinyl collection for years to come: the importance of turntable maintenance.
Here are some important basic guidelines to keep in mind:
Placement & Suspension
Minimise the jarring effects of footsteps on the suspension by selecting a flat, vibration free surface for your turntable, as far away from the speakers as possible (take into account the direction in which the floorboards run, too). This helps keep the sound from distorting.
Use a spirit level to ensure all areas of the turntable are perfectly horizontal (including the platter).
Keep the turntable away from direct exposure to sun, heat, moisture and dirt.
Keep your turntable well ventilated.
To maintain good sound quality and preserve stylus life, use a carbon fibre stylus brush and some cleaning fluid to gently remove dust and dirt on a regular basis. Brush from back to front and be sparing with the cleaning fluid. Remember to always handle with care.
(Note: Before cleaning, always unplug your turntable from the wall, especially if you are going to lift the platter. It’s also a good idea to remove the RCA and ground wire from the mixer/preamp, lock the tonearm down, and remove the headshell.)
Change your stylus after every 1000 – 3000 hours of use, or whenever it starts regularly miss-tracking. Use a magnifying glass every 500 hours to determine when it is worn (although your ears should tell you first – any sign of distortion or loss of detail should be investigated).
Tonearm calibration is critical for the correct playback of records. An improperly calibrated tonearm can result in skipping needles, increased record wear, decreased stylus life, and poor fidelity.
There are three settings that affect tonearm calibration: weight (tracking force), anti-skate, and height. All three settings must be correctly calibrated.
Correct alignment is crucial as it affects how your stylus sits inside the record grooves. Ensure your anti-skate counterweight is set correctly (as mentioned above) to prevent your tonearm from riding up the side of the groove and increasing record wear.
If you have a belt drive turntable, you may need to replace the belt once every few years. If you see the belt slipping lower than usual on its pulley or on the platter, or you hear it slip when you power up the motor, it could be a sign that the belt has stretched or dried out and it’s time to replace it (always seek manufacturer advice first).
Regular Maintenance Is The Key…
Although most turntables are relatively low maintenance, if you fail to keep your turntable tuned, clean and dust free then, aside from poor sound quality and a short cartridge life, you risk permanent damage to your records.
With a little care and basic maintenance, you can keep your turntable in peak condition and enjoy your cherished vinyl record collection for decades to come.
Do you have any useful tips for turntable maintenance?