A Full Guide to Turntable Maintenance
Turntables are notorious for being fragile, high-maintenance pieces of equipment. In reality, they just require a bit of regular maintenance, much like other high-end technology, if you want them to keep them in pristine condition for many years. Record players are often regarded as sensitive because small amounts of dust and dirt can have an impact on audio quality. For the casual listener, it may not be noticeable, but for an audiophile, it’s essential to preserve audio quality at all costs. Selby, distributors of home and pro grade turntables, have this expert advice to keep your turntable in tip-top shape:
The best way to ensure longevity in a turntable is to keep it clean and handle it properly. To start, it’s a good idea to keep your house clean in general. When the turntable needle hits the record grooves, a small amount of static electricity is produced that actually attracts dust. So, reducing the amount of dust in the room to begin with will make your job easier. Some people even prefer to have an air purifier nearby or somewhere in the same room. Additionally, turntables come with a built-in dust cover for a reason, so be sure to use it. If yours doesn’t have a cover, get one ASAP.
Location, Location, Location
The placement and storage of your turntable can also impact its function over time. Make sure it is always on a level surface. This protects the alignment and function of the inner mechanisms over time. Record players can also be impacted by vibrations in their environment. Especially if you have wood flooring, things like footsteps and music from your speakers in the room produce vibrations that, in the long run, put stress on the turntable’s suspension system. When you’re talking about years of use, these stressors will lead to your turntable needing repairs and replacement parts more often. Use isolation products like foam pads to reduce the transfer of vibrations, and consider acoustically treating the room.
Keep Your Vinyl Pristine
Proper handling of your records themselves also goes a long way in preventing the buildup of dirt and dust. As you probably know, you should never touch the record face because grease from your hands is transferred onto the record and then builds up on the stylus as the record player is used. So always handle a vinyl by holding it around the edges, and you can also opt to brush them off gently with a carbon fiber brush before playing them. To avoid pressure and warping over time, always store your records vertically. It’s always smart to hold on to any protective sheets or materials they come with.
Cleaning Your Turntable
If you follow the above preventative methods religiously, you probably will have to clean your turntable much less often. However, you should try to be aware of how dirty it is, so you know when to clean it. The most important tip when it comes to turntable cleaning is being gentle and using the right tools.
Straight Simple Cleaning
Two to three times a month, wipe down the external surfaces of the turntable with a microfiber cloth. If there’s dirt that has built up, use a small bit of rubbing alcohol. Just be sure to dry it completely with a clean cloth afterwards.
The stylus is the most important component to clean regularly, as it is the most sensitive. Dust and grime that builds up on the stylus can impact audio quality and damage your records. After every few uses, use a stylus brush to gently wipe off any dirt, wiping from back to front.
Clean the Inner Mechanisms
As for the inner mechanisms of the turntable, you only need to clean them once or twice a year. A key sign that you need to clean the interior is if your turntable doesn’t maintain a consistent speed or is reacting slowly. Just as with the exterior, you should use antistatic and microfiber cloths. Follow these simple steps when dissecting your record player:
- This one might be obvious, but turn it off first.
- Take off the platter, or the flat round piece that holds the records. If you’re not feeling confident, you can most likely find instructions for your specific model online.
- Clean the bottom side of the platter.
- Clean the small metal piece that sticks up from the platter; this is called the spindle. You should be able to lift it up a bit and get to the dirt that has built up around the bottom. Add a drop of oil after cleaning it.
- Remove the belt and use alcohol or just a cloth to wipe it down. No belt? No worries.
- Make sure all components are completely dry and reassemble!
When to Replace Parts
If you don’t replace your turntable components, they can damage other components and shorten the turntable’s life. It’s important to preemptively replace parts after a certain amount of time to avoid damaging the record player in any way.
As for the stylus, the right time to replace is frequently debated among turntable lovers and depends on how often you clean it. If cleaned regularly, a stylus should last for at least 1,000 hours of listening. Many turntable users who follow a strict cleaning regime report up to 5,000 hours, but don’t push the stylus to its limits if you’re not sure of its condition. Check for any wear and tear about every 500 hours of listening by using a magnifying glass. If you notice any jumping, skipping, static, or hissing when using your turntable, you should replace your stylus ASAP or you risk damaging your records.
If your turntable has a moving magnet cartridge, you can easily replace the stylus yourself. For moving coil cartridges, however, it has to be sent back to the manufacturer or to a professional for stylus replacement. Some people prefer to simply get a new cartridge instead.
For turntables that are belt-driven, replace the belt every few years. Don’t just get any belt, make sure it will be compatible with your turntable model. Additionally, it never hurts to have your turntable checked out by a professional to make sure there aren’t any major issues.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post and the author’s views here do not necessarily reflect those of the blog owner.