It’s one of the worst feelings for a music fan — you just put a brand-new record on your turntable, and the music comes out distorted. We understand that feeling. Indeed, we’ve been there before. To help you solve this inconvenience, we have put together a guide on what to do when a new record is skipping.
Some small pops can be caused by static, especially right after removing a record from its inner plastic sleeve. For the heavier skips, there are generally two culprits: the record itself or your listening set-up. The more likely of the two is the set-up, but we will explore the usual causes in both categories.
First, check to see if the record skips in the same place every time. If it does, there is a pretty good chance that it is the vinyl. Another trick is to play the record on a different turntable (perhaps at a friend’s place or a record shop). If the vinyl sounds good on one turntable, but not on yours, then you know to adjust your setup.
Check the Turntable Set-up
The two components of the turntable that are most likely to cause a record to skip are the:
- Tonearm: If possible, rebalance the tonearm so that the proper weight and vertical tracking force are being applied. The process for adjustments varies by turntable type, so you will need to check the specific guide (which you should be able to find online). Note that rebalancing a tonearm and adjusting vertical tracking force are not an option for some turntables.
- Stylus: Inspect the stylus — or record needle — for wear or foreign objects like dust. Be careful not to touch the stylus when inspecting it. Clean or replace the cartridge if necessary. Visit our guide to cleaning and maintaining a turntable stylus for more detailed instructions.
Lower-end turntables are generally more susceptible to skipping. In addition to having non-adjustable tonearms, they might not be capable of properly playing louder modern vinyl pressings. If skipping becomes a regular occurrence, you may consider upgrading your turntable. However, you don’t have to spend a lot to find a better option. Here are some of our favorite beginner and affordable turntables.
Your turntable could be picking up bad vibrations, man. Uneven services can exacerbate minor issues. Perhaps your listening setup is adjacent to the laundry room? Of course, they look nice, but those wood floors can tremble with heavy footsteps.
Think about ways to limit the impact of vibration in your own environment. Try placing a rug or carpet underneath your setup, moving it away from walls or floors that might shake, and, at the very least, make sure the surface your turntable sits on is level. DJs in loud club environments will utilize a record weight to limit the vibrations of sound waves. Your solution may be as simple as placing your turntable on a thick wooden cutting board. Here is a more complete guide to the importance of turntable isolation and how to fix any problems with vibration.
Check the Record
As we mentioned above, a brand-new vinyl record is less often the culprit of playback skipping, though it is not unheard of. Let’s run through some checks to see if the vinyl might be at fault.
Production mistakes, though exceedingly rare, can cause a vinyl record to become warped. Heat warps records. Pressure warps records. Both of these factors can be present while the record is being stored, whether it be roasting in a hot warehouse or crushed under the weight of hundreds of other records. Oh, and of course, shipping carriers are not always known for being careful with vinyl.
The author’s slightly warped copy of Beach House’s Bloom.
The record doesn’t have to look like a cresting ocean wave to skip. Even the hardly noticeable warp in the example above causes significant audible disruption.
Some will argue on this point, but there is little you can do to fix a warped record. Trust us, if you just purchased a brand-new record, your time and energy will be better spent exchanging the album for an unwarped copy. If you picked up the record from your local record store, bring the vinyl back in and request a refund or exchange. If you bought it on Discogs or from another online retailer, reach out to the seller as soon as possible for mediation.
Dust and Debris
Is it dusty or does it have visible prints on it? Though uncommon, this could have happened in the production process. To remove dust particles, clean the record with an anti-static brush. Consider a deeper clean of the vinyl record if there are visible smudges. Remember that a few small pops, especially after removing the plastic outer wrapping and the inner plastic sleeve, can occur due to static. An anti-static brush is a useful and affordable tool for any record collector and can help with these pops.
We hope this article has provided guidance on why your new vinyl record is skipping. Remember the two main culprits — the set-up and the record — and that, more often than not, it is a turntable or environmental issue when you hear a skip on a brand-new record. When in doubt, play the record on a friend’s turntable or at a record shop to rule out the vinyl itself.
Article originally published by Steven Williams in January 2020. Last updated in March 2021.