What To Do When A New Record Is Skipping

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 this guide on what to do when a vinyl record is skipping.

Helpful Pointers

Some small pops can be caused by static, especially after removing a record from its inner plastic sleeve. But for the heavier skips, there are generally two possible culprits: the record itself or the listening setup. The more likely of the two when a new vinyl record is skipping is the setup, but we will dive into the usual causes in both categories.

One shortcut is to see if the record skips in the same place every time. If so, there is a pretty good chance that it is the vinyl. Another trick is to play the record on a different turntable, like a friend’s or one at a record shop. If the vinyl sounds good on one turntable, but not on yours, then you know to adjust your setup.

Turntable Setup

The two components of the turntable that are most likely to cause a record to skip are:

  1. Tonearm – if possible, rebalance the tonearm so that the proper weight and vertical tracking force is being applied. The process for adjustments varies by turntable type, so you will need to check the corresponding guide or find one online. Note that rebalancing a tonearm and adjusting vertical tracking force is not an option for some turntables.
  2. 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 the Discogs 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. The Discogs forum has plenty of opinions on some of the brands and turntable types that frequently cause skipping.

Environment

Your turntable could be picking up bad vibrations, man. Uneven services can exacerbate some 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.

dj using a record weight to reduce sound wave vibrations impact on a vinyl record

DJs in loud club environments will utilize a record weight to limit the vibrations of sound waves. Think about ways to limit vibration impact 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.

Check the Record

As 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.

Warped Records

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 – Bloom

The record doesn’t have to look like a cresting ocean wave to skip. Even the hardly noticeable warp in the image above causes significant audible disruption.

Some will argue with me on this point, but there is little you can do to fix a warped record. Trust me, 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 setup and the record, and that more often than not it is a turntable or environmental issue when it is a brand new record. When in doubt, play the record on a friend’s turntable or record shop to rule out the vinyl itself.

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Steven Williams
Steven is a Discogs content strategist and indie radio host residing in Portland, OR. Formerly a member of P.H.C., a found-object free jazz collective, he now spends his spare time learning bluegrass tunes on the mandolin.
27 Comments
  • Feb 6,2020 at 04:47

    JohnSax should shut up.

  • Feb 5,2020 at 23:08

    Imperfections are pretty common. Including labels askew, dust and gouges and paper particles, miscut center holes, bent corners,and warps.

    And that warp is terrible.

    And a vinyl flat (non oven method) works really well.

    Therefore the article I take exception with.

  • Jan 17,2020 at 21:18

    I service Technics turntables full time as an independent qualified engineer (see http://www.technics-service.co.uk ). When people ask me for advice regarding records skipping I always tell them to check the stylus, as even a slight twist can cause this. This is the most common issue which I have noticed when people bring their turntables to me with this problem. However – it is also worth checking the tonearm gimble assembly on your Technics turntables as if there is any rattle on the pivot then that can cause issues. These are factory calibrated, and any knocks to that gimble can damage the bearing causing tracking problems. Worth bearing in mind when purchasing yourself a set of Technics. Also dont use a pioneer mixer as these are terrible for picking up vibrations due to a wideband 70hz boost on their phono inputs and high frequency rolloff (The RIAA correction does not run true)

  • Jan 16,2020 at 14:24

    I don’t think the article is particularly clear when discussing setting up the tonearm.

    There are generally two settings (one in cheaper decks)
    1. Tracking weight and
    2. Lateral tracking force

    The first is the vertical force keeping the stylus in contact with the album and the latter is a force to counteract the centrifugal force when the record spins. If the tonearm is raised and you turn the latter up the tonearm will move to the centre of the turntable.

    It makes sense to have a higher vertical weight when dealing with a warped record but at the expense of wear.

    I worked in a HiFi shop years ago and a frequent cause of complaints from customers when buying a turntable or replacing the cartridge was “it keeps skipping”. This generally resulted from bad set up. In particular, the lateral tracking was miss-set and that can be a cause of skipping. Many (if not most) customers were oblivious to this setting.

    • Jan 16,2020 at 21:27

      True, setting up a tonearm could really be its own article. Due to the wide variance between turntables and the beginner-focus of the article, I kept it light.

  • Jan 16,2020 at 12:26

    In my early teens in the 1970s I went into a record shop to buy a then charting 7″. Got it home and it was severely warped. So I took it back to the shop the next day and the guy (jokingly) said, “what do you expect for 50p, flat records?”. He got out all the copies he had – about 6 – and only one of them wasn’t warped.

  • Jan 16,2020 at 06:36

    I have a couple times purchased a new vinyl that had a discoloration on the otherwise black vinyl that I assume is some form of impurity introduced during pressing because they invariably have a static sound on playback. I usually just return for a replacement if new. I deal with it if used.

  • Jan 15,2020 at 17:47

    Music producer here, chiming in my agreement with Aussie0zborn – there are issues with the research & wording in the ‘Hot Cuts’ section. That part of the article is spreading misinformation.

    ‘Dynamic’ (which should be plural, as in ‘Understanding Dynamics’) is better explained with ‘Dynamics are the difference between the quietest and loudest parts of a recording’. So, due to the loudness wars, mastering engineers are now more likely to make a mix loud—meaning reduce its dynamics so that no passages are quiet and everything is loud.

    He goes on to say ‘To physically increase dynamic range, the vinyl grooves have to be shallower to fit the amount of material on the disc.’ I believe what he means is ‘consistently loud music on vinyl does not have enough variance in the depth of the groove for lower end tonearms to track reliably’.

    (It is also true that when CD releases with program times longer than about 45 minutes are being released on vinyl, they either need to be split onto more than 2 sides or need to have their grooves cut very close together to fit on 2 sides. If the music is too loud and/or bass heavy this can cause skipping.)

  • Jan 14,2020 at 22:24

    Great article except where the writer talks about disc cutting – it’s all incorrect. Greater dynamic range does not result in shallower grooves so ignore everything under “hot cuts”, which by the way means “a loud record”, not wide dynamic range.

  • Jan 14,2020 at 20:53

    I have saved a bunch of records by ‘back cutting” the vinyl as a last ditch effort. I keep an old stylus handy just for this task.

    Step 1 identify the skip spot
    Step 2 place the needle in front of this spot
    Step 3 apply pressure with your finger to the headshell
    Step 4 play the record backwards to “recut” the groove.

    MY HEART SKIPPED A BEAT WHEN I READ THIS COMMENT!!!!
    Not going to say it doesn’t work (Although I have never tried) but I would never dare do to this to my precious, precious lps.
    To each their own I suppose

  • Jan 14,2020 at 19:51

    A couple of years ago a 1962 Zenith HiFi console stereo found its way into my lyfe. I had a few weird skipping issues that always seemed to occur in exactly the same place on newer records (especially 180 gram).

    After the first few of these experiences I started to think there was no way that all of these new records could have this many flaws (especially in virtually the same place) .
    I essentially did what TheWarpedVinylJunky suggested above, and started looking into the stylus area as the main culprit.
    After realigning the tone arm with a couple of allen wrench screw adjustments, and putting a new needle in place, my frustration ended, and record enjoyment was restored!
    The struggle is real if these things are slightly out of sync or worn out!

  • Jan 14,2020 at 18:23

    I’m glad to see that at least one writer above (jorgescu) mentioned anti-skating. I’ve noticed that on many new (especially entry-level) turntables, there is no anti-skating adjustment. I do a lot of audio restoration from older LPs, and have yet to find any old, scratched record that could not be tracked (albeit sometimes only one revolution at a time, recording to digital for editing) by finding the correct match between tracking force and anti-skating force. With new LPs, sometimes something as simple as applying a tiny extra amount of anti-skating force will work wonders–and is a lot better on the vinyl than simply adding “ten cents” more tracking force, as one writer above mentions.

    Record pressing and distribution have changed considerably since I worked in a record shop in the 1980s. However, about 19 times out of every 20 that a customer tried to return a new LP complaining that it skipped, it would not skip on our equipment there at the shop. Our recommendation to the purchaser? Buy a new stylus. Invariably, we found that changing the stylus–alone–allowed the new record to play on the customer’s home turntable. However, vwestlife does make an important point–increased dynamic range of more recent masterings and pressings does pose a problem for many tonearms–as does a “loud” mono cut–and his recommendations are sound.

  • Jan 14,2020 at 16:03

    It is not “exceedingly rare” for a new record to be warped. Quite the contrary, in fact.

  • Jan 14,2020 at 01:10

    The problem of modern records skipping is primary due to tonearm resonance. The tonearms of entry-level turntables have a resonant frequency of around 25 Hz. Historically this was not a problem because mastering engineers would filter out all frequencies below about 40 Hz, and analog tape recordings didn’t have much response below that point anyway.

    But modern digital recordings can have very pronounced bass frequencies below 40 Hz, and sometimes vinyl mastering engineers neglect to filter them out, either due to ignorance or the belief that doing so would negatively affect the sound quality when listening through very high-end turntables and speaker systems. So if a very low bass frequency gets cut into the groove at a loud enough amplitude, it can cause inexpensive turntables to skip.

    Another cause is the vinyl burrs on the edges of the grooves of a newly pressed record. During the first few plays, these burrs have not been polished away by the stylus yet and may cause it to skip, even on a good-quality turntable. But after a few rounds of cleaning and playing the record, the grooves should be polished well enough that this is no longer a problem and the skips disappear.

    p.s. There is no such thing as “shallow” grooves. All grooves are cut at the same depth, and the bass frequencies most likely to cause skipping are mixed to mono, meaning they have no vertical modulation of the groove at all.

  • Jan 13,2020 at 20:29

    For a light skip, put a dime on the stylus. More often than not, it will plow through the skip and actually correct it, maybe realigning the groove.

  • Jan 13,2020 at 16:19

    Good article. As for warps, records do not have to be 100% flat to play perfectly. Watch the cartridge/tonearm- if you can’t see much movement and you don’t hear anything the end result is you should be enjoying the music as it was intended. Don’t worry about re-sale.

    As for skips, cleaning or just a second play is most important. With the returns I deal with, the vast majority of skips are solved with a simple wet clean but some take an ultrasonic or even a wood glue treatment. If it’s a visible scratch I don’t have a recommendation for a fix but you shouldn’t have that on a new release.

    If you have frequent problems with skipping on new purchases, it’s your set-up.

  • Jan 13,2020 at 09:19

    The moral of the story: Buy a cd!

  • Jan 13,2020 at 06:48

    I like your chart describing “dynamics”. Which is not so obvious but can have vast implications of subtlety. Most notably that some LP’s are mastered with too much compresion. Not every pressing is mastered the same and when the mothers wear out the source needs to be “re-mastered”. A good way of of describing the cause and effect relationship that a compressor/limiter has on the overall master is to compare the size of the runout groove from one pressing to another. As you describe visually, the record with the smaller runout should have better dynamics. Yet, and in my opinion, there’s plenty of LP’s from the 50’s that have been cut very deeply, specifically for a conical stylus and these usually have a wide runout. Think any Prestige or Blue Note, most “Deep Groove” pressings have tremendous dynamics with a conical but somewhat feh dynamics with an eliptical stylus. When you get into these weeds, you have to figure out what works best for you, I guess more importantly for the music you want to spend time listening to and should be into at least a turntable with an “anti-skate” adjustment. If you can’t figure out why this is necessary over even the most fundamental differences in turntables, concentrate on used records because new ones, especially those that skip due to Oasis or STP style dynamics will always be a lot more disappointing than most every $2 CD on your most typical CD player.

  • Jan 13,2020 at 05:38

    I did exactly the same thing as the above comment. I had a standard dark side of the moon copy which was skipping due to a scratch. I placed it on a spare turntable, turned it on and moved it backwards slowly making sure the needle ran over the scratch. I was delighted to find out that it actually worked. However this did not work on another record so i guess it just depends on the severity of the scratch.

  • Jan 12,2020 at 15:46

    Whilst it won’t always work, I’d agree with the above re “back cutting” as a last resort. You MUST use an old stylus and manually reverse the stylus over the affected spot, which, of course, you can normally see as a scratch or dig.

    The fundamental for any turntable is that it must be level otherwise setting tracking force etc is compromised.

    Some styrene records can look great but play distorted. They’re far more susceptible to groove wear than vinyl.

    Some records are/were pressed using recycled vinyl, whilst others use “virgin” vinyl, and this can make a big difference to audio and playback quality.

    Obviously, if your previously well looked after and normally clean playing records start sounding a little distorted then it’s time to change your stylus.

  • Jan 12,2020 at 15:05

    I had many experiences like this. To solve the skips: each time, first, I clean the vinyl and the needle very carefully to be sure that them hasn´t any dust. Then, I re-adjust propertly the weight of the cartridge and the antiskating. Finally, I play to see if the place on the groove where skip is the same. Like the problem still doesn´t solve, and saw that it occured mostly playing tracks which grooves are very thin, (I never increased the weight) I tried the same vinyls with my same own cartridge in another new turntable (reloop mk2) and the problem dissapear at all. When the sound is distorted with the correct weight, I could verify that it was due a bad pressing, and buyed a new vinyl from other country.Solved.

  • Jan 12,2020 at 14:54

    Correction: manufacturing, surface, excessive. ;)

  • Jan 12,2020 at 14:44

    Good article! Turntable setup and handling is key! But quite often even new, unplayed records are damaged during manufacturing or by bad storage or bad handling (sometimes dirt particles might even be pressed into the record during maufacturing and this will at times leave a pop or skip that you cannot repair).

    But loose dirt spots can often be removed by gentle wet wiping with a soft clean cloth and a good record cleaning solution. For hard sticking dirt try checking the record suface with a magnifying glass to see close up if it looks removable or not. Then gently dissolve the popping or skipping dirt spot with record cleaning solution. In most cases this will solve the problem.

    You can let the needle do the job by running it back and forth on the dirt spot but applying exessive pressure may leave a hiss from ware on fragile record grooves or may even damage your cartridge needle.

    Cleaning solution is safer and will also lift more dirt out of the grooves.

  • Jan 12,2020 at 14:10

    A little strange that I find such comments on a site like Discogs, where you can find many collectors which are absolute familiar in LP recording.
    I will reply to the point “Warped records” and “Dust”. Today it’s no secret that you can find devices to solve these problems. To give a recommendation that it is easier to search for another copy of a warped record is really strange.
    At first; it gives not one LP recording on the marked which is not warped. All LP recordings have this problem, also if it is not visible, and even the smallest deformation has an impact on the playback. For such problems it gives a special device named “LP Flattener”. Ok, such a device is not cheap, but it makes all LP’s real flat. If collectors have only a small collection of LP’s it would be helpful to search the Internet for a dealer which have such equipment. The same with dusty records. It gives excellent wet-clean LP devives that remove all dust, fingerprints or other inpurities from LP’s.
    I have an Audio Restoration Studio and every LP (new or used) will be cleaned with a wet-cleaning machine and in a second process the LP will processed in the LP Flattener. We compared many LP’s after this processing and the difference is audible, what later on the measurements will be confirmed by our special software.
    As you can see, all this is possible or can be handled by a special record dealer.

  • Jan 10,2020 at 17:41

    I have saved a bunch of records by ‘back cutting” the vinyl as a last ditch effort. I keep an old stylus handy just for this task.

    Step 1 identify the skip spot
    Step 2 place the needle in front of this spot
    Step 3 apply pressure with your finger to the headshell
    Step 4 play the record backwards to “recut” the groove.

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