Achieving The Optimal Listening Experience: Tips For Perfect Sounding Vinyl

Getting good sound from your vinyl records isn't as easy as popping an LP onto an old turntable.  Although some turntables have superior quality, the way you handle, clean and play your record will have a huge effect on the sound quality. Rather than relying on expensive equipment it's better to learn a few simple techniques.

There are many characteristic sounds we associate with age old medium. Things like tiny pops and a subtle but steady hiss ended up defining the sound of vinyl for many who were quick to adopt new mediums. Little did they know those pops and hisses don't need to be there at all. There are various factors that can affect the sound of your records. That hiss is caused by static, by the way. More on that in the video below. Check out these tips on caring for your records.


Handling Your Vinyl Records

The most obvious part of preserving your records is the way you handle them. The general rule is never touch the playable surface. This means handle your records by the edges or by the label. The oils from your fingers stay on the surface and collect dust. This can gum up the grooves of your record and create noise during playback.

There are also a few things to remember when it comes to your general interaction with the media. From the way you take it out of the sleeve to the way you play here are some things to avoid.

Things To Avoid When Handling Records

  • Don't cue songs up manually. Use the cue lever.
  • For that matter, don't touch the stylus while the record is spinning. Our hands are shaky and imprecise. You truly risk skating the needle when you try to lift the tone arm while the table is spinning.
  • Don't leave records out of the sleeve or jacket. Put them away as soon you are done playing. It's also better to invest in quality record sleeves as opposed to the paper sleeves that come with most records.
  • Don't drop the record into it's sleeve. Gently slide the record away. The tiny bump from each time you put your record in it's sleeve can easily wear down and break the sleeve.

Avoid Dust. Dust Often

It's good practice to dust your records before playing. Yes. Every time. Invest in a dry carbon fiber brush. Place your record on the turntable, start spinning and allow the brush to drift over the surface of the record. You don't need to apply pressure. The aim is to remove any debris that could get pushed into the grooves and cause damage. Some especially dirty records can be saved with a deeper cleaning. For this you will need some record cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth. 

Apply cleaning solution directly to the cloth and, using a gentle touch, clean the record in a circular motion in the direction on the grooves. You should always dust your record prior to deep cleaning. And use extreme care and caution when cleaning the playable surface. 


Keep Your Stylus Clean

The stylus or the needle of your turntable can also collect dust and affect the quality of sound. This is cause of the tiny pops and clicks you might hear when playing a record. These pops and clicks are bad news and could also damage your stylus. A fine tipped stylus brush works best for cleaning. Always wipe the stylus from the back to the front. This is important because of the direction that even tiny amounts of pressure can be applied without compromising parts of the cartridge. The cantilever (the tiny arm that holds the needle) and stylus are both very fragile.

Vinyl Record Care Stylus Brush

Proper Storage Saves Lives

You should always store vinyl in cool, dry conditions. Always file records vertically. Never stack them. Vinyl is heavy and stacks of it piled on top of each other can cause warping and ring wear damage to the outer jacket. Warping is also a concern if records are packed too tightly on a shelf. Make sure there is breathing room between your records. Keep them out of the sunlight as much as possible. And stay away from heat sources. We aren't talking about a walk in freezer. Just anywhere that isn't in direct sunlight and isn't susceptible to vast temperature changes. 

More On Cleaning, Care and Static

If you are ready to dive in to some more advanced care and the science of static removal check out this handy video from Snazzy Labs with great tips for handling, cleaning and playing your vinyl records.

 Further Reading

Here are some more great resources for learning proper vinyl care and cleaning.

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