Have you ever gotten a new record, only to find that it won’t play on your turntable? I sure have! My first record player was one of those cute little all-in-one suitcase record players I picked up for around $45 on a whim when I saw it at The Christmas Tree Shop (a discount store near me). When crate digging with my new boyfriend (now husband) trying to find treasures for him, I started picking up new LPs for myself here and there – to keep at his house. Then I spotted that cute little aqua suitcase and thought, why not?
My First Turntable
I was so excited to set up my record player and quickly rushed to grab the few records I had to bring them to their new home. The LP’s I had so far was a Kinks album, an oldies’ compilation called Remember When… and a brand-new Amy Winehouse album. I discovered that night that while the older records played just fine, the new record wouldn’t play. In fact, every new album I bought had that same problem, all they would play was skips and jumps, it was so disappointing.
If you frequent vinyl record reviews online, you’ll inevitably see someone who complains that a new LP they just received was damaged and skipping right out of the package.
I’m here to shed some light on why that happens.
Unfortunately, some mastering can make vinyl nearly unplayable on certain turntables. Engineers have the monumental task of trying to figure out how to cut that piece of plastic so that it has the most dynamic sound possible and if they’re making sure it’ll play as well on your $45 suitcase turntable that’s barely more than a décor item and also play on a more sophisticated set up, the music quality would suffer.
Cheap All-In-One Set Ups
You have many variables on your turntable that make a world of difference in the sound you get from your system. Your tonearm and platter make a huge difference in sound, you also must take into consideration your cartridge, stylus, and counterweight. Most problems occur when a new record hits an all-in-one sound system like my suitcase player. That 180 gram remaster just wasn’t made with that in mind. A “hot cut” record is made with the best possible sound in mind. This means the engineer is pushing the envelope as far as they can when cutting the grooves and trying to make things dynamic with a huge range. The complexity of these grooves will cause skipping on less expensive players, or turntables that aren’t set up properly. When pressing vinyl from a digital master that’s heavily compressed it can cause irregularities in the grooves of the record.
“The bottom line is you can’t make a record that’s going to play great on everything without really sacrificing its quality.”
Gray, Mastering Engineer and Cohearent owner says back in the days when everything was made for vinyl there were things they would do to ensure that the record would play great on any turntable, but it sacrifices the depth of sound. It’s a shallow groove that will typically cause skipping problems. If you picture a shallow groove on a player with a light platter, it’s not going to have a good solid contact to pick up those intricacies. Newer records are cut louder than the old ones were, also lending to the problem.
The engineers are most concerned with getting the best cut with the best sound possible and simply don’t take into consideration the lower quality turntables that may struggle and have playback issues. Really, it’s a little bit the turntable and a little bit the record, spinning vinyl is a delicate dance and sometimes the partnership just isn’t matched up right. Without sacrificing quality it’s impossible to make a record that will play great on everything.
If you’re having these problems, you have a tough decision to make, you’re going to have to decide if you want to upgrade your current player piece by piece to get that better sound. If your turntable is older but of a solid build, I’d start with a new cartridge and possibly a new counterweight. If for some reason you are having a problem with older records, that could be because they are a little flimsy or warped and in that case, something as simple as a record clamp/weight may make a difference, giving much-needed stability. If you decide that it’ll just be easier to grab a whole new turntable, check out my article on Best Record Player on a Budget
Are you having issues playing your record? Please feel free to leave questions or comments below!