After decades of gradual decline, record players have seen a spectacular renaissance in the past few years. They were widespread in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but with the rising popularity of CDs, turntables became obsolete for most folks except for a few DJs.
Record players are simple machines powered by an electric motor. The motor turns the turntable using a thin rubber belt looped over the motor (aka belt drive) or directly using gears (aka direct drive)
Vinyl records change sound vibrations into electrical signals. Sound vibrations are generated and processed into electric signals when a record spins. This information is routed into electrical amplifiers.
Electric amplifiers vibrate and transmit the generated sound to the loudspeakers, which increases its volume. Record players still employ the same needle and groove system as phonographs, despite the fact that record players nowadays are considerably more technologically advanced.
Sometimes you may notice your record player so quiet than normal. If that does ever happen, then you shouldn’t worry, as I have compiled this detailed guide to help you troubleshoot the problem.
Understanding Record Player Components
Before we dive into the reasons behind a quiet record player, let’s take a moment to understand the various components that make up this marvelous music machine.
A typical record player consists of:
- A turntable
- A tonearm,
- set of speakers or an amplifier.
The turntable is responsible for rotating the record at a constant speed, allowing the stylus (attached to the tonearm) to track the grooves on the vinyl.
The cartridge, located at the end of the tonearm, contains the stylus and converts the mechanical vibrations of the grooves into an electrical signal. This electrical signal is then amplified and played through the speakers or an external amplifier.
Reasons for a Quiet Record Player
1. Incorrect Tracking Force
Tracking force refers to the downward pressure applied by a turntable’s tonearm on a record as it plays. An incorrect tracking force can lead to various issues such as excessive record wear, skipping, distortion, and poor sound quality. To ensure optimal performance and longevity of your records, it is essential to set the tracking force correctly.
To determine the correct tracking force for your turntable, you should consult the manufacturer’s instructions or the cartridge’s specifications. Typically, the recommended tracking force falls within a specific range, such as 1.0 to 3.0 grams.
If you believe your tracking force is incorrect, here are some steps to help you address the issue:
- Check the turntable’s user manual or the cartridge’s specifications for the recommended tracking force range.
- Make sure your turntable is on a stable surface and level.
- Ensure that the tonearm is balanced and parallel to the record surface when it is in the resting position.
- Use a calibrated tracking force gauge to measure the actual tracking force applied by the tonearm. These gauges are specifically designed to provide accurate measurements.
- If the tracking force is outside the recommended range, adjust it according to the turntable’s instructions. This adjustment is typically made by using a counterweight or a tracking force adjustment dial.
- Repeat the measurement and adjustment process until you achieve the correct tracking force within the recommended range.
2. Issues with the Record Player Needle
A stylus is another name for the record player needle that rests against the record. It’s often cone-shaped and made from diamond, one of the hardest materials on earth. We also have a stylus made of sapphires.
A stylus is connected to the tonearm using a flexible strip of metal, and this flexibility allows the stylus to ride up and down as the record rotates. Stylus are either elliptical or spherical. Elliptical ones have the advantage of increasing the music’s authenticity as they allow for more contact with the record groove. On the other hand, a spherical stylus is more sensitive but provides less fidelity.
With time the needle/stylus begins to tear and wear, hurting the quality of sound the record player produces. In some instances, it can even cause problems with the volume.
If you experience sound quality problems accompanied by volume issues, then you will likely have a needle/stylus problem.
Replacing the stylus needle on your record player is a simple task. You only need a flathead screwdriver, press down the tab, and slide the stylus right off. Putting the needle back is simple and quite the opposite of what you did above.
Record player needles are affordable, and this is one of the first troubleshooting procedures you should follow if you have volume or sound quality issues. Below is a video detailing how to replace a record needle.
3. Issues with Record Player Cartridge
Record player cartridges are notably one of the important features of your record player. They are mounted on the end of the record player tonearm. The cartridge includes a stylus, which reads the modulations on the record.
The cartridge is made up of six different parts. Each of these parts must be present and properly functioning for the cartridge to work effectively. The main parts of the cartridge are:
- Coils are tightly wound columns of wire in the cartridge at the assembly’s front. Because of the coils, the cartridge appears larger than it is.
- Pole pieces– The pole parts are metal components connected to the coil’s base. They serve to intensify the magnetic field to increase the signal’s strength.
- The cantilever, also called the stylus holder, holds the stylus and transmits vibrations to the magnets and coil assembly.
- Rubber suspension– the rubber suspension helps keep the cantilever in place and secure while simultaneously allowing it to vibrate sufficiently to translate the vibrations into electrical signals.
- Magnet– these are one of the essential parts inside the cartridge. Without the magnets, the record players would otherwise be useless.
One of the possible problems why your record player is so quiet and not loud enough could be a problem with the cartridge. Over time, these cartridges wear out, so the low volume could result from the faulty cartridge.
The easiest way to know if that’s the precise problem would be to replace the cart and see if it fixes it. Cartridges often last longer than the needle, so if your record player is relatively new, this should not be the issue.
4. Issues with the Tonearm
A tonearm supports the cartridge that holds the needle/stylus. The purpose of a tonearm is to guide the needle/stylus across the vinyl grooves and then rely this back via the cartridge to ensure that your tunes are played at the best quality possible.
Technically, the tonearm supports the cartridge going around the record and toward the center. In addition, the tonearm must keep a stable position above the vinyl for the cartridge to track down the groove.
Some tonearms are manual, while others are automatic and will automatically stop when the record is done playing.
The main problem you could have with the tonearm is that it’s not well balanced. Balancing the tonearm is quite technical and should be done with care. Below is a detailed guide to help you learn how to balance the tonearm.
5. Problems with the Record Player Speakers
This doesn’t happen often, but it shouldn’t be ignored either way. However, a problem with your speakers will likely make the record player go dead silent or affect the audio quality of your records.
Therefore, if you notice your record player producing growling-like sounds, you should have the speakers inspected.
If your record player has built-in speakers, there should be a line-out plug to help you test the audio using external speakers. Assuming that your record player has this option, this is a great way to try and see if the speakers are the problem.
Upon plugging in the new set o speakers, you notice they aren’t loud enough, which means something else is causing the problem. But if the external speakers are loud enough, then it means the internal speakers have issues.
6. Poor Quality Record Players
This should serve as a warning because those cheap suitcase-style players are bound to give you endless problems in the long run. One of these problems could be soft volume or even a list of endless problems.
Paying $50 for a record player isn’t the best deal, and you will probably get a bad-quality one. Therefore, if you are having problems with your suitcase-style player not being loud enough, I would highly appreciate the advice you get a higher quality one rather than going through all the hassles of trying to fix it, which might even be costlier than the cost of the record player.
The truth is that you will spend more money getting a higher-quality player, but it will last longer without having any major issues.
In addition, you will be saving yourself some headaches as some of these cheap record players damage your records long-term, something you wouldn’t want to happen to your favorite record.
7. Bad RCA Cables
Record players often use RCA cables to connect to audio systems or speakers. RCA cables are a common type of analog audio cables that have red and white connectors at each end.
These connectors are color-coded for easy identification: the red plug is for the right audio channel (usually the “R” channel), and the white plug is for the left audio channel (usually the “L” channel).
Most of these cables are low-quality and poorly designed, so the soldered joints at the cable’s tips break after bending and a few hours of use.
If you’re experiencing issues with the RCA cables on your record player, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot and potentially resolve the problem:
- Check the connections: Make sure the RCA cables are securely connected to both the record player and the audio receiver or amplifier. Sometimes, loose connections can cause audio problems or a loss of signal.
- Test with different cables: If you suspect that the RCA cables are faulty, try using a different set of cables to connect your record player. This will help determine if the issue is with the cables themselves or another component in the setup.
- Inspect the cables: Examine the RCA cables for any signs of damage or wear. Look for frayed wires, loose connections at the ends, or any other visible issues. If you spot any damage, it’s likely that the cables need to be replaced.
- Clean the connections: Sometimes, poor audio quality or intermittent signals can be caused by dirty or oxidized connectors. Use a clean, lint-free cloth and some isopropyl alcohol to gently clean the RCA connectors on both the record player and the receiver/amplifier. Ensure that all connections are dry before testing again.
- Test with a different input/output: If possible, try connecting the record player to a different input on your receiver or amplifier, or connect a different audio source to the same input. This will help determine if the issue lies with the record player or the audio system.
A quiet record player can dampen the joy of vinyl listening, but with a little troubleshooting and maintenance, you can revive its sound quality.
By understanding the components, identifying potential issues, and implementing the appropriate solutions, you can restore your record player to its full potential. Remember to exercise caution and seek professional assistance if needed.
With a properly functioning record player, you can once again immerse yourself in the enchanting world of vinyl, enjoying the rich and immersive sound that only analog audio can provide.
Meet Mike O’Connor, (a DIY enthusiast), living in Cincinnati, a city ranked as the noisiest in the USA.
As a work from home dad, I have a first hand experience of how noise can truly affect your well being.
Soundproofing isn’t something that should be taken as a hobby, it should be a skill that every homeowner should be equipped with.
Most of the work documented on this blog comes from purely first hand experience, and the products recommended work as indicated.
- Ceiling Fan Making Clicking Noise: Make it Quiet Now
- Hissing Sound from Speakers When Not Playing Music: Quick DIY Fixes
- Soundproof Booth: How Do You Make A Soundproof Booth For Streaming?
By far the most common reason for a record player being too quiet involves the preamp and amplifier. So make sure to check that you have everything set up correctly in that regard. If so, then it is likely one of the other causes mentioned above.How do I make my record player louder? ›
- Add a Phono Preamp. One of the most common reasons for low volume from a turntable is the lack of a phono preamp. ...
- Change the Cartridge. ...
- Upgrade Your Receiver or Amplifier. ...
- Adjust the Sound Level on Your Turntable. ...
- Consider Speakers with Higher Sensitivity.
Check your tonearm balance, without the correct tracking weight, the stylus will not track in the grooves of the record. Remove the headshell and reinsert it. Ensure the locking nut is tight. Test your setup with a different set of RCA cables.Why is my recorded audio so quiet? ›
The most common reasons why your condenser microphone is too quiet include incorrectly set gain, lack of phantom power, issues with input, or cable, mic positioning, or incorrect direct monitoring settings. All of those can be tested in 15 minutes to diagnose the source of your problem.Why is my stereo so quiet? ›
Replace the speaker wires. Try connecting a different pair of speakers. Low volume may also be a result of another component connected to one of the input sources, such as a Set-top Box (STB) or television. Check the connection between your source and the A/V receiver to make sure they are securely connected.How can I improve the sound of my vinyl player? ›
- Make sure the turntable is level. ...
- Make sure the phono cartridge has the correct tracking force. ...
- Check your turntable's speed accuracy. ...
- Upgrade your cartridge. ...
- Make sure the cartridge is aligned correctly. ...
- Buy better sleeves for your records.
If what you see looks bent or twisted, you might have a warped vinyl record on your hands. If the warping isn't severe, but you aren't sure if your record is completely flat, place it on your turntable. If it won't lie flat and you can see gaps between it and the platter, it's badly warped and will need some TLC.What does a bad turntable cartridge sound like? ›
If your record sounds scratchy and like sandpaper is rubbing on it, either the needle needs to be adjusted or it is going bad and should be replaced.What affects turntable sound quality? ›
The cartridge and stylus are crucial components in the turntable that directly affect sound quality. The cartridge is essentially a transducer, converting the tiny groove modulations on the record into movement via the stylus and cantilever, and then into electrical signals through magnets and wire.Is it better to record loud or quiet? ›
While recording too quiet is probably better than recording too loud, you should still aim for a healthy signal level. To sum up, you should record at an audible level that doesn't go above 70% of the way. This will result in much cleaner, and mix-ready recordings.
The discomfort we have over hearing our voices in audio recordings is probably due to a mix of physiology and psychology. For one, the sound from an audio recording is transmitted differently to your brain than the sound generated when you speak.What makes a sound system louder? ›
Watts and sensitivity
The amount of power that flows through your speakers when they're on and operating will directly affect the loudness. If you have a full blown sound system set up, power and wattage will also come from the sound system's stereo receiver, as well as its amplifier.
When we listen to a sound signal, the amplitude controls how loud we perceive the signal to be. Larger amplitude means louder sound. Zero amplitude means no sound.Can speakers lose volume over time? ›
Conclusion. Yes, speakers do get quieter over time. This is because the speaker's cone, which vibrates to create sound, slowly wears down over time. The cone is made of paper, and as it vibrates, it slowly breaks down and tears.Does cleaning vinyl help sound? ›
Keep your records clean
You don't want to let dirt, debris, or gunk build up inside the grooves. If you do, your records won't sound the same. Instead of top-notch fidelity, you'll hear ticks and pops.
Not just the wear and tear of vinyl that will degrade playback quality over time, but the physical limitations. For example, a longer album will require slimmer grooves, creating a quieter sound and more noise as the needle moves through them.Does vinyl actually sound better? ›
This is a “lossless” way to transmit audio, meaning that there's no compression involved. With digital audio, especially streaming or CDs, there's a step between recording and transmitting the audio called compression. This is the crux of why vinyl records provide better sound quality.Does laying records flat ruin them? ›
Records shouldn't be stored horizontally, or flat. As you will see, archival record boxes are designed for the records to be stood and stored vertically. Storing vinyl records flat can place too much pressure on the records lower in the stack causing damage over time.Is it OK to play a slightly warped record? ›
If the warping is minimal, there will be no damage to the needle. When the warping is so bad that the needle jumps during playback, there is a chance that the stylus could become damaged or wear more quickly.Is it OK for a record to wobble? ›
It's normal for a vinyl record to have a slight wobble, or exhibit some vibration, when it is playing on a record player. However, excessive wobble or vibration can cause problems with the tracking ability of the tonearm and cartridge and affect the sound quality and.
Wash The Record
In particular, we recommend avoiding any that contain isopropyl alcohol. While it will clean the muck off your record, many people report that over time it'll also damage the protective coating on your vinyl. If you are going to use a solution with isopropyl alcohol – use is sparingly.
There are both audible and physical indicators that will let you know that your stylus should be replaced. On the audible side, your records won't sound as good if your stylus is old or damaged. You'll hear more distortion, crackling, static and overall fuzziness.Why does new vinyl skip? ›
A common reason your records may skip is dust and dirt that gets into the grooves. While it may occur on old records due to storage, paper sleeves or dust in the environment, new records may also have dust or dirt.How often should you replace record player stylus? ›
What's important is to clean or replace your stylus when you start to notice sounds that aren't as bright as they should be, because that's a clear indicator that attention to the needle is needed. Some audiophiles recommend replacing their needle every 800-1,000 hours of playing time.Can you fix an old record player? ›
Most of the time record player repairs can be done with little or no problems at all, however, extreme circumstances can lead to an un-repairable unit. Keep in mind, turntable parts are getting harder to come by, and will only get harder as time goes by. But for now, most every turntable and phonograph can be serviced!Why wont my vinyl spin? ›
It's very easy to fix. Most manual record players have a tone arm that needs to be pushed back into the reset position for it to work properly. If it is not reset, the player will not spin. If it looks like the tonearm may not be pushed back far enough, simply lift it and move it toward the right hand side.Does scratching a record damage the needle? ›
The short answer is usually a “no.” The needle is made of a hard precious stone (usually diamond or sapphire), and the records are made of plastic. The stones styli are made of are far harder than plastic, so it would be very difficult for a scratch to physically break or alter the shape of a stylus.How do you tell if a record is worn out? ›
Record has a clear “sheen” when you look at the reflection of the light in the grooves. If you've bought much new vinyl, you know what this looks like - smooth and slick. You should expect to see more minor blemishes on a used record, but the way it reflects the light will indicate how worn-down the grooves are.What is the difference between a cheap and expensive turntable? ›
Higher performance turntables come standard with a generally more expensive stylus/cartridge which accurately tracks the record groove, retrieving much more musical information, whilst minimising damage to the record groove.What improves audio quality? ›
Editing brings your audio quality from good to great. Editing allows you to remove any background noise that snuck its way in and level out volume inconsistencies to keep the audio sounding clear. Editing also lets you remove any extended pauses to help the audio flow better.
Ensure there is no dust on the record or stylus. If the problem persists, removing and reinstalling the removable headshell will usually fix this issue. Ensure there is no dust on the end of the headshell when it is reinserted into the tonearm.Why is my record player sound fading in and out? ›
Spraying some Deoxit into the speed selector switch and the pitch control and working them back and forth for a couple of minutes might also help. Agree with Matt, the fading in/out could be dust/dirt accumulation on the stylus, or a wiring issue between the cartridge clips and the RCA connectors.Why is my guitar recording so quiet? ›
One reason why your mic might be recording your guitar amp quietly is because of the way the mic is positioned. If the mic is too far away from the amp, or if it's pointing in the wrong direction, it won't pick up as much sound. Another reason could be that the mic isn't sensitive enough.Why is my turntable quiet on one channel? ›
If you can only hear the left or right channel of your records, it may be an issue of a loose connection or an unbalanced cartridge. In a record groove, the left and right channels are located on the left and right sides of the grooves. If the stylus isn't tracking correctly, it may miss one side entirely.Are Victrola turntables bad? ›
Overall if you have your mind made up to buy a suitcase record player, Victrola units are going to be a good choice due to features for the dollar. However, do not expect them to last long (they often start skipping) or sound good, or to be good for your records.How many times should you crank a Victrola? ›
The Victor-Victrola Page. How many turns of the crank should be made? ANSWER: This depends on which model you have. Low-cost models with single-spring motors can often be wound with only a few turns, while the more expensive ones with 3 or 4-spring motors can require many turns (upwards of 50 revolutions) to fully wind ...Are Crosleys good record players? ›
Victrola and Crosley are both entry-level brands. They make low cost record players that work well, but they won't blow anyone away with their quality. They don't sound amazing and they generally only have basic features. But they're a good value.What does a worn out record sound like? ›
Dull but not quiet. The plastic providing the high frequencies gets worn down first, then the crud in the groves gets up to the needle and provides a continuous, and rising background of noise and crackle.Why doesn't it sound good when I play guitar? ›
There are three reasons why your guitar might sound bad when strumming: Out-of-tune: even one string slightly out of tune can make strummed chords sound bad. Bad technique: pressing too hard on the strings or hitting the strings too hard can make chords sound out-of-tune.What is the best recording level? ›
Your recording level should average between -18db and -10db on the peak meter. It would be best if you never peaked over -6db (on your peak meter). Loudness happens in the mastering stage, which comes at the very end of your production process.
The easy solution is to reduce the noise with an equalizer. You can easily find the offending frequency by boosting different bands on your EQ. The more you remove that frequency, the less prevalent that noise will be in your signal.How do you fix a slow turntable? ›
Some turntables with have speed adjustment screws – check your owners manual to find out where. Usually, turning these screws clockwise with speed up the platter and anti-clockwise will slow it down. Once you've amended the screws, test again with a strobe disc or phone app until you get the speed you desire.