Are Record Players Supposed To Wobble? (Why Do They?)


Are Record Players Supposed To Wobble?

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Visible wobble may be normal for garbage turntables but you’ll find that zero is the industry standard for quality machines. Too many people when their record wobbles don’t seem to understand where the problem comes from.

Some of the most common reasons for it happening is the record player could be poorly made or the spindle is warped.

Are record players supposed to wobble?

Record players are not designed to have any wobbling in the turntable at all. However in real life most every player will have some amount of wobbling in it. As long as the movement isn’t causing your record to jump or skip, the wobble really isn’t anything to worry about. 

Obviously we would like a 0 mm variance (a perfectly flat platter) when it comes to a turntable, but some studies suggest a perfectly flat platter is not very common, regardless if it has a .1 mm wobble or a 1+ mm wobble. Each individual will have their own level of wobble tolerance.

A turntable wobble of 5 mm, could be fine for most people whereas someone who is very particular wouldn’t like that amount at all. 

To learn more about record players wobbling you can keep reading. To see some of the best record players that are currently available you can find them by clicking here.

You can also watch the video below if you prefer instead of reading.

Why do record players wobble?

Most records players will have some small amount of wobble in them. There are some technical reasons for that but the easiest reason is because getting something perfect is virtually impossible. 

If you buy a brand new car with brand new tires you will find the majority of the time that one of the tires will wear slightly unevenly. This is not necessarily an issue with the car or the tire and probably won’t be an issue at all but the tire is just slightly out of balance so it wears a little differently. 

A record player can be like that with a wobble. As the turntable spins it could have a miniscule variance in the production process that causes the platter to move slightly every time that it turns around. 

This wobble probably won’t hurt anything including the record or the player but it is still there. 

Rega sub platters are subject to some slight variation in how the resin part of the sub platter fits on the spindle or perhaps the flatness of the resin after it fully cures. A machined sub platter like on the higher models or the Groove Tracer upgrade probably does not have a wobble of 5mm, but due to the sub platter/bearing design some players may wobble a little.

Causes of wobbling

Ideally, no one wants to have their record player wobble but, common mistakes could be putting on a record that is a bit thicker on one side or is slightly warped. These things won’t hurt the record or the player probably but they can cause it to wobble slightly. 

Still, if it is stressing the cartridge and if a dip or rise corresponds to an area in the grooves where your needle has a hard time tracking, you might have some issues.

Another way to test where the wobbles come from and an easy test solution is to turn a spoon upside down and place it on the deck and nudge it up under the platter. If the deck drops, you will hear it scrape the bottom of the spoon.

While some experts say a 5mm wobble is fine, some music fans do not accept that at all. Many music collectors even say that they can hear the wobble by carefully listening to the record play. 

Other experts believe that wobbling is an issue and they say that a wobbly platter will introduce imbalance and “wowing”.  They say this will beat up the main bearing much faster and it will only get worse with time.

The platter and spindle should run true to each other, and then you only have the slop between spindle and bearing; this should be around +- .001 inches.

Leveling your platter

If your player wobbles too much and is causing issues with playing your records then you will probably want to level your turntable. The easiest way to explain how to do that is for you to watch the video below. 

Sometimes, the wobble problem is not with the record player but with the records themselves. It is so important to keep an eye out for broken or damaged records. If you aren’t careful with your collection they can get dirty or damaged when you handle them. 

Some proper handling techniques can be found below. 

Proper handling techniques

First, don’t put your records on a shelf with too many records leaning on one unfortunate record on the end. On an overflowing shelf that lacks support dividers, the weight of each record adds up quickly, and you don’t want the records on one end to be supporting the weight of your entire collection. That’s why specially designed shelves are a good idea.  They’re the perfect balance of shelf space and divider support.

Similarly, don’t stack your records like a deck of cards. If you stack them horizontally, the records on the top will be okay (probably), but on a stack too large (or left too long) you will inevitably add excessive pressure on your records that are near the bottom. 

Because some of your sleeves will have things like drop cards, 7-inch bonus records, album art books, or the protruding zipper from your copy of Sticky Fingers, the unevenness of the packaging will introduce disproportionate weight and pressure to the stack, further exacerbating the warping.

Sure, go ahead and tastefully stack them for a picture, but stand them back up posthaste. Simply said, it’s bad for your vinyl if you leave them stacked like pancakes.

Don’t do it!

Finally, don’t leave your records in excessive heat. You’ll see below that re-introducing heat will potentially help you to tame a warped record, but don’t leave your records in a hot car or have them delivered to a sun-scorched doorstep in Las Vegas where you might accidentally leave them for a week while on vacation. 

For short periods of time (like when your vinyl is on the delivery truck) you’re probably fine, but direct heat and sunlight over any extended amount of time is detrimental to the life of your vinyl.

Fixing a warped record

Now that we have addressed the basics of how your records can get warped in the first place, next we’ll go over a few of the generally accepted ways to remedy the problems.

One common way is to leave it between two books for a long time with hopes of fixing it. Constant pressure should flatten your LP into submission but be careful you aren’t doing something more destructive in the process, like adding a ton of weight to a dirty record and grinding a grain of sand into the chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin.” 

Clean your record first and consider leaving the record in the inner sleeve when putting it between your books — that should help prevent dust from building up on any part left uncovered.

Some other websites advise fixing a warped record by putting it between two large panes of glass and putting it in the oven, but attention has to be stressed here.

Be careful that you don’t ever leave your record in too long or at too hot of temperature.

Too much heat on your records could introduce groove-distortion; it might give the appearance of a flatter record, all the while masking the reality of a record that is damaged. 

If you are interested in learning more about how to fix your warped records you can read another article that I wrote about it by clicking here.

Conclusion

How much wobble you are comfortable with on your player is ultimately a personal decision. Most record players will have some wobble in them but it shouldn’t be so much that your record skips or has other issues playing. 

Some people try to get their player to have no wobble at all but for most players there will always be a slight variance. Even if you are able to perfectly level your platter there are many records that are slightly thicker on one side than the other so they will cause your turntable to wobble as well. 

Matt Robbs

There is nothing quite so enjoyable as bringing back memories from your childhood. We used to spend hours playing pinball in my friends basement and that really got me involved in everything retro!

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