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Vinyl records have become a status symbol for music lovers and people of all ages! A few may have inherited some vinyl classics from a loved one or have decided to listen to their favorite artists on vinyl. Haven’t you heard? The quality is always better. It may come as a surprise to some when they hear a flaw in the sound quality of their records.
Only one question would come at a time like that, is my vinyl record supposed to sound like that?
Vinyl records are not supposed to have crackling in them. However, it is normal for vinyl records to have a crackle in the sound when played for the first time. If you are experiencing crackling in your records that has never been there before then there is an issue that needs to be addressed.
In this article we will discuss the possible reasons that you are hearing the crackles and other sounds when you are trying to listen to your vinyl and what you can do about it.
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What Are The Possible Reasons For Crackling?
The four main reasons why you may hear crackles, pops, clicks, or other sounds while playing a record are:
- Debris or other microscopic particles lodged in the grooves of the record. This debris will sound like a pop, crackle, click, or other sounds when the needle runs over it. Some records are made with inferior materials with some impurities in them. Again, these can alter the sound quality a record gives when the needle runs over them in the grooves.
- Records are made out of delicate material. Once any damage has been caused to the surface of the record, it will change the sound quality of the tracks on that record. Scratches, cracks, or manufacturing mistakes like pressing flaws, tend to be the source of the static heard while playing a record.
- A good quality needle and turntable will pick up all the flaws in a record. That is why your favorite record may play well on an older turntable and needle, but make different sounds on a newer turntable and needle.
- Another reason for the crackling sound on a record can be caused by the dust particles attracted by the electric current that is produced by the turntable.
Stylus and Sound Quality
Some music aficionados have noted how different stylus (needle) types give various sound quality for older and newer vinyl records.
An elliptical stylus, also known as a bi-radial stylus, is best used with newer vinyl records. This stylus has a dual radii design, which allows it to make contact with a larger groove area and a deeper groove area.
This will allow your player to play the higher frequencies embedded in a record. Its somewhat pointed shape makes it more precise than a conical stylus that gives a richer sound, lower distortion, and increased frequency response (picks up higher and more complex frequencies). The disadvantage of an elliptical stylus is that it wears down faster than a conical stylus.
A conical stylus covers less surface area in the groove due to its rounded tip. This stylus is best used with more worn vinyl records, as it will not run as deep in the grooves like the elliptical stylus. They are more affordable and more commonly used than their elliptical stylus counterpart.
Due to the spherical shape of the tip of this stylus, it cannot properly play higher frequencies that tend to be in smaller sized groove modulations. The shape of this stylus is a plus for more damaged records, as it is too wide to pick up the debris that may be in the grooves. You will hear much less crackles, pops, and fewer skips in the sound with this style needle.
No stylus is better than the other since both provide excellent sound quality. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, but the best determining factors are the age of the records you prefer to listen to and what you can afford to maintain.
Best Tips For Taking Care of Vinyl Records
Vinyl record lovers always encourage new vinyl record users to handle their records with the utmost care. A professional cleaning can remove the debris and instantly improve the sound quality of your records, but your records also need to be regularly maintained to ensure that they stay in good operating order.
Some tips to keep your records in good condition can be found below.
- Avoid touching the surface of the record. Touch only the edges and label areas.
- Do not handle the record with dirty or wet hands, whether the record is in or out of its packaging sleeve.
- Do not blow, cough, or sneeze on the record. The moisture from your breath or mucus from your spit could end up on the surface of the record. Also, avoid or limit speaking while handling an uncovered record to prevent any saliva from accidentally landing on the surface of the record.
- Protect it from dust and other debris by placing it in a sleeve or record holder. Change the sleeve if it becomes water damaged, mildewed, or if it has other issues that may cause the sleeve to damage the record itself.
- Find the right container to store your record collection. Wine crates are an excellent storage option and allow you to reuse an old item.
- Store vinyl records upright. Stacking or even storing them at a slant can cause the record to warp under pressure.
- Keep vinyl records in an area with 65 to 70 degrees temperature and 45 to 60 degrees humidity. If you’re unable to meet these specifics, just store them in a dry, cool, clean place.
- Clean the record with a carbon fiber record brush or microfiber cloth before and after each use. Handle it lightly while cleaning, so no debris or dust is lodged into the grooves.
With all these care tips, there will be times when you will need to have your records professionally cleaned to remove the crackling sounds. This process includes washing the records with a cleanser and drying it to remove dust and debris. Many experts recommend that you have this process done at least once a year for maintenance purposes.
It’s Okay To Keep The Crackling
Some music enthusiasts love to hear static on their vinyl records. To them, it adds authenticity to the sound quality and brings them back to the memories of years gone by. Vinyl records are a source of nostalgia for older generations and a source of connection to past times of their youth.
Many younger people are attracted to counterculture things, and vinyl is one of those on the gentler side of the rebellion. The re-emergence and rising popularity of vinyl records among young people quench their idealized longing for a time where the music took longer to produce and distribute. A time where one had to sit still and wait for the hiss of the record to lead into the first notes of the song.
Others who do not idealize past eras, but respect them, desire to preserve and build on the unique creations that came before what we have now. These young people appreciate the differences in sound, including the crackles, pops, and skips, which is very different from the smooth, flawless sound quality we have grown accustomed to.
With more auto-tune and improved noise eliminating capabilities available now than ever before, music tracks sound almost too perfect. Minor flaws in vinyl records allow them to experience what it may have been like to live during the height of popularity for vinyl records.
Many young people who have tried listening to records, love it, and have created space in their lives to continue collecting more vintage vinyl classics. They peruse record stores in person and online to find their favorites. The feeling of purchasing a record is much different than downloading or purchasing an entire EP or album online with the click of a few buttons.
Want to learn more about the revitalization of vinyl records? Check out these videos below.