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Heat warping, scuffs, dust, and scratches can all be issues for vinyl records. But what if you are extremely careful with your records and never damage them at all? Will they last forever?
Do records wear out over time?Unfortunately every time that you play a record you are slowly degrading the record itself. The way a record is played means that over time the needle/stylus is slowly damaging the record as it digs into the grooves. This “damage” is part of design but it will prevent records for lasting forever if you listen to them.
Of course if you never listen to your records and leave them in storage then hypothetically they could last forever but what is the point of that?
Most people enjoy listening to their collection on a regular basis. Don’t let the fear of damaging your records keep you from listening to them!
Many people believe that each record will last through a few hundred plays before the quality noticeably degrades. At that point the record will still play but the sound quality won’t be as good as a brand new record.
Some people even report comparing a record that they have listened to for decades with an identical record that was in storage and the sound quality is quite poor on the well used copy.
The record in either case will still play but you won’t have as good of sounds especially for music in the higher frequency ranges.
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Is playing a vinyl record with a stylus a destructive process?
Anytime that you put your stylus onto the record that stylus is slightly damaging the vinyl as it glides through the grooves. This is especially true if you aren’t careful with keeping your record and stylus clean.
Many people go weeks or months without listening to a record and then just start popping records onto their player and start listening. That is the wrong way to do it.
If it has been weeks or months since you last listened to a record you should clean the dust and dirt off of the record as well as the stylus. A small layer of dust might not seem like that big of a deal but not cleaning your records and stylus before playing will cause you to wear out your records even faster.
It can be a destructive process playing a vinyl record because there will be diminishing sound quality because of the wear to either the stylus, your vinyl, or both.
Many things can help in reducing the record wear, such as making sure to use a turntable and tonearm that are high-quality and correctly adjusted. A cheap record player will wear out your records much faster than one that is of higher quality.
For example, the “retro style” players that have popped up in recent years are said to have over 3x the amount of force on the arm than they should have. That means you are wearing out your records on that player 3x faster than on a higher quality one.
As your record begins to wear out you will start to hear less of the music and more of the pops, cracks, and clicks. This is especially true if you have a record player that picks up a lot of the inconsistencies of the record.
There might also be some noise because of the dust and dirt lurking in the LP grooves. You can reduce the noise level to some degree by a quick bath and rinse in distilled water. There is no need for fancy record cleaning machines or expensive liquid cleaners to clean the records. You can do it just by distilled water.
Are LPs delicate and can they be easily damaged?
Records are considerably less delicate than most people believe. I have seen many people (such as in the video below) who are actively trying to break a record and still have a hard time doing so.