Putting A Penny On A Record Player Finally Explained!


As a child, I was always fascinated with the penny on top of our turntables. This fascination was not because of its peculiar position but because I wanted to grab that penny and use it to buy candy. However, today, I am still plagued by the same question for a different reason: why do we put them there in the first place?

Pennies can act as an anchor, helping ground the needle or stylus to the vinyl record. This “penny on the record” action usually happens when the needle in the turntable is already damaged or has suffered some stress, causing it not to thread to the vinyl’s grooves properly.

Read on to find out more about putting pennies on a record player. 

What’s The Rationale?

A turntable and a vinyl record are excellent mediums for listening to your favorite music tracks. However, the trouble with them is that they are not necessarily the most durable, nor are they degradation-free. Unlike the modern digital MP3s, which do not degrade and can be listened to from device to device, vinyl records, due to their analog processes, are heavily affected by physical changes and manifestations due to stress.

Due to this, many people encounter problems regarding vinyl records, from record playback issues to issues within the hardware itself. Even worse is that these hardware problems may manifest themselves from the external and internal components of the turntable to the vinyl itself. One of the banes for these turntables is the needles.

The turntable needles are an intricate part of the turntable, which, when harmed, can heavily affect the overall quality of the audio. We must understand how the needle of the turntables work and slowly work ourselves up to the central question of why there are pennies on a turntable.

What’s With The Needle?

A turntable’s needle may look like one of the most boring things out there, but trust me, it is much more interesting than it seems. There is a lot of science within that needle’s tip, especially considering it needs to work hand in hand with different types of vinyl records.

We already know that the grooves in a vinyl record are essential as it holds the information which will then transform as the music we hear from the turntable. However, not many people question the process of how the transmuting of the physical grooves into audio works, not realizing that the needle is the show’s star. 

As the turntables turn the vinyl at a constant pace, the stylus touches the surface of the vinyl as it trudges through the grooves of the vinyl, bouncing along the groove. What happens is that the vibrations created by the grooves get changed into electric energy and are transformed then as audio, the same music we hear with our ears. (2)

Now that we know the importance of the needle or stylus, let us discuss why there are pennies on your record player– most specifically on top of the needle’s cartridge.

Why Was The Penny There?

Pennies are acting as anchors that help ground the needle or stylus to the vinyl record. This “penny on the record” action usually happens when the needle in the turntable is already damaged or has suffered some stress, causing it not to thread to the vinyl’s grooves properly.

When the needle is not grounded correctly, troubles may arise, such as skipping tracks or the stylus not detecting the grooves on the vinyl. Because of this, people tried to solve the issue by putting some “weight” on the needle. It was a penny, probably because it was the easiest thing to find that had consistent mass.

There are other use cases as to why the penny was there too. It didn’t necessarily have to do with a broken needle in the turntable; sometimes, it had something to do with the vinyl or parties (yes, the kind of party you are thinking of).

In clubs where a lot of movement is present, the turntables’ needles may jump off from one groove to another, causing it to skip a track. This “jumping tracks” action is a problem for obvious reasons. Additionally, some deejays do this to create some scratch or gritting sound to the overall mix.

However, one of the main reasons many people put pennies on their turntables’ needles is that the vinyl records they have been using have sustained some damage that can increase the likelihood of it jumping a track. These damages have manifested from different variables. For example, some vinyl damage is not necessarily considered as damage but does cause audio distortion. 

One of the most common examples is when some dirt or solid matter is in the vinyl record itself. When this happens, make sure to clean the matter with appropriate tools such as a carbon fiber record brush. In my experience the carbon brushes are the best cleaners for dust and light debris. However, when using coarse materials, make sure to do the cleaning operation with intense care.

Another possible reason as to why a track may randomly skip is due to record damage. When this happens, sometimes, putting a penny on a record player can help, if not fix the problem as a whole. However, we do not guarantee that a simple penny will solve all your needle-related, skipping-inducing problems.

To Put Or Not To Put, That Is The One Cent Question!

Although the tradition of putting a penny on a record player has been practiced way before our time, that does not mean that it is a perfectly safe practice. It is quite the opposite. To the question, to put or not to put, we highly recommend you not to put.

There is a reason why the practice of putting a penny on a record player is not as common as it used to be: and one of the primary reasons? It is just not that good in the long run, especially for your record player, as it may be very detrimental to your record player’s health, and even to your vinyl record as well!

Let us talk about what happens when we put a penny on the record player. When a penny stands at the stylus, its weight drags down the entire needle mechanism, which in the short term, helps you prevent unwanted skipping. However, it can induce unnecessary stress in the long run, which may damage the record player. Especially if you find your record player unreplaceable, you might want to double think about putting a penny on your record player’s stylus. (4)

Another problem that is induced by the penny is putting unnecessary stress on the vinyl record itself. What does this imply, exactly? When extra pressure is placed on the needle, this is distributed directly to the vinyl, damaging the grooves.

The grooves are an integral part of a vinyl record as it is the grooves that represent the song inside the record player. Damage to the grooves would mean that the track inside the vinyl record will be altered forever! How horrifying is that?

The actual biggest reason why you should reconsider putting a penny on a record player is that record players have an adjustable knob that accomplishes the same things as a penny, minus the external stress. It will save you time and effort, but it will also save you from a lot of stress.

Instead of weighing the pros and cons of a penny on a record player, you should use the built-in features of the record player itself. It will surely help you with the problems related to track skipping.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pennies On A Record Player

Do Record Players Have A Warranty?

While these policies may vary from the distributor to the manufacturer, most record players have a one-year warranty covering all problems related to factory defects.

Is It Normal To Put A Penny On A Record Player?

While this was considered as standard practice back in the day, in contemporary times, this is no more than an unnecessary practice that may induce possible damages to your record player or record.

What Should I Do If My Stylus Is Damaged?

If it is due to factory defects, contact your distributor to avail your warranty. Moreover, you can also visit an expert to handle the problem better. If it is beyond repair, you might need to buy a new one.

Sources

  1. https://ilovemusic.edu.in/blog/turntable-needle-stylus-guide/
  2. https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/for-those-who-play-vinyl-do-you-tape-a-coin-to-the-arm-of-your-record-player.94491/
  3. https://dvdyourmemories.com/blog/how-to-prevent-skipping-on-your-vinyl-record-lp/
  4. https://www.dubstepforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=152595

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