Do you have a record skipping in the same spot? I can’t stand it when that happens. There you are, grooving away, and suddenly the skip noise and it’s back where it was a few seconds ago. It’s like a finger’s on a chalkboard, isn’t it?
Luckily, I’ve already gone through so many record skipping scenarios myself, that I felt it prudent to put this little skipping troubleshooting guide together for you. So, keep reading, and let’s discover together the five most common reasons why your turntable skips and what you can (or can’t) do about it.
Table of Contents
Why Your Record Is Skipping In The Same Spot – A Troubleshooting Guide
As mentioned, there are only really five reasons why your record is skipping in the same spot. I mean, there might be a sixth reason I’m yet unaware of, but these five are the usual suspects.
- The Tonearm Is Out Of Balance
- Bass Vibration
- The Record Is Dirty
- The Record Is Warped
- The Record Is Scratched
The Tonearm Is Out Of Balance
Symptom: During parts of a song, depending on where the record player resides and depending on the level of bass, the song may skip. It may also occur when you walk past the record player.
Troubleshooting tip: Walk from five feet away up to your record player. Do so repeatedly with more firm steps each time (starting by nearly tip-toeing). Notice at what point the vibrations from your walking make the record skip. If the tonearm skips easily, either it is out of balance or the dampeners or surface the turntable is on is insecure.
Remedy: If the tonearm is out of balance, the remedy is obviously to set the balance. If the surface is insecure, then move the turntable to a more secure surface. Check the dampeners as well to ensure the turntable feet are dampening vibrations adequately as well.
If vibrations are a problem after you’ve balanced your tonearm, you can try using a turntable base that eliminates further vibrations. I like the Pro-Ject Ground It E Turntable Base available on Amazon. It’s heavy, feels solid, and works well to help isolate your turntable.
Symptom: Similar in many ways to what you might expect with a tonearm that’s out of balance, bass vibrations can cause a record to jump or skip, but only in certain conditions.
If your record player mounts above a speaker or subwoofer, then you likely require moving the turntable to a more suitable location.
Troubleshooting tip: If you think the bass is causing a skip, try testing your theory with one of your records that has a lot of bass. Turn the volume up (safely) and play a track with bass. If your record skips during the heavy bass parts, you know that is why the skipping has occurred.
Remedy: Move your record player onto a different surface. Do not place a record player on a speaker, subwoofer, or another sound-producing device.
The Record Is Dirty
Symptom: You may notice some crackling noises potentially followed by a skip. If dirt or dust has built upon the record or collected on the needle, a skip might occur each time the record revolves around a point where the build-up of dirt or dust overcomes the ability of the needle to stay in its groove.
Sometimes this build-up of dirt or dust can correspond to a place on the record. The dirt or dust might even be stuck in place on the record. It would cause the record to skip each time the needle tries to plow through the dirt or dust stuck to the surface of the record.
Troubleshooting tip: In my experience, you can see if a record is dirty or dusty by shining a flashlight on it at an angle. While shining the light, look at the record up close on an angle. If it is dirty, the dirt or dust will stand out like a sore thumb. That is, assuming you have good eyesight.
Remedy: Use a proper vinyl record carbon fiber brush to clean your record. I like the Boundless model, again from Amazon. It’s cheap, works well, is anti-static, and most importantly it gets the job done.
The Record Is Warped
Symptom: If a record is warped enough, it can cause the needle to skip. If records are stored on edge without proper support, the vinyl will sag and warp over time. Check how you’ve been storing your vinyl.
Troubleshooting tip: Place the record on the turntable and look at it as close to horizontally as you can. Slowly rotate the record by hand and look for warps in the record.
Remedy: Fixing warped records takes time. You need to reform the record without causing damage to the etched grooves. The process is tedious, but with a lot of patience, you can fix minor warps nine times out of ten. Take a look at the process to fix a warped record here.
The Record Is Scratched
Symptom: The record plays and has a noticeable skip at the exact and precise second in a track. You can either see the scratch, feel it, or see it with a magnifying glass.
Troubleshooting tip: A bad scratch will be noticeable by the naked eye. A scratch that is not so noticeable will be visible with normal magnifying glass. Who doesn’t have a magnifying glass lying around? They are great in case of emergency for starting fires (all you need is sunlight and tinder), for plant observation if you’re into gardening, or, if you’re a bit of an audiophile, for inspecting records.
A lit 30x magnifier is a great tool to help you see how your records are doing. If your record is scratched, this should see most scratches.
Remedy: Unfortunately it’s time to go through your records pockets and look for loose change. If a vinyl record is scratched bad enough to skip, there’s very little chance you’re going to be capable of fixing it.
I’ve heard of people trying to use fine knife sets, like those used for fine model crafting, to carve the groove back, but unless you’ve got a microscope and a robot-like steady hand, I think you’d best find a replacement for that record.
With vinyl records formed out of malleable polyvinyl chloride, or PVC for short, you might think it should be easy to fix. And it would be if it weren’t for the tiny size of the grooves you’d need to fix.
According to Wikipedia, some of the smallest record grooves cut in history were 0.001 inches wide. That’s really, very small, and obviously much smaller than the human eye can clearly discern.
So, I’m sorry, my record-loving friends, but if the vinyl is scratched, you’re pretty much out of luck (S.O.L).
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