Yikes! This Is What Happens If You Drop A Vinyl Record


Despite vinyl records being more than a century old, they are still highly regarded today as the highest-quality audio storage material, mainly because it is highly analog. However, with that in mind, this means that physical damage to vinyl records can heavily hamper or degrade their sound quality. Here, we try to determine what happens if you drop your vinyl records.

Vinyl records can take a lot of stress before eventually breaking into pieces. However, it does suffer damage during falls, especially if it falls on pointed objects that may scratch the vinyl record’s surface.

This article will discuss the implications of dropping a vinyl record and cover other elements that may degrade or damage a vinyl record.

What Happens If You Drop A Vinyl Record

What happens when you drop vinyl records? Does it magically just fall off and not mind the external stress, or does it just break off into oblivion? Well, the answer to that is somewhere in between.

Unlike its predecessors, the current vinyl record is much more durable. It takes a considerable amount of force to break it. However, it does suffer damage during falls, especially if it falls on pointed objects that may scratch the vinyl record’s surface.

Compared to modern vinyl records, shellac is a brittle substance, making them unreliable for long-term audio preservation. If you drop shellac on the floor, it will probably break. Just like that, a precious piece of audio is now lost to external damage.

On vinyl records, the damage doesn’t come very quickly. That is the reason why you can still find antique vinyl records that still deliver on their sound quality and experience. Compare that to a five-year-old compact disc; you might notice how the compact disc is forever affected by slight scratches, with the majority of the scratches not caused by dropping but instead are just caused by sand rubbing on the surface of the compact discs.

One of the significant factors that may affect your vinyl records heavily when dropped is when they hit pointed objects like rocks, which may cause scratches. Despite not being completely cut into pieces, these scratches may still make the listening experience unbearable. (2)

Why Scratches On A Vinyl Record Matter (And How To Prevent Them)

Scratches were always an enemy of physical music storage options, from the easily broken VHS tapes to the digital compact discs, and yes– even vinyl records. For vinyl records, in particular, scratches are a massive blow to the quality of the sound. This section of the article will discuss why scratches are a big deal and prevent them from happening.

Vinyl Is Analog

Earlier, we have discussed how the analog part of vinyl records makes it one of the best audio storage options available. Since vinyl records have music engraved on their physical structure, it does not need to be compressed. MP3s, on the other hand, will need to be compressed for music streaming to efficiently cater to a massive crowd of people listening to their mobile devices simultaneously.

However, this unbeatable quality preservation feature of analog comes with an enormous cost: its vulnerability to physical changes. Since vinyl records rely on their physical structure to reproduce music, any alterations to the grooves will likely change music as well, especially if the alterations are scratches and the scratches are deep.

To understand this better, let us first know how a vinyl record works. A needle creates the grooves on vinyl records, used to represent soundwaves. They are then replayed utilizing a needle (again), using a transcription process, which transforms these grooves and transforms them into signals that you can turn into audible audio. (3)

Since scratches will change the physical form of the vinyl record, the transcribed audio will not be the same as the original recorded audio. More often than not, the artifacts of these physical alterations will be nothing more than popping sounds, which hampers the listening experience heavily.

So what happens if you drop a vinyl record? Most often than not, you will do more than creating scratches and some physical damage. You will also hamper the overall audio quality, despite not having the vinyl record snapped into pieces.

The Threat Of The Scratches Rely On How Severe They Are

It is more than obvious how the depth of the scratches will have variating impacts. For example, a small hairline scratch may have a lesser effect when compared to deep grooves across the board. However, it may be best to look at each type of scratch one by one.

A basic scratch severity test can be conducted to know the degree of the said scratch. Try running your finger through the scratch, and if you can feel it through your skin, most probably, the scratch will have a detrimental effect on the sound output of the vinyl record.

When these types of scratches appear, you may hear a “clicking” sound in your audio, an audible artifact of the degrading integrity of the vinyl. However, other scratches like those that do not have much tactile feedback will have minor effects on the overall integrity of the audio. However, you may still hear differences in output. (3)

With this in mind, it is imperative to keep your vinyl records from being damaged, which brings us to the next topic in question: the preservation of your vinyl record’s integrity.

Let us go back to the main question, shall we? So what happens if you drop a vinyl record? The answer will rely on the scale of damage.

Preserving the Integrity of Vinyl Records

Preserving the integrity of the vinyl record is vital to maximizing the listening experience. After all, despite vinyl being not portable, expensive, and very clunky, its listening experience is enough to convince audiophiles to continue using the format. It makes the preservation even more vital than it initially seemed.

One way to preserve your vinyl records is not to drop them. Moreover, keeping them in proper storage spaces will help increase the lifespan of a vinyl record by a significant margin.

Many people may not know, but one of the leading causes for scratching vinyl records is improper handling and storage and not dropping. Of course, proper storage is not only defined by having the presence of a record cabinet but also by ensuring that the environmental variables are well under control. 

For example, high temperatures can cause your record to warp its shape. Moisture can facilitate the growth of mildew and molds that will heavily degrade the vinyl record’s integrity. (4)

However, one of the real threats to the preservation of vinyl records lies within your very hands. which means it is your very own hands. Touching vinyl for no appropriate reason or carelessly caressing it even though dust is present in your palms can affect your vinyl records significantly. Moreover, some natural excretions of human skin, such as oil and sweat, can also affect vinyl integrity.

Frequently Asked Questions: Vinyl And Integrity 

What Is The Leading Cause Of Vinyl Record Damage?

Although dropping and moving vinyl can impact the record’s integrity, the leading reason for vinyl degradation is high temperatures. Moreover, worn-out needles also come second. Unnecessary touching and high humidity come in third and fourth, respectively. (4)

If you are concerned about your vinyl record’s integrity, make sure to keep them away from extreme conditions. It will make sure that your vinyl records will serve you for years and years to come.

How Can I Clean My Vinyl Records Without Damaging Them?

To clean your vinyl records straight out of the gate, avoid do-it-yourself solutions. Instead, grab a lint-free cloth and wipe them. Apply cleaning solutions appropriately.

Vinyl Buddy Record Cleaner Kit 5 Piece Ultimate Cleaning System - Velvet Brush - Nylon Microfiber Brush - Stylus Brush - LP Cleaning Solution - Storage Pouch

How Long Do Vinyl Records Last?

It highly depends on how one handles their vinyl records. While some may only last for a couple of years, those handled with extreme care will last well over a lifetime.

Sources

  1. https://recordplayerexpert.com/do-vinyl-records-break-easily/
  2. https://www.vinylrecordlife.com/how-vinyl-records-get-scratched-and-how-to-avoid-it/
  3. https://victrola.com/blogs/articles/how-do-vinyl-records-work
  4. https://recordplayerexpert.com/the-biggest-threat-to-vinyl-records/

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