How to Protect Your Turntable with Anti-skating

How to Protect Your Turntable with Anti-skating

Vinyl records hold substantial value to their owners, both in monetary and nostalgic terms. They’re worth so much to us, in fact, that it can sometimes be difficult to bring ourselves to slip them from their sleeves and actually put them on a player.

Part of the allure of physical records is the artistry of their pressed vinyl, especially when they’re in pristine condition. Removing their dust covers and taking them for a spin on a turntable without care and consideration risks blemishing the majesty of their intricately-cut grooves and glossy finishes.

However, these risks are minimized if you have anti skating on turntable and it’s adjusted to the correct anti skate setting. Listen on to hear how anti-skating can protect your vinyl and optimize the sound turning out of your record player.

What is Anti-skating, Anyway?

No, it’s not a fun-sucking Home Owner Association’s policy barring the local kids from playing pond hockey. Anti-skating, as the name suggests, prevents the process of skating on vinyl records; and no, there’s no ice involved—unless you’re taking Vanilla Ice’s seminal masterpiece To The Extreme for a spin.

So, what is skating?

Skating: Vinyl’s Bane

Skating is, essentially, when a turntable’s needle runs across a vinyl record’s surface in a damaging manner. Think of a figure skater or hockey player sliding around a freshly zambonied rink. As they glide across the ice, the blades of their skates slice grooves into the smooth surface.

Skating on records is (unfortunately) a similar process, and it often results in scratches and gashes being carved into the surface of the vinyl.

Obviously, your best-selling albums are perfect with the grooves the press gave them. So, what causes skating, and how can you prevent your records from looking like stones rolled across them?

The process of skating follows a few scratchy steps:1

  1. The needle drops onto the outer circumference of the record and begins playing the album.
  2. As it follows the groove, it moves from the outer radius inwards towards the center.
  3. The stylus, having a tendency to pull towards the record’s interior, doesn’t sit evenly in the groove.
  4. It bumps and scratches the vinyl’s surface as it plays.
  5. In extreme cases (that we’ve all heard), the needle pops over the groove and jumps to another tune, often gouging a deep, unfixable gash in the surface as it skips songs.

While not all scratches are vinyl killers, unlike that scar you got moshing at a System of a Down show, they don’t add character. Scratches can subtract from audio quality, cause the record to skip, and, in the saddest cases, render it unlistenable.

While minor dings can be remedied or ignored, if Dark Side of the Moon starts skipping from On the Run to Eclipse, it’s time to give it to your DJ buddy to scratch freestyle.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to prevent your albums from ending up in the vinyl graveyard: anti-skating.

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What Does Anti-skating Do?

To prevent excessive wear and tear on vinyl, turntable manufacturers came up with a feature called anti-skating. The first anti-skating device hit the market in 1975, and, like Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic, they have been steadfast companions of turntable aficionados ever since then.2

The pressure of a record player’s tonearm pushing the needle toward the album’s center is what causes scratches and dings. To counteract this, anti-skating mechanisms apply a small amount of force to the tonearm in the opposite direction.1

The anti-skating feature on a turntable helps to:

  • Center the needle in the groove and keep it on the right path.
  • Play the record without any distortion or aberrations in the tunes (i.e., as they were meant to be heard).
  • Prevent scratching, gashing, gouging, and all other forms of nefarious, record-ruining blemishes.

That means that, with an anti-skating turntable, you can confidently play that original pressing of Let it Bleed and maintain the same immaculate condition it was in during the Summer of Love.

Unlike Keith Richards and his unfathomable longevity, however, anti-skating devices don’t work through dark magic on some deal with the devil. Instead, they ingeniously apply a few basic mechanical principles to keep records in tip-top shape.

How Do Anti-skating Devices Work?

Whenever one object exerts a force on another object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite on the first—or so says Newton’s third law of motion2

For your record player, this means the force of the needle pressing down and inwards is met with resistance from the vinyl’s surface. The “opposite force” is, in fact, the record itself, bending and pushing back against the stylus and taking the brunt of the needle’s weight.

Or, that would be the case if anti-skating didn’t exist. Anti-skating devices use a few different components to apply opposite pressure on the tonearm and alleviate this burden on records:

  • Anti-skating resistance dials – Most record players with the technology employ anti skating adjustment knobs to fine-tune the pressure upon the stylus. Thin wire gently pulls the tonearm in the opposite direction until the needle finds a happy medium in the center of the vinyl groove.

  • Physical anti skating weight – In conjunction with the same thin wire, some turntables use a tiny counterweight to apply the opposite anti skating force on the tonearm. They usually hang off the back end of the stylus, helping the needle find the perfect line.

Despite the fine lines and minuscule weights, you don’t need to be a master angler to use a turntable’s anti-skating feature. They often come preset from the manufacturer and are ready to go straight out of the box.

If it’s not, or you need to reset it for any reason, don’t sweat it! Adjusting the anti-skating mechanism is as simple as a Shins’ song.

How to Set an Anti-skating Device

If you have a turntable with an anti-skating feature, you can use it to keep your records and equipment in premium condition—but only if you know how to adjust it to the correct setting. To fine-tune your anti-skating mechanism:3

  1. Set and balance the tonearm to the manufacturer’s instructions, paying careful attention to ensure the position of the anti skate weight floats the stylus above the record.
  2. Adjust the anti-skating knob to the manufacturer’s recommended setting.
  3. Test the needle with your not-so-favorite record (this might be the one time when Duran Duran’s Thank You is the best choice).
  4. Listen to the record and watch for skating and skipping of the stylus.
  5. If the needle is skating inwards, tighten the anti-skating knob.
  6. If you notice the needle has a tendency to drift or skip outwards, the anti-skating level is too high and the knob needs to be loosened.

If you don’t want to risk wrecking even your least-coveted vinyl, there are a few other options to test out the anti-skating level on your device:1

  • Test records – If you really want to inspect every aspect of your turntable, a test record will run the gamut of assessments on its components. From tracking to channel balance and, yes, anti-skating resistance, these pressings are a trusty aid for audiophiles seeking to optimize their sound systems.

  • An A with no B-side – Singles with nothing pressed on the backside is a savvy way to test your machine’s settings without risking scratching something with audio on it.

Once you know that knob is in its perfect position, you can safely and confidently set your prized copy of good kid, m.A.A.D. city, on the platter without worry. And, when you do, you’ll hear Kendrick’s ingenious bars like never before.

Why Pick a Turntable with Anti-skating Technology?

With a plethora of turntable styles available, why specifically seek out one with an anti-skating feature? Well, like picking speakers with a subwoofer or a stereo with multiple channels, they’re simply better than their counterparts. Here’s why:

  • Maintain your collection – A scratch across a pristine record is an absolute heartbreaker. With an anti-skating device enabled, record players minimize the chances of leaving marks and scuffs on your albums’ surfaces. With anti-skating, you can maintain your collection’s beauty and value as if the records were brand new.
  • Actually listen to your music – When you’re not worried about scratching your records to oblivion, you’ll actually be able to enjoy them. When your anti-skating device is in the right setting, you’ll have the confidence to play your favorite records without wondering if they’ll be alright afterward.
  • Protect your equipment and records– Those bumps and dings aren't just causing damage to your albums; they’re taking their toll on your turntable as well. The needle and tonearm are sensitive and if they keep bouncing around, they’ll need to be replaced sooner rather than later. It’s important to keep your equipment in a safe place, and clean your record players when they start to get dusty and dirty.
  • Obtain the purest sound – When the needle is constantly bumping, scratching, and skipping across the surface of a record, it broadcasts unwanted distortion and feedback. A properly set anti-skating mechanism balances the needle in the perfect position to deliver the highest sound quality possible.

Alright, now that you know exactly how to keep your records in enviable condition and get the best sound out of them, only one question remains: where can you get an anti-skating turntable?

Spin Your Favorite Vinyl Worry-Free on a Premium Victrola Turntable

Vinyl records are not only mediums for music; they’re works of art in their own right. In a largely digital world, the beauty of a physical record is a large part of the allure for collectors.

That’s why, if you’re in the market for a new record player, be sure to get one with anti-skating technology to keep your albums crisp and clean.

The Victrola Premiere T1 Turntable System is a mechanically-refined marvel of a record player. It employs modern anti-skating technology to ensure records look the same going on and coming off the platter. Victrola always uses high-quality components to keep both your records and their machines turning for years to come.

Don’t take risks with your vinyl—when it’s time to get a new turntable, invest in one with anti-skating technology. And, if you’re looking to invest in quality, value, and premium sound, pick Victrola—the companion of audiophiles across the nation.

Visit our blog to learn more about turntable speed and the differences between a belt vs direct drive turntable.


  1. Sound Matters. How to Balance a Tonearm & Set Turntable Tracking Force.
  2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Newton’s Laws of Motion.
  3. Victrola. T1 Turntable.
  4. Google Patents. US3948529A - Phonograph turntable anti-skating device.