Record players hold a special place in the hearts of music lovers. They’re a glimpse into the past, a relic of music history, and the sounds they produce are unique. Plus, the look of an analog turntable stands out amidst our technocentric world. By definition, they’re nostalgic; the sound of the past.
If you’re someone who’s tinkered with a record player, you know how small adjustments can be made to change the sound quality. Reducing feedback, replacing parts as needed, and keeping both the record and turntable clean can significantly enhance the listening experience. For this, you need to accessorize your record player. From cleaning kits to protractors, here are five accessories every music lover must have.
1. Isolation Pads
To reduce the amount of noise or feedback in your record player, you’ll want to place your turntable on isolation pads. Isolation pads act as shock pads beneath the record player legs and minimize any extra vibrations that would be picked up from the room.
How Isolation Pads Work
When the stylus runs along the grooves of a record, the tip is wiggling back and forth a microscopic amount. These tiny movements cause a magnet in the cartridge to oscillate back and forth, creating an electrical signal. That signal is transmuted into an audio signal, fed through an amplifier, and then the speakers.
Extra vibrations in the air can cause feedback in the cartridge. And because sound is just variation in air pressure due to molecules knocking into one another, speakers can be strong enough to cause a “hum” in the song. By using isolation pads, this reduces the effect of noise vibrations distorting your sound quality.
2. Stylus Tracking Force Gauge
The stylus is a tiny diamond that sits on the tip of the arm and reads the grooves of a record. Depending on the record player and individual record, you’ll need to adjust the counterweight to change how much pressure the stylus is exerting on the vinyl. This pressure is known as the tracking force.
Usually, the amount of force applied is measured somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 grams. However, you should always follow the tuning instructions specific to your turntable. A tracking force gauge allows you to measure this force to prevent any unnecessary damage to both the record and the stylus.
How to Use a Stylus Gauge
A stylus gauge is fairly straightforward to use:
- Calibrate the scale with a known weight.
- Turn the anti-scaling or counterweight to zero on the record player.
- Lift the arm and place it such that the stylus rests above the center of the scale.
- Lower the needle down on the stylus gauge and adjust the counterweight as needed.
When to Replace a Stylus
If your stylus is in need of replacement, you’ll probably notice your vinyl collection’s records are missing some high notes. If the tracking force is calibrated and you don’t hear the proper sound, replace your stylus immediately. If your stylus is worn down, it will damage the grooves of your records.
3. Cleaning Kit
Your record collection and record players are delicate. You must take care of them. Before listening, you’ll want to clean the records to ensure there is no smudges, dirt, or dust on the record. It may seem inconvenient, but for those who love the unique sound, it’s worth it!
To make your life easier, one of the best record player accessories is a complete cleaning kit. Having all the right brushes and cleaning supplies can speed up the process and make each clean more efficient. When looking for the right cleaning kit, find one that comes with:
- Record cleaning brush – To remove the dust, use either a soft micro-fiber dust brush or a carbon fiber dust and static brush.
- Cleaning solution – Dampen a microfiber cloth with the cleaning solution and wipe in concentric circles. Try to avoid dampening the center label.
- Stylus brush – This generally looks like a soft-bristled toothbrush. To clean the stylus, always brush from the back of the arm toward the end. With a few gentle brushes, the stylus will be clean; there’s no need to force anything.
If you want to take out some of the manual work, you can purchase a vinyl record cleaner. These look similar to wide plastic toasters, and they work by placing records into the slot and turning it clockwise. Sitting inside the cleaner is some cleaning solution and a gentle brush. After a few turns, you can take the record out, wipe it with a lint-free cloth, and start playing.
4. Set of Inner Sleeves
When you buy a record, it will usually come with an outer sleeve. This sleeve has the band’s album cover on one side and a list of tracks on the other. While this is aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t do much to keep the record’s grooves safe. For this, you’ll want the added protection of the record inner sleeves.
The two basic sleeves are made of paper or plastic. Paper sleeves are traditionally used for vinyl because plastic will often cause the record to become staticky.
5. Cartridge Protractor
As the record plays, the needle slowly moves toward the center. If the cartridge is not aligned properly, it can cause the stylus tip to rotate as the albums play. This can cause a tugging pressure on the outer edge of a record’s groove. To avoid this, you need an alignment protractor to keep the cartridge properly set from beginning to end.
How to Use a Cartridge Protractor
A quick search online will show you a cartridge alignment protractor. It has a rectangular shape with a hole on one side and two grids (one near the center and one near the opposite side of the hole). Start by placing the protractor on the turntable, using the hole to guide you.
- First Alignment – For the first alignment, place the stylus and cartridge over the outer grid. Drop the arm down so that the needle is center on the grid’s target. Using the gridlines as a reference, the cartridge should fit within the designated area.
- Second Alignment – Lift the needle and repeat the same process using the central grid. Place the stylus on the target and make sure the cartridge lines up.
- Redoing the Alignment – If either was not aligned, unscrew the top of the cartridge and readjust it manually to fit squarely in the grids. You don’t need to completely unscrew the cartridge, just enough to maneuver the head. Once both are aligned, retighten the screws.
- Recheck – Before you start playing, do this test once again to see if you were accurate in your positioning.
What Else You’ll Need for the Perfect Setup
While these are the accessories you need for your record player, there are a few other components for the perfect setup.
- Sturdy Table – Placing your record player on the ground or on a shaky table will cause feedback to ruin your musical experience. Try to find a solid shelf or a table away from the speakers to ensure optimal performance.
- External Speakers – In a small intimate environment, the built-in speaker on a record player should be enough. However, if you want to play it louder, you’ll probably experience some gain problems. This is because the volume of the speaker is restricted by its size. By setting up an external speaker system, you can enjoy louder volume with a greater depth of sound. If budget isn’t an issue, try to find a balance between subwoofers, mid-range speakers, and tweeters.
- External Amplifier – Amplifier technology has advanced far beyond those in older record players. Purchasing an external amplifier can boost the audio signal, reduce feedback, and bring out the best sound quality, while still maintaining that unique sound.
Accessories That Didn’t Make the Cut
When it comes to the best record players, there are many helpful accessories to choose from. Narrowing it down to the top five was difficult. Here are some other accessories that, while great, didn’t make the cut.
- Platter mat – A turntable platter mat is placed on the turntable beneath the record. It helps to dampen any extra vibrations caused by warps in the disc or shakiness from the table.
- Portable Suitcase for Your Record Player - If you’re trying to up your vinyl game, a useful accessory is a to-go kit. A portable suitcase for your record player means being able to take it to parties, work events, or a friend’s house. Or if you’re someone who enjoys traveling, a portable suitcase for your record player means taking a little piece of home wherever you go.
- Bubble Gauge – To ensure that your record player is on a level surface, it’s helpful to have a precision bubble gauge around. This won’t cost you more than a few bucks at a local hardware store.
Treat Your Record Player
Owning a record player is the beginning of an enriching journey. Once you’ve experienced the unique sound of a record player, it’s hard to go back. All you can do is move forward and find new ways to improve the sound quality. These five accessories are a great place to start.
It Still Works. Big Speakers Vs. Small Speakers. https://itstillworks.com/big-speakers-vs-small-speakers-5401591.html
The Physics Hypertextbook. The Nature of Sound. https://physics.info/sound/