How to Fix a Slow Record Player: a Comprehensive Guide
Is your record player slow? Perhaps a bit slower than it used to run? Over time, record players slow down for a number of reasons. From dirt build up to a stretched out belt, there are a variety of different issues that can significantly impact the speed of your record player. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take in order to fix a slow record player. Keep reading to learn how to fix a slow record with our comprehensive how-to guide:
At What Speed Should My Records Be Playing?
First things first, before you try to fix the speed of your record player, it is important to understand that vinyl records play at different speeds depending on their composition (i.e. how much and what type of information is embedded in their grooves). Most commonly, vinyl records play at one of the following three speeds: 33, 45, and 78 rotations per minute (RPM). However, 78 RPM records are more rare than the standard 45 and 33 nowadays.
When it comes to listening to these records, you want to be sure that the turntable or a portable turntable you are using is able to play at the appropriate speed of the vinyl record itself. Luckily, most turntables in today’s day and age are capable of playing at 33, 45, and 78 RPM. However, keep in mind that switching between 33 and 78 RPM records is much different than simply swapping 33 and 45 RPM.
In order to get the utmost sound and quality out of your vinyl records, make yourself familiar with these speeds and understand how to properly adjust the belt when swapping different records out. While playing a 33 RPM on a 45 RPM speed (and vice versa) won’t necessarily damage the record, it will definitely alter the sound quality that is produced when the record is being played.
Steps to Fixing a Slow Record Player:
The good news is that fixing a slow record player is a relatively easy process. If you’re not exactly sure where to start, follow these four simple steps to pinpoint exactly what it is that has been slowing your record player down:
#1 Test Your Record Player Speed
First and foremost, you will want to test your record player speed to see if it is actually running slow, and if so, how far off it is. When it comes to testing the speed of your record player, there are two common ways in which you can do so:
Compare The Record Player Audio with Digital Playback
To do this, pull up a digital format of the song you will be comparing to the playback of your vinyl record player. Whether you are streaming the song from Spotify, Apple Music, or any other digital music app, you can be sure that this format of the song will be playing at the right speed.
When you play the songs side by side, listen for a lower sounding pitch and generally, a slower sound all around. If you find that the pitch is even subtly off, this is a sign that your record player is running slow and needs a quick fix.
Run A Stroboscopic Disk Check
While comparing your record playback to digital formatted music is a great way to identify a slow running record player, there is only so much that the ears can pick up on. If you want a more visual approach, consider using a stroboscopic disc to visualize the difference.
A stroboscopic visualizing method is used with a cardboard disc that has equally spaced markings surrounding the edge. When the disc is placed on the record player itself, the markings on the edge should appear as a circle that is not moving if the record player is running correctly. If, however, the record player is either too fast or too slow, the markings will look like they are spinning either left or right.
It is important to note that if you are in North America, you will need a 60Hz stroboscopic disc, and a 50Hz disc if you are outside of the country (i.e. Europe, Australia, Asia, etc.). These discs are free to download and print straight from your computer, allowing you to test your record player at any point in time!
#2 Give Your Record Player A Good Clean
After testing the speed, you will want to give your record player a thorough clean top to bottom. In order do do this you will need a few cleaning items:
- A carbon fiber brush
- A microfiber cloth
- Rubbing alcohol
- Lubricant (twenty weight synthetic oil) with PTFE
Once you have your cleaning items ready to go, start by simply lifting up the stylus and spinning a record while you use your carbon fiber brush to remove any built up dust and static charge.
After your record has been thoroughly brushed, you can go ahead and use rubbing alcohol with a microfiber cloth in circular motions around the record to get an even deeper clean in the grooves of your record. Be sure to give the stylus a good wipe down with the microfiber cloth too, as there is a lot of debris that can get built up in between playing different records. In this step, it is important that you make sure to use a microfiber towel as opposed to cotton, cloth, or any other fabric. With a microfiber cloth, you avoid leaving any lint behind, which can be damaging to both your records and record player over time.
Lastly, you will want to add a drop or two of high quality lubricant to both the motor shaft and at the center of the record player where the spindle is located. This will ensure that the record player is able to function and spin as effectively as possible.
#3 Check The Belt
The third step of fixing a slow record player is checking the belt to see if it has stretched and become loose. Oftentimes, a loose belt is the main cause of a slow record player. This occurs because without the grip of the belt on the pulley, the turntable can move too slow, affecting the overall sound and quality of the playback.
If you find that your belt is in fact loose, there are a few options to resolving this issue:
Boil Your Belt in Hot Water
While this might not sound like your typical DIY solution to a record player problem, it definitely might do the trick when it comes to fixing a loose record player belt. Start by boiling a cup and a half of water and bringing it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn the stove off and let the belt soak in the hot water for about 5-8 minutes. After the hot water soak, your belt should shrink back down closer to its original size.
Use Talc on The Pulley
If your belt is only slightly stretched out, consider using talc powder on both the belt and the pulley. This will stop any minor slipping and keep the belt closer intact with the pulley itself.
Replace The Belt Altogether
If neither of the above options are working out for you, or if you would just like a quick and easy solution, you can always replace the belt entirely. New belts are relatively cheap and easy to replace, and are definitely worth the hassle if you have a belt that just so happens to keep stretching and loosening over time.
#4 Make Fine-Tuning Adjustments
So you’ve found that there is a lag in your playback, you’ve given your record player a good clean, and checked the belt for any stretching or distortion? Now what? The last step when it comes to fixing a slow record player is to make any necessary fine-tune adjustments to the motor of your record player.
In order to do so, you will need to either dig up the record player manual you have packed away somewhere (hopefully), or look up a manual online for your record player’s model. If you can’t seem to find a manual for your record player’s model online, you can always look up a similar record player and go off of what is suggested in that manual as well.
Typically though, you will want to locate the adjustment screws for your record player. Sometimes they can be found underneath the platter, however, they can also be found underneath the record player itself in some cases.
Once you find the adjustment screws, you will want to be sure your record player is level before making any adjustments, then make adjustments as desired:
- Clockwise adjustments to speed up the platter
- Counterclockwise adjustments to slow down the platter
Remember that this is a trial and error process and it is difficult to get your record player to exactly 100% accurate playing speed. However, be sure to run record player speed tests either audibly or with a stroboscopic disc in between adjustments so that you can fine-tune as needed.
Back Up to Speed
By following these outlined steps, you can be sure to get your record player running back up to speed in no time. However, one way you can avoid minor issues such as slow record playback in the future is by choosing a quality vinyl record player.
When choosing a record player, it is important that each and every detail of the turntable is made with quality equipment. At Victrola, every record player is made with just that - high quality parts from the platter to the stylus. As such, our wide collection of record players seek to provide the utmost quality in your listening experience.
For additional information on speakers, visit our blog on how to get more bass out of your subwoofer today!