Vinyl records are an increasingly favourite music medium for many people nowadays.
But, physical music mediums such as vinyl, are more unstable than their clinically precise digital relatives.
There are many things that can hinder the audio quality produced by your records.
For this reason, knowing how to get the most from your hardware and your records is absolutely essential.
How To Make Your Vinyl Sound Better
There are several ways to make your vinyl sound better than it currently does.
But it is crucial to find the methods of improvement that work best for you and your setup.
With that in mind, let’s explore ways to improve the sound of your vinyl records.
To make your vinyl records sound great: reduce external vibrations, clean your records, clean your stylus, calibrate the tracking force of your turntable stylus, upgrade your cartridge, level your turntable, improve your hardware including speaker wire, optimise the position of your speakers and furniture, or even upgrade your turntable.
Improving the sound of your records is easier than you may think.
Taking the time to make just a couple of the following nine possible adjustments…
…will yield much better results than you might imagine.
#1. Reduce External Vibrations
Turntable needles are highly sensitive to vibrations.
Any external vibrations picked-up by your needle will turn into noise transmitted through your speakers.
If the record vibrates too much, it will generate noise as these vibrations are transferred directly to the stylus.
To prevent external vibrations:
Install a cork record mat under the record; place vibration dampers under your turntable…
…and; under the feet of whatever piece of furniture your turntable or record player sits on.
Also, while you’re at it, go ahead and place a damper under any speakers that sit close to your record player.
These super-simple steps will significantly decrease noise, increase clarity, and improve the overall sound of your records.
#2. Clean Your Records
Not everyone knows that records need to be cleaned to maintain high-quality audio playback.
Dirt, dust, and plain old general grime builds up in the grooves of vinyl records, impeding their ability to produce good audio.
Carefully clean your records using micro-fibre cloths and record-cleaning solutions, or even invest in your own record-cleaning machine.
Try using a high-quality record brush to clean the grooves of your records before every playback to remove any dust.
With very little effort and expense on your part, this will drastically improve the clarity and reliability of your vinyl sound.
#3. Clean Your Stylus
If your vinyl is suffering from surface noise, it’s either because your record is dirty…
…but it’s definitely not that because you’ve just thoroughly cleaned your records…
…or, your stylus is dirty.
The only part of the cartridge that makes contact with the vinyl, is the diamond stylus tip.
There are a few ways you can go about cleaning a stylus properly.
A couple of the methods involve buying a little bit of inexpensive kit, a couple make use of cleaning items you may already have likely already have.
You can get all the detail you need in my earlier post ‘How to Clean a Stylus & Why You Should‘
#4. Adjust Stylus Tracking Force
Stylus tracking force is the pressure with which the stylus needle actually presses into the grooves of the record.
If the needle tracking force is too light, it will not pick up every frequency in the record groove.
And if the tracking force is too hard, the record could get damaged, and the turntable will produce overwhelming excessive levels of bass.
Adjust the stylus tracking force until you find the optimal position for your player, and your records will sound much better.
#5. Upgrade Your Cartridge
If you are looking to get a much better quality of sound from your vinyl set-up, a cartridge upgrade can have a very significant impact.
The quality of your cartridge has a massive effect on the performance of your turntable…
…and unfortunately, most affordable and mid-range turntables and record players, do not come fitted with the most optimal cartridges.
More often than not, there tends to be significant sound improvement potential that can be realised by installing a better quality cartridge.
Certainly not the cheapest method of improving your vinyl playback sound quality, but usually a big gain.
#6. Make Sure Your Turntable is Level
If your turntable is not level, it will not totally accurately sense the grooves in the record that you are playing.
Ensure that your turntable is level by using a spirit level, and the player will function far better.
This simplest of adjustments will instantly have your records sounding clearer and more well-balanced.
#7. Consider Your Hardware
Low-quality hardware, including speaker cables, connectors, speakers, drivers, and even internal turntable components, can drastically decrease the audio quality of your records.
Upgrade your hardware with better components, and your records will sound far better.
Begin with simple components, such as speaker wire, connectors, and slowly upgrade your system to the best you can afford.
Low-quality speaker cables and connectors are a staggeringly common cause of sub-par sound in a vinyl set-up.
I don’t know why, but many people simply go with the cheapest cables and connectors available…
…but that’s a big mistake that you can easily avoid for better vinyl sound.
#8. Optimise Your Room
Optimising the room in which you play your records is far more critical than most people tend to realise.
The position of the speakers in the room, where the furniture is placed, and the angle of the audio projection within the room can all make or break a vinyl listening experience.
Ensure that your speakers are placed correctly, have your furniture in optimal positions…
…and do some online research to learn how to place and angle your speakers for your room correctly.
This makes a much more significant difference in audio quality than you may realise.
#9. Upgrade Your Turntable
Okay, we’re at the point where you’ve tried just about everything in your quest to improve the playback sound quality of your vinyl.
But, you’ve made little in the way of significant gains.
In which case, you may be left with only one other option.
And obviously it’s the most expensive option.
You may have to upgrade your turntable or record player!
Vinyl records are a physical medium, which means that they can only sound as good as the hardware used to play them on.
Thankfully, there are some fantastically high-quality turntables available for less than $500.
Wrapping it Up!
Getting more from your records is always satisfying.
And following these simple tips can help you achieve much better audio quality.
Look after your records and your player, use good hardware, be sure that everything is level and well-calibrated…
…and more often than not, you will be able to get the best sound possible from your gear.