Whether you’re a newbie who just found an old record player tucked in the garage or you’ve been using one for years, it’s helpful to know some basic repair methods and easy DIY fixes.
Indeed, you can take your record player in for repairs, but that isn’t always necessary, and if you can avoid it, you may be able to save some cash.
Thankfully, many of the common issues can be repaired at home with some DIY fixes.
These problems could be the volume appearing to be too low, crackling sounds, a problem with your belt, or a damaged stylus and can be resolved with setup adjustments, cleaning, and minor replacements.
The more intricate repairs that involve resoldering connections, fixing wires, or repairing motors are best left to your local record player repair shop unless you have some personal experience in this department.
So, in this article, we’ll focus more on the DIY fixes and basics repairs that most people can perform, without needing experience with electronics.
As soon as something goes wrong with your setup, the first thing you might wonder is whether it is even possible to repair.
This isn’t something that can be answered in a black and white way because record player designs differ, the capabilities of the person who owns the record player change depending on who you are and access to the parts you need vary depending on where you live.
However, there are common record player issues that are usually repairable if you have some basic tools and access to the correct parts. Problems such as a low volume due to an incorrect preamp and amp setup, buzzing from not being grounded properly, crackling and popping sounds from a dirty record, a worn-out belt, or a damaged stylus.
In contrast, there are some issues that are so extreme that the record player might not be worth trying to save. For instance, if the entire base is unstable or deformed, it would take extensive effort and perhaps expensive custom work to fix this.
Also, if your motor is running at an inconsistent speed or not running at all, it may need to be completely replaced, rather than simply repaired. And since the motor is the core of the turntable, it may make more sense to just replace the entire turntable.
Some problems such as worn wires or loose connections can be temporarily fixed at home by cutting, stripping, and reconnecting newer wires, but they require experience in electronics. You would also need some tools that many households do not have lying around, like a soldering iron, wire cutters, a multimeter, and more.
So, unless electronics are your forte, we recommend taking your turntable in for proper repairs if you are struggling with wires and connection issues.
Now that we have cleared up what you can and can’t easily repair on your own, we can move on to all the different DIY fixes for several problems you may face. Let’s get into it!
If you’ve just popped a record onto your turntable, you’ve probably expected to hear the amazing symphony of music blaring through your speakers or headphones. But what if all you get is a soft hum, even when you turn the volume up to its max? This is an issue that doesn’t always involve something being physically broken but it is a problem that needs fixing.
Often, this is an issue related to an incorrect setup. As you probably know, your turntable needs a preamp, an amplifier and speakers to bring everything together to play music. If you’re missing any one of those, you’ll run into issues, like low volume.
Firstly, check that you have connected an amplifier. Typically, this is integrated into a set of active speakers but if you are using passive speakers, you’ll need to connect them to something that amplifies and powers those speakers, like a receiver.
If you are sure that your speaker setup is being powered correctly and indeed includes an amplifier, you can move on to checking your preamp. Some turntables include a preamp, meaning that all you need to do is turn it on by making sure the preamp switch is set to “line” and not “phono”.
However, turntables that do not have a preamp need to be connected to a standalone preamp before connecting to the amplifier and speakers. If this is the case, you need to ensure that your preamp is connected to a power source. Also, note that some receivers include a preamp which would mean that you don’t need to worry about connecting a separate preamp.
The last thing to check is your connections. Inspect your RCA cables for any damage and make sure that everything is plugged in securely.
So you’ve plugged everything in and sorted out your audio setup but you’re hit with a ghastly buzzing sound? Don’t worry, you haven’t teleported into a beehive, you just haven’t connected to the ground.
Fix this by attaching a ground wire from the turntable to your receiver’s ground port, which usually has a symbol that looks like an upside-down rake.
Alternatively, the ground connection port or screw will be clearly labeled as ground (GND). If your turntable has a built-in preamp, it is already grounded and you can kick your feet up and relax.
Some people may think that the classic crackling sound associated with a record player is normal and just part of the listening experience, but this is simply not true. If everything is set up correctly and your records are in good condition, you should be getting a clear playback.
The popping sounds are characteristic of a record in need of some tender love and care. Dirty records can produce this type of result because the dust and dirt interfere with the stylus and mess with the output signal. Static is also a major issue and can cause that vintage sound.
This can be fixed by simply giving your records a good clean. Especially if you’re living in a dry environment that is prone to static electricity, we highly recommend an anti-static record cleaning brush. See How To Clean Vinyl Records Safely & Without Damaging Them for more cleaning tips.
As you use your record player, it’s only natural that some of the parts will deteriorate. One of these is the belt that facilitates the rotation of the platter. After some time, the belt becomes loose and starts slipping, resulting in the speed increasing. This gives a strange tone to the music and can definitely sound a bit off.
When you experience this, you should replace the belt by removing the old one and installing a new one. Make sure that you check the specifications for your turntable so that you buy the correct belt since different designs require different belt lengths and widths.
Firstly, unplug your record player from the power source. Typically, replacing the belt can be done by first removing the platter mat to expose the platter. From there, you can gently lift up the platter to reveal the belt and motor setup.
Rest the platter upside down on a flat surface for now. You should find the belt either hooked around the motor pulley or lying loosely underneath the platter if it has slipped off. Remove this old belt and give the surface a gentle clean since you’re there already.
Then you can take a new belt and wrap it around the lip on the underside of the platter. Hook your finger inside the belt (through one of the holes in the platter) to pull it taught around the lip, and flip the platter back to its original orientation with the top facing up, hovering above the base.
While keeping the belt taught, slip the belt around the motor pulley, where your finger was just pulling it tight around the platter.
It should all slip into place as you lower the whole platter and new belt onto the base, making sure that the center hole is lined up with the spindle.
And there you have it! This belt replacement is something that you usually need to do every 3-5 years unless something abnormal occurs. And learning how to do it yourself each time will save you both money and the effort of transporting it to a record store for help.
If you’ve got a few years out of your record player, you may need to look out for a worn-out stylus. This can sound like there are some scratchy or hissing noises present or a distortion of the sound. Listen out for a muffled quality to the music or a drop in clarity of each note, as if the highs and lows are missing their punchiness.
You can also visually inspect your needle for any unusual edges or bends. However, these are difficult to spot with the naked eye and may require a magnifying glass to see the damage.
Whether it’s something you notice visually or audibly, you should replace the stylus immediately. Continuing to use a damaged stylus poses a huge risk to your records, which no one wants. In some cases, the stylus can only be replaced by replacing the entire cartridge but you will need to check this for your specific setup.
Once you have sourced your new stylus, you need to carefully remove the old one from the cartridge and install the new one. This is easier to do if you first remove the headshell but unfortunately, not all designs allow for that.
Whether the headshell has been removed from the tonearm or is still attached, carefully pull on the stylus to unclip it from your cartridge and then snap the new one into place.
If you are doing this with the headshell still attached to the tonearm, take extra care so that you don’t twist or damage the tonearm in the process.
If your stylus cannot be removed from the cartridge, you will need to unscrew and remove the cartridge from the cartridge carrier or headshell by very gently unclipping the headshell wires from the pins on the cartridge. You can then delicately re-attach the headshell wires to the new cartridge using tweezers.
These wires are usually color-coded to match the cartridge pins so that you can connect the correct wires to each pin. Then partially screw the cartridge back onto the headshell but do not fully tighten the screws yet.
Then re-attach the headshell to the tonearm, if it was detached at the beginning. Before you secure the cartridge into place by tightening the screws, you need to properly align the stylus using a paper protractor or whichever method is specified for that model.
Once you have installed the new stylus or cartridge, aligned everything correctly and tightened the screws, you should proceed by checking your tracking force and anti-skate settings. And that’s it, folks!
Even if you take great care of your record player, every setup will need some repairs or replacements at some point since parts like the stylus and the belt naturally wear out over time. Certainly, you can take your system in for repairs at your local record store but this isn’t always necessary.
If you are experiencing issues like a low volume, buzzing background noises, crackling and popping sounds, abnormal tones from a speed inconsistency, or distorted audio from a damaged stylus, you can learn to fix these problems yourself with a few easy DIY fixes. Your wallet will surely thank you for doing it yourself!
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Simon is a music lover, musical instrument player and passionate audio afficionado. When he is not playing the guitar or listening to music he is either eating tacos or snoring too loudly.