“I’ve been in the business 30 years and right now vinyl is having a renaissance”. Those words belong to Jerry Krawczyk, the manager of Nottingham hi-fi shop Castle Sound and Vision and it speaks volumes. Sales of both turntables and vinyl are on the rise as a new market in the younger generations emerges. With many newcomers opening their eyes to the classic analogue format, we’ve broken down the key facts for those not knowing where to start.
Knowing your turntable: The essentials
While each turntable will have their minute differences, the vast majority will feature the same crucial parts that all first-time users should become familiar with; below are those very elements.
- RPM switch – This button changes the rate at which your vinyl spins. Most 12″ records will spin at 33rpm and most 7″ singles will do so at 45rpm but always check the disc itself to see which speed it requires as some 12″ vinyl will require the faster 45rpm setting.
- Size selector – A simple switch that must be changed according to the size of your vinyl (i.e. a 12″ album or a 7″ single), this informs the mechanism of where the needle should first be placed when it drops.
- Cartridge – Sitting on the end of the tonearm, the cartridge is one of the most vital elements. It holds the needle and is therefore responsible for reading the grooves on the vinyl’s surface and transmitting these patterns into the sound that leaves your speakers.
- Queuing lever – A handy tool that can be used to suspend the tonearm just above the vinyl as it spins; allowing you to effectively pause and even skip ahead or return to a track by simply moving the cartridge back and forth as it’s in the air.
- Anti-skate dial – One of the most important instruments of your turntable. All tonearms will have a natural inclination to be pulled inwards towards the centre of the vinyl, the anti-skate counteracts this force by reeling it in slightly to avoid the needle from skipping across the grooves under its own force. The dial allows you to adjust this counter-acting force and is usually set to the same value as your cartridge’s tracking force (something that each turntable’s manual would reveal).
- Counterweight – Keeping the tonearm at the optimum angle (and preventing your needle from carving up your records) is the counterweight. It ensures that the needle is not putting too much force on the grooves, wearing them out, and must be set up carefully as per your turntables instructions.
- Vinyl – This one’s simply in here to make sure your paying attention.
Keeping your vinyl safe
Keeping the records themselves safe is a no brainer but not everyone would guess that how you store your vinyl would make such a difference. Mr Krawczyk from Castle Sound and Vision said: “Storage of vinyl is key and you should always stack them vertically. A proper record box would be ideal where the dimensions have been made to fit their size to keep them snug.”
The 60-year-old from Mansfield added: “Generally speaking records don’t like central heating as it creates a store of static between the records so placing a bowl of water nearby or anything to add moisture to the air will help eliminate it. Try to avoid exposing them to excessive heat, too, as this can warp the records entirely.”
Keeping your vinyl clean
Dust, static, dirt; the banes of all vinyl. If you’ve ever noticed your records sounding like an excited bowl of rice krispies, then you’re probably facing a build-up of one of the three so you should always be well equipped to give those grooves a clean.
Mr Krawczyk recommends a carbon fibre brush, saying: “Unlike the pads you can pick up, the carbon fibre bristles will actually go into the groove of the record to reach any dirt or debris”.
Another alternative would be cleaning liquid. As you see in the gif below, small amounts of cleaner can be applied to a microfibre cloth and very gently ran over the spinning vinyl, being careful not to press down and damage the motor. Whichever method you choose, a regular cleaning routine is a surefire way to keep your records spinning grime-free.
If you follow all of the above and ensure you know your turntable inside and out then your place among the vinyl revolution will be well and truly secure.