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8 tips for getting better sound from your turntable

How to improve your vinyl listening experience

Buying a great turntable is the most important decision you can make when creating a sweet-sounding analog stereo system. But even the best record player will benefit in a big way from the right setup and accessories.

For starters, I highly recommend watching this video about how to set up a turntable — it's full of helpful tips for getting started off on the right foot.

Some turntable accessories are so essential, you should have them on hand from the first day you start playing records. Others you may decide to add later if you find you're just not quite getting the sound quality you hoped for.

I've come up with 8 tips for improving your turntable sound, starting with the most basic add-ons and getting into more advanced solutions as we go.

1. Keep your records dust-free

When you order your turntable from Crutchfield, order a good record brush, too. You should brush your records each time you play them, period.

Hand cleaning a record a record brush.

A good record brush removes dust and static electricity from records to reduce pops, clicks, and other surface noise.

Brushes are made from soft carbon fiber that can remove loose dust, fibers, hair… all things that tend to settle on any flat surface in our homes. Modern brushes also have a conductive metal piece in the handle that helps draw off static electricity, which also produces audible noise.

When your records aren’t on the platter, keep them scratch-free and safe from dust and static by substituting good record sleeves for the abrasive paper sleeves they often are shipped in.

2. Add a cushy record mat

Shortly after I bought my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable, I added a cork record mat. It decouples the record from the platter, which can transmit rumble from the ‘table’s motor. It also grips the record better for a more consistent speed, and reduces static that can attract dust particles to the record’s surface. It's a relatively small investment that pays big dividends.

3. Reduce unwanted vibrations

The needle on your record player is very sensitive to vibration. That’s what makes it so good at bringing out nuances from a record groove, but it also means your sound can be affected by unwanted vibrations. Fortunately there are a number of relatively simple fixes that help isolate the needle from vibration.

No matter how daintily I try to walk when I’m playing a record, I inevitably tread too heavily and cause a skip that makes my heart drop. Vibration isolators remove that danger, plus any rumble that may be transmitted from amps, speakers or other devices that share a platform with your turntable.

A turntable with feet that reduce vibrations.

A set of four IsoAcoustics vibration isolators can help keep vibrations from footfalls or nearby components from interfering with music listening.

Solid placement on vibration-resistant furniture is also important. Consider placing your 'table on a solid turntable stand, for instance. And I highly recommend a set of speaker stands to help isolate your turntable from sonic vibrations and improve your overall listening experience.

4. Check your cables

Sometimes, a crackling sound from your record player means the cables that connect it to the rest of your gear have frayed connections. Many turntables ship with relatively inexpensive cables that are useful for getting started, but don’t always last as long.

Well-made RCA cables use high-quality materials to improve signal transfer, especially over slightly longer cable runs. Turntables also need to be well-grounded to eliminate a very annoying low-frequency hum that can creep in. If you're experiencing this, a high-quality grounding cable can help.

5. Give your records a deep cleaning

If your playback sounds crackly or muddy even after you use a cleaning brush, your records may need a deeper cleaning. A brush can remove surface detritus, but record grooves can harbor deeper infusions of grease, mold and grime, especially if you haunt the used record shops like I do — you just don’t know what conditions the former owner subjected them to.

A good record cleaning machine that uses specially-formulated cleaning fluid and vacuum suction to really clear out the grooves can make records sound like new, and add years of listening life by keeping them in good shape.

The record cleaner in use.

A Record Doctor cleaning machine can make records — old or new — sound their best by removing packing and shipping debris or worn-in grime from decades of service.

6. Upgrade your cartridge

Your turntable probably shipped with a pretty decent cartridge, but you’ve got plenty of room for improvement. Read our phono cartridge guide to get the full rundown on how this crucial part of your turntable works its magic.

Some turntables have a nut on the tonearm that can be loosened to remove and replace the headshell for a relatively easy cartridge replacement process. If you don’t have this option, you can still replace your cartridge, but it may be a good idea to get help from a professional so you don’t damage the delicate wire leads.

7. Improve your platter

You can also upgrade your platter to a more dense material, but make sure it’s one that’s meant for your turntable — you don’t want a mismatch that could burn out your ‘table’s motor or cause other problems. Many audiophiles go the extra mile to keep records from wobbling or slipping by adding a turntable weight.

8. Invest in a high-quality phono preamp

Most turntables ship with a good phono cartridge pre-installed. But there are more advanced models available, and if you’re considering making an upgrade, a more sophisticated phono preamp makes that possible. A good preamp offers adjustable settings that help you get the most out of a top-notch cartridge.

Preamp.

This phono preamp with vacuum tubes is an excellent upgrade for an audiophile-grade turntable setup.

Some audiophiles prefer the warm, inviting sound of a preamp that uses old-school vacuum tube technology, plus they look pretty cool. And some preamps offer a built-in subsonic filter that eliminates distracting low-frequency “rumble.”

Let us help

Building a great two-channel record playing system is a rewarding experience, but it can be a daunting task to tackle on your own. You want your entire system working in harmony, and our advisors have the knowledge and experience to help you customize your turntable setup. Contact us for a friendly helping hand.

Last updated 9/17/2020

Please share your thoughts below.

  • Brad from Saratoga Springs

    Posted on 10/26/2020

    Wow, it's back to the 70's folks! Agree mostly with your comments, though you shouldn't need a cork mat if your table is belt drive (which damps rumble) and the inertia of the platter will smooth your disc's rotation. Also suggest putting the phono preamp as close to the turntable as possible with short RCA run to the cartridge, then the higher level output to your regular preamp or amp won't be as sensitive. Finally, moving coil cartridges tend to do better on high frequency response since they have less moving mass than moving magnets.

  • Doc

    Posted on 10/11/2020

    Trade out Shure cartridges for Audio-Technica, they track at half the weight so half the wear. If you aren't a downstairs apartment, hang it perfectly level from 4 hooks ( if you are downstairs, use the shock absorbers). Match anti-skate number to the tracking weight and get that strobe dead on. I own an old Kenwood concrete/resin base that was standard for most FM radio stations starting in the mid 70's.

  • Loren Young

    Posted on 10/7/2020

    I have installed quality, gold plated female RCA's on turntables that were supplied with fixed OEM interconnects. My previous Project TT was decent, but the fixed cables were awful sounding and had major grounding issues. Went with some lower end Audioquest cables and was very satisfied.

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/8/2020

    I'm with you, Loren. I know Audioquest does everything they can to reduce noise and shield the cables. I always use their cables when I can.
  • CompusaurusRex from Ballston Spa

    Posted on 10/7/2020

    The best solution for turntable isolation is a 4 strand macramé hanging table. Before I digitized and sold my album collection I had one and another friend also had one. It needs to be suspended by 4 separate macramé strands, not connected at the top. I have seen hanging turntable stand made with 4 strands which connect to a single hook at the top and they are not advisiable; they tend to swing and move when changing albums. Having four separate hooks at the op makes it stable.

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/8/2020

    I must admit I have never seen such a setup, but it sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing!
  • Jim Grigsby from Pendleton

    Posted on 10/1/2020

    One item that is huge is good rumble or sub bass filter notched at about 18 Hz. Stops woofer movement and power from amp being wasted.

  • Jim Grigsby from Pendleton

    Posted on 10/1/2020

    One item that is huge is good rumble or sub bass filter notched at about 18 Hz. Stops woofer movement and power from amp being wasted.

  • Philip J. Zimmer from Greenfield , Wisc.

    Posted on 9/29/2020

    Close The Dust Cover ,When You Play An Album . Many Benefits.

  • Steve from Chicago

    Posted on 9/28/2020

    It's important to clean used records, whether you have a machine or not. Don't skip this for lack of funds. Distilled or filtered water, a splash of 90 percent isopropyl alcohol, soft all cotton towels and you can do a lot of good for your records (and stylus). There are tutorials all over for this...but avoid any that suggest lighter fluid and/or wood glue.

  • Robert Berger from Plano

    Posted on 9/27/2020

    Great reference, Thank you

  • Jeff from NEW ORLEANS

    Posted on 9/26/2020

    Or you could do better for a quarter of the price.

  • Dale from Meriden

    Posted on 9/25/2020

    Mark Levinson Turntables are the very best money can buy and worth every cent. The Mark Levinson No-515 is the cream of the crop and the new Mark Levinson No-5105 is absolutely fantastic at a very affordable price point.