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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.

  • ELLIOT from Los Angeles

    Posted on 6/17/2022

    My turntable already has a built in preamp. If I switched it to the Un amplified setting, and bought a pre amp. Would that sound better? Thanks, Elliot

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 6/20/2022

    Elliot - I do think a dedicated outboard preamp can improve the sound quality from your turntable. Many of them give you the versatility to upgrade your cartridge, which can also give you improved accuracy, warmth, and frequency response. If you get one through us, we can help you hook it up and get the most out of it via free tech support, too. Thanks for the question!
  • John from San Francisco

    Posted on 1/17/2022

    Not sure if you are still commenting on questions but you seem like a good go to guy. I have a Music Hall USB-1 and have gotten the vinyl bug. What is the next step? What to listen for? I am impressed with the depth of music compared to digital. At least old recordings. Still not sure if I prefer digital or analog...but having fun. The rest of the system is fairly mid/high end. The signal would feed to a NAD C165BEE preamp. Then to a Primaluna power amp with about 30 watts out of EL34 tubes. Speakers are Martin Logan Motion 20 and a Martin Logan Dynamo 800x. Decent wiring. I have never used the usb uploading feature so kind of a non item for me. Something logical and good value. Thank you

  • Jon Ingersoll from Erie, PA

    Posted on 7/14/2021

    I set my TT on a 2 1/2" thick block of limestone (60 lbs+), and the block sits on 1" thick closed-cell foam feet.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 7/15/2021

    Jon - That oughta do it! I'll bet the limestone looks pretty cool, too. Thanks for sharing.
  • JoAnn from Omaha, NE

    Posted on 4/30/2021

    I have an HK3390 with a Technics 1200 turntable and CD player. My turntable is noticeably quieter than the CD player. The Turntable does not have a phono preamp, but the HK does have a Phono line-in. Would a separate preamp for the phono (plugged into aux ports on the HK) resolve this problem? Is that approach advisable?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 5/3/2021

    JoAnn - Adding an external phono preamp could very well give you the enhanced volume (and detail) you're seeking. Just make sure you don't plug it into the phono line-in, but choose an unamplified RCA input. Hope this helps!
  • John Saunders from Barnesville,Ga.

    Posted on 1/22/2021

    I have a 78 Techniques Direct Dr. with a strobe and a new Ortofon cartridge. It works really well and sounds as good as it looks. I bought it new. I will go find a cork mat the information you provide it was nice.

  • PaulM

    Posted on 1/14/2021

    If the turntable cables are already installed like on my Audio Technica, how do I replace/upgrade them?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 1/15/2021

    Paul - If they are integrated into the chassis, you can't replace them. You can only really replace them if they're a separate item that plugs into the back of the turntable.
  • Michael Andreas P from Jakarta Selatan

    Posted on 12/30/2020

    I have an 40 years Pioneer PL15 turntable with Shure M55E cartridge. It sound nothing. How to make sure that the cartridge is still working ? I did test cable from cartridge to RCA connector, and they were OK.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/31/2020

    Michael - If you're getting no sound at all, I'd have to guess the wiring is bad somewhere, but it would take some testing to figure out where. I doubt I can diagnose it without looking at it, I'm afraid.
  • Heraldo Galan from Sao Paulo

    Posted on 12/11/2020

    Dear Eric, I'm from Brazil and I have a 40 years old Technics SL D1, since new. It's time to change RCA cables, so I ask if there is something special to look above material and assembling quality. I've heard some talking about low capacitance cables... Could you write something about it? PS: I'm planning to instal female connectors on turntable body for future cable updates.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 12/14/2020

    Heraldo - I mainly look for materials. I like the Audioquest RCA cables, which use more conductive copper and gold as they go up in quality. Audioquest always says their goal is to get out of the way of the music, so you don't even know the cables are there, and they do a great job of it.
  • Filomeno from Waipahu

    Posted on 12/3/2020

    Thank you for additional information

  • Mike Darcy from Detroit

    Posted on 11/1/2020

    Replacing the cartridge with an upgraded version is a good idea. You get both a better sounding cartridge and a brand new stylus (needle). Don't underestimate the installation process. While it is relatedly easy to physically install a cartridge, setting it up properly (adjusting the stylus so it is tangent to the record grooves using a protractor, setting the weight, etc) is CRITICAL to the sound. I would strongly recommend getting this done professionally or by somebody who has the tools and knows how to do this. It makes an huge difference in the sound.

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