Old record player skips with new records
March 22, 2013 9:42 PM   Subscribe

I have a Califone 1450K record player. It plays older records beautifully, but it skips around on a few newer ones. Why?

So first, I realize that a lot of hardcore audiophiles wouldn't touch this turntable with a ten-foot pole. I'm reluctant to post this question, as I'm sure someone will scoff at it and tell me that it will ruin all my records. For what it's worth, I know. I have no pretense of being a serious collector. I got it on a lark about three months ago, and generally speaking, I have a lot of fun with it.

But here's the thing that's driving me crazy. It skips around on a few of my newer records - like, two or three specific records, all of which I got brand new. My other newer ones (stereo and mono) and all of my older ones (stereo and mono) play fine.

Googling around, I see that it might have something to do with the tonearm pressure. I learned how to adjust it here. There are five different notches. (Let's call the loosest 1 and the tightest 5). The spring had been on 4. I moved it to 5, which seemed maybe just slightly better. So I moved it to 3, which seemed about the same as 5. But it seems like whatever the underlying problem is, it's still there.

Any ideas? Thanks a lot.
posted by roll truck roll to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are two parts to this - anti skating and tone arm pressure. the tone arm should be balanced to zero - it floats, then adjusted to 3 (plus 3 grams).

There may also be an anti skating adjustment, which pulls the tone arm left or right in conjunction with the angle the tonarm has with the grooves.

Here's the best arcile I found in a quick search.

Quick test - when you put a penny (1.7 grams) on top of the head, does it stop skipping?

Also, is your turntable near your speakers? Is your modern music outputting more bass? That can make things skip, too, if your turntable isn't isolated from the sound of your speakers.
posted by bensherman at 9:58 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cool record player!

My guess would be not just tonearm weight but anti-skate -- the force that keeps the stylus from pushing sideways inward or outward. On a proper stereo-system turntable, this will be adjustable; the usual quick'n'dirty way to check it is to lift the tonearm up with the cuing lever and let it down again -- it should land in the same place. It doesn't look like that machine has either a cuing lever OR an antiskate adjustment, so I dunno.
posted by Fnarf at 10:00 PM on March 22, 2013

And I typed all of that up before I looked at your turntable.

Um, you are kind of fucked. You can't do anything I said above.
posted by bensherman at 10:01 PM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

First, try it on 1, always try the extremes. Consider that the adjustment may be out of whack, unless you were lucky enough to get it already-serviced. My guess is that the needle isn't heavy enough for contemporary pressings.
posted by rhizome at 10:13 PM on March 22, 2013

Treating your records properly has nothing to do with being a serious collector.
Really, if you want to get enjoyment and any semblance of fidelity out of your records beyond a couple plays, don't use this machine on your records. You could not care about putting oil in your car and drive it until the engine eats itself, but you'd just get less use out of it.

I'm familiar with cheap record players like this one. I was a teenager who didn't care about ruining records, and then I watched my new Ladytron vinyl glaze as the record played- the tone arm was so heavy and the needle so dull.

I suspect it's skipping on new records because the grooves are closer together on new, dense vinyl. Your needle/stylus is too dull and it jumps out of the groove. I would try replacing the stylus at very least, but to be honest this is not the kind of machine you should be letting near anything nicer than Barry Manilow LPs from Goodwill.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:24 PM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your assessment that it does this on some new records may be wrong. It would skip on records that are wavy (new or old). Look from the side while the record is turning.
Possibility 2: some records' grooves are deeper than others. Maybe those "new" records by chance have less deep ones and your stylus isn't kept on track.

[...and I have seen your disclaimer. You are right. To use that machine may be a lot of fun, generally speaking, and it will eventually ruin your collection.]
posted by Namlit at 1:02 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would try a new stylus. The people complaining about it being dull are probably right.
posted by gjc at 2:51 AM on March 23, 2013

I have a little portable record player like this, and have done a lot of research on these.

This one is junk. It's from the era when they stopped caring about making them with any quality. The good ones had a metal tone arm and head shell, these ones are all plastic. They started really phoning it in in the mid-late 70s and early 80s before they just quit making them.

There's no way to adjust the tracking force or anything that could be causing this problem, and the needle/cartridge is proprietary and not worth replacing.

I'm trying my hardest not to just come off as some "audiophile dick" here, but this really isn't something to play new records with. I keep mine around for playing old 45s and 78s, and occasionally a 60s record. It's very bad for stereo records to play them with a mono needle ok a table like this, and also bad if the tracking is screwed up(and un adjustable, so it probably tracked WAYYY too hard in the first place).

One of those $30 or so dollar USB equipped numark/ion turntables would be way better even. And I regularly see decent technics(and other good brands) turntables at thrift stores for cheap. I honestly think you should just retire this thing.
posted by emptythought at 11:29 AM on March 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, with that model it's not going to be possible to adjust anti-skate or any of that good stuff, either by replacing a cartridge or any other means. I have an old 50's vacuum tube record player that looks cool and pretty much destroys any record, so I know stuff like that can be fun to mess around with. No big deal if you're hunting for old used records that go for $1-3 a pop.

But if you do want something to play new records along with better functionality and sound, you should know that you don't have to pay a lot for something decent. Old Technics SL-BD models from the 80s can be had on ebay in solid condition for less than $50. Audio Technica makes some new ones that aren't bad like the AT-LP60 that start at under $70 on amazon.

I would personally avoid any of the Sony or Numark most USB equipped models as they tend to be shoddily built junk in my opinion.
posted by WhitenoisE at 12:36 PM on March 23, 2013

Oh and if you don't have a phono-preamp (either separate or integrated into your amplifier) then go with the Audio Technica as they have built-in preamps that are by-passable.
posted by WhitenoisE at 12:41 PM on March 23, 2013

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