Record Players - How Do They Work?
March 1, 2015 7:18 AM   Subscribe

My Crosley Cruiser skips on just a few records - hope me?

I've been wanting to get into vinyl for a while now, and finding myself with a bit of disposable cash last summer, pulled the trigger on a Crosley Cruiser. It seemed like a decent, beginner-level player that I could use to ease myself into things. (Lately I've found a number of reviews online that suggest it can do a fair bit of damage, though.)

Well, I really love having it, and it's mostly been absolutely great. However, on a couple of new albums I've picked up, and possibly one or two older records I got cheap from vintage shops, it skips like a baby lamb. Talking to one of the guys at a record store I frequent, he seemed to think I needed to rebalance the arm, which I can't do with a Crosley. This question seems to suggest that maybe it's just the needle though.

Obviously, you're not here to look at the thing, but can you suggest anything I should try to fix it? Or is it time to get a bit more serious with my audio technology? Thanks in advance!
posted by wandering steve to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it skipping in the same place on the same records? If yes, then the problem is the records themselves are probably scratched.
posted by easily confused at 7:48 AM on March 1, 2015

The new records could be defective and the old ones may be scratched. Or, they could be great-sounding records with heavily modulated grooves that can be tracked properly with a good turntable and cartridge, but those grooves are being damaged by your Crosley. Those players are hard on your records. If you keep collecting you'll find you've spent way more money on records than on equipment. Protecting that investment will (IMO) require upgrading your playback gear.
posted by in278s at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2015

Ah, I should have noted that the records are not scratched - that was the first thing I checked.
posted by wandering steve at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2015

i have a crosley and i've pretty much stopped listening to my (rather sizable) record collection for now because it really does damage the records. hopefully i'll be getting a better turntable soonish.

i have a couple of records that play like skipping rocks (needle basically glides over the top of the record in a much shorter time than it is supposed to take) and those are generally shitty pressings that don't have deep enough grooves - that, combined with my sadly crappy record player means that the needle just can't settle into the grooves.
posted by nadawi at 1:00 PM on March 1, 2015

Since it has built-in speakers, the sound volume could very well be vibrating the needle out of the grooves. Does this happen mostly during loud-ish or energetic sections of music?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:43 PM on March 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Truthfully, I'd just get a better turntable or go back to digital. You aren't gaining any audio value from vinyl with that thing. It's a novelty machine.

Good turntables have adjustable tracking and would never have built in speakers. It's basic to the medium as a high fidelity platform. Different kinds of records and cartridges require adjustments.
posted by spitbull at 2:18 PM on March 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

In other words even when it's not skipping it isn't producing accurate playback if it is skipping at all and the fault isn't in the discs.
posted by spitbull at 2:20 PM on March 1, 2015

You might try taping a penny to the top of the arm over the needle. That's what we used to do years ago when a record player skipped.
posted by aryma at 2:25 PM on March 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yes, taping a penny on top of the headshell might help. Often was done with turntables (eg: Technics SL-1200) while spinning records/scratching/DJing/etc. I'm not familiar with your turntable, but it doesn't look like it's got anything like an adjustable tonearm weight.

Problem with doing this is that you'd be wearing everything out with the increased force: your records will suffer and your cartridge/stylus (needle). You'll undoubtedly ruin your records with time (and it won't take many plays to do so).

Unfortunately and generally, lower-end turntables don't allow you to make many of the adjustments needed to play records with minimum wear with good sound, and they tend to track heavy to avoid skipping anyway.

On the flip side, one can go bananas with higher-end turntables when it comes to balancing tonearms, aligning cartridges, etc. I know it's driven me crazy in the past.

So think about the whole cost/time:benefit ratio. Most new records come with download codes for mp3s, many older records can be found on the cheap, and shoot, knowing that every play wears any record out regardless of what turntable/cartridge you use leads me leaning toward this: screw it. Tape a penny on the headshell. If it works, awesome! Sit back, and enjoy listening to your albums!
posted by herrdoktor at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2015

The reason this is jumping on some records and not others is that it is failing to track the grooves of that particular music, it could be that the deck is not level, the calibration of the arm is wrong (weight/anti skate) or that the weight/inertia of the arm is just not up to the job. You may also find that placing the unit onto a sturdy level surface helps.

Old record players with that kind of design (such as the Dansette) hail from the 1950s when most records sold were still mono. Getting a tone-arm to track a stereo record is a much more demanding technical challenge that requires some precise engineering. By the late 1960's when stereo was ubiquitous, all the old manufacturers had gone bust and been replaced with Japanese record players, with separate stereo speakers.

The fact that it is jumping on some new records means that it is not tracking well.
A record player that doesn't track well, will damage every record you play on it, this may not be obvious until you play them on a better system.

This is also one of the reasons why 1960's era vinyl in good condition can be so rare and expensive - most of it was destroyed by primitive early record players.
posted by Lanark at 1:30 AM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can buy decent adjustable turntables for the price of a Crosley. I just looked that machine up and was taken aback by what they charge. Of course you'd then need a decent amp with a phono stage preamp and good speakers.

There is a reason audio went digital and I don't understand the appeal of vinyl as a hip thing. As a musician, DJ, and an audio nut now over 50, I grew up adjusting tracking and anti-skate, weighing tonearms, swapping cartridges for different musical genres, and carting around hundreds of pounds of LPs.

Digital music is awesome! And I am of the firm opinion that most people who think analog or LPs specifically sound "better" cannot in fact hear any real difference or have been accustomed to shitty digital formats and gear.

The point at which an LP approaches the straight up noise-free fidelity of a quality digital encoding over a good DAC and amp and speakers is vanishingly remote and very expensive to achieve.

Otherwise you're saying you like your music noisier with more pitch variability and a lot more physical effort and much more fragile media.

For the "LPs sound better" argument to even have a shot we are talking about pristine discs played back on $200+ turntables (with $100+ cartridges), based on what's currently out there in consumer audio land. Even then you're coming from way behind an iPod or a CD player in terms of raw numerically describable aspects of fidelity.

A cheap turntable produces so much distortion and noise that really, if you like the sound, you're saying you like noisier and more distorted sound. No shame in that, a lot of people do. But you can just re-encode your mp3s at 128kbs for that and spare your back and wallet from the misery of being a record collector.

Unless you are a DJ or like the sociability of the vinyl crowd (and hey, they're my peeps too!), do realize most of them are talking out their asses about a naked emperor. Vinyl sounds "better" over a $1000 system than a crap MP3 sounds over cheap earbuds and a phone DAC, but spend the same money on digital as you would on analog gear and there is no real contest for absolute, measurable fidelity.
posted by spitbull at 4:17 AM on March 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Otherwise you're saying you like your music noisier with more pitch variability and a lot more physical effort and much more fragile media.

well...yes. there's a reason bands like portishead mix record pops and hisses into their music. some people enjoy what records sound like, in all their imperfect glory. sure digital is easier and usually cleaner, but there's something about listening to vinyl that makes the music listening the focal activity instead of the afterthought or background.
posted by nadawi at 5:06 AM on March 2, 2015

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