Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Vinyl is unfairly referred to as inferior to digital playback due to its mechanical nature, which many site as a source of noise. This seems to deter some from pursuing vinyl as a modern, viable high resolution source. Well maintained records can be so silent that the listener would be fooled into thinking they were listening to a CD. You only need to hear a record on a quality turntable in a decent hi-fi system to appreciate just how good vinyl reproduction can be.
There are a few instances when noise will be produced:
low quality pressing
These are few and far between, but new copies can usually be replaced or refunded by the retailer. Some may just need a clean.
badly maintained records
The “clicks and pops” that most refer to as vinyl noise are produced by dust and scratches. This can be a by-product of buying older, used vinyl, but it is surprising just how much that can be reduced by using a record cleaning machine. These may not seem cheap on the face of things (around £300 upwards), but in the long term, they can represent great value for money, particularly for larger collections.
Regardless of how good your system is, it’s ability to reproduce the information in the groove will all be down to this one, tiny component. Replaced regularly, this will ensure the best sound quality from your records, and also keep them in better condition over a longer period of time.
incorrect turntable setup
This is an aspect that will govern the overall sound quality of the entire system. A badly set up turntable will produce distortion and unwanted noise due to bad cartridge alignment or incorrect weight or bias set up. There are very handy videos on YouTube on how to properly set up a turntable, and also a number of useful accessories to make this easier.
low quality turntable
A poorly designed turntable (Crosley, for example) produces unwanted background noise that shouldn’t be present when playing records. Your local hi-fi dealer can demonstrate a good quality turntable to you, and show you just how good it can sound.
So don’t be put off by the negativity of those who haven’t heard a high quality modern turntable. Decide how important analogue reproduction is to you, pop into your local dealer, and have a listen to a few turntables to see what fits your criteria. Look after your stylus and records for a lifetime of enjoyment.
davidf @ the little audio company