Why is my vinyl record jumping/skipping?

4 mins read

Vinyl records need to be loved and cared for between storage and handling. You may find over time you start to hear records jump, skip and pop. Below we look at why this happens and how to fix it.

Record jumping, skipping and popping

Firstly we want to discuss what jumping, skipping and popping on a record will sound like. Vinyl records have a natural fuzz when the stylus first lands on the record.

What does it sound like when a vinyl record skips?

Whilst the record is playing you’ll here slight crackles which will be audible – If this happens in a similar place on the record, or you notice a few in a row you’ve probably got an issue.

Main reasons for record jumping?

When hearing a record skipping there are a few core factors. Following the steps below you should be able to diagnose and fix the issues seen on your record.

Dust and dirt

Records have grooves, the stylus runs along these grooves making contact with the record. If there is a foreign object on the record in the way of dust or dirt then the stylus breaks contact with the record and causes a skip.

Dust and dirt can make it ways onto a record due to storage, oil from your hands, the room / player itself.

How to solve this?

There are a few ways to remove dust and dirt from a vinyl record. Remember to always be careful when cleaning a record a light touch is needed.

  • Microfibre cloth
  • Record cleaning solution
  • Carbon fibre brush

Always brush in a circular motion and don’t get too close to the centre. If you’re using water or other cleaning products make sure you dry them off correctly and read the instructions.

Damage to the record

Sometimes records, especially if they have been improperly stored, or over played may have wear and tear over time. Vinyl records by nature aren’t the most robust material.

Scratches to the record or warping may cause the record to jump and skip. Unfortunately in these instances scratches aren’t really repairable.

It’s worth giving the record a good clean to see if the issue is something that can be fixed. Otherwise you may need to purchase a replacement record.

The balance to the arm or stylus cartridge

Most commonly you’ll find a simply clean stops the record from skipping. If this happens across a number of different records when playing then you may find the balance is off on the arm or stylus cartridge.

Depending on the record player you own, the process of rebalancing your arm or cartridge may vary. You’ll want to go back to the instruction manual to determine your options, or you may be able to find a YouTube video for your model to help you rebalance the stylus.

Below we look at how you rebalance the Tonearm

How To Balance The Tonearm

Whenever you replace the stylus cartridge you’ll need to rebalance your tonearm. As mentioned above you should refer to the record player instruction manual to find out how to do it for your player.

If this is your first time then you should be patient, this is not something you want to rush.

Below are steps of how to balance the tonearm which will work for most record players.

Steps 1: Set the anti-skate control

There are two variants of this to help identify it. A circle with numbers on it, or a weight plate that rests on the bar, either on or around the arm. Once you’ve found it, set it to zero.

Step 2: Set the yoke

In the middle of the neck of the arm you’ll see a plastic hook or latch, this is the yoke. Unhook it, holding onto the arm so it doesn’t suddenly drop. Slowly lower the arm down and let it rest where it can hang by itself.

Step 3: Level the arm

Find the counter weight at the rear of the arm. Move this long the length of the arm until you find the sweet spot – You’re looking for the arm to hang perfectly level in the ait without any support.

When this happens, tighten the locking nut until the weight stops moving freely, but you can still make micro adjustments.

By locking your turntable’s arm in this position, you ensure it’s held at a tracking weight of 0 grams.

Step 4: Adjust the arm tracking weight dial

If your turntable arm doesn’t have an arm tracking weight dial, you can use a tracking weight gauge to check if you’ve balanced it at zero grams.

The arm tracking weight dial can be found at the back of the arm or attached to the counter-weight you just adjusted, when located, move it to zero.

Step 5: Balance the arm

Check the tracking force of the turntable cartridge you have just loaded. Usually it will be between 1 and 2 grams.

Your tracking weight dial is set to 0 grams, you’ll now need to adjust the counterweight again. This should be moved until you feel the tracking force.

If your counterweight doesn’t have a dial or screw thread, you’re going to have to use a tracking weight gauge. Place the tracking weight gauge on the platter, and then place the stylus on the gauge.

Then, just like you did earlier, move the counterweight backwards and forwards, until the reading on the tracking weight gauge tells you that you have the right weight.

Step 6: Reset the anti-skate control

The arm can now be put back into position. This should be secured with the yoke, then you can set the anti-skate control to the same weight you set for the tracking weight.

This should now be set up perfectly to have enough downward force which stops the arm from skipping the grooves.

Play a record now. If it’s not damaged it should play without skipping.

Record Player Skipping: Final Thoughts

Your go to is a simple clean of the record. We can’t stress enough handing and storage of records is paramount to longevity. Try the steps above, if cleaning and a stylus rebalance doesn’t work we would then imagine the record itself is damaged. If this is the case, treat yourself to a new release, reissue or limited edition run to make up for it.

Music enthusiast with a love for vinyl, gigs and festivals. Here to educate, review, discuss and share the love of music and vinyl records for the next generation.

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