The sound of a record player skipping is the worst. It’s distracting and can ruin an otherwise great experience. Skips are frustrating, but they don’t have to be permanent. In this guide, we help you diagnose why your records skip so you can fix them quickly and easily. We’ll show you how to troubleshoot problems with your turntable or records so that you never have another skip again!
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Table of contents:
- Troubleshooting the issue
- Record-related issues
- Record player-related issues
- Other FAQs
Troubleshooting the issue
The source of record skipping is usually found in two main areas: the individual record itself or the record player/ turntable.
We suggest testing a few different records to determine if the problem is just with your record, or the entire player. From there, follow the steps below to further diagnose and fix the problem.
Record-related issues that cause skipping
If you’ve determined that your record is skipping because of an issue with an individual record rather than the entire system, here are some common causes and how to fix them:
Issue: Record warps
Records that are warped have a very low chance of playing smoothly. While a slight warp can usually be compensated for, anything noticeable by the eye will usually cause your needle to hop grooves, thus causing a noticeable skip to be heard.
Why do vinyl records warp?
Vinyl can become warped for a variety of reasons, but most come down to improper care. Here are a few tips to prevent warped records:
- Don’t expose your records to warmer temperatures for prolonged periods of time.
- Properly store records upright without excessively stuffed shelves.
- Don’t stack records on top of one another.
If you have a vinyl record that’s warped, there are a few methods you can try to flatten it. This is obviously dependent on the severity of the warp.
Please note that not all records will be able to be repaired. However, some of these solutions can help mitigate skips while playing.
The “book method”
The “book method” involves placing your record between two large, heavy books. Textbooks, dictionaries, or heavy family photo albums are all good candidates for this.
The record should be placed in its sleeve between these books for multiple weeks in order to adequately flatten the warps.
We suggest checking and testing the record weekly until the record skipping ceases.
Record weight stabilizer
If you’re not wanting to wait, there are dedicated devices called record weight stabilizers that apply pressure to records to keep them flat and prevent jumps and bumps. This isn’t a sure-fire way to fix the issue, but if the warp is small enough it could be the difference-maker.
Issue: Dust and debris in the record grooves
Dust and dirt can get stuck within the grooves of a record very easily. Especially if the record is older, this could be the reason your record is skipping.
Give your record a visual inspection with a magnifying glass. Sometimes, it’s very obvious that the record has excessive dust trapped in its grooves; other times it might not be so obvious. Either way, it’s a good idea to practice consistent record cleaning.
The obvious solution here is to clean your record. There are a few ways to go about record cleaning – we’ll outline our suggestions below:
DIY record cleaning
While we highly recommend using a dedicated record cleaning solution and kit to prevent further damage, however, records can be cleaned in a pinch with a few household items.
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Distilled water
- A microfiber towel
- Spray bottle
Mix together 1/4 isopropyl alcohol to every 3/4 distilled water in a spray bottle and shake to mix the solution together.
Then, place the record on a clean surface. Spray the solution and try to keep the center label as dry as possible.
Wait 30 seconds for the solution to soak into the record grooves and then take your microfiber cloth and carefully wipe the record in a clockwise motion.
Repeat for the other side and then carefully wipe the record down with 100% distilled water and let dry.
Record cleaning kit
If you have multiple records that need cleaning, it would be wise to invest in a record cleaning kit. These kits come with a record cleaning solution, a brush, and other items to maintain and clean your needle and system.
Issue: Record Static
Static electricity can plague records and cause pops and skips during playback. Luckily, it’s one of the easier problems to address and means there isn’t any physical damage done to the vinyl itself.
There are a few different solutions that work to reduce static on records.
An anti-static carbon fiber brush should be in every vinyl lover’s possession. It’s so easy to reduce static by quickly brushing records for a couple of seconds before playing music.
Anti-static record sleeves
Anti-static record sleeves help reduce static electricity build-up while storing records and as well as when they’re removed or placed back in their sleeves.
Acrylic platter mats
Issue: Record Scrapes and Scratches
Unfortunately, if a record is scratched deep enough to cause the needle to skip, it’s likely beyond reasonable repair. We recommend either playing it as-is or purchasing a new record.
There is however a potential solution…
The solution (not recommended)
Victrola has a guide on using epoxy or wood glue on the surface of the damaged record to attempt to fill in the scratch. While some have seen moderate success with this, we do not recommend this.
You might be thinking “if the record is damaged anyway, who cares if it gets ruined further?” Our primary reasoning in suggesting avoidance of this method is damage to your system’s stylus or cartridge – not the record itself.
Needles are not made to ride on top of glue or epoxy and will build up on the stylus, thus affecting overall sound quality and likely permanently damaging your needle.
Record player-related issues that cause skipping
If you’re experiencing record skipping on multiple records, it’s likely your record player or turntable that’s the issue, not the records themselves. Here are some common causes and fixes.
Issue: Improper turntable settings
While not applicable for record players, turntables have a variety of settings that need to be properly calibrated in order to avoid record skipping. If any of these parameters are off, it can cause issues with sound quality and skipping.
As mentioned, there are multiple factors that could cause your turntable to skip. Here are the adjustments that should be calibrated to ensure proper playback:
Turntable tracking force
Tracking force is the weight that your stylus presses on a record when playing. If the tracking force weight is too low, record skipping can occur. If too high, excessive wear to both your record and stylus can result.
Tracking force can be set by adjusting your turntable’s counterweight to the proper specifications outlined by your cartridge manufacturer. You can also use a turntable stylus scale to gauge and fine-tune the tracking force.
Similar to tracking force, ensure your turntable anti-skating setting is properly set. We have a detailed guide on how to do this here.
Issue: Dirty Stylus
With consistent use, the stylus on your turntable or record player will eventually start to accumulate dirt and dust. It’s a fairly easy fix to address and can be cleaned in a matter of seconds.
There are a couple of ways to properly remove dust from a stylus. We’ve outlined these methods in our How to Clean a Turntable Needle guide.
Depending on where your turntable or record player is set up, it could be susceptible to unnecessary vibrations that cause skipping. There are a few ways to address this issue.
Consider what’s making the vibrations
Consider the room in which your vinyl setup is placed. Is it sharing a wall with the laundry room where the washer might cause skipping? Maybe it’s in a heavily trafficked area of the home where people are constantly walking by?
Adjusting your setup to your environment is the best way to mitigate this. We have an entire guide on turntable isolation here.
If all else fails, buy an isolation platform
There are isolation devices made with sound-absorbing feet that mitigate vibrations passed up to your turntable.
Issue: Uneven surfaces
If your turntable is placed on an uneven surface, it’s only going to amplify any sort of minor issue with the vinyl record or the player itself.
Use a level to make sure your turntable is on a flat, even surface and not leaning too much in one direction.
Other record skipping FAQs
You may still have a couple of questions about why your records skip. Here are some frequently asked questions we’ve noticed:
Why does my record keep skipping in the same spot?
Records often skip in the same spot due to damage on the grooves. A scratch on a record likely covers multiple grooves. This means that whenever the needle passes over that area, an audible skip will be heard. This will continue until the scratch stops or becomes shallow enough for the needle to ride over it.
Do cheaper record players skip more often?
In general, yes. Cheaper record players skip more often due to 3 main factors:
- Smaller platter size
- Lighter cartridges
- Lack of tracking force settings
Simply put, cheaper record players lack many of the key features that prevent records from skipping.
At this point, you should be able to determine why your records skip and how to fix it. A skipping record is a very broad subject, but it often comes down to proper maintenance of both your turntable and the vinyl records themselves.