Tricks of the Trade: How to Play Old Vinyl Records That Are Prone to Skipping

I have a large number of old vinyl record albums. I also have a turntable that can be used to digitize the sounds coming from the albums. There are a few steps I have done to ensure the best quality of sound is stored on my hard drive. Most of them are fairly standard, but a few are needed to get the cleanest possible recording from some of the albums that were a bit abused long ago. Here are a few of the tips I will pass on to you.

As the album contains the highest quality of sound they were able to produce in the vinyl, it is of vital importance that you use the best possible stylus and phono cartridge you can afford. This will ensure that the least amount of damage is done to your album from the friction generated by the stylus in its groove. To that end, one must be sure to apply the proper amount of tracking and anti skating force for the best outcome.

Even if you have a lower end turntable, you can ans should replace the low end cartridge and stylus that came with it to a higher end model. This change is fairly easy to do and will make a huge difference in the quality of your recording.  

Dust is the most frequent enemy encountered when making a recording from vinyl. It is easily conquered by cleaning the album with an anti static solution prior to placing it on the platter. I generally use canned air prior to dropping the needle into the grove to ensure there is as little dust as possible on the surface. For albums that are very dusty, properly applying and stripping off wood glue can accomplish what most other methods can not. I do not recommend using this method unless you are willing to wait at least 24 hours from the time you apply the glue to the time you strip it off (It is extremely important that you do not get glue on the label of the album).

Ensure the turntable is installed on a surface that is properly isolated from external vibrational forces. Be wary of squeaky floors, uneven tables, etc.

Even with these precautions, some poorly stored albums will sometimes skip. What is one to do in this situation? Here is where water, in the proper amount, can be used to provide the additional amount of inertia to assist the anti skating on the turntable and minimize the stylus propensity to skip. It doesn’t work in all instances, but it tends to help tremendously in most situations I have encountered. 

When recording, be sure to not run any other software on your computer. The interrupts from that software can result in pops and clicks you didn’t expect, and can waste hours of time trying to figure out how they got there.

As with every other type of computer file, your audio files need to be backed up across multiple devices for their safety. To that end, I have 2 different hard drives dedicated to this purpose (three if you also count the storage of the files on the main drive of the computer that has been made via Itunes). Keep in mind that the actual vinyl and compact disc recordings you actually purchased are the only ones that you actually own the right to record into your system legally. Those streaming files you have downloaded, are not owned by you.