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Do Portable Record Players Ruin Vinyl Records?

Although they never truly went out of fashion, it’s clear to see that record players have somewhat made a “comeback” over the past few years. Nowadays, most generations are opting for a vinyl collection and record player set-up over speakers!

While it’s great to see so many different age groups jumping on the record player trend, higher demand brings mass production. And, unfortunately, mass production often leads to poor-quality products.

More manufacturers than ever before are churning out cheap turntables as an easy way to make money. Their low prices attract large audiences, but more times than not, the quality of the sound suffices. We’re here to answer the burning question, “Do portable record players ruin vinyl records?”.

Can cheap turntables ruin vinyl?

To put it simply – yes, cheap turntables can ruin your vinyl records. While this won’t be the case for every model out there, the risk certainly does increase if the turntable has been made with cheap materials.

How do cheap record players ruin records?

We’re not here to put you off, portable record players. If you do your research and keep the following areas in mind, there will be nothing stopping you from having a great experience! However, here are some of the main reasons as to why cheap record players ruin vinyl records…

1. Unstable tonearm

If you know how record players work, you’ll understand that the tonearm plays an incredibly important role. A tonearm allows you to gently move and lower the needle onto a record, which then sits in the grooves and plays your music.

With cheaply made portable record players, the tonearm is often made from clunky plastic. They rarely have an adjustable counterweight either, meaning the needle will wear down your records after very few plays. More on that in the next point!

2. Poor counterweight

The counterweight balances the tonearm, ensuring that no heavy pressure comes down onto your record. If a counterweight is set correctly, even the flimsiest of records will last for hundreds of plays. If the counterweight is made poorly, however, your beloved records will get scratched in an instant.

As a general rule of thumb, the tracking weight should weigh between 1 and 2 grams. If possible, check this before buying the record player.

3. Small platter

Due to mass production and convenience, a lot of cheap record players are made far too small. However, this is a big error. If the platter of a record player is too small, the record will hang off and cause inaccuracies with the tonearm. As a result, the record might bend while spinning, resulting in poor sound quality and permanent damage.

4. Speakers

Once again, to add to convenience and appeal, a lot of cheap record players have built-in speakers. While this does make life easier, built-in speakers provide a surefire way to dampen the sound quality. This is because the speakers make too many vibrations, increasing the amount of friction between the needle and the grooves on your vinyl record.

5. Wrong sized stylus

If you wish to know how to use a record player, it’s worth understanding what “rpm” means. To put it simply, “rpm” stands for revolutions per minute. It refers to how many times the record will go round per minute.

Most high-quality turntables work at 33rpm or 78rpm, as this is when the audio will sound its best. However, in portable and cheap record players, the stylus is often too small or too large to support this. While this decision would have come down to manufacturing costs, it’ll completely ruin your records and audio quality.

6. No anti-skate

Anti-skate prevents the record player’s stylus from drifting away from its designated grooves. This is important because if the stylus was to slip, it could potentially scratch your records and destroy the sound. Sadly, due to being an extra feature, a lot of portable record players don’t have anti-skate. Trust us when we say you’ll be able to tell the difference!

Is this the case for all portable record players?

While the above features are quite common for portable and cheap record players, we promise that this isn’t the case for all of them. A lot of cheaper record players are made to the highest quality; you just have to know where to find them!

Try out our list of cool record player inspirations here!

Alex, a dedicated vinyl collector and pop culture aficionado, writes about vinyl, record players, and home music experiences for Upbeat Geek. Her musical roots run deep, influenced by a rock-loving family and early guitar playing. When not immersed in music and vinyl discoveries, Alex channels her creativity into her jewelry business, embodying her passion for the subjects she writes about vinyl, record players, and home.

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