How to examine vinyl

What to look for examining a vinyl record – The Vinyl Inspector

We hope the vinyl records we buy will be perfect, but the sad reality is that with the passage of fifty years, passing through the hands of many owners, vinyl has often been handled carelessly, and played on equipment that raised the risk of damage with each play. Probably as many as 80-90% of records sold in the Fifties and Sixties have been filtered out by dealers as unsaleable today. Of the remaining 10-20% in acceptable condiition,  many are still less than perfect.

Unless you are able to afford the massive premium charged for those in near-mint condition (double to treble cost for desirable titles) you will need to make a judgement about vinyl defects, and your personal price-to-condition tolerance.These hints are to help you make that judgement.

Examine the vinyl

View records critically in good natural light or under a strong lamp, tilting to catch reflections which reveal any defects in the vinyl surface. In a shop, ask if you can take the record to the window.

  • The start of the first track on each side is where the first needle drop occurs and where damage is most likely to occur,  clicks, pops,  greasy fingerprints which attract dust and grit. The first four or five revolutions may be worse than the rest of the record, and will benefit most from use of a proper record cleaning machine.
  • You may see a swathe of  scuffs – fine hairline surface scratches – caused by records not being returned to their protective sleeves, and rubbing against other materials. On a heavy pressing (160gm+) these will probably not sound, but on a thin record with a shallow groove cut, occasionally they do.
  • Spindle marks. The area immediately around the spindle hole indicates how frequently the record has been played. Expect a tracery of fine marks left by the listener mounting the record on the spindle. More marks indicates a well-loved record with greater risk of damage from frequent playing.  Marks across the entire width of the label indicates an owner with poor hand to eye co-ordination.

 Needle scratches . Radiogram and record player arms in the 1950’s tracked at 8 gm up to 20 gm (compared to the modern 2 gm or less) and scratched vinyl deep if the tonearm was jogged. Portable record players were particularly problematic. Scratches should be felt with fingertip and/or fingernail. If you can feel it, you will most certainly hear it. If you can’t feel it, it will most likely either be inaudible, or at worst cause a soft repeating pop.

The growth of hobby- hifi in the late Sixties and Seventies, with light weight tone-arms, considerably reduced risk of scratching, but the damage may already have been done by previous owners.

  • Skate marks across the grooves of the record caused by it sliding onto the spindle due to careless handling. Quite common, looks bad,  but most older record player  spindles had a smooth rounded top which bruised the surface of the groove but had no effect on the music engraved on the wall of the groove
  •  “Tramlines“. Scratches in the direction of the groove rather than across it, known as ” The hardest to spot and the most damaging, as they frequently cause a needle stick and permanent repeating groove, requiring manual intervention
  • Groove wear, caused by ancient  heavy tracking arms and/or worn stylus, epically towards the centre of the record. Can be  dificult to detect visually, but you will hear the deterioration and distortion in sound. Some collectors are more averse to groove wear than scratches

  • Warped disc due to improper flat rather than vertical storage, often in proximity to a source of heat
  • Wow and flutter, due to an imperfectly centered spindle hole. Drives some people crazy, others, not so much.
  • Polythene transfer. Patterned moire-reflections on the vinyl surface most noticeable on the vinyl  runout area. Caused by polythene-lined inner sleeves popular in the ’60s  which over time bonded polythene to the vinyl. It is impervious to record cleaning, it is very nasty, and  can transfer plastic contaminant permanently onto your precious stylus-tip, impairing its tracking ability. Any record with polythene transfer should be rejected.
  • Pressing faults, common in American pressings, typified by small bumps in the vinyl surface. Probably the result of imperfectly dry labels during pressing – any moisture converts to steam which impedes perfect vinyl fill.  Mostly these blemishes  don’t affect play, though they can look alarming and, rarely, can cause a needle skip.
  • A stamp on the label or cover indicating property of a Public or College Library, meaning many different listeners and record players – increased risk of play with needle in poor condition. One record I saw had “Property of Camden Library” in large raised letters heat-embossed in the runout, which would immediately damage the first needle to hit it.
  • Radio station copy – Audition and Promo copy can be good news, but some radio station DJs under broadcast pressure had no time to return records to sleeves and it may have received rough handling.

Defects found mainly only by playing:

Continuous surface noise (hiss) due to recycled vinyl having been added into the original vinyl compound. Recycled vinyl contains fragments of paper from labels and other contaminants. The hiss is generated by the stylus striking the detritus and reading it as sound. The hiss will continue between tracks, since it is a property of the vinyl itself. It can vary from just a slight background hiss  to one which is highly intrusive

Adding used vinyl was a known cost-cutting/ profit boosting practice which affected just a few jazz labels – the early ’60s New Jazz label of Prestige is notorious, as was briefly some Prestige pressings. Prestige and New Jazz should always be treated with suspicion. I have not come across it in any other labels. Some dealers feign ignorance – the vinyl may well “look” perfect, and they will say they are not aware of the problem.

Recycled vinyl can be detected visually by careful inspection of the run-out groove area. With regular vinyl, this area is a smooth and shiny reflective surface. If recycled vinyl is present, this area will have a slightly milky quality, though apparently smooth,   thousands of very tiny specks will break up the otherwise reflective nature of the surface

Buyers Caution: “Marks” or “Scratches”?

Having fallen victim to the ambiguous “marks” description (it was over a half inch long audible scratch of about twenty to thirty revs) I recommend challenging any use of the term “marks” . A  “surface mark” may look bad but should not sound or affect play: superficial spindle scuffs, non-injurious falls are common sources of marks and generally harmless.

A needle “scratch” however is a specific type of mark which can be felt with the finger tip or finger nail, will be heard with a prominent click on each rev. A scratched record should not be offered without an unambiguous warning. “Has a couple of marks” is not a good enough description. Duration of scratch may be across the full 20 minutes or just a couple of revs. Always ask. Brief scratches in a busy recording won’t matter much, but through a poignant Bill Evans Trio piece can be very intrusive.

Records graded by only visual inspection

“I am selling this car but I haven’t time to check if it  drives OK. I have just looked at and it looks OK.

Sellers often claim they haven’t the time to play grade and issue a disclaimer that the grading is based on visual inspection only. OK,  my Paypal transfer: you can look at it but you can’t spend it until I have played the record.

Good signs

Test pressing, audition copy, dj copy, or radio station library copy, often stamped on the label or rear of the jacket. Likely to have been played only a small number of times, on professional equipment, by people experienced in handling records, and correctly stored. No guarantee later owners didn’t abuse it, but these desirable copies circulated often only in the collector community, who respected their records.

“Sealed” is no guarantee of virgin-status

lucy_boothThe ultimate tease, pot luck, or mystery gamble. It suggests  no-one in fifty years has played it. Hmmm. Record stores often had equipment to re-cellophane record covers. To be fair, I have recently seen some 60s sealed shrink records purchased in the US from Discogs sellers, and I can attest that not one had ever been played, judged by the complete absence of spindle marks. They were indeed mint. However there had been considerable argument over a Columbia label unseen inside the cover. Was it a six-eye, a two-eye, or a common “Columbia-all-round red? Price difference is may be six-fold, Seller couldn’t say without opening it, which immediately diminished its value. Eventually he relented, and it was the common modern reissue label. Expensive way to find out.

The solution is: “in shrink, opened only to confirm label, guaranteed unplayed“.

Recently I saw someone selling a “Test Pressing – Sealed“. The other “come-on” you see is “storage find“, implying un-played for many decades. Good one, eh? In my opinion, collectors with a fetish for still-sealed records should seek professional help. It’s vinyl. A few imperfections are “normal”.

Don’t be put off vinyl as a result!

Vinyl remains the best  music information storage medium today:  infinitely resolvable analogue. Vintage vinyl – from around 1956 to 1985  – has the best possible musical character available. Analogue end to end, recorded with valve microphones, on magnetic tape, mastered on an analogue lathe, nothing digital in the pathway, and played back through valve-based equipment, it easily outshines digital sources. It  not only avoids digital degradation, it circumvents the most harmful aspect of modern musical delivery, the dilemma of “infinite choice” and the playlist. Put a hand-held device in most peoples hands, and they are incapable of stopping themselves pushing buttons, in the search for something better that they more want to listen to.

 

27 thoughts on “How to examine vinyl

  1. I don’t think sellers should be faulted for not play testing vinyl – Its an imperfect world that often demands compromise in order to be fair to all parties. What seller is going to spend 1 hour listening to a record to then sell for $10? Its not a reasonable request for you to expect the him to work for slave wages. In a used record store, you inspect the vinyl and take your chances. That seems to be the reasonably accepted standard. If the store is reputable, you can return it if it sounds bad – but on your dime… your gas, your time. So equivalency seems to dictate that an online buyer should also be able to return vinyl – also on his dime… i.e. pay the return shipping costs. This is assuming the visual report was accurate.

    • For a $10 record, I don’t think we disagree, however I buy records typically $100 to $200, sometimes more.

      If the record is visually excellent then there is little purpose in play testing. However if it is compromised, scuffs and scratches which have a likelihood of sounding and even potentially a skip or needle stick, I think play-testing is part of proper description.

      It can take 40 minutes to play an LP all the way through, though in most cases it takes only a few minutes to check potential faults. Knowing it crackles during play is an important factor to a buyer in deciding how much to bid, and you can’t tell by looking at it. I am still thinking of $200 + record auctions.

      The few times I have had to return a record, irrespective of postage cost, it has taken me more than the forty minutes to expedite its return, and that is not even a slave wage. I think having the buyer do the playtesting is a waste of everyone’s time, so I respectfully disagree.

  2. Why is the vocal track on some of my old LPs now nearly inaudible? Any explanations, fixes, remedies?

  3. Why is the vocal track on some of my old LPs now nearly inaudible? Ditto for horns as well on some LPs. Very frustrating! I’ve taken perfect care of these records.

    • The speakers could be wired out of phase, if so anything in the center will be cancelled leaving only sounds panned left & right. Double check to make sure the red (+) lead is going from the (+) on amp to the (+) on speaker and same for the black (-) leads on both speakers. if one speaker is wired correctly but the other is (+) to (-) then they will be out of phase.

      • That is a very good guess; but everything IS in-phase, as evidenced by many other recordings that don’t have this issue and the fact that this current rig has been in operation, untouched, for many years. So the real question, crazy as it sounds, is: do vinyl records somehow “go bad”?

        Thanks in advance for your response — I welcome any and all theories.

        • Hmmm, curious indeed. The short answer is no, they don’t go bad, and if damage does occur from a worn/maladjusted stylus it manifests is distortion, not muting of instruments.

          • I have the same problem with my deck[Thorens TD124] most albums play fine but some play with instruments very low in the mix. It is my deck as said records play fine on my other deck and I have checked the amp and speakers which are fine. ??? Seven steps to heaven has sax which is barely audible on 2 tracks and LA Women has missing guitar solos etc. Bizzare. Have wd40 the connectors for the stylus but I am stumped what to do next. Any ideas ?

            • If “most albums play fine”, are those albums mono albums? The way you describe it, there must be something wrong with the wiring, either inside the pickup or elsewhere. With mono records, you probably didn’t notice that one channel wasn’t playing properly. If you have a record with extreme channel separation (such as Seven Steps), the effect becomes evident. There is really no other explanation.

            • Double check to make sure the head shell leads are going to the correct pins on the cartridge:
              Right + RED
              Right – GREEN
              Left + WHITE
              Left – BLUE

  4. I have a collection of original Blondie records that I purchased as a teen. I would buy 2 copies; one to play and one that was never opened. I’ve had them in storage for over 30 years. Since there is no proof that they are original shrink wrap, does this mean they are worth no more than an open record, because it has to be opened to see that it was never played?

    • Resealing LPs was common practice in some quarters, decades ago, but there is no doubt “sealed” adds to value on US Ebay auctions, may be 10 -20%. Whether that holds good for Blondie albums I couldn’t say. Her albums sold in 100,000’s and so are not rare.

  5. Sadly, I can’t make anything work with my Landfill-Special Technics. I think it’s time to cut bait. I have an Audio Technica USB turntable I’ll be using until I can afford the upgrade…unfortunately this model uses an insane amount of tracking force (6 grams maybe? can’t remember…) with a cartridge that can not be separated from the tone arm and therefore can’t be upgraded. I won’t be playing any of my records more than once on this turntable, I have a feeling. Still, it’s nice to hear the music without sibilance or a wavering in speed/pitch…I played my most beat up Blue Note, A New Perspective, on the the ATUSBTT just a minute ago and it still sounded amazing – in some ways better than the Technics, in other ways, like it’s being played on a cheap turntable. For now I’ll hide away my prizes and let them see the light when I feel I’m in a better hi-fi situation. Thanks again for always answering my questions, as compromised as my hi-fi situation has been.

  6. Thanks so much for your reply. I can’t achieve the proper weight with things as they are, so the extra weight is necessary. My plan is to try add coins to the actual weight itself first and dial back the actual weight, seeking to find the exact point where the distortion stops and therefore where the stylus begins to sit in the groove. I’m shocked that I’ve been playing records for a year and a half without enough tracking force…I’m not sure how I didn’t notice but now I would be nervous to keep things the way they are and play records with too little force. Time to start saving money for the new turntable…

  7. UPDATE – I will be as brief as possible because there is a question/need for advice here. After buying and then listening to a lot of jazz records, I popped on Abbey Road the other day and noticed that most of the vocals distorted on the letter S – “Here Comes the Sun” was particularly ugly to listen to. I wrestled with whether the turntable, preamp, stereo, etc was the problem – MUCH LIKE I DID WITH MY ISSUES REGARDING BLUE NOTES AND HOW POWERFUL THEY CAN BE – and it was suggested to me that I try adding some tracking force. I couldn’t do that because of the limits of my counterweight/”stylus pressure knob” I mentioned in earlier comments. So I did something I shouldn’t have: I put a coin on the cartridge to add weight. Adding weight removed the problems and made the sound richer. I don’t particularly care about this copy of Abbey Road and got it for free, so I was happy to experiment with it.

    I then took out three 60s pressings of jazz records that I have that are lesser quality – adding this extra weight removed the problems I had had with the powerful top end, and even smoothed out some of the surface noise and made it sound a little more…I don’t know…incidental? rather than disruptive.

    HERE’S MY QUESTION – I really want to keep using this turntable in the meantime. Do you know of any safe way I can add weight to my tonearm without doing something damaging to my records? I’ve heard that too little tracking force is just as damaging, if not more damaging, than too much…but I also feel like coins on the cartridge are a big no-no. Once I find a “safer” way to add extra weight, I will try to track down a scale or some other way to measure the tracking force (OR…I’ll just play records I don’t care about until Xmas 😛 ) I appreciate any advice you can give. Thanks!

    • I consulted a friend with 30 years of hiFi knowledge more than me, and his comments are as follows:

      If increased tracking weight removes sibilance then it shows the cause of the problem is the stylus not seating properly in the groove. The usual causes of this problem, assuming the tracking weight was set within the cartridge parameters before the coin was added, are a grossly worn stylus or worn cartridge suspension. Coarse adjustment of tracking weight by adding a coin will temporarily overcome these problems, and is fine if you don’t have any concerns about damaging the cartridge or LP.

      Up to you but at some point the trade off is accelerated wear to valuable LPs and further damage to the cartridge, against the cost of replacement to the present cartridge and stylus.

      He suggests a tracking force gauge might be helpful.

      http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/STYLUS-GAUGE-digital-balance-scales-/221061873383?pt=Turntable_Parts_Accessories&hash=item3378507ee7

      This will give you more information about the problem but wont of itself solve it.

  8. I’ve spent the better part of the day doing research on my turntable – it’s not the Technics that most people know and love, that has a big chunky black dial on the back that you can zero out by “floating” the tone arm, and THEN add counter weight. This model’s tone arm height is “set at the factory” and then the weight on the end is actually a “stylus pressure adjustment knob.” It was probably meant to be use with whatever cartridge came with it, not the Stanton L7-whatever I have one there now. I mean not be getting the right tracking weight and maybe never will. Obviously I am not dealing with a fine piece of equipment here.

    Based on what I learned, I’ll make sure that the arm is the right height and that “0” on the “stylus pressure adjustment” weight is truly 0. From there, I’ll be able to tell if I can make this work in the short term or not. Thanks again for lending an ear. Your advice has been spot on, regardless of your knowledge of this equipment.

  9. I’m not a compulsive tinkerer, and I am not the best person to give advice as I dont claim any particular know how and I don’t know your deck.

    The VTA is usually a helical screw action which enables the whole pivot point of the arm to be raised and lowered in order to get the arm parallel with the surface of the record. There will be a another small screw of some type which fixes the position you have settled on as most pleasing. The way I was shown it, start with an extreme position, then a quarter turn at a time checking the effect on sound, until you have found the sweet spot.

    As a general principle, something I have learned, get the most you can out of what you have got before looking for to upgrade to a higher piece of kit. Trial and error is free, and usually the most effective route to improvement.

    The other thing I have learned is that audio improvement is a rocky path. Correcting one problem can often lead to exposing another weakness. The bad news is that good kit reveals very accurately just how weak some pressings are. Its not all good.But it is necessary.
    .

  10. Went and listened to some records that came in the mail, including the aforementioned Bud Powell – I’ll try to be more brief than my last post. Sounded great at times, others it sounded as if the record were pure but the equipment was holding it back. I also noticed a little bit of a “wobble” in the pitch from time to time – something I’d noticed before but had chalked up to an old stylus…but perhaps it has more to do with the motor and how consistently the thing runs – and…most telling, I’m guessing…if you watch the stylus…it really weaves back and forth quite a bit, even with the anti skate turned up. I think it’s safe to say that my stylus is not riding the center of the groove, which would cause all this inconsistency in the sound, right?

    As I said, at least I’m hunting down records I’d like to have that will better suit me when I have a better turntable. However, here’s a question: in the meantime, will playing these records a few times on my turntable whose arm currently weaves ultimately ruin my records? I am more likely to play 50 different records once than to play the same record 50 times, so I’m guessing that I can make it til December and still listen to my records in the meantime…however I would love an outside opinion.

    • Thanks for all that input. Congratulations (and comiserations) on your new-found passion for vinyl. There is nothing better, when it’s right.

      Your wobble sounds like a job for the Vinyl Doctor. All of the adjustments to turntable arm and cartridge alignment can make a noticable difference to the final sound, though this is mainly in the balance between bass and treble, especially the VTA – vertical tracking alignment adjusted at the base of the arm. There is always a sweet spot somewhere between too much and not enough, which you have to locate by trial and error. The most important component is a buddy – someone who will do the adjusting while you do the listening, and vice versa.

      I do not hold any special engineering qualification (you can tell, can’t you), but as far as I know, modern light weight tracking cartridges do not create any significant wear on the vinyl groove.”Mistracking” should not either. I think of it as driving a car on the road. – the wear created by each journey is infinitesmally small whether you drive well or badly. Happy to be corrected if anyone knows better.

      Is “Dump” a new high street audio chain? Sounds great value, but sooner or later you will need to invest in a better TT. I am sure there are plenty of upgraders who would welcome a few dollars for their old kit. Onward and upward, everything is capable of improvement.

      .

      • My turntable seems to have two parts of the arm that I can adjust – the weight at the end of the tonearm, which is something I was familiar with before this whole issue can to my attention, and the black semi-circle that the arm travels along as it move toward the center of the record.

        1. Weight – I can only move between 1.0 and 1.5 of tracking force. It’s been all the way up to 1.5, which from what I understand isn’t super high, and the only other time I tried to turn it down, I felt the record sounded better at first but then the stylus left the grooves for a long vacation shortly afterward. Of course, this is when I needed my stylus replaced, so I should try this again, but wouldn’t less tracking force actually make my stylus do more swerving in the grooves?

        2. The little track, which I assume has something to do with the vertical tracking alignment – I can see how you could probably raise or lower this track – I assume I might want to lower it to increase my stylus’ ability to sit in the grooves without swerving – but I’m not exactly sure how to do it. However, as a school teacher whose last day of work this year is tomorrow, something tells me I’ll find a chance to tinker.

        If you have any more suggestions for me that don’t involve buying expensive gadgets for calibrating my turntable – I’m just looking to make it somewhat better before I upgrade – I would love to hear them. Otherwise I will end this saga of woe that I’ve been drawing out on your blog, with many thanks that at least I feel confident in knowing that I’m not finding every defective record in the world and putting them on my turntable back to back to back. Thanks for your time and detailed replies!

        • Oh, and, uh, decided to mess with the balance weight this morning before work and I guess my grounding wire was a little loose. Not sure how long it was loose, but it sure made that Bud Powell record sound better!

  11. The only other turntable I have that I can compare with is a cheap Audio Technica USB turntable, which I’ve read has a crummy cartridge that you can’t swap out, as well as a gross amount of tracking force. It was my main turntable for about a year before I got the Technics and I’ve found that it almost seems to “force” my records to be quiet – so I don’t think it will help with this riddle.

    Recently I needed my stylus replaced on my Technics, and until I did that, I was thinking I would replace my turntable around Xmas time, because I was getting suspicious about the sound quality I was getting. But with the new stylus I went back to feeling like the Technics does okay and that maybe if I switched over to using a stereo receiver with a built in pre-amp, maybe some issues would clear up. Something tells me though, that it’s the turntable. It has mysterious origins, being from the dump and all…and while it seems to operate well, when I first got it, it was missing a stylus but had an Audio Technica cartridge. I brought it into a shop, had a stylus put on the cartridge, and the result was poor. New cartridge, everything sounds better…however my foray into these Blue Notes (thanks to your blog, by the way, though I’ve been a huge jazz fan since 16 years old) has had a lot of moments where I have questions over the condition of the record vs. what my equipment can handle.

    I “saw the light” about a month ago in an early 60s pressing of Miles Davis All-Stars w/ Milt Jackson on Prestige – I found a copy that had a defect in the first minute of each side, a nasty warp, but otherwise the rest of the vinyl is GORGEOUS. Miles Davis sounded like he was in the room. Jackie McLean didn’t make the sound clip, and neither did any of the notes that were really hammered on by the vibes. I am a musician myself, and a music teacher, and there was something insanely gratifying by how pure everything sounded, even on my system. That record definitely doesn’t sound as bright, though, as the Blue Notes I have, so I guess what you’re saying about RVG makes sense.

    I am embarrassed to admit, though I guess I already have, that I kind of settled for my first few Blue Notes. They are definitely in a VG type area. Any other deep groove jazz vinyl (most of which I got a hold of before I knew what DG was…) plays without my noticing these issues of distortion/clipping/whatever, but I am eager to try them now. I have a VG++ New York label DG pressing of Amazing Bud Powell vol. 1 waiting for me in the mail when I get home…I’ll take that for a spin and let you know what I notice (especially since you mentioned BP). At least this way I’ll know that I have a fine record I can save for when I have better equipment, AND at least I was able to return those lesser records to help with financial strain of my quickly burgeoning vinyl habit (staying on the bright side!)

    The only other piece of information I can provide is that I have a lot of new vinyl – pop/rock/indie albums that are coming out now – and a few recent Blue Note reissues on vinyl that are in pristine shape (just listened to Pete La Roca’s Basra the other day) and they sound great. Nothing whatsoever gets pushed. But the still sound different than a Blue Note…beat up or not…

  12. Hi Nuttmegger and welcome!

    I must say I haven’t found distortion in pre-Liberty Blue Notes an issue, though I have heard some people make the same comments, say, about Bud Powell or Freddie Redd piano on some recordings. They are very bright. We know RVG like to sail close to the wind on volume meters, where other engineers left lots of headroom to avoid overload. Also instruments like the trumpet are inately more variable in volume, according to how they are being played at any moment.

    I know from experience the turntable makes a bigger difference to the sound of your records than anything else. I have a friend with a Roksan rig, and the same record presents completely differently on his system than on mine. I understand Technics has a cult following, but do you experience the same issue with distortion on playing the same record on a different turntable?

    On my upgraded Avid, the force of a heavy-duty power supply and motor, combined with greater frame rigidity and stability, ensures the stylus is less often distracted from its task of tracking the music in the groove. A lot of issues seem to have have faded into the background. Maybe we tend to blame the record when it is the equipment that has the issue.

    Over to you.

  13. When I get iffy vinyl from a shop or from eBay, my issues often have less to do with surface noise or pops/tics, which I am able to ignore, and more to do with the sound getting distorted. The pre-Liberty Blue Notes that I have which are in VG type condition often have places where one of the players – usually a horn but sometimes piano – push there sound to point where there’s some distortion going on for just that instrument. I have had two records like this that I simply had to return to the seller and could not accept for any amount of money. However, I have other records that only do this once or twice per side. And I do have some 60s deep groove recordings that don’t have this issue.

    I don’t have nearly the nice turntable and setup that you do, but have you ever found this problem with vinyl that is a bit more beat up than you’d hope, but that the problem is not your usually pops and tics? (sometimes it sounds WORSE than it looks). I run an older Technics that I salvaged from a take it or leave it pile at the dump, which has a decent Stanton cartridge on it now, plus a somewhat cheap preamp and a “high end” shelf system (Panasonic, cost me over $300 at the time) but I only RECENTLY had this problem, when I tried to start finding pre-Liberty Blue Notes but found some that were a little beat up…that’s why I can’t figure out if its the records or the system (or both?)

    • I should mention that when I plug in headphones into the stereo ($25 Sony studio headphones) I get the same effect. So it’s either the record, turntable, preamp, or stereo – speakers should be okay.

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