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8 tips for getting better sound from your turntable

How to improve your vinyl listening experience

Buying a great turntable is the most important decision you can make when creating a sweet-sounding analog stereo system. But even the best record player will benefit in a big way from the right setup and accessories.

For starters, I highly recommend watching this video about how to set up a turntable — it's full of helpful tips for getting started off on the right foot.

Some turntable accessories are so essential, you should have them on hand from the first day you start playing records. Others you may decide to add later if you find you're just not quite getting the sound quality you hoped for.

I've come up with 8 tips for improving your turntable sound, starting with the most basic add-ons and getting into more advanced solutions as we go.

1. Keep your records dust-free

When you order your turntable from Crutchfield, order a good record brush, too. You should brush your records each time you play them, period.

Hand cleaning a record a record brush.

A good record brush removes dust and static electricity from records to reduce pops, clicks, and other surface noise.

Brushes are made from soft carbon fiber that can remove loose dust, fibers, hair… all things that tend to settle on any flat surface in our homes. Modern brushes also have a conductive metal piece in the handle that helps draw off static electricity, which also produces audible noise.

When your records aren’t on the platter, keep them scratch-free and safe from dust and static by substituting good record sleeves for the abrasive paper sleeves they often are shipped in.

2. Add a cushy record mat

Shortly after I bought my Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable, I added a cork record mat. It decouples the record from the platter, which can transmit rumble from the ‘table’s motor. It also grips the record better for a more consistent speed, and reduces static that can attract dust particles to the record’s surface. It's a relatively small investment that pays big dividends.

3. Reduce unwanted vibrations

The needle on your record player is very sensitive to vibration. That’s what makes it so good at bringing out nuances from a record groove, but it also means your sound can be affected by unwanted vibrations. Fortunately there are a number of relatively simple fixes that help isolate the needle from vibration.

No matter how daintily I try to walk when I’m playing a record, I inevitably tread too heavily and cause a skip that makes my heart drop. Vibration isolators remove that danger, plus any rumble that may be transmitted from amps, speakers or other devices that share a platform with your turntable.

A turntable with feet that reduce vibrations.

A set of four IsoAcoustics vibration isolators can help keep vibrations from footfalls or nearby components from interfering with music listening.

Solid placement on vibration-resistant furniture is also important. Consider placing your 'table on a solid turntable stand, for instance. And I highly recommend a set of speaker stands to help isolate your turntable from sonic vibrations and improve your overall listening experience.

4. Check your cables

Sometimes, a crackling sound from your record player means the cables that connect it to the rest of your gear have frayed connections. Many turntables ship with relatively inexpensive cables that are useful for getting started, but don’t always last as long.

Well-made RCA cables use high-quality materials to improve signal transfer, especially over slightly longer cable runs. Turntables also need to be well-grounded to eliminate a very annoying low-frequency hum that can creep in. If you're experiencing this, a high-quality grounding cable can help.

5. Give your records a deep cleaning

If your playback sounds crackly or muddy even after you use a cleaning brush, your records may need a deeper cleaning. A brush can remove surface detritus, but record grooves can harbor deeper infusions of grease, mold and grime, especially if you haunt the used record shops like I do — you just don’t know what conditions the former owner subjected them to.

A good record cleaning machine that uses specially-formulated cleaning fluid and vacuum suction to really clear out the grooves can make records sound like new, and add years of listening life by keeping them in good shape.

The record cleaner in use.

A Record Doctor cleaning machine can make records — old or new — sound their best by removing packing and shipping debris or worn-in grime from decades of service.

6. Upgrade your cartridge

Your turntable probably shipped with a pretty decent cartridge, but you’ve got plenty of room for improvement. Read our phono cartridge guide to get the full rundown on how this crucial part of your turntable works its magic.

Some turntables have a nut on the tonearm that can be loosened to remove and replace the headshell for a relatively easy cartridge replacement process. If you don’t have this option, you can still replace your cartridge, but it may be a good idea to get help from a professional so you don’t damage the delicate wire leads.

7. Improve your platter

You can also upgrade your platter to a more dense material, but make sure it’s one that’s meant for your turntable — you don’t want a mismatch that could burn out your ‘table’s motor or cause other problems. Many audiophiles go the extra mile to keep records from wobbling or slipping by adding a turntable weight.

8. Invest in a high-quality phono preamp

Most turntables ship with a good phono cartridge pre-installed. But there are more advanced models available, and if you’re considering making an upgrade, a more sophisticated phono preamp makes that possible. A good preamp offers adjustable settings that help you get the most out of a top-notch cartridge.

Preamp.

This phono preamp with vacuum tubes is an excellent upgrade for an audiophile-grade turntable setup.

Some audiophiles prefer the warm, inviting sound of a preamp that uses old-school vacuum tube technology, plus they look pretty cool. And some preamps offer a built-in subsonic filter that eliminates distracting low-frequency “rumble.”

Let us help

Building a great two-channel record playing system is a rewarding experience, but it can be a daunting task to tackle on your own. You want your entire system working in harmony, and our advisors have the knowledge and experience to help you customize your turntable setup. Contact us for a friendly helping hand.

  • Tj Osborne from Liverpool

    Posted on 12/22/2023

    Thx for all your input. I'm looking to buy a turntable and speakers not sure what I want.

    Commenter image

    Ned O. from Crutchfield

    on 12/26/2023

    Hi TJ, Thanks for your comment. I've asked one of our Advisors to get in touch with you to learn more about what you're looking for and make some recommendations.
  • Trevor Chance from Preston lancs

    Posted on 12/3/2023

    I recorded my vocals with RCA 50 years ago as a singer. Listening now, they are slightly waving tunewise and although well recorded with top class musicians etc. Are not as good for me to listen to. They have not been cared for as they should in garages etc but I would like to discover a magical technique to help.

    Commenter image

    Ned O. from Crutchfield

    on 12/4/2023

    Hi Trevor, thanks for your comment. It sounds like you may have a warped record. Some turntables, like the Technics SL 1500C are particularly good at playing slightly warped records. I've asked one of our Advisors to get in touch to help you figure out the best way to play your tunes smoothly.
  • Sean Hamilton from Roscoe

    Posted on 6/8/2023

    Recently purchased a Teac TN-3B-SE turntable, powered by a Yamaha A-S801 integrated amp at 100 watts x 2 channels. The amp has a dedicated phono preamp. My speakers are Definitive Audio BP 9040, 8 ohms. My issue is, the sound quality of the phono is what I would describe as damp or muddy. Just doesn't have the crisp highs like I get through streaming. The tone settings on the amp do little to help. What can I do to get a more crisp sound from the turntable?

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 6/9/2023

    Sean - To get a definitive answer, you'll probably want to call or chat with one of our tech support specialists, but I did notice that the TEAC also has a built-in phono preamp. I'd check to make sure you don't have both preamps active, which would definitely cause bad sound. Hope this helps!
  • Taruntapan Das . from Adra Dist Purulia

    Posted on 9/11/2022

    Thanks for the buying tips of a turntable .I have two TTs one idler pulley drive system another one modern and belt drive system .I found then idler pully turntable is much better in producing sound quality .

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 9/12/2022

    Thanks for the comment. I've never gone into that much detail in listening comparisons, but it's something I'll keep in mind.
  • Taruntapan Das . from Adra Dist Purulia

    Posted on 9/11/2022

    Thanks for the buying tips of a turntable .I have two TTs one idler pulley drive system another one modern and belt drive system .I found then idler pully turntable is much better in producing sound quality .

  • Michael from St Paul, MN

    Posted on 8/31/2022

    I am new to vinyl and just have a Gerrard GT-35 I inherited from a friend. It is plugged directly into a Klipsch The One ii phono speaker. With both RCA plugs plugged in I get excessive buzz/hum at all volume ranges. If I unplug the black RCA the buzz/hum lessens but is still audible at higher volumes. I certainly suspect a grounding issue because if I touch any of the record player components I get a buzz increase. I do have a grounding wire connecting the two devices. I have been researching "record player setup" videos and noticed my tone arm is slightly down at the cartridge end while playing records. Any help is greatly appreciated!

    Commenter image

    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 9/1/2022

    Michael - the intermittent hum certainly does sound like a possible grounding issue. We don't carry that brand, so I don't have any particular advice on how to check it. If you do decide to try replacing the cartridge, and you purchase through us, one of our tech support specialists can help you get it installed and troubleshoot any other problems you encounter.
  • ELLIOT from Los Angeles

    Posted on 6/17/2022

    My turntable already has a built in preamp. If I switched it to the Un amplified setting, and bought a pre amp. Would that sound better? Thanks, Elliot

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    Eric A. from Crutchfield

    on 6/20/2022

    Elliot - I do think a dedicated outboard preamp can improve the sound quality from your turntable. Many of them give you the versatility to upgrade your cartridge, which can also give you improved accuracy, warmth, and frequency response. If you get one through us, we can help you hook it up and get the most out of it via free tech support, too. Thanks for the question!
  • John from San Francisco

    Posted on 1/17/2022

    Not sure if you are still commenting on questions but you seem like a good go to guy. I have a Music Hall USB-1 and have gotten the vinyl bug. What is the next step? What to listen for? I am impressed with the depth of music compared to digital. At least old recordings. Still not sure if I prefer digital or analog...but having fun. The rest of the system is fairly mid/high end. The signal would feed to a NAD C165BEE preamp. Then to a Primaluna power amp with about 30 watts out of EL34 tubes. Speakers are Martin Logan Motion 20 and a Martin Logan Dynamo 800x. Decent wiring. I have never used the usb uploading feature so kind of a non item for me. Something logical and good value. Thank you

  • Jon Ingersoll from Erie, PA

    Posted on 7/14/2021

    I set my TT on a 2 1/2" thick block of limestone (60 lbs+), and the block sits on 1" thick closed-cell foam feet.

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    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 7/15/2021

    Jon - That oughta do it! I'll bet the limestone looks pretty cool, too. Thanks for sharing.
  • JoAnn from Omaha, NE

    Posted on 4/30/2021

    I have an HK3390 with a Technics 1200 turntable and CD player. My turntable is noticeably quieter than the CD player. The Turntable does not have a phono preamp, but the HK does have a Phono line-in. Would a separate preamp for the phono (plugged into aux ports on the HK) resolve this problem? Is that approach advisable?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 5/3/2021

    JoAnn - Adding an external phono preamp could very well give you the enhanced volume (and detail) you're seeking. Just make sure you don't plug it into the phono line-in, but choose an unamplified RCA input. Hope this helps!
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