Are you a vinyl enthusiast or a DJ who wants to ensure that your turntable is running at the right speed?
It’s crucial to know how to check if your turntable is in sync with the record’s timing. But, with so many methods available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the two main methods of checking turntable speed – using a strobe light and a stopwatch or an app on your phone.
We’ll also discuss how to set proper turntable speed and measure wow and flutter.
So, let’s dive in and learn how to keep your vinyl spinning at the right pace!
How To Check Turntable Speed
There are two main methods to check turntable speed – using a strobe light and a stopwatch or an app on your phone.
To use the strobe light method, you’ll need to download a strobe disc from the internet and print it off. Place the disc on your platter and start spinning it. Once up to speed, direct the strobe light at the revolving strobe disc. If the turntable hits the correct speed, the strobe lines/markings will appear stationary instead of moving.
Alternatively, you can use a mobile app like ‘RPM Speed & Wow’. Simply open the app and set it on the stationary platter while making sure the counter on the phone screen says zero. Then start spinning! When it’s up to full speed, check the phone display which will show the RPM of your record player.
Some turntables, especially ones for DJs where speed is so essential, have a strobe light attached, such as on the Technics SL1200. This strobe is directed at the small dots surrounding the platter. Depending on whether the dots are moving or stationary is how you can determine the speed of the platter.
Why Checking Turntable Speed Is Important
Checking turntable speed is crucial because an incorrect speed can affect all other setup parameters, including tracking force, anti-skate, and cartridge alignment. An incorrect speed can also cause wow and flutter, which is a variation in pitch that can be heard by the human ear. This can be especially noticeable on sustained notes or when playing back a constant test tone.
To ensure that your records sound their best, it’s important to check the turntable speed regularly. A slow speed can cause the pitch to drop, while a fast speed can cause it to increase. This can be especially problematic when playing along with other instruments or when listening to music with vocals.
Using a strobe light or mobile app to check the turntable speed is an easy and accurate way to ensure that your records sound their best. It’s recommended to check the speed every time you set up your turntable or change the belt or motor. By doing so, you can enjoy your vinyl collection with accurate pitch and sound quality.
Method 1: Using A Strobe Light And Stopwatch
To use the strobe light method, you’ll need to purchase a strobe light and download a strobe disc from the internet. Place the disc on your platter and start spinning it. Once up to speed, direct the strobe light at the revolving strobe disc. If the turntable hits the correct speed (either 33 1/3 or 45 RPM), the strobe lines/markings will appear stationary instead of moving.
The number of marks on the strobe disc corresponds to the following rule: Frequency / RPM * 60 (second in a minute) = number of marks. For example, for 33 1/3 RPM, the number of marks for 100Hz and 120Hz are: 100 / 33 1/3 * 60 = 180 and 120 / 33 1/3 * 60 = 216, respectively.
To identify the strobe markings, locate the 33 1/3 RPM markings which are likely to be the ring with the most marks. Count the number around a quarter of the circle. There should be 45 marks for “50Hz” making a full circle of 180, and there should be 54 marks for “60Hz” making a full circle of 216. The marks are most commonly dots, lines or wedges.
Using a stopwatch, start timing as soon as you start spinning the platter and stop timing when one of the markings on the strobe disc appears to be stationary. Record the time it took to get to that point. If you’re testing for 33 1/3 RPM, divide 60 by your recorded time in seconds to get your turntable’s RPM. For example, if it took you one second to get to a stationary marking on a strobe disc with 120Hz markings, your turntable is spinning at approximately 60 RPM (60 / 1 = 60).
Using this method may require some practice and patience, but it is an accurate way to check your turntable’s speed without relying on an app or other external factors.
Method 2: Using An App On Your Phone
If you don’t have access to a strobe light or stopwatch, you can use an app on your phone to check turntable speed. Two popular apps for this purpose are RPM- Turntable Speed Accuracy and RPM Speed & Wow. These apps have received positive reviews, with users reporting high accuracy levels.
To use the app, simply download and install it on your phone. Place the phone on the stationary platter and make sure the counter on the app displays zero. Then, start spinning the platter and wait until it reaches full speed. Check the phone display, which will show you the RPM of your turntable.
While using an app may be a convenient option, it’s important to note that some free versions may be limited in terms of functionality. For example, some apps may only allow for a limited number of tests or may not offer calibration options. If you’re serious about maintaining accurate turntable speed, it may be worth investing in a paid version of the app or using a strobe light method instead.
How To Set Proper Turntable Speed
Setting proper turntable speed is crucial to ensure the best possible listening experience. If you find that your turntable speed is off, there are a few things you can do to correct it.
Firstly, if your turntable has speed adjustment screws, consult your owner’s manual to locate them. Generally, turning these screws clockwise will speed up the platter, while turning them anti-clockwise will slow it down. Always adjust the 33 1/3 rpm speed first and make sure the turntable is level before making any adjustments.
If your turntable doesn’t have speed adjustment screws or if adjusting them doesn’t solve the issue, it could be due to a stretched or degraded belt. If this is the case, try shrinking the belt back to size by folding it in half and boiling it in water for about 5 minutes. Once dry, put it back on your record player and test the speed again.
If neither of these methods work, it could be due to a dirty speed control or other blockages affecting the motor and platter. In this case, you may want to consider taking it to a professional for repairs.
How To Measure Wow And Flutter
Wow and flutter are two important measurements to check when calibrating your turntable. Wow refers to the slow speed variations that occur over a long period of time, while flutter refers to faster variations that happen over shorter periods of time. Both can affect the sound quality of your records, so it’s important to measure and minimize them.
To measure wow and flutter, you’ll need a test record with a 3150Hz test tone. The Analog Magik test LP is a good option for this. Start by playing back the test tone on the 33 1/3 rpm test LP and adjust the turntable speed until it registers exactly 3150Hz on a laptop screen or frequency counter. Repeat the same procedure using the 45 rpm test LP.
Once you have achieved the proper turntable speed, you can begin measuring wow and flutter. On belt-driven turntables, adjust belt tension or motor distance until the wow and flutter number is minimized. For idler wheel turntables, adjust the pressure exerted onto the platter.
To accurately measure wow and flutter, make a recording of a 1kHz lateral test track at 44.1kHz and read it into an audio editing software like Adobe Audition. Convert from left-right to mid-side format so that the left track contains mid and the right track contains side. Remove the side track and filter the mid track twice with a Chebyshev2 band filter at 700 and 1300Hz, 11th order. Adjust gain of mid track so that its average RMS is -16dB exactly.
Next, find the average frequency of mid using a 65536pt FFT and generate a sine wave of exactly that frequency in the side track. Adjust the gain of the side track to exactly -16dB average RMS. Select side (or right) and copy onto clipboard. Select mid (or left) and mix-paste clipboard onto it with the modulate option.
Finally, downsample the whole file to 1.2kHz, 32 bit, mono (retaining only the left channel), maximal filter quality. Do a 4096pt FFT over the central 20 seconds of the result, which will give you the wow and flutter spectrum. A good setup should display a wow and flutter reading of below 0.2%, while a very good setup should be below 0.1%. Above 0.2%, even small changes in pitch on a constant test tone may be detectable by the human ear.
Troubleshooting Common Turntable Speed Issues
If you’re experiencing speed issues with your turntable, there are a few common culprits to look out for. One of the most frequent causes of speed issues is a loose or stretched belt. Over time, the belt can become worn or loose, resulting in the platter spinning at an incorrect speed. To fix this issue, you’ll need to order a new belt and replace the old one. Replacing a turntable belt is a fairly easy process, and you can find step-by-step guides online to help you through it.
Another potential issue is lack of lubrication. If your turntable is not properly lubricated, it can cause the speed to slow down or become inconsistent. To fix this issue, you’ll need to add a drop or two of high-quality lubricant to both the motor shaft and at the center of the record player where the spindle is located.
It’s also important to note that lack of maintenance can cause speed issues. If your turntable is not regularly cleaned and maintained, it can result in dust and debris building up on the stylus and motor, causing the speed to slow down or become inconsistent. To avoid this issue, make sure to clean your turntable regularly using a carbon fiber brush and rubbing alcohol.
Lastly, if none of these solutions seem to be fixing your speed issues, it may be time to bring your turntable in for professional repair. A professional technician can diagnose and fix any underlying issues that may be causing your turntable to have speed problems.