Have you ever noticed a faint sound of music coming from your turntable, even when it’s not playing through your speakers?
You might be wondering if there’s an internal speaker in your turntable that you didn’t know about. But fear not, this is a common phenomenon known as “surface noise” or “needle chatter”.
In this article, we’ll explore why this happens and what it means for your turntable. So sit back, turn up the volume, and let’s dive into the world of turntables and vinyl records.
Why Can I Hear Music From My Turntable
To understand why you can hear music from your turntable, we need to go back to the basics of how turntables work. Turntables have been around since the early 20th century and use a needle (or stylus) that runs through the grooves of a moving record to create audible sound.
When sound recordings were first made, a needle (also known as a cutting stylus) was used to create grooves in the record surface. When played back, a needle moved through the cut grooves, causing vibrations that resulted in noise approximating the original sound.
The noise that is heard from the surface of a record is the vibration from the stylus riding in the record groove. This sound was originally captured by funneling the sound into a hollow tube that contained a flexible diaphragm and that fed into a flared horn. This allowed sound to be naturally amplified through this diaphragm and horn.
Modern turntables take those same vibrations from the stylus but use them to create an electrical signal. This signal is then amplified and “corrected” according to the RIAA equalization curve before being output from the turntable. The sound is then amplified again with a power amplifier and sent out to the speakers.
However, if you listen closely, you can still hear the vibration sounds coming from the record surface itself. This is perfectly normal and is known as “surface noise” or “needle chatter”. It’s important to note that this surface noise is different from pops and clicks that are sometimes heard while playing a record.
Causes Of Surface Noise And Needle Chatter
There are several causes of surface noise and needle chatter when playing a vinyl record. One of the most common culprits is too much dust or debris buildup on the record or turntable stylus. Excessive dirt and dust can cause the stylus to jump and skip, resulting in unwanted noise. This can be remedied by regularly cleaning your records and turntable stylus.
Another cause of surface noise is playing old records that need a deep clean instead of just a quick brush. Old records may have accumulated dirt and grime over time, which can cause unwanted noise during playback. It’s important to clean your records thoroughly before playing them to ensure optimal sound quality.
If your turntable quality is poor, it may also contribute to surface noise and needle chatter. Low-quality turntables may not have the necessary components to properly amplify the signal from the stylus, resulting in unwanted noise. Investing in a higher-quality turntable can help reduce surface noise and improve overall sound quality.
Lastly, a damaged or broken stylus can also contribute to surface noise and needle chatter. A damaged stylus may not be able to properly track the grooves in the record, resulting in unwanted noise during playback. It’s important to regularly inspect your stylus for any signs of damage and replace it if necessary.
How To Reduce Surface Noise And Needle Chatter
While surface noise and needle chatter are normal, some people find it annoying and want to reduce it. Here are some tips to help reduce surface noise and needle chatter:
1. Proper Alignment: Make sure that the turntable is properly aligned. This will improve the sound quality and reduce surface noise.
2. Upgrade Your Turntable: If you’re using a turntable with a stylus tracking weight of 4.5 grams, which is excessive, consider upgrading to a better turntable with a tracking weight of 2-2.5 grams.
3. Change Your Cartridge: The type and brand of cartridge can also affect surface noise and needle chatter. Consider changing your cartridge to a low “weight” type cartridge.
4. Check the Stylus Shaft: If the stylus shaft is made of plastic or brass and is thick, this can cause surface noise and needle chatter. Consider changing your stylus shaft to a thinner one.
5. Rule Out External Factors: Squealing or feedback can also be caused by external factors like the preamp, receiver volume, or the position of the turntable. Rule out these factors before trying to reduce surface noise and needle chatter.
By following these tips, you can reduce surface noise and needle chatter while enjoying the music from your turntable.
The Impact Of Surface Noise And Needle Chatter On Your Vinyl Records
While surface noise and needle chatter are normal occurrences when playing vinyl records, they can have an impact on the overall listening experience. Surface noise is the sound of the recording that is heard directly from the surface of the record as the record is being played. This noise can be heard even when the record is not playing through speakers.
Needle chatter, on the other hand, is the sound that is produced when the stylus moves along the grooves of the record. This sound can be heard as a soft clicking or tapping noise, and it can also contribute to the overall surface noise of the record.
While some listeners may find surface noise and needle chatter to be a charming aspect of listening to vinyl records, others may find it distracting or annoying. It’s important to note that excessive surface noise or needle chatter can also be a sign of a poorly maintained turntable or record.
To minimize the impact of surface noise and needle chatter on your vinyl records, it’s important to regularly clean your records and stylus. Dust and debris can accumulate in the grooves of the record, causing scratches and contributing to surface noise. Similarly, a dirty stylus can cause skipping and contribute to needle chatter.
Investing in high-quality equipment, such as a well-maintained turntable and speakers, can also help reduce surface noise and needle chatter. Additionally, properly storing your records in sleeves and avoiding touching the playing surface can help prevent unnecessary wear and tear.
Conclusion: Enjoying Your Turntable And Vinyl Records Without Surface Noise And Needle Chatter
While surface noise and needle chatter are normal and expected sounds when playing vinyl records, there are ways to minimize them and enjoy a cleaner sound. Firstly, it’s important to keep your stylus clean by investing in a stylus cleaning kit and using it regularly. Dust and grime build-up on the stylus can hinder its ability to trace the groove accurately, resulting in distorted sound.
Secondly, keeping your records clean can also reduce the amount of stylus cleaning required. Clean records are kinder to your stylus, as dirt, dust, and grime can accelerate wear. Regularly cleaning your records with a record cleaning kit can help remove any buildup of dirt or grime.
Lastly, investing in high-quality equipment can also make a difference in reducing surface noise and needle chatter. Cartridges emit different amounts of noise, so choosing a cartridge that is known for producing less surface noise can make a noticeable difference.
In summary, while surface noise and needle chatter are normal sounds when playing vinyl records, taking steps to keep your equipment clean and investing in high-quality equipment can help reduce these sounds and result in a cleaner sound overall.