Just as with all hifi audio equipment, proper maintenance and upkeep of your turntable is essential for protecting the sound quality and lengthening its lifespan. Record players in particular are sensitive pieces of equipment and can be easily damaged by normal amounts of dirt and dust. And if you think that you don’t get your turntable dirty, think again. When a turntable needle hits the grooves of a record, it produces a small amount of static electricity which actually attracts dust to it. Beyond that, dust will collect on the turntable naturally, so even if yours sits idly on the shelf, it still needs to be cleaned. Worry not – just a little upkeep and cleaning goes a long way to prevent damage that is expensive to repair and help your turntable last as long as possible.
Perhaps more importantly than actually cleaning your turntable is not getting it dirty in the first place. Keeping your house clean in general is a start; having an air filter in the turntable room will help to reduce dust levels and make your job easier. You should also keep your turntable covered when it’s not in use, and many record players come with a built-in dust cover for this reason.
Keeping your records themselves clean is another important way to avoid getting dirt on your turntable. Brush off your vinyls before playing them with a carbon fiber brush or other type of super soft material that is made specifically for sensitive objects. Storing your records properly and consistently will also prevent them from gathering dust.
Turntable placement is another key factor that impacts your record player’s longevity. It is essential that your turntable is placed on a level surface. Although this may not seem significant to you, it will protect all the moving parts within the record player as well as the alignment and can make a big difference when it comes to multiple years of use. Additionally, vibration from the environment, including everything from music from your speakers to footsteps on hard flooring, can actually put stress on the suspension. Putting your turntable on isolation pads or an acoustically treated surface will reduce the vibration level it has to withstand.
Even with these preventative techniques, regular cleaning is still in order. Wipe down the external surfaces of the turntable with a microfiber cloth two to three times a month to remove dust and debris. If it has accumulated a lot of dirt, you can use a little bit of rubbing alcohol for a more in-depth cleansing – but be sure to dry it with a clean cloth afterwards.
You should also clean the stylus regularly. The stylus is the most important and most sensitive component of a turntable. After every few uses, brush it gently with a stylus brush, most commonly a carbon fiber brush. Be careful not to bend the needle, and wipe gently from back to front.
Clean the inside mechanisms a couple times a year. If your turntable is reacting slowly or does not maintain a constant speed, that is a key sign that the inside needs some TLC. Always use microfiber and antistatic cloths when cleaning any part of the record player. Otherwise, this process is not as complicated as it may seem:
When turntable components break or get old, you risk damaging your turntable. Replace the important components preemptively to protect your record player's longevity.
The stylus should last for at least 1,000 hours of listening if you clean it regularly, which, depending on how often you use your record player, can be every few years or so. Some turntable junkies report getting up to 5,000 hours out of their stylus, but this is probably under ideal conditions and with a thorough cleaning routine. Look for any damage or wear on the stylus with a magnifying glass after about every 500 hours of use. Hissing, jumping and skipping, or static are all signs that your stylus needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Using a damaged or worn stylus is hard on your records.
If you have a moving coil cartridge, you have to have a professional replace the stylus or send it back to the manufacturer – many people prefer to simply buy a new cartridge. The stylus in a moving magnet cartridge, however, can be replaced easily.
If your turntable is belt-driven, the belt needs to be replaced every few years. Make sure the replacement you get is compatible with your turntable.
Additionally, once every one or two years you should have your record player checked by a professional for alignment and to make everything's running smoothly.