Turntable Sound Troubleshooting


New member
Username: Tckma

Post Number: 1
Registered: Mar-07
Six years ago, my very first purchase on eBay was a used Nikko NP-500 turntable. It worked fine and has served me well. Since then I have moved often -- I have lived in 3 different apartments and moved to a house. No problems with the turntable thus far.

Being that I am only in my late 20s, I do not have much experience with vinyl. I don't use the turntable often, but every once in a while I happen upon a used record store and spend way too much money increasing the size of my vinyl collection.

Recently, I moved my stereo system from one room to another. This past weekend, I picked up a few new LPs and 45s. Upon playing these, the problems started.

1. When I put the tone arm down on the record (using the lifter), it skips about halfway down the record. I have tried adjusting the weight on the arm to no avail. I suspected the "anti-skating" control on the turntable might do something about this (since the tone arm "skates" across the record), but adjusting it appears to do nothing. My father told me to "tape a penny to the top of the needle" but that didn't work either.

2. There is a sound problem whereby I will faintly hear a point about 5-10 seconds ahead on the track on top of the louder, currently playing portion of that track. I tried to solve this issue by cleaning the needle with a needle cleaning tool, and cleaning the record with a record cleaner (Both tools are in a Le-Bo brand cleaning set I "inherited" from my parents when they ditched their turntable). I was told this sound problem is because the stylus and possibly the cartridge needs to be replaced. I held off on this because I was able to fix it (temporarily) by setting the tone arm weight to 1.2 (it was previously set on 0.3). This worked for a while but when it came time to flip the record over, the problem returned.

3. The record itself appears to push up the left side of the plastic part of the needle, which might be the cause of problem #1. It seems as if the stylus is not level.

4. I need to turn the volume on my amp almost halfway up in order to hear anything. On other A/V components, I have it barely above zero and it's almost too loud. I have the turntable connected to the "phono" RCA jacks on my amp, and the ground connected to the "phono ground" screw. I have checked for loose connections. There is also a loud hum which disappears when I put the needle onto a record (this, I don't care so much about).

I have never replaced the cartridge (Audio Technica AT71E) or the stylus (no model number, but bears the Audio Technica logo), and I have no idea how old they were when I first bought the turntable.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 10003
Registered: May-04

No cartridge in the world tracks at 0.3 grams and taping a penney to the tonearm only worked when cartridges tracked at 10 grams, which was a lonnnnng time ago.

The volume issue is normal and should have always been the case, not something that began when you moved the table.

The bleed through sound is a function of a poor recording/pressing and is typical of many LP's. When you get the table set up properly, this should diminish.

You need to buy a new cartridge, or at least a new stylus, and have the table properly set up. You will need an alignment protractor to install the cartridge. You can find them on the web by placing something like "phono cartridge protractor" in a search engine. If you think tracking at 0.3 grams and/or taping a penney to the tonearm is good set up, I would suggest you take the table to a technician who can do the set up. Otherwise;




Silver Member
Username: Mike3

Wiley, Tx USA

Post Number: 313
Registered: May-06
Make sure the table is leveled correctly too.

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 6389
Registered: Dec-04
Step one, step two
Tom, you are in good hands

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 1978
Registered: Sep-04

Is it possible that the cartridge could have been damaged in your last move? It sounds to me like there's no stylus on the end of the cantilever. Have a close look at the cantilever (the little rod that goes into the cartridge body. At the end of this rod, there should be a little stub of diamond pointing down (the stylus). If that's missing, you need a new stylus. I have seen this happen before. Either the glue holding the stylus in place dried out, or the stylus got ripped out by a spec of dust in the grooves or something like that.

Find a record you know well and that you used to play more often and see if that plays. If not, then this is a new condition.

Regarding prob 2, that signal you hear is pre-echo. IOt can happen with any record deck and some cartridges reproduce this worse than others. basically, the walls of the groove are so thin and the pressure of the stylus is high enough that it picks up the modulations from 'next door'. This is most obvious if you have a quiet piece of music that has a sudden loud passage immediately after. Cleaning the stylus can help since this makes the stylus smaller and fit in the groove better, but pre-echo may always happen in certain circumstances, it's just one of vinyl's weaknesses.

I don't understand what you mean by prob 3.

Re: #4, is this a new problem? If so, it ties in with my initial explanation. If not, are you sure your AV amp has a phono stage built into it? Most AV amps have a label for Phono, but no circuitry behind it to support record decks. An AT71 only generates 2 or 3 mV of signal. A DVD player generates 2V (a thousand times more or so). Also, the recording is encoded onto a vinyl disc using an RIAA curve which makes big frequencies (bass) small enough to fit into a groove and tiny frequencies (treble) large enough to pick up from the groove. You need a phono stage to both boost the signal and decode it. In the old days all amps had phono stages built into them, but nowadays it's a rarity. You can buy separate phono stages quite readily nowadays, and they vary in price starting from around $80 with the sky as your limit. Check your manual to see what it says about your Phono input.


New member
Username: Tckma

Post Number: 2
Registered: Mar-07
Thannks for all the help!

Turns out it all boiled down to a bad stylus. I bought a new one, as well as an alignment tool. I set it up and the sound couldn't be better. All my problems went away, including the "ground hum."

Frank above was correct, the little diamond tip had broken off the stylus, and was dangling from the right hand side of it. Not good, and likely very damaging to my records, so I'm glad I replaced that.

My stereo system has inputs labeled "Phono" with a ground screw. I probably do need a preamp, because I have to turn the volume way up on the stereo whereas for any other component, it's pretty far down the scale. I will RTFM. ;)

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 1983
Registered: Sep-04

The chances are that it won't have damaged the records or if so, only very slightly, reason being that the cantilever will have skimmed the top of the record rather than going into the grooves which is where the signal is.

Please note that most phono stages only boost the level up to the same ballpark as line sources, but it's rare for them to be as loud. Very often the turntable will still be quieter than the line sources. The reason for this is that when the phono stage boosts the signal it is boosting a very small signal indeed, so low that ambient noise becomes a real factor. Therefore, in order to keep the signal to noise ratio down, they don't boost quite as far as line level. There are a couple of exceptions, but they're megabucks. If the sound is good, then you probably have a stage in there. Still worth reading the manual though.

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