You may have heard that it is common for the pitch to be off on a turntable.
That is true.
Whether you have a modern record player or an old vintage one, it will eventually spin too fast or too slow.
The difference between older and newer turntables is in how easy it is to adjust the pitch.
Modern turntables make this as simple as possible. Adjusting the pitch on old models can be a nightmare.
Keep reading to learn how to adjust the pitch on a turntable, no matter which unit you have.
- 1 How To Adjust Pitch On A Turntable
- 2 How To Adjust Pitch On A Record Player That Has Pitch Adjustment
- 3 How To Adjust Pitch With No Easily-Accessible Pitch Control
- 4 Adjust Pitch On Turntable: Final Thoughts
How To Adjust Pitch On A Turntable
It depends on your record player. If you have a modern or semi-modern player, there is probably going to be a pitch adjustment slider or knob.
However, if you have an old record player, there may not be an easily accessible pitch adjustment. This does not mean there is no way to adjust pitch on an old player. It just means there is no easily accessible way.
What Is Pitch?
In the literal sense, the pitch is the frequency of an audio tone. For example, an ‘A’ note is 440 Hertz. This means there are 440 waves in the sound wave.
If you bend the note upward, the pitch changes and goes up higher. The same principle is at play with turntables and records, except it is defined a little differently.
Pitch In Record Player Terms
In terms of record players, the pitch is used to describe the speed at which the platter is spinning. For example, 45 RPM means the platter makes 45 revolutions per minute at that speed.
Taking the same logic, if you have a record that is supposed to play at 45 RPM and you play it at 33 RPM instead, the record is going to sound very slow and sludgy.
So, the speed you spin the record at (the pitch) needs to match the speed that is notated on the record, or it will not sound correct.
If it is off even a little, you will be able to hear it, if you have a keen ear and have heard the record many times before and can notice a deviation in speed or pitch.
Some turntables have pitch adjustment controls right on the face, while others do not. If you care about the accuracy of your audio, try to choose a record player that has easy pitch adjustment.
Why Do Some Record Players Not Have Pitch Adjustment?
Some record players have no obvious way to adjust the pitch. This was more common in the early days of record players.
Even a bit later, as they became more popular, it was common not to see pitch control sliders or knobs. But there are still some modern turntables that have no pitch control, like the U-Turn Orbit Plus pictured above (don’t ask me why).
As technology improved, it became easier to manufacture these controls and include them on turntables for an affordable price.
So, if you have an old turntable, you may not see any pitch adjustment controls. That is a bummer, because some old turntables have great sound.
There may still be a way to adjust the pitch, though, even If you don’t see any obvious controls. More on this later.
Why Is Pitch Adjustment Important?
Pitch adjustment is important because it determines how your records are going to sound. Too fast, and everything will sound rushed and higher in frequency.
In extreme cases, if your pitch is way too fast it may be unlistenable, because it is too ridiculously off the mark.
Having a pitch adjustment on your record player is a must, at least for me. You would be surprised how often your record player is not playing your records at the right speed.
To be fair, it is usually subtle. Many people won’t even be able to tell something is wrong. Even those with a keen ear will barely be able to notice.
However, when you fix the problem, it becomes so obvious that it was not right to begin with. This is especially true on albums you know very well and have heard many times.
How To Adjust Pitch On A Record Player That Has Pitch Adjustment
This is super easy once you know how to do it. This is easiest when your record player has a strobe and speed markers on the edge of the platter. It is a bit harder, when it does not have the built-in light that shines on the edge of the platter.
Adjusting Pitch If You Have A Built-In Strobe
Play your record at 33 RPM and watch the edge of your platter with the raised bumps. The bumps are spread out in such a way that they will appear to be in line when your platter is spinning at exactly 33 1/3 RPM.
As the record spins slowly move your slider (or knob) and watch the lights hitting the raised bumps on the edge of the platter. Watch for the lights to create straight lines. The lines should not move left or right. They should be completely still.
If you notice the lines moving to the right, your platter is spinning too fast. If the lines are moving to the left, your platter is moving too slow, and the speed needs to increase.
Adjusting Pitch If You Do Not Have A Built-In Strobe
In this case, you can use a test tone record and a guitar tuner. You can pick up digital guitar tuners at your local music store for about 30 bucks. You can also get one on Amazon for even less.
Play your test record, write down which note is being played, and calibrate your tuner to that note. For example, if your test record is playing an ‘A’ note, watch your tuner and it will tell you if the note is too high or too low. If it is too high, move your pitch down, if it is too low, move your pitch up.
How To Adjust Pitch With No Easily-Accessible Pitch Control
This can be tricky. If you get lucky, your turntable will have the potentiometer screw on it. This is a screw that is attached to the motor that you can turn to adjust the speed. It is sometimes recessed near the speed switch and sometimes it is on the back or the bottom.
Once you find the screw, you will probably need to use the test tone record method. If your turntable has no pitch control that is easily accessible, it probably does not have the strobe bumps on the edge of the platter either. This will all be a hassle, but at least it is doable.
If you have an old deck that does not have a recessed pitch screw that you can turn, it may only be accessible if you take the turntable apart. In this case, adjustment is a nightmare, but still possible.
In some cases, there is nothing you can do, if your old unit goes out of pitch. The only solution is to replace the motor, or (my favorite option) replace the turntable with something more modern and user-friendly.
Adjust Pitch On Turntable: Final Thoughts
If you have a newer record player, chances are adjusting the pitch is quite easy. But if you have an old model, it may be such a huge pain that it’s not even worth it.
In that case, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether to replace the motor with a new one that has a pitch screw (if available), or if it is better to just replace the turntable altogether.