Your record player might feel like an integral part of your home, but it is still a machine that requires care and maintenance.
If you want your record player to last, you need to treat it right. You have to put in the hard work and time to maintain it properly.
Over time, the needle of your record player may stop functioning the way it should. This can alter the sound of the music it plays and completely ruin the whole listening experience.
For this reason, it is crucial that you learn how to replace turntable needles.
Furthermore, you cannot give your precious record player to an amateur to fix. After all, record players are often handed down over generations and can hold great value.
That’s why the only person you can trust to do this job is yourself or a professional. And professionals are expensive. So let’s learn how to replace a record player needle yourself.
The Role Of The Needle On A Record Player
Before we explain how to replace turntable needles, let’s take a minute to talk about the needle and why it’s important for a record player. The needle is a crucial part of the cartridge in a record player and determines the quality of sound you end up hearing from your speakers.
The needle is located at the end of the metal arm, called the tone arm. It is the only part of a turntable that makes direct contact with the vinyl record. The needle moves along the grooves on the vinyl surface and reads the music that was originally engraved there.
The needle is essentially the component that interprets the music imprinted on the record and sends it to the magnetic cartridge, where it is turned into electric signals. The amplifiers and speakers then take those electrical signals and convert them into the sound we hear with our ears.
If the needle does not interpret the music on your records correctly, the electronic signals that are fed into the amplifier or speakers are highly inaccurate. This results in a distorted rendition of the original music.
Now that you know the important role of a needle for reading music on records, you should understand the importance of treating it carefully and taking even more care when replacing it. Replacing the needle is a task that requires the utmost care and attention to detail, in order to minimize the risk of problems down the road.
How To Replace The Needle On Your Record Player
Replacing the needle on your turntable is not an impossible task. With proper research and practice, it is something you can easily do on your own, and save a lot of money. But you do need to make sure you know what you are doing, before you attempt this.
Do Your Research
The first thing to do when you want to learn how to replace turntable needles is to do the required research. Record players come in different sizes and shapes. Every record player uses a specific size and type of needle.
In order to successfully replace the needle in your turntable, you first need to know which needle it uses. The easiest way to determine that is to read the serial number on the cartridge, which you can then use to find the correct needle (just do an online search).
If you can’t find the serial number, then you should look for specifications in the owner’s manual. The manual will usually have instructions on replacing needles, making it your best source for information.
If you no longer have the manual, try searching for it online. Manuals are available online for most models. They are often found on the manufacturer’s website. If you can’t find a manual, contact the manufacturer (you can find their contact info on their site) and see if they can send you a copy.
Once you have all the information you need, you can easily buy the correct needle to replace the old one and begin the replacement process.
Consult A Professional
In case you cannot find the serial number to determine the model, we suggest you take your player to a professional. The professional may be able to help you determine the serial number by having a look at it.
Unplug The Unit
The first step to replacing the needle is obviously to unplug the machine entirely. This will eliminate any chances of an electric shock and make it safe for you to touch the device.
You should also remove any records that were placed in it to play. This is to ensure no damage occurs to your vinyl record while you are replacing the needle.
Another important thing before you start this process is to make sure you place your new needle somewhere away from the old one. This will ensure you do not to mix the new needle with the old needle.
Unscrew The Headshell To Remove The Needle
Some models have removable headshells. It is really easy to remove the needle in such models as all you need to do is unscrew the shell.
Unlock The Lever In The Arm
In other models, you have to unlock the lever that keeps the tonearm stiffly in place. Most models have two screws at the end of the tonearm. They should be easy to find. You can use a flat-head screwdriver to turn these screws counter-clockwise and they will start to loosen up.
Once you have unlocked the lever, you can easily pull out the needle. Make sure you don’t put any extra pressure on the metallic arm as that may bend it and alter its shape.
Fitting The New Needle Into Place
Once you have removed the old needle, there will be an empty spot for you to fit the new needle in. Insert the new needle carefully with its pointy end facing downwards. As you know, it’s the pointy end that comes in contact with the record to play music.
Tighten The Screws Back On The Tonearm
Once you are done putting the new needle in its proper place, you can re-tighten the screws on the tonearm. This will fix the tonearm back to its original place.
Test The New Needle
And that’s it! You are finished with the task of replacing the delicate needle on your record player. Plug the machine back in and turn it on to test if you have done everything correctly. If your record player is working perfectly, then congratulations! You have nailed this task.
But if you hear unusual sounds, there may be a problem.
You may hear scratching sounds or notice skipping. This indicates there is a problem with the needle placement. Try adjusting the tonearm to see if this solves the problem.
If you continue to hear unusual sounds then you should consider taking your record player to a professional. They might suggest that it needs a needle replacement. If that is the case, let them do it, but see if you can watch. This will give you the opportunity to see the procedure first hand to learn how to do it properly in the future.
How Do You Know It’s Time To Change The Needle?
Now that you have learned hot to replace the needle, you may be wondering how often you’re supposed to do this. A needle replacement is not something you should be doing on a regular basis, like other routine maintenance tasks like cleaning. You should only do it when it is required.
After Prolonged Use
A general rule of thumb is that the needle of your record player gets worn out after approximately 300 hours of playing music.
Whenever You Hear Unusual Sounds
The first thing you should do when you hear unusual sounds is clean your record player and try to fix its alignment. Sometimes, weird sounds are the result of accumulation of dust on records or improper positioning of the tonearm. Clean your vinyl and check the tonearm to rule these out, before changing out the needle.
If noting else fixes the problem, the weird noises may be occurring due to a worn out needle. If you randomly hear cracks and pops when playing music, not just with one record but with many different ones, then this may indicate that a change of the needle is required.
When You Buy A Second Hand Record Player
Another good time to replace the needle is when you buy a second hand record player. This ensures you get the best quality of sound from your newly acquired turntable.
The charm of an old, classic record player is surely undeniable and many of the best newer models are wonderful, too. We hope this article proves helpful in providing you with all the guidelines you need to correctly replace your record player needle, so that you can keep your prized turntable running for a long time to come.
Another nice bonus: once you have swapped out the needle on your own, you are bound to feel a little proud of yourself. It is essentially a rite of passage for all record player owners.