Sometimes record players produce unwanted noises.
It is most common with vintage style turntables, but can happen with any model.
The good news is that it is usually not a difficult fix.
The hardest part is figuring out what is causing the turntable hum, buzz, crackle, static, or other noise.
Go through this brief turntable noise troubleshooting guide to figure out what is causing the noise in your case.
In most cases it is then simply a matter of replacing the component that is causing the noise, grounding your turntable, turning down the volume on a component in the audio chain, or moving a component’s location.
And suddenly, the noise is gone and your record player sounds great again!
Turntable Noise Troubleshooting
Follow this troubleshooting guide in order from top to bottom, to get to the bottom of your record player’s noise issues.
Define The Type Of Noise Your Turntable Is Making
Before you can troubleshoot the cause of your turntable noise, you need to define the type of noise that is occurring.
There are several different undesirable sounds that can come from a turntable, but the main two are buzzing and humming.
This is far from a complete list but here are the most common types of unwanted sounds.
This can range from a quiet low pitch humming sound to a louder more mid-range hum. The most common type of hum sound is the well-known, and well-hated, 60 cycle hum.
This is the same hum you will hear in guitar amps and other audio components with poor grounding. The 60 cycle hum is a result of the high voltage electricity from your outlet bleeding into the audio channel and is usually caused by improper or poor grounding.
Occasionally when you hear this sound, it means that you are about to be shocked if your skin touches the wrong part of the component.
Buzzing is different from humming because it has more of a midrange abrasive quality to the sound. It can sound like a weird robot bee buzzing around in the speakers.
It can sometimes mean that electricity has bled into the audio channel, or it can be a short circuit inside the unit, or a cracked or old solder joint that has come loose.
Sometimes called feedback, this is a little rarer with turntables and is a midrange to high pitch howling sound, like when a microphone is feeding back from the speakers. Usually, this can mean your audio channel in your turntable is wide open and too close to your speakers.
Crackling can come from records when there are scratches or too much dust on the record you are playing. It can also come from loose cables somewhere in the audio chain. It can also be caused by the speaker wire not sitting flush in the speaker terminal.
This sounds like when you are listening to the radio and are not fully sitting on a strong signal. It can be described as a kind of white noise. Static can be caused by bad components in the audio chain, including the turntable, preamp, receiver, or power amps.
Troubleshooting The Unwanted Sound
Once you know what type of unwanted sound you are hearing, you can begin the troubleshooting process. The reason it matters that you define the sound is that each sound has a different origin, and certain sounds can only be caused by specific things, making it easier and more efficient to troubleshoot.
If you are hearing a hum, the first step in troubleshooting it is to determine if it is coming from your turntable or some other part of your audio chain.
To rule out your turntable being the cause, switch on another component like a CD Player, cassette, or TV input.
If you listen to those other sources and still hear the hum, it is most likely not originating from your turntable. To be sure of this, unplug the RCA cables of your turntable while you cycle through the other audio sources.
This process will tell you where the hum is coming from. Go through all your components until you find which one is the cause.
If you find out the hum is coming from your turntable, it is most likely one of these issues:
- Improper grounding (ground cable not screwed in or receiver not grounded).
- RCA cables shorting out. This is common with cheap cables.
Repeat the same process as above to determine if the buzz is coming from your turntable or some other component in the audio chain.
Remember to unplug your RCA cables from your turntable into your receiver (or preamp to receiver) to eliminate the turntable from the equation.
Buzzing can often come from short circuits or loose connections. If you go through the process of ruling out components and find out it is coming from your turntable, take the following action.
- Check all your connections on your turntable: this includes the cartridge, RCA cables (if applicable), ground wire, power supply cable (if applicable).
- If you find a loose cartridge, or power supply cable, etc. make sure to tighten it up and see if the sound goes away.
- Try turning the motor on and off and see if the sound changes. If it only happens when the platter is spinning, the problem is coming from the motor.
Go through the process of elimination again, as before, to determine the source of the squealing.
This kind of noise is commonly caused by analog components like turntables, so it is likely your turntable is the culprit this time. If you determine the turntable is the issue, take the following action:
Rule Out Preamp (If Applicable)
If you are using an external phono preamp, you need to rule it out as the source of the noise. Turn it off and the noise should stop.
If it stops, now try turning down the gain on the preamp (or volume, if applicable). If the howling/squealing goes away when turning down the preamp volume it could mean your preamp is way too loud.
Rule Out Receiver Volume
Squealing or feedback can happen when your cartridge is allowed to feedback onto itself. This only happens when there is a significant sound level in the room. Try turning down the volume on your receiver and see if the squeal goes away.
Position Of The Turntable
If you like listening to your turntable at high volumes and you are hearing squealing, there is a good chance your unit is too close to the speakers.
The proximity to speakers and the volume of the speakers both play a role in feedback. If you move your turntable further from the speakers and the squeal stops, the proximity was the issue.
Troubleshooting Crackling Or Static (The Same Steps For Both)
Use the process of elimination to find the component that is causing the crackling. If you find out it is your turntable, take these actions.
Play A Record
Play a record and see if the cracking or static is happening. If it is, play a different record to see if the crackling is coming from the record itself. This is a common cause of crackling on turntables.
When records get old or dusty, they can crackle. Sometimes with newer records, you can just dust them off with some distilled water and soft brush, but with old records, they can have debris and dirt deep in the grooves and they will need a deep cleaning.
Test The Cartridge
If the crackling is happening with no record playing, take off your cartridge and see if the crackling or static is still there. If it is still there, continue to the next step.
Test The Motor
The crackling is not caused by your cartridge, which means it can be coming from the motor. Try turning the motor on and off. If the cracking continues while the motor is off, continue to the next step.
Have A Professional Check It Out
If you are still getting crackling or static and it’s not coming from the motor or the cartridge or any other component, your turntable may need to be repaired by a professional.
Troubleshooting Turntable Noise: Final Thoughts
Hopefully, you were able to locate the source of your turntable noise and fix it. If you were not able to stop the noise, we strongly recommend contacting a professional.
If it was not one of the issues detailed above, then the problem is likely something more serious, or at least much more difficult to diagnose. A professional should be able to figure it out and tell you how to proceed.