A Quick-Start Guide For Fixing Up Vinyl Records
Whether you’ve just gotten started with building your record collection or are a veteran vinyl listener, you’re probably familiar with the thrill of picking up an old record. From thrift stores to yard sales to online marketplaces, vintage and antique vinyl records are everywhere, and they call out to avid collectors and curious newcomers alike.
However, as nice to look at as these old records can be, they often don’t have much to offer in terms of sound quality. If an old record has been poorly stored and poorly maintained, it may even be unplayable. If you have gotten hold of a vintage record and had the experience of putting it on your turntable and discovering it is ruined, you know how disappointing it can be. Warping, scratches, and other forms of wear and tear can render many old records damaged beyond repair.
Although some old records may be beyond saving, there are some circumstances when your efforts to fix up a vintage vinyl pay off. Some forms of vinyl damage are more irreparable, and others can potentially be fixed. In this post, we’ll discuss some of the different types of damage that records can pick up over the years. In addition, we’ll cover some of the steps that you can take to fix up damaged vinyl to get it looking and sounding as good as possible.
How Records Get Damaged
There are a variety of factors that can reduce the sound quality and physical integrity of your vinyl records. Below are a few of the most common causes of vinyl damage. We’ll also cover some of the best ways to care for your records, including methods of vinyl restoration that can sometimes be highly effective.
Records are often damaged by warping. A record can get warped due to improper storage, exposure to extreme heat, changes in temperature and humidity, and other factors. If a record is warped, it’s highly likely that a warped record will have some sound quality issues, including increased noise and distortion. In addition, warped records sometimes become completely unplayable, as the grooves in a damaged record can become impossible for your turntable’s stylus to accurately read.
Records can be damaged by physical, cosmetic harm. Scratches, dings, the impact of being dropped – all of these things can harm your vinyl records. The best way to avoid cosmetic damage and the subsequent decrease in sound quality that it causes is to carefully store your records. Keeping each vinyl in your collection in a protective sleeve can help to provide a buffer against scratches and other types of damage. In addition, handling your records carefully when playing them can make a big difference as well. To avoid scratches, it’s always smart to handle your records with care, only touching the sides if possible.
Dust and debris can also pose a threat to your vinyl collection. Your records can lose some of their sound quality if they are exposed to excessive quantities of dust, dirt, and other forms of debris. The best way to keep this from happening is to frequently clean your records with specialized tools. If dust and dirt get deeply embedded in the grooves of a record, using a special brush and the right cleaning solution can help you restore the vinyl back to better condition.
Vinyl records sometimes just wear down with age. If a record has been well-loved for decades, you may see a natural decline in its sound quality over time. Older records tend to produce more noise and distortion, especially if they have not been carefully preserved throughout their lifespans. If you want to keep your records sounding great for as long as possible, it’s always best to practice routine maintenance and to protect your vinyl collection from dust, scratches, and other dangers.
Records can also be damaged through improper use. If you do not know how to use a turntable, you may inadvertently cause damage to a record while trying to play it. Improperly placing the turntable’s stylus, or needle, on top of the record can cause scratches in some cases, which can render a record permanently damaged. Deep scratches often come from habitual misuse or poor maintenance of a record, and these forms of vinyl damage can easily be avoided through learning how to use and care for records.
A low-quality turntable can also damage a record. Cheaper record players are sometimes ill-equipped to preserve the sound quality and physical integrity of a record. Although it can be hard to hear changes in sound quality on a subpar record player, the lower-quality components on a cheap record player can gradually wear your records down in some cases. The counterweight, cartridge, and tonearm are three especially important parts of your record player to consider if great sound quality and preserving your records is a high priority for you. If these components are lacking in quality, you may not be able to get a good sound, and you may be putting your records at risk of getting damaged.
When Is A Record Damaged Beyond Repair?
As you can tell, many different factors can cause vinyl records to get worn down and damaged. However, not all of these factors cause the same levels of damage. In some circumstances, a record can be restored after it has been degraded by dust or minor scratches. In other cases, a record might be so warped or scratched that it is essentially unplayable. Before you try to fix up a record, it’s wise to know whether that particular vinyl can be saved.
Below are some important considerations to make before you start to try restoring and repairing a record.
Warped records might be gone forever. As disappointing as it is, warping is one of the forms of vinyl damage that is the hardest to reverse. Records that have spent time sitting in storage in a hot, humid attic, or even in the trunk of an unshaded car, may experience warping that is irreparable. If one of your records is severely warped, it might be better to buy a new copy rather than trying to fix the current one up.
Some scratches are deeper than others. There are multiple DIY techniques for removing scratches from vinyl records. These at-home solutions range from the use of wood glue to toothpicks, and they can be risky if done improperly. It’s usually best to leave dealing with severe scratches to a professional. However, some lighter scratching can be buffed out using a specialized vinyl brush and cleaning solution.
Not all records are worth the effort to repair. While vinyl restoration can be relaxing and rewarding for some, it’s a chore for others. If you plan on putting in the time and effort to restore a record, make sure it’s an LP that you care for deeply. In many cases, getting a new copy of an album that you love is a far more justifiable choice than spending hours trying to restore a copy that may be ruined.
Professionals may be better equipped to help you restore valuable records. If you own a copy of a rare record, professional restoration may be worth the investment. Some vinyl records are worth hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, and keeping these records in optimal condition is an essential aspect of retaining their resale value. If you want to put a rare release back on the market at any point, hiring a professional to restore the vinyl may be worthwhile.
Are Used Records Worth It?
Part of the beauty of buying a new LP is the guarantee that your record will be in pristine condition when you play it. New records are inherently more reliable than their pre-owned counterparts, which may be subject to warping, scratches, and other forms of major and minor damage. If you want to make a vinyl purchase that is as low-risk as possible, getting a new record is the way to go.
However, although used vinyl may be more unpredictable, pre-owned LPs can still have a home in your growing record collection. If you plan on buying used records, make sure to follow these tips:
Look for records in good condition. Many used records can look great when displayed on your shelf, but they may be virtually unplayable. Pay close attention to the condition that a used record is in – look for LPs that are considered to be in at least “fair” condition when possible.
If you can buy it new, it may be a better option. Older pressings of records are sometimes more sought-after and valuable due to their collectible status. However, a newer version of an album may be cheaper, and it may also provide you with a better and more reliable listening experience.
If you want to learn more about vinyl collecting and record restoration, click here to visit the Sound of Vinyl blog.
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