Do Cheap Turntables Ruin Vinyl Records?

Do Cheap Turntables Ruin Vinyl Records?

Craig Walker |

Ah, the age-old question that has been the subject of many a heated debate among vinyl enthusiasts and audiophiles alike.

Do cheap turntables really have the audacity to ruin our beloved vinyl records?

Let's delve into this intriguing topic, shall we?

The Anatomy of a Turntable

Before we go any further, it's crucial to understand the basic anatomy of a turntable.

After all, how can we accuse something of being a record destroyer without knowing what it's made of?

A turntable typically consists of a platter (the part where the record sits), a tonearm (the part that holds the stylus or needle), and a cartridge (the part that converts the vibrations from the stylus into electrical signals).

These are the key players in our vinyl drama.

The Platter

The platter's job is to spin the record at a consistent speed, along with the motor & belt.

In cheap turntables, the platter is often made of lightweight materials like plastic, which can lead to inconsistent speeds and, consequently, a less-than-stellar listening experience. But does it ruin the record?

Not directly, but it's certainly not doing it any favours.

Higher-end turntables usually have platters made of heavier materials like metal or acrylic, which provide a more stable rotation.

A stable rotation means a happier record and a happier listener.

The Tonearm & Cartridge

The tonearm and cartridge are where things get a bit more complicated.

The tonearm needs to be properly balanced to ensure the stylus tracks the record grooves accurately.

If it's too heavy, it can cause undue wear on the record. If it's too light, it can skip across the record, causing potential damage.

Cheap turntables often have tonearms and cartridges that are of lower quality and lack the necessary adjustments for proper balance and tracking.

This is where the real danger lies for your vinyl records.

The Impact of a Cheap Turntable on Vinyl Records

Now that we've dissected the turntable, let's look at how a cheap one can potentially harm your vinyl records.

As mentioned earlier, the main culprits are the tonearm and cartridge.

A poorly balanced tonearm can cause the stylus to dig into the record grooves, causing wear over time.

Similarly, a low-quality cartridge may not accurately track the grooves, leading to potential skipping and scratching.

Wear & Tear

While vinyl records are designed to be played, they are not immune to wear and tear.

Each play causes a tiny amount of wear to the record grooves.

However, a well-maintained, high-quality turntable minimises this wear, ensuring your records can be enjoyed for many years to come.

On the other hand, a cheap turntable with a poorly balanced tonearm and low-quality cartridge can accelerate this wear, shortening the lifespan of your records.

It's a bit like driving a car with misaligned wheels - it'll still drive, but the tyres will wear out much quicker.

Skipping & Scratching

Skipping is when the stylus jumps out of the record groove, while scratching is when it digs into the vinyl, causing permanent damage.

Both of these can be caused by a cheap turntable with a poorly balanced tonearm and low-quality cartridge.

While skipping is annoying, scratching is the real villain here.

A scratched record is a damaged record, and there's no coming back from that. It's like a scar on your favourite book - it might still be readable, but it's never quite the same.

What Turntables To Avoid?

You're probably wondering which turntables are good and which ones to avoid.

It's a difficult question and we're not going to name any specific names but we'll give you some guidelines.

Whilst we do sell a selected range, we'd usually say to avoid really cheap suitcase record players. Especially the super-cheap ones you might find in a supermarket or discount store.

They are generally low quality and are more likely to damage your records than a proper turntable.

If you're planning on listening to a record twice a year and mostly want something to look good on the side then they may serve a purpose but if you really want to enjoy your records we'd suggest you go for a better turntable.

The most important thing to consider is the brand, choose a good brand such as Audio-Technica, TEAC, Pro-Ject etc. and you can't go too far wrong.

The cheapest "proper" turntable that we'd recommend is the Audio-Technica LP60X range.

Whilst it lacks some finer adjustments and upgradeability it's a high-quality turntable with quality components and can be trusted with your favourite records.

How to Protect Your Vinyl Records

So, how can you protect your vinyl records from the potential harm of a cheap turntable?

Here are a few tips.

  1. Invest in a Quality Turntable: While it might be tempting to save a few quid on a cheap turntable, it's worth investing in a quality one if you're serious about vinyl. Look for one from a good brand such as Audio-Technica, TEAC etc.
  2. Maintain Your Equipment: Regularly clean your records and stylus, and ensure your tonearm is properly balanced. A little maintenance goes a long way in preserving your records.
  3. Handle With Care: Always handle your records by the edges, and store them upright in a cool, dry place. Treat them like the treasures they are.


So, do cheap turntables ruin vinyl records?

The answer is, potentially yes.

While not every cheap turntable will destroy your records, they are more likely to cause damage due to their lower quality components and lack of necessary adjustments.

But don't despair, vinyl lovers! By investing in a quality turntable and taking good care of your records, you can enjoy your vinyl collection for many years to come.

After all, nothing beats the warm, rich sound of a vinyl record spinning on a good turntable. It's music to our ears!