The needle and the damage done: Get your old turntable working again

You’ve come across a dusty old record player, be it in your parent’s attic or a market. There’s no better time to put it to use, and experts say even if it looks old, it won’t take much to get it back into action.

”If it’s a brand-name device that has not been used for 20 or 30 years and is just gathering dust in the corner, it can be worthwhile to make such a record player work again, ” according to hi-fi specialist Herbert Bisges.

It’s still possible to get spare parts for players from well-known manufacturers. However, a prerequisite is that the turntable is still intact.

”The first step is a thorough cleaning, ” says vinyl specialist Matthias Boede. “The coarsest dust can be carefully removed using a vacuum cleaner with a soft nozzle at low speed, then a damp cloth should be used.”

Fellow hi-fi expert Ralph Werner says you should do a quick test first to make sure that the player is still working.

”Just connect the device to the power and see whether the turntable is still turning and running smoothly and doesn’t wobble, ” he says.

You should also look closely at the tone arm that holds the needle on the record: “If it is bent or badly damaged, you can basically forget about it.”

Next you should check whether the tone arm bearing can move freely.

”To do this, you lift the tone arm and slowly and carefully guide it over the entire record without putting it down. That should be possible without resistance, ” Werner says.

If these parts are working ok, you should then look at the stylus or needle and the cartridge that holds it at the end of the tone arm.

”The stylus is a wear-and-tear part, it’s best to play it safe and replace it, ” Werner says.

If the cartridge is missing or broken, things can quickly become more expensive. In that case, it may make more sense to just buy a new record player. Fitting a new cartridge requires skill as it has to be properly aligned to achieve the right sound quality.

Another component that may need to be repaired or replaced is the drive belt for the turntable. A replacement belt costs around US$30 (RM121). You should check the platter bearing and its lubrication when you remove the platter to replace the drive belt.

”The best thing to do is to remove the old oil with a Q-tip and alcohol and then add new oil, ” Boede recommends. After that, the turntable needs to be connected to the amplifier or receiver.

Fortunately, the records themselves do not need any special care as long as they’ve been stored correctly, that is, standing upright and not exposed to the sun. — dpa