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Thread: The "how to minimise needle skipping" thread

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    The "how to minimise needle skipping" thread

    This has been asked about a few times on here, so here's a bunch of possible solutions.

    Pick decent gear to begin with!

    Low end turntables are likely to be more problematic than higher end ones. Also, some carts/styli are more skip-resistant than others. Don't just buy the cheapest carts/styli you can find thinking they'll work just like any others, because they won't. Generally, when you pay more you get a better product, whether that's better sound quality, better skip resistance, or both. Do your research.

    What shape of tonearm is best?

    For DJing, the 2 common ones are the underhung straight tonearm and the S-shaped tonearm.

    1. Straight - No anti-skate required. Is less prone to side-to-side wobble that can lead to skipping. The disadvantage of a straight arm is the tracking error, i.e. the angle of the needle tip in the groove. This can lead to higher record wear and inferior sound quality (not an issue with a DVS though), but whether you notice it or not is another matter. You should always use spherical styli with straight armed turntables, not elliptical ones, as elliptical ones can literally shave away at the wall of the groove because of the tracking error.

    2. S-shaped - Requires anti-skate. Can be prone to a little side-to-side wobble. Tracks the groove better though, so you may notice better sound quality with real vinyl, and you can use spherical or elliptical styli.

    Taking everything else in this post into account, there's really not a great deal of difference between the two. If one was considerably better than the other, DJs would all use that type, but they don't.

    Make sure your decks are functioning correctly and that they're set up properly!

    A lot of skipping issues are caused by this. Generally speaking, here's how to set up a turntable tonearm: -

    1. Make sure that the cart is properly mounted to the headshell and that it's screwed in nice and tight. The cart shouldn't be mounted at an angle. If you have an over-hang gauge, you can use that to set how far forward/back to mount the cart, but for needles like the Shure M44-7 you can just mount it so that the end of the cart is flush with the end of the headshell. I would personally avoid fitting any extra weights/plates that come with the cart as in my experience, this only makes things worse.

    2. With the turntable's motor off, place the needle down on a record. Adjust the height of the tonearm so that it's level (i.e. not leaning upwards or downwards). Lock the height in place.

    3. Move the weight at the back of the tonearm so that you find the balance point - the tonearm floats/balances perfectly in the air. Adjust just the weight gauge on the tonearm weight so it's at 0 - at this point the tonearm should still be floating. Now turn the weight itself to add the required number of grammes for your cart.

    4. If your turntable has anti-skate, either set it to 0 or set it to the same figure as the number of grammes of weight you've added to the tonearm. This is the "quick and dirty" method, but it will usually work fine in all cases. A more accurate method is to use a record that only has a track pressed on one side, so you can use the unpressed side to correctly set the anti-skate (Google for more info if you want to do this).

    A tonearm should move freely without binding or catching, and it shouldn't be so loose that it wobbles around. If either of these things occur, you may need to tighten/loosen the tonearm bearing, although be very careful with this as you can ruin a bearing by over-tightening it. Google for guides.

    Anti-skate is designed to compensate for a non-straight tonearm's natural pull to the outside of the record. If the anti-skate is broken, that can be the cause of skipping issues. Again, you can use an unpressed record side to check this. Google for more info.

    Make sure your decks are on a sturdy, level surface!

    If your decks are on a wobbly desk or one of those crap DJ stands, that increases the chance of you having skipping issues. Ideally you want a rock solid surface that's totally level. In some clubs, they may use dampeners to help prevent the needle skipping because of how loud the sound is, but at home that's not gonna be an issue so don't worry about that.

    Make sure your needles aren't covered in crap and/or are worn out!

    You can use a stylus brush to clean crap off your stylus tip. Brush from back to front only, in a perfectly straight line (in line with the stylus itself) so that you don't accidentally bend the needle. There is also liquid stylus cleaner, but I've never needed to use it. Often, using your fingertip is OK just to remove a little ball of dust that's built up on the stylus tip.

    It's hard to know when to change a stylus. There's no set number of hours that they last, because it depends how much weight you're using, whether you're scratching as well as mixing and what have you. If you notice degradation in the sound quality that isn't caused by anything else, it's probably because your stylus is getting a bit worn. Likewise, if you're getting a lot of skipping and you've tried literally everything else, it's probably time to change the stylus.

    Make sure your records aren't the issue!

    There's a few issues with records that can cause skipping: -

    1. A warped record. There are various ways to fix warped records, ranging from DIY methods to expensive machines. Google for more info.

    2. A record where the hole in the middle is slightly too big, so that it wobbles about a little on the platter. You can use tape to make the hole smaller.

    3. A record where the hole in the middle is just slightly off-centre. There's nothing you can do about this.

    4. A record that's covered in dust or crap that's buried in the groove. Use a carbon fibre brush to keep your records clean. If they need a deeper clean, use a liquid solution, a proper record cleaning machine, or something like Record Revirginizer. Don't leave records on your decks uncovered when you're not using them - put them away, and cover your decks up too.

    5. A bad pressing. Some records are just crap pressings. There's nothing you can do about this.

    So obviously, if you try one record and it's skipping, try a few others as it may just be that particular record. Wash your hands before you use your decks, because crap that's on your fingertips can get into the record's groove. If this gets really bad, the needle will literally dig out what looks like white/grey dust - this is all the grime/dust/crap that's settled into the groove.

    Make sure you aren't the issue!

    Scratching and mixing with vinyl takes some finesse. If you're heavy-handed, that can cause the needle to skip. I've had a DJ say to me "I just can't figure out why my decks are skipping!" then when I have a go on them, they're fine.

    Extra weight is not always the answer!

    In the old days before decent carts/styli existed, DJs would often solve the skipping issue by adding more weight - the old "coin on top of the headshell" trick. There's no reason to do this in 2012 unless you're in a club and your shit is skipping like crazy and that's a quick fix to get it to stop. More weight = more record and stylus wear. Whacking extra weight on the tonearm is slapping a band aid on the problem, rather than looking for the root cause of it and fixing it properly.

    A cart/stylus will usually have a recommended weight range, so for Shure M44-7s that is 2.5-4 grammes. Start at the lighter end of the scale and only increase the weight if you're having issues, or if you want a little bit of reassurance because you're playing a gig or you're in a battle.
    Last edited by Sigma; 01-26-2013 at 01:18 PM.

  2. #2
    New Member BrianHart903's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Quality info. To add further upon the idea of cleaning your stylus, I would definitely recommend checking out some of the cool sponges on the market. They'll do the trick safely. :-)

    There's some solid information here as well:

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    The "how to minimise needle skipping" thread

    Use Digital

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by mitchiemasha View Post
    The "how to minimise needle skipping" thread

    Use Digital
    Tell that to vinyl users and let's see how much bashing you'd get. Don't want to sound rude but your suggestion is simply for the ignorant.
    Works1200 - the Technics 1200/1210 specialist - FB page
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Lol... Nope! I tell it to all the vinyl users I know. As a sound engineer for the rave scene (very vinyl based) and a vinyl lover for many years... It is my only advise. It's not ignorant, it's true.

  6. #6
    The Numark TTX (And maybe the TT-500.) are fairly skipping proof because of the layered body design. The only way the sound effects them skipping or feeding back is through the needle.
    "In the early 1990s, the Bose AM-5 held some 30% of the US speaker market. Not Bose the company. Just the AM-5."

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