When I started to listen to my favorite songs on vinyl just to see what it was like, I didn’t know that the switch from digital platforms would be permanent. Over time, I realized that nothing was quite like the sound quality I experienced with vinyl records.
However, I started noticing that my turntable’s volume had gotten much lower than it used to be. This got me asking myself, why is my turntable so quiet?
Read on to find out more about the most common reasons for your turntable’s audio being not as loud as you want it to be, as well as how to make it louder.
Why Your Turntable’s Volume Is So Low
There’s a wide variety of factors that can be contributing to your turntable’s volume not being as loud as you’re used to.
These factors can be categorized into ones that are related to your turntable’s internal components and ones that aren’t.
Your turntable may be exceedingly quiet due to a faulty phono preamp, cartridge, stylus, or tonearm. It can also be due to external factors such as faulty speakers or a faulty connection to them.
Reasons Why Your Turntable Is So Quiet
Here are some of the most common reasons why your turntable’s volume isn’t as high as you expect it to be.
Phono Preamp Issues
One of the likeliest reasons behind the low volume of your turntable is that there’s a problem with the phono preamp.
This is the part of your turntable that amplifies the audio signal to a point where it’s readable by the speakers you’re going to connect it to.
You should note that some turntables come equipped with a phono preamp out of the box, while others require you to purchase it separately. If your turntable has a built-in phono preamp, the reason that your turntable is so quiet may be that you don’t have the preamp turned on.
If you’ve bought the phono preamp separately, the low volume of your turntable may be that the phono preamp isn’t connected to it properly. In turn, your turntable’s signal isn’t being amplified as it should.
Another issue that may be affecting your turntable’s volume is that your phono preamp has simply reached the end of its lifespan.
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The Quality of Your Turntable
Another possible cause for your turntable being so quiet is that it’s a model that’s not very high-quality.
Sure, it may be tempting to opt for a more affordable model. However, these models won’t last as long as more premium models. This deficit in quality manifests itself in the deterioration of the sound volume and quality that your turntable produces after prolonged use.
Paying extra upfront for a high-quality turntable is simply the better, more cost-effective course of action in the long run. This is because it’ll save you significant money on repairs or replacing your turntable outright.
Faulty Connection to Output Device
Another common issue that may be causing the problems you’re facing with your turntable’s volume is its connection to your speakers or any other output device you’re using.
Many turntables only offer you the option of connecting them to external devices using RCA cables. These cables can be unreliable at times as they experience the wear and tear of everyday use.
Therefore, this may cause the output audio to be overly quiet and in some cases even distorted. In turn, you should use a multimeter to check if your cables are functioning correctly before you take any drastic measures regarding any of your turntable’s components.
This also applies if you’re connecting your turntable to your speakers via USB.
Another connection-related factor that might be the reason you’re having to strain your ears to hear your favorite songs is that you’ve connected your turntable to an incorrect port.
Audio output devices are equipped with a slot that’s specifically meant for connection to turntables. This slot is referred to as a phono input. If you haven’t connected your turntable to it correctly, this may be the reason for its low volume.
Issues With the Tonearm
The tonearm is the metal rod that connects your turntable’s stylus to its cartridge. Its purpose is to take the input that the stylus feeds it in the form of mechanical energy and pass it along to the cartridge.
This is easily one of the most important internal components of your turntable. Unfortunately, it’s also the one that you’ll run into the most problems with.
Those problems could be the main contributors to the issues you’re facing with your turntable’s sound being so low.
In order for the tonearm to function the way it’s supposed to, it needs to be in the optimal position and exert just the right amount of pressure.
This may not be happening as a result of the screws holding the tonearm in place being too tight or too loose.
If the screws are too loose, your turntable’s tonearm isn’t going to be making full contact with the disc. If they’re too tight, the tonearm will be exerting too much pressure on the disc. Either way, this will have an adverse effect on your turntable’s sound quality and volume.
If you suspect that your turntable’s tonearm is the source of the issue, you shouldn’t try to repair it yourself unless you have the necessary knowledge. This is because tonearms are highly delicate and require expertise when being handled.
Issues With the Cartridge
Another possible culprit for your turntable’s volume woes is its cartridge. This is the component that takes the mechanical energy passed on to it by the tonearm and converts it into a pulsating electrical signal. The cartridge does this through the use of the electromagnet it contains.
As you use your turntable more and more, the cartridge is prone to wear down over time. This causes it not to be as effective in doing its job.
In turn, the electrical signal produced by the cartridge isn’t as strong as it should be and the sound produced by your turntable isn’t as loud as it should be.
The only way to know for sure if the cartridge is the root of the problem is to replace it with another one and see the effect, or lack thereof, this has on your turntable’s volume.
This is another case where the issue may not actually be with your turntable, to begin with. Your turntable may be working just fine, but the speakers you’re connecting it to aren’t.
The speakers may not be emitting as loud a sound as you expect them to for several reasons. The first of these reasons may be that your speakers are damaged. This is especially likely to be the case if they’ve recently taken a nasty fall or if they’ve come into contact with water.
Another possible reason for your speakers to be the cause of your issue is that they’ve started to wear down and need to be replaced. This is more likely if these speakers happen to be cheap ones that aren’t built to last.
Issues With the Record
One more possible reason why your turntable’s audio is so quiet revolves around the record you’re playing.
Defective records can definitely contribute to a noticeable drop in your turntable’s audio volume and quality.
A record can be defective for one of two reasons.
Firstly, it may be a bootleg record that’s a low-quality replica of the original. Additionally, a record can become defective even if it’s an authentic one. This happens as a result of the wear and tear (such as scratches) that the record experiences over the years of use.
This deformation of a record’s surface renders your turntable unable to read it as it usually would, in turn, the audio it produces may not be as loud as it should be.
Issues With the Stylus
Another component that, if faulty, can cause your turntable’s volume to be exceedingly low is the stylus.
This is the part of your turntable that comes into contact with the record and deciphers the grooves on it. Therefore, if the stylus is unable to do this effectively for any reason, it may cause your turntable’s audio to be low and distorted.
Since the stylus has to be in contact with a record as it spins in order to do its job, it’s subject to significant wear and tear with prolonged use due to friction.
One factor that accelerates the deterioration of your turntable’s stylus is its excess exposure to dust.
As dust builds up on the stylus, it dulls its sensitivity to the peaks and troughs on a record’s surface
It also means that the tip of your stylus isn’t in full contact with the record, this can definitely contribute to your turntable’s volume being lower than what you’re accustomed to.
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How to Make Your Turntable Louder
Here are some measures that you can take in order to significantly boost the volume of your turntable’s audio.
Use a Phono Preamp With Higher Gain
The first thing you can do to make your turntable’s audio louder is to change the phono preamp you’re using.
If your turntable has a built-in phono preamp, it’s highly likely that this phono preamp is one with a gain and output level that leaves a lot to be desired.
Therefore, it’s highly advised that you invest in a phono preamp that’s sold separately and has a higher gain level. By using this phono preamp instead, you’ll boost the strength of your turntable’s signal, and in turn, the volume of its audio.
Replace the Stylus
Another way that you can make your turntable’s audio significantly louder and of higher quality is to replace the stylus if it’s worn out.
As previously mentioned, a worn-out stylus that has excessive dust build-up on its tip doesn’t make optimum contact with a record which causes the resulting audio to be muted and distorted.
Additionally, failing to replace a worn-out stylus can ruin your records. This is because the dust on the stylus can get into the records’ grooves. This will cause the sound quality of these records to take a deep dive, even after you finally decide that it’s time to replace the stylus.
Use a Higher Output Cartridge
If your phono preamp is already top-notch and your turntable’s stylus isn’t worn out, another change you can make to improve your turntable’s volume involves the cartridge.
How loud your turntable’s audio is depends on the strength of the electrical signal it produces. Since the cartridge is the component responsible for creating this electrical signal, using one that has a higher output is an effective way to increase the maximum volume of your turntable.
To do so, you need to first find out the maximum output that the cartridge in your turntable supports. Most turntables typically have cartridges that produce an output within the range of 3 to 8 mV.
If the cartridge in your particular turntable lies on the lower side of that range, replacing it with one that produces a larger output is sure to work wonders for the volume of your turntable’s audio.
Why Are Turntables Quieter Than CD Players?
You may be wondering why turntables have a lower volume than CD players and other digital music-playing methods in general.
The answer to that question revolves around the way vinyl records are made. More specifically, the quieter nature of turntables is a result of the different mastering techniques used in analog and digital audio recording.
Vinyl records are made by imprinting sound waves on a vinyl disc. This creates a limitation when it comes to how loud the record can be.
Sure, you can use an amplifier to make a vinyl record louder. However, you can only do so up to a certain point before you compromise the quality of the audio.
On the other hand, digital audio recordings don’t have this limitation. This allows engineers to encode them with much higher maximum volumes.