Collecting vinyl records is an exciting journey that every audiophile must try. Unlike downloadable music, which is so popular nowadays, owning various records that you can touch, listen to, and even smell offers a totally different experience.
While digital music is free from physical damage, vinyl has a wear-and-tear period. Simply put, the number of times you can play a record has a limit.
So, how many times can you play a record?
On average, you can play a vinyl record more than a hundred times if you know how to take care of it. The lack of a counterweight, incorrect handling, dust, and improper storage could significantly reduce the number of times you can play it.
However, you could enjoy your record collections for a long time by addressing those factors the right way.
Why is There a Limit to Playing Vinyl Records?
Heated and pressed into the shape of a disc, vinyl records are made of Polyvinyl Chloride pellets or PVC. While this material is durable by nature, the friction produced between the stylus of the turntable and the vinyl record’s groove creates heat.
The heat produced during years of repeated playbacks significantly reduces the number of times you can play your record.
Moreover, how the vinyl record was manufactured also plays a huge role in maximizing its lifespan.
Let’s have a look at how they’re supposed to be made.
The Level of Quality of the Materials Used
Not all vinyl records are created equal. It’s surprising to know that some of them are produced using recycled vinyl records. While recycling them is quite a challenging task; still, some manufacturers melt and press unsold records and combine them with fresh PVCs to reduce production costs.
This method produces records with a shorter lifespan compared to those manufactured with new vinyl.
Weight and Density Could Make a Difference
Have you ever tried weighing and measuring the thickness of your LP?
You see, the weight and the density of a vinyl record could also affect the number of times you could use it. In other words, the lighter and thinner the record is, the more it becomes susceptible to wear and tear.
The average weight of a record is around 120 grams, while its thickness is somewhere between 0.6 to 0.7 millimeters.
What Can Damage Vinyl Records
Apart from how vinyl is made, some external factors could likewise contribute to the number of times you can play a record. Dealing with these factors the right way could help increase the lasting ability of the LP.
Let’s take an in-depth look at them one by one and see how you may be able to preserve your vinyl records.
1. Low-Quality and or Old Stylus
We’ve seen earlier that the heat produced between the stylus and the grooves as they rub each other during playback could wear the record over time. With that in mind, using a cheaply-made stylus on your turntable could significantly damage the vinyl.
In addition, an old stylus could also harm your LP. So it’s best to check your stylus as often as you can so that you can replace them if needed.
You’d know that your stylus needs a replacement if your record starts to produce distorted sound. It also has to be replaced when it’s bent or becomes too pointy. Lastly, skips during playback will tell you as well if you need to change your stylus.
Related: How to clean stylus with Magic Eraser?
2. Tonearms With No Counterweight
Tonearm counterweight is an integral part of keeping your vinyl records from getting damaged. That’s because it enables you to decide the amount of pressure the needle has as it touches the grooves.
Without this device, there’s no way for you to adjust and optimize how hard the needle rests on the vinyl. It will damage the record fast, thereby reducing the number of times you can play it. So make sure you have a tonearm counterweight properly set to make your LPs last long.
3. Untimely Removal from the Turntable
So the song you’re listening to was about to end. You rushed to the turntable to remove the vinyl from the platter so that you could change it. However, you took the LP from the record player prematurely; the platter was still spinning.
Others will claim that they’re used to doing it or they’ve mastered it. However, this habit of removing vinyl from the turntable before it comes to a stop could damage the record over time. It only increases the chances of them getting scratched.
In addition to this, putting your LP on the turntable while the platter is spinning could likewise scratch its surface. So make sure that the tonearm of your record player is completely raised or the platter’s switch is off (if your turntable has one) before placing the vinyl.
4. Incorrect Way of Handling Vinyl Discs
If you’ve been listening to music using compact discs, chances are you know that touching their reflective surface could make the music skip or, worse, damage them. The same goes for vinyl records. Handling them incorrectly could harm them.
For one, your fingernails could accidentally scratch the track area of your vinyl. Secondly, your hands can be greasy at times, even if you don’t see or feel the oil. While the palm of your hand doesn’t have glands to produce oil; still, it might have touched other parts of your body, things, and food that have some grease.
What we’re saying is that you can’t be too careful when it comes to handling a vinyl disc. Grease trapped and hardened between the grooves could hurt the record in the long run. The way to properly handle an LP is by carefully holding its edges and label with your fingers.
However, in case you unintentionally touched the surface, clean it with a vinyl cleaning solution asap.
Related: Top ultrasonic vinyl record cleaners on the market
5. Dust is a Funbuster
If dust could damage your car’s paint job, imagine what it can do to your LP record as it spins on the platter. Unfortunately, dust is everywhere. This unwanted visitor could check in unnoticed into the vinyl’s grooves.
As dust accumulates on your record, you’d notice that skips and jumps become more persistent. That’ll eventually damage the vinyl. That said, dusting off LPs before and after using them will prevent this uninvited guest from becoming a permanent resident.
You may use a lint-free towel to dust off your vinyl. Another good candidate for cleaning LPs is a cleaning brush made of carbon fiber.
6. Improper Storage
Now that you’ve seen the value of correct handling and regular cleaning, let’s talk about the importance of properly storing vinyl records.
You’ve seen how delicate and sensitive LPs are. On that premise, we’ll examine a few safeguards, such as using sleeves, the correct position and shelving unit, and the ideal temperature for vinyl.
7. Use Sleeves as a Shield
As trivial as it may look but removing the record from a poorly-made inner sleeve could inflict some damage to the vinyl. The same happens when you put it back.
You see, sleeves that come with your records are usually made of either cardboard or paper. These sleeves could deteriorate very fast, leaving your vinyl vulnerable. More than that, paper products are usually coarse. Their lack of smoothness could scratch the surface of the record.
On the other hand, aftermarket sleeves are built to preserve vinyl. Their durability, anti-scratch materials, antistatic, and acid-free properties provide a level of protection that surpasses what paper sleeves could offer.
8. Store Vinyl Records Vertically
Storing your record horizontally is one sure recipe for disaster. The weight that they must endure when stacked together can cause them to warp.
Whereas keeping your vinyl vertically can significantly increase its lifespan. It prevents them from getting scratched and warped. Having said that, you need the right shelf to store your LPs.
The size of the shelf depends on the number of vinyl you have, while the style depends on how you like your records displayed in the room. So it doesn’t matter if you use a standard record shelf or a decorative type as long as the vinyl records are stored in an upright position.
9. Store Vinyl in a Room With the Right Temperature
Another reason for records to get warped is when you store them in a room with the wrong temperature. Warping happens when the temperature hits 140°F. Groove distortions may also occur under this circumstance.
That said, make sure that your room stays between 65° to 70° F while the humidity should be around 45% to 50%. Furthermore, storing your records away from direct sunlight also prevents them not only from getting warped but from melting as well.
Must read: How To Clean Turntable Cartridge
Like heat, cold can harm vinyl records too. If you leave them on your patio for an extended period on a winter night and then put them back in, thawing might cause mold to develop on your vinyl.
The bottom line is, storing your LPs in a room with an optimized temperature saves them from the harshness of heat and cold. So it’s best to have an indoor thermometer to keep your records in top shape.