Why Do Vinyl Records Sound High-Pitched?

Imagine peacefully listening to your records one day, and then you suddenly notice the sounds changing. Naturally, you begin to worry what the problem is and wonder: why do vinyl records sound high-pitched?

In this article, we’ll talk about the reasons for this pitchy noise and how you can fix them.

Why Do Vinyl Records Sound High-Pitched?

Vinyl records may sound high-pitched when there are problems within the setup. These issues could be a loose belt, an incorrect motor speed, an unreliable phono preamp, or you simply have a low-quality turntable. You can remedy this problem by either using a strobe light or a guitar tuner.

Loose Belt

A belt-drive turntable uses a belt to rotate the spinning platter. If you’re a beginner or a self-proclaimed audiophile, chances are you have this type of turntable.

Belts may come loose in their packages, especially if they’re new. So, when you set up your turntable, it may have already lost its tautness.

Even the slightest change can affect your turntable’s speed. You may not notice anything different with the belt at first, but the effect reveals itself via the pitch.

One way to solve this problem is to adjust the belt by removing both the mat and the platter. Make sure that the belt remains taut and in the proper position. It should also be smooth without any twists.

Another instance of a loose belt is if your setup is already old. In this case, you may need to replace the belt altogether.

Motor Speed

Before we dive into the details, let’s first discuss the standard speed for most record players. When we talk about speed in this context, we measure it in revolutions per minute or RPM.

Today, the majority of turntables in the market feature two speeds: 33 ⅓ RPM and 45 RPM. For simplicity, some also address the 33 ⅓ RPM as simply 33. Other models may even go up to 78 RPM, which was the standard until the 1950s.

Long play records, or LPs, use 33 RPM, while singles sound better in 45. This difference is largely due to the duration of the songs and the size of the record.

LPs can have 20 minutes of songs on each side, while singles can only have 15 minutes. Plus, 33s come as 12-inch discs, but 45s are only 7 inches.

In essence, the higher RPM, the faster the motor speed. So, what do all these factors have to do with pitch?

Well, if you’re already familiar with your turntable setup, you’ll know you can switch between speeds. When you use the incorrect RPM for a record, that’s where you’ll notice the high-pitched sound.

For example, if you’re playing an LP at 45 RPM, you may notice the record spin faster. That’s because LPs need to play at only 33 RPM. As a result, the incorrect speed made the pitch higher.

Related: Setting the anti-skating feature on your turntable

Built-in Phono Preamp

The phono preamp is the reason why you can hear the sounds coming from the turntable’s electrical signal. It also uses the RIAA equalization curve to boost the signal without changing the sound.

Having a preamp built in the system is common for entry-level turntables. However, while it can save you money, it also means you have a limited degree of control in equalization.

So, turntables with an integrated preamp may generally sound less striking. In extension, it leaves an effect on the pitch of vinyl records.

As a general rule, separate components will always produce better results. What’s more, it’s the ideal choice for many seasoned vinyl collectors.

Although external preamps are relatively expensive, they offer fine-tuning and adjustments. These user-friendly features go a long way in allowing you to enjoy your vinyl records to the max.

Low-Quality Turntable

One straightforward answer to why vinyl records sound high-pitched is that you simply have a low-quality turntable.

Low-quality record players tend to be cheap. So, it goes without saying that cheap equipment uses substandard quality materials that lead to a high pitch.

For example, an all-in-one turntable unit that comes with other players, such as a cassette and CD player, won’t necessarily give you the best listening experience. The fact that the unit tried to incorporate different players shows no focus.

If you want to have a unique experience with vinyl records, try to invest in quality. Whenever possible, purchase one that doesn’t come with other players. By doing so, you can enjoy the beauty and simplicity of vinyl records more.

How to Adjust the Pitch on Turntables

Having a pitch-perfect ear lets you hear the slightest changes in sounds. In that case, you may be itching to fix it. So, how do you do that?

Adjusting the pitch may be different depending on the model of your turntable. Some come with a pitch adjustment system, while others don’t.

Fortunately, there are ways to adjust the pitch on your turntable regardless of type and model.

Using a Built-in Strobe

Some turntables have built-in strobes that you can use to adjust the pitch. They come as dots or lines on the platter’s side.

Here’s how to use it:

  1. Locate the strobe lights on the set-up.
  2. Select the desired RPM. Choose between 33 and 45 RPM, depending on the record.
  3. Spin the platter. Strobe lights should also turn on once the platter starts spinning.
  4. Find the pitch adjustment knob.
  5. Play with the knob until the lights line up or appear to stop moving.
  6. Try to observe the stationary lights aligning the marks on the platter.

Calibrating With a Guitar Tuner

For turntables without a built-in strobe, one way to check the pitch is by using a guitar tuner.

Here’s how:

  1. Get a digital guitar tuner. You can either check your local music stores or simply download one on your phone.
  2. Place your test record on the platter.
  3. Play the record.
  4. Test the notes against the tuner. Tuners typically show when certain notes deviate from the standard.
  5. Adjust the pitch on your turntable as necessary.