Have you ever asked yourself the question, How does a record player needle work? Or do you just play your music without wondering how the needle or stylus works?
For many, whenever they feel like enjoying some good music, they just put on their record, flip through the rows of collections they have. Then, make their selection and wait for their music to play.
The question is, what really plays the music, your CD or your record? Probably, it is not the CD but the record.
Unfortunately, the record can only play the music without the help of other components like the needle or stylus and speaker.
So, how does a record player needlework if the CD is not the actual thing playing your music?
Before the 1970s when compact disc and MP3s were invented, people mostly listened to their music using record players.
By then, people don’t have the option to fast forward their music since the record player has no fast forward button.
Also, there was no rewind or shuffle, such that people listened to their music straight away without interruption.
So, if you decide to listen to an album, what it means is that you would listen to a particular artist for about 30 minutes. However, you can choose to change the record any time you feel like doing so.
Gradually, with the invention of the phonograph in 1877, the technology of playing records changed. However, the phonograph was also replaced by other technologies like MP3.
Fortunately, today, records and record players are beginning to come back into the world of music. Hence, you must know how a record player needle works.
Thus, in this article, you are going to see how a record player needle works and also how to clean turntable needles. You will also learn how to take care of the needle.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Does a Record Player Needle Work?
- 2 How to Clean Turntable Needle
- 3 Now, see how turntable needles work
- 4 The best way to clean your turntable needle
- 5 How to Maintain Your Turntable Needle
- 6 The Best Turntable To Buy
How Does a Record Player Needle Work?
When you talk about how a record player works, you must also talk about how the other components of your record player work.
This is because they also compliment each other. Such that without one, the others may not do well.
A simple analysis of how records are played is that vibrations travel from the record’s glove up to the needle. From the needle, it is transmitted to the cartridge and the arm of the amplifier. The amplifier then turns the sound into waves.
The turntable is the circular plate on which the record sits. A rod positioned in the center holds the record (which has a hole in its center) in place.
The metal turntable is covered in rubber or plastic, which protects the record from being scratched. The turntable rotates or spins with the help of either a belt drive or direct drive system.
The needle is also known as the stylus is the smallest. In addition to that, it is also the most important component of the record player. It is the engine room of the record player.
The stylus is from a diamond or other hard material, shaped like a cone and suspended by a flexible strip of metal.
The stylus is fashioned in such a way that the pointed end touches the yoo of the record. When it touches the top, it rides around the spiraling grooves of the disc.
When it does this, it picks up the vibrations which it turns into sound.
The stylus rests at one end of the tonearm. The tonearm is normally mounted by the side of the turntable so that it is parallel to the record.
As the needle is placed in the outermost groove of the record, it allows the tonearm to follow the groove as it spirals. Thus, it travels across the record in an arc with the record spinning underneath it.
The final component of your record player is the cartridge which converts the vibrations into electrical signals. So, how does the cartridge do this?
When the stylus transfers its signal to the groove, the cartridge receives the vibrations.
The vibrations from the groove travel along a flexible metal strip and wires housed in the tonearm to the cartridge at the end of the tonearm.
After receiving the vibrations, the cartridge converts them into electrical signals with the help of a coil in the magnetic field.
After the conversion, the electric signals are transferred to the amp using wires. The amplifier in turn enhances the power of the signals.
Finally, the signals are converted into sounds by the amplifier which comes out through speakers.
How to Clean Turntable Needle
Knowing how a record player needle works is good but not enough. It is also good and necessary that you know how to clean your turntable needle.
So, since you can not enjoy your turntable if the needle or stylus is dirty, you are going to see how to clean your turntable needle.
The simplest ways to clean your needle:
- To use a brush or a melamine sponge, which only takes a few seconds.
- Use liquid cleaners if your needle is especially dirty.
However, you must either mute your sound or turn off the sound or amps before you start cleaning the needle.
Now, see how turntable needles work
- First: The stylus sits at one end of the tonearm, which is mounted to the side of the turntable and sits parallel to the record.
- Second: With the needle or stylus placed in the outermost groove of the record, the tonearm follows the groove as it spirals inward, traveling across the record in an arc as the record spins beneath it.
- Third: As this happens, the vibrations travel along a flexible metal strip and wires housed in the tonearm to the cartridge at the end of the tonearm.
- Fourth step: The cartridge receives the vibrations, which are converted to electrical signals through a coil in a magnetic field.
- Fifth step: The electric signals are carried along wires to the amplifier which enhances the power of the signal.
- The sixth step Finally, the signals are converted back to sounds that come out through the speakers.
The best way to clean your turntable needle
Use a stylus cleaning brush or a soft paintbrush for a simple solution.
If you plan to use a stylus cleaning brush, you just have to move the brush from front to back in one direction. You must follow the direction of the record.
While cleaning your turntable needle with a stylus cleaning brush, you have to do it carefully. If not, you may harm or bend the needle which is not good. All you need to do is to run the brush across the tip multiple times to get it clean
Press a piece of melamine eraser gently into the needle tip to pull debris out.
Apart from a stylus cleaning brush, you can also use a melamine eraser to remove debris from the needle. However, you just need a tiny bit of an eraser, otherwise, you may harm your turntable needle.
So, you may just remove about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) long and 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) thick.
To cut the eraser, you can either use scissors or a craft knife. You will do this by holding the arm in one hand to keep it steady.
Then, gently push the eraser into the stylus tip and then pull it away. When done perfectly well, this should be enough to pull off any debris.
On the other hand, if the eraser has a cleaning solution on one side, then cut your piece from the other side of the eraser.
In case of a fragile stylus, put the eraser on the top of the turntable just under the needle to avoid damaging the stylus. Then, lower the needle onto the eraser and then lift it again. Do this continuously until the needle is clean.
Dip the needle into a stylus cleaning gel for a quick deep clean.
You can also use a stylus cleaning gel to clean your turntable needle. Cleansing gels are made of a plasticized gel that removes from the needle.
If you want to use gel, simply place the gel holder underneath the needle tip. Then, gently push the tip of the stylus into the gel multiple times until it is clean.
Use alcohol for an easy deep clean.
Finally, you can also use alcohol for an easy clean. However, you will still need a brush for this. The process is simple, just dip the brush in the alcohol and then run it across the stylus from front to back about 2-3 times. You have to be careful in order not to bend the needle.
How to Maintain Your Turntable Needle
These are simple ways to maintain your turntable needle to continue enjoying your record player.
Clean the stylus with the brush every time you change records.
This only takes a few seconds, however, it helps to keep your record in good condition. You can use a stylus brush or melamine sponge to do this.
Do a deep cleaning if the needle gets grimy.
It’s not possible to clean your turntable needle every time you want to play a record. However, whenever you take notice of any dirt on your turntable needle, you may use one of the cleaning solutions to do a deep cleaning.
Replace your stylus regularly.
Another way to maintain your turntable needle is to always replace it especially when it has developed a problem. There is no particular interval to change the needle.
It all depends on the durability of the turntable needle and how you can keep it clean. However, once you start noticing that even after cleaning the needle, the sound does not improve, then I guess, it’s time to change the needle.
Undoubtedly, you must always replace your needle no matter how often you clean it.
The Best Turntable To Buy
You will not go wrong with buying these turntables for your audio player.
- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO, Audiophile Turntable with Carbon Fiber
- Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC Recordplayer
- Audio-Technica AT-LP60X-BK Stereo Turntable
- Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB-BK Direct-Drive Turntable
- Fluance RT81 Elite High Fidelity Vinyl Turntable
- Audio-Technica AT-LPW40WN Fully Manual Belt-Drive Turntable
- Crosley C100A-SI Belt-Drive Turntable