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Audio Solutions Question of the Week: How Do I Minimize Record Crackling?

Question: How do I minimize record crackling?

Answer: When listening to vinyl, the cleanliness of your record stylus and records is one of the key elements in optimizing the audio signal, as we have discussed previously (How often should I clean my records and stylus?).

Below is additional information on minimizing crackling.


Vinyl Static and Crackle

Static on vinyl records is something that cannot be avoided, but it can be minimized. A static charge is created by adding extra electrons onto the surface of the record. This can be generated in various ways, including the record's production, the material it’s made from, the way it's been packaged, removing the vinyl from the inner sleeve, and even the process of cleaning a record.


Minimizing Crackle

Once a record becomes positively charged, it will attract dust and dirt onto the playing surface, causing pops and clicks during playback. Although you can't eliminate crackle from a record, you can reduce it with various cleaning tools. Here’s a rundown of Audio-Technica’s cleaning products.

Most of the crackling is caused by micro-scratches on the vinyl surface, which can be invisible to the naked eye. Micro-scratches can be caused when removing a record from its inner sleeve, or even when cleaning it. It is prudent to only use cleaning products specifically designed for this purpose or you can risk damaging your vinyl.

The profile of the diamond on your stylus can help minimize the amount of crackling you hear. For example, a conical profile has more contact with the surface of the record so will have contact with more of the micro-scratches. An elliptical profile sits deeper in the groove so it will not be affected as much by the surface scratches, thus lessening the crackling heard.


Removing Static

To reduce the effects of static, use anti-static inner record sleeves combined with an anti-static carbon brush, such as the AT6011a, or a fluid-based anti-static record cleaning solution. A Zerostat anti-static gun is also an option to remove the static charge from the surface of the vinyl. The device generates a positive stream of ions followed by a discharge of negative ions that dissipates the static and leaves the surface with a negative charge. Follow the anti-static gun manufacturer’s instructions for proper use.

There are also various anti-static platter mats on the market. The material that these mats are made from is less likely to create a buildup of static when the vinyl is sitting on top of it, and when removing the record from the platter there is less chance of the mat sticking to the record. If your turntable doesn’t have VTA (vertical tracking angle) adjustment, make sure that the replacement mat is the same thickness as the manufacturer-supplied mat in order to keep the tonearm in its correct position in relation to the vinyl during playback.

If you want to know more about vinyl care, please contact our Audio Solutions Department.