Hacking Vinyl Records for the Best Play...

December 30, 2009

At First, I didn't Even Notice

I'd shipped a vinyl conversion to a customer, who promptly replied asking about the skip in track 7. I checked my files; as track 7 was the first track on the B side, the problems could be any range of issues. The outside of records gets handled more (oil from hands), played more (groove burn), and generally destroyed more during casual use.

After checking my original recording, and determining there was nothing I could do about it (I can't 'create' the missing audio without the source record) I asked for my customer to mail back the vinyl, so I could take another stab at recording the record.

At Second Glance, It's a Real Pain

While the record arrived intact (and even encased in our deluxe sleeve), and looked pretty good on first glance, the trouble skip became impossible to capture. Some gash in the vinyl made the needle leap no matter what. It seemed like there would be no hope of getting the beginning of this song! This was an impossible-to-record track, as this skip was crucial, and was giving me a serious headache!

Here Comes the Hack!

So, the groove is messed up. The simplest approach is to track backwards, so the skip is at the end of the audio clip, then do some audio editing to reverse the audio, and seemlessly blend the two recordings.

While new Technics 1200 turntables now have a 'auto-reverse' button built in (and custom mods are available for a small price), getting this functionality on my older deck might be a challenge.

Thanks to my favorite omniscient overlord search engine, I found this short video demonstrating a quick and dirty hint to achieve this same goal with little resources:

Video Caveat:

One thing I should point out, this video encourages you to lick your headshell before mounting it, to use saliva as a conductor. DO NOT DO THIS! Water encourages corrosion and rust quicker than air. You're basically asking for more trouble later! I use a #2 pencil with a brand new eraser. Stick it eraser-first gently inside the headshell mounting tube, give it a few light spins/pressing backwards to jiggle the spring-loaded terminals. The eraser will remove any dirt and clean the terminals to a new shine. Use the same technique on the end of your headshell before replacing the headshell on the arm. Store this pencil in your turntable case. It'll come in handy!

Photo Or It Didn't Happen

Here's my hack in action. I happened to have a loose spool of thread, a broken chopstick, and I stacked a 50-pack of CD's on top of the record. It played back perfectly, and with a quick 'reverse' in Audacity (should be everyone's favorite audio editor, mostly cause it's free.) I ended up recording the entire first track backwards. No need to do any weird post fixes, as a simple reverse and it sounded much better. There was a glitch were the skip was, and any repair tended to make it sound worse, so I left it as is.

Best Result Possible

Feel free to use this simple hack to recover audio from a long-lost record that suffers from the dreaded 'unfixable scratch'. Use my Vinyl to CD Conversion service - you'll love the results, and only $16 for the basic transfer!