I have been a fan of collecting records for years now thanks to my folks. I used to love collecting vinyl 10 plus years ago when places were giving it away. Collecting vinyl is great, but I also like to collect record players to (which drives my wife nuts) the thing with this is record players come in all shapes and sizes and one style is a belt drive turntable and that can have a few problems, such as speed issues and that is what we are looking at today.
We are going to look at some of the issues a belt drive turntable can have and if there are ways that you can fix these issues.
Common Issues With Belt Drive Turntables
A belt drive turntable is exactly what it sounds like. There is a motor running things, but it has a belt that then moves your turntable. Every single one of these that I have come across over the years the belt tends to be made of some kind of rubber. As you would expect anything that is made with rubber is subject to wear and tear and a record player is no different. There is a very spirited debate on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums which I found very interesting.
The belt can wear out over time. This is what I feel mainly causes the speed problem as once the belt starts to lose its shape it is no longer turning the turntable at the correct speed. It may work ok for a bit then you get a bit of strangeness with your sound. A bit of maintenance is always required if you are serious about collecting record players so I would not say that this a problem that is exclusive to a turntable that has a belt drive. If you are having issues with your sound in general, we actually did a pretty neat Why Does My Record Player Sound Fuzzy article that is worth checking out. This looks at many other reasons as to why your sound may not be up to your standards.
When Does This “Speed” Problem Happen?
This is rather hard to answer as it all depends on your ear. I had one record player that I rescued from a thrift store a while back. This thing was awesome, looked in great condition and when I fired it up it worked great. As it worked great, I skipped opening it up and doing any kind of maintenance on it. Then I started thinking that things were getting a tad slower. Then it would sound great the next time I fired it up! The truth is that slowness once it started was always there. A site I love is called Vinyl Engine and many people on here talk about speed problems with their record players. It is the belt getting out of shape and I have to say that there is no exact time for when this will happen.
In theory, the better quality of record player you have the better quality of belt they should have put in there. However, when you are dealing with something like a belt drive, you sometimes get unlucky. The best way to tell if there is a belt drive issue is to use your own ear and if you “think” it sounds off then chances are it does!
Can I Fix The Speed Problem Myself?
As someone who has tinkered with record players for many years, I feel that changing out a belt is one of the easier things to do. You can get belts at all ends of the pricing spectrum, but if you look somewhere like Amazon they have many turntable belts for sale in all kinds of sizes.
If you want a bit more information about changing out your belt, check out this turntable belt repair video that I found. Now, your turntable will probably be different from this, but you can get an idea of what you need to do. As the video juts lasts a couple of minutes, you can see just how easy a job this is. Just take your time and you will be fine.
Should I Just Buy A New Record Player?
That is up to you. I am always looking for an excuse to add a new turntable to my collection, but just because your turntable is having speed issues does not mean you need to get rid of it. If you love the turntable you have, it sounded great before or if you just really like it. You can just replace the belt yourself. While I prefer Amazon, if you look on eBay you can get some for just a few bucks! So, you really have nothing to lose trying to replace the belt yourself and seeing if that breathes new life into your record player.
It Is Not Always The Belt!
While in most cases it will probably be the belt that is causing you trouble. It sometimes can be the actual motor itself. I find that cheaper turntables tend to have cheaper components and that it is not always the belt that is at fault so that is something to consider. I have had record players that are 30 plus years old keep on rocking with no issues, but then there are some that just have sound issues the moment I get them home.
I know that some people lean really hard on one side of the belt drive vs direct drive thing when it comes to record players. I myself really do not pay much attention to what is “driving” my record player. I believe that a good turntable is a good turntable no matter what is powering it and usually the kind of drive it has is not the be-all and end-all of what the turntable is going to sound like or even an indication of how long it is going to last before you start having issues with it. I would recommend keeping your vinyl nice and clean too and we actually have a vinyl records cleaning tool guide that we posted a while back that tells you how to keep your vinyl dust free which will in turn keep your record player dust free.
Just remember that if your record player has started to have issues with its speed that you are not the only one! There can be a cheap and easy way to fix it so give that a try before you Hulk Smash your turntable for making your favorite Metallica album sound slow like it was recorded by some kind of indie band!