I sometimes run into some records that sound distorted when hitting certain frequencies. Like in this case: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dpsgnbwd45pmgad/001%20Scene%201.wav?dl=0
The example above comes from a record on which most of the songs sound ok except some parts. I tried the record on two different turntables one with an external phono preamp and one with an internal one and the problem is present in both cases.

  • Almost sounds like it’s not the record. Could you be hitting the ADC/audio interface too hard? Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 23:46
  • What brand & model cartridge/stylus is on each turntable? Lots of low-medium quality cartridges fail to handle high slew-rate sections, such as a loud piano strike. Next, how are you listening -- via direct analog amps, or are you digitizing before playing back? Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 15:06
  • As a side note - I've found the piano solos on Yes's song South Side of the Sky an excellent torture test for stylii (and the nuke bomb blast at the start, too) Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 15:13
  • @ToddWilcox I guess that's out of the question since I tried it with two different setups: turntable with builtin amp + headphones and then recorded the snippet I linked above with another turntable with external amp trough a sampler. I could hear the same distortion in both cases.
    – Nick Dima
    Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 17:53
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    I was pointing at the thing that both amps were plugged into. Whether it’s an audio interface or line in on your computer. The turntable and phono preamp are not the only parts of the signal chain that can create distortion. Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


There are any number of reasons. It can happen that such distortions are in the original master tape. When tens of thousands of copies of the record are pressed, the stamper can slowly wear out. Playing a record wears it out a little bit. A high-quality magnetic cartridge does very little damage, but a record played 100 times using a crystal or ceramic cartridge will be worn down enough to sound distorted. Finally, you can get distortion if your stylus is worn out or if it is not properly tracking in the groove.

Did you get these records used? My guess is the previous owner played them too many times on a cheap record player.

I have a copy of the record "Around the World in 80 Days", and the previous owner must have loved the track "India Countryside." It's a good demo record for showing the difference between a track that was rarely played and a track that was played hundreds of times.

  • Yes, the record is used but in very good condition. There are almost no physical marks of usage.
    – Nick Dima
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 23:01
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    @NickDima invisible damage doesn't mean that the record is fine. It's still possible that the previous owner(s) had a very bad needle or heavy support that finally damaged the disc. Records are played through physical contact, which can wear off the microscopic differences within the groove (those responsible of the good affinity to the original recording) after long, repeated playing or excessive stress, causing degradation of the signal: every time the record is played, huge amounts of atoms are actually scratched off from the disc surface (especially if it's not cleaned/washed). Commented Nov 3, 2021 at 1:21
  • Also consider that album came out in 1979. That year there was an oil crisis. During oil crises the cost of vinyl was high and record companies sometimes started using low- quality recycled vinyl. Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 18:11

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