Do Vinyl Records Wear Out When Used For DJing?

Vinyl Record Proper Care Guide For DJs (DVS Included). Do vinyl records get worn out faster when used for DJing? Does DJing damage vinyl records? How long will a vinyl record last? Can you ruin your vinyl records while DJing and scratching? Are DVS timecode vinyl records also prone to wear and tear damage and how to protect them. Let us anwser all those questions in this article!

It’s up to the rough battle between audiophiles, DJs and regular vinyl enjoyers in terms of which methods of handling, storing and using vinyl records are the best and what practices are to be strictly followed while using this vintage medium.

  1. Why do vinyl records degrade over time?
  2. How long do vinyl records last?
  3. What can damage vinyl records?
  4. How can you tell that a vinyl record is starting to get worn out?
  5. Do DVS timecode vinyl records get worn out?
  6. How long will DVS timecode vinyl records last?
  7. Does scratching damage vinyl records?
  8. How to minimize vinyl record damage while scratching?
  9. How can I clean vinyl records?
  10. Taking care of your DJ equipment

You might also like: How To Care For Your Vinyl Records – The Ultimate Guide

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Why do vinyl records get worn out over time?

There are two main reasons why vinyl records will wear out over time. One of those is the standard groove wear, the second – poor handling practices and improper storage conditions. There are a few simple ways to slow down vinyl deterioration process and lengthen the record’s life.

The groove wear is a phenomenon in which the vinyl record gets slowly damaged during regular playback by the needle of the turntable that gradually deforms the vinyl grooves over time. All the sound data that you hear through your system is stored withing the vinyl’s grooves so any mechanical damage that the needle causes to the groove itself is reflected in overall degradation of sound quality of the record.

The groove wear can be caused by many factors such as dirty worn-out stylus on your record player, dust accumulating on the vinyl record’s surface, improperly aligned turntable cartridge or misconfigured player settings (antiskate, tracking force, VTA). In terms of setting up your record player or DJ turntable, tonearm adjustment and fine tuning you should always refer to your device’s user manual so that you are sure that you won’t ruin your expensive records by accident.

The groove wear also happens naturally to some extent – every single playback process causes minuscule damage to the vinyl record’s surface causing the sound quality to drop down by just a tiny bit every time the vinyl is played even on the best configured high-end record player. This is just how it is but don’t worry, a vinyl record that’s taken care of and played in a properly configured record player can last you for a really long time before you notice any sound quality degradation.

Every vinyl record is bound to deteriorate with each playback. Not by a lot though if handled and used right!
Every vinyl record is bound to deteriorate with each playback. Not by a lot though if handled and used right! | Photo by: Clay Banks

How long do vinyl records last?

Technically every playback of perfectly handled and stored vinyl record will cause sound quality degradation. Strictly speaking the more you play vinyl the greater the quality loss will be. This kind of sound quality deterioration is heard mostly in high frequencies, changes in dynamic range and general playback loudness but it can take a very long time until you start to notice these phenomena if they are slowly caused just by the groove wear induced by repeated playback.

While it’s hard to tell exactly how long a vinyl record will last, generally a record that’s not used for DJing and scratching but only for occasional playback can last through hundreds of plays while still maintaining decent audio quality.

Of course this estimation is made with the supposition that the record won’t get damaged in any other way than the basic groove wear (scratches, needle drops, accumulating dust, bending and warping and so on…)

Click here to jump to the DVS Vinyl Lifetime segment!

In the end it all comes down to how you use the record (DJing, continuous radio station playback, occasional home listening sessions) what kind of turntable you’re using them with (and the proper turntable configuration) and knowledge and practice of correctly handling, storing and cleaning vinyl records.

How can you tell that a vinyl record is starting to get worn out?

One of many signs of vinyl record degradation are:

  1. Decrease in loudness (even between different tracks on the same record).
  2. Audible pops and clicks / crackling sound.
  3. Sudden audio skips or jumps.
  4. Presence of loud white noise in places.
  5. General sound quality degradation (mostly heard in high frequency range).
  6. Obvious visible scratches on the record’s surface.
  7. Speaking of DVS timecode vinyl records: software control glitches and skips.

While those signs can be indicating that your vinyl record is slowly getting deteriorated or was subject to some damage many of these can also signal a problem with your record player. Be sure to check the same record twice on a different turntable or using a different needle if possible.

Heavily scratched vinyl record surface.
Heavily scratched vinyl record surface. | Photo by: tomeqs – Shutterstock.

There are many reasons for vinyl record damage many of which you might not know about. We will look at all of these in the next few paragraphs.

What can damage vinyl records?

Here is a thorough list of things that are harmful to vinyl records in general. We provide helpful explanations and tips for each of the points:

Improper storage: Stacking vinyl records instead of storing them vertically, storing vinyl records near heat sources such as radiators, using dusty containers or envelopes, not using any kind of sleeve inside of the paper envelope or carelessly sliding the vinyl into the sleeve.

Most of the worst types of damage being inflicted upon vinyl records are caused by mishandling them and storing them in wrong conditions. Remember that you should store all your vinyl records vertically. When the records are stacked while laying horizontally for a long time they might slowly bend out of shape because of the extra weight of the stack. This process is really slow but it can certainly cause irreversible damage to your records.

The containers you use for storing your vinyl records are also important. When storing vinyl records in paper envelopes or synthetic containers without an inner sleeve you should mind that when any dust particles get inside the envelope they can scratch the record’s surface both while taking it out/putting it back in the container and when the envelopes are moved around during transport or handling.

Always gently dust off both the container and the record before putting it away. While doing so remember to use a soft cloth (microfibre for example) and not to push the dust into the record while wiping it clean (this may cause scratches as well so don’t use too much strength).

Speaking of older vinyl records when a paper envelope gets old it may deteriorate and leave small paper debris inside of the package that can damage the record while moving the envelope around. That’s why regularly cleaned synthetic containers with an inner sleeve are generally a better idea for long-term storage. Keep that in mind!

Store vinyl records vertically and don't stack them to avoid warping!
Store vinyl records vertically and don’t stack them to avoid warping!

Strong direct sunlight and heat: Bending can also occur when storing vinyl records near heat sources or generally in very high temperatures (like for example the back of your car during hot summer or a cupboard near the radiator). Vinyl just as many synthetic materials is really prone to warping when exposed to high temperatures. Even a slightly bent vinyl record is almost always impossible to recover so be careful!

Rough handling: While holding a vinyl record try to put your fingers only on the edges of the record (sound data isn’t stored there) and on the paper near the center hole (almost like a waiter holding a tray). It’s best to thoroughly clean and dry your hands before handling vinyl records. Oily substances from your hands alongside with small amounts of sweat and dust can cause damage later on when the accumulated dust particles on the vinyl’s surface start moving during playback or when further handling of the record enables the present dust and dirt to cause irreversible scratches. Those scratches can inflict clicks, pops and skips and degrade the overall sound quality of the record permanently.

Dust in general: All dust particles that will gather on top of the vinyl record can severely damage its surface while being pressed onto it when moving the record inside of the envelope or any storage container. Dust can be attracted really easily especially in humid conditions so be sure that you remove it from your vinyl record’s surface often using a soft dusting brush, compressed air or a microfibre cloth. Do not use any kind of cloth that can either produce more debris or scratch the surface further. Wiping your record with any part of your clothing is also strongly advised against. Remember not to push the dust into the vinyl while cleaning as it might also damage the surface quite easily especially when it comes to larger dust particles. Be gentle!

Oils and dust from direct touch: Oils and sweat from your hands make the vinyl surface catch dust particles much more easily. You can certainly clean off the oil and sweat from the vinyl surface but you cannot regenerate the micro scratches that your hand can inflict pushing micro debris into the vinyl record’s structure while handling a dirty record.

Record scratching: The more a record is used for scratching the faster it will get worn out. When used this way its more prone to mechanical damage and cue burn in places it’s been used the most.

Your equipment: The equipment you use when playing back your vinyl records can also play a big role in the vinyl maintenance process. While setting up your players don’t weigh your needles down too much or they will start to slowly damage the record’s surface during the playback. Avoid excessive amount of friction between the player’s stylus and the grooves on the record. Groove wear can and will occur over time naturally during the playback but by using a properly configured player you can minimize the damage and prolong the life of your vinyl records. As said before always refer to your device’s user manual before first playback.

Do DVS timecode vinyl records get worn out?

Just as your regular vinyl records DVS vinyl records can and will suffer form the wear and tear effect when used extensively.

It’s safe to say that DVS vinyl records while being prone to damage in the same way as regular vinyl records (they are essentially built identically) probably will wear out much faster than the latter. The reason for that is quite simple, when mixing with regular vinyl records you use the same vinyl once or twice during a set. When mixing using a DVS system on the other hand you keep on using the same set of timecoded vinyl records for every track you play inside your DJ software. This makes the timecode vinyl records generally degrade faster than your regular vinyl records containing music because of the heavy use.

Timecode vinyl records used in DVS systems are also used mainly for scratching which causes a much larger strain on the records than regular playback and can cause different kinds of mechanical damage such as cue burn.

How long will DVS timecode vinyl records last?

What is the expected DVS timecode vinyl lifetime? When a timecode vinyl starts to wear out you might experience strange behavior of the software track control mechanism as distortion or disruption of the timecode signal present on the record caused by the deterioration of the vinyl surface can make the software lose track of the current song position and introduce weird control glitches such as sudden skips and jumps during the playback.

Remember that most likely your timecode vinyl record has two usable sides with the same timecode recored on both side A and B. When one side gets worn out and you start to experience control problems in many cases you can simply switch to another side of the record.

The control vinyl records can last you for long months when handled correctly and safely stored after each mixing session. When you start to experience control issues you should think about the replacement as changes in the vinyl record’s structure are just as in the case of regular vinyl records containing music – in most cases irreversible.

Just as with regular vinyl records the lifetime of the control vinyl records used in DVS systems depends largely on the way of handling and storing the records and on the amount of time you use them. DVS timecode records can last even for over a year of heavy use while being taken care of in the correct way.

The DVS timecode vinyl records can be cleaned in the same way as regular vinyl records – in terms of physical structure they are built exactly the same, the only difference being the type of audio content pressed onto them.

Does scratching damage vinyl records?

Using vinyl records for scratching certainly puts much more strain on the record’s surface than regular playback. Moreover when you decide to scratch you need to make sure that your player’s needle is suitable for back-cueing – moving the vinyl record in reverse. While you can’t scratch on your regular hi-fi record player without risking any damage modern DJ turntables can handle back-cueing no problem.

If you attempt to scratch or even just back-cue on a regular hi-fi consumer grade record player you will risk damaging both your cartridge, the needle and the vinyl record itself.

In all modern DJ players the cartridges are suitable for back-cueing and won’t cause damage during the process.

In the world of vinyl scratching there is also a phenomenon present called a cue burn. This tends to happen when a vinyl record is cued in from one single spot many times over. The cue burn might cause hissing white noise kind of sounds before the track beginning and slight to moderate deterioration of sound quality at the beginning of the “burned in” area.

This happens most often at the beginning of a track – thus cueing in a track many times over on the same vinyl record is proved to gradually cause damage to the record’s surface.

Cue burn might occur when cueing the same part of the vinyl record many times over.
Cue burn might occur when cueing in the same part of the vinyl record many times over. | Photo by: Vladimir Proskurovskiy

How to minimize vinyl record damage while scratching?

Scratching is a pretty intense way of handling vinyl records but there are things you can do to slow down the deterioration of the vinyl record’s surface.

It’s advised to dust off the records you’re planning to use during your mixing session beforehand. Dust particles that stay on the vinyl surface (especially larger ones) can cause bad scratches when you touch the vinyl record with your hand and when the needle pushes the dust along the grooves during the playback process.

Use slipmats – they are designed to be put under the vinyl record making it easier to keep the vinyl record steady with your hand without stopping the turntable’s platter and they also help protecting the bottom side of the record a bit provided you make sure there isn’t any dust underneath to begin with. Keep in mind that ideally you should always dust off both your slipmats before use as they come into direct contact with the bottom side of your vinyl records.

Try to always clean both your hands and your records before your scratching sessions. That’s certainly not always possible in working conditions however in the training environment it’s highly recommended. Consider adding vinyl-care precautions into your home practice routine to prolong the life of your vinyl records.

How can I clean vinyl records?

To clean a vinyl record safely you might use a designated soft dusting brush, cleaning solution and a soft microfibre cloth.

As the detailed vinyl cleaning process is beyond the scope of this guide we have devoted a whole separate article on vinyl record maintenance.

If however, you’d like to see our ultimate guide on vinyl record care, here it is!

Taking care of your DJ equipment

Whether your DJ gear is your moneymaker, dearest friend, a magnificent piece of tech that you admire or all of these together you should know how to keep it in good shape to prevent damage and wear and tear on the mechanical and electronic parts of your decks, your mixer or your controller.

Just as with vinyl records there are certain rules, do’s and don’ts of taking good care of your DJ equipment. Lucky for you we have an extensive guide for cleaning DJ gear! If you’re interested take a read here: How To Clean DJ Equipment? (Simply explained)

Check out also: DVS And Timecode For DJs Explained. (A Simple Guide)

Article image partial: wayhomestudio – & macrovector –

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