Can You Live With Crackling & Popping Noise?

I just got my first turntable, a Rega P5 and not sure whether I'm supposed to be delighted or otherwise. When I put on my first record, there was intermittent popping, hissing and crackling noise at low to moderate volume levels. Having lived with digital for half of my life, I find this to be somewhat annoying. For a while I was feeling disappointed and pondering whether I would end up selling this thing. After a while I thought what the heck, since I had got this thing home I might as well turn up the volume and enjoy the music. I started to crank it up to reasonably high levels and all the hissing, crackling and popping noise began to drown and disappear into the background music. Somehow the annoyance turned to musical bliss, well almost.

My question, especially for those who own high-end turntables, can you live with all the crackling and popping noise? I reckon all these noises will be quite noticeable especially when playing some clean vocals with minimum background music? What actually cause all these noises? Is the noise caused by dust sticking on the surface of the record assuming the record is in good condition? Is there any way these crackling and popping noises can be reduced or eliminated completely by cleaning the records?

The manual states as follows:-

"Don't worry about visible dust on the record surface, this is brushed aside by the stylus and any that collects on the stylus can be easily blown away. In general, record cleaning is overdone and one should not believe all the claims made by record cleaner manufacturers."

Does this mean that cleaning records is pointless? If that is the case how do we get rid of the crackling noise in the event the dust and fine particles are the ones that are causing these noises? Is there any easy solution to clean the records by ourselves?

For any newbie who wants to take the turntable route, I would urge you to reconsider your options particularly if you have minimal tolerance towards popping and crackling noises. Even all my good old cassette collection that ended up in the rubbish bin years ago didn't exhibit all these popping and crackling noises.

If all these noises do not exist in records then analog is really the one to beat.

Thank you for your patience.
If you truly want to delve into vinyl and get full enjoyment, get a vacuum record cleaning machine. Most of what you've describe is the little nasties in the record grooves. Get rid of em and you'll be shocked. I have LP's that are as quiet as CD's after a good cleaning.
The VPI 16.5 is a great machine for not a crazy amount of money.
If you can't swing the $550, for under $100 you can get the Disc Doctor manual system along with a few towels and a dish drainer. It's fully manual but works quite well.
As for Regas assertion that record cleaning is overdone, you must also realize that Roy Gandy thinks letting the stylus clean the groove is just A-OK.
Some crackling and popping is due to damaged vinyl, or by lesser quality vinyl, and will not go away regardless of how thoroughly the record is cleaned.

Some record companies are known for using higher quality (quieter) vinyl than others. ECM is one, as you have discovered.

It's a fact of analog life.
One way that is not obvious to reduce ticks and pops is to use a tube phono section that uses passive RIAA equalization. Transistor units will often over-react to ticks and pops as most of them use loop feedback for the EQ. Loop feedback enhances ticks and pops!

Another thing to be certain about is that the cartridge is properly loaded! If not loaded correctly, it will **emphasize** ticks and pops. Correctly loaded you will get full bandwidth and no tonal anomalies, plus the ticks and pops will recede more to the background.
Welcome to the real world of vinyl playback!

Record noise is par for the course with many records. To keep it to the minimum, get a good record cleaning machine or check other threads here for some manual cleaning techniques that can work very well also if you have the time and patience to do it right.

Personally, I hate record noise but have learned to live with it when required over the years
The good news is that the hissing, popping and clicking you are experiencing are optional. In order to enjoy analog to it's fullest you are going to have to develop a cleaning system for your records. When I first get a record I do a pretty aggressive steam cleaning, new or used. I limit my used records to very good quality, as new. ONce a record is scratched you can not improve that pop/click, dust and grundge can be cleaned, to a degree. A record cleaning machine is a great option, but expensive. There are many threads you can look up here and else where on the net. After the initial cleaning a light dusting is all that's need prior to playing.
As my analog system has moved up the food chain one of the benefits has been the ability to put extraneous noises "up on a shelf in the background" of the soundstage, relegating it to white noise. The music you are listening too is front and center, more lifelike than I have been able to get from my digital front end. It is a bit more work than is required with digital but the rewards in my case have been worth it.
Art Dudley of Stereophile has, on several occasions, poked fun at the Rega "philosophy" of letting the cartridge stylus clean the record. "May your purgatory be a restaurant where they don't wash the plates, but rather let the forks clean the plates" (or something close to that) was one of the more hilarious takes on that philosophy.
No, you really do gotta clean records if you want them to sound their best.

Keep in mind, if a record is old and wasn't really cared for and was played on a turntable with a badly mis-aligned or overworn cartridge, the noise is probably there to stay.

But, for most others, the popping and hissing can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, by a good cleaning.

Yesterday, my girlfriend asked my to give her a formal introduction to the music of the Beatles. I played the first 7 studio releases for her, and I heard a "pop" one time on side two of "With the Beatles". One pop on six albums*. Could you live with that?

* One of the seven albums, "Beatles for Sale", was played on CD (I don't have a vinyl copy of that one). After listening to it after playing the first 3 albums on vinyl, it was obvious how dry, unmusical, and uninvolving the CD was. I could tolerate a whole lot of popping and hissing before my experience was as unsatisfying as that.

Hopefully you have a good number of albums that are in good condition that will have little to no popping or hissing.


Less-likely the megapriced cleaning machines will take care of clicks, pops and surface noise. Keeping records clean is their main purpose.

Sweeping dust with light touch of carbon fiber brush is sufficient enough.

I have now Michell Gyro SE/OL modded RB300/Lyra Helikon cart. I'm very concerned about quality of the records I buy and listen and keep them very clean and always place them in poly inner jacket. I also use Alesis ML9600 recorder to bring most of my records tended to llisten often to high-res CD24 formats and mostly play them through digital equipment. This way I preserve the records in good state.
Older records I have in my collection have clicks, surface noise and pops and I tried to eliminate it with Sony Sound Forge software. I admit I've done it right, but still keep 'unmastered' digital copy with pops because the edited version is still missing something the original has.
Noise is natural anywhere you are therefore absence of noise in digital sources is what makes them somewhat 'boring' vs. analogue
When I first play new records I don't clean them as most companies suggest. I just use my Audioquest brush to get the lint off of the surface. I am always shocked at how quiet the records are.

No pops, no crackle, no hum. After a few playing they will get dirty and I will clean them, and MOST of the time the pops go away, but sometimes there remains a bit of noise but very, very little.

Older records always sound better when cleaned, but you can't always tell the condition of a record by looking at it. Some look great, but if they have been cleaned it's really hard to tell the condition.

They could sound terrible.
an occasional snap crackle pop is one thing, but a defective or worn record is another. agree with tvad...your cartridge may also need proper alignment. the needle will also need a 'slight brush' for the alien particles it may pick up. record washing machines will only clean records, not change the original inherent condition.
Once a record is clean, an inexpensive carbon fiber brush for removing loose dust is generally all that is needed to keep it clean.
I found my audiophile approved carbon brush moved dust around rather than removing it.

I preferred using Pledge Allergen Dust Wipes. They're dry. No chemicals or fluid. They pick up the dust really well.
Tvad- I have been using the Pledge wipes for about 6 months and they are great. I was using the carbon fiber brush and found that they pushed the dirt around, and wouldn't "jump the track" to the outside of the record and off. The Pledge wipes act magnetically and pull all the dust out. Inexpensive and a pleasure to use around the turn table.
i agree one hundred percent. this business about lowend turntables beating even mid-fi cd players is ridiculous. the poppping and cracking, compared to good digital with tube amps and dacs, makes even new albums unacceptable.

however, i have heard vinyl on highend systems with good records that sounds good, but even the locawl analog emporium demonstrates that this is not for those who like pristine sound.
Excess surface noise can be the result of a MM cartridge loaded with too much capacitance. This capacitance interacts with the cart. inductance resulting in a high frequency resonance (see Jim Hagerman's web site). Ultra-sonic noise can excite this resonance and be shifted down in frequency into the audible range. Think of ringing a bell. It's struck with an impulse with a lot of high frequency components, but it rings at it's resonance freq. If you can adjust the capacitance loading, try lowering it. I once had a Clearaudio Arum Beta Wood MM cart. and when I loaded it at the manufactures recommended loading I heard excessive surface noise. When I set my phono stage input to 0 capacitance loading (leaving about 100pF for the cables) the surface noise was much reduced.
clean, clean and more clean. Vinyl requires this ritual, forever. Might be time to return to your iPod.
In response to the titles question. Yes & I almost like it.
I can drag out an album I havn't listened to in years & years and remember the pops, ticks and even skips from the 70's 7 80's. Kinda brings back old memories & puts me into perspective on how time flys. Almost always puts a smile on my face.
I 100% disagree with Avrij. After years of what I thought were glorious and fully realized digital playback systems, including SACD, I found that relatively inexpensive turntables blow away digital. Much fuller, richer sound.
IMO, there are too many subjective variables in audio to proclaim absolutes that apply to every system and every listener.

Digital and analog each have their benefits and problems.

Noisy vinyl is a problem inherent in the medium. Some listeners can overlook it, and others cannot.

What you're hearing is called reality. Sorry you fell for all the hype. Are you thinking about tubes too?
My question, especially for those who own high-end turntables, can you live with all the crackling and popping noise?

Some excellent comments and suggestions have been made by the others. I'll just add, re this part of your question, that how objectionable the tics and pops are, besides being dependent on vinyl quality, record condition and cleanliness, etc., is highly dependent on the dynamic range of the music you are listening to.

If you are listening to typically compressed popular music, where the volume level never fluctuates very much, you won't hear much of the extraneous noise. At the other extreme, if you are listening to a well-recorded, minimally compressed classical symphony performance, the tics and pops and surface noise will be much more bothersome, since most of the time the music is at much lower volume levels than at the occasional peaks.

That's probably a major reason why different listeners object to the problems of vinyl to different degrees -- they're listening to different music.

-- Al
Almarg makes an excellent point. I had no problem listening to rock or most jazz LPs with occasional ticks and pops. However, classical music was intolerable to me on vinyl because of the surface noise.

I agree with much of the advice and thoughts of the others, except that tics and pops are a necessary part of listening to vinyl records. My LP collection includes both new and used LPs, many of my best LPs are from the 50s and 60s and have been played hundreds, maybe thousands of times. You can't get rid of the noise resulting from a deep scratch. That is just a damaged record. The same occurs with CDs.

But dirty, old records that have been played a lot and have somewhat dry, lifeless vinyl, can be brought back to sound very quiet and new with a very good record cleaning machine, the right chemical treatments and final wash with distilled water and an application of Last to renew the vinyl condition. This takes time and unfortunately a much better than average RCM. I had a Nitty Gritty that improved things but would not remove enough of the crap in the grooves to eliminate the clicks and pops. I tried a VPI 16.5. It was better but not good enough. I finally sprang for a Loricraft. Now, most of my 50s and 60s records are as quiet as a CD except for the tape hiss inherent on recording of that time.

A vinyl rig that can get you as close to the real thing as technology can get today is more expensive that all but the most expensive digital rigs and a lot more work, but the sonic results are worth it. I like both of my digital players a lot, actually, but when I really want to be moved by the music, my analog rig is the only way to go. It's so much fuller and richer than either digital rig.

Hope this helps.

Have to agree with the fact there are to many variables. The condition of used vynil and its play grade versus its visual grade and if the previous owner(s) maintained them and HANDLED and STORED them properly. Try some of the new vynil and for used if I really want a copy of an LP I try to purchase the Japenese pressings which are pressed on high quality vynil and very quiet. You can always be surprised at how quiet a 40 year old pressing will play then a newer used release that doesn,t and vise versa. Simple answer to your question. YES, I feel that the few tics and pops are overshadowed by the full rich sound of vynil that to me conveys more musical emotion which equals greater listening enjoyment. Those wipes TVAD spoke of are awesome. I threw my carbon fibre dust "moving" brush out after trying the wipes. Cheers!
The complete name of the Pledge dust cloths are Pledge Dust and Allergen Unscented Dry Cloths.

Credit to AudioCircle member "lcrim" for this suggestion.
Cracking and popping are only a function of the record and stylus contact and nothing else (assuming the noise does not exist until the needle hits the record). Most vinyl addicts will overlook the occasional pop etc from a scratch or dusty record but the media does not have to have that issue. I have some albums i purchased 30 years ago and have played them hundreds of times that do not crackle or pop. Having said that, i have always been fanatical about cleaning a record. I also got my eyes opened to the power of vacuum cleaners and steaming (arggh, there goes that steaming guy again:) A good cleaning regime with a rcm will change your mind concerning whether clicks, pops or crackles are inherent with vinyl.

I have purchased records on craigslist, etc that were in bad shape only to go through a thorough cleaning and now have hundreds of records that are near perfect. I do have some that still crackle alot but if you look at them, they were abused and will never sound great between the tracks or quiet passages. I will challenge how good your cd sounded when it got dirty. My limited experience was they skipped or hung up on a track. I have never been able to keep a cd for more than a few years before it was scratched so bad that it skipped thus i threw away.
I recently purchased the Dave Gilmour album live in gdansk and over the entire 5 record set, it is dead quiet with no pops, clicks or crackles. Is vinyl as convienient, no, but it is imho, the best recreation of the music.
Thank you for all responses. In my case I don't think the noise is due to out of alignment cartridge or excessively-loaded capacitance although it might be a possibility. I highly suspect it is due to dirty records as I can see dust all over the surface with my naked eye. The surface seems to be in pretty good shape without any scratches although one of the LP has a mark running across the circumference, not too sure whether it's a scratch or just a dirty mark which can be cleaned off. Although the intermittent crackles and pops are noticeable it is not really serious as it seems to be. Maybe my expectations are little high since I have been living with digital for all my life.

I will get the records cleaned soon. Thanks for all the useful feedbacks.
Even with proper cleaning, some records are still unsatisfactory. Get rid of them and buy more. They're still relatively cheap and available. In my opinion, when they're right, nothing's better.
ryder your right all they do is snap, crackle and pop. thanks for saving us from the evil vinyl monster. back to red book.

I think the thing that hasn't been said outright is that the records you have may just happen to be in exceptionally bad shape.

I've been buying vinyl for more than 40 years. The ones I bought new are still in very good condition, because I took good care of them. The ones I've bought used...well...some are pristine and some sound like they've been dragged over barbed wire. Buying used is a crap shoot, and a visual inspection doesn't always tell you what you need to know. But if you like the vinyl sound in general, keep at it, and you'll eventually build up a library of great, mostly clean-sounding recordings.

Roy Gandy (MISTER Rega) is known as something of an eccentric. His ideas about cartridge alignment and record cleaning aren't widely shared. But they do, in a way, endear him to Rega loyalists and add a bit of charm and mystique to this mystique-filled hobby.

With cleaning, your good records will stay that way (provided you handle and store them properly), and your bad records will often (but not always) improve. In any case, it sounds like you've been bitten by the bug, and I encourage you to pursue it. Best of luck.
I probably missed it in the responses, but a stylus cleaner is important as well. Depending where you live, static may become an issue this winter.
Another method that you may want to try is Steam Cleaning.

Clicks and pops are usually due to damaged or poorly-pressed vinyl, but it may also be due to static. I have seen static so bad that it renders the record unplayable.

You might consider trying Gruv-Glide, which claims to clean and definitely removes static. Many vinyl enthusiasts don't like the product, but I have found it to work very well.

I also highly recommend a record-cleaning machine. You don't have to get crazy with it. Basically, I clean a record once when I buy it at that's about it. It's like anything else in this hobby, you can get nuts or you can be sensible. I think an RCM is a must if you're serious about vinyl and especially if you're sensitive to pops and stuff.
I have found that most of the "scratches" on my records could be removed with a very good clean. I do steam, then clean then rinse my records once, then just use a carbon fibre brush each time I play them. The vast majority of my records have very few pops and crackles. However, there are always a few that are irretrievable. I have an old copy of Led Zep 4 which crackles like mad, I'd love to solve this as it is a great hunk of old vinyl, but I think it may just be past it.

The advice above is very good, you need to clean records and keep your stylus clean too.

With a clean record and a decent TT records just blow CDs out of the water. Furthermore, a scratched record sounds a lot better than a scratched CD!

It turned out that one of the record was dirtier(or more ruined) than I thought as it exhibited more pops and crackles than the rest. Everytime I got up and changed side the stylus had dust on it in the form of tiny strands of wool of some sort, and I had to brush it off using a tiny brush that came with the cartridge.

Anyway the quality of one record was in exceptionally good clean condition as it showed minimal anomalies. I was listening to Pat Metheny Group Travels ECM and for the first time the sound filled the entire room with a lot of feeling and emotion as I continued to crank up the volume on the amp. Bliss. Sheer musical bliss. The sound of strumming of guitar was so organic and lifelike that I completely immersed into the music. It's so unlike digital, the sound is just "un-digital".

I will be getting some record cleaner to clean my dirtier LP's. Analog is here to stay.
For a very affordable record-cleaning alternative, you might look into the Spin Clean device sold at I can't vouch for it because I've never used it, but it's just $65 and looks like it might do a good job.

Has anyone else ever tried the Spin Clean?

Congratulations Ryder and welcome to a wonderful analog world. I'm not in only one camp, digital or vinyl, but for really enjoying the music there is no substitute for me than vinyl. Kind regards.
It might be a generational thing. I grew up listening to vinyl, and I LIKE some surface sounds, if they are at a minimum. It let's me know that the thing is alive. Digital's silence sounds dead to me (not to mention the hiss).
Digital's silence sounds dead to me (not to mention the hiss).
Chashmal (System | Threads | Answers)

The comment regarding hiss is curious.

I have not experienced hiss from any of the digital players I have owned that was attributable to anything other than tape hiss on the original master tape from which the disc was produced. This could be verified by playing another disc made from a better produced original recording that was free of tape hiss.
I clean all records before playing. I have found after playing most any new record a few times they sound quieter. Used records are always a crap shoot. I try not to judge a record the first time I play it unless it skips or has severe groove error, I will try them again after a thorough cleaning. I put more time into cleaning them a second time especially if they are used records.
I don't mind a few ticks and pops- they tend to exist in the speaker for the most part. The artifacts of digital tend to exist in the music itself. Fortunately digital has gotten a lot better over the years. The advent of 88.2KHz 24 bit recording equipment has really helped, but I still prefer the vinyl. Side by side it is simply more natural.

I rarely have to do any cleaning- only if a particular LP seems to need attention. I find that a tone arm/cartridge setup that can really track the LP without any breakup is also helpful- far less ticks and pops!

If I have a scratch- that is my own fault. I don't fault the medium for that anymore than I do if the surface condition of a CD affects its play-ability.
Some ticks and pops seem to be due to dried out vinyl. If they persist after an LP is thoroughly cleaned, try Last to renew the vinyl. Often the ticks and pops will disappear.
I use a VPI 16.5 cleaaner and Mobile Fidelity cleaning solutions (the new one) and the anti-static cleaning brush by Audioquest, but what impressed me most was when I bought my Raven One turntable. I'm not sure if it was the materials used in its construction, or the footers that come with it (Stillpoints), but the ticks and pops were so subdued that I was amazed. I had a VPI turntable previous to the Raven and had always assumed that the ticks and pops just had to be put up with. The difference in the noise level of the ticks and pops with the Raven were huge.--Mrmitch
I'm fascinated by the comments that Last can 'renew' vinyl.

Admittedly, I bought a bottle about 8 months ago and have never tried it, worried that it might leave a film and sonic signature that I wouldn't be able to remove. Why I haven't tried it on an LP I don't care about, I don't know.

I guess I will have to give it a spin.
I can live with some crackling and popping noises. It often happens. It depends on how bad it is. If it is just faintly in the background, I do not mind much.
I personally don't own a record cleaning machine, but like the idea. I clean every record I play, just before I play it with a D4 brush, and home made record cleaner that I make with a formula I got from the December 1995 Stereophile magazine. My records are very, very quiet. I am not a fan of Rega anything, but that is purely taste. You should be able to get some fine sound from your table. If you want the formula for the record cleaner, email me and I will send you a PDF file.