How do you know that a record is really worn?

Hello All,

As the title says, how do you know when a particular disc is worn? Does the fidelity fall off and the sound becomes muddy? Does surface noise increase to the point where it becomes louder than the content?

I have acquired a quantity of vinyl that even after substantial cleaning just doesn't have the presence that I think it should. There are no visable scuffs and the grooves after cleaning look fine.

Thanks for your input.


An LP is a format for recording. It has never been a "guarantee" that the recording engineers, producers and those at the manufacturing end have done everything right. I've certainly heard plenty of LP records that are mediocre or even downright poor when brand new.

However, playing a record does involve direct physical contact between a hard diamond in a soft vinyl groove. If the turntable used is not top quality, or out of alignment, incorrectly set up, or has a worn stylus, there can be a loss of high frequency material over time and/or an increase in surface noise.

If all the records in the collection came from the same person and have the same playback quality (and you know that LPs from other sources sound better) then they may be worn in spite of good appearance to the eye. However, the only way to tell for sure is acquire duplicate copies of the same material and see if there is a dramatic difference in sound quality. (Even that is not an absolute indicator of merely wear. One LP may have come from the start of a stamper's production run and another copy from the end of a stamper's useful life, or they may have been stamped at different factories.)
#1 Give away - The sound of cosmic background radiation, that endless crackle that can not be cleaned.

#2 Give away -"miss-tracking" that does not cause you to say "Boy, these old LPs certainly have great dynamic range." Distortion in "fortes" or high freq. passage.

#3+ Give away - A Windexed record will look pretty good, so the lack of "dull grey" (no rainbow effect) is not indication of condition. Run, don't walk from spindle marked records - particularly 50's monos. Don't buy records from people who say that playing wet is the best way to hear a record.

When you are playing side one and you start hearing the tracks from side two.
OK, then lets assume you bought a new LP and its sound quality is absolutely good with no play noise/pops or whatever. And your turntable is set up perfectly and you take care of the vinyl.

When do you normally start hearing those play noise and pops? (Maybe after 50 play?) When do you start hearing the sound gets muddy? (Maybe after 200 play?)
After how many times of play?

I have many LPs that look very clean with no scratches but have lots of play noise and pops. Also, I have many LPs with lots of visible scratches but sound very good with marginal play noise and pops. So, visual inspection alone would not be enough to tell one LP's condition. Also, some of the new LPs I bought have annoying play noise and pops right at the first play.
Hello Jan, it sounds like you have a lot of later pressings where they tend to sound pale, thin, and lose "prescence". Early pressings can have more "pop".
Depends to some extent on the vinyl used. I remember Supraphon and Hungaraton LPs that started showing audible wear (clicks, pops) after a very few plays, while other labels stayed silent. Unfortunately the more rigorous (aka, anal) I became in my record cleaning, the better the result. "Unfortunately," because it takes at least twice as long as it used to take. Dave
On a serious note, if you use a well adusted TT, clean your records well and maintain the system you should be able to get several hundred plays out of a vinyl record before any significant loss of signal. Clean and a properly set up TT is the key.
See my explanation on this thread.

How to clean Stubborn Records

There are other reasons for noise of course, but this is obvious once it's seen.