Warped records are something that many audiophiles dread, especially when you are purchasing used records. However, even if you avoid purchasing warped vinyl records at a record store, improper storage and other factors could warp vinyl in your record collection. When records warp, what can be done to restore the quality of the record so that playback sounds better?
Are Warped Records Playable?
In short, yes, these records are playable on a turntable. Most warping will only cause the record to wobble a bit on the record player. However, when vinyl is warped too much, there is always a chance that the stylus will not track the record’s grooves properly. This means that the tonearm and the needle could bounce, which affects the overall sound quality that you hear when playing the vinyl.
If the warping is minimal, there will be no damage to the needle. When the warping is so bad that the needle jumps during playback, there is a chance that the stylus could become damaged or wear more quickly.
Ways to Fix a Warped Record
Is it possible to fix a warped record? Well, if it doesn’t play well and you are going to throw the record away, it doesn’t hurt to try flattening it. Some of these DIY submissions that you find on YouTube work well, while others are not the best options to consider because they can cause irreversible damage that may make your records unplayable. Let’s look at some of the options you can consider to fix your warped records.
Before you attempt any of these record flattening methods, make sure to clean the record thoroughly. This will prevent dirt and grime from becoming embedded in the grooves and creating scratches that will degrade the record’s sound.
Sandwich Method with Weight
With this method, you will leave the record in the inner sleeve and place it between two heavy objects on a flat surface. You can use large books at least 12 inches in length and width. If you do not have books of this size, make sure the object that you use to weigh the record down is the same size as the record or larger. Smaller weights can indent the record instead of flattening it, which will be permanent.
When you use heavy books like this, pressure is applied to the top of the record, and even at room temperature, an extended amount of time flattens the vinyl. Typically, the vinyl needs to be weighed down for several weeks or even a month of time. This method seems to work well for minor warping. However, it will not fix a major S-shaped warp.
Sandwich Method with Heat
This method is designed to use two sheets of glass or tiles to straighten the warped vinyl. Ideally, you want the panes of glass to be 15 inches by 15 inches so that they are larger than the record, as we explained in the first method. Also, make sure that you use tempered glass so that the heat does not run the chance of shattering the glass panels.
Make a sandwich out of the pieces of glass with the warped vinyl in the middle. Place it in direct sunlight so that the heat absorbs into the sandwich. Also, make sure that you place an added weight on top of the glass 12 to 15 inches in size to add weight to the heat. This will combine weight and pressure to fix the warping. Leave the record like this for a day or so.
If you want to speed up the process, some record collectors have attempted to heat the tile or the glass in the oven before making their sandwich. Then, allow it to cool back to room temperature to see if the warping is reduced.
If you do this, make sure that you preheat the oven at the lowest possible temperature. Too much heat has a chance of flattening the grooves or melting an area of the record you are flattening. Never put your records in the oven, as this can damage the vinyl beyond repair.
Record Flattening Device
Also known as record flatteners, these devices are easy to come by on e-commerce platforms, like Amazon, and you can also find them in some record stores. Unlike a record stabilizer, like Pro-Ject’s Puck E, these not only add weight to the warped record’s surface but also pressure via a bolt and sometimes heat. This combination of heat and pressure yields varying results.
You’ll have to sandwich your records for anywhere between four and 10 hours to see results. Typically, the amount of time increases if you’re using pressure at room temperatures. For those devices that apply a little heat to repair warps, tread carefully because heat can damage the bottom and top of the record surface.
Additionally, there are major cost considerations. While it’s possible to find flatteners that cost as little as $99, these aren’t always as effective. For the most effective record flattening devices, you may end up spending well into the thousands. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker; if you have thousands of warped LPs, having a dedicated flattener may potentially save you from investing in costly replacements.
Record Flattening Service
If you’re looking to save money, a record flattening service may be worthwhile. These can be as little as $8 per vinyl record. When you use one of these services, cleaning is often offered, so the whole process ends up being something of a vinyl rejuvenation. This also takes the onus of responsibility off of your shoulders. With a flattening service, you know that the job is being done professionally, but it’s still important to understand that the end result might not restore the record to mint condition.
While you may be able to find a flattener service in your area, many more of these services are mail-in. This potentially exposes your valuable record collection to damage while shipping, and some services also impose limits on the number of records you can send at one time. Also, if you have a ton of records, you might be spending a lot of money to repair the warps in your collection.
Still, for the occasional warped LP, this is a semi-reliable way to at least return your record to playability. The low cost makes this a great spot-repair method for those records that need a little love, and the addition of cleaning services really could restore some of the audio quality of your favorite LPs. $8 is also much lower than the cost of a brand new LP in most cases, so this could save you a few bucks in the end.
Proper Storage is Key
One way to prevent warping with new records is to make sure that you store them properly in the first place. This means that when you bring home vinyl from your local record shop, you always keep the vinyl flat when it is not on the turntable. When storing records, make sure that each vinyl is stored in an upright position where it gets proper air circulation. Never store records in direct sunlight or other sources of heat.