You might be here because chances are, your records are in some way warped and you’re hesitating to run it ‘round your turntable. Or perhaps, you’ve been listening to warped records for some time and would like to know if doing so actually damages your player. 

Well, put your concerns to rest because the verdict is: it is quite safe to listen to distorted recordings. They have no effect on the stylus, although the sound they create may come across as irritating. If you’re able to get past the initial stages of some possibly annoying sounds, playing a warped record would be no problem. 

Generally, warps are accommodated by the cartridge suspension and tonearm bearings. All should be well as long as the cart has appropriate tracking force and follows the groove without actually coming off. A warped record, according to some, can harm your stylus or record player. It would only be the situation if the record was so badly broken that you wouldn’t even think of putting it on your turntable. Some users play warped records as long as playback isn’t affected and the general rule of thumb is: if it plays fine, you’re fine. 

However, it is important to note here that while your stylus will not be damaged by slightly warped vinyl, if the record is severely warped, there’s a chance that the disc might be further damaged if the tracking gets marginal (i.e. the stylus starts to rise out of the groove). When a stylus skips a groove, it can scrape a notch in the vinyl record that connects parallel grooves. This damage leads to more skipping, and the record now has irreversible damage that can’t be easily repaired. We suggest you observe your warped vinyl carefully before playing it.

Here’s an example of someone playing a badly warped record on their turntable: (sound differs depending on the turntable you have)

Playing a badly warped record on a linear tracking turntable

Unfortunately, the majority of records, particularly older ones, will contain some degree of warp. In fact, even new records are reportedly arriving warped. A clamp or weight will undoubtedly help to reduce the warp (essentially getting rid of it by forcing the record flat). As a result, either option will improve the sound of the album. If you have some time and would like to try fixing your warped vinyl, we’ve written an article on how to do exactly that.

Keep your records away from heat and sunshine and you should be able to prevent most of your collection from warping. Getting proper cleaning equipment, knowing how to clean and store your records will also help. 

Remember, while playing a warped record in fine in most cases, do observe the condition of your vinyl before slotting it into your turntable.

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