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Arts & Entertainment

Vinyl etiquette question: when to flip?

Daniel Malin

At my friend's party this past weekend, the host had a turntable going for music. Yes, one of those. Less said about that, the more we can say about this:

Every now and then the needle would run its course and my friend would be nowhere near the turntable. Sometimes not even in the house. The record needed flipping--sometimes a new one had to get put on, even. Once or twice that night, I took the liberty (and no, I didn't thumb through the whole collection, there was a pile of party-approved LPs set aside).

It was only the next day when--from the comfort of my one home and record player--that I started to wonder: Record players are delicate things and... while I wouldn't have minded were it my table... had I made a wax-based party foul? Should I have let the host know instead? Let the party go music-less?

Because this is an issue that is destined to almost never come up in the age of the hard drive. I needed expertise beyond my years, so I asked a couple co-workers who grew up in the vinyl age. Off-Ramp host John Rabe was the first, he erred on the side of caution:

I would say, given the damage you can do with a needle on a record, weighed against wearing out the stylus at the end of a record, especially under party conditions, the best thing is to use the mechanical tone-arm lifter to lift the stylus off the record and then just leave it. It won't hurt the needle or turntable if it just spins with the needle off the record. 

On the other hand, KPCC engineer (and documented vinyl lover) Peter Stenshoel took a softer stance on the issue, saying:

My friends nearly all knew exactly how to handle a record, and I never owned such high end turntables that they would get out of whack from a guest operating it.  Unless, of course, they were too drunk, which was rarely the case. But the fact your friend put out an approved selection of party records--much like I have encountered back in the stone age--I feel that the directive is clear. Put on the next record.

Luckily for me, my friend didn't seem to mind at all. But would you? Let us know in the comments!