Many folks use record weights, but not everybody understands them. Visit any audio forum and you will see plenty of debate over the pros vs. cons of using one. Is it just a glorified paper weight, or is there more to it?
For those unfamiliar, a record weight is a puck-like object designed to be placed on the center of your records during playback. Record clamps are similar, but clamps typically physically clamp (hence the name) onto your turntable's spindle. More on this shortly.
What does a record weight do?
Placing additional weight on your record can provide a few benefits:
1. Vibration damping: The stylus vibrates as it tracks your record grooves - this the first step of getting music from a record to your ears. Some of that vibration gets transferred to the record itself - when this happens, the stylus has a harder time accurately “reading” the grooves. Imagine trying to read a book when every word is moving. Coupling the record to the platter reduces this vibration, which results in cleaner playback and less distortion.
2. Keeping records flat: New or old, few records are perfectly flat. Warping can make it harder for the stylus to track properly. If you have records that are slightly warped, then weighting the center may keep them flatter and improve trackability. This won't work so well for records that are severely warped.
3. Reduced wow & flutter (maybe): Some folks say that record weights can improve wow & flutter. We performed a quick experiment with ten turntables where we measured wow & flutter with and without a record weight. Three of the ten turntables measured slightly better with the record weight. This is something that may be noticeable if you have good ears and a revealing sound system, but not a benefit to most listeners.
Compatibility with the Orbit Turntable
For the Orbit, we recommend using a simple record weight that is around 1 lb. We don't recommend using a clamp with the Orbit, since (a) many clamps don't work well with the turntable's relatively short spindle, and (b) some clamps might damage the spindle when tightened.
The bottom line
Let’s get real. Is a record weight the missing link that will make your listening room sound like Carnegie Hall? No, not by a long shot. If you’re on a budget, you’ll get more bang-for-your-buck by upgrading essential music-making components like your cartridge or your speakers. But, if you have a capable stereo system and want your turntable to perform at its very best, consider a record weight the icing on the cake.