does playing vinyl records at the wrong speed damage them

Playing vinyl records at the wrong speed does not do any damage. The audio will not sound as intended, but there will be no lasting extra damage if the standard RPM speeds are used.

Introduction – Playing Records At The Wrong Speed

Our vinyl records can be very precious to us. Personally I want to protect them to the best of my ability. One part that I was uncertain about was: “Does playing vinyl records at the wrong speed damage them?

To answer this question I’ve asked Steven Smith, one of the owners of Human Head Records in New York City. He has been repairing record players for years now and has been tinkering since he was young. Because of this I consider him somewhat of an expert and authority on the subject. Next to that, he’s a great guy and he didn’t have a moment of doubt about helping me out. Let’s find out what he told us.

If you’re interested in all the differences between 33 1/3 RPM and 45 RPM records then check out this article I’ve written on it.

No Extra Damage

Playing records on the wrong speed is mind-bending but will do no damage to your vinyl.“, Stated Steven, “Lots of 12” releases are on 45 RPM and 7” EP’s on 33 is fairly common. I found years later I was listening to an early butthole surfers record on the wrong speed and actually prefer it that way.

Most of us know that our records will degrade gradually over time by use. Steven appears to be certain that playing a record at a different speed option than intended for the record will not do any extra damage. Now that we know it’s not really an issue, we won’t have to go into it any further.

Bigger Threats

But leaving it here would make this article very short and I want to give you as much information as I possibly can. So I also asked Steve about other causes of vinyl record damage that some might not be aware of. Of course, he was so kind to help me out with that as well.

Check out this article for the biggest threat to vinyl records.

Worn-Out Needle

A bigger threat to your vinyl is a worn-out needle.”, said Steven, “A good stylus will last for many many hours but degradation will eventually be noticeable in audio fidelity as the needle is pushed past its prime.

I also asked Steven the specific reason for this extra damage. I’m waiting on a response at the moment. I will update this article when I have more information.

Now I’ve also written an article about the symptoms of a worn-out needle. If you’re worried about this then check out the article here.

Drunken Roommate

Steven also told me the following, “An even bigger threat is a drunken roommate monkey-pawing your collection in the wee hours.” Now not everyone can have the same appreciation as you have for your vinyl.

Steven continued, “I’ve woken to many bent and broken needles over the years from common area turntable parties.” So be careful and choose your friends wisely.

Tracking Weight

This is another very important aspect of your record player. It’s easy to mess up. It can be as tedious as tuning a guitar. Steven said the following about it, “… If your counterweight is too far forward it puts unnecessary weight on the stylus which could cause harm to both needle and wax.” So keep this in mind.

Final Note

As a final note on these bigger threats Steven added, “Proper equipment maintenance and keeping your vinyl clean will go a long way towards collection longevity. 

Just in case you’re thinking about cleaning your records with alcohol and are worried about the downsides of this, check out the article I’ve written about it.

Conclusion – Playing Records At The Wrong Speed

So, the answer to, “Does playing records at the wrong speed damage them?” is No. However, there are bigger threats that you should keep in mind. These are:

  1. Worn-out needle
  2. Drunken Roommate with monkey-paws
  3. Unbalanced counterweight

Hopefully this was helpful to you. If you liked it then please check out our other educational articles. If you’re interested in getting a new record player you can check out our reviews & top lists to find an affordable & quality option.


  1. Steven Smith, Human Head Records:
  2. Biggest Threat To Vinyl, Record Player Expert:



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