vinyl records end featured

When a vinyl record ends, without auto stop, the needle will keep tracking the dead wax on the run-out area near the middle of the record. This results in low-level surface noise. It causes minimal damage to the stylus which is only apparent after long-term accumulation.

In this article, I’m explaining exactly what happens when a vinyl record is done playing. I’ll explain what you’ll hear and whether it causes any significant damage. I’ll also quickly explain the matrix number you’ll find in the center of a vinyl record.

Vinyl Record Parts – Layout

The very middle of a vinyl record is called the ‘center hole’, which is inside the ‘label’. The end of a record is called the ‘run-out area’, which is around the label. The run-out area has no grooves and so is also called ‘dead wax’. The outside rim of an LP is also dead wax because it has no grooves.

Between the inside and outside dead wax you’ll find the groove consisting of tracks and breaks. Tracks are the sections containing the recorded sounds. Breaks are the sections of dead wax between tracks.

vinyl record parts layout

What Happens When An LP Ends

If your turntable has no auto stop and a record ends the record will keep spinning. The needle will stay down tracking the dead wax of the run-out area.

The stylus does make some sound on the dead wax. It will be a low level of surface noise. This effect will be more apparent if the record isn’t cleaned properly.

Is It Bad To Leave A Record On The Turntable

When a record ends without auto stop the stylus will have continuous friction with dead wax in the run-out groove. This won’t do any significant damage to the needle because the surface is very smooth. However, don’t make it a habit because the friction will accumulate and that will cost you some hours of stylus lifetime.

Leaving a a needle down on a record after it finishes won’t cut through the vinyl. The wear on the vinyl is minimal, so it will take decades of continuous spinning to cut through.

Check out my article on The Biggest Threat To Vinyl Records here. (opens in a new tab)

What Is A Matrix Number In The Run-Out Area

The matrix number in the center of a vinyl record is a combination of letters that’s either stamped or handwritten into the lacquer. It’s used to identify the stamper, but it can also provide additional information like whether or not it’s a restamp.

Matrix numbers are also accompanied by other symbols sometimes. These symbols can for example be for who the engineer was during the mastering process.

The matrix number is useful when trying to validate the exact pressing of an LP. You can use it to track down that what the seller is telling you is correct. So if it’s an original, you should be able to find that out using the matrix number.

Vinyl collectors often value specific matrix numbers on the run-out area because they can indicate rarity or exclusivity. Some artists or engineers include secret messages in the stamp, which is an entire rabbit hole on its own.

That’s all, thanks for reading. I hope I answered all your questions. If not, you can leave a comment and I’ll answer. Consider checking out my other educational articles. Also, consider subscribing to my newsletter below.

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2 Responses

  1. Dear Record Player Expert:

    I accidentally left my turntable playing for 5-6 hours last night. Woke up to the stylus in the runoff area, and turned it off and put the record away. I have an Ortofon 2M red cartridge, which is brand new. Based upon your article, I assume all is okay and that I simply shouldn’t let this happen often. At the same time., all of my records are mint and very valuable. Do I need to replace the stylus just to be sure I’m not damaging my records, or will brushing the stylus be sufficient at this point? Your input is much appreciated!

    • Hi Chris! You don’t have to replace the stylus. The damage of 5-6 hours of the stylus running over the runoff area is very minimal. It would be equivalent to the damage of playing regularly for 5 hours, which is negligible if you consider the lifetime of most cartridges. No need to worry! 🙂

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