Vinyl enthusiasts know that there’s nothing quite like the warm, rich sound of a record playing on a turntable. However, sometimes that experience can be marred by an annoying hum that seems to come out of nowhere.
While there are many potential causes of turntable hum, one often-overlooked culprit is the phono cartridge itself. In this article, we’ll explore how a phono cartridge can be the source of hum and what you can do to fix it.
So sit back, grab your favorite record, and let’s dive in!
Can A Phono Cartridge Be Source Of Hum
Yes, a phono cartridge can be the source of hum in your turntable setup. There are a few different reasons why this might happen.
One common cause of phono cartridge hum is electrostatic interference. This occurs when the cartridge picks up radio signals or other electromagnetic interference from nearby electronics. Some turntables have shielded motors that can help prevent this, but not all do.
Another potential cause of phono cartridge hum is magnetic interference. This occurs when the cartridge’s generator assembly is designed in a way that makes it more susceptible to magnetic interference. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent this type of interference.
Understanding The Phono Cartridge
To understand how a phono cartridge can be a source of hum, it’s important to know how it works. A phono cartridge is a small device that converts the physical vibrations of a record into an electrical signal that can be amplified and played through speakers.
The cartridge consists of a stylus (needle), a cantilever, and a generator assembly. The stylus sits in the groove of the record and vibrates as it moves along the grooves. These vibrations are then transmitted through the cantilever to the generator assembly, which converts them into an electrical signal.
The generator assembly of a phono cartridge contains coils of wire that are surrounded by magnets. As the stylus vibrates, it causes the coils to move within the magnetic field, generating an electrical signal. This signal is then sent through the tonearm wires to the phono preamp or amplifier.
If there is any interference in the magnetic field surrounding the generator assembly, it can cause hum in the audio signal. This interference can come from nearby electronics or even from the motor of the turntable itself. Additionally, if the cartridge is not properly grounded, it can also contribute to hum in the audio signal.
It’s important to note that not all phono cartridges are created equal when it comes to susceptibility to interference. Some cartridges are designed with better shielding or other features that help prevent interference and minimize hum. However, if you’re experiencing hum in your turntable setup, it’s worth checking your phono cartridge as a potential source of the problem.
Common Causes Of Turntable Hum
There are several common causes of turntable hum that can be frustrating for any audiophile. One major cause of turntable hum is a problem with the wiring in your audio system. If you hear hum when your amplifier is set to all inputs, not just the one your turntable is on, then you may have a different problem. However, if hum only occurs on the input that your turntable plays through, it is likely that the turntable is the source of the problem.
Another cause of turntable hum is a poorly grounded turntable tonearm. Most turntables do not require an additional ground port, but some may benefit from an extra Phonograph Turntable Ground Wire for better shielding. This can range from a quiet low pitch humming sound to a louder mid-range hum.
The most common type of turntable hum is the well-known 60 cycle hum. This is caused by high voltage electricity from your outlet bleeding into the audio channel and is usually caused by improper or poor grounding. Occasional shocks can occur if your skin touches the wrong part of the component.
To prevent turntable hum, there are several steps you can take. First, make sure to ground your turntable properly using a ground wire. Additionally, move other wires from audio components away from each other and move your speakers to a different surface. If these steps do not work, consider purchasing a stand-alone preamp. It is also important to note that cheap wiring and build quality can make this noise rather difficult to get rid of.
How A Phono Cartridge Can Contribute To Hum
When a phono cartridge is not properly grounded, it can contribute to hum in your turntable setup. This is because the cartridge’s metal body can act as an antenna, picking up unwanted electrical signals and introducing them into the audio signal.
Additionally, if the cartridge’s wiring is not properly shielded, it can also contribute to hum. The wiring can pick up electromagnetic interference from nearby electronics or power sources and introduce that interference into the audio signal.
It’s important to note that not all phono cartridges are created equal when it comes to contributing to hum. High-quality cartridges with proper shielding and grounding are less likely to cause hum than cheaper, poorly-designed cartridges.
If you suspect that your phono cartridge is contributing to hum in your setup, there are a few things you can try. First, make sure that the cartridge is properly grounded by connecting the turntable’s ground wire to your amplifier or preamp. You can also try upgrading to a higher-quality phono cartridge with better shielding and grounding.
Identifying If The Phono Cartridge Is The Source Of Hum
If you suspect that your phono cartridge is the source of hum in your turntable setup, there are a few steps you can take to identify and address the issue.
First, listen to the hum and try to determine whether it is a 120Hz buzz or a 60Hz hum. This will help you narrow down the potential causes of the problem.
Assuming that the tonearm is functioning properly, you can then try swapping out the cartridge to see if a different one produces the same hum. If it does, this suggests that the problem is not with the cartridge itself.
However, if the hum persists with multiple cartridges, you can try an experiment to determine whether the cartridge is picking up magnetic interference from the turntable’s electronics. Place a piece of copper or aluminum foil around the cartridge and headshell, being careful not to damage the stylus, and make sure the foil is grounded. If this reduces or eliminates the hum, it suggests that the turntable’s grounding and shielding may need improvement.
Another way to determine whether the cartridge is picking up magnetic interference is to move the arm over the record and drop it down as close to the record as possible without letting the stylus touch it. Turn on the motor and listen for hum. If you hear hum at this point, it suggests that there may be magnetic interference or grounding and shielding issues. Then lower the stylus into the groove. If the hum starts when the needle enters the groove, it suggests that there may be mechanical vibration issues.
If you suspect that your phono cartridge is causing hum in your turntable setup, these steps can help you identify and address the issue. However, keep in mind that there may be other potential causes of hum as well, so it’s important to consider all possibilities before making any changes to your setup.
Fixing Phono Cartridge-Related Hum Issues
If you are experiencing phono cartridge-related hum issues, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot and fix the problem.
First, check the connections between your turntable and amplifier or preamp. Make sure that all cables are securely connected and that the cartridge connections are not loose. If the cartridge wires are loose, try connecting the and wires together using an alligator clip. If this eliminates the hum, then the wires need to be replaced.
If the connections are secure but you’re still experiencing hum, try repositioning your turntable as far away as possible from other electronics. This can help reduce electrostatic interference.
If magnetic interference is the issue, there’s not much you can do to prevent it. However, you can try experimenting with different cartridges to see if some are less susceptible to interference than others.
Finally, if none of these steps solve the problem, consider purchasing a standalone preamp or consulting with a professional audio technician for further assistance.
Maintenance Tips To Prevent Phono Cartridge Hum In The Future
If you’re experiencing phono cartridge hum in your turntable setup, there are a few maintenance tips you can follow to prevent it from happening in the future.
1. Check your connections: Loose connections between the tonearm and cartridge can cause hum, so make sure they’re secure. You should also check your RCA cables, ground wire, and power supply cable (if applicable) to ensure they’re properly connected.
2. Ground your turntable: Grounding your turntable can help prevent ground loops and hum. Look for a small wire in the rear of the unit located next to the RCA cables. Attach this ground wire to the GND screw on the rear of your receiver. If your turntable doesn’t have a ground wire, you can try connecting a piece of speaker wire to a metal screw on the turntable and another metal screw on the receiver.
3. Use shielded cables: Shielded cables can help prevent electrostatic interference. Look for cables with a braided shield or foil shield to reduce interference from nearby electronics.
4. Keep your turntable away from other electronics: Magnetic interference can be caused by nearby electronics, so try to keep your turntable away from other devices like speakers, amplifiers, and TVs.
By following these maintenance tips, you can help prevent phono cartridge hum in your turntable setup and enjoy high-quality sound without any unwanted noise.