Vinyl records have made a comeback in recent years, and with that comes a renewed interest in the equipment used to play them.
One important component of a turntable setup is the phono cartridge, which converts the physical grooves of a record into an electrical signal that can be amplified and played through speakers.
But what happens if you accidentally short the output of your phono cartridge? Will it damage the cartridge or affect the sound quality?
In this article, we’ll explore this question and provide some insights into the workings of phono cartridges.
Can You Short A Phono Cartridge Output
Shorting the output of a phono cartridge is not recommended, but it won’t necessarily damage the cartridge itself. However, it will effectively mute the output, so any pops or other sounds associated with dropping or picking up the stylus won’t be heard through the speakers.
It’s important to note that this issue is more likely to occur with fully automatic turntables, as they may short the two terminals of the cartridge together during their automatic cycling. If the switch or mechanism is damaged, it may not disengage when it’s supposed to.
On the other hand, if you have a fully manual turntable, this is unlikely to be a problem. It’s also worth noting that not all phono cartridges are created equal – some are designed to offer a greater dynamic range and wider frequency response than others.
For example, moving coil (MC) cartridges tend to offer better performance than moving magnet (MM) cartridges. This is because MC cartridges track more accurately at the bottom and top ends of the frequency range, and their electrical parameters make it possible to attenuate suboptimal electrical behaviors that can impact sound quality.
However, it’s important to remember that MC cartridges have been around for a long time – some of the earliest designs were made in the 1940s! And while they may offer better performance than MM cartridges, they can also be more expensive.
Understanding Phono Cartridge Outputs
When it comes to phono cartridges, understanding the output voltage is crucial for achieving optimal sound quality. The output voltage is measured in millivolts (mV) and is determined by the strength of the magnetic field and the number of turns of copper wire in the coils.
Moving magnet (MM) cartridges typically have a high output voltage, ranging from 3.0-5.0mV. This makes them compatible with most preamps without requiring an intermediate stage cartridge amp. On the other hand, moving coil (MC) cartridges have a lower output voltage, typically ranging from 3.0-4.0mV for high output and 0.2-0.5mV for low output.
It’s important to note that the output voltage and the moving mass of the cartridge’s cantilever are important parameters to consider when selecting a cartridge. Additionally, most common phono preamps are designed to accept high output phono cartridge signal levels and have gains between 36dB and 42dB. Some more expensive preamps may have switchable amplification (gain) that allows for the connection of lower output models, up to 66dB gain.
If you’re looking for a wider frequency response and more detailed sound reproduction, MC cartridges may be a better choice due to their lighter assembly and finer tracking ability. However, they can be more expensive than MM cartridges.
What Happens When You Short A Phono Cartridge Output?
When you short the output of a phono cartridge, you effectively mute the output. This means that any sound associated with dropping or picking up the stylus won’t be heard through the speakers. However, it’s important to note that this won’t necessarily damage the cartridge itself.
Shorting the output is more likely to occur with fully automatic turntables, as they may short the two terminals of the cartridge together during their automatic cycling. If the switch or mechanism is damaged, it may not disengage when it’s supposed to.
If you have a fully manual turntable, this is unlikely to be a problem. However, it’s worth noting that not all phono cartridges are created equal. Moving coil (MC) cartridges tend to offer better performance than moving magnet (MM) cartridges due to their ability to track more accurately at the bottom and top ends of the frequency range.
It’s important to keep in mind that MC cartridges have been around for a long time and can be more expensive than MM cartridges. Therefore, it’s important to handle them with care and avoid shorting their output whenever possible.
Risks Of Shorting A Phono Cartridge Output
While shorting the output of a phono cartridge won’t necessarily damage the cartridge itself, it’s important to understand the risks. By shorting the two terminals of the cartridge together, you effectively mute the output, which can impact sound quality.
Additionally, if the switch or mechanism is damaged, it may not disengage when it’s supposed to, which can cause further issues. Furthermore, shorting the cartridge output can cause electrical stress on the cartridge and potentially damage other components in your audio system.
It’s important to note that shorting a phono cartridge output is not a recommended practice and should be avoided whenever possible. If you suspect that your turntable may be shorting the cartridge output, it’s best to have it checked by a professional to ensure that it’s functioning properly.
How To Avoid Shorting A Phono Cartridge Output
To avoid shorting a phono cartridge output, it’s important to make sure that the turntable is properly set up and connected to the correct input on your amplifier or receiver. First, check that the cartridge is securely mounted in the tonearm and that all wires are connected properly.
Next, make sure that the turntable is set to the correct speed and that the tracking force and anti-skate are properly adjusted. If any of these settings are off, it can cause the stylus to skip or jump, which can potentially damage the cartridge.
It’s also important to connect the turntable to a phono input on your amplifier or receiver. This input is specifically designed for use with phono cartridges and will provide the necessary amplification and equalization to properly reproduce the sound from your records.
If you connect your turntable to an input labeled AUX, TAPE, CD, TUNER, VCR, or DVD, it will not provide the amplification required for a phono cartridge. This can result in low output or distorted sound.
Finally, be sure to handle your records and cartridges with care. Avoid touching the stylus or cartridge with your fingers and use a record brush to remove dust and debris from your records before playing them. This will help ensure that your cartridges last as long as possible and continue to provide high-quality sound reproduction.
Troubleshooting Tips For Phono Cartridge Output Issues
If you’re experiencing issues with the output of your phono cartridge, there are a few troubleshooting tips you can try before seeking professional help.
Firstly, check the connections between your turntable and amplifier. Make sure that all cables are securely plugged in and that there are no loose connections. If the issue persists, try replacing the cables with new ones to see if that resolves the issue.
Next, check the alignment of your cartridge. Misalignment can cause a number of issues, including poor sound quality and low output. Use a protractor or alignment tool to ensure that your cartridge is properly aligned with the tonearm.
If these steps don’t resolve the issue, it may be time to replace your cartridge. Over time, cartridges can wear out and lose their ability to produce high-quality sound. Look for a replacement cartridge that is compatible with your turntable and offers the performance you need.
It’s important to note that if you’re not comfortable performing these troubleshooting steps on your own, it’s always best to seek professional help. A qualified technician can diagnose and repair any issues with your turntable or phono cartridge, ensuring that you get the best possible sound quality from your vinyl collection.