Are you a vinyl enthusiast looking to get the most out of your turntable setup?
One important feature to understand is anti-skate. This feature helps maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce wear and tear on your records and stylus.
But how do you set it up properly? In this article, we’ll guide you through the process step-by-step, so you can enjoy your vinyl collection with optimal sound quality.
Let’s dive in!
How Do You Set Anti-Skate On A Turntable
Before we get started, it’s important to note that not all turntables have an adjustable anti-skate control. Some turntables may have this feature preset at a fixed value by the manufacturer. However, if your turntable does have an adjustable anti-skate control, here’s how to set it up properly:
1. Begin by setting your tracking force to zero. This can usually be done using a dial located at the pivot point of your tonearm.
2. Set your anti-skate to zero as well. The anti-skate dial is typically located on the flat surface of the turntable near the tonearm pivot point.
3. Remove the stylus guard from your cartridge and ensure it is properly installed in the headshell.
4. Remove the platter from your turntable to make the next step easier.
5. Move the tonearm out to a position above where the platter was, so that it is floating in mid-air.
6. Adjust the counterweight at the back end of the tonearm until the cartridge end of the tonearm is parallel to the platter surface. This may take some time and patience, but it’s important to get it right.
7. Once you have achieved a balanced tonearm, adjust your anti-skate control to match your tracking force. This will get you in the ballpark, but you may need to make further adjustments based on your listening experience.
8. Listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed. Look out for distortion, particularly in the form of sibilance, and adjust accordingly.
9. Listen at two or three different points across the record and make further adjustments if necessary.
10. If adjusting the anti-skate does not solve a particular problem, there may be another issue at play. In this case, it’s best to seek advice from an expert in audio solutions.
What Is Anti-Skate And Why Is It Important?
Anti-skate is a feature on turntables that applies a small outward force to the tonearm, counteracting the tendency of the arm to move inward (skate) toward the center of the record as the tonearm approaches the end of the record. This force is necessary to maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear. Without anti-skate, the force pulling the tonearm toward the center of the record can cause skipping or scratching of your records, resulting in poor sound quality.
It’s important to note that not all turntables have an adjustable anti-skate control. Some turntables may have this feature preset at a fixed value by the manufacturer. However, for those turntables that do have an adjustable anti-skate control, it’s crucial to set it up properly for optimal performance. Setting your anti-skate correctly will ensure that your records sound their best and last longer.
Understanding The Mechanics Of Anti-Skate
Anti-skate is a mechanism that applies a small outward force to the tonearm of a turntable, counteracting the tendency of the arm to move inward (skate) toward the center of the record as the tonearm approaches the end of the record. This force is necessary to maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear.
The anti-skate feature is built into most turntables on sale today and comes in two broad categories: counterweight systems and spring systems. Counterweight systems rely on a small counterweight that is suspended on a line and pulley arrangement. The amount of force exerted is adjusted by moving the end of the line nearer to or further from the pivot point of the arm. The further the distance to the pivot, the more force is being exerted. Spring systems, on the other hand, rely on a small spring system that provides a degree of resistance on the arm as it moves across the record. The amount of force can usually be adjusted via a rotary control on the side of the arm.
While both systems have exactly the same effect, they have their own advantages and disadvantages. Counterweight anti-skate systems can look a bit crude and be almighty dust traps but they do have some advantages. The force they exert is extremely consistent from the start of the record to the end because the resistance of the weight and line is constant regardless of position. By contrast, a spring system will rarely exert absolutely consistent resistance because the mechanical resistance of the spring is not completely constant as it expands and contracts (and it will change as the spring ages). Equally, while counterweight systems are a little approximate, spring systems are marked and set with a degree of confidence (although, just how accurate the dial is does vary a lot from arm to arm).
It’s important to note that not all turntables have an adjustable anti-skate control. Some turntables may have this feature preset at a fixed value by the manufacturer. However, if your turntable does have an adjustable anti-skate control, it’s important to set it up properly to achieve optimal sound quality and protect your records.
How To Determine The Correct Anti-Skate Setting For Your Turntable
Once you have set up your turntable and balanced the tonearm, it’s time to determine the correct anti-skate setting for your turntable. To do this, you will need a record with wide lead-out grooves closest to the record label.
Start by placing the stylus in between the grooves and lower it onto the surface of the record. As soon as it hits the record, you will see the movement of the tonearm. You want the tonearm to move very slowly toward the spindle.
Next, put on a pair of headphones and listen carefully to the sound. You want any distortion, particularly in the form of sibilance, to be inside your head and perfectly in the middle of the sound stage. If you hear distortion that is louder on one channel, adjust the anti-skate control until the distortion is minimized.
It’s important to note that the force exerted on the stylus is not linear, so the amount of anti-skate force required will be different depending on the relative location of the cartridge towards the record spindle. The curve is somewhat of a parabolic shape, with the skating force higher at the outer groove than at the inner groove and lowest in the middle.
Some tonearms have a mechanism which will increase anti-skating force gradually to counteract the non-linear nature of the centripetal force. Optimizing anti-skating adjustment at the outer grooves where the skating force is strongest will cause over-compensation across the inner grooves. This is why anti-skating tracks are placed near inner grooves.
If you’re still having trouble achieving an optimal anti-skate setting, it may be caused by an incorrect tracking force, azimuth or alignment. You may have to go back and forth between different parameters to achieve meaningful results and optimal settings.
Remember to use a stylus force gauge when setting your tracking force and take your time when adjusting your anti-skate control. With a little patience and attention to detail, you can achieve optimal sound quality and prolong the life of your records and needle.
Tips For Maintaining Proper Anti-Skate Over Time
Once you’ve successfully set up your anti-skate control, it’s important to maintain it over time to ensure optimal performance. Here are some tips for maintaining proper anti-skate:
1. Regularly clean your turntable and stylus to prevent buildup of dust and debris, which can affect tracking and cause skating.
2. Keep your turntable level to prevent any lateral forces that may affect the anti-skate mechanism.
3. Avoid moving your turntable while it’s playing a record, as this can cause the tonearm to skip and affect the anti-skate.
4. If you notice any changes in sound quality or tracking, recheck your anti-skate setting and make any necessary adjustments.
5. If you upgrade your cartridge or stylus, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommended tracking force and adjust your anti-skate accordingly.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your anti-skate control remains properly set up and maintained over time, leading to better sound quality and longer-lasting equipment.
Troubleshooting Common Anti-Skate Issues
While setting up your turntable’s anti-skate control, you may encounter some common issues that can be easily addressed. Here are a few troubleshooting tips:
1. Inconsistent sound balance: If you notice that the sound balance is inconsistent between the left and right channels, it’s likely that your anti-skate control is not set properly. This can be fixed by adjusting the anti-skate control until the sound is balanced.
2. Skipping: If your turntable is skipping, it may be due to too much or too little anti-skate. Try adjusting the anti-skate control to see if this resolves the issue.
3. Inner groove distortion: If you’re experiencing distortion in the inner grooves of your records, it may be due to improper anti-skate settings. Adjust the anti-skate control until the distortion is eliminated.
4. Inward or outward drift: If your tonearm drifts inward or outward when playing a record, it could be a sign that your anti-skate control is not set correctly. Try adjusting the anti-skate control until the tonearm stays in place.
5. Blank record test: While it’s not recommended to use a blank record to set your anti-skate control, it can be a good way to troubleshoot any issues you may be having. Try balancing the tonearm so it’s free-floating and adjust the anti-skate control to see if it has any effect.
Remember, setting up your turntable’s anti-skate control can take some time and patience, but it’s an important step in achieving optimal sound quality and longevity for your records and stylus.