How To Adjust A Turntable Arm – A Step-By-Step Guide

Are you a vinyl enthusiast looking to improve the sound quality of your turntable?

One of the easiest ways to do so is by properly adjusting the tonearm. The weight and balance of the tonearm can greatly affect the sound quality, and luckily, it’s a simple process to adjust.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps to properly balance your tonearm and set the correct tracking force for your phono cartridge.

With just a little bit of setup knowledge, you can elevate your listening experience without breaking the bank.

So let’s dive in and learn how to adjust your turntable arm!

How To Adjust Turntable Arm

Before we begin, make sure your turntable is powered off and the anti-skating weight is removed.

1. Install the counterweight on the end of the tonearm wand, ensuring that the numbers face the front of the turntable.

2. Use the cueing lever to lock the tonearm in the rest position and gently remove the protective cover from the stylus.

3. Hold the headshell to keep the tonearm stable while releasing the tonearm locking clamp. The tonearm will now swing freely since it’s unbalanced, so be sure to hold onto the headshell to prevent it from crashing into the turntable platter.

4. Keep the cueing lever in the down position while holding the headshell above the rest position. Carefully turn the counterweight on the rear of the tonearm until it is horizontally balanced. This means that the headshell won’t be moving up or down but will naturally float above the rest position.

5. Once you’ve found this balance spot, set the counterweight to zero.

6. To set the proper tracking force for your phono cartridge, turn your entire counterweight counterclockwise to adjust the weight in grams and gently place the stylus and entire cartridge onto a stylus force gauge (which will clamp to your turntable platter).

7. Once you’ve set your tracking force, turn on the anti-skate setting and match it in grams to your tracking weight. For example, if your tracking weight is 1.5 grams, you’ll want anti-skate on 1.5 grams as well.

Understanding The Tonearm And Its Components

To properly adjust your turntable arm, it’s essential to understand the components of the tonearm. The tonearm is the long, thin piece that holds the cartridge and stylus and is responsible for reading the grooves on your vinyl record. The counterweight, located at the rear of the tonearm, is used to balance the weight of the cartridge and stylus.

The counterweight has numbers detailed along it, representing grams of weight. To adjust the weight of the tonearm, simply turn the counterweight to a specific number. For example, if you set the counterweight at 2, the weight of the stylus on the record would be 2 grams.

To balance your tonearm correctly, you need to start by resetting it so that it can balance in mid-air on its own. This means that you need to set your anti-skate setting to ‘0’ and adjust the counterweight until your tonearm balances in mid-air. Once you’ve found this balance spot, set the counterweight to zero.

Next, you need to find out the recommended tracking force weight for your cartridge. This information can be found in your cartridge manual or by searching online for your specific cartridge model. Once you know the recommended tracking force weight, you can adjust your counterweight to match it. Simply turn or adjust your counterweight until it reaches the appropriate setting for your cartridge. Set the numbered dial on your counterweight to match the required weight for your specific cartridge.

If your tonearm also features an anti-skate control, adjust this to match the counterweight setting. The anti-skate function helps counteract the tendency of the tonearm to move inwards as the stylus gets closer to the center of the record, keeping your music sounding its best.

Preparing Your Turntable For Adjustment

Before you begin adjusting your turntable arm, it’s important to prepare your turntable properly. First, make sure your turntable is powered off and the anti-skating weight is removed. This will prevent any accidental damage to your equipment during the adjustment process.

Next, install the counterweight on the end of the tonearm wand, ensuring that the numbers face the front of the turntable. Use the cueing lever to lock the tonearm in the rest position and gently remove the protective cover from the stylus.

Hold the headshell to keep the tonearm stable while releasing the tonearm locking clamp. The tonearm will now swing freely since it’s unbalanced, so be sure to hold onto the headshell to prevent it from crashing into the turntable platter.

Keep the cueing lever in the down position while holding the headshell above the rest position. Carefully turn the counterweight on the rear of the tonearm until it is horizontally balanced. This means that the headshell won’t be moving up or down but will naturally float above the rest position.

Once you’ve found this balance spot, set the counterweight to zero. This will ensure that you’re starting from a neutral position and can make precise adjustments to your tracking force.

Following these steps will allow you to properly prepare your turntable for adjustment and ensure that you can make accurate adjustments to your tracking force without causing any damage to your equipment.

Setting The Tracking Force

Setting the tracking force is an important step in adjusting your turntable arm. The tracking force is the amount of pressure that the stylus exerts on the record, and it is crucial to get this right in order to ensure optimal sound quality and prevent damage to your vinyl.

First, you’ll want to reset the tonearm so that it can hang in mid-air like a seesaw. If your turntable has an anti-skate feature, set it to 0. Next, adjust the counterweight so that the tonearm hangs steadily in mid-air without swinging upwards. This means that your counterweight is at 0.

To determine the ideal tracking force for your specific cartridge, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or look it up online based on the model. Most recommended ranges fall between 1 and 3 grams. Once you’ve found the ideal tracking force for your model, set the counterweight to the suggested number. If there’s a range of 1 gram (from 2-3 for example), set your counterweight evenly in the middle of the range (2.5 in this case).

If your turntable has an anti-skate setting, make sure it matches the counterweight (so if your tracking force is 2 grams, set your anti-skate to 2 as well). This will help prevent the stylus from “skating” towards the center of the vinyl and ensure optimal sound quality.

If you want to double-check that your tracking force is correct, you can use a digital gram scale. Lower the stylus onto its platform and a digital readout will tell you exactly how much force is being applied. You can then check this against the dial on your counterweight and adjust accordingly.

Fine-Tuning The Adjustments

Now that you’ve completed the initial adjustments, it’s time to fine-tune them to ensure optimal performance from your turntable.

1. Check the level of your turntable. Using a level, check the positioning of the turntable on the axis of the width and depth. Adjust the height of the legs of the furniture or add wood slats under it until the turntable is level. On some models, it is possible to adjust the feet in order to get the device level.

2. Calibrate the tonearm. The calibration of the tonearm is done by displacing a counterweight behind the pivot, according to the specifications by the manufacturer of the phono cartridge – the component that holds the stylus. This adjustment leads to the application of the ideal tracking force of the stylus on the record. To proceed with tonearm adjustment:

– Unlock and remove the tonearm from the armrest.

– Move the counterweight so that the arm gets horizontally balanced.

– Align the graduated dial near the counterweight at “zero” position, without touching the counterweight.

– Position and lock the tonearm on the armrest.

– Move the graduated dial and counterweight to the mark specified by the phono cartridge manufacturer.

3. Adjust anti-skating. According to your model of record player, anti-skating involves adjusting a graduated dial that moves a spring, a magnet, or a fixed counterweight, or by moving a counterweight suspended by a nylon thread on a lever arm with graduated notches. The adjustment value of anti-skating, in grams, is usually between 1 and 2 grams.

4. Correct pitch (if applicable). On some record players equipped with a direct-drive mechanism, it is possible to correct playback speed or “pitch.” Record players used by DJs are usually equipped with such pitch control. By using a stroboscope calibrated at 60 hertz and a disc specially made for this purpose, move pitch control back or forth until bars drawn on disc are aligned under light of stroboscope.

By following these steps and fine-tuning your adjustments, you’ll be able to enjoy high-quality sound from your turntable for years to come.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

When adjusting your turntable arm, there are a few common mistakes to avoid:

1. Not balancing the tonearm properly: It’s important to make sure the tonearm is horizontally balanced before setting the tracking force. If the tonearm is not balanced, it can cause your cartridge to wear out faster or skip.

2. Setting the tracking force too high or too low: Setting the tracking force too high can cause distortion and damage to your records, while setting it too low can cause the stylus to skip or even damage your cartridge. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific cartridge.

3. Forgetting to set the anti-skate: The anti-skate helps to keep the stylus in the groove and prevent distortion. Make sure to set it to the same value as your tracking force for optimal performance.

4. Not using a stylus force gauge: While it’s possible to set the tracking force by feel, using a stylus force gauge will ensure a more accurate measurement and prevent damage to your cartridge and records.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to properly adjust your turntable arm for optimal sound quality and longevity of your equipment.