Are you ready to dive into the world of vinyl and experience the warm, rich sound that only a turntable can provide?
Assembling a turntable may seem daunting at first, but with a little guidance, it can be a fun and rewarding experience.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of setting up your turntable step-by-step, from finding the perfect spot to hooking up your cables and choosing the correct speed.
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or a beginner, this guide will help you get the most out of your vinyl collection.
So let’s get started!
How To Assemble A Turntable
1. Find a good spot
The first step in assembling your turntable is finding the perfect spot for it. Make sure to place it on a sturdy surface to avoid any unwanted vibration that can affect the sound quality. If your furniture is not as solid as you’d like, consider investing in cheap isolation feet that can be stuck to the bottom of your deck to dampen any unwanted vibration. Additionally, a platter mat can also help with noise dampening.
2. Balance the tonearm
Balancing the tonearm is the trickiest and most important part of setting up your turntable. It’s important to read the instructions carefully as all turntables will vary slightly. Begin by attaching the belt (if there is one), placing the platter on the spindle, and attaching the headshell – the bit that holds the cartridge and stylus. Install the counterweight on the back end of the tonearm, usually by screwing it on. Set the anti-skate dial (the small numbered wheel next to the tonearm) to 0. This provides a small force to stop the tonearm naturally skating towards the center of the record.
While gently supporting the headshell, move the tonearm into position above the platter. Adjust the counterweight at the back of the tonearm, usually by rotating it, until the tonearm can float on its own, parallel to the surface of the platter. At this point, it has a tracking weight of 0g. Next, set the arm tracking weight dial to 0 and rotate the whole counterweight to the correct tracking force – this will be given in grams in the manufacturer instructions and varies according to the type of cartridge being used. Lastly, lock the tonearm back into its rest and adjust the anti-skate dial to match the tracking weight.
3. Hook up your cables
Most turntables come with RCA or phono cables for hooking up to stereo speakers. If you’re using a smaller all-in-one speaker, you might need to invest in a phono-to-3.5mm jack cable. Make sure to read through your instructions carefully and follow any diagrams provided for hooking up separate pre-amps.
4. Choose your speed
Make sure you select the correct speed for your record – too slow or too fast can affect sound quality. For most 12-inch records, you’ll need 33 RPM, while most 7-inch discs play at 45 RPM. Some older 10-inch records play at 78 RPM (usually referred to as 78s). Only three-speed turntables can play these.
5. Start playing your records
Now that you’ve assembled your turntable, it’s time to start playing your records! Simply switch it on, place your record onto the platter and select the correct speed setting – there should be a button on the plinth that allows you to do this. If you’re playing a 12-inch record, select 33 RPM (revolutions per minute). For seven-inch vinyl, select 45 RPM.
Press play and raise the tonearm’s cueing lever – this should lift up and align with your record. Lower the cueing lever until the tonearm gently drops and settles into the microgrooves of your vinyl.
Choosing The Right Location
Choosing the right location for your turntable is crucial to ensure optimal sound quality and longevity of your equipment. Look for a stable, heavy, and flat surface to put your record player on. A flat and level surface will prevent any tracking issues when your records are spinning and also prevent tonearm friction. This means your records and record player components will last much longer and also benefit from improved sound.
It’s important to place your turntable on a stable and heavy surface to lessen the impact of vibrations and anything else that can affect the sound quality. Having a sturdy surface means your record player and tonearm – which is designed to pick up vibrations from the record when spinning – will be less inclined to pick up unwanted vibrations from whatever the record player is on. A good example of a great surface is something like a kallax unit from Ikea, which also doubles as the perfect piece of furniture to store your vinyl.
Avoid placing your turntable near speakers or other electronic devices that emit electromagnetic fields, as this can cause interference with your turntable’s cartridge. Additionally, keep your turntable away from direct sunlight or heat sources, as this can warp your records.
By following these simple steps, you can ensure that you have chosen the right location for your turntable, allowing you to enjoy high-quality sound and prolonging the life of your equipment.
Setting Up The Platter And Belt
Setting up the platter and belt is an essential step in assembling your turntable. First, place the platter on top of the center spindle, ensuring that it sits flat and level. Then, place the mat on top of the platter, making sure it is centered and properly aligned.
Next, wrap the belt around both the pulley and the platter. As you do this, rotate the platter to maintain tension on the belt. It’s important to note that the belt should not go around the white post on the right side of the turntable – it should only go around the gold-colored motor pulley and the rim on the underside of the platter.
If you’re having trouble with your platter not turning, it’s possible that the belt is not properly routed around the motor pulley or that it has come loose. To check this, remove the black felt mat from the turntable and rotate the aluminum record platter by hand until one of the large rectangular openings is positioned at the upper left corner of the turntable. Look down into the opening and locate the gold-colored motor pulley. Make certain that the belt is still around the pulley and that it is taut.
If you need to reinstall or adjust your belt, remove the platter from the turntable by placing your thumb and a finger in the two circular holes near the spindle and gently lifting it straight up. Turn it over so that its bottom is facing up, and reinstall the drive belt around its drive rim, which is located about an inch from its outer edge. Be sure there are no twists in the belt.
Reinstall the platter onto the turntable and rotate it by hand until one of its large rectangular openings is located at about 10 o’clock position. Look down into this opening and locate the gold-colored motor pulley. Grab your belt from inside edge of this rectangular opening and pull it over and around the pulley.
Once you’ve properly installed your belt, slide your dust cover onto its hinges and connect your power adapter to your turntable’s power jack. Use included RCAs to connect to your amp or powered speakers. Gently remove your stylus cover according to manufacturer instructions for your specific cartridge type.
Remember to change speeds as needed by moving your belt from one pulley groove to another – smaller for 33 RPM and larger for 45 RPM. With a built-in preamp, you can turn it on or off using a switch on your turntable’s backside. Following these steps will ensure that your turntable is set up correctly and ready for use!
Installing The Cartridge And Stylus
Now that you have your turntable assembled, it’s time to install the cartridge and stylus. This is a delicate process that requires patience and attention to detail. Here’s how to do it:
1. Unbox your new cartridge
Once you’ve got the new cartridge out of the box, it’s worth checking that the stylus cover is still properly mounted. Cartridges are immensely fragile and any lack of care will usually result in catastrophic damage. No matter how careful you are, there are times when accidents will happen.
2. Mount the new cartridge onto the arm
We would recommend mounting the new cartridge onto the arm first. Use the supplied fixings. This can be a bit fiddly, particularly if the cartridge body doesn’t have captive nuts. Take your time and don’t over-tighten things; just do the bolts up enough so that the cartridge body doesn’t move around.
3. Connect the four lead-out wires
Next, connect the four lead-out wires. These are color-coded (red, blue, green, and white) and you’ll find corresponding markings next to each of the four pins on the back of the cartridge. This is where pliers come in handy. If the connectors are a little loose on the pins then you can use the pliers to squeeze them a little tighter. Take care. It’s easy to damage or break those connectors.
4. Adjust cartridge alignment
With the cartridge mounted, use a protractor or alignment tool to make sure that your cartridge is properly aligned. Adjust cartridge alignment by adjusting the positioning of the cartridge along the headshell slots. We recommend using our own cartridge alignment tool, which is incredibly simple to use.
5. Check vertical tracking force (VTF)
Use a stylus force gauge (like this) to check that your vertical tracking force (VTF) is correct. For MM cartridges, the VTF range is usually 1.5-2 grams, but this varies. The manufacturer’s recommended VTF will be listed on your cartridge’s spec sheet.
6. Break-in period
The new cartridge may need a few hours to break in before it really starts singing.
Balancing The Tonearm
Balancing the tonearm is a crucial step in setting up your turntable. It ensures that the stylus will track the record correctly and prevent any damage to both the record and the stylus. Here’s how to balance the tonearm:
1. Attach the counterweight: Start by locking the tonearm in place and attaching the counterweight to the back of the tonearm. Make sure that the numbers on the counterweight face towards the front of the turntable. Turn the weight until you feel it “click” into place.
2. Float the tonearm: Unlock the tonearm from its rest and move it towards the middle of the platter, about one inch from the edge. Hold the arm off the surface with your right hand on the fingerlift. Begin turning the counterweight one way or another until you feel that the arm is floating parallel to the platter’s surface. The arm should not face up nor down; it should stay parallel with the platter. It may take a few tries to get this right.
3. Check if it holds balance: Carefully remove the stylus guard and unclip the tonearm securing hook if fitted. Safely lift the tonearm by its headshell and hold it securely above the platter. Turn the counterweight clockwise so that it travels towards the front of the tonearm. Carefully see if the tonearm holds its own balance (like a seesaw), covering the headshell in case it wants to fall. Once you find balance, return the tonearm to its rest.
4. Set tracking force: Reset the counterweight’s outer dial to ‘0’. Observe your cartridge’s correct weight, and turn both weight and dial to match your manufacturer’s recommended value. Match this value on your anti-skate control for optimum calibration.
By following these steps, you can balance your tonearm correctly, ensuring optimal sound quality and preventing any damage to your records and stylus.
Connecting Your Cables
Connecting your cables is a crucial step in setting up your turntable. There are different setups depending on whether your turntable has a built-in preamp or not.
If your turntable does not have a built-in preamp, you will need to connect it to an external phono preamp. For this setup, you will need two pairs of RCA connections. Start by connecting one pair of RCA cables to the turntable and the preamp. Next, connect the preamp to the receiver with another set of RCA cables. Lastly, connect the speaker wire to the receiver. To avoid any buzzing or feedback noise, make sure to connect a ground wire from the turntable into the preamp and another from the receiver to the preamp.
If your turntable has a built-in preamp, you can easily connect it directly to your receiver via an RCA cable. Simply plug in one end of the RCA cable into the turntable’s output and the other end into the receiver’s input. Your receiver should then be plugged into 2 or more speakers.
It’s important to note that preamps have a wide range when it comes to build and sound quality. The cheapest preamps cost less than or around $50, while the most expensive can run well over $500. Make sure to do your research and invest in a quality preamp for better sound quality.
Once you have connected your cables, you’re ready to start playing your records and enjoying your music!