Are you tired of fiddling with measurements and struggling to calibrate your turntable’s tonearm?
Well, you’re in luck!
In this article, we’ll show you how to calibrate your tonearm without any complicated measurements.
With just a few simple steps, you’ll be able to get your turntable up and running smoothly, without any hassle.
So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn how to calibrate your tonearm like a pro!
How To Calibrate Tonearm Without Measurements
Step 1: Get the record player levelled
The first step in calibrating your tonearm without measurements is to ensure that your record player is levelled. This is a crucial step in ensuring that your turntable operates smoothly and precisely, and that your records are preserved.
Using a level, check the positioning of the turntable on the axis of the width and depth, then adjust the height of the legs of the furniture or add wood slats under it until the turntable is at level. On some models, it is possible to adjust the feet in order to get the device at level.
Step 2: Calibrate the tonearm
The next step is to calibrate your tonearm. This 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.
To proceed with the tonearm adjustment:
– Unlock and remove the tonearm from the armrest.
– Move the counterweight so 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.
Step 3: Adjust the anti-skating
During use, pressure from the inner face of the groove can cause drifting, known as “skating.” To prevent this, adjust your anti-skating.
According to your model of record player, this 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 1.5 and 2 grams.
Step 4: Correct pitch
On some record players equipped with a direct-drive mechanism, it is possible to correct playback speed or “pitch.” By using a stroboscope calibrated at 60 hertz and a disc specially made for this purpose, move your pitch control back or forth until bars drawn on the disc are aligned under light of stroboscope.
Understanding The Basics Of Tonearm Calibration
Calibrating your tonearm is an essential step in ensuring optimal vinyl playback. The tonearm is responsible for supporting the cartridge in the correct position over the record and allowing it to trace the groove towards the center of the record while maintaining this position. To do this, it has to perform several tasks simultaneously.
The first task of the tonearm is to hold the cartridge in the correct position, height, and angle above the record. This ensures that the stylus is in contact with the groove and can accurately read the information on the vinyl. The second task is to apply the correct amount of weight to the stylus. This is known as calibrating the stylus force or vertical tracking force. The ideal weight setting will depend on the cartridge stylus used. Applying too much tracking force will wear out the vinyl record faster, while insufficient weight causes the vinyl to sound thin as the stylus doesn’t have enough tracking force to correctly read the groove. The third task of the tonearm is to ensure that anti-skate force is present to prevent the cartridge from shooting towards the inside of the record.
To calibrate your tonearm, start by unlocking and removing it from the armrest. Move the counterweight so that the arm gets horizontally balanced and align the graduated dial near the counterweight at “zero” position without touching it. Position and lock the tonearm on the armrest.
During use, pressure from the inner face of the groove can cause drifting or “skating.” To prevent this, adjust your anti-skating by using a graduated dial or moving a counterweight suspended by a nylon thread on a lever arm with graduated notches.
On some record players equipped with a direct-drive mechanism, it is possible to correct playback speed or “pitch.” This can be done by using a stroboscope calibrated at 60 hertz and a disc specially made for this purpose.
Setting The Tracking Force
Setting the tracking force is an important step in calibrating your tonearm without measurements. The tracking force is the amount of weight applied to the vinyl groove by the stylus during playback.
The first thing to do is to refer to your specific cartridge stylus’ instructions for the recommended weight. This value is needed to accurately set the stylus tracking pressure. Every cartridge stylus model is different, hence the weight needed will be different. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the accurate weight range suitable for your cartridge stylus.
Once you have the recommended weight, focus on the tonearm counterweight. Notice the values on the stylus tracking force control and the marker line on the tonearm next to it. Make sure the tonearm is clipped to its rest. Use your left hand to hold the back of the counterweight steady, ensuring that it does not move from its balanced position. This is important to maintain the tonearm balanced.
While holding the back of the counterweight steady with your left hand, rotate the front ring and set the stylus tracking force control to “0” with your right hand. Remember, only the front part of the counterweight should rotate. Now the tonearm is balanced and shows a “zero” tracking force. By rotating the front ring only, we are keeping the tonearm balance and are simply adjusting the setting of the stylus tracking force control to zero. No weight is added or subtracted in this step.
To apply tracking force, hold the counterweight from the back and turn it counterclockwise to the desired value. The stylus tracking force control will indicate the weight applied to the vinyl groove. Remember, setting the tracking force too high will wear out your vinyl faster. If your cartridge stylus manufacturer recommends a tracking force range from 2 grams to 5 grams, try setting it around 2.5 or 3 grams and do a listening test.
Ideally, use a record you know very well. A thinner overall sound may indicate there is not enough weight, increasing the stylus tracking force will improve the sound. Louder lower frequencies and distorted sound may indicate there is too much weight, decreasing the stylus tracking force will improve the sound.
Adjusting The Anti-Skate
Adjusting the anti-skate is an important step in calibrating your tonearm without measurements. This is because the centripetal force caused by the spinning LP can cause the stylus to apply too much pressure to one side of the groove, causing distortion on either the left or right channel. To prevent this, you need to adjust the anti-skating.
The first thing to note is that not all tonearms have an anti-skating adjustment. However, if your tonearm does have this feature, you should adjust it accordingly. The amount of anti-skating force required will depend on the length of your tonearm and the type of LP you are playing.
To adjust the anti-skating, you will need to locate the graduated dial or counterweight that controls this feature on your turntable. Depending on your model, this may be a spring, magnet, fixed counterweight, or a counterweight suspended by a nylon thread on a lever arm with graduated notches.
Once you have located the anti-skating adjustment, you will need to set it to a value between 1.5 and 2 grams. This value may vary depending on your turntable model and the type of cartridge you are using, so consult your manufacturer’s instructions for specific guidance.
To test if your anti-skating is correctly adjusted, play an LP and listen for any distortion on either channel. If there is distortion, adjust the anti-skating until the distortion is balanced between both channels.
It’s important to note that some methods of measuring anti-skating force are inaccurate and can lead to incorrect results. For example, using a blank record groove or a mirror will not provide accurate measurements as they do not replicate the friction coefficient experienced by the stylus when playing an actual LP with grooves.
Finding The Right Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA)
The Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) is an important aspect of calibrating your tonearm, as it determines the angle at which the stylus is raking the record grooves. While it is ideal to measure this angle using a microscope or USB microscope, there are visual methods that can be used to find the right VTA without measurements.
One way to find the right VTA is to visually observe horizontal leveling of the tonearm when viewed from the side. This will give you an approximate starting point for adjusting the VTA. Another tool that can be used is the Acoustical System SMARTstylus, which allows you to visually gauge an initial Stylus Raking Angle.
The generally accepted theory is that the optimal SRA Angle is the angle at which the LPs are cut at, which is typically around 92 degrees. However, a certain amount of variability is possible. It’s important to note that while visual methods provide a good starting point, as soon as the platter starts spinning, the dragging force created by the stylus raking on the LP will cause the raking angle to change. Therefore, only an actual measurement performed while the recording is spinning will produce the most accurate results.
If you don’t have access to a microscope or USB microscope, you can still get close to the optimal VTA by adjusting it to about 15 degrees horizontally. Keep in mind that an optimal reading is also affected by Azimuth, Anti-skating, as well as Vertical Tracking Force (VTF), so you may need to go back and forth between parameters to achieve an optimal setting across all parameters.
It’s important to note that if you want to fine-tune your VTA/SRA by ear, keep in mind that the maximum angle of adjustment contrived by raising and lowering the tonearm gimbal over ±1/2 cm is 3 degrees. This range of adjustment only offers about ±1/2dB of tonal adjustment at 20kHz at the outer groove of the disc, so it’s a tricky adjustment to make with certainty.
Fine-Tuning Your Tonearm Calibration
Now that you have calibrated your tonearm, it’s time to fine-tune it for optimal performance. Here are some tips to help you achieve the best results:
1. Experiment with different tracking forces
While the manufacturer’s recommended tracking force is a good starting point, it’s worth experimenting with different tracking forces to find the sweet spot for your setup. Start by increasing or decreasing the tracking force by 0.1 grams at a time until you find the ideal weight that produces the best sound quality without damaging your records.
2. Check the azimuth
The azimuth is the horizontal balance of your tonearm, and it’s essential for accurate tracking and sound quality. To check the azimuth, place a mirror on the platter and look at the cartridge from the front of the turntable. The cartridge should be parallel to the mirror’s reflection. If it’s not, adjust the azimuth until it is.
3. Clean your stylus regularly
A dirty stylus can cause distortion and damage to your records. To clean your stylus, use a stylus brush or a specialized cleaning solution and gently brush or wipe the stylus from back to front.
4. Use high-quality cartridges and styluses
Investing in high-quality cartridges and styluses can make a significant difference in sound quality and overall performance. Look for cartridges with low tracking forces and high compliance, which will reduce wear on your records and improve sound clarity.
By following these tips, you can fine-tune your tonearm calibration for optimal performance and sound quality without measurements. Remember to consult your owner’s manual for specific instructions on adjusting your tonearm for your particular record player model.
Troubleshooting Common Calibration Issues
While calibrating your turntable, you may encounter some common issues that can affect the quality of your sound. Here are some tips for troubleshooting these issues:
Issue 1: Tonearm imbalance
If your tonearm is not balanced, it can cause skipping, distortion, or damage to your records. To fix this issue, make sure that the counterweight is properly adjusted and that the tonearm is level. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the counterweight or seek professional help.
Issue 2: Inconsistent readings
If you are experiencing inconsistent readings when calibrating your turntable, it could be due to a faulty fader or a damaged tonearm. Try cleaning and reassembling the fader, and make sure that all components are properly aligned. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the fader or seek professional help.
Issue 3: Skating
Skating occurs when the stylus drifts towards the center of the record, causing distortion and damage to your vinyl. To fix this issue, adjust your anti-skating according to the specifications of your record player. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the stylus or seek professional help.
By following these troubleshooting tips, you can ensure that your turntable is properly calibrated and that you are getting the best possible sound from your vinyl collection. Remember to always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and seek professional help if needed.