Are you a vinyl enthusiast looking to upgrade your turntable’s phono cartridge?
Installing a new cartridge can be a delicate process, but with the right steps, you can ensure that your equipment is properly aligned and producing high-quality sound.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of mounting a phono cartridge to your tonearm.
From aligning the cartridge to connecting the leads, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started.
So grab your longnose pliers and let’s dive in!
How To Mount Phono Cartridge To Tonearm
Step 1: Align the Cartridge
The first step in mounting a phono cartridge is to ensure that it is properly aligned with the tonearm. This is crucial for producing high-quality sound and preventing damage to your equipment.
To align the cartridge, make sure it is centered in the headshell and that the stylus is pointing directly at the record. This will prevent the stylus from skipping or producing poor sound quality.
Step 2: Secure the Cartridge
Once the cartridge is properly aligned, it’s time to secure it in place. Most cartridges come with two screws that attach the cartridge to the headshell. Be careful not to overtighten the screws, as this can damage the cartridge.
If your turntable has a Rega tonearm, it may have three screws instead of two. In this case, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for securing the cartridge.
Step 3: Connect the Leads
After securing the cartridge, it’s time to connect the leads. The leads should be connected to the phono preamp, and the ground wire should be connected to the turntable.
Make sure all connections are secure and tight to prevent any interference or poor sound quality.
Step 4: Test and Adjust
Once everything is connected, it’s time to test your new phono cartridge. Play a record and listen for any issues with sound quality or skipping.
If you notice any issues, you may need to adjust the alignment or tracking force. Refer to your turntable’s manual for instructions on how to do this.
It’s also important to note that new phono cartridges may need a break-in period of up to 100 hours before they sound their best.
Gathering The Necessary Tools And Materials
Before mounting a phono cartridge to your tonearm, it’s important to gather all the necessary tools and materials. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Screwdriver: You’ll need a screwdriver to secure the cartridge to the headshell. Make sure you have the right size screwdriver for your cartridge’s screws.
2. Overhang gauge or cartridge alignment protractor: This tool will help you align the cartridge properly. If your turntable, tonearm, or cartridge didn’t come with an overhang gauge or protractor, you can purchase one separately.
3. Stylus force gauge: This tool will help you measure the tracking force of your stylus. It’s important to use the correct tracking force for your cartridge to prevent damage to your records and equipment.
4. Cleaning supplies: Before mounting a new cartridge, it’s a good idea to clean your records and tonearm to ensure optimal sound quality. You can use a record cleaning brush or solution, and a microfiber cloth to clean your tonearm.
5. Patience: Mounting a phono cartridge can be a delicate process that requires patience and attention to detail. Take your time and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
By gathering these tools and materials beforehand, you’ll be well-prepared to mount your new phono cartridge with ease and precision.
Preparing The Tonearm For Cartridge Installation
Before mounting a phono cartridge to a tonearm, it’s important to prepare the tonearm for installation. This involves adjusting the tonearm’s azimuth and tracking force to ensure optimal performance.
To adjust the azimuth, start by ensuring that the tonearm is level. Then, use a small mirror to check that the stylus of the pick-up cartridge sits perfectly vertical within the groove of the record. Rotate the cartridge by loosening off the small adjustment screw at the bearing end of the tonearm or inside the headshell connector. When the alignment is correct, the cartridge and its reflection will be perfectly in line with each other.
Note that it’s crucial never to adjust the arm tube whilst the stylus tip is in the record groove or in contact with a mirror, as this can cause damage to the stylus cantilever. Always lift the arm to make adjustments and then lower it again to re-check the azimuth alignment.
Next, adjust the tracking force using a digital scale. Start by leaving the stylus guard on your cartridge until you get comfortable. Ease the tonearm from its rest and let it lower freely by moving the cueing lever down. Hold it by the sides of the cartridge and rotate the counterweight until the entire tonearm/cartridge assembly appears to float in midair. Turn the counterweight very slightly so that the tonearm now goes down when you lower the cueing lever.
Gently lower the tonearm onto the scale and observe the reading. Your cartridge will have a tracking force value, in grams, that is usually somewhere between about 1.4 and 2.2 grams. Adjust as necessary to match your cartridge’s recommended tracking force.
By properly preparing your tonearm for cartridge installation, you can ensure optimal sound quality and prevent damage to your equipment.
Connecting The Leads And Testing The Setup
Now that the phono cartridge is mounted and the leads are connected, it’s time to test the setup. Here’s how:
Step 1: Check for Sound Quality
Play a record and listen for any issues with sound quality. If you notice any distortion or poor sound quality, it may be due to incorrect alignment or tracking force.
Step 2: Adjust the Alignment
If you notice any issues with sound quality, adjust the alignment of the cartridge. This can be done by adjusting the screws that secure the cartridge to the headshell.
Make small adjustments and test the sound quality after each adjustment until you find the optimal alignment.
Step 3: Adjust the Tracking Force
If you’re still experiencing issues with sound quality, you may need to adjust the tracking force. This is the amount of pressure that the stylus applies to the record.
Refer to your turntable’s manual for instructions on how to adjust the tracking force. Make small adjustments and test the sound quality after each adjustment until you find the optimal tracking force.
Step 4: Break-In Period
It’s important to note that new phono cartridges may need a break-in period of up to 100 hours before they sound their best. During this time, you may notice some changes in sound quality as the cartridge settles in.
Be patient and allow your new cartridge to break-in before making any further adjustments.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your phono cartridge is properly mounted and producing high-quality sound. Remember to take your time and make small adjustments as needed to achieve optimal performance.
Troubleshooting Common Issues During Installation
Despite following the steps above, you may encounter some common issues during the installation of your phono cartridge. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you resolve these issues:
1. Poor Sound Quality: If you notice that the sound quality is poor or distorted, check that the cartridge is properly aligned and secured. You may also need to adjust the tracking force or anti-skate settings.
2. Skipping: Skipping can be caused by a number of factors, including a dirty record or a damaged stylus. Clean your records regularly and inspect the stylus for any signs of wear or damage.
3. Loose Connections: Loose connections can cause interference or poor sound quality. Double-check that all connections are secure and tight, including the leads and ground wire.
4. Cartridge Not Fitting: If the cartridge doesn’t fit properly in the headshell, check that you have the correct size cartridge for your turntable. Some turntables require specific sizes or types of cartridges.
5. Cartridge Damaged: If you suspect that your cartridge may be damaged, inspect it carefully for any signs of wear or damage. If necessary, replace the cartridge with a new one.
Remember, troubleshooting is a process of trial and error. Take note of each step you take and be patient as you work to resolve any issues. With a little patience and persistence, you’ll be enjoying high-quality sound from your new phono cartridge in no time!