If you’re an avid vinyl collector, you know that the phono cartridge is a crucial component of your turntable. Over time, wear and tear can take a toll on your cartridge, affecting the sound quality of your records.
But fear not! Replacing your phono cartridge is a simple process that can be done at home with just a few tools.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps to replace your phono cartridge and get your turntable sounding like new again.
So grab your pliers and screwdriver, and let’s get started!
How To Replace Phono Cartridge
Step 1: Remove the old cartridge
The first step in replacing your phono cartridge is to remove the old one. Use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen the headshell screws on your current cartridge. Next, gently unplug each of the four tonearm wires. Make sure you hold the wires by the plastic sleeve (do not pull on the wire itself, or else they will break).
Step 2: Install the new cartridge
Now you are ready to install the new cartridge! Begin by attaching the tonearm wires. Each colored tonearm wire has a corresponding colored pin on the cartridge. Since the stylus is very fragile, it is best to leave the stylus guard on during installation.
With the stylus guard in place, gently connect the wires of your new cartridge using your longnose pliers. You’ll feel them click into place, but don’t push too hard as to risk damaging anything. The wires are clearly color-coded and should be connected as follows:
– Red lead – R+ (Red)
– Green – R- (Green)
– White – L+ (White)
– Blue – L- (Blue)
Once you have connected all four wires, insert the headshell screws into the slots on the headshell and then through the slots on the cartridge housing. Using your finger, hold the headshell nut in place and turn the screw until the threads catch. Repeat with both screws. Make sure the screws are snug, but don’t tighten all the way just yet.
Step 3: Align and adjust
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.
Use a stylus force gauge 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.
If you need to adjust VTF, loosen the thumbscrew on the counterweight and adjust the counterweight’s positioning on the back of the arm. Moving the counterweight backwards will decrease VTF and moving it forward will increase VTF. Once the counterweight is positioned correctly, tighten the thumbscrew.
Step 4: Break in and enjoy
That’s it! Your new phono cartridge is now installed and ready to play. The new cartridge may need a few hours to break in before it really starts singing.
Remember to take care when handling your phono cartridge – they are immensely fragile and any lack of care will usually result in catastrophic damage. With these simple steps, you can replace your phono cartridge at home and get back to enjoying your vinyl collection with improved sound quality.
Understanding Your Phono Cartridge
To truly understand your phono cartridge, it is important to know its anatomy and how it works. A phono cartridge is a small device that houses a stylus (needle) and a generator. The stylus is responsible for reading the grooves on your vinyl records and converting the vibrations into an electrical signal. The generator then amplifies this signal, allowing it to be played through your speakers.
There are two main types of phono cartridges: Moving Magnet (MM) and Moving Coil (MC). The main difference between the two is in the way they generate the electrical signal. MM cartridges have a magnet that moves with the stylus, while MC cartridges have a coil that moves with the stylus.
When selecting a new phono cartridge, it is important to consider the type of cartridge that is compatible with your turntable. Most turntables will have a specific type of cartridge that they are designed to work with.
It is also important to consider the tracking force of your cartridge. Tracking force refers to the amount of pressure that the stylus applies to the record. Too much or too little tracking force can cause damage to your records or result in poor sound quality. Most cartridge manufacturers will provide a recommended tracking force range for their cartridges.
Lastly, it is important to note that phono cartridges require regular maintenance and replacement of the stylus. Over time, the stylus will wear down and lose its ability to accurately read the grooves on your records. It is recommended to replace your stylus every 1000-2000 hours of use, depending on your usage and the quality of your records.
By understanding the anatomy and function of your phono cartridge, you can make informed decisions when selecting and maintaining your equipment, ensuring optimal sound quality and longevity of your vinyl collection.
Gathering The Necessary Tools
Before you start replacing your phono cartridge, it’s important to make sure you have all the necessary tools. Here are some of the tools you’ll need:
1. Flat-head screwdriver – to loosen the headshell screws on the current cartridge.
2. Longnose pliers – to carefully unplug each of the four tonearm wires and connect them to the new cartridge.
3. Stylus force gauge – to check that your vertical tracking force (VTF) is correct.
4. Protractor or alignment tool – to make sure that your cartridge is properly aligned.
5. Allen key or small, flat-bladed screwdriver – depending on the type of fixing used for cartridge bolts.
6. Stylus gauge and protractor – essential for optimal sound quality.
7. Painter’s tape – to secure the tonearm if your turntable doesn’t have a clasp.
8. New mounting hardware – handy for different cartridges and head shells.
9. Tracking weight gauge – to help you dial in tracking force accurately.
10. Cartridge alignment tool – to ensure proper alignment of your cartridge.
Make sure you have all these tools before starting the replacement process. This will save you time and ensure that the installation is done correctly, resulting in improved sound quality from your vinyl collection.
Removing The Old Cartridge
Before you can install your new phono cartridge, you must first remove the old one. To do this, use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen the headshell screws on your current cartridge. These screws should be easy to spot and are usually positioned at the very end of the tonearm. Turn them counterclockwise until they come loose.
Next, gently unplug each of the four tonearm wires. Make sure you hold the wires by the plastic sleeve and not by the wire itself, as this can cause them to break. Once all four wires are unplugged, you can remove the cartridge from the tonearm by unscrewing the headshell screws that are sticking down into the cartridge.
Some turntable cartridges have hard-shell nuts or fasteners which are attached to the end of the screws. These should be saved and reattached to the replacement cartridge. Be sure to handle your old cartridge with care, as they are immensely fragile and any lack of care will usually result in catastrophic damage.
Once you have removed the old cartridge, you are ready to install your new one. Follow the steps outlined above to attach the tonearm wires and mount the new cartridge onto the headshell. Remember to take your time and handle everything with care to avoid damaging your new equipment.
Installing The New Cartridge
Now that you have removed the old cartridge and attached the new one, it’s time to properly align and adjust it for optimal performance.
Begin by using a protractor or alignment tool to ensure that your cartridge is properly aligned. Adjust the positioning of the cartridge along the headshell slots until it is perfectly aligned.
Next, use a stylus force gauge to check that your vertical tracking force (VTF) is correct. The manufacturer’s recommended VTF will be listed on your cartridge’s spec sheet. For MM cartridges, the VTF range is usually 1.5-2 grams, but this varies. If you need to adjust VTF, loosen the thumbscrew on the counterweight and adjust the counterweight’s positioning on the back of the arm. Moving the counterweight backwards will decrease VTF and moving it forward will increase VTF. Once you have positioned the counterweight correctly, tighten the thumbscrew.
It’s important to note that your new phono cartridge may need a few hours to break in before it really starts singing. During this period, it’s best to avoid heavy use and give your cartridge time to settle in.
Remember to handle your phono cartridge with care at all times, as they are immensely fragile and any lack of care can result in catastrophic damage. With these simple steps, you can install a new phono cartridge at home and enjoy improved sound quality from your vinyl collection.
Adjusting The Tracking Force
Adjusting the tracking force is an important step in getting the best sound quality from your new phono cartridge. You will need to check the optimal tracking force as stated by the cartridge manufacturer and adjust accordingly. Before we do this, you should set the turntable anti-skate as per your turntable’s manual as this can have an effect on the final tracking force.
The traditional way to apply the stated downward tracking force is to get the arm to float above the platter and then using the counter-weight dial to adjust for tracking force, but this isn’t 100% accurate. A better way is to use the first method to get as close as possible and then fine-tune until you get the perfect tracking force using a digital tracking force gauge. We recommend using a digital tracking force gauge like the Neoteck model.
To adjust the tracking force, first, set up your turntable on a level surface and remove any dust or debris from the stylus tip. Next, set the counter-weight dial to zero and raise the tonearm. Then, place your digital tracking force gauge on the platter and carefully lower the tonearm onto it, making sure that it is level.
The gauge will display the current tracking force of your cartridge. If it is not within the recommended range, adjust it by turning the counter-weight dial until you reach the desired tracking force. Remember to make small adjustments and recheck with your gauge until you get it just right.
Once you have adjusted the tracking force, test it out by playing a record and listening for any distortion or skipping. If there are any issues, re-adjust until you get optimal sound quality.
By following these simple steps for adjusting your tracking force, you can ensure that your new phono cartridge is optimized for sound quality and ready to enjoy!
Testing Your New Cartridge
Once you have installed your new phono cartridge, it is important to test it to ensure that it is working correctly. Here are some steps to follow for testing your new cartridge:
Step 1: Set up your multimeter
A multimeter is a device that measures voltage, current, and resistance. It is a useful tool for testing the output of your phono cartridge. Set your multimeter to measure resistance and set it to 10,000 ohms.
Step 2: Test the continuity of the cartridge
Start by measuring the resistance between the pins on either side of the phono cartridge. Connect your multimeter to a white (L) pin and a blue (LG) pin. The reading should be above 100 ohms and below 10,000 ohms. Repeat this process for the red (R) and green (G) pins.
Step 3: Check the readings
Match the readings from step 2 with the readings from step 3. If they match, then your cartridge is in perfect condition. If they do not match, then your cartridge may be defective and you may need to repair or replace it.
Step 4: Check for wear
If you have an elliptical stylus, check for wear by examining the stylus under a magnifying glass. If you see any signs of wear, such as a flattened or chipped tip, then it is time to replace the stylus.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your new phono cartridge is working correctly and that you are getting the best sound quality possible from your vinyl collection.