If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you know that maintaining your turntable is crucial to getting the best possible sound quality.
One important feature that often gets overlooked is anti-skating. This feature helps prevent tracking issues and distortion, and can even prolong the life of your records and stylus.
But how do you set it correctly?
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of setting anti-skating on your turntable, so you can get the most out of your vinyl listening experience.
How To Set Anti-Skating On Turntable
Step 1: Determine if your turntable has an adjustable anti-skate control. Some turntables may have this feature preset at a fixed value by the manufacturer, while others may not have it at all.
Step 2: If your turntable has an adjustable anti-skate control, begin by adjusting it to the same value as the vertical tracking force (VTF) used. This will get you in the ballpark.
Step 3: Listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed. Listen for distortion, particularly in the form of sibilance, and determine if it appears to be louder on one channel, the left or the right.
Step 4: Adjust the anti-skate value until the distortion is minimized. Now listen carefully at two or three different points across the record. If there are differences in tone, dynamics, and soundstage at these points, some tweaking of the anti-skate adjustment may be needed.
Step 5: If adjusting the anti-skate does not clear up a particular problem, there may be another reason for it. Contact your turntable manufacturer or an audio solutions department for further advice.
Understanding Anti-Skating And Its Importance
Anti-skating is an important feature on turntables that impacts the sound quality of your vinyl records. It applies a small outward force to the tonearm, counteracting the tendency of the arm to move inward (skate) toward the center of the record, as the tonearm approaches the end of the record. This force helps maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear.
When you have too much anti-skate on your turntable, it puts excess pressure on your record and may damage it. It also prevents the record from moving properly, which causes distortions in the sound. On the other hand, when anti-skate is too low, the stylus ends up jumping and may cause distortions or skipping when you play the record.
To ensure that your anti-skate is calibrated correctly, it is essential to have a properly balanced tonearm. Most turntables come with an adjustable weight at the end of the arm called a counterweight that balances out any extra weight from factors such as cartridge and stylus assembly variations. You should start by balancing out your tonearm by adjusting your weight until the tonearm floats freely.
Once you have balanced your tonearm, you can adjust your tracking force by rotating the knob on your counterweight until it reaches your cartridge manufacturer’s recommended weight. If you don’t know this offhand, it’s usually a safe bet to go with 2-3 grams.
There are two ways that you can use to verify if your anti-skate is properly adjusted. The first method involves using a test record containing signals recorded that can help you adjust or assess different aspects of your turntable. In this case, one signal is present for each of the channels. When you play this track, both channels should sound clean and at the highest level. Distortions and differences in intensity are signs of incorrect anti-skate setup. You can adjust your anti-skate until the sound is clear and the level is balanced.
The second method involves using a blank vinyl record without grooves. In this case, you place the needle in the middle of the record. If the needle maintains its place during playback, then the anti-skate is set up correctly. If the needle skates towards either the center or edge of the record, your anti-skate needs to be adjusted.
Assessing Your Turntable’s Anti-Skating Needs
Before setting your turntable’s anti-skate, it’s important to understand why it’s needed. The anti-skate feature applies a small outward force to the tonearm, counteracting the tendency of the arm to move inward (skate) toward the center of the record as the tonearm approaches the end of the record. This is necessary to maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear.
To assess your turntable’s anti-skating needs, begin by determining if your turntable has an adjustable anti-skate control. If it does, adjust it to the same value as the vertical tracking force (VTF) used. This will get you in the ballpark.
Next, listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed. Listen for distortion, particularly in the form of sibilance, and determine if it appears to be louder on one channel, the left or the right.
Adjust the anti-skate value until the distortion is minimized. Now listen carefully at two or three different points across the record. If there are differences in tone, dynamics, and soundstage at these points, some tweaking of the anti-skate adjustment may be needed.
It’s important to note that if adjusting the anti-skate does not clear up a particular problem, there may be another reason for it. In this case, it’s recommended to contact your turntable manufacturer or an audio solutions department for further advice. Remember that proper turntable setup is crucial for optimal sound quality and enjoyment of your vinyl collection.
Setting Anti-Skating For Different Cartridges
When setting anti-skating on your turntable, it is important to consider the type of cartridge you are using. Different cartridges have different suspension systems and tracking forces, which can affect the amount of anti-skating force required.
For cartridges with a high tracking force, such as moving coil cartridges, a higher amount of anti-skating force may be needed to maintain good channel balance and minimize distortion. On the other hand, cartridges with a lower tracking force, such as moving magnet cartridges, may require less anti-skating force.
It is also important to consider the mass of the cartridge and the armwand when setting anti-skating. A heavier cartridge may require more anti-skating force to counteract its tendency to skate towards the center of the record.
Additionally, some tonearm designs have inherent imbalances that may skew anti-skating numbers towards one channel. In such cases, nothing can be done to correct this imbalance.
To set anti-skating for different cartridges, follow the same steps as outlined above. Begin by adjusting the anti-skate control to the same value as the vertical tracking force used. Listen carefully for distortion and adjust the anti-skate value until it is minimized.
If you are unsure about how to set anti-skating for your specific cartridge or turntable, contact your manufacturer or an audio solutions department for further advice. Remember that no setup parameter can be optimized in isolation and it is important to try to achieve optimal settings in as many parameters as possible.
Calibrating Anti-Skating With Test Records
One effective way to calibrate the anti-skate on your turntable is by using a test record specifically designed for this purpose. These records are usually clear and grooveless, making it easier to accurately adjust the anti-skate setting.
To begin, place the test record on your turntable and drop your needle in the center of the record. If your anti-skate setting is correct, your tonearm should remain in the same place on the record as it spins. However, if it drifts in either direction, your anti-skate dial needs an adjustment.
It’s important to note that using blank vinyl records as a calibration tool can actually damage your records and stylus over time. The tip of the stylus can dig into the vinyl, creating its own groove and overestimating the amount of anti-skating required.
If you’re looking for a more precise method of calibration, consider using a digital stylus gauge. However, be aware that these gauges may not reliably measure weight horizontally even with tare adjusted.
Troubleshooting Common Anti-Skating Issues
Even with the above steps, you may still encounter some common issues when setting anti-skate on your turntable. Here are some troubleshooting tips:
1. Inward movement of the tonearm: If your tonearm moves towards the center of the record, even when you increase the anti-skate value, it could mean that your anti-skate control is not functioning properly. To test this, balance the tonearm so that it is free-floating with zero VTF and then play with the anti-skate dial. With no friction, you should see its effects clearly and immediately. If this test confirms that your anti-skate control is not working, contact your turntable manufacturer or an audio solutions department for further advice.
2. Outward movement of the tonearm: If your tonearm moves towards the outer edge of the record, even when you decrease the anti-skate value, it could mean that your anti-skate control is too strong. This can cause excess pressure on both the stylus and record surface, impeding movement of the record while it spins and causing damage to both the stylus and the record. To fix this issue, reduce the anti-skate value until the tonearm tracks smoothly on the record.
3. Uneven channel balance: If you notice that one channel is louder than the other, it could mean that your anti-skate is not set correctly. Check that your anti-skate value is equal to your VTF and adjust as necessary until both channels are balanced.
4. Skipping: If your record skips, it could be due to excessive anti-skate or insufficient tracking force. Check that your VTF is set correctly and reduce the anti-skate value until the skipping stops.
By following these troubleshooting tips and adjusting your anti-skate control accordingly, you can ensure that your turntable tracks smoothly and produces high-quality sound.
Maintaining Anti-Skating Over Time
After setting the anti-skate on your turntable, it’s important to maintain it over time to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your equipment and records. One way to do this is to regularly check and adjust the anti-skate setting as needed.
It’s also important to clean your records and stylus regularly to prevent any build-up that could affect tracking and cause skating. Using a record brush or cleaning solution can help remove any dirt or debris from the grooves.
Additionally, be mindful of how you handle and store your records. Avoid touching the playing surface with your fingers and always store them in their sleeves to prevent scratches and dust accumulation.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to have your turntable serviced by a professional every few years to ensure all components are functioning properly and to make any necessary adjustments or repairs. This can help prolong the life of your equipment and maintain optimal sound quality for years to come.