Are you a vinyl enthusiast looking to get the most out of your turntable?
One important aspect of turntable setup is properly adjusting the anti-skate feature. But what exactly is anti-skate, and why is it important?
In this article, we’ll break down the basics of anti-skate and guide you through the process of setting it up on your turntable.
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or just starting out, read on to learn how to optimize your turntable’s performance and get the most out of your vinyl collection.
How To Set Up Anti Skate Turntable
Before we dive into the specifics of setting up anti-skate on your turntable, let’s first understand what it is and why it’s important.
Anti-skate is a feature that 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 it approaches the end. This force helps to maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear.
Now, let’s get into the steps for setting up anti-skate on your turntable:
Step 1: Begin by setting the tracking force to zero. The tracking force dial will be at the pivot point of your tonearm.
Step 2: Set your anti-skate to zero. The anti-skate dial will be on the flat surface of the turntable somewhere near your tonearm pivot point.
Step 3: Remove the platter from your turntable and remove the stylus guard from your cartridge.
Step 4: Move the tonearm out to a position above where the platter was. The goal is to have the tonearm ‘float’ in a balanced position.
Step 5: Adjust the counterweight on the back of the arm so that it balances without falling either up or down. While holding the weight stationary, rotate the adjustment dial on the counterweight until it reads zero at the top.
Step 6: Now comes the slightly difficult part of the tonearm setup. If the cartridge end of the tonearm floats up in the air, move the counterweight towards the cartridge. If it sinks down, move it away from the cartridge.
Step 7: Once you have achieved a balanced tonearm, set your tracking force to your desired level.
Step 8: Adjust your anti-skate feature to match your tracking force number. Most modern systems will include a knob or slider that you can adjust using either an included screwdriver or one of your own.
Match your adjustable anti-skate knob or slider to whatever tracking force number you’re using with your balanced tonearm. For example, if your tracking force is 2 grams, adjust the knob to 2 as well.
Understanding Anti-Skate: What It Is And Why It Matters
Anti-skate is a crucial feature on turntables that helps maintain the quality of your vinyl playback. 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, which can cause tracking issues and distortions. By applying this force, anti-skate helps to maintain good channel balance, minimize distortion, and reduce stylus and record wear.
The tracking ability of your stylus is essential for proper playback of your records. Anti-skate helps to maintain equal force on both the inner and outer sides of the stylus to keep it balanced within a typical groove. The natural inclination of the stylus is to be drawn towards the center spindle, putting excessive force on the inside groove wall. This is because of the design of most tonearms, which arc inwards across a record during play, and the fact that almost all have a slightly tilted headshell (which sets up opposing forces in relation to the arm pivot), as well as the friction imposed on the groove. If left completely unchecked, the stylus could leap from the groove and ‘skate’ towards the center.
By calibrating your anti-skate correctly, you reduce the risk of skipping and tonearm skating across your record. 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. When anti-skate is too low, the stylus ends up jumping and may cause distortions or skipping when you play the record.
When perfectly calibrated, your stylus rests perfectly in the groove of your records ensuring that you have proper channel balance for your left and right channels. You also minimize uneven stylus wear because it is not pushing to one side of the record groove. You should have dynamic sound without distortions, skips or oddities during playback. It should also track properly when you play a record rather than moving slowly or scratching the record.
The Science Behind Anti-Skate: How It Works
Now that we’ve covered the steps for setting up anti-skate on your turntable, let’s dive into the science behind how it works.
Anti-skate is a process by which a degree of “counter rotational torque” is applied to the tonearm to center the stylus in the groove of the record. This torque is a small outward force that counteracts the tendency of the arm to move inward towards the center of the record.
There are two broad categories of anti-skate mechanisms. The first is a system that relies on a small counterweight to apply the required force. The weight is usually suspended on a line and pulley arrangement, and the movement of the arm at the pivot will raise the weight up the pulley. The amount of force exerted is adjusted by moving the end of the line nearer to or further from the pivot point of the arm.
The second system relies on a small spring system that provides resistance on the arm as it moves across the record. The amount of force can usually be adjusted via a rotary control on the side of the arm.
Both of these mechanisms have exactly the same effect, which is to center the stylus in the groove of the record. However, they have some differences in terms of consistency and accuracy.
Counterweight anti-skate systems are extremely consistent from start to finish because the resistance of the weight and line is constant regardless of position. However, while consistency ensures that force is exerted at the same level, it does not create a perfect response as the force applied by the record on the stylus isn’t constant.
On the other hand, spring systems will rarely exert absolutely consistent resistance because mechanical resistance is not completely constant as it expands and contracts. Additionally, while counterweight systems are approximate, spring systems can be marked and set with a degree of confidence, although just how accurate the dial is does vary from arm to arm.
How To Determine The Correct Anti-Skate Setting For Your Turntable
Determining the correct anti-skate setting for your turntable can be a bit tricky, but with a little patience and attention to detail, you can achieve optimal results.
First, it’s important to note that the effects of anti-skating are dependent on several factors, including the mass of the armwand, vertical tracking force, cartridge suspension, VTA/azimuth/alignment geometry, and tonearm design. Some tonearms have inherent imbalances that can skew numbers towards one channel, while others may have too much anti-skating force even at the lowest setting.
To begin determining the correct anti-skate setting for your turntable, start by playing a record with wide lead-out grooves (closest to the record label). Place the stylus in between the grooves and notice the movement of the tonearm. You want the tonearm to move very slowly toward the spindle. Make sure to raise the arm before the stylus tip goes over any writing in the vinyl. Slowly lower it onto the surface and raise it right away. As soon as it hits the record, you will see the movement.
Using headphones, listen for any distortion in vocals (that ssssss-sound) and determine if it appears louder on one channel, left or right. Adjust the anti-skate value until the distortion is minimized. Now listen carefully at two or three different points across the record. If you used an alignment protractor to align your cartridge, listen at the alignment points. Listen for any differences in tone, dynamics and soundstage at these points.
If there are differences, some tweaking of the anti-skate adjustment may be needed. If adjusting the anti-skate does not clear up a particular problem, there may be another reason for it. It’s important to go back and forth between anti-skate and azimuth, as well as VTF and VTA to achieve an optimal set of numbers.
Remember that no setup parameter can be optimized in isolation. One must try to achieve optimal settings in as many setup parameters as possible. For example, when meaningful numbers cannot be achieved under the Anti-Skating test, it could be caused by an incorrect VTF, azimuth, or even alignment. You may have to go back and forth between different parameters to achieve meaningful results and optimal settings.
Troubleshooting Common Anti-Skate Issues
While setting up anti-skate on your turntable, you may encounter some common issues that can affect the performance of your turntable. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you overcome these issues:
Issue 1: Tonearm drifting towards the center of the record
If you notice that your tonearm is drifting towards the center of the record, it means that your anti-skate setting is not properly adjusted. To fix this issue, increase the anti-skate setting gradually until the tonearm no longer drifts towards the center. If you’re still having trouble, check your cartridge alignment and adjust it accordingly.
Issue 2: Imbalanced channel output
If you’re experiencing imbalanced channel output, it could be due to an incorrect anti-skate setting. To fix this issue, adjust the anti-skate setting to match your tracking force, and make sure that your tonearm is balanced properly.
Issue 3: Stylus skipping or jumping
If your stylus is skipping or jumping across the record, it could be due to an incorrect tracking force or anti-skate setting. Check your cartridge specifications to ensure that you’re using the correct tracking force, and adjust your anti-skate setting accordingly. If the issue persists, check your cartridge alignment and adjust it if necessary.
Tips For Maintaining Your Turntable’s Anti-Skate Over Time
Once you have set up your anti-skate feature, it’s important to maintain it properly over time. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Clean your records regularly: Dirty records can cause the stylus to skip and jump, which can lead to damage to both the stylus and the record. Regular cleaning of your records will help to reduce the need for excessive anti-skate adjustments.
2. Check your stylus regularly: Make sure that your stylus is clean and free of debris. A dirty or damaged stylus can cause tracking issues that may require adjustments to your anti-skate feature.
3. Use high-quality cartridges and styli: Cheap cartridges and styli may not track properly, leading to issues with anti-skate. Investing in high-quality equipment will help to ensure that your anti-skate feature works as intended.
4. Keep your turntable level: A level turntable is essential for proper tracking and anti-skate performance. Make sure that your turntable is on a stable surface and adjust the feet as necessary to achieve a level surface.
5. Adjust as needed: Over time, you may find that your anti-skate needs to be adjusted. Listen carefully to your records and make adjustments as necessary to maintain good channel balance and minimize distortion.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your turntable’s anti-skate feature works properly, helping to preserve the quality of your records and equipment over time.