Vinyl records are making a comeback, and with that comes the need for proper turntable maintenance.
One crucial aspect of maintaining your turntable is ensuring that the tonearm is set to the correct weight. The weight of the tonearm, also known as tracking force, can greatly affect the sound quality of your vinyl and even cause damage to your records if not set correctly.
In this article, we will discuss how to tell if your tonearm is too heavy and provide tips on how to adjust it for optimal sound quality and record protection.
So, let’s dive in and learn how to keep your vinyl sounding its best!
How To Tell If Tonearm Is Too Heavy
The first step in determining if your tonearm is too heavy is to listen for any distortion or skipping while playing your vinyl records. If you hear any distortion or skipping, it could be a sign that your tonearm is too heavy and needs to be adjusted.
Another way to tell if your tonearm is too heavy is to inspect the grooves of your vinyl records. If you notice any visible damage or wear on the grooves, it could be a sign that your tonearm is applying too much pressure and needs to be adjusted.
Additionally, if you notice that your stylus is not tracking properly or is bouncing around on the record, it could be a sign that your tonearm is too heavy and needs to be adjusted.
What Is Tonearm Weight And Why Is It Important?
Tonearm weight refers to the amount of weight that the tonearm applies to the record as it plays. The weight is usually adjusted by adding or removing a counterweight at the opposite end of the tonearm from where the cartridge is mounted. It is important to adjust the tonearm weight correctly because it affects both the sound quality and the longevity of your vinyl records.
If the tonearm weight is too heavy, it can cause distortion, skipping, and damage to your vinyl records. The excess weight can cause the stylus to dig too deeply into the grooves, which can wear them down over time. On the other hand, if the tonearm weight is too light, it can cause the stylus to bounce around on the record, which can also cause damage and affect sound quality.
To adjust the tonearm weight, you will need to use a tracking force gauge. This will allow you to measure the amount of weight that is being applied to the record and make adjustments as necessary. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific turntable and cartridge when adjusting the tonearm weight.
Signs That Your Tonearm May Be Too Heavy
Here are some specific signs to look out for if you suspect that your tonearm may be too heavy:
1. Distortion or skipping: As mentioned earlier, distortion or skipping while playing your vinyl records could be a sign that your tonearm is too heavy. If you notice this happening frequently, it’s important to adjust the tracking force.
2. Visible damage or wear on the grooves: Inspect the grooves of your vinyl records for any visible damage or wear. If you notice that the grooves are becoming flattened or distorted, it could be a sign that your tonearm is applying too much pressure.
3. Stylus not tracking properly: If you notice that your stylus is not tracking properly or is bouncing around on the record, it could be a sign that your tonearm is too heavy. This can lead to skipped tracks and potentially even damage to your vinyl records.
It’s important to note that these signs may also indicate other issues with your turntable setup, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional if you’re unsure about how to adjust your tonearm properly. By keeping an eye out for these signs and making adjustments as needed, you can ensure that your vinyl records sound their best and remain in good condition for years to come.
The Risks Of Using A Tonearm That Is Too Heavy
If you continue to use a tonearm that is too heavy, it can lead to permanent damage to your vinyl records. The increased weight can cause the stylus to dig deeper into the grooves, which can lead to scratches and distortion. Over time, this damage can become irreversible, and you may need to replace your records.
In addition to damaging your records, using a tonearm that is too heavy can also cause damage to your turntable’s stylus. The increased pressure can cause the stylus to wear out faster, which can result in poor sound quality and the need for frequent replacements.
Furthermore, a tonearm that is too heavy can also cause unnecessary strain on your turntable’s motor and other components. This strain can lead to premature wear and tear on your turntable, which can result in costly repairs or replacements.
How To Properly Set The Tonearm Weight
To properly set the tonearm weight, you will need to follow a few steps. The first step is to locate the counterweight on the end of the tonearm wand. This is usually located at the rear end of the tonearm and is likely to have numbers detailed along it.
Next, you will need to move the tonearm off its rest and adjust the counterweight so that the tonearm balances horizontally. This means that the cartridge and stylus should be floating without touching the platter/record but also not falling upwards.
Once you have achieved this balance, turn the counterweight scale to indicate zero. This will reset the tonearm so that it can balance in ‘midair’ on its own, much like a seesaw.
Now it’s time to find the correct tracking force for your cartridge. Each cartridge will have a recommended tracking force weight, which can be found in the manual or by searching online for your specific cartridge and weight needed.
Once you have found this weight, adjust the counterweight to match the tracking force. To do this, turn or adjust your counterweight to the appropriate setting for your cartridge. Set the numbered dial on your counterweight to the required weight for your specific cartridge that you have already looked up.
If your tonearm also features an anti-skate control, adjust this to match the counterweight setting. This will help counteract the tendency of the tonearm to move inwards as the stylus gets closer to the centre of the record, thus keeping the music sounding its best.
If you want to further check that the weight of your tracking force is correct, you can buy a digital gram scale. With one of these, you can lower the stylus onto its platform and a digital readout will tell you exactly how much force is being applied. You can then check this against the dial on your counterweight and adjust accordingly.
Tools And Equipment Needed For Adjusting Tonearm Weight
Adjusting the weight of your tonearm requires a few tools and equipment to ensure that you get the correct tracking force for your cartridge. Here are the things you will need:
1. Counterweight – The counterweight is the main component on the tonearm that allows you to adjust the tracking force. It is usually located at the rear end of the tonearm and has numbers detailed along it.
2. Digital Gram Scale – While not necessary, a digital gram scale can help you accurately measure the tracking force being applied to your cartridge. This is especially helpful if you want to double-check the weight of your tracking force against the dial on your counterweight.
3. Cartridge Manual – Each cartridge has a recommended tracking force weight, which can be found in its manual. If you don’t have the manual, you can search for the appropriate weight online by searching for your cartridge and the specific weight needed.
4. Anti-skate Control – Some turntables have an anti-skate control that helps counteract the tendency of the tonearm to move inwards as the stylus gets closer to the center of the record.
Once you have these tools and equipment ready, you can start adjusting the weight of your tonearm to ensure that it is not too heavy and is applying the correct tracking force to your cartridge.
Tips For Maintaining Your Turntable And Tonearm For Optimal Performance.
Maintaining your turntable and tonearm is crucial for optimal performance and longevity. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Keep your turntable on a sturdy surface: Place your turntable on a sturdy, level surface to prevent any unwanted vibrations that can affect the sound quality.
2. Use isolation feet and platter mats: Isolation feet and platter mats can help to further dampen any unwanted vibrations and improve sound quality.
3. Balance your tonearm correctly: Balancing your tonearm correctly is crucial for optimal performance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure that your tonearm is balanced properly.
4. Adjust your tracking force: The tracking force, or the amount of pressure placed on the stylus, should be set according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Too much or too little pressure can cause damage to your vinyl records and affect sound quality.
5. Use a stylus tracking force gauge: A stylus tracking force gauge can help you to accurately measure and adjust the tracking force of your tonearm.
6. Clean your vinyl records regularly: Regularly cleaning your vinyl records can help to prevent buildup of dust and dirt that can affect sound quality.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your turntable and tonearm are properly maintained for optimal performance and longevity.