Are you a vinyl enthusiast looking to get the most out of your turntable?
One essential tool for achieving optimal sound quality is a turntable protractor. But how exactly do you use one?
Don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think! In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of using a stylus alignment protractor and a 2-point protractor, so you can ensure your turntable is playing records correctly and sounding the best it can.
Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or just starting out, this guide will help you get the most out of your vinyl collection.
So, let’s dive in and learn how to use a turntable protractor!
How To Use A Turntable Protractor
There are two types of turntable protractors that we will cover in this article: the stylus alignment protractor and the 2-point protractor.
What Is A Turntable Protractor And Why Do You Need One?
A turntable protractor is a tool used to check the alignment of a turntable’s stylus. It is an essential tool for anyone who wants to ensure that their records are playing correctly and sounding the best they can. The protractor helps to align the cantilever and stylus, which is important because if the stylus is not aligned properly, it can cause the record to skip or sound distorted.
There are two types of turntable protractors: the stylus alignment protractor and the 2-point protractor. The stylus alignment protractor is a simple tool that lays on the platter like a record, allowing you to easily measure and align the cartridge body. It is important to check the alignment regularly, as it can become off-center over time.
The 2-point protractor is a universal protractor for turntable cartridge alignment that can be used with any record player. It allows you to set the overhang precisely for your turntable, even if you don’t know the exact pivot to spindle distance. However, it is not as easy to use as the arc protractor.
How To Use A Stylus Alignment Protractor
A stylus alignment protractor is a tool that is used to check the alignment of a turntable’s stylus. Proper alignment is essential to ensure that the record plays correctly and sounds its best. Here are the steps to use a stylus alignment protractor:
1. Level the turntable: Before using the protractor, make sure that your turntable is level.
2. Place the protractor on the turntable: Place the protractor on your turntable platter with the hole over the spindle.
3. Align the cartridge: Move the cartridge/tonearm until the stylus rests exactly on the center of the bulls-eye (120.9mm radius). Check that the cartridge is square with outer set of grid lines. If not, loosen cartridge mounting screws and twist cartridge lightly until it is square.
4. Check inner bulls-eye alignment: Move the cartridge/tonearm until the stylus rests exactly on the center of inner bulls-eye (66.04mm radius), rotating protractor around spindle as required. Check that cartridge is square with inner set of grid lines. If not, change overhang (move cartridge in or out along the axis) until cartridge is square.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4: Repeat step 3 and 4 until cartridge is square at both points. Tighten mounting, and recheck as above.
6. Remove protractor: Once you are satisfied with the alignment, remove the protractor from the turntable.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your cartridge alignment is optimized for playing standard 12” LP records, and you can enjoy your music with optimal sound quality.
It is important to note that checking the alignment regularly is crucial as it can become off-center over time. By using a stylus alignment protractor, you can be sure that your turntable is playing records correctly and sounding its best.
How To Use A 2-Point Protractor
The 2-point protractor is a universal protractor that can be used with any record player for cartridge alignment. It is not as easy to use as the arc protractor, but it is still a very useful tool to ensure optimal tracking on your vinyl record. Here are the steps to use a 2-point protractor:
1. Print the protractor: It is recommended to print the 2-point protractor onto glossy photo paper to protect your stylus. Alternatively, you can use clear packing tape or laminate the cartridge alignment protractor. Make sure to print out the alignment template at 100% scale and measure the outer rectangle to be sure it is exactly 190mm long. If it is not, scale the template by changing the printer correction factor.
2. Cut out the protractor: Cut out the protractor and make sure to punch or cut out the spindle hole as precisely as possible.
3. Place the protractor on your turntable: Place the alignment protractor on your turntable with the hole over the spindle.
4. Set anti-skating to zero: Set anti-skating to zero and loosen the screws that hold the cartridge in place just enough so it can be moved, but cannot move by itself.
5. Place stylus on outer grid: Set the stylus precisely onto the outer grid’s center point. Lift the tonearm and adjust the cartridge’s angle until its front is parallel with the grid when lowered onto the protractor. If the cartridge front is flat, taping a pencil lead to it will help to make a more precise adjustment.
6. Check cartridge alignment on inner grid: Lift the tonearm and move the protractor to place the stylus on the inner grid’s center point. If the cartridge is at an angle here, adjust the overhang according to the following illustrations:
7. Adjust overhang and angle: Then start again on the outer grid. Remember to only change the overhang on the inner grid and only change the angle on the outer one. Repeat until the cartridge is perfectly aligned on both grids.
8. Tighten screws and set anti-skating: Tighten the screws and do not forget to set anti-skating back to the force specified for your stylus.
By following these steps, you can easily use a 2-point protractor for turntable cartridge alignment and ensure optimal tracking on your vinyl record.
Tips For Getting The Best Sound Quality From Your Turntable
Getting the best sound quality from your turntable is essential for audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your turntable:
1. Set the correct tracking force: The tracking force refers to the amount of pressure the phono cartridge puts on your records. Too little force will cause the cartridge to skip, while too much will wear out your stylus and records too quickly. Different cartridges are designed to apply different amounts of tracking force, so make sure your turntable’s tonearm is set up to apply the correct amount for the cartridge you’re using. This is usually specified in grams somewhere in the owner’s manual. You can use a dedicated scale to adjust the tracking force accurately.
2. Check cartridge alignment: A poorly aligned cartridge not only sounds bad but can also damage your vinyl in the long run. Make sure that the stylus (cartridge) is at the right angle in the arm when viewed from the front. If your turntable doesn’t come with a fixed headshell, you may find that the stylus sometimes misaligns with the record’s grooves, causing inner groove distortion towards the end of the track. Fixing an alignment protractor onto your turntable ensures that your turntable’s stylus stays in place in the groove.
3. Adjust tonearm height: Many upmarket turntables allow users to adjust tonearm height. Usually, the arm is set to be parallel with a record when playing, though sometimes a cartridge may have a particular preference depending on its design. Generally though, if the arm is too high you’ll get a bright, forward sound, and if it’s too low, you’ll get a dull sound.
4. Take care when mounting cartridges: If your cartridge isn’t pre-fitted, then you have a bit more work to do. Most cartridges are held on with a pair of bolts or captive nuts built into the cartridge body. Once it’s mounted, you’ll need to connect the thin, fragile arm wires to the cartridge using small long-nose pliers.
5. Use a 2-point protractor for cartridge alignment: While you can get expensive metal gauges, many manufacturers supply a simple but effective card-based alternative in the box called a 2-point protractor. The idea is to get the cartridge body square to two printed parallel lines while the stylus tip is placed on each point. This takes a bit of patience but once done correctly, distortion levels will drop and record wear will be minimized.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your turntable is set up correctly and that you’re getting the best possible sound quality from your vinyl collection.
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Using A Turntable Protractor
Using a turntable protractor can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re new to the process. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using a turntable protractor:
1. Not checking the size of the protractor: It’s essential to ensure that the protractor you’re using is the correct size as the reference scale. If the paper you print on is slightly off the scale of the effective length of the protractor, then the alignment could be inaccurate.
2. Not aligning the cartridge correctly: The cartridge should be fixed in the tonearm headshell, but with the fixing bolts loosened. Position the stylus so that it sits at the target of the inner grid-box and adjust it so that it best aligns with the lines of the grid-box. By shuffling the cartridge forward or backward, alignment should be adjusted to give the best parallelism with the tangential lines in the outer box.
3. Not tightening the cartridge fixing bolts carefully: Once you’ve found the best alignment, make sure to tighten the cartridge fixing bolts carefully, taking care not to move the cartridge relative to the headshell in the process.
4. Not rotating the alignment gauge back and forth: The alignment gauge will need to be rotated back and forth as iterative adjustments are made. DO NOT rotate the turntable with the stylus resting on the protractor (especially anticlockwise).
5. Not keeping an eye on the stylus: Make sure to keep an eye on your stylus and avoid any tendency to scrape it against the protractor. Our advice is to keep your preamp’s volume up a little way, which will reveal – and discourage – any tendency to scrape.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll be able to use your turntable protractor with ease and achieve precise cartridge alignment for optimal sound quality.