What Is Anti-Skating? A Comprehensive Explanation

If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you know that the sound quality of your records is paramount.

But did you know that there’s a specific feature on your turntable that can greatly affect the sound quality?

It’s called anti-skating, and it’s designed to prevent your tonearm from skating across your vinyl records and causing an unpleasant sound quality when you play the record.

In this article, we’ll dive into what anti-skating is, why it’s important, and how to set it up properly on your turntable.

So sit back, relax, and let’s explore the world of anti-skating!

What Is Anti-Skating

Anti-skating is a feature found on many turntables that prevents the tonearm from moving inward (skating) towards the center of the record as it approaches the end. This is accomplished by applying a small outward force to the tonearm, counteracting the inward force caused by the rotating disc.

The force applied by the rotating disc to the cartridge tends to draw the tonearm towards the center of the record, causing distortion in sound quality and wear on both the stylus and vinyl groove. Anti-skating applies an opposing force to the tonearm, minimizing these issues and maintaining good channel balance.

What Is Anti-Skating And How Does It Work?

Anti-skating is a mechanism that helps to maintain the balance of the stylus and prevent it from skating across the vinyl record. The stylus is the needle that moves along the grooves of the record, and it needs to remain centered in order to produce good sound quality. The anti-skating feature applies a force to the tonearm that counteracts the inward force caused by the rotating disc.

The inward force caused by the rotating disc can cause distortion in sound quality and wear on both the stylus and vinyl groove. Anti-skating applies an opposing force to the tonearm, minimizing these issues and maintaining good channel balance. This ensures that equal volume is obtained from both the left and right channels, minimizing distortion, and reducing stylus and record wear.

The anti-skate control can be found at the foot of the tonearm in the form of a small counterweight and adjustable knob. Some turntables may not have a manual adjustment for anti-skating, but it may be preset at a fixed value by the manufacturer. The Rega Planar 1, for example, handles this task automatically.

The anti-skate control works by maintaining equal force on both 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 most tonearms arc inwards across a record during play, and almost all have a slightly tilted headshell, which sets up opposing forces in relation to the arm pivot.

If left unchecked, the stylus could leap from the groove and ‘skate’ towards the center. Anti-skate control counteracts this by pulling it out slightly. However, if too much force is applied, it may cause balance problems that could affect stereo channel separation and cause distortion.

To set anti-skate on a turntable with a user-adjustable control, adjust it to the same value as the vertical tracking force (VTF) used. Listen carefully to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed, particularly in areas where inner groove distortion may be noticeable. Adjust until distortion is minimized, then listen at different points across the record for any differences in tone, dynamics, and soundstage. If there are differences, some tweaking of the anti-skate adjustment may be required.

The Importance Of Anti-Skating For Sound Quality

Anti-skating is crucial for maintaining sound quality when playing vinyl records. Without it, the stylus would be prone to skating over the surface of the record, causing distortion and uneven wear on the stylus and vinyl groove. This can result in a loss of channel balance, where the left and right channels have different volumes or sound quality.

By properly calibrating the anti-skating feature on your turntable, you can ensure that the stylus remains centered in the record groove as the tonearm moves across the record. This leads to a reduction in distortion, skips, and other playback issues that can compromise sound quality.

Additionally, anti-skating helps to prolong the life of your records by reducing wear and tear on the vinyl groove. By minimizing the force applied to one wall of the groove, it helps to evenly distribute wear on both sides of the stylus.

How To Determine The Proper Anti-Skating Setting For Your Turntable

Determining the proper anti-skating setting for your turntable requires a bit of trial and error, but it’s an essential step towards achieving optimal sound quality. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

1. Start with a balanced tonearm: Before you start adjusting the anti-skating, make sure that your tonearm is properly balanced. Most turntables come with an adjustable weight at the end of the arm called a counterweight. Adjust this weight until the tonearm floats freely.

2. Set anti-skating to 0: Make sure that your anti-skating is set to 0 before you start adjusting it.

3. Adjust tracking force: Rotate 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.

4. Play a test record: Play a test record with a blank groove or one that has no music on it. This will allow you to hear any distortion or skipping caused by incorrect anti-skating.

5. Adjust anti-skating: Start by setting the anti-skating to half of your tracking force. For example, if your tracking force is set to 2 grams, set your anti-skating to 1 gram. Play the test record again and listen for any distortion or skipping.

6. Fine-tune anti-skating: If you hear any distortion or skipping, adjust the anti-skating up or down in small increments until you achieve optimal sound quality. Keep in mind that every turntable is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

7. Test at different points on the record: Anti-skating force is not linear, so it will differ depending on the relative location of the cartridge towards the record spindle. Test at different points on the record to ensure that your anti-skating is properly calibrated across the entire surface.

By following these steps, you should be able to determine the proper anti-skating setting for your turntable and achieve optimal sound quality without any distortion or skipping during playback.

Tips For Setting Up Anti-Skating On Your Turntable

If your turntable has an adjustable anti-skate control, follow these tips to set it up properly:

1. Begin by adjusting the anti-skate control to the same value as the vertical tracking force (VTF) used. This will get you in the ballpark and help you minimize distortion.

2. Listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed. Inner groove distortion, in particular, can be quite noticeable.

3. Listen for distortion, such as 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Remember that not all turntables have an adjustable anti-skate control. Some may have this feature preset at a fixed value by the manufacturer.

7. Be careful not to over-adjust your anti-skate control, as too much pressure can damage your records and cause tracking issues.

By following these tips, you can optimize your turntable’s anti-skating feature and enjoy dynamic sound without distortions or skips during playback.

Common Anti-Skating Issues And How To Troubleshoot Them

While anti-skating is an essential feature for maintaining the quality of your vinyl playback, it can sometimes present issues that need troubleshooting. Here are some common anti-skating issues and how to troubleshoot them:

1. Uneven channel balance: If you notice that the volume from the left and right channels is imbalanced, this could be due to incorrect anti-skating settings. To troubleshoot this issue, try adjusting the anti-skate control to match the vertical tracking force (VTF) used. Listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed. Listen for distortion, perhaps most notably in the form of sibilance (that annoying hissing sound produced when pronouncing certain letters or combinations of letters such as “s” and “sh”), 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.

2. Inner groove distortion: Inner groove distortion can be quite noticeable and is often caused by incorrect anti-skating settings. To troubleshoot this issue, 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.

3. Stylus veering off course: If you notice that your stylus is veering off course and not staying centered in the record groove as the tonearm travels across the record, this could be due to incorrect anti-skating settings. To troubleshoot this issue, begin by adjusting the anti-skate control to the same value as the vertical tracking force (VTF) used – this will get you in the ballpark. Listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed.

4. Grounding wire hum: If you hear a grounding wire hum in one arm, this could be due to a broken cable or wire causing feedback. To troubleshoot this issue, check all cables with a multimeter to see if they are causing the hum. If a cable is broken or damaged, replace it immediately.

In conclusion, anti-skating is an important feature for maintaining good channel balance, minimizing distortion, and reducing stylus and record wear. However, it can present issues that need troubleshooting from time to time. By following these tips, you can ensure that your turntable’s anti-skating feature is working correctly and delivering optimal playback quality.