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hobbyists's views for hobbyists
Turntable Adjustment & Set Up
Phono Cartridge Alignment

 

 

The playing of a record is a mechanical process to begin with:
a needle tip is forced to follow a complex pattern in a groove.

If the mechanical adjustments and alignments of turntable, cartridge and arm have been made correctly, even the simplest turntable and cartridge can bring joy.

 

All the adjustments are interrelated.
Click on a button to go immediately to the subject of your choice.
Or just press Ctrl + F and type a key word or phrase.

Read the short INTRODUCTION.
   
Level the Turntable First
Azimuth Check
 
 
Downforce Adjustment
 
Effective Arm Length
Lateral Tracking Tool
BIAS or SIDE THRUST adjustment.
  
 
Adjust the Vertical Tracking Angle.
 
  
Refine the Vertical Tracking Angle.
 
Capacitor and Resistance Loading
 
  
Make the Right Connections
 
Check the Diamond Tip Regularly
 
  
THE FINAL TOUCH
 

TOP

This drawing of the stereo groove may look frightening. Yet...

...if you stick to the basic adjustments, you can enjoy the sound of analog recordings engraved in the vinyl record.

It is not at all necessary to make things complicated. Start by adjusting down force and bias, put on a record and listen. From there you can refine the set up and adjustments if you want the highest quality in sound.

If the adjustments are not correct, even the most expensive turntable cannot fulfill its promise: the best possible sound reproduction.


PREAMBLE

Why not have a turntable next to your CD Player in your set up?
The sound of records can be enlightening, records are authentic, and records can be fun.
Compared to the modern digital formats, the analogue LP record, with its signal engraved in a vinyl disc, may look poor at first glance.

However, do never forget that it is still the only medium (apart from the reel to reel tape recorder) that can contain the most complete and most structured signal providing great dynamics, having the widest frequency band attainable, and having the most refined detail over the entire audio spectrum and far beyond, which no other format can deliver.

The analog LP is not restricted to 16 bits and a limited frequency band, but has 700 bits - so to speak - and the minute upper harmonics which digital formats are missing. The simple reason is that the original LP is analogous in nature.
Or, to be more precise: analogous to nature.

PERFORMANCE VERSUS CD

If your CD outperforms your analog setup, than you do not have the right combination of components. In other words you forgot about "system building". There are some general and specific do's and don'ts. Here are a few:

- Look for voluptuous sound, yet well controlled, look for realism.
- Look for a good, spacious mid band.
- Do not connect low efficiency loudspeaker systems to a 10 or 25 Watt tube amplifier or to a high current amplifier, but use a power amplifier delivering current stored in a large reservoir of Micro Farads.
- Match cartridge and arm properly: mass (weight of the arm) in relation to compliance.
- Choose the right preamplifier to match the impedance and/or capacitance of your cartridge. Make the necessary adjustments.
- Carefully position your loudspeakers in the listening environment.
- Follow your taste and ears. Go to live concerts of classical music and jazz. There you will find that high-end does not exist in reality, only realism.
- Do not take the PA set-up during a live concert of your favorite rock band as a reference. Because that sound is no reference at all. Many of those experts who move the faders have a hearing problem. And soon you may have one too.
- Be well advised, but forget about the hype which surrounds so many components and is repeated by so many and far too often.
- Do not be distracted and confused by a member of a forum who says that this page gives - in his opinion - at some instances incorrect advice. Only believe him if he points out what is incorrect. You will notice that he never does.

Even if new and more complex and high resolution digital formats are being developed and there are no appropriate players for these formats, the recording can be engraved in a vinyl record and can be fully enjoyed. Even hundred years from now.

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LEVELING THE TURNTABLE

It is of the utmost importance to adjust the turntable with arm and phono cartridge correctly. Place the turntable on a strong cabinet, in an audio rack or on a special construction that is bolted to the stone wall of the listening room. These supports should be level.
See to it that the turntable is perfectly level also. This is essential to minimize wow and flutter.
It is also a prerogative for the proper functioning of the phono cartridge and the arm. Only if the turntable is level the down force and bias (side thrust) can be adjusted correctly.

In case of a floating sub chassis (Acoustic Research, Oracle, Thorens TD-150, TD-160, TD 166, TD 145, TD 147, Ariston, Linn LP12, etc.) you should adjust the springs in such a way that the platter is level and the sub chassis does not touch the base plate or plinth. To check if you have done it right just push the spindle down with your index finger, the platter should go down and come up always staying level. That means that the platter should not rock or wobble. If it does you have to make new adjustments.

Adjusting is a bit difficult if the springs have to be reached from underneath the plinth. Take off the base plate of the plinth and then place the turntable on two small tables, on boxes or crates, or in a rack and adjust the springs from underneath while the table is level. The way the springs are adjusted has an influence on the final sound. If the springs are too supple, there will be a lack of mid band presence. If they are too short by turning the nuts too much, than the sub chassis will not be de-coupled as desired, the frequency of the floating subchassis will be too high and the sound looses its refinement.

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VERTICAL TRACKING ANGLE
INITIAL ADJUSTMENT

Check whether the arm and the head shell are parallel to the record. Most manufacturers of cartridges take care to mount the tip and cantilever in such a way that a Vertical Tracking Angle of round and about 20 degrees is achieved when the arm is parallel to the record. The standard today is 20º. Vintage cartridges from the nineteen sixties for instance have a tracking angle of 15º.
The final VTA adjustment will be done later after you have adjusted the azimuth and down force and bias have been precisely set.

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AZIMUTH ADJUSTMENT

Now check the cartridge seen from the front. It should be perpendicular to the record. This is easily checked using a small mirror (as Thorens used to supply with their turntables). A precise way of measuring the azimuth is by using a test record and a voltmeter. But this can only be done after the correct down force and bias have been adjusted.

AZIMUTH REPLACEMENT STYLUS

If you have bought a replacement needle, check if the tip is really well mounted. Check the cantilever from the front with a magnifying glass. The cantilever should be perpendicular to the cartridge body. The tip should be in line with the cantilever. It is a good practice to take the small art director's magnifying glass with you to the shop and insist that you check before you pay. A needle tip which is out of line can not read the stereo groove. If you buy on-line from a renown seller like Elex Atelier in the USA for example, there is of course no need to worry. But going directly to a shop, checking can do no harm. Just to be sure.

Keep your brain from shrinking. Read.

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LATERAL TRACKING ERROR

While engraving the laquer disc (from which the matrix is made), the cutter head moves laterally from the outside of the lacquer to the inside. At all instances the cutter diamond makes a 90 degree angle with the groove it has cut. This movement can be imitated by a tangential tonearm. Most tone arms however are not tangential or parallel tracking tonearms but radial arms which move along a fixed radius. The result is that during play the lateral angle varies. The diamond of the cartridge does not completely mimic the path originally made by the cutter head (See also the description of the Rabco SL-8E tangential arm.)

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Overhang: Distance between Diamond Top and Center of the Spindle
OVERHANG

When using a radial arm, there is practically at every instance a tracking error which results in a time difference between the signals of the left and right channel. Just a few milliseconds! Therefore it is necessary to mount the phono cartridge in the tonearm in such a way that this time difference is kept to an absolute minimum.
The longer the arm, the smaller the error will be.
Of course it is possible to build a tone arm which is much longer than 12 inch, but the stiffness and the density of the materials used, and the mass of the arm, are the restricting parameters.
The manufacturer will probably (and hopefully) mention in the list of technical specs what the overhang for a specific arm is. And this determines the position of the cartridge. Adjusting the arm in accordance with the specified overhang (and of course the distance between spindle and arm base as supplied by the manufacturer, can give the least tracking error.

Overhang, Effective Length, Offset Angle.


TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS OF THE ARM

The alignment of cartridge and arm has to be done in accordance with the technical specifications given by the manufacturer of the pick up arm:

* total tonearm length,
* effective length,
* overhang and
* offset angle (angle of headshell in relation to the arm tube; this angle changes in relation to the length of the arm).

Overhang is the distance between needle tip and center of the spindle. This can be seen when the cartridge is placed above the spindle (if the arm does allow this). The effective length is the distance between pivot and diamond tip The offset angle is the angle between head shell and arm tube

A tangential arm does not have overhang and no offset angle. The stylus should follow a straight line at a rectangular angle with the arm, going from periphery to lable, ending at the center of the spindle. See the Rabco page.

The data of the manufacturer make it possible to determine the correct position of the arm in case you add an arm to a motor unit. Many times one encounters a tonearm which is not built according to the findings and theories devised by various technicians, researchers and mathematicians. One famous name in this respect is that of American engineer H. G. Baerwald. But even if the data of the arm are not according to the findings, it is possible to find the best position of the pivot in relation to spindle and cartridge, and in relation to the groove. No need to worry. And no need to study mathematics and trigonometry.

Much research has been done and many articles have been written about how to minimize the lateral angle to the max. I do not want to bother you with equations. After all we have to be practical.
You may decide for yourself if you want the least distortion in the inner grooves (close to the label) were generally the most distortion is generated. Or you may align the cartridge in such a way that zero distortion is achieved at distances of 66 mm and 120.9 mm from the spindle.

You can draw a protractor yourself. Or just print the following drawing in real size. Each square should measure 5 millimeter. If necessary adjust the size of the image so that two squares are 10 mm (=1 cm).

A member of a forum rightfully pointed out that, for a long time, I had given different measurements: 63 and 120 mm. He was right of course. Nevertheless the deviation was not too far from the measurements given by Baerwald. It all depends on where you want the zero degree tracking error.


Place the cartridge over the 120.9 mm line with the needle tip precisely at the crossing. The cartridge's body should be parallel to that line.

Now lift the cartridge, move it and place it over the 66 mm mark. Again the needle tip has to be placed exactly at the point where the lines cross (you need to turn the platter a little by hand). Then at that point the cartridge's body should again be parallel to the line when the diamond tip is placed over the spot.

You have to adjust the arm and cartridge in such a way that at both points the configuration is exact.

This template gives a general and useful indication. However, there are arms that were designed with a completely different geometry. I recently acquired the SAEC WE 308 arm and the makers strived for the least error at the end of the record where the most distortion can occur because in a shorter groove length the same info has to be engraved as in the outer groove.

Add to this that most of the time very loud passages are engraved, and you will understand that optimal tracking has to be near the end of the record. But only then if the angle is not too much elevated on other spots.

The template below can tell you what the measure of lateral tracking angle in degrees is. Does not matter at what point you do measure. You can choose the least error at whatever distance from the spindle.

Shifting the cartridge makes it possible to optimize the offset angle of the tone arm and to a certain extend the overhang and the effective length.

The template enables you to check the error of the Lateral Tracking Angle at every position of the arm. You can start at the small circle. But you also can choose a different point of departure, closer to the spindle. For instance at (c). See to it that at your starting point the front of the cartridge is parallel to the line marked 0°. After that you can check at various points and see what the error is: + or - one or more degrees. You can save this drawing and print it and enlarge it so that the distance between A and B is 15 cm.

Not all arms were built with the optimum geometry in mind, especially those which have a fixed mount. So in certain cases it can be necessary to shift the cartridge in the head shell a little. This means that you are changing the lateral tracking angle and possibly optimizing the geometry of the arm. This can only be done if the headshell has slots. Always use the template pictured above to measure the error.

If the headshell does not have slots you can make these yourself or if you are not handy have them made. That makes it possible to align a cartridge in a tonearm of which you do not have specifications. Just follow the directions given above using the template and find the lowest degree of error and distortion.

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If you do not use an original diamond tip offered by the manufacturer of the cartridge, you cannot rely on the specifications of the cartridge any longer. Specifically if it is an old cartridge. The replacement needles often do not have the precisely cut and polished tips, the tips may have slightly more mass. In case of a moving magnet type both the rubber and the magnet may not be comparable with the original quality. So it is possible that a new manufactured tip will alter the performance of the cartridge: compliance and tracking ability, band width, frequency characteristic and dynamics. In that case you also have to find the best down force and side thrust which can be completely different from the values of the original cartridge.
DOWNFORCE - VTF

Apply the amount of down force (Vertical Tracking Force) as indicated by the manufacturer of the cartridge. Consult the reviews and charts and tests of early editions of magazines like Hi-Fi Choice, HiFi News & Record Review, Hi-Fi World, or old High Fidelity issues, if you do have the specs. Never use a downforce that is too light. Not enough downforce is generally more detrimental to the record groove than a downforce which is slightly too heavy.

Each time after adjusting the down force do listen to the result. It takes some practice and listening experience to find the optimum downforce. If the sound of a saxophone is too light and shows an accentuation in the midband with a slight resonance, than the downforce (in relation to the bias setting) is too light. If a clarinet gets too muddy the downforce is too heavy. In that case also the sound image will lack in space.
In practice the downforce is hardly ever the exact value as given by the manufacturer.

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BIAS OR SIDE THRUST
READING THE HORIZONTAL
AND VERTICAL SIGNAL

When Edison designed his Phonograph Cylinder, he engraved the sound in a vertical movement: the needle went up and down, or "hill and dale" as it is called.
Emil Berliner from Germany designed the gramophone record and he engraved the signal in a lateral or horizontal movement.
The combination of these two "systems" made the stereo record possible.
In order to give both the left and right channels the same technical parameters, this combination of lateral and vertical engraving was turned 45 degrees. The contact of the diamond tip to both walls of the groove should be the same, despite the fact that it changes while playing a record.

 

 

 

 

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BIAS COMPENSATION

When a disc is spinning and you place a small object on it, the object will be swept off the disc by the centrifugal force (CF). You can try this yourself by placing a small object on the platter.
When a record is turning, and the needle tip is held in a spiral groove at one end and the tonearm is fixed on the other end, a force will be exercised on the arm and cartridge. This force has now become a centripetal force (CP) which will move the cartridge towards the spindle, all caused by the fixation at the pivot of the arm. Now the arm can only move in a radial way as it is held in position by the pivot.
The result is that there will be an increased pressure on the groove wall which contains the sound of the left channel. In order to neutralize this force, and to give both groove walls equal pressure, it is necessary to compensate this effect by applying a counteracting force at the other end of the arm, passed the pivot (BA). The force to be applied is called side thrust compensation or bias compensation. It is done by means of a pending weight or a magnetic force.

A linear / parallel tracking arm does not need this correction because the pivot continuously changes its position.

When adjusting the bias or side thrust (BA) precisely, use a test record with a groove-less section. The right amount of side thrust compensation (in relation to the downforce) will keep the cartridge from moving either towards the spindle or towards the periphery of the LP record.
You may also play the tracks of a test record containing heavily modulated signals for left and right, and listen carefully at what level of bias compensation + down force the distortion is the least, or even completely absent.
If you are a perfectionist, you may connect an oscilloscope alternately to the left and right outputs of your preamplifier (or the Record Out sockets), and check the bias adjustment by playing the test with separate left and right channel signals, in various modulations, starting at 50 um.
The use of a
Record Clamp or Weight and/or The Universal Record Stabilizing Ring makes it possible to choose a more precise downforce and bias as the use of these gadgets do reduce distortion already to a great extend. This will result in a better adjustment and a much better signal.

A correctly adjusted downforce combined with the right bias
will give a pure stereo image with the least distortion.

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FINAL ADJUSTMENT OF THE VERTICAL TRACKING ANGLE
At left a drawing of the cutterhead of a lathe. The cutter diamond moves in a complex way so both left and right signals (for the left and right channels) are engraved in the lacquer.
When engraving the lacquer, the cutter diamond moves up and down over a short distance. Whether the movement is more an arc or just a straight line depends on the position of the cutter head and the position of the diamond. In theory this movement is a perpendicular movement (a), but it is likely not to be a straight line (b). The cutter head should be positioned the correct way so that the cutter diamond operates under an angle of 20º. Yet it is possible that the Cutter Rake Angle (the way the cutter diamond is mounted) is incorrect and the 20º are not met. If all is correct, the Cutter Diamond Angle must be imitated by the cartridge.

For monophonic records only the adjustment of the lateral tracking angle is of importance. The stylus should ride in the middle of the groove at the correct down force.

With the introduction of the stereo record and its complicated signal, it became clear that a record can be cut in more than just one way. The vertical position of the diamond stylus in the cutter head can vary and the result is that the pattern of the groove changes also. Sometimes the wrong angle is the result of neglect. Sometimes the cutting under a different angle is done deliberately. The engineer wants a different result when playing back the record.

As said, the diamond tip of the cartridge has to be in the same position as the cutter diamond. Only then will the signal be as precise as possible.

The importance of this became the more clear when the elliptical stylus was introduced. C.C. Davis and J.G. Frayne mentioned this when describing the Westrex Stereo Disk System (Proceedings of the I.R.E., October 1958). Many articles by renown journalists soon followed: John Crabbe (Hi-Fi News), F.V. Hunt (Journal of the Audio Engineering Society), C.L. Bastiaans (Journal of the Audio Engineering Society), R.D. Darrell (High Fidelity Magazine), E.R. Madsen (Audio Magazine). You may come across one or more of these articles.

The Vertical Tracking Angle was not always standardized. But since the stereo disc was launched, the angle was defined at 15 º and was changed in the nineteen seventies to 20 º. That is why the Ortofon SL-15 became SL-20.

 

 

The engineers explained what the Vertical Tracking Angle is. A few mentioned other parameters of significance as well.

VCU = the Vertical Cutting Angle. It should be set exactly as prescribed in the manual of the cutting lathe.

CRA = the Cutter Rake Angle. This is the angle of the cutter diamond in relation to the cutter head. This angle should actually be the same as the VCA, the Vertical Cutting Angle. If it is not, than an engraving giving an awkward signal is the result.

VTA = the Vertical Tracking Angle of the diamond tip (stylus) in the cartridge. It should be exactly the same as the Vertical Cutting Angle.

SRA = the Stylus Rake Angle. This is the angle the stylus makes in relation to the cantilever and the body of the cartridge. The SRA should be identical to the Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) when the top of the cartridge is mounted parallel to the record's surface. If the Stylus Rake Angle (SRA) is not identical to the VTA, the SRA has to be adjusted until it reaches the correct VTA and mimics the cutter diamond. One method to achieve this is by adjusting the height of the arm at the pivot. The headshell will no longer be parallel to record's surface. Another method is to put a wedge in between cartridge and headshell. Since the engraved signal in the record measures micrometers, it is obvious that if the SRA is incorrect, a higher level of distortion will be heard.

I have witnessed that a knowledgeable technician just bent the cantilever a little to correct the SRA. I would not advise you to do this as you will likely damage the cartridge or break the cantilever, and it is likely that you never reach the correct Stylus Rake Angle.

Let us view the other drawings.

A represents the theoretical ideal: CRA, VCA, SRA and VTA are all the same, they coincide.

In B the stylus is perpendicular to the record's surface, but the Vertical Tracking Angle is incorrect. Because the stylus is incorrectly mounted at the end of the cantilever, the diamond tip is not in a position to read the indentations in the groove correctly. The best thing to do is to make a height adjustment at the pivot.

C shows the case when the groove is cut under a wider angle than the prescribed 20º. The correct position of the stylus of the cartridge can only be found by making a substantial height adjustment at the pivot, or by putting a wedge in between the cartridge and headshell.

The best advice is to adjust the arm at its basis (pivot) in such a way that the best sound reproduction for most records is obtained.

The VTA will generally vary when playing a record which is not completely flat or is warped.
If there is continuous variation in arm movement (up and down and/or swinging excessively) when playing a perfectly pressed LP, than it could well be that the arm is too heavy for your cartridge. Your cartridge has probably a high compliance and needs a lighter arm. Check the parameters of arm and cartridge. See:
Phono Cartridge Optimizing

It is very important to set the correct VTA if you want to obtain a detailed sound with beautiful high frequencies, with warmth and attack at the same time. Lowering the arm at the pivot so that the cartridge will lean slightly back will give a round and less detailed midband. Adjusting the arm at the pivot so that the cartridge leans more forward gives a more detailed sound. If the cartridge leans too far forward the sound becomes hollow and unnatural, the harmonics will suffer. Especially with fine line diamond tips and the Van den Hul tip the precise VTA is of the utmost importance. You have to find the best adjustment for harmonious sound which has a lot of fine detail at the same time. So listen carefully! In the end the determination of the best VTA can only be done by ear.

 

CHOOSE THE VTA WITH WHICH ALL RECORDS SOUND GOOD

As not all records have been cut at the same angle, there is a slight problem. At the end of the nineteen seventies The Audio Critic suggested the idea of optimizing the VTA for each and every record you would play. The idea was simple: use cardboard of varying thickness (millimeters) and cut these to the size of the turntable mat (or I would suggest: about 28 cm in diameter). If you have set the VTA in a way that the cartridge is leaning slightly forward, than you can vary the VTA by adding a cardboard "mat". The idea is to mark on record cover or inner sleeve of each LP which cardboard-mat has to be added. Adding cardboard discs in between record and turntable mat may give an optimum VTA but will also change the contact of LP and mat, and it will change the "color" of the sound reproduction. So cardboard discs are out of the question, at least for me personally.

Fortunately there are many arms of which the VTA can be changed. And there are many which allow the height adjustment at the pivot on the fly. If you do not have such luxury, you will choose the set up which will give the best sound.

 If the platter is very high it can be necessary to add an extra base plate In case the arm does not allow varying the height at the pivot, you can put a wedge between cartridge and head shell.

IMPORTANT: Some audiophiles add a small wedge when they think it necessary to adjust the VTA in specific cases. Placing a wedge can help in rare cases. But placing a plate, piece of rubber, felt, or whatever material you choose (as is sometimes advised by so called knowledgeable audiophiles) in between cartridge and headshell should not be done. It provides a "loose" contact between cartridge and headshell.
Placing a material between cartridge and headshell may give (on first hearing) the signal more speed, especially the high frequency region becomes faster, but at the same time a correct transient which is built up from the lowest to the highest frequencies will show a less harmonious build up.
The reason? The insertion results in a more or less prominent phase shift (difference in time). A wedge or plate will certainly translate into a so called bending mode, the frequency of which is followed by its second and third harmonics (and even higher). This bending mode will color the sound.
At first hearing there may be some refinement and more spaciousness, but after a while it shows all too clearly that the correct build up of harmonics is impaired.

A good transient is dependent on each part and every material used in arm, platter, motor, chassis, plinth and feet. The application determines whether the sound is lively, well balanced, whether it is lacking in detail and whether it is lacking an open midband which adds to the tangibility of the instruments.
The sound should simply be harmonious and should convey the magic of instruments and the performance.
If you need a small intermediate plate between cartridge and arm, the choice of material is important. Always strive for bandwidth.

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DIAMOND CHECK

If the mechanical adjustments are not correctly made a distorted signal will be the result. If you have done your best and distortion persists, and it is not caused by the maltreated record groove, you should check the diamond tip of the cartridge or have it checked by a professional.


A used diamond has at its very tip very small facets that cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are at the end of the tip and not on the sides above the groove as many do expect when checking a tip. These facets let the tip act as a chisel that will "cut" the grooves, especially the grooves which contain high dynamics.
If you play with a good tip and if down force and side thrust are well adjusted, than you can listen to your records many and many times without the quality diminishing.

 

A FINAL WORD ABOUT THE CONDITION OF THE LP AND THE ENJOYMENT OF THE MUSIC

CHOOSE THE BEST HEADSHELL

If you use a tone arm with e detachable headshell, you can optimize the sound reproduction by choosing the headshell which will give the best harmonics, the best attack and transient and the most even frequency curve. The main feature of aluminum is that it does not send the energy back to the cartridge. The transmission and dying out is also relatively fast. Generally aluminum provides a wide frequency band. Magnesium or a mix of aluminum and magnesium can provide a more controlled signal reading. The high frequencies are more precise. .
Another most important point is that the headshell has to be screwed as tightly as possible. If this is not done the sound will loose precision and the transient will be impaired. You can check this by playing a high quality guitar recording.
Also
The Turntable Mat does influence greatly the precise reproduction.

AUDIOPHILE REPRODUCTION

Music lovers with excellent sound reproducing systems often use expensive phono cartridges. A price tag of $ 1000 or even $ 4000 for a cartridge is no exception. Naturally these music lovers demand that the gramophone record is of the highest quality: no scratches and the groove must be clean and undamaged.

HISTORIC PERFORMANCES

There is a second category of collectors who go for specific artists and performances. They are primarily concerned with the authenticity of the performance and the originality of the recording. Minor imperfections are often unavoidable and are accepted. Yet even collectors demand good reproduction without irritating distortion.
Maybe you fall into both categories and can enjoy the perfect and overwhelming rendering of a beautifully recorded symphony, opera and concert, but also can listen with great involvement to an old imperfect record.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT SYSTEM

For the older records a monaural cartridge with a spherical tip in combination with the appropriate mass of the arm and the appropriate down force is needed. Sometimes one encounters a very old mono record from the early nineteen fifties which will sound very well when played with a crystal pick up and a downforce of even 8 gr. Some old Deutsche Grammophon or Philips discs can benefit from this approach. I also have discovered that old Remington discs sound rather well on an old Garrard portable gramophone with a small tube amplifier. I once encountered an old 4 record set of Tchaikovsky's Yevgeniy Onegin on an early Soviet label which did not sound at all with a Denon DL-103 in a rather heavy arm, but revealed all its intensity and beauty with that same Garrard portable.

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RIGHT CONNECTIONS OF HEADSHELL LEADS

The position of the connecting pins at the back of the cartridge varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. The connections for the cartridge wires on the inside of the head shell however always have the same configuration if a standard SME type shell is used. Make the correct connections for the leads. Otherwise the reproduction will not be in true stereo. This tone arm/headshell wiring diagram shows how to.

Also the headphone and the loudspeakers should be connected correctly. If not, the rendering of the musicians in the middle of the orchestra or the jazz formation will not occur because the middle part of the image is on the outside of each channel / speaker and will not 'connect' acoustically.

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CARTRIDGE LOADING

Is the sound shrill and are the high frequencies accentuated? Or is the sound too dull and lacks transparency?
In any case you should check the loading of the cartridge. The phono input of your (pre-) amplifier should have the right capacitance to meet a specific moving magnet cartridge. The higher the capacitance the duller the sound. So check the specifications of amplifier and cartridge given by the manufacturers.
A moving coil cartridge should be connected to a phono pre-preamplifier which has an input impedance of at least 2 1/2 times the value of the impedance of the cartridge's coils.
The impedance of the input of a step-up transformer should be the same or slightly higher than the value of the coils of the cartridge.
Check the specifications of the cartridge and the specs of your (pre-) amplifier or step-up transformer, and see if they match.

PLAYBACK CHARACTERISTICS

Before the RIAA playback characteristic was generally adopted, record companies cut their records as they thought would make the music sound best on their own equipment.
Today there are phono stages on the market which enable you to adjust (equalize) the right characteristic for the playback of a variety of vintage records. There are cheap ones of about a few hundred dollars which only do the job in mono and are sonically rather average. The really good ones enable you to equalize all sorts of mono and stereo records meticulously. But these are very expensive.

RECORD CLAMP / WEIGHT / STABILIZING RING

A record clamp or record weight will improve the contact of record and turntable mat. Vibrations and all sorts of resonances will have lesser chance to be generated. False high frequencies will not occur. The overall signal will be more precise and the sound will have less distortion. View: The Universal Record Center Stabilizer Weight. Eliminating distortion means improving the signal.
A Record Stabilizing Ring (RSR) which rests on the periphery of the record, eliminates distortion a step further and improves the purity of the signal. View:
The Universal Record Stabilizing Ring.

AVOID ACOUSTICAL AND MECHANICAL FEEDBACK

If you live in a house/apartment with concrete floors, you can use an audio rack with spikes to support your turntable. If you want a good coupling make small holes in the carpet and place the spikes directly on the concrete. Always choose a 4-legged rack. A 3-legged one will not give firm support to amplifiers, players and turntables because on the side where there is only one leg, the corners of the shelves will not be supported and will have a resonance (bending mode). Avoid glass shelves. Have shelves made of plywood or just use chipboard which has a make believe plastic veneer or similar pattern. That is in my view a good material. I myself do not use MDF because of its uneven frequency characteristic. Furthermore it stops the sound energy instead of dissipating it. (Do not use MDF for loudspeaker cabinets either, unless you glue three or four layers together for the baffle of the cabinet and brace the inside walls of the cabinet.) If you do not have a concrete floor, you can have a special shelf mounted on the wall (with strong bolts). Do not use more than one decoupling device. Do not stack cones, rubber feet, etc. If you have a turntable with a suspended sub chassis (Thorens, Linn, etc.) do not put the base on another spring or rubber insulator. Couple the table directly to the shelf.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR RECORDS

To get the best quality of reproduction it is imperative to take care of the records. That is why records need cleaning from time to time. If you do not have access to a professional Keith Monks Record Cleaning Machine, which provides the most efficient way to safely clean records, you can buy a DISCO ANTISTAT, with which you bathe and brush the two sides of the record and then let the record dry. If you use the cleaning liquid for which you will read the recipe at the bottom of this page, the results will be very effective. After cleaning and drying put each and every record in a clean inner sleeve If you are handy you also can repair the covers to a certain extend and also clean them. See: Record Cleaning.

LONG LIVE VINYL

Install the record player in such a way that you can easily access and use it, that is: low enough not to scratch a disc when putting it on the platter. Always look at the record when putting the record on the platter, lowering and lifting the arm and taking the record off after play. Never look away, but concentrate on what you are doing. This will diminish the risk of damaging the record. Also keep the records as clean and dust free as possible. Fingerprints, dust and grease are the enemies of your records... and of your ears.

All these measures do not only give maximal enjoyment but will also result in a longer life of the diamond tip of the cartridge. By using good equipment the record will keep its current quality, even after many hundreds of playings and for another hundred years!

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Want to know the technical specifications of cartridges?

Go check this CARTRIDGE DATABASE.

Not for all cartridges in this database the pF (capacitance) values of the MM cartridges are given. The best way is to determine the best match with a specific (pre-)amplifier of which you have the specifications of the Phono Input and add it to the capacitance of the phono cable you use. If necessary choose a cable with less capacitance or a cable with a higher pF.

 


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© Rudolf A. Bruil - Page first published on the www in 1998, and updated since.


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Audio&Music Bulletin - Rudolf A. Bruil, Editor - Copyright 1998-2010 by Rudolf A. Bruil and co-authors