Turntable Set-Up Guide
|Posted on April 30, 2017 at 7:30 PM|
Learn how to setup your own turntable following this seven (7) simple steps, to extract maximum performance from your equipment. At FormatoAnalogo.com we think that anyone serious about analog audio should know how to configure his or her turntable.
#1 Install the Cartridge on the Tonearm
Probably the most tedious part of the process is fixing the cartridge to the tonearm. You must be very care full not to damage or bend your cartridge cantilever and stylus, this is the part of the cartridge that gets in contact with the vinyl record. Correct installation and alignment is critical to reduce distortion, tracking error and record ware.
Before starting to work on your turntable, remove any arm and hand jewelry. As well, avoid long sleeves.
Mount the cartridge on your tonearm head shell with the manufacture provided hardware. If your tonearm has a removable head shell, mount your cartridge with the head shell uninstalled. This will reduce the stress on the tonearm pivot points and the chance of damages.
To fine tune your turntable sound you may try different mounting hardware material. This may have an effect in your cartridge and tonearm resonance point, resulting in a variation in sound.
Remember to check for your cartridge and tonearm compatibility before installing. You need to look for your cartridge and tonearm total mass and cartridge compliance to assure proper operation.
When connecting your tonearm leads to the cartridge be cautious not to stress the connections as they may break. Correspondingly, you need to make sure they are firm and secure, loose connection may cause noise and distortion.
Follow your manufacture instruction for correct cartridge leads connection color coding and order, this are the colors denotations:
Red = Positive
Green = Neutral
White = Positive
Blue = Neutral
#2 Vertical Tracking Force “VTF” Adjustment
VTF is the amount of force or pressure the cartridge places on the vinyl record. It needs to be set correctly to ensure proper compression of the cartridge suspension. Failure to do so will reduce the sound dynamic range. To adjust, simply balance your tonearm with the supplied balance weight and then moved inward or outward to obtain desired force. Always start with the manufacture recommended weight and slightly tune as you like. Consider buying a commercially available digital stylus force gauge for a precise adjustment.
#3 Leveling the Turntable
The turntable should be place on a solid and rigid surface, that helps avoid feedback due to ambient and music vibrations that may reach the cartridge, and negatively affect sound. Leveling the turntable will reduce the effect of gravity on the platter rotation speed and tonearm bias.
#4 Use a protractor design for your tonearm to correctly align your cartridge.
The vinyl record master is cut horizontally this means there is always distortion with a cartridge mounted on a tangential tonearm. The trick is to reduce this distortion with correct alignment and offset. If done right, groove and surface noise will be reduced, and music will have a greater sense of space and dynamics.
Correct cartridge geometry is primordial for maximum sound performance. This geometry is dictated by the effective arm length (the distance between the platter spindle and the tonearm pivot point, plus the tonearm overhang). Most manufactures provide a protractor with their turntable, if not, you may look for a template online or buy a commercially available one.
If uncomfortable performing this procedure please contact a dealer or professional for help.
Remember to recheck the VTF as it may change due to cartridge adjustment.
#5 Azimuth Adjustment
Azimuth is the stylus horizontal angle, as seen from the front, in relation to the vinyl record surface. Without a correct azimuth setting, the electrical output from the cartridge’s two generators will be unequal (when reproducing a signal with equal amplitude in both channels). This will result in a channel imbalance and a shift of the soundstage to either the left or right.
Please note that not all tonearms provide for azimuth adjustment, Rega tonearms is an example. Please refer to your tonearm manufacture instructions before doing any adjustments.
The basic way to adjusting azimuth is to visually estimate if the cartridge body is parallel to vinyl record, and adjust as necessary. This procedure may get you in the ballpark, but it will not account for manufacturing tolerance deviations which can affect channel balance.
A more advance and reliable way to adjust your azimuth is to use an artefact like the Fozgometer made by Musical Surroundings. It lets you measure channel output on the fly, for easy adjustment and optimization.
You will need a test record with discrete (right and left) test signal, and out of face, or null test signal, such as The Ultimate Analogue Test LP (AAPT / Analogue Productions) Using the Fozgometer to measure, you will adjust your azimuth until the same output is attain from both channels. You can confirm proper balance with the null test signal, when measured there should be no output, as both channel should cancel out.
Make sure to properly calibrate the Fozgomiter (Refer to the manufacture provided instructions) before your first use, or you may obtain incorrect results. In addition, remember to recheck the VTF as it may change due to cartridge adjustment.
#6 Vertical Tracking Angel “VTA”
VTA is the stylus vertical angel, as seen from the side, in relation to the vinyl record. This parameter may be adjusted by raising or lowering your tonearm base. As with azimuth some tonearms don’t provide for VTA adjustment, again, Rega tonearms is an example. Please refer to your tonearm manufacture instructions before doing any adjustments.
The idea is to set the angle of the cantilever relative to the record surface to closely approximate that of the original cutter head. As with all other parameters you need to keep in mind that lowering or raising your tonearm will change the physical interaction between cartridge and record, equally, changing the sound.
A starting point, is to set your arm tube parallel to the platter, while resting on the record surface. This may be hard to accomplish with tempered arms, but do your best. If the cartridge manufacturer angled the cantilever at approximately 22 degrees to the horizontal, then setting the arm tube parallel to the record surface should be adequate. Unfortunately, cantilevers are not always angled correctly, so setting the arm tube parallel to the record surface may not result in the correct setting. Adding to the complexity, not all records are the same height, resulting in a VTA variation from record to record.
Setting VTA is a compromise, it is best set by experimenting with different settings and settle on the one that sounds best to the ear. If you want to experiment with various VTA settings, keep in mind that setting the VTA too high will cause the high frequencies to be accentuated, resulting in a bright sound. Whereas, setting the VTA too low will cause the low frequencies to be accentuated, resulting in a bass heavy sound. A correct setting will reduce groove and surface noise, and music will have a balance presentation.
Now is an appropriate time to recheck all your previous settings, to make sure they have not change, and readjust as necessary
#7 Anti-Skate Adjustment
Anti-skate is an effort to counteract the skating force that tends to draw the tonearm/cartridge towards the center of the record when the cartridge is mounted in an offset head shell. This force can produce distortion and, uneven, and premature, wear of the walls of the record groove and stylus.
Unfortunately, this setting is another compromise as this force varies continuously across the surface of the record. Most tonearms contain some sort of mechanism that applies a force in the opposite direction of the skating force with approximately equal magnitude. Please refer to your tonearm manufacture instructions before doing any adjustments.
Undestanding turntable anti-skate is not easy, a basic recommendation is to set anti-skate equal to your VTF. As example if you VTF is 1.5 grams you will set your anti skate accordingly.
An alternative is to use a test record. By adjusting the amount of anti-skate until the Bias Setting tracks on The Ultimate Analogue Test LP produce a clean, undistorted signal in both channels. Buzzing in the right channel indicates that more anti-skating force is required, whereas buzzing in the left channel indicates that less anti-skating force is required.
Now you may recheck all your previous settings for the last time, to make sure they have not change and readjust as necessary. You may have notice that each step influences the previous one, making this a trial and error process. With time practice and experience will improve your results.
Congratulations! If you had correctly follow all the steps, you now have a good sounding turntable were to enjoy your records for a long time. As you continue listening to your set up make minor adjustment until satisfied with the result, remember there is not a perfect setting so try not to stress it too much. You may periodically recheck your settings to make sure everything is in order. Then sit back, relax and enjoy your vinyl record collection.
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