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How to adjust a vinyl record player

How to adjust a vinyl record player

A vinyl record player is a wonderful analog audio playback device. As for many mechanical devices, it requires some adjustments before the first use, after the replacement of a part or periodically, according to the usage.

Many adjustments can be done by any user, but some should only be carried out by an experienced user or qualified technicians.

Adjustments achievable by all:

1. Get the record player levelled

This may sound simplistic, but having a turntable at level is often underestimated, although it is essential for a smooth and precise operation and the preservation of records.

This adjustment is simple: using a level, check the positioning of the turntable on the axis of the width and depth, then adjust the height of the legs of the furniture or add wood slats under it until the turntable is at level.

On some models, it is possible to adjust the feet in order to get the device at level.

2. Calibrate the tonearm

It is important to have the tone arm of a record player calibrated, either before the first use, after moving the device or after replacing the cartridge, even if it is the same model.

The calibration of the tonearm is done by displacing a counterweight behind the pivot, according to the specifications by the manufacturer of the phono cartridge - the component that holds the stylus. This adjustment leads to the application of the ideal tracking force of the stylus on the record. In general, the optimal calibration of the tonearm is set between 1.5 and 2 grams of tracking force.

To proceed with the tonearm adjustment:

- Unlock and remove the tonearm from the armrest.

- Move the counterweight so the arm gets horizontally balanced.

- Align the graduated dial near the counterweight at "zero" position, without touching the counterweight.

- Position and lock the tonearm on the armrest.

- Move the graduated dial and the counterweight to the mark specified by the phono cartridge manufacturer.

On several record players, the tone arm has a graduated dial for positioning the counterweight, but this is rarely found on high-end tonearms. In this case, a mechanical or electronic balance must be used to calibrate the tone arm.

3. Adjust the anti-skating

During the use of a record player, the inner face of the groove exerts pressure on the stylus. This phenomenon, a form of drifting, is called "skating."

According to the model of record player, the anti-skating involves adjusting a graduated dial that moves a spring, a magnet or a fixed counterweight, or by moving a counterweight, suspended by a nylon thread, on a lever arm with graduated notches.

The adjustment value of the anti-skating, in grams, is the same as the one used to adjust the tone arm.

4. Correct the pitch

On some record players equipped with a direct-drive mechanism, it is possible to correct the playback speed, or “pitch”. Record players used by DJs are usually equipped with such pitch control.

By using a stroboscope calibrated at 60 hertz and a disc specially made for this purpose, moves the pitch control back or forth until the bars drawn on the disc are aligned under the light of the stroboscope.

Adjustments by experts or qualified technicians:

Some adjustments are rather complex and must only be performed by people who have some experience or by certified technicians, due to a high risk of failure which could require repairs or even make a record player useless.

For example, some mid-end or high-end record players are sold without a tonearm. To position the tonearm on the plinth, a template must be used to drill a hole at the right place. This can lead to disastrous consequences if the person has little experience. Since this step is irreversible, it is best to rely on a qualified technician.

Another challenging task is to set the height of the tonearm on the plinth, because the angle of the arm should be neither too low, nor too sharp. Some tonearms have a mechanism to adjust the height, but the task usually requires the intervention of an experts.

Finally, the replacement of the drive belt that became too elastic or the repair or replacement of the motor should be entrusted to a technician.

At the purchase of a record player at Audiophile Experts, our technicians will take care of the installation of components as the complex adjustments. When you install your new device at home, all you will have to do is to make sure that the unit is levelled.

At least once a year, or when replacing the cartridge, apply the first series of adjustments we mentioned above. Your record player will sound better and you will prevent the wear of your vinyls.