How to use a record player (turntable)
It is needed to spend a little time to achieve great sound.
Before you start listening to vinyl records and fully plunge into the world of analog sound, you need to tune the player. Remember that a turntable, despite its seeming technological simplicity, is actually a very sensitive device. For optimal sound and trouble-free operation, your turntable requires a permanent and fixed place in your apartment or home. Vinyl doesn’t like transportation.
Step 1. Setting the level of the player
How to use a record player? After installing the record player, you need to set the optimum device level. The faceplate (the disc on which the records are placed) must be placed strictly horizontally. The main assistant in this will be a building level of the “cross” type, or an iPhone with the Compass application running, open on the Level tab.
Adjustment can be made using the feet of the player, twisting them in height. Please note that you should measure the level of deviation from the “ideal horizon” not only on the faceplate, but also at several points of the deck itself:
As soon as the level shows a strictly horizontal position, proceed to the next stage.
Step 2. Cartridge setup
Each cartridge must go through a presetting procedure just before use. The area and angle of its contact with the tracks of the plate, and, accordingly, the depth, saturation and frequency characteristics of the sound being removed, depend on how the sound-producing record player needle will be located.
While needle alignment can be accomplished using a standard ruler, a professional protractor is available to properly align the cartridge. The optimum stylus-to-stem distance is 50 mm.
To adjust the stylus level, there are two mounting screws on the cartridge (depending on the model). By loosening them a little, you can move the carriage. With the needle set at 50 mm, fix the pressure screws.
The next important point is to correctly set the azimuth of the cartridge. For this procedure, we need a mirror.
- Place the mirror on the faceplate.
- Move the tonearm and lower the cartridge onto the mirror.
- Pay attention to the fact that the head lies strictly perpendicular.
Pay attention to the tonearm to adjust the azimuth. There are mounting screws at the base of the cartridge on the bottom of the arm. After loosening them, turn the cartridge so that the angle between the stylus and the faceplate (mirror) is 90 degrees.
Azimuth adjustment is also provided in some models of pickups. In this case, there is no need to adjust the azimuth with the tonearm.
Step 3. Tuning the tonearm
One of the most important elements of any turntable is the tonearm. Its job is to hold the pickup over the vinyl record and move the cartridge smoothly during playback. The final sound depends on the correct tuning of the tonearm, because it is the tonearm that transmits the signal from the pickup to the phono stage.
To adjust the lateral tracking angle of the tonearm, you will need to print a paper template. When printing, be careful: the test line must be exactly 180 mm. The values 60.325 and 117.42 are actually the required distance in millimeters from the center of the spindle to the near and far points of the needle insertion (cross on the mesh). Check these values when printing.
The black dot area is for setting the pattern to the turntable spindle. Having put the template on the spindle, we proceed to the setup.
- Place the needle on the strictly central point of intersection of the lines, first on the far area of the grid (the one closer to the edge of the plate).
- Pay attention to the position of the head relative to the net. The head should be strictly parallel.
- Move the cartridge to the nearest area of the grille (the one closest to the center of the record).
- Make sure the head is also parallel to the template lines.
In case the head is not parallel to the marking lines of the template, loosen the two fixing head screws (located on the cartridge) and install them at the correct angle.
When positioning the tonearm, another task is to determine the optimal level of its pressure (downforce) on the surface of the record. The permissible weight range is always indicated either in the instruction manual of the turntable, or separately in the passport characteristics of the cartridge. The size of the measurement is grams, which usually ranges from 1-2.5 grams. To set the tonearm tracking force, you need to:
- Set the anti-skate to 0 (the pivoting horizontal graduated wheel at the base of the arm).
- Lower the tonearm and use the weights to adjust it to the “free flight” position. In this case, the cartridge should be parallel to the deck of the turntable, not rising or falling down.
- Set the adjustment ring at the base of the weights (vertical ring) to 0.
- Place the tonearm on the holder.
- On the control ring, turning it clockwise, set the value corresponding to the nameplate characteristics of the cartridge.
To control the downforce, you can also use special scales that ensure the accuracy of readings up to a hundredth of a gram.
In accordance with the set downforce, the anti-skating value must also be set. Anti-skating is a special counterbalance system that prevents the pickup from moving inadvertently due to centrifugal force.
By default, the antisketting value is equal to the tracking force value. For more fine tuning, it is advisable to use a special laser disk.
With the laser disc in place, start the turntable and lower the tonearm with sound head onto the surface of the disc. Head offset is corrected by turning the anti-skating knob. Achieve a level of anti-skating so that the head does not move to the side as the disc rotates.
Step 4. Setting the needle tracking angle
All vinyl records are recorded strictly at a certain angle. The cutting angle is traditionally 20 degrees (old inserts have an angle of 15 degrees). To reproduce sound with minimal distortion, the cartridge must be correctly aligned. It should be located strictly parallel to the plate.
To adjust, you need a special bubble level, which we used when leveling the player, but much smaller.
- Install the record and move the tonearm.
- Lower the pickup head onto the record.
- Place the bubble level on the cartridge.
- Using the adjusting screws for the arm support, adjust the height to “perfectly parallel” the head.
Some turntable models do not have an adjustable arm height. Instead, the manufacturer specifies the optimum cartridges that match the parallel arm setting.
This completes the setup of the turntable.
Happy tuning and enjoy your listening!