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PorkPieGuy 01-11-2016 01:59 PM

Calibrating a tone arm on a turntable
 
Please, please, please don't make me go back and join audiophile message boards!


Ok, so I got my stereo set up and running last week.

Here are pictures of the same make/model of turntable and stylus:

http://img.usaudiomart.com/uploads/l..._turntable.jpg


http://cdn.shure.com/product/main_im...mg_m97xe_l.jpg


So, I adjusted everything as to how I was told to by the guy at the vintage electronics place. Basically, he said install the the cartridge on the headshell, balance the tonearm where it's parallel with platter, then add just enough weight to where the needle touches the record, and that should do it.

But when I got it hooked up, it totally sounded like cr@p. Everything was sort of distorted and just sounded bad. I tried multiple records, and everything sounded pretty terrible. My CDs sound great, so I knew it had something to do with my record player, and not the actual sound system. So, I have this brand new Nora Jones record that sounded the worst, so I decided to experiment with some calibrations just using my ears. I read online that distortion may mean that there's not enough pressure on the needle, so I'd play the Jones record, and I'd add just a little bit of weight adjustment from the back of the tone arm. Sure enough, some of the distortion went away. I did it again, and yup, better results. I kept doing it until the distortion totally went away. I just kept adding it very, very slow increments. Not only does the Nora Jones record sound amazing, so does everything else!

So I did some reading this afternoon, and sure enough, I have the spring-loaded stabilizer engaged on the cartridge. From what I've read, the stabilizer actually takes away 0.5 grams of weight, so that's why the needle felt too "light" on the record and made them distort.

In essence, I have no idea how much weight I have on it. In addition, this record player is from 1987, and who knows if the numbers on the tone arm are even that accurate anymore. I adjusted by sound as opposed to numbers, and I adjusted until it sounded good.

For those of you that listen to records, did you ever have to make adjustments to make things work the way that they are supposed to, even if it's outside of the weight recommendations?

Here's the stabilizer in place (not my picture):

http://i117.photobucket.com/albums/o...5/P1100922.jpg

RodB 01-11-2016 02:26 PM

It's been a long while since I used mine, but just the other day I got it back out of the shed to sort out again. What I remember is that If you look up the cartridge spec there will be a tracking weight (like 0.75 to 1.5 grams). Balance the arm as advised then add the amount of tracking weight, which should be in this range and will depend on how the arm responds, given it's support and mass. Lightest gives least wear of record, but requires good tracking, the deck manufacturer might state minimum tracking weight if you have this info. With the brush in place you should add 0.5 gram to this. Hopefully also within this range..

Hope this helps...

TaoMaas 01-11-2016 02:56 PM

It's been a long time since I'm had to balance a tone arm, but I remember things the way Rod stated. You balance the tone arm until it's parallel to the record. That establishes were zero is. Then dial in whatever weight your cartridge is supposed to track at.

SFCRetired 01-11-2016 03:05 PM

All arms are different. I had a Pioneer that tracked with rails and went straight across the back at a 90 degree angle so there was zero friction on the album and from my recollection you balanced it at 2.5 grams, which I thought was a lot back then compared to other turntables. Like a moron I gave it away along with my collection of over 300 albums when I decided to grab onto the new.

However 1.5 should get you close. I would do as much research on it as possible though because like I said, most turntables are different. However 1.5 should get you headed in the right direction.

RustyZombie 01-11-2016 03:09 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy (Post 4784724)
Please, please, please don't make me go back and join audiophile message boards!

The audiophile in me said "why isn't he using a digital source?" when I read the thread title. Then I saw the first sentence of your post and had to laugh at myself. :D

Borderdon 01-11-2016 03:32 PM

To achieve maximum performance from any given cartridge/tone arm system, don't forget to make sure to use an alignment protractor to properly locate the
cartridge in the head shell, relative to the record playing surface.
You can download a free protractor from the vinylengine.com
After this easy operation is completed, you can then go ahead and set the arm height, followed by the tracking force as per the manufacturers spec's.
(- if your arm is height adjustable)
Otherwise, it's gonna sound like a cactus needle dragged over a rusty pie plate !

Haasome 01-11-2016 03:44 PM

This might be a dumb question, but is there a fine-tune speed adjustment on that model? I remember the ones I used to have had like a series of lights around the perimeter of the table and you adjusted the speed until they were stable.

PorkPieGuy 01-11-2016 04:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Haasome (Post 4784860)
This might be a dumb question, but is there a fine-tune speed adjustment on that model? I remember the ones I used to have had like a series of lights around the perimeter of the table and you adjusted the speed until they were stable.

There is, but I have it sort of tucked away on a shelf. I can't see what it's set on without pulling it out, but I'll probably check out where it's actually set this week sometime.

Dr. Spivey 01-11-2016 04:23 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Borderdon (Post 4784845)
To achieve maximum performance from any given cartridge/tone arm system, don't forget to make sure to use an alignment protractor to properly locate the
cartridge in the head shell, relative to the record playing surface.
You can download a free protractor from the vinylengine.com
After this easy operation is completed, you can then go ahead and set the arm height, followed by the tracking force as per the manufacturers spec's.
(- if your arm is height adjustable)
Otherwise, it's gonna sound like a cactus needle dragged over a rusty pie plate !

This.

You really should go to Vinyl Engine and join. Ask the same questions there. There are no doubt people familiar with that exact turntable, who can give you great advice. I'm not at all familiar with Yamaha turntables, so that's the best advice I have.

http://www.vinylengine.com/

seannx 01-11-2016 06:03 PM

Calibrating a tone arm on a turntable
 
My old AR 15 turntable came with a little plastic scale. It was easy to adjust the weight of the stylus on the record. Have you tried to locate instructions for your turntable model?

Long Jon 01-11-2016 09:06 PM

Sorry PPG. I couldn't tell you the exact weight, as American coins are different from ours, but it's approximately a penny in our old money IIRC !

So maybe try a nickel (?) first and move up from there in careful increments .... :lol:


Dr. Spivey 01-11-2016 10:42 PM

I reread the OP and have a little more time now.

You're correct in assuming the weight markings could be incorrect. A lot of them were way off when new. The Shure Stylus Force gauge has been around for decades. It's a simple, reasonably accurate tool that should suit your needs.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00006I5SD/...l_3va2m4fuxd_e

A turntable needs to be "set up" for optimal results, much like a guitar. Some tables have many things that can be checked and adjusted, others do not. Some tables without adjustments can be tweaked in other ways.

Not all cartridges perform their best on all tonearms. The weight or mass of the arm dictates which cartridges would be the best choice. The "wrong" cartridge will still produce sound, but it may produce poor sound, excessive record wear or premature wear on the cartridge or stylus.

Most older consumer level tables were designed to be plug and play. Some were better than others in that regard. Luck was a big factor, which is why CD killed vinyl.

The Shure cartridge you have should work, it's designed to compensate for mismatched cartridge/tonearm combinations. You should be able to get sound that is acceptable to very good from it.

The folks at Vinyl Engine are really helpful at diagnosing these things. I don't want to scare you off with a bunch of technical stuff, but you're going to have to deal with it. Best of luck.

PorkPieGuy 01-12-2016 06:05 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dr. Spivey (Post 4785278)

The Shure cartridge you have should work, it's designed to compensate for mismatched cartridge/tonearm combinations. You should be able to get sound that is acceptable to very good from it.

The folks at Vinyl Engine are really helpful at diagnosing these things. I don't want to scare you off with a bunch of technical stuff, but you're going to have to deal with it. Best of luck.

Thanks Doc. I will have to say that I have one record that certainly has peaks and valleys in it while it's spinning, and I swear that stabilizer is the only reason why it plays. If I have other pressing questions, I'll definitely look at Vinyl Engine.

Thanks again everyone! :)

TaoMaas 01-12-2016 06:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Long Jon (Post 4785213)
I couldn't tell you the exact weight, as American coins are different from ours, but it's approximately a penny in our old money IIRC !

So maybe try a nickel (?) first and move up from there in careful increments .... :lol:

OMG...Do NOT do this...unless you're playing an album you borrowed from your buddy. ;)

Borderdon 01-12-2016 07:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TaoMaas (Post 4785420)
OMG...Do NOT do this...unless you're playing an album you borrowed from your buddy. ;)

Agreed. Adding weight to a headshell so the stylus can stay in the groove is not a solution the designer anticipated.

MikeBmusic 01-12-2016 07:47 AM

All my 80s-era turntables had a weight dial on the back end of the tonearm. You turn it until the arm floats, then dial in the desired pressure weight by using the markings (1/4 gram, or 1/10 gram markings).

matt986 01-12-2016 08:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Borderdon (Post 4784845)
To achieve maximum performance from any given cartridge/tone arm system, don't forget to make sure to use an alignment protractor to properly locate the
cartridge in the head shell, relative to the record playing surface.
You can download a free protractor from the vinylengine.com
After this easy operation is completed, you can then go ahead and set the arm height, followed by the tracking force as per the manufacturers spec's.
(- if your arm is height adjustable)
Otherwise, it's gonna sound like a cactus needle dragged over a rusty pie plate !

All of this plus make sure that your turntable is sitting level. I use a small bubble level and adjust the feet to get it level both front to back and side to side.

Herb Hunter 01-12-2016 08:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy (Post 4784724)
Please, please, please don't make me go back and join audiophile message boards!

Ok, so I got my stereo set up and running last week.

So, I adjusted everything as to how I was told to by the guy at the vintage electronics place. Basically, he said install the the cartridge on the headshell, balance the tonearm where it's parallel with platter, then add just enough weight to where the needle touches the record, and that should do it.

But when I got it hooked up, it totally sounded like cr@p. Everything was sort of distorted and just sounded bad.

Iím surprised by some of the responses to your post.

The vintage guy gave you bad or incomplete advice. Stylus cartridges are designed to operate at a specific pressure which is critical. If you balance the tonearm by first setting the dial to zero and then turn the counterweight until it is parallel with the platter then dial in, say, 1.5 grams of pressure you will be satisfied with the sound you get from your records. I mentioned 1.5 grams because it is likely that is the correct pressure for your Shure cartridge. Shure specified 0.75 to 1.5 grams for all the Shure cartridges Iíve used and it is better to err on the high side then the low side.

Two more things, if the stylus in your cartridge is elliptical, it is important to align the stylus; if it is conical, alignment is unnecessary. (elliptical styluses track high frequencies better but are more costly) If you bought a used turntable, the stylus may be worn and need replacing. Youíll need a low power microscope to see if the stylus is worn. If in doubt, I would replace the stylus.

A worn stylus, or one tracking grooves with insufficient pressure, will prematurely wear out you records.

Tone Gopher 01-12-2016 08:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Herb Hunter (Post 4785599)
The vintage guy gave you bad or incomplete advice. Stylus cartridges are designed to operate at a specific pressure which is critical. If you balance the tonearm by first setting the dial to zero and then turn the counterweight until it is parallel with the platter then dial in, say, 1.5 grams of pressure you will be satisfied with the sound you get from your records. I mentioned 1.5 grams because it is likely that is the correct pressure for your Shure cartridge. Shure specified 0.75 to 1.5 grams for all the Shure cartridges Iíve used and it is better to err on the high side then the low side.

Two more things, if the stylus in your cartridge is elliptical, it is important to align the stylus; if it is conical, alignment is unnecessary. (elliptical styluses track high frequencies better but are more costly) If you bought a used turntable, the stylus may be worn and need replacing. Youíll need a low power microscope to see if the stylus is worn. If in doubt, I would replace the stylus.

A worn stylus, or one tracking grooves with insufficient pressure, will prematurely wear out you records.

^^^ This ^^^

Your "stabilizer" is indeed neutering any calibration of the tone arm weight. Use a brush and cleaner if you need to, but lose the brush. Unless there has been some damage to the tone arm, there is little reason to believe that the calibration - with respect to the weight assembly markings - has changed.

If you really prefer to have a brush on the record, get one that habits an independent arm. Don't compromise your tone arm and cartridge.

Long Jon 01-12-2016 03:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TaoMaas (Post 4785420)
OMG...Do NOT do this...unless you're playing an album you borrowed from your buddy. ;)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Borderdon (Post 4785486)
Agreed. Adding weight to a headshell so the stylus can stay in the groove is not a solution the designer anticipated.

Chill fellahs ! I was pretty confident that PPG would not take my "advice" seriously for one second ! :lol:

Arthur Blake 01-12-2016 06:25 PM

Vintage electronics?
 
It took me many months to save up for a nice sound system in 1978, so I've been reluctant to get rid of it. JVC quartz, phase locked loop turntable, receiver with graphic equalizer and as I recall - low THD, plus four foot tall speaker enclosures with premium components.

Nice to know my old record player now may be "vintage electronics."

I dialed in the pressure on the tone arm with the rotating counterbalance years ago, and it's been fine ever since. Gram and a half sounds right.

Has been so long since I thought about this, - I remember having a a hard wood handle with a round velvet surface for cleaning records.

TaoMaas 01-13-2016 05:18 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Long Jon (Post 4786189)
Chill fellahs ! I was pretty confident that PPG would not take my "advice" seriously for one second ! :lol:

Yeah, I know. Your post actually made me laugh because I had friends who used to tape coins on the head of their tonearms. :lol:

PorkPieGuy 01-13-2016 06:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Arthur Blake (Post 4786373)

Has been so long since I thought about this, - I remember having a a hard wood handle with a round velvet surface for cleaning records.


Yup, I bought one of those too!

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/...iL._SY300_.jpg

YamaYairi 01-13-2016 06:24 AM

You also need a stylus cleaning brush. Clean the stylus after every side. Otherwise it will grind dirt into the grooves of the record and sound like crap. Take the arm out of the arm rest and let it drop next to the platter. Clean with a back to front motion, letting the weight of the arm be the only force on the brush. The best stylus cleaning brush was the old Discwasher stylus cleaner, but you can only buy those used on E-Bay now. You will need cleaning fluid, too.

PorkPieGuy 01-13-2016 06:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by YamaYairi (Post 4786727)
You also need a stylus cleaning brush.


A stylus cleaning brush came with the Shure cartridge I bought. :)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/...3L._SX300_.jpg

YamaYairi 01-13-2016 07:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy (Post 4786742)
A stylus cleaning brush came with the Shure cartridge I bought. :)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/...3L._SX300_.jpg

That will work, just be gentle with it. You can use alcohol as a cleaning fluid.

TaoMaas 01-14-2016 05:02 PM

Slightly off-topic, but when I visited my daughter this past summer, she was looking for a new stylus for her Crosley turntable system that her mom had given to her. We hit a few stores, but she didn't find what she was looking for. Later that day when we got back to her house, she tried to play an album to show me the problem with her system. I said, "Have you checked to see if there's any lint on your needle?" She said, "I don't think that's the problem, but okay." She checked...and sure enough, there was a huge ball of lint on the needle. She cleaned it off and said, "I doubt that was the problem"...then tried her record again. Lo and behold...it played great! lol She said, "Wow! I didn't know that could make that big of a difference. Okay, then...can you tell me what this thing is? I got it when I bought a bunch of albums at a garage sale." It was a record preener so I showed her how to use it and explained why it was needed. Along this same line, we were fixing supper earlier that week and while my wife was cooking, my daughter and I fixed the drinks. My daughter said, "I don't have an automatic ice-maker so I have to use these things"...and she got out a plastic ice cube tray. I held it over her ice cube bin, gave it a twist, and popped out the ice cubes. You would have thought that I had performed some kind of miracle! She said, "OMG! How did you do that? I've been beatin' the hell out of these things to get the ice cubes out!" :lol: Sometimes it's nice to know the old ways. :)

jseth 01-15-2016 10:49 PM

Ha!
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by PorkPieGuy (Post 4786722)

A few years ago, my older brother gave me all of his vinyl, as well as all his turntable accessories... and lo and behold! He had an original version of what your picture shows (Discwasher?), still in the wood grained cardboard box it came in, along with a separate big bottle of the fluid... the thing even has the instructions in the box! (My bro' is a bit compulsive/obsessive about some things!)

Had to laugh when I saw your picture...

VERY glad that someone brought up the terrible idea of using a coin on the tonearm... it will rip up the grooves of your records. However, I will say that, back in the late 60's, I was involved in a "business commune" where we made very high-quality 8 track tapes... part of the process involved getting a really good reel-to-reel tape copy at 15 ips.

Some vinyl just has anomalies, cracks and noise that are consistent within an entire pressing... to get a good copy of certain records or tracks within a record, we would sometimes use a dime on the tonearm of an AR turntable... only ONCE, though. With the additional weight of the dime, crackles and pops were largely negated, so a good recording could be made...

Otterhound 01-16-2016 05:24 AM

No phono cartridge worth it's salt has a mustache . There are numerous reasons for this .
If you are truly serious about keeping a stylus clean , ethel alcohol is what you should use . A great solvent that leaves zero residue . Nearly impossible to buy here in Pa without a license , but can be had in other states .
I am still using Ortophon cartridges .

Long Jon 01-16-2016 07:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Otterhound (Post 4790518)
No phono cartridge worth it's salt has a mustache . There are numerous reasons for this .
If you are truly serious about keeping a stylus clean , ethel alcohol is what you should use . A great solvent that leaves zero residue . Nearly impossible to buy here in Pa without a license , but can be had in other states .
I am still using Ortophon cartridges .

I can still buy a bottle in my local general store, but they rarely have a nice cold one these days ... ;)


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