Monday, November 14, 2005

Tonearm Controls

Tuning the turntable is quite a time consuming task with so many rituals to perform. What is shown in the photo are the basic tonearm controls on my Technics SL-1210 MK2 turntable.

Adjustments made on the counterweight of the tonearm counterbalances the weight of the arm and the cartridge. The use of a tracking force gauge is indispensable here but you can blindly do away with it if you know your cartridge’s recommended weight which is now readily available thru the internet. This can be done by doing your calibration on the counterweight dial which should be properly set to defeat the tonearm’s anti-skate mechanism which is initially set at zero. If you do not have a tracking force gauge, but the arm does have a calibrated counterweight, defeat the arm’s anti-skate or set it to zero or whatever setting you have in your anti-skate mechanism control.

Another control that requires tweaking is the Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) adjuster which calibrates the arm height. Altering the height means increasing or decreasing the tracking force on the vinyl grooves which may, of course, produce a different result not only in terms of sonics but also on the wear and tear of the vinyl record. More height means more pressure applied on the grooves by the touching stylus and vice versa. The more pressure on the weight applied by the stylus also produces a bigger sound and the lesser weight means shallow bass, muddy lows, dull sound or harsh midrange. Tune according to what you hear while playing and listening to your most familiar music. If the tracking force is too light, you’ll need to raise the VTA to achieve a deeper bass and more detailed presentation of your music but doing so will accelerate the wear and tear of your favorite vinyl record.

Adjusting the anti-skate mechanism opposes and balances the force of the natural inward drag of a pivoting arm while playing. If not corrected, the stylus will produce a so-called inner groove distortion which is what happens when the stylus would have the tendency to push up against the inner groove wall, thus, the distortion is the result of mistracking while the record is rotating or playing. The anti-skate force is properly set if the arm would no longer sway towards the spindle or the label of the record and if it would stand still while tracking the vinyl grooves when playing. The safest approach to this tuning process is to increase antiskate force until the arm starts to slowly drift outward or away from the record label.

Individual adjustments made on these three controls mentioned would produce a change in sound so an optimization usually depends on the ears of the listener.

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1 comment:

Eric said...

i've spent a while tonight looking for a owner's manual for an old MCS 6602 turntable and couldn't find anything. this is the first site that i found that described the tonearm controls at a good level of detail for a novice like me. thanks.