A turntable cartridge alignment can be a challenge that requires a little patience. The first step is to ensure that the cartridge’s screws are loose enough so that the stylus tip lands in the gauge. The body of the cartridge should be square to the headshell, and the cantilever should align with the gauge’s lines once this is achieved.

Leif Johannsen explains how to set up and align a phono cartridge on a turntable.

Changing your record player’s phono cartridge is the first step toward revamping its sound. There are a few factors to consider before replacing the cartridge, even though it may seem easy. Sound quality can be greatly affected by the type of cartridge you choose.

Setting a cartridge’s VTA.

It is possible to adjust the VTA on a cartridge in several ways. Place the stylus parallel to the record surface at the bottom of the cartridge as a first step. Furthermore, the tonearm should be positioned on its tonearm rest. Setting the nominal VTA can be done using this method.

Adjusting the vertical tracking angle is another option. This adjustment will prevent excessive downforce from causing the stylus to lose contact with the record surface. Cartridge manufacturers usually specify a range of recommended values for the VTA, which should be adjusted accordingly.

The VTA of a cartridge must be set in order to achieve the highest resolution possible. The lowest possible amount of noise will be produced when reproducing deep, rich sounds. Since different cartridges come with different heights, you can adjust the VTA when you change the cartridge.

Test records or gauges can be used to set a cartridge’s VTA. A zero-balancing arm is also available for tracking weight, providing a reference point. It is also possible to adjust the counterweight of the cartridge arm. Using this feature, you can move the headshell closer or farther away from it. It is possible to achieve virtual weightlessness by doing so.

SRA can also be adjusted to set a cartridge’s VTA. In order to determine the most effective setting, a series of passes is performed. Tonearms usually need to be elevated or lowered a few centimeters to sound best. Then, you should listen for the “sweet spot” and make adjustments as needed.

The VTA function in Revamp Sound allows you to adjust the VTA of a cartridge. Make sure the stylus is properly installed in order to accomplish this. Make sure the internal generator is aligned properly as well. It is possible for the cartridge to tip if the VTA is not aligned.

It’s easy to make a big difference when listening to music by adjusting the VTA simply. The tonearm’s treble can be adjusted this way. Bass can also be improved by adjusting the VTA of a tonearm. Ask a professional for help if you’re having trouble setting these up.

Choosing a stylus shape

You can improve your listening experience by choosing a stylus shape for your turntable. In addition to spherical and conical shapes, there are bi-radials, linear contact, and Shibata shapes. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A stylus with a larger surface area in contact with vinyl will produce a better sound. If you want to play your turntable properly, you must align your tonearm and cartridge properly. This stylus type tends to wear out more quickly.

Protractors are useful for fine-tuning the angle and position of the stylus. It simplifies and improves the accuracy of the task. A protractor can be used to align a cheaper stylus, while a more expensive stylus may require some more precise adjustments. In MM cartridges, spherical styli are usually the best option, while line contact styli are usually used in higher-end MC cartridges.

It is possible to improve the sound of a cartridge by changing the needle head’s shape. It is possible to replace the entire turntable cartridge with a different one, but the stylus shape is the main difference. Spherical cartridges require a different needle shape, whereas Line Contact styli can improve your turntable’s sound.

Vinyl records also require a stylus shape to be chosen. It is possible to damage a record if the stylus is shaped incorrectly. After each side of an LP, you should clean the stylus. It is best to avoid the use of diamond dust because it can cause the stylus to grate. Also, a stylus with a more expensive shape will be less likely to wear out grooves.

A stylus can come in a variety of shapes, and you should consider them all before selecting one. Be sure to check the specs on all of these before making your final decision, including the Audio Technica MicroLine, Shure MicroRidge, Dynavector, and JICO SAS.

Shibata styluses have elliptical shapes. By using this shape, the stylus can read groove walls in areas that are not contacted by simpler shapes. Meanwhile, Van Den Hull styluses are complex asymmetrical shapes that can mimic vinyl cutter heads. Despite its higher price, audiophiles who value their records will be pleased with the Shibata.

Adjusting a cartridge’s azimuth

To achieve optimal stereo imaging, turntable cartridge angles must be adjusted. A cartridge positioned at the wrong angle causes left and right channel signals to leak into one another, resulting in significantly poorer audio quality. Tonearm manufacturers provide an azimuth-setting tool that you can use to fix this problem.

Aligning the turntable cartridge with the record surface is the first step in adjusting the azimuth. The cartridge should be aligned parallel to the surface, to begin with. 

Using this method, you will be able to adjust the angle in the most subtle way possible. After the cartridge is centered and parallel to the record surface, you can adjust the azimuth by moving it slightly.

A turntable cartridge’s azimuth can be adjusted by checking the tracking force next. When the Hi-Fi cartridge is vertical, this force is exerted. Each cartridge has a tracking force specification set by the manufacturer. The number eighteen on a graduated ring corresponds to a 1.8 g tracking force.

Adjust the stylus and cantilever alignment once you have determined the azimuth angle. A 45-degree angle should also be maintained between the stylus and the cantilever. Stylus alignment will not be accurate if the cantilever is not straight.

A 3dB improvement can be achieved when the zenith angle is correct. By reducing the zenith angle by 5%, the IMD% can also be reduced. As well as narrowing crosstalk, the angle can also reduce noise. You can even narrow it down to 0.5 dB with fine adjustments.

Getting your turntable cartridge aligned correctly is the first step in improving its performance. It is an important step that can make a significant difference in the quality of your records' sound. Don’t forget that alignment isn’t easy. Aligning gauges is necessary to ensure the best alignment.

After adjusting the overhang of the cartridge, the next step is to adjust the cartridge itself. A stylus overhang refers to the distance between the tip of the stylus and the center spindle. It is possible to adjust the protractor by observing the tip of the stylus with its guidelines while it is placed on the platter. Don’t overtighten or under-tighten the screws.

How to Align a Turntable Cartridge

While aligning a cartridge on a turntable, several factors should be considered. Pivoting the tonearm, anti-skating force, and Baerwald’s two-point alignment are three factors to consider. For proper alignment, a cartridge must be twisted side-to-side and moved forward.

Pivoted tonearm

It is possible to adjust pivoting tonearms in order to ensure accurate cartridge alignment. It is essential to make this adjustment for accurate turntable playback. Tonearm adjustment requires consideration of several factors. For example, mounting distances (the distance between the pivot and the platter spindle) and offset angles (the angle between the cartridge cantilever and the pivot to the line of the stylus) must be considered. Additionally, pivoting tonearms have an overhang, which is the distance between the stylus and the platter’s spindle.

Related: How To Test Phono Cartridge With Multimeter

The length of the cartridge must be known before adjusting a tonearm. Tonearms are often referred to as the “pinnacle” of turntables since they are the main component. For accurate geometric alignment, the distance from the pivot to the needle-point of the tonearm must be measured.

When you have identified the pivot angle, use a protractor with a two-point system to determine the cartridge’s exact position. You will be able to avoid trial and error in the alignment process this way. Aligning angles can be done with a straightedge and a protractor.

Tonearms that pivot can also be adjusted to achieve optimal alignment if they are positioned in the same direction. An inaccurate alignment will occur if you have a skewed tonearm. Stylus alignment will be crooked and unaligned with a skewed tonearm.

Read: Understand Odd Wiring of ADC cartridge In AR Turntable Headshell

Talha Anjum
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