Do you want to know how to balance a tonearm? Then this article is for you. Setting up the tracking force and balancing the tonearm is not as easy as it sounds. But this is one of the most important adjustments that will save both the needle and record of your turntable.
The first thing you would require is -“patience.” You need to be more careful and be focused when configuring the tonearm and counterweight. The method to balance tonearm may vary from device to device.
Some turntables come with pre-configured tonearm, some demand tonearm installation, and some just need to install the cartridge to the tonearm.
Hence it is recommended to configure the tonearm as per your turntable manufacturer’s prescribed. If you are one of the demanding music lovers, you will surely want to upgrade your turntable by changing its cartridge.
For this, you will have to adjust the tonearm of your record player. This is where we come in. We will provide all the necessary steps to adjust your turntable yourself as accurately as possible.
HOW TO BALANCE A TONEARM – BASICS TO CATCH UP
If you are a beginner, make sure you are familiar with these terms. The force exerted on the stylus by the weight of the tip itself and the arm is called the downforce. This force is adjusted using the counterweight of the arm. The adjustment of this downforce has an impact on the reading.
The arm counterweight is a system located at the end of the tonearm (opposite the cartridge), behind the pivot point. This must be adjustable to allow, depending on your game and turntable, to set the ideal support force of the cartridge.
If the downforce is too great, you risk damaging the vinyl more quickly because the stylus will “dig” out the solid and bumps in the backing. In addition, the reading quality will be impacted.
If the downforce is overlooked, you will lose sound reproduction. This is because the stylus will tend not to follow the record’s groove correctly or even deteriorate its relief (scratched record).
HOW TO BALANCE A TONEARM
STEP 1: LEVELING THE TURNTABLE
To begin with, it is necessary to check that your plate is perfectly horizontal. A badly positioned turntable can cause premature wear of the diamond and, in extreme cases, read errors.
To check the correct balance of your furniture/surface that accommodates your turntable, you can bring a spirit level or use an application downloaded via your smartphone. Once done, we can get down to the second step: balancing the arm.
STEP 2: LEVELING THE ARM
This step is to adjust the counterweight so that the arm is perfectly parallel to the frame. Thus, it is ensured that the pressure exerted at the level of the diamond is equal to 0. To do so: lower the arm lifter, remove the protective diamond cover from the cell, and take the arm out of its support. Screw/unscrew the counterweight until the arm reaches the perfect point of balance.
TIP: To help you, most manufacturers have taken care to print a horizontal line as a mark on the arm like Pro-ject turntables. Likewise, pay special attention to ensure that the stylus of your cell does not strike the plate during handling.
This operation is the most meticulous and therefore requires calm and concentration. It is important to use both hands: the first holds the arm while the second moves the counterweight forward / backward.
Once in equilibrium, the arm should literally “float,” proof that no pressure is exerted on its tip. For a final checkpoint, make sure the arm is parallel to the frame. If this is the case, all you have to do is store it in the arms rack before proceeding to the next step: adjusting the counterweight and the support force of the reading.
STEP 3: ADJUSTMENT OF THE COUNTERWEIGHT AND THE DOWNFORCE
For optimal listening quality, refer to the technical characteristics of your phono cartridge, section: “support force” or “tracking force.” For example, an Audio-Technica AT-VM95E cartridge requires a downforce of between 1.8 and 2.2g. The respect of this data is essential for a perfect listening of your vinyl.
Located on the outermost part of the arm, the counterweight is made up of two concentric, independent circles: the counterweight itself and the graduated ring. With the arm balanced ( step 2 ), placed on the armrest, and the protective cap attached to protect the diamond, we are ready to adjust the counterweight of our turntable.
First, line up the 0 on the graduated ring with the marker on the arm. Pay special attention to rotating the ring only and not the counterweight: it must not move from its position!
Once reset to 0, you can adjust the counterweight by screwing it (moving forward) counterclockwise, up to the required downforce value.
For expert precision, you can use a cell scale. This small scale will measure, to the ready gram, the pressure exerted by the stylus for an optimal adjustment. There remains one last step to adjust the arm of your turntable: the anti-skating setting.
STEP 4: ADJUST THE ANTI-SKATING
Anti-skating is a mechanical system in charge of compensating for the centripetal force exerted on the arm due to the groove engraved towards the inside of the vinyl. Thus, it prevents reading errors and the slipping of the diamond on the vinyl, which can alter these two elements. The rule is relatively simple: downforce = anti-skating force.
Example: for a downforce of 2.0g, set the anti-skating to 2. In the case of a frame with adjustable anti-skating such as Technics frames, check that it weighs the same weight as the value downforce. Otherwise, place the anti-skating as shown in the video.
That’s it, and your turntable is all set. You will then need to connect it to your phono pre-amplifier or directly to your amplifier if you have already pre-amplified a model.
We hope that this guide has helped you to balance your turntable and obtain optimal listening quality. Nothing prevents you from optimizing the downforce according to your tastes. As long as you are within the optimum adjustment range indicated by the manufacturer, this is not a problem.
You can adjust the sound to your ear: a little more weight to get denser bass, or, on the contrary, a little less to gain ventilation and space. Also, think about checking from time to time that the downforce of your cell is still well adjusted.