Posted on Fri, 25 Jan, 2013
Posted by Peter

So you have decided on your new turntable, nice job! Many turntables now come pre setup with the cartridge fitted and aligned but we will go through everything as one day you will choose to upgrade your cartridge! Although the cartridge may be fitted you will still need to fit the counterweight, balance the arm and install an anti skating weight (on specific turntables.) With this in mind lets pick a turntable to set up! The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable is a fantastic place to start. With all the features you need from a turntable. Please have look at our video to go along with the setup part of this blog, here.

As the cartridge comes pre aligned on the Debut, I will discuss fitting a new cartridge later. I recommend fitting the counterweight first off – gives you more room to play with without the platter in the way, especially if you are new to this. Avoids the risk of damaging the cartridge on the platter.

Out of the box you will need to

1) Some Debut models have transport screws which prevent the motor from being damaged during movement (make sure you keep them and put them back in when you move!) (Only on certain Debut models)

2)Okay your now ready to slide the counterweight (balances the arm) onto the end of the arm, instead of just pushing this on you can gently twist it on, don’t worry about getting into the right place yet we need to remove the arm from its cradle but first

3)gently remove the plastic cap covering the cartridge *extra care needed here to avoid damaging the stylus* – the same goes for all turntables you are setting up or when making adjustments

4)Remove the arm at let it float in the space between the cradle and spindle (the centre point where the platter fits on to) At this point the arm may be rocking back and forth – it is your role through gently rotating the counterweight to get the arm to balance i.e. not rocking back or forth.

5)Once this done you can return the arm to the cradle.

6)At this point set the down force dial to zero, do this carefully to avoid moving the counterweight (the down force ring moves independently of the counterweight).

7)Now the arm is balanced and down force dial at zero the down force can be properly set – down force is relevant to each cartridge and should say either in the instructions for your turntable or new cartridge. The cartridge on the Debut Carbon Turntable is 18.0mN so set the down force dial to 18.0 (One notch on the dial represents one mN. Move the whole counterweight assembly to set down force) We have a great stylus weight measurement device in order to accurately measure in grams the tracking weight (1.8g on this cartridge) reducing tracking errors therefore improving your playback experience. You can now fit the anti skating weight, this prevents the arm from moving across the record causing damage. There are three rungs on top of the arm each one represents a different down force setting relevant to the cartridge, as our cartridge is 18.0Mn the second rung out from the arm is used.

Congratulations you have now set up the arm! The same rule can be applied for other turntables with a counterweight and anti skating weight of a similar design, amending the parameters where needed. All turntables will be in some respects adjustable, some more than others for example some Pro-ject (and other brands) turntables will have VTA adjustment. This sets the Vertical Tracking angle ensuring the arm is parallel to the record reducing tracking error – on Pro-ject turntable if this option is available it will usually be on the base at the back of the arm, adjusting this hexagon key will cause the arm to move up or down.

Now this is complete you can fit the belt, platter spindle and platter – ideally wear gloves when fitting the belt as any grease from your fingers will cause unnecessary wear.

Key things to remember when going through the above process are take care and be patient. All this will pay of the first time you play back your favorite record!

Plugging it in

Turntable output is not line level, meaning that the output level is not as high as other sources, this means you cannot plug directly into the CD input of your amplifier there is need for a separate amplifier. Some amplifiers have a built in phono input but this is often just a tick on a features list on not a guarantee of quality it is a better idea to have a outboard unit. This due to the unit having its own dedicated circuitry, gaining improvement in sound quality! I have put together a simple diagram in order to show how to connect your new turntable:

As you can see a series of connections are to be made between the units. The turntable connects to the phono stage (PS) Via RCA connection but as you can see there is also another connection needed (the finer cable) this is the ground and is needed to avoid unwanted noise. From the Phonostage to the amplifier another set of quality RCA cables is needed. The Pro-ject debut comes with pre attached phono cables – if you are fairly good with a soldering iron then you can chance these, this offers a great improvement but make sure you use a well insulated RCA cable! (See below) That brings me to another point, you should always use a good quality cables, they really do make a huge difference. And the reason the make a difference you ask? Well it is difficult science but put simply the continuity of signal from one end to the other is paramount, anything that affects this will hinder what you hear back! Good quality cables will feature a high purity conductor and incorporate a from of shielding, not just to make the cable look nice but to prevent radio frequencies affecting the cables ability. Sheilding we have found paramount when it comes to turntable cables.

New cartridge? Getting things sounding right.

Okay as promised we will now discuss factors which affect existing the turntable owner, for example fitting a new cartridge. This can be a daunting process for the first timer but no need to worry it is actually quite simple.

You will need a turntable alignment gauge, without this you risk damage to the cartridge and your treasured records. We do variety dependent on how confident you are – for simple set up the Ortofon alignment gauge is fantastic. If your feeling a little more adventurous have a look at the Dr Feickert MkII Cartridge Alignment Tool. Remember the better you fit the cartridge the less chance of tracking error and unnecessary damage to your records!

Okay you have picked your cartridge alignment gauge based upon budget and level of accuracy needed, now you can remove the old cartridge from the arm – remember to use either the tie that came with the turntable originally or a cable tie loosely fitted to hold the arm in place. The majority of cartridges will come with 1/2 inch mount this fits via two screws to the arm. Some arms will have a P mount this is basically a headshell that fits directly to the arm, the cartridge will still fit by the standard 1/2 inch method to the headshell though (usually). Once you have removed the existing cartridge you can attach the new cartridge, take extra care when reattaching the the tonearm wires, I have found using a good quality pair of tweezers at this point is beneficial. Loosely fit the cartridge leaving the protective cap on. Once you are happy the cartridge is attached you can now implement the cartridge alignment tool, (now remove cap) for this description I used the Mobile Fidelity MFSL Geodisc Cartridge Alignment Tool. With easy to use design and instructions on the unit it is a breeze. The key point when fitting a cartridge is making sure the stylus tracks the groove correctly and by gentle movement and lining the stylus up with the dot on the gauge this can be achieved. Over hang on the cartridge is set by ensuring that when the stylus is lowered on to the grid the cartridge des not overstep a marked line. More advanced tools will allow for better continuity when setting overhang have a look at: Clearaudio Alignment Gauge fantastic for over hang set up! Once you are confident that the cartridge is aligned correctly tighten the screws taking extra care not to move the cartridge!

Different cartridges weigh different amounts so you will need to re-balance the arm in the way described earlier, also down force may be different so that will need to be amended. The downforce figure will be in the instructions of your new cartridge in mN, remember the Pro-Ject Measure IT Electronic Balance Gauge I spoke about earlier

One thing that quite often generates problems is setting the Azimuth, put basically this is the the angle at which the needle sits in the record groove. For example if it is too much the the right or left playback will be affected and a chance that the cartridge will contact with the record, not only is this audible and annoying it causes damage to the record. Different turntable have different ways of altering Azimuth, the Debut III we set up earlier has a screw on the lower part of the arm that you loosen. Ensure when amending the Azimuth the arm is in the cradle and that there is indeed a problem in the first place. You can check this by inspecting the cartridge with a magnifying glass and ensuring that it is of an equal length in height (above the record) all around the cartridge. You can also use a mirror to ensure the correct positioning.

Generally if you are having playback problems after fitting a new cartridge then go back and just double check the alignment again, as carefully as possible! Any further issues you may have or questions please do not hesitate to give us a call, that’s what we are here for!

Absolute essentials!

There are certain items that us vinyl lovers should not be without, little things that make listening to your favorite records a dream and keep your turntable running well. By sheer design records attract dust particles in the air.

Here is a list of everyday essentials to get you started!

Clearaudio Carbon Fibre Record Brush – Excellent for getting into the grooves of the record – makes a great improvement, see it on the video here 0.00 Perfect cleaning for everyday use – do not play a record without one!

Mobile Fidelity MFSL Geodisc Cartridge Alignment Tool – Simple to use, great instructions and excellent results! Makes sure you get your cartridge set just right to avoid damage to the cartridge or your treasured records!

Clearaudio Diamond Stylus Cleaner Brush – You may have clean records but if you stylus dirty then you will not be getting the most from your system! Take extra care when using this…

Audio Affair Vinyl LP Record 12″ Outer Sleeves 100 Pack – More protection from dust for your treasured vinyl!

A good quality turntable mate such as Cartridge Man Music Mat Turntable Mat – this ideal for isolation and anti slipping. Also is you have a standard platter on you Pro-Ject Debut check out the Pro-Ject Acrylic IT Platter Turntable Upgrade

Hi-Fi News Test LP – The Producers Cut – 180g LP – Superb as a setup tool, allows you accurately gauge the performance of your system and tweak it where needed.

Ensuring your turntable is level is of the up most importance, fail in doing so will result in tracking errors and even damage to the stylus or record. With this in mind get yourself the Ortofon Professional Bubble Level.

One great way of cleaning your records is with a record cleaning machine ideal for records that have seen better days. This really is the ultimate method for the vinyl enthusiast. If you are on a budget have a look at the Spin Clean Record Washer MkII Excellent performance and pricing!

We also do a range of cleaning fluids as well, this method is affective as records can build up grease and other dirt that seriously affects playback, have a look at Moth Record Cleaning Fluid. You can use this with the Moth record cleaner, other record cleaners or simply a cloth or pad – remember to wear gloves though!

To summarise, vinyl is a no longer a times past format and reality probably never was, just under the shadow of CD! We see more and more people rediscovering their vinyl collection or beginning a new one so why not get involved! Please do not hesitate to contact for any queries you may have – our dedicated, knowledge and friendly staff love nothing more than to chat Hi-Fi.

2 thoughts on “How to set-up your turntable”

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  2. Peter Ozanne says:

    Hi! The azimuth adjusting screw – described as “madenscraube” in the german instructions: that’s the one with 2 small holes, right? How should I turn it? Are 2 spikes OK, or a pair of dividers? The flat top of the arm, above the stylus, has to be horizontal, right?

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