Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › TURNTABLE SETUP Questions thread - don't start a new thread, ASK YOUR QUESTION HERE!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

TURNTABLE SETUP Questions thread - don't start a new thread, ASK YOUR QUESTION HERE!

post #1 of 2767
Thread Starter 

I thought I would start a running thread to answer questions about turntable setup.  I hope other people will contribute, but I will monitor this thread as much as I can.  Fire away!

post #2 of 2767
Thread Starter 

Slowly but surely I will create an FAQ here.  Bear with me.

 

FAQ

 

1. Q: I want to play records.  What do I need?

 

    A: You need a turntable, with a known good or new phono cartridge (sometimes referred to as a "needle" or a "stylus", although those are only parts of a phono cartridge), and a phono preamp

 

The turntable itself should be obvious.  There are lots of new ones being made, and there are also lots of used ones that can work well, and often can be had for very cheap, although not all of the used ones will work well, and will require more care in set-up, as typically, when you buy a new turntable, it will come with the phono cartridge already set up and optimized. 

 

The phono cartridge is what actually contacts the record.  It is mounted on what is called the "tonearm".  The majority of turntables come with a tonearm, but not all.  However, someone buying their first turntable should ALWAYS buy a turntable that has a tonearm already.  The cartridge has a "stylus" (I don't like the older term "Needle"), and this is the part of the cartridge what actually contacts the record.  These are subject to gradual wear.  Depending on the maker, they will last 1,000-3,000 hours.  If you buy a used turntable, and you do not know the age/wear of the stylus, you need to buy a new one. A worn stylus can ruin records. 

 

Phono cartridges have to be properly installed on a turntable and there are several important parameters here that I will discuss later, but the most critical of these by far is the vertical tracking force.  The cartridge must be balanced on the tonearm so that it tracks with the right force (measured in grams).  The exact process will vary from turntable to turntable, but I will address the basics later.

 

The phono preamp takes the very low voltage from the phono cartridge and steps that up to line level.  Many modern stereo preamps, surround processors, integrated amps, and receivers do not have a built in phono preamps, although some of them do.  Almost ALL preamps/integrateds receivers built prior to 1985 does in fact have one.  It's almost universally labeled "phono", although on modern units it may be labeled "turntable".  You cannot plug a turntable directly into a line level input like you would use for a DAC and have it work.  It will not.  You must have a phono preamp.  Decent phono preamps can be purchased for as little as $50, although better units are much, much more expensive.

 

You need a phono preamp that will with your cartridge.  Most of the less expensive cartridges are "Moving Magnet" (MM), which are high output.  The other major kind are "Moving Coil" (MC), many of which are low output, and require a phono preamp that will accommodate a low output MC cartridge.  There are other considerations here, but again I will table those for now.



2. Phono Cartridge Alignment

OK, so now you have your turntable working, and you would like to fine tune it. There are a bunch of important ways in which one can get a cartridge dialed in. There is an excellent explanation of these here:

http://www.deadwaxcafe.com/vzone/cartalign.asp

The most critical of these is VTF. You can really screw up your records and or cartridge if you don't do this. Only your turntable manual can really give you the complete instructions here. If you don't have the manual, do to vinylengine.com - they have a huge number of manuals for download.

The basic method of adjusting VTF involves moving the "counterbalance", which is the weight at the back end of the turntable, so that the cartridge tracks the record with a certain amount of downward pressure, measured just like weight, in grams. The most accurate way to measure this by far is with a stylus force gauge. Some of these get expensive, but they do not have to be.

For many older turntables, the tonearm was actually designed such that the tracking force could be set in a simpler way. If your turntable has a counterbalance that has numbers on it, than the simpler, albeit less accurate, method is to turn the counterbalance such that the arm basically "floats" like a balanced see-saw. Be VERY careful when doing this to have the cueing UP so you do not damage the stylus! Once balanced, first rotate the small plastic piece with the numbers (NOT the whole counterbalance) so that it is set to zero. THEN rotate the counterbalance to the number corresponding to the recommended tracking force per your TT's manufacturer. Note that if you do not have a tonearm designed for this type of adjustment, you MUST have a stylus force gauge to set VTF, and you CANNOT just "guess" at this.

If your VTF is a little too low, the sound may be bright; if the VTF is too high, the sound may be dull.

Most turntables also allow adjustment of antiskate. You also need to adjust that, which for many turntables is simply turning a knob to the same number as the VTF is in grams. Some are much more complex and actually involve little hanging weights. Again, you will need to refer to the manual. If the anti-skate is set too high, you can get distortion in the left channel, or you may hear the soundstage skew to the right. Conversely, If the anti-skate is set too low, you can get distortion in the right channel, or you may hear the soundstage skew to the left.



Zenith angle and overhang are also important (and are both related to where the cartridge sits in the tonearm). You need an alignment tool for this, or a specialized protractor. My favorite alignment tool is the Mobile Fidelity Geodisc, which is fairly inexpensive and very easy to use.

Here is a somewhat long but very thorough and helpful video on turntable basics and set-up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnskL8Pe6fk&feature=youtu.be
Edited by Skylab - 4/16/13 at 2:04pm
post #3 of 2767

Great thread Skylab. Question for MC cartridge users, do you guys find it necessary to have a separate step up transformer? and which ones do you recommend? I was looking at Bob's.

 

I'll be using with the Dynavector 20X2L. My phono pre is the V-LPS II and has support for MC but I haven't quite tested it out yet.

post #4 of 2767
I'm about to find out. I have the extremely low output Denon DL 103r cartridge and a GCPH phono stage, which is known to be quite capable and versatile but the 103r pushes it to its limit. I don't know much about step-up transformers, but I have an new Denon AU-300LC incoming as it seems like a good match for the 103r. I actually purchased a vintage one on eBay but it didn't seem to be functional so I returned it to the seller and ordered a new one from Japan. The weird thing is that this particular transformer doesn't plug into the wall, so it somehow steps up the gain 10x passively. Looking forward to hearing the difference!
post #5 of 2767

Perfect timing for this thread, at least for me. I also have noticed quite a bit of vinyl activity on this site, which is probably why Skylab started this thing. Anyway, I'm in the process of putting together my first vinyl rig, so this should be helpful

post #6 of 2767
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SemiAudiophile View Post

Great thread Skylab. Question for MC cartridge users, do you guys find it necessary to have a separate step up transformer? and which ones do you recommend? I was looking at Bob's.

 

I'll be using with the Dynavector 20X2L. My phono pre is the V-LPS II and has support for MC but I haven't quite tested it out yet.


 I prefer transformers for MC gain than using an amplifier gain stage, yes.  However, you don't want to run an external step-up transformer into the MC section of a phono preamp - you have to run it into the MM section.  So I would advise trying the MC section you have already, and see what you think.

 

My phono preamp has a built in transformer for MC gain.

post #7 of 2767

Good thread Skylab.

Quote:
Originally Posted by grokit View Post

The weird thing is that this particular transformer doesn't plug into the wall, so it somehow steps up the gain 10x passively. 

It's getting it's voltage from the cartridge.  Then it's basic transformer technology.

 

 

Quote:
transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field through the secondary winding. This varying magnetic field induces a varying electromotive force (EMF), or "voltage", in the secondary winding. This effect is called inductive coupling.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformer

 

biggrin.gif

 

(I learned about it when I build a little step down transformer box that Nikongod made.)

post #8 of 2767
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skylab View Post


 I prefer transformers for MC gain than using an amplifier gain stage, yes.  However, you don't want to run an external step-up transformer into the MC section of a phono preamp - you have to run it into the MM section.  So I would advise trying the MC section you have already, and see what you think.

 

Yeah, that's what I thought...we'll see. The last time I tried it out (before I broke off the needle), I didn't hear any real difference between it and my cheaper AT440MLa cartridge. So I'm thinking maybe that's the problem. The AT440mla is not a bad sounding cartridge at all, but I just want to push out a bit more of that resolution and finesse out of the music. :)

post #9 of 2767
Even with the 10x gain of the transformer, my 103r will only have a gain of 2.5mV. So I can try it with the MM setting (48dB gain), but I think I will have to go higher. Without the transformer I was using it at max 66dB setting, I have 54dB and 60dB available as well.
post #10 of 2767
Thread Starter 

2.5mV with 48dB of MM gain should be fine, unless your preamp is gain-starved.

post #11 of 2767

I've been reading that instead of a separate step up transformer, you could use a headamp to raise the output level of the signal. Is this true?

post #12 of 2767
I was thinking of using a tube stage but I never tried it as the stated sensitivity seemed way too low. Maybe I should give it a shot...
post #13 of 2767
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SemiAudiophile View Post

I've been reading that instead of a separate step up transformer, you could use a headamp to raise the output level of the signal. Is this true?

Not sure how well that would work, but the other thing the transformer does is impedance matching, and the headamp would for sure not do that. MC carts present a load impedance of like 100-1000 ohms, whereas MM is 47kOhms.
post #14 of 2767

Well, this is interesting:  http://www.dynavector.com/products/amp/e_pha200.html

 

It would be a head amp, into a phono amp, into a pre amp, into a speaker amp.  blink.gif

 

 

And the Head-Fiers have a hard enough time with choosing just one amp!

post #15 of 2767
Quote:
Originally Posted by grokit View Post

I was thinking of using a tube stage but I never tried it as the stated sensitivity seemed way too low. Maybe I should give it a shot...

 

Yeah it was a no-go.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Dedicated Source Components
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Dedicated Source Components › TURNTABLE SETUP Questions thread - don't start a new thread, ASK YOUR QUESTION HERE!