Turning The Tables On Technique

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Turning The Tables On Technique



The very start of your signal chain when you consider how the audio signal travels from the record to the speakers is all housed within the headshell. This is the business end of your turntable; therefore it’s very important to ensure it is set up correctly. The headshell houses your cartridge and stylus, and none of these three components can operate without the
other. The stylus is the very front section where the needle itself protrudes. This needs to 
be correctly seated into the cartridge so the signal is passed along properly. The cartridge is mounted to the underside of the headshell and can be adjusted forwards and backwards to suit. Setting the cartridge too far back will cause the four connecting wires to bunch up and can result in shorting your signal, and setting it too far forward will have it sitting right out in front of the headshell, with little protection. Height adjustment can also be made here 
with spacers to ensure that the specific stylus used extends low enough for the cartridge and headshell to sit at. Many turntables come with this all pre-wired, but some don’t and every DJ will have to learn how to set up a cartridge and headshell eventually when a replacement is needed, so it is always good to fully understand all the elements in this section of the unit.


Ensuring your tonearm is properly set up is possibly the most important element of your turntable’s balance, as it is this mechanism that guides the headshell and ensures the stylus 
is kept aligned with the grooves of the record. What you want to achieve is a tonearm that sits level on the horizontal plane. If it is angled up, the needle will be pulled against the edge of the groove causing it to pop out. If it is angled down, it will place undue pressure on the needle, damaging your records and wearing the needle. So, a careful balance between the adjustments at the base of the tonearm mechanism and the spacing rings within the headshell should be achieved to ensure all elements are level, with the tonearm perfectly parallel to the platter. Every turntable is a little different in setting up the mechanism, so read the manual if you are unsure of how to do this correctly.


As well as maintaining a level tonearm, you need to ensure that correct weight balance is applied to it. Too little weight towards the cartridge and the needle will skip out of the grooves; too much weight and it will bury down and cause wear.


Most turntables only have analogue connections, although some modern ones also have USB outputs. However, generally you will be connecting your turntable to 
a mixer or controller with the two RCA connectors that run from beneath the turntable. These carry a signal that is
 at Phono level and as such need to be connected to a Phono preamp. Simply plugging this into a line level input will not work as the result will be a tinny sound with no low frequencies and very little volume. So, you need to ensure your turntable is connected to the Phono input of your mixer or controller. If one is not available, compact Phono preamps can be sourced. ART make one that is housed in a box not unlike many DI boxes and it sells for less than $100.


Be sure to pay attention to the third connector wire coming from your turntable in this process. This is the earth or ground wire and needs to be connected to the ground point on your mixer, controller or preamp. It may be in the form of a bear termination of wire, although they often have a small Y termination on the end to allow it to be clamped into the ground clamps on a mixer. If you fail to properly connect this wire as well as your left and right audio signals, you’ll end up with all manners of ground hum and a signal that sounds terrible. Just remember, when setting up your turntable you need to take a few things into consideration to have it operate at its best, that way you will get to enjoy the benefits of vinyl and its sound to the fullest.