How to Balance a Tonearm, set stylus tracking and adjust anti-skating on a turntable

How to Balance a Tonearm, set stylus tracking and adjust anti-skating on a turntable


Hi everyone! It’s Sasha from Long Play Vinyl and in today’s video we will be balancing a tonearm on a turntable, we’ll be setting the stylus tracking pressure and we will be setting the anti-skating on the turntable. So i hope you enjoy this video and we’re about to show you how all of this is done. It’s not as complicated as it sounds but you have to pay attention to how we’re doing it. [INTRO MUSIC] Today we’ll be working with my personal turntable. It’s an XL 1200 mark 5. You might have a different turntable but the setup should be very very similar so don’t worry if you don’t have the same exactly turntable it should be, once again as I mentioned, very similar. So first of all we looked into how to balance the tonearm in other words finding the balance point where the tone arm floats perfectly horizontal without user intervention. First of all you need to stand in front of the turntable and focus on the tone arm assembly area. The second step we’re going to locate the anti-skating and set it to zero. You will ensure that the tonearm won’t move outwards while you find the balance point of your actual tonearm. Number three remove the stylus cover (if present) and take extra precautions not to damage this tile is during the process either by touching it with your fingers or dropping the tonearm on the platter. Next: unclip the tonearm if you have the clip holding it from the armrest and leave the queue lever down. Hold the headshell with your right hand and place the tonearm as if you were to play a record. Keep holding the tonearm by the headshell. Do not let the stylus touch any surface at all or you risk damaging your stylus and these little guys are very expensive these days. While holding the headshell use your left hand to turn the back of the counterweight. A clockwise turn will apply less tracking force and a counter clockwise turn will apply more tracking force. The idea here is to apply enough force so that the tonearm floats or is balanced perfectly horizontal without user intervention. If the counterweight is too far back the tonearm will tilt backwards. Rotate the counterweight counterclockwise to apply more tracking force. If the counterweight is too far in front the tonearm will tilt toward the headshell. Rotate the counterweight clockwise to apply less tracking force. The counterweight is balanced with the tonearm floats perfectly horizontal without once again user intervention. Finding the right balance point can frustrating. Proceed with patience and caution the stylus, the tonearm and its assembly are very fragile. That’s it for the tonearm balance, return the tonearm to its rest and clip it in safely. Next, we’ll set the stylus tracking force applied to the vinyl during playback. Before going forward, refer to your specific cartridge stylus instructions for the recommended weight as you will need the values to accurately set the stylus tracking pressure. Every cartridge stylus model is different hence the weight needed will be different. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the accurate weight range suitable for your cartridge stylus. Most manufacturers will provide this information on their official website if you don’t know it off the bat. Notice the values for the stylus tracking force control. Make sure the torn arm is clipped to its rest. Use one hand to hold the back of the counterweight steady. For this step it should not move from its balanced position. Hold the back of the counterweight steady, move the stylus tracking force control to 0. Remember only the front part of the counterweight should rotate. Now the tonearm is balanced and has zero tracking force. To apply tracking force, hold the counterweight from the back and turn it counterclockwise to the desired value. The stylus tracking force control will indicate the weight applied to the vinyl record during playback. Remember setting the tracking force too high will wear out your vinyl record faster. If the cartridge stylus manufacturers recommends a tracking force range from 2 grams to 5 grams, try setting it around 3 or 3.5 grams and do a listening test. The tonearm is now perfectly balanced and the stylus tracking force has been correctly set. When playing vinyl the tone arm moves from the outside of the disk to the inside. Due to the laws of physics the rotation of the disk, the tip is actually being drawn more into the inwards, the inside of your disk. To counter this offset, anti-skating applies a slight frictional force to the tonearm and keep the cartridge and stylus alligned to the grooves. Usually for normal vinyl playback you will adjust your anti-skating to the same level that you adjusted your stylus pressure. However if you’re DJing you might have to alter those things a little bit because your stylus might skip or jump you aren’t adjusting is differently. But if you’re just listening to vinyl at home that’s not something you should be even worrying about. You might have an issue with balancing your tone arm and it’s really rare that people have those but you might run into that and the actual reason for for this issue is an uneven weight distribution for your tonearm. That usually happens if your cartridge stylus and headshell set are a little bit too light. So in my case, I’m using a DJ Grado stylus and my counterweight is adjusted to almost its maximum – it’s over 3.2 and you know you might have you might have to go higher than that and your headshell and everything in it might just not be heavy enough. In this case and some headshells will come with a little weight plate like I have right here in my hand. So this kind of weight comes originally with the technics turntable for the stock headshell and you’ll put it inside the headshell for a little more weight and if that is not enough you might need to use one of these things. This is actually extra weight that you put in the back of your tonearm balanc right here. So this is pretty much the only issue that you might have the balancing in your tonearm. As i mentioned previously an uneven weight distribution of some sort and usually it’s caused by the actual headshell and everything that’s in it. To test even further you could use a stylus tracking force scale like i’m using right here to see the actual weight that it shows you. Also the scales are pretty accurate and they’re inexpensive. They can be purchased for under twenty dollars. Now the number on the scale should be the same one that you set on the counterweight or really really close to it. If there is a difference in that number then there is an issue with your tonearm and usually on inexpensive turntables it could be just a problem with the production that you see the numbers but their aren’t real the numbers are a little bit off and this is why the scale will tell you a different reading. Now if you do that also make sure that you are using a scale that’s actually accurate to not mess up your reading and to not force you to try to reset everything for days and days on. So that would be another suggestion just if you want to make sure and just if you have another ten to twenty dollars to spare on a scale like this one. Alright guys I hope you enjoyed this video! Thank you so much for watching if you do have any comments any questions don’t hesitate and post them in the comments below. If you like the content coming from the channel please do subscribe to this video and we will make sure to push out more videos just for you. Thanks once again for watching!

21 thoughts on “How to Balance a Tonearm, set stylus tracking and adjust anti-skating on a turntable

  1. Love what you're doing here. Always wanted to make something similar because of my frustration with most vinyl how to videos.

  2. great video, just one question: why is it that when I set the tonearm to float and thew counterwight and anti skate are set up, the tonearm floats away from the platter and back to the resting position? the whole concept of having the tonearm float freely but also needing it to have enough downward force to actually track a record seems contradictory to me… Am i missing something here? Thanks again for your helpful video!

  3. Awesome video. Used it on a Realistic LAB-390. Thought I was going to have to ditch a vintage Led Zeppelin album. Its perfect now. TY!!!!

  4. Yikes 3 grams. That is very heavy. Hope you have extra copies of your collection. Back in the 60's 1.5 was standard. I would suggest a better cartridge that will track no more than 1.5 unless your hate your records.

  5. I had my 1960's Garrard 2025tc repaired by a BBB accredited Audio video shop in 1980's sometime to find out shortly after he removed the spring from the rear of the tonearm and a silver thing it was attached to and told me it didn't need it. I haven't used it since then. I now need to get that spring and I don't know the manufacturer nor size nor specs of it nor the part number. Can you help with that info? I've reached a give up point.

  6. Interesting! Well, I remember I had back in 1996 Soviet-Made Radiotehnika 101 turntable produced in 1983, which had original Soviet standard GZM-005 cattridge, which was pertty heavy (cartridge mass was 12 g). I found out that my stylus is worn out and was looking for some replacement, but by that time it appeared to be impossible to buy Soviet-made cartridges in Moscow, Russia anymore. I ended up in one of the Hi-End stores, which offered me exactly GRADO DJ 100 cartridge. Since the mount on Radiotennika's headshell was standard half-inch type, I could easily mount the cartridge, but then I found out that GRADO cartridge is as twice as lighter then the Soviet-made GZM-005. Since I didn't have weights that you have, I just had to use 10-ruble coin instead of it, and that way I could balance my tonearm. I had no idea that there are such kind of special weights to apply to the headshell! Also I cansay installing GRADO cartridge had improved my sound so significantly, that I started to relisten to all my vinyl collection!

  7. Excellent video. I'm beginner, trying to help my even more beginner brother. We're not sure if stylus is completely damaged, if anti skate or tonearm adjustments are off, or if table turntable is placed on is not level. All I know at this point is when you put needle down at beginning of record, it skates toward center. Is this likely to be anti-skate adjustment problem? Also, we have no clue what recommended weight adjustment is, and can't even see if there's a cartridge number marked on the cartridge that might help us to determine what needle we have or need, if we need to buy a new needle, and what recommended weight might be. Is there any particular weight that seems fairly common for weight adjustment, or is that all over the place depending on cartridge? Any advice? Where do I start? Feeling overwhelmed. Thanks.

  8. Need some help, I have a used record player I picked up and fixed (needed new belt and needle and cover was damaged). Was working great but all the sudden my newer vinyl I picked up started skipping or repeating. I tried adjusting it just like everyone says to, but unless I have the weight cranked down a ways, it either skips or only plays out of the right speaker. Also noticed that the turntable has the slightest wobble, but then again, the spot where the vinyl goes and the needle are like on their own separate suspension system so if something shakes, moves, wobbles, they stay together. It’s a Philips 437, like from the early 80s I think. Is it safe to turn it down to where it doesn’t skip? It won’t wear my vinyls right? I mean how else could I fix it?

  9. Excellent straight to the point! Hey I bought a used Scott PS-48, the cueing lever doesn't move the arm up or down? Do you know if it is any easy fix? or where I would find a service manual?

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