Best resource(s) for setting up a turntable

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by neruda, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. neruda

    neruda Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Hi all. I've been listening to vinyl records for over a decade now, but never really learned how to properly set up a turntable.

    There's an audiophile shop nearby that installed my current cartridge / stylus and properly set it up as part of that process. But this was about 2 years ago, and even though I haven't touched anything on the turntable since, I often wonder if set-ups "drift" and need re-calibrating to get them back to optimal.

    Either way, I'd like to learn how to do this myself. But I've always found it intimidating.

    For those that know, are there any books / videos / web articles you'd recommend for learning this? I'd like to attain intermediate competence, without dedicating many hours to this undertaking.

    Is it even possible to learn this without going deep?

    I already spend so much of my time searching for and listening to music, so I don't need another time-suck, for lack of a better term.

    Thanks in advance for any responses.
     
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  2. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    It's not very hard once you understand the basics, and have a couple tools, there are lots of videos online you can watch, and lots of knowledgeable people around here to help ... if you don't have the owners manual, go to vinylengine and sign up and then download it, that takes care of most of the setup ... Pioneer PL-400 - Manual - 2-Speed Direct-Drive Turntable - Vinyl Engine

     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
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  3. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
  4. Bananas&blow

    Bananas&blow Where the wind don't blow so strange.

    Location:
    Pacific Beach, CA
    Youtube. As the 2 guys ahead of me beat me to. Any time you are looking to do anything, check it on youtube. Before I change the oil, before I change a headlight etc etc. solving math problems. Excel help etc. It's an amazing tool
     
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  5. Bananas&blow

    Bananas&blow Where the wind don't blow so strange.

    Location:
    Pacific Beach, CA
    Also if you want a very simple table to set up, get a Rega. There are as simple as it gets. I set one up yesterday in about 15 minutes. That includes unboxing. Rega designs their tables to be very easy to setup. Good for people like me who don't like to futz.
     
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  6. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Your best resource is for someone to show you in person. Failing that, youtube, but there's a lot of bad information out there as well. Most turntables are fairly easy to set up and don't require a lot of special tools beyond what you already have around the house. A small screwdriver, some hemostats or tiny electronic needlenose pliers, a tracking force scale, and an alignment protractor are useful to have. Oh, and a torpedo level is nice. There is no need to spend a ton of money on any of this stuff either.
     
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  7. I think two of the best ways have already been touched on - the online resources are of course endless, and the links Davey gave are as good as any to start reading and watching!

    Then finding someone local as Patient_OT mentioned to show you first hand is always invaluable, but not always as readily available as reading / watching material. First hand from someone who can show you the tricks / tips is always irreplaceable if that option exists.

    As stated watch some vids, do some reading to get familiar with all the terminology and different tools used ---- then try to seek out a local person after you developed the mental model and have a bunch of questions queued up! The internet can be good if you find a good source, but these days it can also get confusing with the dizzying amount of choice, and different ways to do things, many times rooted in the motivation to sell you something.... sometimes something you don't really need! (if you can relate).
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  8. Tom Littlefield

    Tom Littlefield Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Hampshire, USA
    As stated you will need some basic tools, a cartridge alignment tool of some type. Here is a link to some, the Stevenson is probably the simplest for your tt Free Cartridge Alignment Protractors - Vinyl Engine

    A small digital scale made specifically for TT use https://www.amazon.com/Neoteck-Digi...ocphy=1021839&hvtargid=pla-524217600238&psc=1

    Also a set of jewelers screwdrivers and/or a small hex wrench set for the cart screws and other maintenance.

    As other have said it is not very difficult, just take your time and you will be a pro in no time.
     
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  9. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Key thing is to not read all the handwringing posts agonizing about every detail. Lots of folks in this hobby love to make it way more complicated than it needs to be. A turntable is a very simple device. The dealers in particular try to make seem crazy complicated to get you to go to them for everything
     
  10. One thing - like any hobby, the urge can be strong to get lured into all the cool tools out there... which can also get quite expensive in the TT arena. Approach it from the perspective you want to learn the fastest manual way to get the job done first --- then after understanding the concepts decide what tools to buy, if any. If you do find a local person to mentor you, he/she will have their favorite tools they use, and start with using theirs. IMHO, if you get lucky you'll find someone who does it all with a simple tool set....

    I mount cartridges, align TT's with a fairly mundane tool set -- a couple of different sized screw drivers, allen wrenches, a small level, reading glasses, head mounted magnifier, mobile light, good metric rule with a slide stop, a decent depth guage, some setup blocks to 1/64th in, a cheap digital scale, small needle nosed pliers, and an LP with a blank side. I am sure I am forgetting a few things, but you get the idea. (all I would have to do is go over to my TT stand and take out two cigar boxes, open a drawer and everything is right there....)

    Plus, realize I own 17 TTs and the toolset I have might be 2x what you need --- for instance, if your TT has a "dial up" VTA setting, you don't need the setup blocks I have. The DP-59L, KP-1100 and others have a VTA adjustment that is not dial up, and the setup blocks make it repeatable when swapping cartridges. Also, you could get by without the loupes too.... I like them for stylus inspection. Then --- if your eyes are good, you might not need the magnifier and mobile lighting. So now the pile is much smaller!!!!

    Here is a pic of my tool set, probably forgot one or two things --- like I don't see my protractor in there:[​IMG]
    When I need them, access is easy as I keep everything in a cigar box or two:[​IMG]

    You can spend many hundreds of dollars on set up and alignment tools, or $50.... either way you can get the job done, the common denominator is knowledge and experience. Some will say the tools are "faster" but for me they are extra hassle and slow me down. YMMV. (realize the audio industry makes a lot of money on the accessories, so not everyone will embrace my recommendation :) )

    But it depends your priorities and experience --- and dexterity of course! Just like cleaning LP's, many will tell you it can't be done well by hand and you need an RCM --- it is all about the process --- same thing here, the expensive tools work, so does the manual method --- it's all about the process.

    Oh, and most importantly for those with older eyes --- LIGHT! At every TT I have good light for alignment, swapping cartridges and cleaning LPs. Plus, at one TT stand I have a 45" Luxo magnifier that serves both as a light of course but also extends to where I sit (and where I am typing now) when I don't want to put the head magnifier on! I swap cartridges onto new headshells a lot, so light is critical for the quick realign required when a new cartridge goes on!
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
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  11. Well, that might be oversimplifying a bit! When you get well versed with TT's I'll agree it's not complicated --- but put yourself in the shoes of a new person starting out --- it can be daunting for many, and the reason why many don't dive in. They see the setup work required, and decide it's not for them. Happens a LOT!

    Think back to when you started - I know for ME it was a little complex and took some time. So the truth is always somewhere in between.

    Plus, I would contend that > 90% of the TTs set up right now in the US have major set up / alignment issues... I know most I see in other people's homes are. Countless times have I made minor or major adjustments to someone's TT and it resulted in a big change in the sound, and they were amazed. THen when I would say "it's easy, just do this....." many would retort "oh that's way too complicated for me"

    So the simplicity you see is because you took the time, understand them. To a new person it may not be initially simple, proven by the fact that most TTs aren't setup correctly!
     
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  12. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Setting up most turntables is hardest the first time or two you do one. After that, generally far simpler.
     
  13. Agreed.......
     
  14. jupiterboy

    jupiterboy Forum Residue

    Location:
    Buffalo, NY
    I hate to say this, but not having the protractor lay flat on the platter is terrible.
     
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  15. @BayouTiger @McLover --- after our exchange above, I recalled what the OP said to start the thread!
    Supports the point that MOST TT's out there aren't set up correctly.... why? Because on the outside looking in, up front, it seems daunting and complex. But once you do it a few times... plus, I am sure you've read 95% of the manuals that come with TT's.... they sure only hit the tip of the iceberg!

    Lets face it, if you use the old "if you had to summarize in an elevator conversation" litmus test, I think the result would be the concepts are a little complex up front, but the practice is easy once you do it a couple of times.
     
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  16. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Well, your post above is kinda what I was talking about. It's well thought out and informative, but it does make it seem pretty intimidating on the surface (it's not if you know what your are reading). No, most turntables are not set up perfectly, but most records are not necessarily perfect. I think it's important for a newbie that they understand that it doesn't have to be perfect. Every turntable is a box of compromises anyway. Getting it very close and then discovering the little nuances of tweaking it a little bit here and there is how we all learned.

    So no you don't have to go deep, just go in, get it as close as you can and then tweak it a little. Try it on some old records and an inexpensive MM cartridge (MC carts are not for newbies to learn with as their stylus is usually not easily replaceable). You will quickly learn if it's something you want to delve into or not.

    Yes we all have our little toy boxes! but you can start out with a small jewelers screwdriver, some good needle nose (or tweezers), a little 0-5gm scale, a 3x5 card, and a DIY protractor from VinylEngine.

    I also really recommend that newbies consider a 1200 or similar to start. It puts everything right in the open and is by far the easiest to learn with.

    [​IMG]
     
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  17. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Yes, and the way he is ham fistedly handling the wand gave me chills. Hate to say I, but I don't think that video is a very good one for newbies to go by! "What Microscope do you use?" This is exactly the kind of thing that scares the rookies off.

    The second video of the guy with the 1200 is much better.
     
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  18. Good post! LIke I said, the truth is always somewhere in between!

    BTW, I thought my post was trying to make it sound simple LOL... my point was don't spend a bunch of cash for complex tools and learn how to boil it down to simple tools... but I see your point.... but realize some like the detail, others like one line posts.... different strokes.

    Bottom line --- in the bigger picture we are in not-so-vioent-agreement.... cheers!
     
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  19. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Actually, I gotta say your cigar box has way more panache than my plastic tub!!! I'm gonna have to get another one!
     
    TheVinylAddict likes this.
  20. Dude, I have some REALLY cool boxes LOL! Almost pic worthy in itself!!!! :)

    Seriously, my Mom was an antique nut, even had a shop for a short time --- for years, every XMAS I get a cool box, jug or something. Turned me into a box hound too --- now when I go album hunting at the thrifts, I always end up looking for cool boxes! The one in the pic is one of my more mundane ones!!

    Sorry folks for the OT, back to our regularly scheduled programming!
     
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  21. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Take it from someone who is is not particularly mechanically inclined, this is something you can quite easily do yourself. I'm fact, once you try you'll realize that because you're working on your own turntable you will probably do a better job than some tech at a shop who, while more experienced, has less of a vested interest in the outcome. Aside from very basic knowledge and a few cheap, easy-to-obtain-and-use tools, all that is required is patience.
     
    neruda likes this.
  22. BayouTiger

    BayouTiger Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    Since the thread as actually asking for resources. Someone should probably post the Audio FAQ from AudioAssylum.com. It has a tom of links to topics that are of interest for both experienced guys and newbies!

    Audio FAQ

    This link is to a great, well detailed step guide of not only how, but why each step is important.

    A Beginner’s Guide to Cartridge Setup
     
  23. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Are you using the Pioneer TT listed in your profile? If so, before you even start you should refer to the manual which gives you some essential basic information.
     
  24. neruda

    neruda Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Yes sir. Since I acquired it as a refurbished product, I never had the manual, but of course I should have realized I could locate it with a simple Google search.

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  25. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    With the owners manual, you can see that setting the cartridge position in the headshell is very easy, most vintage tables came with some sort of alignment jig to set the stylus overhang, or just specified the measurement like for yours below...

    [​IMG]

    You just install the cartridge with the screws snug but not tightened, make the measurement and move the cartridge forward or backwards in headshell until stylus is at the correct point (overhang), and assure the cartridge is aligned straight in the headshell (offset angle), tighten the screws and it's good to go. You can experiment with different alignments using an arc protractor once you are more comfortable with setup and understand the interaction between the overhang, offset angle, null points, and the type of alignment (Löfgren A, Löfgren B/Baerwald, Stevenson, etc).

    You can get more precise than the above, technically you align the cantilever, not the cartridge body, but that gets you started.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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