To balance tonearm...or not?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by frimleygreener, Sep 10, 2019 at 11:45 AM.

  1. frimleygreener

    frimleygreener "It 'a'int why...it just is" Thread Starter

    Location:
    united kingdom
    Okay. You unpack the new turntable, set up the cartridge ,all is aligned,so far so good. You take another look at the destructions,and in essence most manufacturers recommend "setting the arm to zero so it floats 2/3 mml above the record surface" , setting the counterweight to zero,then dial in the cartridge manufacturers optimum tracking force. So that is fairly straightforward,and indeed a tad therapeutic. So the question is, if one has an accurate digital scale,is it necessary to balance the arm to zero etc?
    Does balancing the arm have more implications than solely arriving at the recommended tracking force?
     
    JackG likes this.
  2. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    Location:
    Savage
    Measure twice. Cut once.

    I'd still use the scale. Noting that if the counterweight is offset from the tonearm tube the tracking force will vary based on tonearm angle. If the scale is higher than the playing surface it may show a weight (force) less than when the stylus is lower, or at the LP surface level. Try to measure the force at the same level as the stylus at the record surface.
     
  3. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    Balancing the arm is doing just that, you balance it to sit level. When you touch it up or down slightly it should return to a level plane, that should be pretty much 0 weight applied.. Then you turn the counterweight to whatever you need based on cartridge specs.
    I don't do any of this as I use a digital scale that measures at playing surface, don't need to balance. I set at 1.75g and walk away.......I do check often as the process of moving your arm back and forth I have found will slightly move the counter weight and of course any hard movement, jerk might do same. I use the TrueLift so it moves the arm up and after a couple weeks I notice the weight is different, not by much.
     
    Thorensman likes this.
  4. frimleygreener

    frimleygreener "It 'a'int why...it just is" Thread Starter

    Location:
    united kingdom
    So the arm balancing is just an alternative setting method for those without a digital scale?
     
    timind, chili555 and Big Blue like this.
  5. Big Blue

    Big Blue Forum Resident

    Location:
    Wisconsin
    To me, this is an archaic step that should be replaced with just using a VTF gauge in the first place. Err on the side of setting it light before you start measuring, so you don’t risk damage to the cartridge, but to get it levitating perfectly before setting the VTF is pointless and inaccurate. The thing is, those little digital gauges are so inexpensive it’s bordering on absurd that manufacturers don’t just include one with the turntable rather than give the insane balancing instructions.
     
    Doctorwu likes this.
  6. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    No, you dont need to balance if you have a gauge.
     
    chili555 likes this.
  7. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK/USA
    Yes
     
    chili555 and patient_ot like this.
  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Many people don't balance the arm correctly, hence the recommendation for a scale. That and some counterweights are not accurate or lack markings. You will want to zero out and calibrate your scale before using it, however.
     
    Big Blue likes this.
  9. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    If you have a digital scale, there is no need to balance the arm first.

    EXCEPT, it isn't a terrible idea to do so at least once and make sure the arm moves freely left/right/up/down, that there is no binding (have your stylus guard in place).

    Also not a bad way to test the anti-skating.
     
    russk likes this.
  10. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    With arms that are dynamically balanced, like your Rega and my Micro Seiki and many others, the tracking force is set by a spring, so if you want to use that feature, you would generally balance the arm with the spring set to zero (or disengaged) and then dial in the tracking force with the spring adjuster, and then do your final check and fine-tuning with the scale.
     
    russk likes this.
  11. R. Totale

    R. Totale The Voice of Reason

    Seems easier to do it the OG way to me. You get close before you risk the stylus on the guage. Maybe you will tweak it a bit, maybe it will be close enough if your arm has markings and they are accurate. But at least if you are heading for say 1.75g you won't have your first measurement be 3.8 and have to make multiple guesses setting the stylus in the guage every time.
     
  12. 33na3rd

    33na3rd Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW Washington, USA
    BTW, this is the best scale that I've found & I've tried quite a few over the years.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076DFZDS4?aaxitk=.G6uXH98bsXEPMxYrPbPig&pd_rd_i=B076DFZDS4&pf_rd_p=44fc3e0f-4b9e-4ed8-b33b-363a7257163d&hsa_cr_id=4465795300201&sb-ci-n=asinImage&sb-ci-v=https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/91dVLJFVjwL.jpg&sb-ci-a=B076DFZDS4

    This scale measures VTF very close to the same level as the surface of the LP. As @Kyhl & @Catcher10 mentioned above, this is an important feature that many of the others lack.

    $28.95 USD
     
  13. motorstereo

    motorstereo Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Ct.
    If you have some doubt's it's not a bad idea to use a mirror protractor, and a bubble level to double check your settings
     
  14. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK/USA
    I no longer use anything with a Rega arm, however I have frequently corresponded with Jeff Spall of Audiomods*, a highly regarded arm developer with a lot of experience with Rega arms.

    He expressed the view that Rega certainly knew what they were doing with the spring mechanism and would not recommend bypassing it (ie disengaged) if it remains in situ. At the time I had an RB303 & therefore set the VTF force to full (lowest setting) before adjusting via a calibrated digital scale - this would give the 'same' result as if the Rega arm markings were perfect against the balance method (which sadly seems to have too many variables to be spot on). I trust his expertise and never felt that this was compromising the sound quality available via that arm.

    (*I have an Audiomods series 6 on one of my turntables, no longer uses Rega arm tube)
     
  15. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Use a proper VTF scale. That's the only way. Fine tune by ear.
     
  16. frimleygreener

    frimleygreener "It 'a'int why...it just is" Thread Starter

    Location:
    united kingdom
    That was my point...would the arm mechanism be comprimised(springs etc) by side stepping the reccomended method and just utilising a digital scale to measure applied tracking force?
     
  17. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    no.
     
    chili555 likes this.
  18. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    Very nice unit.....although first pic is incorrect as they have the unit sitting on an LP LOL! I made my own with a credit card, I can bend it easily to match 120-200g records

    Can't post pic since photo(toilet)bucket is down right now.......:realmad:
     
    googlymoogly and 33na3rd like this.
  19. Drewan77

    Drewan77 Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK/USA
    See my answer above - with the arm at the lowest setting & then turning the dial to the desired VTF based on a calibrated digital scale you will achieve a more accurate result than the balance method (but it will be at or near the 'same' marking on the arm for VTF, even though the simple Rega markings rely on a degree of estimation). You will not be compromising the spring as it will be under the correct tension, more accurately than the balance method.
     
  20. 33na3rd

    33na3rd Forum Resident

    Location:
    SW Washington, USA
    [​IMG]

    The Riverstone is the one on the left. You can see how much lower the measuring platform is than the gauge on the right. I used to use wood blocks/shims to get the other gauge even with the platter with an LP on it. This is much easier! Your credit card method sounds good too.
     
    googlymoogly likes this.
  21. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    I have the Riverstone gauge. It's fiddly to set up and the measuring platform is still a little taller than a vinyl record (even a 180g one), but it's close enough to provide an accurate reading on turntables which use a spring-counterbalanced tonearm and thus are sensitive to VTA when measuring the tracking force.
     
  22. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    [​IMG]

    The lip the stylus sits on I can bend it up or down........I just cut a strip of credit card and tape it to the surface. I have checked it with a calibration weight and its the same.
     
    33na3rd likes this.
  23. Johnny Action

    Johnny Action Forum President

    Location:
    Tacoma, WA, USA
    It’s all part of the fun!
     
    timind likes this.
  24. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    On a turntable with a balance weight only, you are correct. There are certain exceptions. Some turntables employ a spring to set the tracking force, such as the Dual 1000 and 1200 series, and some other brands. The arm should be balanced to maintain the range setting of the spring, and to realize the engineered dynamic balancing of the arm mechanism.
     
    Leonthepro likes this.
  25. The FRiNgE

    The FRiNgE Forum Resident

    See my posting above.. Arms with just a counterweight do not need to be balanced when using a digital scale.

    However, a huge however, it is a good idea anyway, since we don't want a setting of 10 Lbs (exaggerated) on the stylus when placing it on the scale. Arms with a spring to set the tracking force need to be balanced. Balancing the arm with the counterweight is your first step, then set the tracking force dial. This can be done more accurately with the digital scale, vs the gauge on the dial.

    When balancing (floating) the arm, the ideal is just touching the surface of an LP. However, 1 mm or two above the LP is ok. Then set your tracking force on the digital scale at the same stylus height (or close as possible) as it was in step 1.

    Setting the tracking force needs not be so exacting that we are cutting hundreths of a gram. The horizontal float of an arm, the distance of the stylus from the platter or record surface, results in very small differences in the result... only a matter of several hundreths of a gram... no deal breaker. It's important to have an accurate scale, and that the arm is floated before setting the tracking force.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019 at 5:17 PM

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