Today I’m going to show you how to set up a turntable at home, often a over-looked aspect to enjoying the vinyl.
For this process we will use the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, however the process is pretty much the same for any belt-drive turntable, so I will list everything in order to make things easier for you.
The very first thing I want to do is make sure that the turntable and the surface you’re working on is level. A small thing to consider but vital in the long run.
Now, vital for the parties, check the floor doesn’t bounce. If the area in which your turntable is located has a lot of foot traffic or is situated on a wooden floor you may want to consider a turntable shelf. This is a solution for turntables that jump or skip due to vibration from the floor, plus it can help keep the kid’s grubby little mitts of your pride and joy.
I have a free android app here with a bubble level on it, however a proper bubble level from a hardware store would be more accurate. Gently place the level on the turntable as close to the center of the turntable as possible, once you can see that it is level, if the bubble is not centered then adjust the feet on the bottom of the turntable until the table is as level as possible. If your turntable does not have this option for balancing then use as flat a surface as you can find.
So putting the bubble level or phone out of the way, I’m then I’m going to install the drive belt. Really important that you wash your hands before doing this. The oil, sweat, greases on our hands can deteriorate these belts.
Then we put the belt around the hub and around the smaller diameter portion of the pulley. This position is for 33.3 (thirty-three and a third) rpm records. The larger part or bottom part of the pulley section is for 45 (forty-five) rpm, you want to make sure the belt is nice and flat and even on the pulley.
Now we are going to do something that’s not actually in the owner’s manual. There are two screws here, either called floating motor screws or transport screws. These temporarily secure the motor to the base. They can increase the amount of noise or humming here, so we recommend just removing them. Sometimes they’re fine, they don’t cause too much of a problem, just depending on how tight they’re in there, but it really doesn’t hurt to remove them and then your motor is completely isolated from the turntable plinth, or the base.
So with those out of the way, you can see the motor is kind of suspended freely. Now we can move on to installing our platter. The platter has a hole there for the spindle in the center. So, you are going to go ahead and line that up, place it down, make sure it’s seated all the way. We don’t want any uneven gaps. Think “level” again.
Does it look good? Next up we’ll install the felt mat. If your turntable comes with an acrylic platter you may not have a mat, so you may just put the record directly onto the platter. If it’s metal, you’re going to want that felt mat on there.
Next, we can move on to the cartridge and setting the tracking force for the cartridge. Many turntables, including this Pro-Ject & Rega come with a pre-mounted, pre-installed cartridge. That’s awesome, it saves us quite a bit of time. If your turntable doesn’t, or if it does and you end up replacing the cartridge with a new one, you will have to align the cartridge. An alignment protractor is really useful.
Or if you want something a bit more accurate then you can invest in one of these, we use this alignment tool at Rapallo on a daily basis for our clients.
The cardboard protractor is simple to use you just put that over the center spindle, and then you have two points to align the cartridge. The cartridge mounts in the head shell with two screws, which you can slightly loosen off and then the cartridge can swivel and it can move forward and back. Remember be careful when moving the cartridge as you don’t want to damage the stylus. What you want to do is line up the cartridge with the first point, get it nice and square and perpendicular with that.
When you get it set to the first point, you then check it to the second point. If it’s at an angle, if it was square with the first point but it’s at an angle with the second point, that means you need to either move the cartridge forward or back in the head shell.
It takes quite a bit of trial and error. You just kind of have to take your time and play with it. But if you take your time and make really small incremental adjustments, just line it up with the two points and you’ll be set. With that out of the way we can set the tracking force.
The Ortofon 2M Red has a recommended tracking force of about 1.75 grams. Every different cartridge has a different recommended tracking force. So be sure to find the correct tracking force for your cartridge.
So, we’re going to go and set that now. The counterweight that is included with the Pro-Ject has this nice numbered dial on there, go ahead and install that onto the back of the tonearm with the numbers facing forward so you can see them. Tracking force is how much force the stylus, or the needle pushes down into the grooves of the record to read the information.
Too heavy or too light, both damage the record and they’re not going to sound good, so it’s important to get this set correctly.
Take the tonearm out of the holder, lower the tonearm, and we want to get that tonearm balanced. We want it perfectly level so it’s not flying up or sinking down. Just move that counterweight back and forth and you’ll see it go up, you’ll see it go down, we want it somewhere in the middle. Small adjustments make a big difference, so just take your time and when you think you’re getting pretty close, like that looks good, take a look from the side, make sure it’s nice and level with the platter. If your pretty happy with that balance, so now you’re going to put the tonearm back in the holder, raise the arm up, and I don’t want to move this weight now. Now that it’s balanced
Now you want to hold the weight still and spin just the number dial so the zero lines up with the mark at the top, so we’re kind of zeroing out the tonearm, then you can set the tracking force to exactly the recommended number, which like I said is 1.75. And our tracking force is set. If your turntable does not come with that kind of counterweight with a number dial on it, you will need to use a tracking force gauge.
Using the digital tracking force gauge. You would turn it on, set it on the platter, put your cartridge over it, line it up and lower it, and it will give you a digital readout of the tracking force of your cartridge. Again, if your turntable does not have a numbered counterweight like that, you will need a tracking force gauge to set it to the recommended tracking force.
All right, with all that out of the way we can set our anti-skate. With the Pro-Ject it is a simple little string with a loop on the end and a weight on the other, and a few different notches that are different anti-skate weight settings for the Ortofon 2M Red. It’s the middle notch that is the recommended setting, so we’re going to go ahead and loop that string onto that middle notch, hang the weight over, and our anti-skate weight is set.
Next, I’m going to connect our signal cables. So, the Pro-Ject includes a set of RCA cables with the ground connection on both ends. Really important that you get a good ground connection at the turntable and at your phono preamplifier or your receiver, or phono input at your amp. I recommend starting with the ground connection, because once you plug in the RCAs it’s kind of hard to access the little ground screw. So get this screw right there, clamp it down, make sure it’s a good metal-on-metal connection. Nice and secure.
With that in place we can plug in the RCAs. White is left, red is right. And then we’re ready for a power connection. There we go.
And our very last step is our dust cover, in this case there are two hinges on the back with posts and those line up at the holes in the dust cover. Different turntables have different designs, but most of them work on a hinge system just like that, and once you got lined up and all the way in there you want to make sure everything clears so you’re not pinching anything. And that looks pretty good. The dust cover is for keeping dust off the record when you’re not using it. When you’re playing a record, for the best sound quality you want to have that dust cover all the way open, or you can even remove it completely and set it off to the side and then just put it on again when you’re done with it.
That is the basics of how to set up a turntable. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call, chat with us online or send us an email. We are only too happy to help.
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