Vinyl record player setup for beginners

This guide will help you set up your vinyl record player or turntable for the first time

Andrew Macrae

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Photo by Juliane Mergener on Unsplash

Before you play any of those new, sealed vinyl records with your record player, use this simple guide to setting up your turntable.

A record player is a very sensitive instrument, and even small inaccuracies in setup can have a big impact on the overall sound.

I’m assuming that you have a working turntable, and that your amplifier either has a dedicated phono channel, or you’re using a standalone phono preamp into your amp’s auxiliary channel.

There are three main things you need to do to set up your record player:

  • position and level your record player
  • set the stylus pressure
  • align the cartridge.

Some terminology

First, some definitions so we’re all on the same page.

  • I use the words turntable and record player interchangeably.
  • The stylus or needle is the tiny, delicate point that sits on the surface of the record as it spins. It picks up vibrations from the groove and transmits them into the cartridge
  • The cartridge is where mechanical energy from the stylus gets transformed into electricity. The vibrations from the surface of the record are passed into a coil, which moves through a magnetic field, creating an electrical signal.
  • The cartridge attaches to the headshell, which connects to the tone arm, and usually provides a means of aligning the cartridge correctly to the record.
  • The tone arm is on a pivot that allows the stylus to track the groove in the record as it spirals towards the middle. It also carries the electrical signal from the cartridge along four internal wires (positive and negative for each side of the stereo pair).
  • If your turntable has an anti-skate control, it will usually be in the form of a dial at the base of the tone arm. Anti-skate provides a counter force to stop the tone arm’s natural tendency to skate inwards towards the centre of the…

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Andrew Macrae

Freelance writer and editor. Sign up for my newsletter about writing, freelancing and whatever is worrying me https://tinyletter.com/Andrew_Macrae