Everything you need to know about turntable cartridges

Know your moving magnets from your moving coils with our comprehensive introduction to cartridges.
Needles, stylus, cartridges, choice ups, call them what you like, every turntable has something that sits in the rut and ‘ reads ’ the undulations in the furrow wall .
The signal produced by this process gets sent down the wires in the sleeve to an amplifier that equalises and boosts it to a level where it can be sent through another amplifier and into the speaker .
The cartridge has a slippery job because it has to turn a mechanical movement into an electric sign, it does the reverse of a loudspeaker which turns a sign into vibrations in the publicize. Both are types of transducer.

How They Work
Cartridges turn drift into bespeak with a magnet attached to the lead end of the cantilever ( the thinly perch with the stylus at its gratuity ). When the stylus moves the cantilever moves the magnet and this induces a electric potential in a coil of electrify placed very close to it. This wire is connected to the pins on the back of the cartridge, and as there are two sets of coils in a stereo cartridge the four pins on the binding are the convinced and negative connections for each channel .
That ’ s how a move attraction ( MM ) magazine makes a bespeak, a moving coil ( MC ) works the early way attack : the coils move and the magnets remain inactive. This makes for a much lighter moving mass and as engineers will know is a good thing – it means that the stylus, cantilever and coils weigh less and that allows them to stop and start more quickly. But it requires finer telegram for the coils and greater preciseness in manufacture to make a move coil. As a consequence MCs are about always more expensive than MMs .
As you can imagine the size or power of that signal is identical broken, that ’ s why a turntable needs a separate amplifier called a phono stage to boost the electric potential up to a period where an ordinary adenosine monophosphate can work with it. MCs have even lower output voltages and consequently MC phono stages have to be that much quieter than MM varieties .
How well a magazine does its job depends on a lot of factors : the form of the diamond stylus, the material used for the cantilever and the agreement of the magnets/coils in the body of the magazine are just a few of them. evening the material that the body is made of has a pretty dramatic effect. The Japanese are exquisite on cartridge bodies made of hardwood and trailer truck precious stone like adulteress, while some MC cartridges have no torso at all, which brings weight down but does make the delicate parts quite vulnerable .
In an ideal cartridge all the vibrations that the stylus picks up from the furrow would be transformed into electric department of energy, but it ’ s a crude system that constantly has to battle with undesirable vibration in the atmosphere ( healthy ) and coming through the turntable from the furniture and floor. This is why you get the best results with vinyl if you keep your turntable off from speakers and big pieces of furniture, the most hardheaded solution is a wall shelf at the other end of the room from the speakers if possible. ( Read our bit-by-bit guidebook to speaker placement for more on this. )
If you want to hear as much music as potential and minimize vinyl tire, it pays to set up cartridges angstrom carefully as potential. One thing that ’ s obvious when you think about it is that the stylus can only be absolutely in line with the rut at a certain period on the vinyl. This is because most tonearms pivot around a fix point and this means that the magazine describes an arch as it traverses the record .
Over the years numerous attempts have been made to overcome this but few have been good enough to make a lot commercial impact. The exception are alleged analogue track arms that allow the cartridge to travel across the vinyl in a square agate line. These were made by Technics and B & O among others in the eighties, but ultimately did not prove to be angstrom good nor a dependable as was hoped. You can still buy a senior high school end parallel tracking arm but the fact that they still represent a niche tells you that this is not the ultimate solution.

so cartridge set up is a balance of compromises, you need to optimise the fish and position of the stylus for ampere much of the vinyl surface as potential. Getting this stead right requires an alignment protractor which need not be any more complicated than a piece of card with a hole and lines on but inescapably it ’ s possible to spend an atrocious set on tools made for the job .
Use The Force
First it ’ s necessity to fit the cartridge and set the downforce that ’ sulfur appropriate. The figure can be found with the cartridge box or on-line and with arms that have calibration marking you balance the arm so that it ’ second floating with the tip close to the acme of the vinyl by adjusting the counterweight, then dial in the want downforce .
With arms that don ’ triiodothyronine have this facility you need some kind of downforce gauge like the Shure SFG-2, then adjust the position of the counterweight until the downforce is chastise. The benefits of correct tracking force are numerous but basically if it ’ s not correct record wear will be greater and phone quality lower. The honest-to-god ‘ put a coin on the headshell to stop it jumping ’ technique is not a well estimate if you rate your vinyl .
once that ’ s sorted get oblige of a protractor – there are free ones online – and use it to fine tune the position and slant of the magazine and stylus. I prefer a protractor called Polaris Plus because it makes the job easier and if you want an accurate result it ’ randomness difficult to beat, but the simple options are beneficial enough for most cheap cartridges. In fact the fancier the cartridge the more demand it tends to be about set up. The great thing about most MMs is that they have spherical stylus that are easy to align. Higher end MC cartridges normally have agate line touch stylus that need to be precisely aligned for best results .
If you want to push the boat out, and your tonearm allows it, you can adjust upright tracking lean or VTA. This is the slant of the stylus in the groove as viewed from the side. As convention if the armtube is twin to the vinyl surface when the stylus is in the rut then VTA should be adjust. If it isn ’ metric ton and the arm allows allowance for height at its base then you can raise or lower it to achieve that end. Interestingly one of the most knowing turntable and arm makers, Rega Research, does not offer height allowance on its arms because it feels the little benefits of arrant VTA are outweighed by the lack of inflexibility introduced by an adjustable sleeve base. And given that they make the best sound record players on the commercialize they are credibly right .
The great thing about turntables is that you can hear differences with every change you make, and effective set up is a very cheap upgrade that can turn something that ’ s the merely entertain into a source of musical ecstasy. But don ’ metric ton get carried off, they ’ re entirely records !

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