How to set up cartridges and tonearms for DJ’s. DJ only tutorial!

The one and only DJ Short-E walks us through setting up a technics 1200 with shure m447’s for optimal performance. From counterweight adjustments to tonearm height to cartridge angle and overhang, Short-E covers it all!

Check out her site at studioscratches. She offers scratch tutorials, great beats, and a friendly vibe! Check it out!

Cleaning and Polishing Technics Platter Dots

Years of dirt and grime can easily build up on the platter of your beloved Technics 1200’s. Continue reading to find out how you can restore your platters to their former shiny glory.

Steps for Cleaning Technics 1200 Platters

Step 1 – Removing the Surface Dirt

The first step for cleaning the Technics 1200 platter is to remove the surface dirt and grime. This is easily accomplished with a stiff bristle brush and a solution of water and baking soda.

Dip the brush into the solution and gently scrub the platter edge. Work your way around the platter, taking your time to ensure all areas are covered.

Step 2 – De-greasing the Platter

It’s slightly disturbing to think about, but most of the discoloration and dirt on the platters is from the oil on your hands. To remove this, use something like a glass cleaner – ie windex, or even a mild dish detergent. Again, apply this with your stiff bristle brush, making sure to cover the all the surfaces.

Step 3 – Wet Sanding

This step isn’t always needed, but can help remove the deepest of discoloration. I like to start with 1000 grit sand paper and work up to 1500 grit. Use the left over baking soda or mild detergent solution as the wetting agent. Again, work slowly and don’t stay in one spot too long. Use circular sanding patterns, and gentle hand pressure.

Step 4 – Final Polishing

At this point, there shouldn’t be any discoloration on the platters at all. If your platters still have gray or black marks, you need to revert back to earlier steps. For this step you will need metal polish. I like to use mother’s metal polish. It’s as easy as applying a small amount to a dry cloth and rubbing it on. You will see the platters start to sparkle before your eyes!

Now enjoy those clean platters, and perhaps think about reading about how to clean those needles?

Proper Turntable Setup

Finding a home for the turntable

To perform correctly, a turntable must be place on a level, sturdy surface. This is especially true with DJ’s, as touching and manipulating the moving vinyl record with cause the table to shake slightly.

Isolating the turntable in high SPL environments

In a night club setting, extra care is needed. The turntables will sometimes be placed on absorbent materials, such as cinder-blocks or paving tiles. I have found the best method for isolating vibrations in turntables to be using a combination of concrete bricks and rubber landscaping tiles. You can also use tennis balls cut in half to replace the feet of the turntable.

For the best isolation possible:
Make a sandwich of rubber tile/brick/tennis ball foot. This will provide outstanding vibration protection and be sturdy enough to scratch and juggle on.

Leveling the Tonearm

For optimal tonearm performance and skip resistance, as well as superior audio reproduction, the tonearm must be parallel to the vinyl record. This is achieved by using the height adjustment at the base of the tonearm. One thing to note is that height changes with different slipmats.

How to level the tonearm

  1. Get at eye level of the turntable.
  2. Unlock the height adjustment of the turntable. (On Technics 1200 this is a small lever at the back of the tonearm base.)
  3. Place the needle on the record.
  4. Raise or lower the height adjust ring until the tonearm is level to the record.
  5. Put the tonearm back on the rest and lock it.
  6. Lock the height adjustment lever.

Research the Cartridge Specs

Consult the manufacturer to find the optimal weight for the cartridge.  This weight will be in grams, and is usually listed as a range.  For example 2-3 grams. This rating is what you will apply to the counter weight.

Setting the counterweight

  1. Make sure the cartridge and needle are attached to the tonearm.
  2. Ignoring the numbers on the weight for now, unscrew the counterweight so that it moves away from the needle, towards the back of the tonearm.
  3. This will cause the tonearm to want to point up from the extra weight on the back, like a see-saw.
  4. Slowly rotate the weight forward, a half gram or so at a time.  The goal is for the arm to free float level without your hands holding it.
  5. Once the tonearm free floats, move the indicator ring of the counterweight until the zero mark is lined up with the mark on the top. (Zero is no weight on the arm, thus the arm free floats)
  6. Lock the tonearm in place on the tonearm rest.
  7. Rotate the entire weight assembly forward until the Manufacturer’s recommended weight is achieved.
  8. Enjoy your properly weighted tonearm!

Setting the Anti-skate

There is much of a debate about the proper anti-skate setting for DJ turntables. My personal opinion is that the best setting for DJing is to turn it off completely, and set the anti-skate to zero.

Anti-skate is meant to center the needle in the groove of the record. This is done by countering the centrifugal force of the spinning record with a simple spring to pull the tonearm back towards the outside edge of the record. The problem lies in that once you place your hand on the record and stop it, the spring overcomes the now zero centrifugal force. This can cause extra skipping issues.

But for normal playback of records, a general rule is that half the weight will equate to a close antiskate setting.

For a more exact anti-skate setting:

  1. Find or purchase a record with a blank unprinted side.
  2. Put the needle on center of the record.
  3. Start the turntable and adjust the anti-skate until the needle stays in the middle of the record; it doesn’t move towards the label or towards the outside edge.

Be sure to also check out our article on proper needle care!