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!