Friday, June 3, 2011

Calibr8 Str8: Calibrating The Straight Arm Turntable

Related to Elements: DJ, 12" Single

Do you own a straight arm turntable like a Stanton STR8 100 or 150?  Are your records skipping unexpectedly?  It's probably because the needles you are using are not mounted properly.

Straight arm turntables are great, they sound warm rich and are great for mixing.  The Stanton STR8 series in particular have extremely high torque and are excellent for scratching or casual listening.  BUT this is true ONLY if it is calibrated properly.  A needle on a straight arm tracks the groove of a record better but only if it is offset.  If your straight arm turntable is not properly aligned, then your records will skip.

Why is that?  Good ol' science tells why...

^Forget about that jargon, it's really not rocket science as long as you have the proper tools.

In brief, here's how you calibrate a straight arm turntable.

Tools Needed:
  • Caliper
  • Tiny Phillips Screwdriver (this comes with the headshells for free)
  • Steady Hand
  • Reading Glasses (if you are really old)
  • Diamond Shaped Needles (Preferably the Shure N44-7 since it's almost bulletproof)

First things first.  Lower the tone arm lift as much as possible by turning it counter clockwise.

Turn the counterweight backwards so the numbers are on the outside and make sure it's almost all the way back.

IMPORTANT: With the following steps, you must be EXACT with your angle or you will cause damage to your records or they will sound funny.  Do not settle for "close enough" measurements or your records will skip or sound funny.  If your records skip, fine tune your calibrations right away, or the needles and\or records will wear down prematurely.  (New needles are ideal for this situation since they need to be broken in anyway.)

If you are using the Stanton headshell, there is no need for a caliper.  Just follow the dotted line.  Simply align the cartridge mounting screws dead center with the dotted line.

Otherwise, if you are using the Technics headshell you will need to use your caliper to measure where the cartridge should be tightened.

Measure from the back of the headshell slot to the start of the mounting screw when adjusting.  (as shown above)  There is little forgiveness in the sound quality if you are too far forward or back.

Once on point, tighten down the headshell mounting screws tightly, slide in the diamond shaped needles, (N44-7) mount the stylus on the tone arm, and you are done!  Now get your scratch on!