The more you get into using the turntable, the more you realize that you may always do a bit more to get a better sound.
As turntables work by measuring vibrations, the vinyl groove makes the stylus move/vibrate. This is turned into a small electrical signal that is amplified and turned into sound by speakers.
You know your turntable is working well when it reads only the vibrations in the grooved, and doesn’t muddy them through the vibration coming from another place.
You did get a good turntable if it’s able to handle the external vibration, unless you placed it in the wrong place.
Why do you get a bad sound anyway?
You never want to put your turntable in the wrong place or somewhere or there’s something else vibrating as the same time as you turntable. Stay away from a small table or a shelf. A large piece of furniture is going to vibrate as well when the speaker is playing. You can easily check it for yourself by touching the speaker. You simply feel the vibration.
Long story short, you want something that is light and stiff at the same time, like a wall bracket or a lightweight coffee table.
You can’t get a good sound if the turntable isn’t leveled either. You may easily and carefully adjust the feet so that the turntable it’s leveled in both side-to-side and fore/aft. planes.
In the case your turntable doesn’t come with adjustable feet, you may use some pieces of card or anything like it to place under the feet.
In order to improve the sound of your turntable, it’s better to always keep it away from the speakers. Never place the turntable and the speakers on the same piece of furniture. Next time you’re checking the sound on your record player that features built-in speakers, don’t. It’s quite surprising you’re getting any sound at all.
A bad location is always the easiest way to check if you’re not satisfied with the sound of your turntable so always take the extra time to find the best place for your deck.
How to get a better sound anyway
There aren’t many things to do when you want to improve the sound and the list of tips isn’t very long either.
- Setting-up the turntable
You have to make sure that the stylus is at the right angle in the arm, as you look at it from the front.
Many good turntables out there come with the cartridge already fitted and typically, the angle is right from the beginning. It doesn’t hurt to check though as it’s not only the bad sound that you’re gonna get. It may damage your vinyl in time as well.
Don’t forget to see if the tracking force is right. There are marks on the counterweight and the lump at the other end of the other end balances it. You need to turn the weight to zero. The arm is supposed to sit level, whereas the stylus doesn’t hit the platter. If it’s up in the air/on the platter, it’s best to set the weight until it sits parallel to the turntable.
When the arm is “floating”, getting the tracking weight for the cartridge, you still need to check it as too much force may ruing your cartridge. Not enough force is going to give miss tracking, ruining your vinyl.
- Get the alignment right
You need an alignment protractor that typically comes with your turntable. If not, it’s not that expensive, as you should get it.
There are various types and it’s best to angle the cartridge so that the stylus gets in line with the groove, for the most part of the vinyl.
Most arms present a pivoting nature, so it’s practically impossible for the stylus to have the right angle all the way throughout the side. The solution is in the protractor.
Don’t get it over your head though as every tweak changes the sound and you only have to go through the basics for a good sound in 90% of the times. Don’t overdo it.
- A good angle
Make sure to set the vertical tracking angle (VTA). We talk about the angle of the stylus in the groove, as you see it from the side. You may adjust it by loosening a bolt in the arm base, playing with the height. You get a good sound if the arm tube is parallel with the vinyl surface. You may tweak it by tilting up/down only by a few degrees.
It’s not quite common to find arms with adjustable VTA since many consider rigidity to be more important, since the VTA only really counts when it comes to tonal balance.
The only vibrations you want in a record player are at the stylus/groove interface and more rigidity elsewhere is far more important.
- The anti-skate system
You need the anti-skate system (bias) because the groove travels faster at the outside of the vinyl than inside. This causes a force that drags the stylus toward the middle of the disc and you need compensation for that.
An anti-skate system may include a thread with a small weight on, whereas some have a sliding marker.
You simply place it below the tracking force, so if your cartridge speed is 1.75g, you may want to set the anti-skate to 1.5. You should be well set with just the thread and the weight system.
- The easy-peasy solution
Here’s a little secret: you may have instant results with no effort whatsoever, by simply removing the dust cover when you play the vinyl.
You do want to keep the cover on for protection the turntable from the kids, though. Keep in mind that the cover also picks up very well vibrations when your music is playing, transmitting them into your turntable.