A Beginner's guide to turntable setup

You’ve spent a month researching your options for the best basic beginner turntable, you’ve done your homework on what works best with your system and you’ve finally pulled the trigger. You walk out of your local Hi-Fi store with said turntable in hand and you rush home ready to begin playing some of the new records you just bought. The moment you get home, you open the box, slap on the platter, finagle the rubber belt around and start playing the first record. Like nails on a chalkboard, you hear a bone-shivering squeal coming from your turntable and instead of music, all you’re getting is horrid noise. What happened? Well, turntables can be a tricky source of music and you may need to take some time and special care to set it up. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a quick guide for setting up a basic turntable. Once you’re through with this guide, you should have some idea of what to look out for in your setup. Do take note though that it would be in your best interests to read the manual before anything! It can save you a lot of time!

a time to level up

It all starts with a good base. As you take your turntable out of the box, you’ve most likely thought ahead about where you plan to put it. If you have a dedicated area for it like the top shelf of a Hi-Fi rack or on top of your media console, make sure that the surface is level and remains that way. The last thing you want is to have a wobbly table under your turntable causing your records to skip every time the wind so much as whispers at it. How do you make sure the surface is level? Use a bubble level! They don’t cost an arm and a leg and they come in very handy if you ever need to move your turntable to a new area. By ensuring the surface you place it on is level, you can ensure a consistent performance from your record player. Once the surface is level, you can then move on to your turntable. Place the turntable on your level surface and start by putting the platter in and have a bubble level handy on the platter. You may notice some adjustable footers on each corner of your turntable (assuming it’s one of those traditional rectangular designs). Carefully adjust each footer equally in small increments until you see the bubble level perfectly level. Attach the turntable belt and that’s the first step done!

the art of balance

The Orea series eliminates parasitic vibrations and provides greater sound clarity and focus. The OREA’s are ideal for electronic components including Amplifiers, DAC’s, CD Players, Speakers, and Turntables. Made of machined stainless steel, these isolators have a low-profile design to minimize any increase in height. Each OREA model is designed with a different weight capacity. They each have a coloured ring on the bottom isolator that denotes the model and weight capacity and they are packaged individually to allow greater flexibility when determining the number of units to use. Isoacoustics recommend a minimum of 3 units under each component, depending on weight. The upper flange of the OREA’s are designed to provide a suction cup like effect and adhere to the underside of the component, while the lower flange adheres to the supporting surface. All the energy is managed within the core of the OREA’s, which are tuned to work within specific weight ranges. This results in greater sound clarity and a more open soundstage providing authentic, three-dimensional sound.

Setting tracking force and Anti-skid

Once you’ve got the tonearm balanced, you can then set the correct tracking force for your cartridge. If you’ve read the manual, you should have an indication of the required weight for your particular stylus in grams. You can rotate the counterweight (along with the indicator ring) to the correct weight and following that, use a stylus pressure gauge for more accuracy to make sure you have it right. Stylus pressure gauges, especially digital ones, are useful because you can get very accurate readings down to 0.1 grams. After you have the correct tracking force for your stylus, you may notice another dial at the base of your turntable. This is the anti-skip dial and it usually prevents your tonearm from skipping in the direction of the center of your record. As a rule of thumb, this can be set to follow the stylus pressure used on your counterweight.


The next step after setting your stylus’ tracking force is making sure your cartridge is aligned. Some turntable manufacturers may already have the cartridge aligned for you saving you the trouble, but you can of course always check again using a cartridge alignment protractor. These protractors can be purchased separately or can also be included by your manufacturer when you purchase your turntable. In order to make sure your cartridge is aligned, you would usually need to attach the protractor to the turntable spindle via a hole located at the end of the protractor. Make sure your turntable isn’t running while you do this, the platter needs to be stationary! You would then need to rest your stylus on the predefined points of your protractor making sure each time that the cartridge is aligned with the grid. If you find that the cartridge isn’t aligned with the grid, you can use a mini screwdriver to adjust the screws mounting the cartridge to the headshell and slowly adjust the cartridge until it lines up perfectly with the grid on the cartridge alignment protractor.


The final step in your turntable setup is to connect it all up! If you are using a turntable with a built-in phono preamp, you can connect a pair of RCA cables to the outputs of the turntable and then plug the RCA cables into your integrated or pre-amplifier’s RCA inputs. The next step is to connect your power adapter to the turntable and switch it on. Finally, if you are using a belt-driven turntable, do one last check and make sure the belt is connected both to your platter and to the motor’s spindle. While keeping the tonearm on the tonearm rest, just let the turntable run and watch the platter to make sure the belt is connected properly. Your platter should be moving smoothly without any jerky movements. That’s it! You’re all done!

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