How to Change the Needle on a Vinyl Player

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Phonographs, record players, turntables - whatever you want call them - have parts that need to be changed as they wear. Here is how to do it.

Steps

  1. Generally, there are only 2 or 3 parts to turntables that need attention, depending on the type you have. These parts are: the stylus or needle, the cartridge and in some turntables - a belt.
  2. The stylus is the part that is changed most often - as the friction created will cause wear as it tracks in the groove on the record.
  3. The stylus is held by the cartridge, which is fastened to the arm.
  4. A stylus is changed usually by pulling straight out - in the opposite direction of the turntables arm.
  5. A replacement stylus must be compatible with the cartridge. Take note of the cartridge manufacturers name and model. If purchasing in a store, bring along the old stylus.
  6. Replacing the stylus is simply a matter of slipping it back into the opening in the cartridge, obviously with the point down.
  7. The cartridge is another component that can be changed. Make the selection based on which types fit the turntable manufacturer and model. The cartridge usually plugs into a jack secured to a headshell or turntable arm. The cartridge is another "pull out" / "slip in" arrangement similar to the stylus.
  8. Tracking pressure may need to be adjusted when changing the cartridge. Cartridges have different weights, so the counter balance (at the opposite end of the arm) and skew adjustments (usually an adjustment at the rear - near but not on the arm) will need to be set. When tracking pressure is properly set up, the stylus will "sit" fully in the records groove. The anti-skew setting helps to keep the stylus pressure equal in horizontal directions - this helps prevent the arm from skidding across the record if bumped.
  9. One of the most overlooked parts is the belt (direct-drive units do not employ belts). It is not plainly visible, so it is easy to forget its there. Indications for belt change include: the inability to adjust the turntable speed to attain the correct pitch of the recording - or to sync the speed to an indicator located on the platter to the strobe, or uneven speed or pitch.
  10. In order to access the belt, it will be required to get to the underside of the turntable. Depending on model, it may be accessible by removing a cover on the bottom, or removing screws that allow lifting the entire mechanism up and out from the cabinet.
  11. Once visible, remove the old belt and clean all the surfaces that the belt contacts, with alcohol and a clean rag. When dry, slip on a new belt designed to fit the turntable and reassemble. Never oil these surfaces.
  12. Reassemble and enjoy!

Tips

  • Protecting the stylus from damage will help keep your records sounding great. Never drop the arm - place it gently on the record. Never let it contact anything other than a record.
  • Clean records with devices and cleaners designed specifically for the task before playing.
  • Proper anti-skew and tracking pressure adjustments are paramount to the quality of sound reproduction.

Warnings

  • Unplug the turntable from AC power source before changing the belt or accessing the mechanism on the underside of the turntable.

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