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Thread: Turntable Maintenance Introduction

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  1. #1
    Faderwave.com mr.smashy's Avatar
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    Turntable Maintenance Introduction

    This is a short guide for the care and calibration of Technics SL-1200 turntables. These turntables, and most professional grade DJ turntables, are built very well and with the proper care should last a lifetime.

    To properly clean and care for your turntable, you’ll need a few items:

    1) Micro-fiber cloth, or similar soft, non-abrasive cloth (no paper towels)
    2) A gentle, non-abrasive surface cleaner (Glass-Plus, a mild solution of alcohol and water, 50/50 solution of water and hydrogen peroxide, etc.)
    3) Contact cleaner (Caig Deox-It or Pro-Gold is ideal, but record cleaning solution will work ok. No RadioShack.)
    4) Lubricant (bearing oil, gun oil, sewing machine oil)
    5) Professional grade screwdrivers
    6) A circle bubble level
    7) A can of air duster
    8) Some q-tips

    Before beginning, for you and your turntable’s safety, always unplug your turntable from the wall, especially if you are going to lift the platter. Please don’t forget. It is also a good idea to remove the RCA and ground wire from the mixer/preamp, lock the tonearm down, and remove the headshell.

    Cleaning

    Start by blowing the dust of the top of the deck with air duster. Wipe all surfaces down with the non-abrasive cleaner and non-abrasive cloth.

    Blow the dust and debris off the slipmat. You may also want to use a vacuum to suck dust out of the slipmat, but be gentle and use a brush attachment. Then take a slightly moist micro-fiber cloth and wipe off the slipmat. Wipe lightly from the center towards the edge, turning the mat after every stroke.


    Take the slipmat off the platter and wipe down the platter, again wiping from the spindle to the outside edge. Also wipe down the strobe pattern along the outside of the platter. If the strobe pattern is really dirty, use non-abrasive surface cleaner and q-tips. Be patient, and change q-tips frequently.


    Pull the platter off the turntable; be sure that the plug is pulled from the wall. Before lifting the platter, turn the deck on and off to be absolutely sure there is no power. If the motor is started without the platter, the motor will be destroyed. To take the platter off, slip your fingers into the two holes on the platter and pull straight up, taking care not to bump the magnet that is under the platter. Place the platter aside, top down, in a safe place.

    Take the air duster and blow the dust and debris off the sub-platter. Take special care to blow everything out of the motor well.


    Oil the spindle bearing. Use a needle to place a drop of oil at the base of the spindle. Expose the base of the spindle by pulling up, and then work the oil in by gently turning and lifting the spindle up and down.


    Place the platter back onto the deck. Again, be careful not to knock the magnet.

    Unscrew the tonearm counterweight and put it aside. Use air duster to clear off the tonearm base and wipe it down. Use a q-tip to clean the smaller areas. Wipe down the tonearm, both before and after the pivot. Lightly oil the top of the rear of the tonearm and screw the counterweight back on.

    Clean the contacts inside the tonearm/headshell connection, and on the headshell itself. Caig Deox-It pen, spray, or drops work well. Caig Pro-Gold also works well. In a pinch, record-cleaning solution (water, alcohol, and detergent) will work. If you are having trouble with a headshell connection, NEVER lick the contacts. If you have an Ortofon Concorde cartridge, cleaning the headshell and tonearm contacts can solve most connection problems. An Ortofon representative has recommended cleaning Concorde connections with WD-40; I do not own any Ortofon carts and have not tried this.


    Clean the RCA cable connectors in the same manner as the headshell and tonearm connections. You may wish to clean the RCA jacks on the mixer as well.


    Calibration

    There are three main areas we will look at when calibrating a turntable: how to level the turntable, the pitch and break settings, and the tonearm.

    To properly level a turntable you will need a circular bubble level. Bubble levels can be found at your local hardware store or on the Internet for a range of prices, but for the most part, for a DJ type situation, any bubble level will do. I spent two dollars on mine at a Sear’s hardware, and it seems to do the job just fine. Start by checking how level the work area is. If the surface you will be putting your turntable on is not level, do the best you can to make it so. Get your turntable into position, and screw all the feet into the turntable as far as you can. Do not over tighten. Take the slipmat off the platter and place the bubble level on the platter, just to the right of the spindle, so that it is roughly in the center of the whole turntable. Use the feet to level the turntable, and then replace the slip mat.


    Pitch and brake calibration have been discussed elsewhere on the web. Please refer to here for pitch calibration and here for brake calibration, where they have been outlined quite eloquently.

    Tonearm calibration is critical for correct playback of records. An improperly calibrated tonearm can result in skipping needles, increased record wear, decreased stylus life, and poor fidelity. Proper tonearm calibration translates into proper stylus performance and allows you to make the most of your turntable and stylus.

    There are three settings that affect tonearm calibration: weight (tracking force), anti-skate, and height. In order for your stylus to be at it’s best, all three of these settings must be correct and working in harmony.

    To properly set the stylus tracking force, the tonearm must be balanced, or zeroed. To balance the tonearm, start by installing the headshell and cartridge. For maximum precision, remove or flip up any stylus guards. To protect your stylus, place a one-sided record on the turntable black side up. If you don’t have one, place a record on the table that you wouldn’t mind scratching. Unlock the height adjustment and raise the tonearm height so the stylus has clearance above the record to swing free. Twist the counterweight back and unlock the tonearm; the tonearm should rise into the air. Gradually turn the counterweight forward until the tonearm floats above the record. Step back and look at the tonearm as it floats. The tonearm should be level, or balanced. Return the tonearm to its rest and lock it down. Hold the counterweight in place and turn the weight dial to zero. The tonearm is now zeroed. To add tracking force, turn the whole weight to the desired setting. Follow your styli’s instruction guide for correct settings.

    To setup an s-shaped tonearm, the anti-skate settings must be correct. There are two Anti-skate calibration settings, relative and absolute anti-skate. Relative anti-skate is set by the anti-skate dial, and absolute anti-skate is set by the concentric screws in the tonearm pivot. There are two kinds of anti-skate forces, positive and negative anti-skate. A force that pushes the tonearm away from the spindle is a positive anti-skate force, and a force that pulls the tonearm into the spindle is a negative anti-skate force. The anti-skate dial adds positive anti-skate, and is used to counteract an s-shaped tonearm’s natural negative anti-skate that it exhibits when playing. Ideally, a balanced tonearm should not display any anti-skate forces. To test for absolute anti-skate, unlock and balance the tonearm. Be sure that the anti-skate knob is set to zero. Place the tonearm at the middle point between the spindle and the edge of the platter. The tonearm should remain at rest: tonearms that pull outward display a positive absolute anti-skate, and tonearms that pull inward display a negative absolute anti-skate.

    To calibrate the tonearm so that it displays a neutral absolute anti-skate, the bearing screws need to be adjusted. This is dangerous, as over-tightening of the bearing screws will damage the bearing. I would suggest taking your turntable to a qualified turntable technician, but if you want to adjust it yourself, here is how to do it. Return the tonearm to its rest and lock it down. Take a precision screwdriver and unscrew the center screw. The center screw is the top pivot for the tonearm, and the outer screw is a locking screw. When you have the screws free of the pivot, line up the screws so that the top is flush. Now is a good time to lube the pivot screw. Place a drop of oil on a q-tip and lightly lube the point of the pivot. Line up the bearings (on the tonearm suspension) with hole in the tonearm frame, and hand-tighten the bearing screws. While you are tightening the bearing screws, gentle wiggle the tonearm suspension. Stop tightening when you have eliminated the play in tonearm suspension. Unlock the tonearm and bring it back to the mid-point between the spindle and the edge of the platter. When you release the tonearm, it may drift out to the edge of the platter. Bring the tonearm back to the mid-point, and gently tighten the center bearing screw with a precision screwdriver, and then test for anti-skate again. Be careful not to over tighten. Only turn the screw about a degree every time you test the tonearm. When you have found the correct tightness, the tone arm will stay balanced at about the mid-point. Be sure that you did not over tighten the tonearm by moving the tonearm through its range of motion. It should swing freely and smoothly, with no binding. If there is no binding, you have successfully calibrated your tonearm so that it has neutral absolute anti-skate. Lock the tonearm down and hand tighten the outer locking screw. Double check absolute anti-skate once you have tightened down the locking screw.





    For DJ use, such as back cueing and scratching, the anti-skate knob should be set at zero. Positive anti-skate will cause skipping. For hi-fi use, some relative anti-skate should be used to counteract an s-shaped tonearms natural negative anti-skate. To set anti-skate for hi-fi use, place a one-sided record blank side up on the turntable. Place the needle on the blank record at the mid-point and gently turn the platter by hand. The needle will slide in towards the spindle. Add positive anti-skate force with the anti-skate knob until the needle stops sliding. Anti-skate is usually around half the tracking force (3 grams weight = roughly 1.5 anti-skate.)

    To calibrate the height of the tone arm, unlock the height ring. Put the needle on a grooved record, and look from the side to see the angle of the tonearm. Ideally the tonearm should be level while playing, or slightly sloped down from the pivot. Having the tonearm slope down helps tracking during scratching. Check with your styli’s instruction guide for a range of height adjustments. Tonearm height can vary greatly due to thickness and type of slipmat.
    Last edited by mr.smashy; 05-17-2012 at 08:04 AM. Reason: updating links

  2. #2
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    Very well written. A great resource.

  3. #3
    Member HarryK's Avatar
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    I have just found out that my uncle and my father, when they were young, had bought a Technics sl1200 mk2. I searched in the attic and found it!
    The turntable dates back to late 70s or 80s, not sure when. Anyway, i plugged it in and it is working flawlessly (seems like it anyway). It even has a stanton cartidge, not sure which though, only thing I know about it is that it has an integrated brush to remove dust from the needle path.
    So my question is, should I be affraid for anything to brake-be short circuited, given the age of the tt? Mind you it hadn't seen a lot of use as per the owners. Lastly, does anyone have any cartidge suggestions?

    P.S.: If this is OT, please move it.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by HarryK View Post
    The turntable dates back to late 70s or 80s, not sure when. Anyway, i plugged it in and it is working flawlessly (seems like it anyway).
    Determining the age of a 1200

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryK View Post
    It even has a stanton cartidge, not sure which though, only thing I know about it is that it has an integrated brush to remove dust from the needle path.
    Yes I remember this cart. I think it's a 680, which is a good cart. Stanton used to be one of the brands for carts. Shame that's no longer the case.

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryK View Post
    So my question is, should I be affraid for anything to brake-be short circuited, given the age of the tt? Mind you it hadn't seen a lot of use as per the owners.
    I'd just try it and see tbh.

    Quote Originally Posted by HarryK View Post
    Lastly, does anyone have any cartidge suggestions?
    That depends on what you want to use the deck for
    www.dnbradio.com

    Quote Originally Posted by Doppelganger
    He's just like me, only he's a man and more stupid

  5. #5
    Member HarryK's Avatar
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    dnb mixing mate! Tbh, your setup is my inspiration..!

  6. #6
    Member g-sep's Avatar
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    Good write up Smashertons, definitely going to get on this this weekend
    Quote Originally Posted by tails View Post
    I do a pretty lazy job wiping my ass if I know I'm about to shower though.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by HarryK View Post
    dnb mixing mate! Tbh, your setup is my inspiration..!


    The carts I use are AT95Es. They are hifi carts so you have to be a little bit gentle with them. In DJ carts my choice would be the Shure M35X or Stanton 680
    www.dnbradio.com

    Quote Originally Posted by Doppelganger
    He's just like me, only he's a man and more stupid

  8. #8
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    PS also in the article the links "here" and "here" for pitch and brake adjustment don't work

  9. #9
    Faderwave.com mr.smashy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magos View Post
    PS also in the article the links "here" and "here" for pitch and brake adjustment don't work
    Thanks, I will update them.

  10. #10
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    I just got my two new Technics 1210's and when my tonearms is suppose to float over the record, they swing back to rest, very slowly.
    I asked this question here yesterday and apparently its a problem if the tonearm wildly swing back, but if its moving slow back to rest,
    is not a big problem. https://www.kabusa.com/frameset.htm?/sl1200tonearm.htm . This website also says just that. I use my turntables for
    scratching. What do you think?

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