Tag Archives: turntable

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Turntable setup

Proper setup of a turntable arm and cartridge are more important to great stereo performance than even the electronics it feeds.

Of course, it’s all an audio system and even the most accurate setup won’t sound great through a mediocre phono preamplifier but it’s equally true that the world’s best phono stage won’t be worth its cost without the proper arm and cartridge attention.

I wish I could impart an expert’s step-by-step instruction on how to set up your table, but the extent of my knowledge just dusts the surface. Sure, I’ve set up plenty of arms and tables in my day. Protractor and stylus gauge in hand, I’ve fumbled through the basics as most of us have and the results were often good. Time spent adjusting and tweaking always paid off in better performance and the freeing of music trapped in vinyl grooves.

Yet, a novice’s best efforts pale in comparison to an expert’s deft hand. Years ago I paid setup expert Brooks Berdan to tweak my table and upon its return I was floored with the improvements. Suddenly, two dimensions became three: surface noise and music were separated, highs and lows were balanced, and a musicality warmed the room like a fire in the hearth.

Though my readers know I prefer an optimized DSD based system to that of vinyl, there’s no disputing the magic that is trapped in those wiggly grooves.

I fear the skills needed to expertly set up a turntable have largely been lost as, sadly, experts are dying off. However, we do live in an age of recorded wisdom and that’s a good thing.

One of the best setup people still with us today is our good friend Michael Fremer and, guess what. Mikey has a setup DVD available for sale.

This video, followed closely, will bring as much improvement to your vinyl system as any new piece of gear. Maybe more.

Building a reference quality vinyl system takes work. But then, so too does any worthwhile adventure.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Drop ins

I am often asked for a recommendation on a piece of digital audio equipment that a person could simply drop in and hear how it is better than vinyl. A simple, easy, demonstration of one format’s superiority over another.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that. Sure, we can all agree on digital’s technical superiority in terms of noise, dynamics, frequency response, transient attack, distortion, etc. Yet, replacing one piece into an analog ecosystem won’t demonstrate anything other than how alien it is.

Think of it as making as much sense as dropping a piece of modern furniture into a living room decorated in a completely different style. You’re unlikely to get a good feel of how that single piece would play out in a surrounding more acclimated to its style.

When we set up a system we’re doing so in a way that honors and accentuates the virtues of one format at the expense of another.

In the same way that plopping in the world’s best turntable into my digital optimized kit won’t tell us much of anything—other than it’s out of place—dropping a state of the art DAC into an all analog setup is doomed to failure too.

I wish I had an easy solution to help people experience the benefits of one vs. the other, but alas, drop-ins just don’t work.

They are about as welcome as uninvited guests at the family Thanksgiving dinner.