Adjusting the Tonearm on your Turntable

A Guide to Adjust Your Tonearm

Tone Arm & Cartridge Settings

The main cause of problems in turntable sound and skipping on the vinyl is the lack of proper set-up of the needle and table adjustments in general. The stylus is designed to operate at a particular angle to the vinyl. The commonly used ‘S-Arm’ turntable has various adjustments to properly position the needle to the vinyl.

  • The first adjustment is the correct installation of the cartridge. Your standard cartridge is to be mounted into the headshell as per the mounting instructions included with every cartridge. Most standard cartridges require the use of the two screw mounting into the headshell. For your convenience, these products can also be purchased already mounted and per-adjusted from your local dealer. If you are using these 1/2″ mounted products with a headshell in a heavy-usage application or you are doing a lot of DJ-type scratching, you might benefit by using the extra shell weight provided.  The body of the cartridge should be parallel with the center of the headshell-tonearm, when viewed from the front towards the back.pultahsh
  • The second adjustment to make is at the installation of the cartridge-headshell assembly into the tonearm tube lock. It is recommended to keep the needle protector in place on the cartridge during this step to prevent any damage to the stylus.  Holding the tone arm tube in one hand, insert the cartridge-headshell into the tube lock with the other hand. Turn the locking nut clockwise (when viewed from the rear) until the head shell is locked tightly into the tonearm. Remove the needle protector from the cartridge and place a nice flat record on the turntable mat. View the needle from the front and insure that the needle is perpendicular to the record surface. If adjustments are needed, simply loosen the lock ring and rotate the cartridge-headshell until the needle is perpendicular to the record surface. Then re-tighten the lock ring.


  • The third adjustment is the needle (or stylus) pressure from the counterweight. With the cartridge-headshell assembled and mounted into the tone arm remove any needle protectors provided. Release the tonearm from the rest, and with it free, adjust the tone arm counterweight by rotating the rear section until the tone arm floats in a balanced condition above the record or mat.


  • Be careful not to allow the needle to drop onto the mat or the turntable platter during this adjustment. You might damage the needle if this happens. While carefully hold the tonearm in one hand, rotate the numbered ring on the front of the counterweight with the other hand to the “o” setting.  You have now balanced your tonearm.  In order to meet the required manufacturer specifications of your Cartridge you will need to adjust the counter weight.  For example, and standard cartridge could have a suggested stylus pressure of 1.5-2.0 grams.  Without touching the numbered ring, rotate the rear counterweight until the desired needle pressure reading is next to the line on top of the tonearm tube.


  • The forth adjustment is the anti-skate adjustment (bias adjustment). Presuming you are using the record player for regular playback or recording only, then set the antiskate adjustment to the same number as the needle pressure setting (i.e. 1.5grams would be an anti-skate setting of 1.5).  However, if you are using the turntable for back cueing, scratching or other record manipulation, then set the anti-skate setting to “0”.  Note that on a Rega style tonearm the anti-skating adjustment is slightly different (see images below).  Generally speaking a figure between 1.0 & 1.5 will normally be
    suitable for moving magnet cartridges and 1.5 & 2.0 for most moving coil cartridges.


  • SL1200_skating
    rega anti-skate
  • The fifth and final adjustment is that of the tonearm height. Many casual vinyl listeners might not even worry themselves with these adjustments, but if you are looking to get the most out of your vinyl setup, this this is a crucial step (if your tonearm has this functionality).  The tonearm height will set the tonearm pivot and needle relation with the record. Unlock the tonearm base located in the base of the pivot assembly. Rotate the height adjust ring in the pivot base to read the correct setting for the height of the cartridge that you are using. Check the cartridge/arm height table for the correct setting. Be certain to re-lock the pivot base when adjustment is completed. Again, if you have a Rega style tonearm you may need to purchase special spacers/shims that will allow you to change your tonearm angle.  However if you’re using a Rega cartridge with a Rega tonearm you generally don’t need to do anything!

tonearm heightrega spacer