Question: What does the anti-skate feature on my turntable do? Why do I need it, and where do I set it?
Answer: The anti-skate feature applies a small outward force to the tonearm, counteracting the tendency of the arm to move inward (skate) toward the center of the record, as the tonearm approaches the end of the record. On many turntables, there is an adjustable anti-skate control. It is important to note, however, that others may not have this manual adjustment. But this does not mean the turntable does not have this feature; it may be handled internally, preset at a fixed value by the turntable’s manufacturer. This is not uncommon on turntables that utilize an integrated cartridge.
Anti-skate is needed in order to maintain good channel balance (obtain equal volume from the left and right channels), minimize distortion, and to minimize stylus and record wear. These goals can be realized if the stylus (needle) tip can remain centered in the record groove as the tonearm travels across the record.
To set the anti-skate on a turntable that features a user-adjustable control (often in the form of a pre-calibrated knob), begin by adjusting it to the same value as the vertical tracking force (VTF) used – this will get you in the ballpark. Inner groove distortion in particular can be quite noticeable. Listen carefully to the last few minutes of a record to determine if more or less anti-skate is needed. Listen for distortion, perhaps most notably in the form of sibilance (that annoying hissing sound produced when pronouncing certain letters or combinations of letters such as “s” and “sh”), and determine if it appears to be louder on one channel, the left or the right. Adjust the anti-skate value until the distortion is minimized. Now listen carefully at two or three different points across the record. If you used an alignment protractor to align your cartridge, listen at the alignment points. Listen for any differences in tone, dynamics and soundstage at these points. If there are differences, some tweaking of the anti-skate adjustment may be needed. If adjusting the anti-skate does not clear up a particular problem, there may be another reason for it. Contact our Audio Solutions Department for further advice.