In Part 1, we told you how to install the headshell and counterweight, and how to balance the tone arm. Now it’s time to set the stylus tracking force. Setting the force properly will keep the stylus from skipping out of the record groove at especially dynamic musical passages (too little force) and prevent excessive wear to stylus and records (too much force).
The recommended force varies from cartridge to cartridge, so first you need to determine which cartridge you’re dealing with. The AT-LP120-USB currently comes with an AT95E cartridge (identifiable by its green stylus). Prior to September 2011, the turntable was equipped with the now discontinued ATP-2XN (white stylus). If you are working with the AT95E, we recommend setting the force to 2 grams; if you have the ATP-2XN, set the force to 3.5 grams. (If you ever install an alternate cartridge, you’ll need to adjust the tracking force according to the manufacturer’s recommended setting.)
As you’ll recall from the previous post, the stylus force gauge is located on the front of the counterweight. Without adjusting the counterweight, rotate the force gauge so the number 0 lines up with the centerline marked on the rear of the tone arm. Then set the tracking force by rotating the entire counterweight (the force gauge should turn along with the weight) counterclockwise until reaching the desired value.
Also, to compensate for the natural “skating” force that pulls the tone arm toward the center of the record, set the anti-skate knob to match the value of the tracking force. However, if you anticipate doing a fair amount of back-cueing, scratching or reverse-direction operation, you may want to use less or no anti-skate control.
If you use a taller cartridge, thicker slip mat or play thick records (such as 180 g pressings or old 78s), you may also need to adjust the tone arm height in order to keep the tone arm parallel. To do so, loosen the height-lock switch and rotate the black height-adjust dial – the lock and dial are both located at the base of the tone arm. Once the height is adjusted correctly, secure it by flipping the switch back into locked position.
Finally, adjust the PHONO/LINE selector switch on the back of the turntable to set the proper output. If the turntable is connected to a receiver or other device with a dedicated phono input, move the switch to PHONO. If the turntable is connected to a sound card, powered speakers or AUX-type inputs, set the selector to LINE, which will activate the turntable’s internal pre-amp. If you are using the USB output to connect the turntable to a computer, the selector switch can be set to either PHONO or LINE as the switch doesn’t affect USB output in any way.
You are now ready to use and enjoy your AT-LP120-USB. Just remember, if you change out the cartridge, you will need to rebalance the tone arm and reset the tracking force. Happy listening!
View the video version of these instructions on the Audio-Technica YouTube channel.