Tweaking your Record-Player Page 3

The clip problem
Tonearm wiring uses a standard color code for channel and polarity ID: White = L Hot, Blue = L Ground, Red = R Hot, and Green = R Ground. If the cartridge pins aren't color-coded the same way, they will have letter identifications next to them. Trust me.

A bunched-up bath towel on your work space can be shaped to hold the tonearm in any position except standing on end, leaving both hands free for more important things. For now, you'll want the arm or headshell lying upside down. With the tonearm detached from the turntable armboard, examine the junctions between the tonearm's cartridge clips and their wires. If the wire insulation simply stops at the back of the clip—that is, if there is nothing to restrain it from bending sharply to the side—there is some risk of clip detachment when you try to maneuver it onto its cartridge pin. Before proceeding, put a small glob of glue at the back of each clip, to fill the gap between the wire and the clip. Then pour yourself a nightcap and allow the glue to dry overnight.

If you're adept with a soldering iron, clip detachment is merely an annoyance. If you aren't, you're out of business until you can get the arm or headshell to a dealer who can do the job for you.

Check the clips for a proper fit on the cartridge pins, and adjust them if necessary. "Proper" means snug but not tight.

To check clip size, hold the cartridge tail-up close to the head wires, grasp a clip firmly right behind its tubular part with the tweezers, line it up with the cartridge pin, and press. If it does not slide on with moderate force, the clip needs opening-up. If it slides on easily but flops around when attached, it needs tightening.

Sizing is the operation most likely to detach a clip. The trick is to avoid bending the wire at its attachment point or putting too much tension on it. To avoid either, always hold the clip with its wire slightly slack-looped behind it while adjusting.

For opening a clip, hold it firmly with the tweezers or needle-noses, right behind its tubular section, and press the tip of the jeweler's screwdriver into the open end of its longitudinal slot until you see this widen very slightly. (Here's where you'll probably need the headband magnifier or reading glasses.) You're dealing with thousandths of an inch here, so a barely visible spreading may be all that's needed. Try it for fit, and repeat until it does.

For tightening a clip, press a toothpick inside it as far as it will go, then use the needle-nose pliers to gently squeeze together the sides of the clip near its free end, while watching the slot for any change. (Attempting to squeeze a clip without the toothpick inside it will flatten its sides.) Try it for size, and resqueeze if necessary until the fit is correct. When it is, close up the middle section of the tube to match the end.

Recheck to make sure the clips are on the proper pins, and plunge onward.

Mounting the cartridge
If this can be done with its stylus guard in place, all the better, but it may be necessary to remove that during at least one phase of the installation. If you do, replace it as soon after as possible.

Be especially careful when the stylus guard is off, as many MC cartridges have a fierce magnetic field at the base of the cantilever, and if this grabs the tip of a steel-bladed screwdriver, it can destroy the stylus. And I can assure you from memorable experience that when it grabs, it grabs so fast that there is no hope of resisting it. The best precaution is to keep the screwdriver well away from the cantilever, use a nonferrous screwdriver, or keep the stylus guard on when you're using the screwdriver near it.

One of overcivilized man's most burning philosophical questions is, Which side of the toilet-paper roll (fig.1) should the paper dangle from? Almost equal in cosmic significance is the audiophile's dilemma: Should a cartridge be mounted nuts-up or heads-up? Since there's no definitive answer to either, it will depend on the individual's personality type. Introverts prefer paper-from-the-back and screw-heads at the top; extraverts lean toward paper front and nuts up, because both are easier.

Fig.1 A burning question

For nuts-up mounting, set the arm or shell upside down on a bunched-up towel, place the cartridge where it will be mounted, align one pair of mounting-arm and cartridge holes, and drop a screw through them. Turn the arm/shell on its side, hold the screw in place with the tip of the screwdriver, and start the nut on its other end. Do the same with the other screw and nut. Align the cartridge parallel with the headshell axis, and take up both screws until they are as tight as you can get them using only finger force on the screwdriver. It may be necessary to restrain the nuts with a fingertip so they don't turn with the screws.