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It's The Little Things!


When servicing turntables, it rarely is a matter of plug and play. Careful inspection is required. In scale, the diamond stylus in a groove is like a bolder being held by you while speeding along at 60 miles per hour with a pivot point nearly 3 miles away.

Precision is everything and any error will likely result in distortion through mistracking. Loose parts or misalignments are not your friend.

Likewise, it is essential, particularly with old turntables, to carefully inspect with wires between the cartridge and the tonearm itself. These are called cartridge tags or leads. Sometimes, you discover amazing things. Today I worked on an Linn LP12 and discovered that the 20 year old audiophile upgrade silver leads had deteriorated badly (see photo above!) Notwithstanding the connectors were gold and the wire silver, it appeared as if the plastic insulation and heat shrink had actually started to break down. The residue leached onto adjoining surfaces. Given the very low electrical output of either moving coil or moving magnet cartridges, this was definitely causing a significant downgrade in performance. I replaced them immediately.

So, do I recommend buying expensive upgrade cartridge tags? Not really. The sonic results are very much a case by case basis and not always good. One of the common problems with such aftermarket products is that they often do not properly fit on the male plugs of either the tonearm or the cartridge or even both! So, even with new cables, poor contacts result in degraded sound from what could have been achieved with cheaper proper fitting leads.

Oh, just one more thing. When buying a used table inspect the metal tags themselves for repair work. I have seen too many tags soldered by Itchy and Scratchy. It may sorta work but you are not paying with sorta money. Either pass on the table or accept that you will need to replace them as part of the purchase price.

Happy Listening as always.


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