Read our HiFi FAQ

The path to success often begins with a question. Find answers to the questions posed below through our web resources. Contact our support team for further assistance.

1. Stylus and record care, Stylus lifetime and Stylus types.
2. General cartridge mounting: leads connections, azimuth, VTA, overhang, antiskating, phono preamp.
3. Malfunctions
4. How to select the right cartridge for your particular record player.
5. Why should you use a dedicated mono cartridge for playing vinyl mono records?
6. Why use a transformer?

1. Stylus

1.1. Stylus and record care

To maintain optimal sound reproduction and to minimize wear on your record as well as on your stylus, we recommend the following procedure before and after each playback:

Remove dust carefully from record surfaces by using a fine antistatic brush or cloth before every use. Ortofon do not recommend the use of solvents of any kind for cleaning of either record surface or stylus. If necessary, records may be washed in lukewarm demineralized water with a dash of sulphonic soap. The detergents should be allergy- & environmental friendly, without perfume or as little as possible: a few drops to a few liters of waters, no lather.

The use of solvents on the stylus and cantilever may damage stylus cement; interior parts of the cartridge can be affected seriously by the intrusion of solvents. The Ortofon warranty service will not be valid in cases where such treatment has caused malfunction of your cartridge.

For cleaning the stylus, use fiber brush a few times along the cantilever in the direction of the stylus tip, whenever you play a new record or change sides. Use the brush in the forward direction from the rear of the cartridge towards the stylus tip and never from stylus tip to the rear of the cartridge and never from side to side. This will take all normal dust and most of the slick release agent from new records. Following this treatment there will normally be no need for further stylus cleaning.

The stylus protection guard provided for the cartridge is designed to be easily replaced and removed. To avoid accidental damage to the stylus or cantilever please mount the stylus guard onto the cartridge whenever the cartridge is not in use. A new stylus protection guard can be purchased on the Ortofon webshop https://www.ortofon.com/hifi/products/styli-guards .

Please remember to remove dust from the diamond tip before and after playback of each record.

In order to keep electrical contacts clean and to lubricate the knurled nut on the tonearm, Ortofon recommends occasionally a light spray of contact cleaner like DeoxIT ®Gold G-Series into the tonearm socket.

 
1.2. Stylus lifetime

With proper care we find that up to 1000 hours is possible without degradation of performance. The stylus does begin to exhibit changes after 1.000 hours, but the stylus life as a whole is expected to top 2.000 hours.

Proper care comprises the following:

  • Cleaning of record by means of fibre brush before and after every use. Cleaning of record by using record cleaning machine once in a while. 
  • Cleaning of stylus by means of a fine antistatic brush. Please remember to remove dust from the diamond tip before and after playback of each record. Use the brush in the forward direction from the rear of the cartridge towards the stylus tip and never from stylus tip to the rear of the cartridge and never from side to side.
  • Proper adjustment of antiskating, azimuth and tracking force.


Concerning DJ systems used for "scratching" and "back cuing", we have experienced stylus lifetime to be substantially less because of their unique application. As a consequence DJ`s will have to consider about 500 hours at the most.
 
1.3. Stylus types

Please download datasheet "Everything you need to know about styli types"


2. General cartridge mounting

2.1. Leads connections

All Ortofon cartridges have a colour coding of the terminals, indicating red and green for right channel respectively hot and ground terminal. White and blue for left channel respectively hot and ground terminal. Green terminal will always be used for grounding the cartridge housings or motor-system, whenever connected inside the cartridge.

We recommend to connect lead wires to the cartridge and head-shell before mounting the cartridge on the head-shell.

NB:
 Please remember correct orientation of the leads because of cartridge terminal PINs dimensions of 1.2 mm and headshell PINs normally only 1.0 mm. If shifted around, it may cause over-tightening of the assembly.  Being aware about this detail, you will avoid the risk of having the cartridge's terminal PINs fall out.



Moving magnets (2M Series and OM Series) connector PINs principal drawing:


    
Moving Coils and SPU N Series connector PINs principal drawing:

 

2.2. Stylus position to record centre, overhang and alignment

For alignment of overhang please follow record player instructions. Where no instructions or cartridge alignment protractor available, we recommend 16 mm as a general position of the stylus in front of the spindle centre for having almost zero tracking error on two stylus positions, one at about  30mm inwards from the starting groove and again near the end of playing.
 
2.3. Azimuth, vertical alignment

Azimuth adjustment or vertical alignment of the cartridge is very important for optimal channel separation.

The checking is easily done by lowering the cartridge onto a thin mirror placed on the record surface and examining whether the reflection lines up square with the cartridge, when viewed from the front. During this test tonearm must still be parallel to the record surface. If not obtainable because of mirror thickness, remove record and work directly on the mat. If alignment is still incorrect and not adjustable because of fixed headshell,  the only solution is to resort to packing on one side of the head-shell.
 
2.4. Tonearm level, vertical tracking angle

Cartridges are constructed so that cantilever angle corresponds to the 20 deg. record cutting angle, when the cartridge is loaded with recommended tracking force and the cartridge base is parallel with the tonearm and this again is parallel to the record surface.
 
2.5. Phono preamp settings

For Moving Magnet cartridges both resistive load (47 Kohm) and the capacitive load (typically a few hundred pF) are important.

Resistive loading for Moving Magnets is the same as load impedance for Moving Coils.

For Moving Coil cartridges is only the resistive loading vital (unless the capacitive load is unrealistically high), and it is not more important than that we can just specify Recommended load impedance interval. The reason for the Moving Coil is so "insensitive" is that it has a low internal/generator resistance, which makes the MC cartridge more "immune" to what we load it with.

The sound character is influenced by the input/load impedance. The lower the load impedance, the higher the current and the more dynamic the sound will be.

2.6. Anti-skating, bias compensation adjustment

Correct bias or anti-skating adjustment is important in order to achieve optimal tracking ability and thereby minimum record wear and distortion. A number of players have a device which, related to the tracking force, will give an anti-clockwise force needed to the tonearm. Correct bias has to compensate for the inwards directed torque on the tonearm caused by the friction between stylus and groove. But this again is influenced by stylus type and amplitudes in the record.

A simple recommendation for a rather precise bias: if you hear distortion in say right channel when using recommended tracking force, increase the biasscale and vice versa. This is for normal cartridge use. But when working like the DJ´s, where the record is turned forwards and backwards, bias has to be reduced otherwise stylus will easily jump in the groove.

2.7. Tonearm/cartridge combination

When choosing either MC or MM cartridges for your record player, total mass of tonearm including cartridge and headshell has to be taken into account in relation to the mechanical compliance (elasticity) of the cartridge cantilever system. Find more information here.

Meaning that high mass of the combination needs low mechanical compliance, otherwise record warps can easily provoke tonearm vibrations at frequencies around 4 to 6 Hz, that will bring degradation of performance. At least 8 Hz is advisable.

To choose the right cartridge for your turntable/tonearm please see our Replacement cartridges for Turntables/tonearms selector.


3. Malfunctions

3.1. Contact problems

One channel missing can arise for several reasons. For cartridges mounted in head-shells check cable shoes for not being short circuited or wires inside the insulation being disconnected from the cable shoe.

It is our experience that dirt is the main reason for missing contact in systems using the SME-type tonearm connection. Dirt or some sort of oxidation, if contacts are not gold-plated or if gold plated contacts have been exposed to abrasive cleaning, can happen on all contacts involved and especially when systems are often taken in and out as the case will be for DJ`s.

For cleaning contacts we recommend to use the well known contact spray WD-40. This will also be very helpful for lubricating the union, not on the SME-type tonearm, which very often is tightened unnecessary hard because of sluggish function.

3.2. Distortion

Correct tracking force is very important for optimum performance as well as for reduction of wear in the record caused by mistracking. Tracking force should rather be too high than too low to overcome high amplitudes in the record and should be adjusted together with the anti-skating.

 

4. How to select the right cartridge for your particular record player?

Begin by determining:

a. The mounting system of the tonearm on your turntable
-    A headshell (or mounting bracket) with two screws holes on /2” spacing
-    A TP4 socket
-    A universal Ortofon/SME mount socket, found on many S-shaped arms

b. The mass of the arm
When selecting either MC or MM cartridges for your record player, total mass of tonearm (including tonearm effective mass, cartridge and headshell) has to be taken into account in relation to the mechanical compliance (elasticity) of the cartridge cantilever system.

The rule of the thumb regarding the match between toneram mass and cartridge compliance goes like this: High mass requires low compliance, low mass makes it possible to benefit from high compliance.

  Tonearm effective mass Cartridge compliance
  Very high
High
Medium
Low    
Very low

> 20 g
15 - 20 g
10 - 15 g
5 - 10 g
< 5 g

Very low
Low
Moderate
High
Very high
5 µm/mN
5 - 10 µm/mN
10 - 20 µm/mN
20 - 35 µm/mN
> 35 µm/mN

Read more about cartridge and tonearm systems resonance frequency and learn how to calculate compatibility of the system here.

5. Why should you use a dedicated mono cartridge for playing vinyl mono records?

On a mono record the signal is cut only in the lateral dimension whereas a stereo record is cut at +/- 45 degrees into the opposing groove-walls, see the below figure:


A stereo cartridge will be able to replay stereo and mono records, because mono is a special version of stereo where the right and left channels are identical. While a stereo cartridge can play mono records it can’t achieve the same signal precision between the two channels. A mono cartridge produces one signal that is directed to both channels in the system. A mono cartridge playing a mono record produces a more forceful and stable image with a fuller, more impactful sound.

Another big advantage in using a mono cartridge to play mono records is the absence of response to vertical movement. This means that a mono cartridge is basically immune to the pinching effect which comes into action when the stylus is pushed vertically upward in very narrow grooves. Also the response to dust, dirt and wear is reduced substantially. The final result will be a clean and noiseless reproduction of the mono record.

The listening experience will be significantly improved when using a high quality True Mono cartridge for the replay of your mono records.

Read more about Ortofon Mono cartridges range here.

6. Why use a transformer?

Step-Up Transformers (SUT) are a serious option for anyone who owns a Moving Coil (MC) cartridge, one that can significantly improve both the sound quality and sonic character.  Quite simply, a good transformer is the best way to audition an MC cartridge with the highest performance possible.

Since the output of MC cartridges is lower than that of a Moving Magnet (MM), higher gain is required to utilize them, such as that provided by SUTs or MC phono preamplifiers.  Although both devices provide this requirement, both are fundamentally different in function and in sonic character.  This is where SUTs are frequently seen as superior; they are completely passive and offer exceptional noise performance and sound quality.

This is due to the fact that the structure of harmonic and intermodulation distortion is fundamentally different between MC-preamps and SUTs. While an MC pre-amplifier has a constant resistive input impedance, an SUT has an input impedance that is frequency dependent. The harmonic distortion produced by SUTs is highest at the lowest frequencies and drops as the frequency rises, whereas in most MC preamps the distortion increases as the frequency rises.  Combined with significantly lower Intermodulation Distortion (IMD), the sound produced with an SUT will be much more open, dynamic, spacious, and natural.

Offering compatibility with most Moving Coil cartridges, Ortofon transformers will enhance the performance of any low output, low impedance MC cartridge.

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Do you have a question for Ortofon?

We are ready to answer your questions and to help put you on the right path to information. So please feel free to e-mail us: support@ortofon.dk