Vinyl Engine

As an avid record collector, tinkerer, and restorer of vintage audio equipment (speakers, turntables, etc.), Vinyl Engine’s vast resources have proven indispensable (registration required). Whenever you get a new table, you have to set up and align the specific stylus and tone arm — settings which are highly-specific to particular models. Without that info you’re flying in the dark and have no idea if your stylus is seating correctly in the groove. Translation: crappy sound, damaged vinyl, unnecessary strain on your needle.

So far, every single turntable I’ve needed data on has been available on the site. The Library archive features 217 brand names of turntable related gear, each one drilling down into a vast wealth of data: alignment protractors, cartridges, tone arms, strobe discs, manuals, catalogs, and even a brand-specific forum for info-sharing and troubleshooting. For instance, the Technics page alone has info on 64 direct drive tables, 20 belt drive tables, and another 9 misc. tables. And the depth will only improve as members upload files and share more info.

Recently I acquired a stock Rega Planar 3 turntable that I’ve been after for a reasonable price for about 6 years now. Score! Not quite. Initial listening tests showed some sibilance (S sounds more like TH than S) which worsens towards the center of the record. This led me to do some research to see if I can solve that issue. Vinyl Engine had PDF’s of the original owner’s manual and setup guide as well as user-created alignment protractor (pic below) that made correct setup fast and easy — you just put them on the table, and make sure the needle traces the correct path (hint: when printing the protractor it is important to turn off page scaling, otherwise, the geometry is thrown off!). This did not solve my sibilance issue, but it moved me closer to a solution. Further support was available within the forum dedicated to Rega products: Looks like I need a new stylus.

Another example: I have a Technics SL-1900 I stopped using because the automatic return function causes the stylus to scrape across the record as it is unable to lift the tonearm high enough. Posting a query on the forum recently yielded very useful information. Evidently there is an adjustment screw that is easily-accessible from the top of the turntable. Also, I learned I may have to dismantle the entire table and replace the tonearm lift’s silicone damping fluid. Fortunately for me, people have posted pictures and step by step instructions. Turns out a variety of viscosities of 100% pure silicone lubricant are available locally at San Francisco’s cooperatively-owned sex toy store Good Vibrations. Inexpensive, too!

-- Chris Becker  

Sample Excerpts:

Rega Planar 3 – Stevenson Protractor

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