Replacing a turntable cartridge is no longer a problem common to many, and the number of people confident enough to tackle the task without a guide is dwindling. This is what we are here for, the below guide will show you that it is easier than you expect, as long as you have patience, a steady hand, and the right tools.
Normally, you will need a 2mm Allen key or a small flathead screwdriver, depending on the fixing used. A small pair of pliers is also useful.
While these tools are common, you will also need a tracking weight gauge and a cartridge alignment tool. These are both relatively cheap, so fret not if you do not already own them.
First, you will need to remove the old cartridge. To prevent damage to the old cartridge, make sure you fit the stylus guard before moving to remove the old cartridge.
Next, as carefully as you can, disconnect the lead-out wires from the cartridge - there are four of these. They are fragile, so make sure not to pull the actual wire, rather the metal connector at the cartridge. Undo the mounting bolts and remove the cartridge.
Fitting the new cartridge
First, check the new cartridge’s stylus cover and if it is properly mounted.
Mount the new cartridge onto the arm using the supplied fixings. This can be difficult, but take your time and don’t over tighten the bolts. Do them up enough that the body of the cartridge does not move around.
Connect the four lead-out wires. They are colour coded and their markings correspond to the four pins on the back of the cartridge.
You can use the pliers to squeeze the connectors so that they are tighter to the pins. As always, be careful as they are fragile.
Alignment and weighting
The first step to align and weight your cartridge is to place the tracking weight on the rear of the arm. Turn the weight until the arm balances and then curry on further toward the arm pivot to add about 1.50-2.0g extra. The cartridge should sit in the record groove rather than float above. For now, arm bias should be set at zero.
Next you will need to have the tracking alignment gauge to hand. Use the gauge’s parallel lines to align the cartridge body. The measurement is done towards the centre of the platter and the other is near the outside edge.
Once you have aligned at one of these positions, move the arm to the next position and, if necessary, re-adjust. You may have to work between the two a couple of times until you are happy with how everything lines up. Once aligned correctly, the stylus top will be at the proper angle in the record groove.
Tighten the mounting bolts fully enough that the cartridge does not move.
Set the tracking weight using the scales this time. The manufacturer of the cartridge you purchase will recommend a suitable range of downforce with a weight listed as most suitable (often between 1.5 and 2.5g).
Then, you’re all done!