How to Install a Turntable Cartridge

Written by julia klaus
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How to Install a Turntable Cartridge
Properly install a turntable cartridge to ensure proper playback and to avoid damaging the cartridge or the stylus. (close up of professional DJ's turntable image by TEA from

Properly install a turntable cartridge to ensure proper playback and to avoid damaging the cartridge or the stylus. Turntable cartridges convert the vibrations detected by the stylus into electrical signals that are turned into music. There are many different sorts of cartridges available from a variety of manufactures at a wide range of price. Select an appropriate cartridge based on what it will be used for. Transferring music from a turntable to a computer would require a sensitive, audiophile-style cartridge, whereas a DJ would want something more versatile.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Small Phillips head screwdriver
  • Appropriate cartridge
  • Cartridge specific stylus
  • Appropriate head shell
  • Cartridge mounting kit: screws, nuts and washers.
  • Cartridge specific wires

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  1. 1

    Remove all packaging from head shell and cartridge. Set the stylus aside to keep it from getting bent or damaged during cartridge mounting.

  2. 2

    Place the head shell so that the bottom is facing upward and set the cartridge down in place. The stylus's slot should be facing forward and be at the bottom of the cartridge. Place weights, if included and desired, between the top of the cartridge and the bottom of the head shell.

  3. 3

    Put the washers onto the screws and place the screws into the slots on either side of the cartridge so the head of the screw is facing up but will face bottom when the head shell is attached to the tone arm.

  4. 4

    Keep the screws in place with hand while dropping the nuts onto the ends of screws on the topside of the cartridge or head shell. Begin to tighten the screws until the cartridge is securely attached to the heads hell.

  5. 5

    Connect the wires to the back of the cartridge by matching each wire to the corresponding post indicated by colour. Use a firm but delicate approach to push the wire all of the way onto the post, which will ensure proper connection between the turntable and the cartridge.

  6. 6

    Attach the free ends of the head shell via the posts at the back of the head shell. Hold the head shell so it is oriented as it would be on the tone arm. The top left post is for the white wire, the top right is for the red wire, the bottom right is for the green wire and the remaining post corresponds to the blue wire.

  7. 7

    Remove the stylus from the protective packaging and carefully insert it into the slot so that it points slightly downward from the cartridge. Plug the head shell or cartridge into the tone arm and tighten it into place.

  8. 8

    Adjust the tone arm's height and weight to correspond with any directions from the cartridge's manufacturer. Adjust the skate control as desired. Allow the stylus to rest on a record for an hour or so to calibrate the angle of the stylus.

Tips and warnings

  • Some cartridges do not require a head shell and include a bracket to attach to the tone arm.
  • Find a record or music store which caters to vinyl and turntables. The staff will be able to advise you in selecting a cartridge and will possibly carry cartridges in stock.
  • Many DJ specific music shops will have cartridge kits which come with everything needed, including a cartridge, stylus and all necessary wires and mounting components.
  • Keep the stylus in the protective case until the cartridge has been successfully mounted to the head shell.

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