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How to Mount and Align Your Cartridge in a Few Simple Steps

Posted on March 31 2016

At some point in every record collectors life, they have to change out a cartridge. It's a natural part of the vinyl experience. If you haven't done this before, were here to help. 

The Internet is packed with overwhelming information on how to mount a cartridge. Discussions of fozgometers, Lofgren alignments, and overhang calculators can all make this job seem like a chore. But the truth is, you can handle this job with just a small screwdriver and a printable paper tool.

This post is meant to be a functional setup guide for people interested in installing a new cartridge on their own without the fear of destroying their records. While there is no talk of azimuths, zeniths, overhangs, rake angles, or other deeply nerdy turntable specifics in this blog post, we want to know that this is how we approach the installation of our new cartridges. We can vouch for it as a perfectly suitable method. Start here, get your table setup, then listening to records while you read up on azimuths, zeniths, and overhang specifics. 

For this project you're going to need the four items show below and this printable paper protractor.


Let's begin. 

First, connect the four short, color coded wires to their corresponding posts on the back of your cartridge. Then push your screws through the headshell, then through the holes in the cartridge, and then start screwing the nuts on. Don't fully tighten the screws, we need them to be loose during the alignment part of this.

What we should have now is a cartridge loosely mounted to a headshell. We want to be able to slide it forward and backward a bit along the slots on the headshell, as well as side to side. Attach the whole thing to your tone arm now.

Here comes the fun part--using the printable protractor, we're going to align the cartridge! There's really nothing to fear here.

1. Swing your tone arm out so that it hovers between the first set of parallel lines (marked C on this printout). 

2. Drop the arm slowly, making any adjustments necessary (sliding the cart forward/backward) to make sure the stylus is landing in the center of the little bullseye (marked S here).

3. If it's landing in the bullseye, tighten those screws a bit more to fix the position of the cartridge.

4. Now swing the tone arm toward the second set of parallel lines and lower it. Does the stylus land on bullseye? If so, you've mounted and aligned your cartridge correctly. If not, make the proper adjustments. Once the stylus is landing on both bullseyes, you're all set.

Now that we've got the cartridge put together and aligned, it's time to set up your turntable for the new cart!

Christina Bottego