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Tips from the Needle Archive

Tips from the Needle Archive

 

Shure M95ED

m95ed

Direct From Shure:

The M95EDID cartridges combines M95 performance and high trackability with the Shure Destaticizer whose conductive carbon fibers ground static charges on the record surface. An added bonus is the Side-Guard Stylus Protection System which responds to accidental side thrusts on the stylus by withdrawing the entire shank and tip safely into the stylus housing before damage can occur.

The Shure M95ED is an older model HIFI cartridge with decent entry level performance. They can still be found on ebay and perhaps some local record shops with older stock. The replacement styli are still available, with the part number of “N95ED.”

For those looking for an inexpensive way to achieve decent HIFI sound, the Shure M95ED is a great way to go, if you can find them! The M95ED offers decent stereo separation, with a flat tonal spectrum. Be advised these are NOT DJ cartridges, and will offer little in the durability aspect of back cueing and rougher record handling.

 

Orotofon Elektro

Ortonfon Elektro

Direct from Ortofon:

The Ortofon Elektro is durable enough to deal with extreme sound pressure and repeated vibrations, but is also able to produce an impressive, clean sound. It’s sleek looks mask a sophisticated cartridge build with a reinforced rubber suspension, excellent tracking ability and extreme competency with back-tracking and scratching. The bold, well rounded sound will benefit your set in the studio or in a live performance.

Review

The Ortofon Elektro is one of the best sounding carts for EDM genres such as trance, house, and breaks. The cartridge is very punchy and has extremely tight bottom end. The output is super loud and clean. The highs are crisp and exaggerated, so careful with that EQ!

This is a great club cartridge for real vinyl. The one-piece concord design is fantastic for quick setup time. Make sure you use the correct weight settings though! Users of DVS systems such as Serato or Traktor would benefit more from a Shure M44-7.

It should be noted that Ortofon revised this cartridge and there are two different versions that are balanced slightly differently soundwise. The original is plain white in color, while the new version is a pearl white. The new version boasts an overall more clear output, and stronger bass and mids. If you’re going to purchase these new, shoot for the updated version.

I would highly discourage scratching with the Ortofon Elektro – if you want an Ortofon scratch cartridge, check out the Qbert Signature Model.

Cleaning and Polishing Technics Platter Dots

Cleaning the dots

Years of dirt and grime can easily build up on the platter of your beloved Technics 1200′s. Continue reading to find out how you can restore your platters to their former shiny glory.

Steps for Cleaning Technics 1200 Platters

 

Step 1 – Removing the Surface Dirt

The first step for cleaning the Technics 1200 platter is to remove the surface dirt and grime. This is easily accomplished with a stiff bristle brush and a solution of water and baking soda.

Dip the brush into the solution and gently scrub the platter edge. Work your way around the platter, taking your time to ensure all areas are covered.

Step 2 – De-greasing the Platter

It’s slightly disturbing to think about, but most of the discoloration and dirt on the platters is from the oil on your hands. To remove this, use something like a glass cleaner – ie windex, or even a mild dish detergent. Again, apply this with your stiff bristle brush, making sure to cover the all the surfaces.

Step 3 – Wet Sanding

This step isn’t always needed, but can help remove the deepest of discoloration. I like to start with 1000 grit sand paper and work up to 1500 grit. Use the left over baking soda or mild detergent solution as the wetting agent. Again, work slowly and don’t stay in one spot too long. Use circular sanding patterns, and gentle hand pressure.

Step 4 – Final Polishing

At this point, there shouldn’t be any discoloration on the platters at all. If your platters still have gray or black marks, you need to revert back to earlier steps. For this step you will need metal polish. I like to use mother’s metal polish. It’s as easy as applying a small amount to a dry cloth and rubbing it on. You will see the platters start to sparkle before your eyes!

Now enjoy those clean platters, and perhaps think about reading about how to clean those needles?

Shure M44-G

Shure M44-G

Direct from Shure:

Revived exactly the same as the original, this companion to the M44-7 provides an ideal balance between skip resistance and accuracy of sound reproduction for entertainment purposes. The M44G is a versatile performance needle, appropriate for both intensive scratching and mixing.With a tracking force of 0.75 to 1.50 grams, and a frequency response which is essentially flat from 20 to 20,000 Hz, the M44G produces a vibrant, high-definition sound. With the same unique Shure Type S cantilever as used on the M44-7, the M44G is a highly reliable performer, which is also easy on your vinyl.

Review

The Shure M44-G is basically equivalent to a Shure M44-7 with a flatter response. The M44-G doesn’t have the huge exaggerated bottom end that the M44-7 has. The M44-G also has much less shrill highs.

The tracking and performance of the M44-G is marginally less than the M44-7, but they perform relativity the same when set up correctly. One difference though is that the M44-G performs horribly when over weighted. More care is needed, as the bearing assembly of the M44-G is more sensitive than its M44-7 brother.

The M44-G is still a scratch cartridge, and frankly it sounds like one. The M44-G is best suited for a scratch or turntabalist that likes to play on real vinyl records. To continue to step up in sound quality, it would be best to sacrifice performance for sound, and look into something like the Shure Whitelabel.

Full tilt turntablists should still be using the M44-7 or the Ortofon Qbert. The performance of these cartridges are unmatched.

Stanton H4S V2

Stanton H4S-V2 S Tonearm Gunmetal Headshell

Direct from Stanton

Replacement headshell for Stanton turntables and most other brands. Compatible with headshell-mount needles like 680 and 890. Includes 2 weights for better tracking. Gunmetal gray finish.

 

Review

The Stanton H4S V2 is a great budget headshell. Both the sound and finish are excellent for the price. The headshell is a perfect match for both the Stanton 500.V3 and the Shure M44-7. I have a pair of these in my personal collection and haven’t had any issues with them at all.

The only minor inconvenience is that the hardware package that is included is pretty low quality. If you like to experiment with things like changing cartridge angles, or overhangs, you need to get some better quality screws, as the included hardware will strip out in no time at all. I picked up a handful of stainless steel mounting screws for a couple dollars at the local hardware store, and haven’t had any complaints.

Ortofon SH-4

Ortofon SH-4 Headshell

Direct from Ortofon

Ortofon’s line of headshells provides an elegant and high quality solution for a wide array of cartridges. Regardless of your preference in cartridges, Ortofon’s headshells are comprised of the highest quality materials and add unique distinction to your turntable.

The Ortofon SH-4 is a quality headshell for a midrange price. The headshell is made from heavy gauge aluminum, and features gold contact pins, and a nice polished finish. The lift lever is an oversized design that works well for djing. I would recommend the Shure M44-7 as a perfect match for a cartridge.

Proper Turntable Setup

tonearm_front

Finding a home for the turntable

To perform correctly, a turntable must be place on a level, sturdy surface. This is especially true with DJ’s, as touching and manipulating the moving vinyl record with cause the table to shake slightly.

Isolating the turntable in high SPL environments

In a night club setting, extra care is needed. The turntables will sometimes be placed on absorbent materials, such as cinder-blocks or paving tiles. I have found the best method for isolating vibrations in turntables to be using a combination of concrete bricks and rubber landscaping tiles. You can also use tennis balls cut in half to replace the feet of the turntable.

For the best isolation possible:
Make a sandwich of rubber tile/brick/tennis ball foot. This will provide outstanding vibration protection and be sturdy enough to scratch and juggle on.

Leveling the Tonearm

For optimal tonearm performance and skip resistance, as well as superior audio reproduction, the tonearm must be parallel to the vinyl record. This is achieved by using the height adjustment at the base of the tonearm. One thing to note is that height changes with different slipmats.

How to level the tonearm

  1. Get at eye level of the turntable.
  2. Unlock the height adjustment of the turntable. (On Technics 1200 this is a small lever at the back of the tonearm base.)
  3. Place the needle on the record.
  4. Raise or lower the height adjust ring until the tonearm is level to the record.
  5. Put the tonearm back on the rest and lock it.
  6. Lock the height adjustment lever.

Research the Cartridge Specs

Consult the manufacturer to find the optimal weight for the cartridge.  This weight will be in grams, and is usually listed as a range.  For example 2-3 grams. This rating is what you will apply to the counter weight.

Setting the counterweight

  1. Make sure the cartridge and needle are attached to the tonearm.
  2. Ignoring the numbers on the weight for now, unscrew the counterweight so that it moves away from the needle, towards the back of the tonearm.
  3. This will cause the tonearm to want to point up from the extra weight on the back, like a see-saw.
  4. Slowly rotate the weight forward, a half gram or so at a time.  The goal is for the arm to free float level without your hands holding it.
  5. Once the tonearm free floats, move the indicator ring of the counterweight until the zero mark is lined up with the mark on the top. (Zero is no weight on the arm, thus the arm free floats)
  6. Lock the tonearm in place on the tonearm rest.
  7. Rotate the entire weight assembly forward until the Manufacturer’s recommended weight is achieved.
  8. Enjoy your properly weighted tonearm!

Setting the Anti-skate

There is much of a debate about the proper anti-skate setting for DJ turntables. My personal opinion is that the best setting for DJing is to turn it off completely, and set the anti-skate to zero.

Anti-skate is meant to center the needle in the groove of the record. This is done by countering the centrifugal force of the spinning record with a simple spring to pull the tonearm back towards the outside edge of the record. The problem lies in that once you place your hand on the record and stop it, the spring overcomes the now zero centrifugal force. This can cause extra skipping issues.

But for normal playback of records, a general rule is that half the weight will equate to a close antiskate setting.

For a more exact anti-skate setting:

  1. Find or purchase a record with a blank unprinted side.
  2. Put the needle on center of the record.
  3. Start the turntable and adjust the anti-skate until the needle stays in the middle of the record; it doesn’t move towards the label or towards the outside edge.

DJ Needle Maintenance

image003

Introduction

Most turntable cartridges and needles require little maintenance. The most important aspect of all things turntables is cleanliness. The easiest and most healthy step to getting long life out of cartridges – and your vinyl collection – is keeping everything as clean as possible.  This article will cover phono cartridge maintenance and cleaning.

Cleaning

Cleaning the dirt and dust off a stylus is rather easy. Most phono cartridge kits come with a small soft bristle brush for just this purpose.

Basic Cartridge Cleaning Steps

  1. Lock the tonearm in place.
  2. Carefully remove the cartridge from the tonearm.
  3. Holding the cartridge upside down, carefully brush the dust off the styli.  Be sure to only brush towards the tip of the needle, going up the “ramp” of the needle, not into it.  Brushing into the needle can easily damage it.

Deep Cleaning

Sometimes a more aggressive approach is required to remove many nights of built up dirt and grime on your styli. There are a variety of liquid cleaners on the market. Stanton and RCA both make a stylus cleaner that works decently well.

Magic Eraser Needle Cleaning

Another great way to clean styli is using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Yes you read correctly! The densely populated fiber structure of this miracle sponge is great for kitchen countertops, and DJ needles too! :)

Magic Eraser Needle Cleaning Steps

  1. Cut a small piece the magic clean eraser, small enough to fit under the needle when mounted on the tonearm.
  2. Position the sponge under the needle.
  3. Using the drop lever, drop the dirty needle onto the sponge.
  4. Raise the lever again to pull the needle out of the sponge.
  5. Repeat a few times until the styli looks brand new!

Warning! Do not move the needle front to back or side to side when using this cleaning method!  The sponge can grab the stylus quite strongly, and moving it any direction other than straight up and down will damage the stylus!

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