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Tonearm Turntable Parts

The whole purpose of a turntable is to support the very tip of the tonearm. Every record player works by picking up vibrations from a groove in a spinning disk with a turntable stylus and amplifying them to create sound. Meanwhile, the tonearm has to hold the needle in the groove with just enough force to ensure that it stays in place, but not so much that it damages the record. It also has to move inward with the spiral and then lift the turntable needle when it reaches the end of the track. Balancing all these functions simultaneously can be tricky, but a good tonearm is more than the sum of its parts.

Should I Use a Curved or Straight Tonearm?

The choice of a curved or straight tonearm largely depends on how you want to use your turntable. Prospective and professional DJs have different needs than audiophiles, so they need different tonearms. In many cases, the shape of the tonearm can have as much of an effect as the weight of the turntable cartridge:

  • Straight Tonearms: Straight tonearms often track better, and give you more control when scratching. They can be harder on the records, so are more commonly for DJs to use.
  • Curved Tonearms: Curved tonearms centre the needle in the groove, producing the most accurate reproduction. This makes them an excellent choice for audiophiles seeking the clearest possible sound.

Parts of a Tonearm

Straight or curved, every turntable tonearm uses the same parts, because they all need to perform the same functions. They have to keep the stylus in the groove and they have to follow the tracks without damaging the recording:

  • Stylus: Often made of diamond, the stylus is the actual sound pickup of the turntable.
    Cartridge: The cartridge supports the stylus and also transforms vibrations into electrical signals.
  • Headshell: Mounting on the end of the tonearm, the headshell connects the cartridge to the tonearm.
  • Tonearm: The arm itself.
  • Counterweight: Attaching to the other end of the tonearm, the counterweight is what enables the user to precisely adjust the amount of force on the tip of the stylus.

Choosing Tonearms and Parts

The first step to choosing tonearms or parts is to consider what you want to do. In many cases, the easiest way to improve the sound of your turntable is to upgrade the cartridge. A higher quality cartridge often contains a better stylus as well as more accurate pickups. For many audiophiles that can mean a better musical experience. A new counterweight might give you more precise adjustments for lighter weight tracking. In most cases, the lightest weight that will still let the needle track accurately is the best choice for reproduction. It helps your records last longer so you can keep enjoying analogue sound.

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