Tracking force is the amount of force that the stylus (needle) of a record player applies to the record’s groove. It is measured in grams. The tracking force is important for two reasons:
- It ensures that the stylus makes good contact with the record’s groove, which is necessary for accurate sound reproduction.
- It prevents the stylus from skipping or jumping out of the groove.
If the tracking force is too light, the stylus may not make good contact with the record’s groove. This can cause a number of problems, including:
- Distortion: The stylus may not be able to track the groove accurately, which can cause distortion in the sound.
- Skipping: The stylus may be too light to keep its grip on the groove, which can cause it to skip.
- Damage to the record: The stylus may not be able to provide enough pressure to keep the record from skipping, which can damage the record’s groove.
Here are some of the signs that your tracking force may be too light:
- Distortion: If you hear distortion in the sound, it is a sign that the stylus may not be making good contact with the record’s groove.
- Skipping: If the stylus skips, it is a sign that it is not heavy enough to keep its grip on the groove.
- Surface noise: If you hear increased surface noise, such as pops and clicks, it is a sign that the stylus may not be making good contact with the record’s groove.
- Worn-out records: If your records are wearing out more quickly than they should, it is a sign that the tracking force may be too light.
If you suspect that your tracking force is too light, you can check it with a tracking force gauge. You can find these at most audio stores. To use a tracking force gauge, place it on the record with the stylus resting in the groove. Then, adjust the tracking force knob on the turntable until the needle of the gauge is in the center of the scale.
The ideal tracking force will vary depending on the type of cartridge and record player. However, most moving magnet (MM) cartridges typically require a tracking force in the range of 1.5 to 2.5 grams. Moving coil (MC) cartridges typically require a lower tracking force, in the range of 0.5 to 1.5 grams.
If you are not comfortable adjusting the tracking force yourself, you can take your turntable to a qualified technician.
Here are some tips for preventing tracking force problems:
- Keep your records clean and free of dust.
- Use a tracking force gauge to check the tracking force regularly.
- Adjust the tracking force if necessary.
- Take your turntable to a qualified technician for regular maintenance.