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.
The Ideal Tracking Force
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.
How to Set the Tracking Force
To set the tracking force, you will need a tracking force gauge. You can find these at most audio stores. To use the 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.
Too Much Tracking Force
Too much tracking force can cause damage to the record’s groove. It can also cause the stylus to distort the sound. If the tracking force is too high, you may hear audible sibilance or distortion.
Too Little Tracking Force
Too little tracking force can cause the stylus to skip or jump out of the groove. This can also damage the record’s groove. If the tracking force is too low, you may hear a rattling or hissing sound.
How Often to Check the Tracking Force
It is a good idea to check the tracking force periodically, especially if you move your turntable or change cartridges. You should also check the tracking force if you notice any problems with sound quality or if the stylus seems to be skipping.
The tracking force is an important setting for any record player. By setting the tracking force correctly, you can ensure that your records sound their best and that they are protected from damage.
Here are some additional tips for setting the tracking force:
- Make sure that the turntable is level.
- Use a clean, dry record.
- Do not press down on the stylus.
- Be careful not to move the record while you are adjusting the tracking force.
If you are not comfortable setting the tracking force yourself, you can take your turntable to a qualified technician.