Corey Bailey
Audio Engineering
Anti-Skate The rotational direction of a turntable platter coupled with the playing angle of the Tonearm causes the stylus, and subsequently the entire tonearm, to drift toward the center of the record. This drift tends to increase as the tonearm gets closer to the end of the last recording. There is an adjustment at the base of the tonearm to counteract this force and allow the stylus to travel in the center of the grove. Not all turntables have an anti-skate adjustment. On those turntables, the anti- skate adjustment is fixed. Some turntables use a balance weight connected to a piece of thread. The thread is then connected to the tonearm which, is also a fixed adjustment. Misalignment of the anti-skate adjustment can cause the stylus to apply more pressure to one side of the groove wall which can adversely affect record wear and in extreme situations, affect the fidelity of playback. Cartridge Cartridge, in this case, refers to a Phono Cartridge which, is that thing attached to the record playing end of the Tonearm. The cartridge holds the stylus and converts the mechanical vibrations of the stylus to the electrical energy that is amplified by the phono preamp. There are two predominant types of phono cartridges: Moving Coil and Moving Magnet. Moving Coil cartridges are built using tiny coils of very fine wire that are modulated by the stylus. These coils are centered in the field of stationary permanent magnets. Electrical energy is induced into the stationary magnet by the modulating coils. The stationary magnet also has several turns of very fine wire around it forming the coil that connects to the phono preamp. When first introduced, Moving Coil cartridges were known for their high fidelity. However with advances in technology there is now little, if any, noticeable difference in fidelity between Moving Coil and Moving Magnet designs. A Moving Magnet Cartridge is built just the opposite of a Moving Coil Cartridge in that permanent magnets are modulated by the stylus and electrical energy is induced into stationary coils which, in turn, are connected to the phono preamp. Moving Magnet cartridges typically have a higher (louder) output than a Moving Coil cartridge and are generally cheaper to produce. There is a third type of Cartridge known as ‘Ceramic.’ This type consists of a piezoelectric crystal that is modulated directly by the stylus. The rapidly changing pressure on the crystal causes a tiny electrical current to be generated which is then amplified by the phono preamp. Ceramic cartridges, while less expensive to produce, suffered form fidelity problems as the output of the crystal is typically non-linear. Produced from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, Ceramic cartridges were found in many of the lower cost systems. Compliance This refers to the stylus and is a representation of it’s springiness. Actually, it refers to the assembly that holds the stylus known as a ‘Stylus Bar.’ The compliance, along with the mass of the Tonearm, will determine the low frequency resonance of your cartridge and eventually your system while playing a record. The compliance of your cartridge can be observed in real time if you ever play a record that is warped. Dead Wax This is the area of a record that lies between the last groove of recorded sound and the label. It is the area where the Tie-off groove is and is also where the Matrix number and any other information is placed. Equalization In the audio realm (particularly professional audio), equalization refers to the deviation of certain frequencies or certain groups of frequencies from their original relationship to each other. The tone controls on your home stereo can be referred to as the ‘equalizer’ section. Adding or subtracting Treble or Bass is the process of equalizing the audio signal that is passing through your audio system. With respect to records, it was determined early on that reducing a certain amount of the bass frequencies allowed for more time to be recorded on the disk. This is because the bass frequencies require a wider groove width to be accurately reproduced and there is a finite amount of space on the side of a given record. Thus, there is a built in base boost in your phono preamp to compensate for this. Likewise, it was discovered that increasing the treble frequencies when cutting a disk had the effect of eliminating some of the surface noise when played back using the opposite emphasis or ‘equalization’. So, depending on the type of record being played, there is a specific equalization curve being applied by your phono preamp to compensate for the ‘pre-emphasis’ applied during the disc cutting process. Gatefold Basically, it is any album jacket that has a hinged cover to house multiple records. I’ve seen as many as three in a set. That is called; ‘Triple Gatefold.’ A single record can also have a hinged cover. The purpose being to allow extra space for more text, artwork or both. Double albums are gatefold by design in order to house both discs. The term started in the early 1950’s with some 45RPM releases and evolved with the LP era. Headshell The headshell is that hood-like shaped device at the record end of the tonearm that holds the phono cartridge. Many headshell designs are removable allowing for an easy change of the cartridge-stylus combination to accommodate the varying types of record grooves. Lateral Grove This refers to the record groove being ‘side-to-side’ with respect to the disk. Lateral groove records are Monaural or Mono. The vast majority of records made since the beginning of record production are lateral groove. Stereo records look like they have a lateral cut groove but the information for each channel is cut into the groove walls where the outside part of the groove contains the Right channel information and the inner groove wall contains the Left channel. A stereo stylus differs from a mono stylus in that it can track both horizontally and vertically because it is reacting to the individual channel information on each groove wall. Here is a link to an excellent representation of how the various styli track a record groove: Lead-in This is the groove on the outer edge of a record that guides the stylus into the first recording or track. Lead-in grooves are usually silent. Some records don’t have a lead-in groove. Linear Tracking This is a unique design of a turntable whereby the tonearm tracks straight across the record as opposed to the usual arc of a tonearm that is fixed at one end. Linear tracking turntables work by using a feed screw mechanism that causes the tonearm to move straight across the record surface at a predetermined speed. The idea behind a linear tracking turntable is to track a record in the same manner as a record cutting lathe which uses a linear mechanism to create the lacquer coated master disc. Matrix Number This is a number, or combination of numbers and letters, that is inscribed (often stamped) into the Dead Wax area of a record. Think of it as a catalog number. This number is usually assigned by the record company to keep track of the masters used to press records. It can also be assigned by the pressing plant for the same purpose. Also, in the dead wax area, can be found the inscription by the Mastering Engineer. Collectors will often use both the Matrix number and the inscription to determine how collectible the disc may be. Microgroove Introduced in 1948 by Columbia Records, the Microgroove record boasted a groove width about one third that of the conventional 78 RPM records produced prior to that date. This also heralded the ‘re-introduction’ of the 33-1/3 RPM disk for consumer use which was manufactured using a vinyl compound. This format boasted better fidelity, longer playing times (almost 4 times longer) and was touted as unbreakable compared to its 78 RPM predecessor. The format became known as the LP. 45 RPM records introduced by the RCA Victor Company in 1949 also incorporated the microgroove format. Platter The Platter is the round platform that the record rests on while being played. The Platter is the driven element in a turntable. The methods for rotating the platter vary from direct drive where the platter is part of the motor, to belt drive, to rim drive where a small motor-driven rubber wheel turns the platter from inside the rim. Plinth Plinth is actually an architectural term that refers to the base of a column. However, in record turntable parlance, it refers to that part of the base to which the Platter and Tonearm are attached. The plinth is usually isolated from the main turntable base by some sort of suspension system. Quadraphonic Often referred to as ‘Quad’ or ‘Quadrasonic’, actually started in the late 1960’s as a four channel audio tape format. Today, it is usually referred to as 4.0. The configuration is; Front Left, Front Right, Rear Left and Rear Right. In the early 1970’s it was adapted to LP’s and the three most popular formats were; QS, SQ and CD-4. The formats were incompatible and may have led to it’s ultimate demise. RIAA Curve RIAA is an acronym for Record Industry Association of America. The RIAA Curve refers to a record and playback EQ or ‘Equalization’ that was standardized for the production of microgroove records in about 1954. It is also known as RIAA Equalization. Rumble Rumble is in an induced low frequency vibration in the turntable platter that can be caused by anything from the platter drive system, to worn bearings, to one of the kids running across the living room floor. Since rumble is an induced vibration in the turntable platter, it gets directly coupled to the stylus when a record is played and subsequently amplified by your stereo system. Rumble is measured by playing a record with a noiseless groove (no modulation) and monitoring the output of the cartridge. Measured Rumble is generally expressed in decibels as a minus number. Stylus The Stylus is that ‘needle point’ part of the phono cartridge which makes contact with the record. The small shaft sticking out from the phono cartridge with the stylus at the very end is called the ‘stylus Bar.’ The stylus itself is a shaped jewel. The jewel is most often a diamond or sapphire and it is finely ground to a conical or elliptical shape which, are the most common. There are actually several shapes available for stylus tips and which shape is best for a given application is often the subject of a discussion. Tie-off The Tie-off groove is that groove at the end of the last recording on either side of a record. It consists of two parts; The lead-out groove guides the stylus to the locked groove. The locked grove is a continuous circle designed to keep the stylus from wandering into the label area. The locked groove part of the tie-off groove also serves to trigger the mechanism of automatic record changers by virtue of its small diameter. The lead-out groove and the circular locked groove are usually silent however, some inventive artists have used this groove to create a loop of audio. Tonearm The Tonearm is easily identified as that pivoted arm or lever that holds the phono cartridge over the record being played. The Tonearm has two important adjustments available; A counterweight that allows for adjustment of the Tracking force of the stylus and an Anti-skate adjustment to keep the stylus centered in the groove as the record plays closer to the end of the record. Tracking force Tracking force is the downward pressure applied to the stylus to keep it in the groove of the record. Tracking force is calibrated in grams and is adjustable by virtue of a weighted counter-balance at the opposite end of the tonearm from the stylus. This is a very important adjustment. Too little tracking force and the stylus will slip out of the record groove, possibly damaging the record. Too much tracking force can damage the record, the stylus or both. Tracking force is measured using a specially designed and constructed balance beam scale that is placed under the stylus with the platter at rest. There are also some specially constructed electronic scales for this purpose. Transcription Disc Transcription discs were direct-to-disc recordings made from radio broadcasts. The discs were usually 16 inches in diameter and were 33-1/3 RPM. While these discs were typically made at the same speed as vinyl LP's produced later on, the groove width was similar to 78 RPM discs. Quite often, these recordings served as masters for short runs of disks to distribute syndicated programming to individual radio stations. Turnover Frequency The turnover frequency (or frequencies) is that part of the audio spectrum not affected by the pre-emphasis curve being applied. If you look at the pre-emphasis curve on a graph, the turnover frequency would be in the mid-point of the graph or at zero. When record masters are cut on a recording lathe, a certain amount of pre-emphasis is applied to the audio being inscribed in the disc. This pre-emphasis amounts to reducing the low frequencies and increasing the high frequencies. The amount of pre-emphasis and the specific frequencies involved, depends on the type of record being produced. 33-1/3 and 78 RPM records, for example, have different amounts of pre-emphasis applied at different frequencies. Vertical Grove or, Hill and Dale The predominant method for record grooves starting from the very beginning of record production was lateral grove or ‘side-to-side.’ There were however, a few discs whereby the grove was cut vertically. This type of record groove is also known as ‘Hill and Dale.’ Some of the early recordings that were produced with vertical cut grooves were Phonograph Cylinders, Edison Disc Records, Pathé Disc Records, and a few Transcription discs. One cannot play a vertical cut record with a stylus designed for lateral groove records. It is possible however, to modify the wiring scheme of a stereo stylus to play a vertical grove because a stereo stylus can move vertically as well as laterally. References Howard M. Tremane, “Audio Cyclopeia” Second Edition, Howard W. Sams, 1973 Rudolph F. Graf, “Dictionary of Electronics” Howard W. Sams, 1974 Glenn D. White, “The Audio Dictionary” University of Washington Press, 1987 Wikipedia, Return to TOP of page © Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
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