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Joined: 28 December 2005
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Posted: 25 September 2020 at 6:26am | IP Logged Quote vanmeter

I was wondering the other day how radio engineers set cartridge alignment back in the day for best playback of 45s...I worked in radio at the tail end of the vinyl era (85-92 or so) in a station that had two Russco tables in the control room and for the life of me I can't recall if the cartridges (which were I think Stanton 500s) were adjustable or if the headshells just dictated alignment. And as I recall, probably 85% of the vinyl played were 45s and I never recall it sounding at all bad.

This is more just idle curiosity so I'm not looking for responses with recommendations for protractors and cartridge suggestions or anything like that...just curious how the stations got the best sound out of 45s in olden days.

Edited by vanmeter on 25 September 2020 at 6:27am
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Posted: 26 September 2020 at 6:59am | IP Logged Quote KentT

Most stations then used either the Micro-Trak arm, or the
Rek-O-Kut S-320 arm, or used a Gray Viscous Damped arm,
neither had overhang adjustment, cartridge mounted in a
fixed set of screw holes, tonearms then used in
broadcasting were either 9" or 12", and the arms were
carefully set up and installed by broadcast engineers, and
maintained by broadcast engineers along with the
turntables. In short, the phono systems were optimal for
the application, and also played LP discs with equal
quality. And the phono preamplifiers used were likewise
designed around the cartridges, the tonearm wiring and the
rest of the phono system.

I turn up the good and turn down the bad!
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Posted: 28 September 2020 at 2:42am | IP Logged Quote EdisonLite

Mark M. can probably chime in on the best cartridges to get. He's the cartridge king. He knows what's best to use, how many grams to weigh the arm down, and just about anything you'd want to know to get the cleanest vinyl transfer without that worn-out sound that's on so many records!
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Posted: 28 September 2020 at 6:20am | IP Logged Quote vanmeter

Well, I have a Stanton 500 headshell I use that's aligned specifically for 45s, and that works well, but I was more wondering given the odd angle this has to be mounted in order to work as well as it does how they did it back then and still be able to play LPs without huge tracking error. Again wasn't so much looking for advice for myself as this probably isn't the right forum for that, but more generally curious what worked best back in the day as there are so many radio people here from the era.
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Posted: 28 September 2020 at 7:57am | IP Logged Quote Hykker

I go back to the turntable era, but only as a p/t
jock, not an engineer so I don't really know what (if
any) cartridge alignment was done. Also, most every
station I worked at from 1974 on played music from
carts (or later on CDs/hard drive).

I do remember the Micro-trak arms. As I recall, they
were the "arm" equivalent of a QRK turntable...rugged
but not very refined. I don't believe there was an
easy way to adjust tracking force, other than weighted
They seemed to work OK with Stanton 500s, which as I
recall wanted 2.5-3g tracking force. Anything lower
than that and these arms wouldn't track worth beans.

As far as LP vs 45 alignment, couldn't say. None of
the stations I worked for played much in the way of
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Paul Haney

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Posted: 28 September 2020 at 8:55am | IP Logged Quote Paul Haney

I was in radio from 1984-1991 and all the stations I worked at used turntables. I never really paid much attention to them,
as long as they sounded good over the air.

Here's a cool video from one of the stations I worked at, KANO-AM in Anoka, MN. Note the shot of the turntable at the
(1:13) mark.

KANO - 1987

Edited by Paul Haney on 28 September 2020 at 8:58am
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Yah Shure

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Posted: 28 September 2020 at 6:49pm | IP Logged Quote Yah Shure

In the early '70s, my university's student-run station had a pair of QRK turntables, fitted with Rek-O-Kut S220 tonearms and Shure M44-7 cartridges. The head shell pretty much enveloped the phono cartridge, so if there was a way to adjust overhang, it wasn't really apparent. The screw knobs on the S220 arms, however, looked like something any jock could easily mess with and convert them to Wreck-A-Cut. However, the setup worked very dependably, even with unsteadily-handed novice deejays.

Cue burn was almost non-existent, even on styrene 45s. A good part of the reason was that Shure Brothers had a program for college radio stations: send them your mangled N44-7 styli and they would send you new ones at no charge. Never knew about that until attending a college radio convention in Chicago, where Shure had a booth.

The first commercial station I worked for (an AM full-service AC) had Gates TTs and Micro-Trak tonearms, outfitted with Stanton 500 carts and conical styli. I seem to recall there was room on the top of the head shells to adjust the overhang. I agree with Hykker: they got the job done, but they weren't very refined, right down to their looks.

When the station and its sister FM built a much larger state-of-the-art facility next door in 1980, the Gates TTs remained behind, replaced by Technics SP-25s and new tonearms. Don't recall what they were, since I left a few months after the move.

Next stop was KOMA in Oklahoma City, where I'd worked for several months (playing all carted music) before wandering behind the control board one day and finding a turntable! It was used to play the Lutheran Hour on Sunday mornings, and I utilized it once to play some of my own 45s on a Christmas songs countdown. It was either a Russco or QRK, with Micro-Trak tonearm, and it felt very weird to hit the start switch on the board, because the TT was completely out of sight. If a record had gotten stuck, it would've taken awhile to get around in back to give the tonearm a nudge!
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