Turntable Set Up Advice – Using Court and Spark

More Joni Mitchell

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Court and Spark.

There are loud vocal choruses on many tracks, and more often than not at their loudest they sound like they are either breaking up or threatening to do so. I always assumed it was compressor or board overload, which is easily heard on Down to You. On the best copies there is no breakup — the voices get loud and they sound clean throughout.

This assumes that your equipment is up to the job. The loudest choruses are a tough test for any system.

Setup Advice

If you have one of our hottest Hot Stampers, try adjusting your setup – VTA, Tracking Weight, Azimuth, Anti-Skate (especially! Audiophiles often overlook this one, at their peril) — and note how cleanly the loudest passages play using various combinations of settings.

Keep a yellow pad handy and write everything down step by step as you make your changes, along with what differences you hear in the sound. You will learn more about sound from this exercise than you can from practically any other. Even shootouts won’t teach you what you can learn from variations in your table setup. And once you have your setup dialed in better, you will find that your shootouts go a lot smoother than used to.

It Works for Us and It Can Work for You

Tooting our own horns once again, allow me to point out that this is precisely what makes our “work” possible. When it comes to doing shootouts, half the battle is just being able to play the record right. Our approach is simply a matter of precisely adjusting the arm and cartridge for every title, then comparing the various pressings, properly cleaned of course, under carefully controlled conditions,with as much scientific rigor as we can bring to the proceedings.

In some ways it is analogous to rocket science, here defined as the seemingly simple process of discovering all the details that need to be sweated and then sweating the hell out of them.

It’s the opposite of theoritical physics; one doesn’t need to be a novel thinker or have big ideas to do audio well. Obsessively working through the basics of table setup, tweaks, room treatments and electrical quality will take your system to levels beyond those you could ever have imagined.

And you sure don’t need a bloody microscope to check your stylus rake angle. Your ears, if they are any good at all, will do the job better.

Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

This listing will show you How to Get the Most Out Of Your Records .

Here’s a link with advice for setting up your Table, Arm and Cartridge that can be found in a section containing Audio Advice of all kinds.

You may find our recommendations for Record Cleaning helpful as well.

ou can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.