As someone who's collected records for close to twenty years now, I was surprised and shocked recently when I realized I didn't know how to balance the tone arm on my own beloved JVC Direct Drive Auto Return turntable. I've owned this silver-and-black workhouse almost from the beginning of my vinyl infatuation, but I'd never done anything other than change out the stylus every year or so. Even so, it had always sounded beautiful, even through my modest speakers: Big, loud, clear.
When it was clear a week ago that my cartridge had finally bitten the dust, I had no idea what to do next. Did I need to buy a new turntable altogether? Technics gets raves, but the model I wanted costs around $500, funds that are most definitely not at my disposal at the moment. The stuff in my price range, including Audio Technica (which has been called a Chinese knock-off of Technics, definitely not a selling point) just seemed sub-par compared to my old buddy, JVC.
Determined to find an affordable solution, I took to the interwebs. A quick Google search for my turntable brought me to VinylEngine.com. Think of a turntable, any turntable. They have all its specifications, from motor to drive, from wow and flutter to weight and dimensions. Even better, once you've become a registered user, you have access to the original service manuals for almost any model you can imagine. If you own a second hand turntable, as I do, and never got the original packaging, much less the actual manual, this is unbelievably invaluable.
Within minutes, I had downloaded a PDF of my JVC manual (not to mention the manual for my wife's old Pioneer); within hours, I had followed the instructions that led to a perfectly balanced tone arm, and a centered stylus. My records now sound better than ever -- better than they have in quite some time, to be honest -- and I'll be able to go boldly forward, knowing what I'm doing and why, and keeping my platters in top-notch shape.
Thanks, VinylEngine.com. You're a life saver.