How to balance your B&O Tone arm and set proper tracking force

Thankfully there are a limited number (3) of designed ways to adjust the tracking force on B&O turntables made over the years.

The first task is to identify what kind of tone arm balance system you have.

If your table has a ROUND DIAL at the back of the tone arm, it WILL allow you to  - and requires that you check - what is called a “ZERO BALANCE” before you set the actual tracking force.

Some of the other B&O tables without this ROUND DIAL do NOT easily allow checking the ZERO BALANCE, and one must therefore assume that the “zero tracking force” setting does not need calibration or adjustment. That is almost always true…..except for the B&O 4000 and 6000 series of tables…..

1) For units with the ROUND DIAL at the rear of the tone arm

The round, large black or silver piece at the back of the arm is the counterweight. It moves in and out (away from, or toward the cartridge) by turning it. It has a round dial on the front of it. What you must do first is to plug in any fitting model cartridge in the tone arm. We highly recommend plugging the cartridge in sideways, to avoid damaging the needle or stylus. The cartridge has four rear pins, and WILL let you unplug,  rotate, and plug the cartridge in so that the stylus is pointing to the right or left. Remember, ALWAYS hold the arm just behind the cartridge to restrain the arm when unplugging or plugging in your cartridge so that you don't put force on the back bearings of the tone arm!

Next, turn the silver or black counterweight (NOT THE DIAL) so that it moves towards the back of the turntable so that the arm is balanced.  What we mean by this is to get the arm so that if lifted gently, it neither rises nor falls quickly. It should “float” when lifted up a bit, as if two children of equal weight were sitting on a “teeter-totter” or “SEE-SAW” and it was balanced.

Once you have achieved this, NOTE  the dial position; if it is correctly aligned, the “0” (zero) mark should be in the top or 12 o’clock position. IF NOT, then HOLD THE COUNTERWEIGHT so it DOESN’T TURN, and turn the DIAL ONLY so that the zero IS in the top or 12 o’clock position (the dial and counterweight are NOT one piece, even though they look to be one piece). Check that the arm still “floats” to see that you have not moved the counterweight by accident.  If it floats, you are now calibrated to ZERO grams of force.

From this point on, DO NOT TOUCH THE DIAL EVER!

Now turn THE COUNTERWEIGHT ONLY, in such a way that it moves slowly towards the cartridge, or the front of the table.You are now setting the tracking force. How much do you turn it??

There are only two kinds of dials. One has the numbers 0 through 9 on it (which are tenths of grams), and the other is marked in half-gram increments, such as  0, .5, 1.0, 1.5. Those markings are half-GRAMS.

You want to adjust for your cartridge type. The SMMC4 and SMMC3 track at about 1.2 or 1.3 grams. If your dial is marked in tenths of grams, you need to rotate the counterweight so it goes once around completely, and then settles with the 2 or 3 in the top or 12 o’clock position. That is 1.2 or 1.3 grams of force – You can verify that you HAVE downward force by lifting up the front of the arm slightly and watching it fall rapidly.

If your dial is marked in half–grams, adjust the counterweight so that the top position of the dial is between the 1.0 and 1.5 – that is close to the 1.2 or 1.3 grams of force required for these model cartridges.

If you have a SMMC2 or SMMC1, use 1.0 grams of tracking force.

Don’t forget, once you are done balancing and or adjusting the tracking force, to unplug your cartridge and plug it in normally, with the stylus facing DOWN. Remember, ALWAYS hold the arm just behind the cartridge to restrain the arm when unplugging or plugging in your cartridge so that you don't put force on the back bearings of the tone arm!

2) For units without the ROUND DIAL at the back of the tone arm

Most other B&O tables have a SLIDE adjustment and SCALE MARKINGS either on the right SIDE of the tone arm, OR at the rear on the counterweight. If YOURS are on the right side of the arm, it will take a BRIGHT LIGHT (and READING GLASSES for those of you over 45) to see the scale.

With that system of scale either at the rear of the arm,  OR on the right side of the arm, all you need to do is set the tracking force for the particular model you have chosen to use. That’s it.

3) The B&O 4000 and 6000 turntables....... do often have an improper zero-balance setting – it tends to drift over time….. You cannot fix it easily.  These tables have VERY small clear window on the top right at the BACK of the tone arm through which you may see the tracking force setting. Again - this window is located at the top of the 2” square aluminum box at the back of the turntable arm. It is HARD to see with the dust cover on, or even in the dust cover open position. To the right of window, on the side of this box is a VERY small round opening, wherein a VERY small slotted screwdriver may be inserted to adjust the tracking force as viewed through the window.

It goes without saying that if you are uncomfortable with mechanical things, or cannot see or find the right size screwdriver, do not attempt to adjust the tracking force on these tables yourself.

There are many things that fail on the 4000 and 6000 series tables after all this time –
Please know that we specialize in turntable service, and COMPLETE re-engineering, upgrading and sale of these and other B&O model turntables, and have done so for over 40 years.

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