How easy is it to remove and refit a cartridge?

I’ve got the chance to home demo a VPI Prime deck, but it would need a cartridge affixing, which means I’d have to remove and use my Ortofon Cadenza Red in order to try it out.

Any thoughts on the degree of difficultly relative to my complete lack of previous experience in this regard?

It is fairly easy but it takes care as you are dealing with a delicate instrument. There are fine margins with it all sounding as it should and making it sound rubbish

Use the stylus guard if possible and take your time. I usually attach the wires first to the appropriate posts of the cartridge only light force should be used. Tweezers are worth using. Then bolt the cartridge to the arm head.

You will need to make sure the alignment is correct in all planes. VTA (Vertical tracking alignment) is adjusted (if it can) by raising or lowering the arm at the bearing end so that the arm is parallel with the record or rather the cartridge tip is at the correct angle. VTA generally affects the sound by increasing bass or treble but go too far either way and it sounds nasty sharp/tinny or muffled boomy. The tangent to the record groove (side to side) and over hang (how far the cartridge extends beyond the middle spindle. Some arms will also allow a degree of tilt to one side or another to make sure the record surface and the cartridge is at 90 degrees so the cartridge is fully upright.

You will also need to set the cartridge downforce and arm bias to the correct values. To a degree, bias can be set according to the downforce but then fine adjusted depending on listening. More or less can bring the sound into focus.

There are plenty of alignment tools and protractors to help with the alignment. Things like overhang should be stated by the arm manufacturer.

I probably have not explained that well and have tried to be brief but these adjustments take time and if you are unsure it may be best to get a dealer or someone who knows how to do this to help you. If a cartridge is badly set up in a turntable not matter how expensive it is you will not hear it at its best for sure and it may just sound really bad at worst ad possibly damage the cartridge.


Many thanks for your detailed response to my question.
It has given me sufficient information to make me think I’d be safer getting someone with the right tools and know how to do it.

I’d love to try it, but fear I’d make a botched job of it.


I’ve fitted many cartridges to my LP12 over the years, probbaly not doing it quite correctly (not removing tonearm which might stress/damage bearings) but not run into any obvious issues.

I was younger then, had better eyesight, steadier hands and simple tools to affix/remove the flying leads.

Now I’d rather someone with proper tools did it, but that to some extent depends on the price - a £50-£250 cartridge I’d probably have a go but above that why not let a professional get it spot on?


If you have a friendly dealer then ask them to show you how by fitting your cartridge for you with you watching.


Hi Charles,

There’s loads of YouTube tutorials and info on the net that shows you how to fit a cart. I had to fit a new one last year in lockdown. With the correct tools, time and patience it can be done and you realise its not a black art!


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