Troubleshooting Tonearms

Various problems that can arise with tonearms are listed below. To save time just skim down the sub-headings till you get to the relevant section for the issue you need an answer for.

Hum Problems

We test all our arms and rewiring jobs for hum before they are dispatched, however faults can very occasionally develop in transit, fitting or subsequent use. From time to time there is an internal wiring fault that may develop which causes hum - this is something that is often possible for you to rectify - However before trying to fix or return the arm to us, it is worth listing the other causes of hum - this list is not exhaustive.

If the following list does not identify or solve the problem, please refer to the section much lower down page on "One channel down and no sound coming out of one speaker or hum problems" - section (e).

Electro-Magnetic Interference

Mains cable or transformers and amplifiers in the vicinity of low level signal cable can easily cause hum so ensure the arm cables and any phono stage interconnects and phono stage are spaced well away - you will hear hum diminish as they move so you can judge how far is safe enough.

Mismatch of Amp Input

If you are using a moving magnet cartridge make sure that the phono stage setting is correctly set for moving magnet input and vice versa for a moving coil cartridge.

Unshielded Cartridges

Grado cartridges are unshielded and this can cause problems with a/c turntable motors which kick out quite a strong magnetic field. The only solution is either to change the cartridge or use a DC motor.

Earth Loops

You can experiment with attaching and detaching earths - particularly if you have a pre-power combination - sometimes it is best not to link the two together by an earth wire.

Fault Within the Cartridge or the Amp

Cartridges can sometimes develop hum as can amplifiers. To eliminate this possibility you can swap channels if the problem is only on one channel and hear the result or you can substitute the cartridge or arm if possible.

Areas of Very High RF

i.e. residences near radio transmitters - Try enclosing the cable in a large diameter braid earth ed to the arm or pre-amplifier- you can try it in foil but it is limited in its screening effectiveness. Once something works, a more elegant solution can be found - If you are stuck for braid try Maplins.

Earth Lead Connection Between Arm & Deck (Technics 1200 Especially)

When we internally rewire an arm then a separate ground lead is installed which enables easy connection of the arm to earth. This earth lead can be linked to the turntable earth (if it has one) and the phono stage earth to eliminate hum. This earth is not always necessary as hum may not be present with it unattached.

However for an unmodified Rega arm, the arm earth is attached to the return signal of the left hand channel i.e the  outer part of the Left channel RCA phono plug. Try touching the earth wire from the deck to the outside metal part of the black phono plug with everything playing. If this eliminates hum then you can splice into the arm cable for permanent attachment.

Other Causes

Grado cartridges will often hum when used with turntables using an a/c synchronous motor not positioned on the far side of the platter. You can either change the cartridge of fit one of our DC motor kits which emit a very low electromagnetic field.
Deck sub-chassis not earthed to arm.

If you have a pre-power amplifier combination you can try disconnecting the mains earth on one of the amps - but only if the two amps are earthed

You should also connecting earth wires to different equipment as well as experimenting not connecting it to others. For example the earth lead from a deck or arm is best connected to the phono stage or if you don't have one, the pre-amp.If you only have an integrated amp this does not apply.

Occasionally there is a mismatch of the litz wire capacitance with the pre-amp input - if you have another pre amp or can get hold of one it is worth checking this.

Cartridge Skips, Mistracks or seems to have excessive side bias

- Check the tracking force.

- If the arm is skipping in the same on different records it points to a sticking bearing

For video on how to check your bearings see link - Video on checking bearings

- Check that the arm cueing rest has dropped completely clear of the arm when the arm is on the record. If it touches the arm occasionally as the arm is playing then it will cause it to skip. The solution is to lower the arm rest using the tiny set screw located in its side. Alternatively if the arm is an Encounter or above then the whole lift lower device can be lowered by slacking the clamping grub screw in the arm plate.

- Check that the cartridge head-shell wires are clear of the record.

- Check that the arm is level and that the cartridge body is clear of the record surface.
   It sometimes pays to try VTAs (different arm heights) as the vta of the cartridge cantilever could be out of alignment as there are manufacturing tolerances to consider. Also older cartridges can suffer from slowly collapsing suspensions.

- Check that the cartridge stylus is not gunged up - try proper cleaning fluid (not iso-propanol which can damage the glue on a stylus).
    Also try "Green stuff" abrasive paper very gently.

- Check stylus for a bent cantilever

Serious Mistracking Due to Stiff Horizontal Movement

First of all it should be said that very few cartridges will track some test records successfully on severe test tracks so it is unwise to get overly concerned about this - however if there is obvious mis-tracking when you would not expect it then the following checks should be carried out to establish freedom of movement of the arm.

First set the tracking force to zero so that the arm just "floats" in space. Now lightly movie the arm with your finger whilst in the fully balanced state i.e "zero tracking force. Does it glide easily in space over the record surface in the horizontal plane? Similarly, does it move up and down freely without any "sticking".

Problems Due to Stiff VERTICAL Movement or Collapsing Cantilever

Checking Vertical Movement - Freedom of movement is best checked by putting the arm into about 0.3 gram tracking force and seeing if the arm "bounces" when dropped onto the curved finger lift. It only needs to bounce once.

Please note that Origin Live arms are slightly stiffer than most, in the vertical movement because we use internal wires that are the maximum thickness for low resistance whilst maintaining permissible freedom of movement.

For the Alliance to Zephyr arms and ALL MK1 arms

If the arm is not free in the vertical mode you can untension the end buttons of the horizontal axle very slightly by unscrewing one side (anti-clockwise rotation)  to give the axle a little end float (movement) - this does not degrade performance.

If the arm is not free moving across the record it will probably need to come back to us for repair. Note The Mk3 Silver arm buttons do not have an Allen key socket so you need pliers or molegrips to grip the end button - to save damage protect the button using card or masking tape under the plier jaws.

For Rega & OL1 Arms

The likely cause is no end float (freedom of end movement in the direction of the horizontal axis running through the yoke bearings (i.e the bearings that control the vertical motion of the headshell end). To fix this, use a pointed razor blade to prise off one of the round plastic covers (on the ends of the horizontal axis running across the yoke). This exposes a brass threaded insert with a slot. Turn it anti-clockwise, a fraction at a time until the arm frees up and has a tiny fraction of end float that can only just be felt. If you find the threaded insert impossible to turn, then you will need to heat up the brass insert to soften up the anti-vibration locking fluid - this is best achieved with a soldering iron applied to the brass with plenty of solder to aid heat transfer. Once hot you will be able to turn the brass insert with ease but it may stiffen up again as it cools.

You can check the arm bearings by "feel" - if there is any resistance or "notching" then the arm bearings have gone.

We suggest you try a change of cartridge to see if this solves the problem.

When we modify arms we do not touch the bearings and this type of failure is very rare thankfully. It is a failure that occurs regardless of modification due to inherently defective bearings that get through quality control and then develop a fault. Once an arm is modified Rega will accept no responsibility whatsoever for any type of failure which is fair enough - however it puts us in a very difficult position.

Arm has tendency to swing strongly to one side or the other even when level and with zero side bias force.

All Rega arms seem to have inherent side bias built in and there is nothing that can be done about this.

Origin Live arms from the Encounter up are fairly free from inherent side bias but if you find this does occur first check that your PLATTER (not the deck) is level. If your arm still has a strong tendency to swing one way or another then it is because of slight residual twist in the cable exerting influence through a slight tightness between the cable exit from the arm tube and the top of the arm base as shown in diagram right.

To minimise the internal cable tension in the gap between the exit from the arm tube and the entrance to the arm base carry out the following procedure. The trick is to get a thin flat ended screw driver or similar and gently poke the cable sideways to introduce a slight bend into the wire and then poke it back the other way to release the tension created by the bend. This has the effect of releasing the tension in the wire. The wire is contained in a white coloured sleeve.

Sometimes there is residual twist in the arm cable that works its way out in transit. A simple test is to set the counterweight to zero or slightly negative balance and set the arm central over the record.

When you let go of the arm in space, ( not touching the record) watch to see if it swings back towards the arm grip with speed. Ideally it should stay in the middle of the record but usually there will be a tendency to move gently inwards or outwards. If this tendency is severe then you can "untwist" the internal cable by rotating the arm one complete turn ( 360 degree rotation) IN THE DIRECTION THAT THE ARM ROTATES when released from its centre position over the record. You will need to remove the arm clip to rotate the arm fully (undo the bolt underneath).

Untwisting the cable is shown at the end of the video "Checking arm bearings and correcting extreme side bias"

Lift / Lower Device

Arm lifts can develop various problems. Origin Live arms have 4 different designs of lift lower over their history so you need to work out what applies to yours in the following.

Rate of drop is too slow or fast

  • If too slow you can reduce the "drop" distance by lowering the height of the curved arm rest.
  • You can remove some of the grease from the piston - this is described below and not easy.
  • Relatively fast drop is not harmfull but any faster than a full drop with no load of under 3 seconds needs attention.

Arm Lift at Wrong Height

Arm lift is usually adjusted by altering the height of the curved rest.

On latest arms you need to remove the grub screw in the top of the arm rest and either add or remove the small nylon spacing washers under the rest.

If your curved arm rest has a grub screw in the side, you adjust height by:

  • Slacken the grub screw using a 1.27mm Allen key.
  • Resetting the position of the curved rest and then re-clamp.
  • If you do not have the correct size Allen key then try filing down a slightly oversize one to a "wedge" shape thus guaranteeing a tight fit.
  • If you lose the grub screw then order an M2.5 x 3mm allen set screw.

For older Origin live arms and above you can also adjust arm height by slackening off the grub screw in the arm plate and changing the height of the lift lower device.

Arm Queuing Device Not Lowering

Remove the curved arm rest piece by undoing the tiny M2.5 Allen bolt in the side - Use a 1.27mm size A/F Allen key. You will then see that on the silver metal disc portion under the curved arm rest piece are 2 "notches" opposite one another in the side of the disc. This metal disc is threaded, so gently push on one of the notches to fractionally undo the disc. There will come a point where the piston should free up - bear in mind it is a slow descent. When it is working re-attach the curved lift. If this fails then continue turning the silver metal disc till you can remove it and then remove a little of the grease inside the pot. Re-install the silver disc and try again. When it is working re-attach the curved lift.

Enterprise Lift / lower - Fixing Lift lower devices of the Enterprise is different to other arms and not so easy. We can fix this if you return the arm or just the lift / lower device to us. A dealer may be able to unfasten the lift / lower from the arm or you can do this yourself if you have the right size circlip pliers.
First the curved rubber arm rest must be removed by slackening off the very small grub screw in the side.
The top silver disc with 2 notches in opposite sides must then be rotated anti-clockwise using circlip pliers in the notches - sometimes just loosening this frees up the mechanism to start working again. Sometimes it's possible to carefully push the notches with a small screw driver but be carefull not to let it slip or you will scratch the armboard.

If this fails then continue turning the silver metal disc till you can remove it. Pull out the piston upwards and then remove a little of the grease inside the pot ( keep the grease removed as you may want to re-apply it and it's a very unusual specification. This particular grease is essential for correct operation - the more you apply the slower the piston drops.
Once the silver disc is removed, pull the mechanism down and remove it from the armboard along with the spacer rings ( do not loose these). To keep all parts together re-assemble the mechanism ( on it's own) and send to us.

Lift / lower Device Loose & Swivelling

The internal part of the lift lower mechanism needs to be tightened up using
circlip pliers on the two cut notches in the top silver disc - you
may or may not need to remove the curved finger lift first to gain suitable
access with the circlip pliers.

Arm rest will not remain in lifted position but drops

Usually the lift lower needs returning for repair or you can replace with a new one ( if your arm is current).

When the arm lever is in the fully raised position, it must travel beyond vertical of the arm will not stay up. If you notice that this is not the case then adjust the angle as follows.

  • Some arm lifts have a grub screw which clamps the lift lower lever. For these, you can alter the angle of the lever by slackeining the grub screw then adjusting the lever angle before reclamping.
  • If you lever screws directly into the axle then simply bend it to the correct position.

Wiring Faults or hum problems

First of all establish where the problem lies by a process of elimination: If one channel is down check the following:

a) Speaker & Speaker Cables - Turn off your amplifier and change the speaker leads over at the output terminals of the amplifier. Turn your amp on again - if the sound is still only coming out of the same speaker that it was before the change then the problem is in the speaker. If the sound is coming out of the other speaker then you can eliminate the speakers as the source of the problem so turn off the amp and restore the speaker leads to their original position.

If the speaker is the problem then you would do well to check that it is not one of the speaker leads rather than the speaker itself that is faulty - you can easily check this by turning off the amp, changing the leads on a channel and speaker you know works and hearing that the cable which was connected to the "faulty" speaker works OK.

b) Cartridge - Turn your amp off and try swapping the cartridge leads over - swap the red and white leads over and do the same for the green and blue leads. Turn the amp on again - if the sound comes out of the other speaker than before the change, then the problem is NOT in the cartridge but somewhere downstream - i.e arm wiring, amp or interconnects. Change the cartridge leads back again - not forgetting to switch off the amp first.

c) Amplifier - Turn your amp off and try swapping the arm leads over at the phono input of the amplifier. Turn the amp on again - if the sound is still only coming out of the same speaker that it was before the change, then the problem is in the amplifier. If the sound now comes out of the other speaker i.e it has changed channel, then the problem lies upstream of the amp input.

d) Phono Stages, Pre-Amplifiers & Interconnects - If you have any of these items in the signal path then carry our the same procedure as outlined for amplifiers. If you find during a change that the sound comes out of the "other channel speaker" then it points to a fault in the item of equipment changed over. You then need to further establish whether the fault lies in the item of equipment or the interconnect connecting it - you can easily check this by turning off the amp, changing the leads on the channel you know works and hearing whether the cable which was connected to the "faulty" channel works OK.

e) Tonearm If none of the above items are to blame then the fault usually lies within the tonearm or its external leads. Hum or channel cut out is usually caused by bare wires contacting one another inside the arm base or contacting the metal surface of the surrounding circular wall forming the arm base. This can occur by vibration in transit or arm use causing the internal wires to rotate into contact with one another. Every care is taken in production to prevent this occurrence but it still happens occasionally. To rectify the fault please try the following.

Examining Wiring Joints Inside the Arm Base

Detach the arm from the deck. Unscrew the Allen screw in the base of the arm (1.5mm A/F Allen key )and very gently withdraw the external cable plug. You will have about 1.5cm or so of free space to check the internal wire connections. Ensure that all wires are soldered securely and that there is no contact between wires of different channels or the earth wire. Also watch for any wires that may be too close to the edge of the plug as they may touch the inside of the metal arm base when the plug is re-inserted - the only exception to this is the earth wire which should make contact with the arm base. Re-assembly is a reversal of the above.

Examining the Joints in the RCA Phono Plugs

You can try fixing the arm yourself - If you do not have the plastic bullet connector phono plugs then you can unscrew the metal type phono connectors and check the soldered wires inside for short circuits, detached cables etc. You cannot do this with bullet plug connectors as we glue them up because of fragility problems. If there is no obvious problem here then you can carry out a continuity test on the arm leads to check for short circuits or detached wires as follows:

Examining wiring joints inside the arm base

If none of the wires are faulty at the base of the arm then the problem probably lies at the headshell end in which case proceed as follows:-

a. Remove the cartridge

b. Conduct an electrical continuity test (optional) between cartridge tags and RCA phono connectors.

c. Resolder any cartridge tags that are not conducting as they should - NEVER solder cartridge tags when they are fitted to the cartridge as the heat input can easily damage your cartridge.

If none of the above solves the problem:

If this fails to correct the fault please return the arm to us for rectification. We will repair the arm free of charge - providing it is within its 2 year warranty.- and you have advised us of the problem before carrying out any dismantling.

Poor Sound Quality

Very occasionally people do have an odd result! All we can say is that without exception they all ended up by finding that it only pointed to something else in the system that was a problem. All are now very happy with the performance and find it a big improvement. From experience so far the problem is likely to be one of the following.

a. A "thin" cartridge designed for the SME V or similar (arms with overblown bass) e.g. Ortofon, Audio Technica & Roksan. A warm and bassy cartridge is tonally much nicer in the more musical RB250 and it doesn't need to be an expensive cartridge either. Most cartridges are fine and we list them on our web site. Tonal matching is a problem common to the finest hi-fi in the world if matched with equipment that errs from the norm.

b. It's unlikely, but a damaged cartridge may also be responsible.

c. The arm level must be set using the top edge of the arm - if you sight the bottom then the arm rakes downward and a thin metallic sound results.

d. The phono stage in the pre-amp or amp can sometimes have problems with Litz wire - if you have a spare it would be worth just trying it, to rule this out.

Returning an Arm for Repair

When you return the arm to us for repair, simply pack it in a cardboard box with 25mm clearance round the arm. Use scrunched up newspaper or bubble wrap to pad out the box. Detach the counterweight and do not send this as it is not required . The Rega arm is very robust and there are next to no cases of damage in transit.


The customs form (usually a small green label) will not provide guidance on this, but just write it on anyway in a conspicuous manner. Make sure you put the value of the goods at 1 GBP or we get involved in horrendous paper work to reclaim the duties and VAT which the Customs and excise charge on an import - the arm is NOT an import, it is "returned goods" with zero value as far as invoicing is concerned - Normal post by air mail should be OK and keep it trackable if you can and insure the goods in case of non arrival as we cannot be responsible for this unlikely event.

We do not recommend that you use Federal Express as a carrier for the simple reason that they charge £30 for "special paperwork" that they fill in for temporary imports - this is charged to ourselves which we cannot accept as it introduces unacceptable losses on a tightly costed item. The normal air post service, UPS and others do not have this problem.

The Arm Sounds Bright

On brightness there are a couple of factors:-

- Litz cable doesn't work too happily with a few amplifiers.

- Bass lean cartridges do not work well with the Rega.

- You can try slackening the Allen bolt in the stub of the arm slightly and this will reduce the brightness - slackening the chrome bearing holding nut on the record side of RB300 arms will also have the same effect.

- Try lowering the rear end of the arm to reduce the VTA.

- If you have not run in your arm for at least 40 hours then allow it to do so as the sound changes over this time and loses any edginess.

Rega Arm Wiring Faults

You need a continuity tester:-

- Red headshell wire goes to centre of red phono plug

- Green headshell wire goes to outside of red phono plug

- White headshell wire goes to centre of blue phono plug

- Blue headshell wire goes to centre of blue phono plug

- Black headshell wire goes to blue external earth wire (Origin Live modded arms only)

Looking at the TOP (i.e. the inside) of the plug in the Rega base the wires are connected as follows:

- Black and blue wires go on the pin to which the "earth tag (this is a copper strip)" is attached

- White wire goes on next pin going anti-clockwise

- Red wire goes on next pin to the white going anti-clockwise

- Green wire goes on next pin to the red going anticlockwise.

Headshell Appears Twisted or Azimuth is Not Correct

If the headshell appears out of level with the armboard or platter - check that the arm is mounted dead true and vertical in the arm board as this can sometimes be out of vertical depending on the method of mounting. For Origin Live Encounter and above the VTA clamping grub screw must be nipped tight or the arm will have sideways play and can tilt very slightly.

Next check that the headshell is level to the top of the yoke - it is best to use 2 rulers - one held to the UNDERSIDE of the headshell and the other to the top of the yoke - both rulers must be held parallel with one another when looking down on them. The topside of the headshell is polished and not necessarily accurate as material is not always removed perfectly evenly. You can also use a square bodied cartridge and mirror method to check azimuth - basically you place the stylus on a mirror laid on the platter and check that the reflection is straight with the stylus - this is described more fully on various web sites.

Lastly if you are using a spirit level, be aware that some engineering spirit levels have such high sensitivity that they are impractical for the 0.25 degrees of accuracy required on a headshell setting and consequently demand unrealistic levels of accuracy.

Quite often perceived azimuth error is associated with an incorrect method of measuring levelness. If you are checking that the headshell is level with the yoke then you must ensure that any rule you place across the headshell is in the plane shown in the diagram below.Tonearm-Setup

If none of the above answer an azimuth problem then the arm will need to be returned to us.

Headshell Azimuth Factors For Dual Pivot Arms Only

1. Azimuth must be checked with full 2g TRACKING FORCE and arm set in similar situation as if playing a record i.e - NOT resting on the arm rest. The easiest way to do this is to support the arm at the headshell end such that the tube is approx parallel with the record - a pile of coins is one way of achieving the correct height.

2. If a bubble gauge is used on the assumption that the headshell is parallel on the top to the underside then be aware that some bubbles are FAR more sensitive than others by a factor of 100. This means that although the bubble gauge may be measuring out the actual real world error is absolutely insignificant. Cartridge stylus are not exactly perfect so this sort of perfectionism bears no relation to the real world.

Fitting XLR Plugs

To wire XLR's to tonearms for balanced configuration is a relatively simple process. All that is needed is to identify the ends of the external wires to be soldered to the XLR with the corresponding headshell wire. This is best carried out by a continuity test. Once you have established this then you can connect the XLR plugs as follows. Please note beforehand that the external arm leads must pass through the armboard BEFORE fitting on the XLRs or you will find that you cannot fit the armleads through the mounting hole. This is because the 24mm diameter mounting hole is too small to enable both plugs to be pushed through - the first will go through but the second is prevented due to the thickness of the cable of the 1st plug which is now in the hole.

Wiring is as follows the "red headshell wire" goes to hot pin of one xlr (No 2 - see number imprint on XLR plug) and the "green headshell wire" goes to the cold of the same (No 3 - see number imprint on XLR plug).

Do the same for the White to the hot (2 pin on the xlr) and the blue to the cold (3 pin) on the other XLR.

The blue earth lead should then be split approx 150mm from it's end (i.e solder splice on another peice of wire such that these 2 earth wires then attach to the earth of each XLR (number 1 pin).

Back To The Top

Fixing Lift lower devices of the Enterprise is different to other arms and not so easy. We can fix this if you return the arm or just the lift / lower device to us. A dealer may be able to unfasten the lift / lower from the arm or you can do this yourself if you have the right size circlip pliers.

First the curved rubber arm rest must be removed by slackening off the very small grub screw in the side.

The top silver disc with 2 notches in opposite sides must then be rotated anti-clockwise using circlip pliers in the notches - sometimes just loosening this frees up the mechanism to start working again. Sometimes it's possible to carefully push the notches with a small screw driver but be carefull not to let it slip or you will scratch the armboard.

Once the silver disc is removed, pull the mechanism down and remove it from the armboard along with the spacer rings ( do not loose these). To keep all parts together re-assemble the mechanism ( on it's own) and send to us.


Origin Live Ltd. Unit 5, 362B Spring Road Sholing, Southampton SO19 2PB, UK