Tonearm Troubleshooting

We understand the frustration that occurs when a system malfunctions. Tonearms need to be set up correctly and are one of the more potentially problematic items of equipment. This is a list of problems and solutions to hopefully get you out of trouble. To save time just skim down the sub-headings till you get to the relevant section for the issue you need an answer for.  These notes contain over 30 years of experience and try to cover every eventuality hence they are extensive.

Please note that once this suggestions on this page have been exhausted and your arm needs fixing, then it should be returned to us.  Professional repair shops and rewiring firms should not carry out the work unless expressly approved by ourselves on a  case by case basis. This policy is not protectionism but to ensure you do not end up with a wrecked arm. Our arms are unique in many respects and outside experts are not familiar with the many pitfalls.


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 maybe something you can 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.

Move cables and Equipment

You can often hear hum levels change when you start moving equipment positions and the same is true when you change the orientation and positions of tonearm and phono stage interconnect cables. This exercise can often solve the problem.

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.

Low output cartridges (below 0.5mV)

As a rule, the lower your cartridge output, the harder it is to prevent hum and noise. If you use a very low output cartridge and have an Onyx or Alliance arm, then the arm cable shielding may sometimes be insufficient to prevent hum. However these are budget arms and most very low output cartridges are over £2000 – We would suggest that high end low output cartridges should always be partnered with our normal arm models Silver or above. It is bad practice to skimp on the arm and invest in an expensive cartridge – you will get far better performance doing things the other way round.

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.

Phono Stage and Amps which are designed with OV earthed

As an experiment, try just holding the bared ends of a wire between the outer conducting rim of one of the phono plugs ( while plugged into the phono stage or amp) and the earth terminal of the amp – some amps ground signal return to the earth and this technique cures a hum problem. If it works then you can figure out a way of linking the two points more permanently – like wrapping the wire around the phono plug and then using tape to hold it on.

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) To test whether this is a problem, try enclosing the cable in a large diameter braid earthed to the arm or pre-amplifier. You can try it in foil but it is limited in its screening effectiveness. Once you have identified the problem and know something works, you are in a position to find a more elegant solution can be found.

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 e.g LP12, Technics etc) 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.

RCA centre pin not contacting in the socket of your phono stage or amp

The centre pin of the RCA phono connector may not quite make contact with the inner connector in your phono sockets. Sometimes the centre pin needs to be about 1mm longer to work in the sockets of the odd amp. Our plugs are very normal with 6.6mm protrusion and work with 99.99% of sockets but you can get the occasional socket that’s a mismatch and plays up. This is a known issue that we can do little about as it’s a socket issue not a plug issue.

Try changing plugs for something slightly longer like 7.6mm protrusion If this fails, you can try a different phono stage or amp and see if this solves the problem.

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 try 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.If you don’t have a phono stage then it should go to the pre-amp. If you only have an integrated amp this does not apply.

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.

The cartridge tags may be on the wrong pins of the Cartridge – check the colours or manufacturers pin diagram.

The tightness of the clip fit on the pins may need improving. Oxidisation of pins is very rare as most are gold plated but a touch of contact cleaning fluid may not go amiss if your pins are not gold plated. You can adjust the tightness of cartridge clips by using a cocktail stick or round toothpick. Insert the point into the clip and press in squeezing them gently with a pair of pliers. To reduce tightness just push the pointed end into the clip further till correct tightness is achieved.

NOISES FROM STATIC EFFECTS: Cracking, Pops or Rustling Sound when arm is moved or touched


If the arm is moved quickly from the arm grip or moved across the record, you hear a rustling which is not present during playback then you are hearing microphony. This has 2 probable causes
a) The cable rubbing against the walls of the tube and creating static.
b) The internal wires moving against one another or the tube wall. This  interaction can  cause either static or induced current which results in the rustling effect.

The cables we use are slightly microphonic in severe movement due to their construction and type of insulation used. However, they are far superior sonically to many which are non microphonic. Rustling tends to occur in dry environments but not always. It’s not something to worry about but we can usually cure it on older arms which were not earthed in multiple points (which is the case with our latest arms).

Cracking or Popping sound

Static is a complex area and unusual on our arms. However if the sound resembles more of a sharp crack, pop or crackling when you touch the arm, then it’s almost certainly due to a build up of static charge. This can be due to a number of causes and experimentation is the best way to pin down the source of the problem:

It could be due to a bad earth or dry joint somewhere. You can check the cartridge tags are not a loose fit on the cartridge pins. If they are, then remove the clips from the cartridge and squeeze them to a smaller diameter with a pair of pliers using a cocktail stick (or similar). You can adjust the tightness of cartridge clips by using the cocktail stick or round toothpick. Insert the point into the clip and press in squeezing them gently with a pair of pliers. To reduce tightness just push the pointed end into the clip further till correct tightness is achieved.

If you are getting a lot of static on the mat you can try folding a small strip of aluminium kitchen foil around the edge of the mat so that the strip makes contact with the record and acrylic platter.

Experiment with earthing various points on the deck. For example a thin strand of earthed wire touching the spindle or underside of the platter can solve the problem. You can try other critical areas such as the arm base and motor pod top.

If this fails to give a result then the arm should be returned to Origin Live for checking / rectifying earthing conductivity.

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. Re-solder 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.

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.

Sound Quality

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 website. Tonal matching is a problem common to the finest Hi-Fi in the world if matched with equipment that deviate 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.

Arm Sounds Bright and Sibilant, or Dull and Flat

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.


As a rule sibilance always increases on inner grooves so it’s a question of minimizing the problem which may be due to any of the following:

1 The tracking force gauge may be faulty – light tracking force can cause sibilance.
2 The cartridge suspension could have “aged” and is not functioning as it should – even if it has never been used suspensions can age.
3  A serious compliance mismatch with the effective mass of a tonearm can very occasionally cause sibilance – try a different cartridge in the arm.
4 If you can, try increasing the capacitance value on your phono stage settings as this will tame sibilance.
5 It may be worth trying a better arm cable.

Channel imbalance – one side sounds louder than the other

This is a very unusual problem which is not always soluble without a balance control on your amplifier. Possible causes are as follows:

  • Hearing loss in one ear – permanent or due to wax build up. This is a known issue.
  • Cartridge fault due to a fault such as a bent cantilever, failed suspension etc
  • internal wiring fault in tonearm cable
  • Fault in the phono stage or anywhere else in the system. Use fault finding techniques outlined above in “wiring faults” to establish where the problem lies.
  • Side bias excessive on one side but this does not affect things as much as people expect.
  • Azimuth setting hardly ever affects channel imbalance.


Lift / Lower Device Problems

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 increase the spring force by stretching it slightly – this is described below and not easy.
  • Without load on the cueing rest, it should take 4 to 14 seconds to drop fully (ignore the lever movement as this continues dropping after the rest hits bottom). Contrary to popular belief , very slow descent times are detrimental to cartridges and your vinyl records as they tend to “graze”records and skip track sometimes before settling into the groove. This does far more damage to records than faster descent times. Hand cueing is a relatively very fast descent time compared to a lift lower device but even this is not close to dropping a cartridge (over 10 times as fast if it drops). Many high end reviewers with steady hands happily hand cue expensive cartridges without a problem.

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.

Stretching the Spring

With regard to the lift lower device not working there is a possibility that low temperature can sometimes stop them working till they warm up to room temperature. in other words if something comes off a cold van or cold store room it takes a while to warm up.

If temperature is not the problem then the arm can be fixed by stretching the spring inside and making it about 1mm longer. This is not difficult and certainly takes less time than doing anything else.

Please see video link below to remove and dismantle the lift lower device.

How to stretch the spring:

You will see the spring inside the lift lower device just pull it out and do not dismantle the piston or anything else.

Measure the spring length BEFORE you stretch it. Then gently pull spring to permenantly stretch it very slightly. When you measure it again, your target dimension is for the spring to be about 1mm longer than it was originaly. You may need several attempts to get this right.

Put the spring back such that the sharp cut end of the spring is uppermost and re-assemble on the arm.

Please note that fast descent times of a cartridge onto a record are much less harmfull to vinyl than slow descent times which can “graze” the record and even cause track skipping. Many experts do not use the lift lower device and hand que instead. The speed of descent for hand queuing is very fast compared to lift lower devices but does no damage. I’ve set the needle mid track on the same record over 100 times in testing and there is no degradation or noise from doing so.

Obviously dropping a cartridge onto a record rather than gently lowering it is extremely dangerous for cartridges so hand queing is not a good idea for those with unsteady hands.

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 careful 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 slackening the grub screw then adjusting the lever angle before re-clamping.
  • If you lever screws directly into the axle then simply bend it to the correct position.

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

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’s 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.

To minimize 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 colored 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”

Notes on Rega arms modified by Origin Live

All Rega arms seem to have inherent side bias built in and there is nothing that can be done about this. Some newer Rega arms have a side bias that needs pulling out and owners have left it pushed in (maximum side bias) which is often excessive and causes skipping.

Tracking Force is inconsistent / variable

If you have adjusted the azimuth incorrectly  at any time in the past, this may need resetting to original position as per instructions.

Your force readings may be inaccurate due to :

  • Digital Force gauges can give false readings when damaged or batteries get low. You also need to ensure that the cartridge lands on the same place on the scales as this can create variation.
    The powerful magnets on some cartridges create reading variations which you can see in the readout before even putting the cartridge on the scale.
    Also be aware that digital scales can vary their readings when you switch them on, then off, then on again.
  • Balance scales have a pivot axle which can become sticky and lose freedom of movement.
  • If you suspect your readings may be inaccurate, check them against another force gauge.
It is possible that the pivot points have become inadvertently damaged (very rare). Usually it’s best to return the arm to us but you can also check the points yourself using a powerful magnifying glass and replacing them if damaged. The instructions on the above link are vital to ensure you do this correctly or you can easily damage the points again.
Remember Origin Live arms have an accepted tolerance variation of plus or and minus 0.06 grams either side of the average force (i.e 0.12 gram minimum to maximum).

How to Fix a Loose End Cap on the Yoke (Encounter, Illustrious & Conqueror only)

To fix this problem carry out the following.
1. Re-insert both transit bolts – this lines up the 2 end caps (which contain the pivot points).
2. Remove the counterweight and as you look at the rear face of the yoke you will see 4 holes (not counting the centre one).
Insert a 2mm A/F (“Across the Flats”) allen key into the inner hole on the side with the loose end cap. You should then be able to locate the Allen key into a socket grub screw in the end cap and tighten hard by turning clockwise.
3 Remove the transit bolts and all is set up correctly.
4 Check the end cap has clamped on by twisting it while holding the end cap on the opposite side. If it does not move, they are both clamped on correctly.

If this does not do solve the issue then there is most likely a problem with the Yoke End Cap and the arm will need to be returned to us.
If you are outside the EEC, we will need to email you instructions on how to send the arm.

Tracking Problems – Cartridge Skips, Mis-tracks or seems to have excessive side bias

Check items below in order of numerical sequence

  • When you think side bias force is wrong then it helps to clarify exactly what the symptoms are. For example:
  • Is it that the arm moves to the right as it is being lowered?
  • Is it that the arm swings outwards when it is in perfect balance (not touching the arm rest or the record? – this is normal and most arms do it.
  • Is the arm mistracking on the record?
  • How do you know if is too much side force? is it a test track? The problem is that there are many highly unreliable ways to estimate correct side bias and the only reliable one is to listen.
  • Sometimes perceived mis-tracking distortion can be mistaken for an incorrect gain setting on the phono. If the gain is set too high on the phono stage it will overload the input on your amp or pre-amp. Please note that not all your records will distort in this scenario, as different records produce different signal levels. So whilst some of your records may not overload the input, others will.
  1. Check the tracking force is in accordance with manufacturer specifications.
  2. Check the cartridge head-shell wires are clear of the record.
  3. Check the arm is parallel to the surface of a FLAT record with your cartridge sitting on the surface of the record. If the rear of the arm is too low then the arm can foul the curved arm rest on the lift lower device, so raise the arm base.
  4. Check the curved cueing rest drops completely clear of the arm tube when the arm is on your thinnest records. If the curved rest touches the arm occasionally as the arm is playing then skipping occurs. The solution is to lower the cueing rest using as per the video on how to adjust or change the lift lower device.
  5. If arm only mis-tracks when being lowered into a groove then the descent of the lift lower is too slow and needs changing as per video link above.
    Another potential cause for movement is that the thin rubber strip on the Curved arm rest is missing.
    Alternatively, the rubber may have lost it’s “grippiness” over time – this is easily cured by gently rubbing it with abrasive paper (150 – 240 grit is best).
  6. Check the side bias hanging ball is free and not twisted round the wire loop or similar.
  7. Check side bias force is not excessive, too little is better than too much and the “clamp ball should normally be close to the yoke (arm pivot point) rather than far out along the side bias rod. Test tracks are usually overly modulated and the Soundsmith website has a lot to say about why you need to be very careful not to rely on these. If side bias is definitely excessive then scroll down to next “+” topic below this one.
  8. Check that the thread holding the falling ball weight is not tangled or wrapped round the wire loop. It must be free to fall unrestricted.
  9. Check that no knots have formed on the thread and that it is smooth to the touch and undamaged.
  10. Check that the ball weight is not fouling the wire loop at the top of it’s travel when playing inner tracks.
  11. “Check the side bias wire loop wire is at the correct angle when looking down on the top of the arm. If this is angled too far back it can cause skipping on the end tracks of a record. If necessary you can bring it forward of the template position.
  12. It sometimes pays to try VTAs (different arm heights) as the VTA of the cartridge cantilever is not always absolutely precise. Note: cartridges can suffer from slowly collapsing suspension over time.
  13.  For some cartridges like Lyra’s – it is essential that they are set up using the stylus line as the alignment reference NOT the cartridge body – Lyra set up their cartridges individually and the stylus are not often aligned with the body.
  14. Check that the cartridge stylus is not dirty – try proper cleaning fluid (not iso-propanol which can damage the glue on a stylus). Also try “Green stuff” abrasive paper very gently.
  15. Check stylus for a bent cantilever.
  16. Check the cartridge body is clear of the record surface as cantilever suspension can sag when old.

If these first checks do not solve the problem you will need to go deeper.

If the arm is skipping in the same point on different records it indicates a sticking bearing

Video on how to check your bearings

Serious Mis-tracking 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 move 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”.

Side Bias Suggestions

– If your arm is over 5 years old it may be worth cleaning the sliding surfaces of the side bias wire loop and thread.

– Try different side bias settings using the centre track of a record and listen for focus of the sound see video “tuning your tonearm by ear. This is a rather long video that you may want to fast forward to near the end where it talks about how to set side bias by ear.”

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 axis you can slacken 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 mole-grips to grip the end button – to save damage protect the button using card or masking tape under the plier jaws.

For all dual pivot arms Encounter and above

If vertical movement seems to be sticking, it may be that the pivot spikes have dislocated from their central position in the pivot cups. Try lifting the arm tube in the yoke to re-locate the pivot points – let it drop back into the pivot cups. Then without lifting the arm, ensure you can move the arm horizontally by about 1mm backwards and forwards and left to right in the pivots.

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.

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-Troubleshooting-Headshell-Setup

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.

Pivot Point adjustment and checking for MK3C arms and above

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.

Pivot Point adjustment and checking for MK3C arms and above

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

Channel imbalance – one side sounds louder than the other

This is a very unusual problem which is not always soluble without a balance control on your amplifier. Possible causes are as follows:

  • Hearing loss in one ear – permanent or due to wax build up. This is a known issue.
  • Cartridge fault due to a fault such as a bent cantilever, failed suspension etc
  • internal wiring fault in tonearm cable
  • Fault in the phono stage or anywhere else in the system. Use fault finding techniques outlined above in “wiring faults” to establish where the problem lies.
  • Side bias excessive on one side but this does not affect things as much as people expect.
  • Azimuth setting hardly ever affects channel imbalance.


Returning an Arm for Repair

When you return the arm to us for repair:

  • Read packing instructions in the owner manual ( if it gives them)
  • Use original packing if possible or 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.
  • When sending arms to us for repair from outside the EU – Please Email us to send you the documentation and instructions you need to attach for your arm to get through customs without unnecessary charges and hold ups.

Common Misconceptions

Occasionally we get comments from people on alleged shortcomings of the arms even though the high sound quality is universally acknowledged. To save repetitious emails the list below deals with some of the issues raised in the past.

The bearings are loose

1mm of endfloat is more than usual, but acceptable on our tonearms and makes no difference to performance. Please read our tonearm instructions because the opening paragraph states that the bearings are deliberately designed to be a loose fit. Reducing end float to what people think is acceptable usually wrecks the performance of the arm but no one is any the wiser because nobody listens to differences like this. Origin Live arms are not like other arms where pre-tensioning the bearings slightly can yield an improvement.

You shouldn’t use stainless steel bolts in aluminium because it can cause galvanic corrosion

Items exposed to outside environments are at far greater risk to Galvanic corrosion due to damp or salt air near the sea. For indoor environments we do not witness corrosion problems from using stainless steel fastenings. This is from observation of very old arms from our production and other manufacturers who put different metals together. For example all Rega lift lower devices are made from a brass piston in contact with a stainless steel axle – 40 years on and no sign of any corrosion whatsoever although these two metals are susceptible to galvanic action with one another.

To quote an expert article on galvanic action ” Stainless steel fasteners in aluminium plates or sheets are normally considered safe, whereas aluminium rivets or bolts holding stainless steel parts together is an unwise combination, as there is a practical risk of corrosion”. This is because things are a lot more complicated and things like surface area need to be considered.

User Servicability and Rewiring

If the arm develops a fault which entails dismantling the arm then please be advised that the arm must be corrected by Origin Live. Expert service agents will not know the correct torque settings and end floats for our arms and neither will they have the jigs required for correct setting up procedures. It takes a great deal of training to master specific build techniques used and therefore work of a repair nature must be carried out by Origin Live or performance will suffer.

Rewiring with a different wire internally means dismantling the arm and so the above applies. External rewiring by a 3rd party can be carried out but is not without risk. We are happy to rewire an arm with any specified wiring so it’s best to request us to carry out the work.

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 piece of wire such that these 2 earth wires then attach to the earth of each XLR (number 1 pin).