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"How to set up and tune your turntable and tonearm" - a booklet by George Merrill

Better analogue replay in a snap

Product: "How to set up and tune your turntable and tonearm" - book
Author: George Merrill - USA
Price: 10 USD
Availability: www.gmanalog.com - direct online purchase
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: September, 2011

[G. Merrill - turntable set up guide]

I interviewed George Merrill two years ago, we discussed about analog replay systems and the new Merrill-Scillia turntables. George is famous for his modifications to the legendary AR Turntable and, above all, for his Heirloom turntable, where he applied his revolutionary ideas on energy control by means of acrylic and plastic materials (this was in the 1978!). In other words he has been a real pioneer: nowadays many turntables make use of acrylic and similar polymers.

Now Merrill-Scillia Research turntables are based on the very same ideas, just taken to a higher level, with better materials and craftsmanship. Seasoned vinyl lovers might have read something about a small booklet, written by George Merrill more than 20 years ago, entirely devoted to explaining, in simple words, everything you might need to know about proper turntable set up and tuning. Robert Harley, in the 2nd edition of his The Complete Guide to High-End Audio, recommends this booklet. The good news is that this jellow guide of 16 pages is still available today, for just 10 USD, at www.gmanalog.com, George's new HiFi store. Even some vinyl/analogue-oriented store might still carry copies of this booklet, just Google a little bit to find the place nearest to you.

Do we need another guide? Well, there are many publications devoted to HiFi set-up but this one is a concise, straight-to-the-point and an extremely complete one. It contains every single magic word of the analog lingo, actually the first 4 pages are entirely devoted to Common terms and their meaning. Mysterious words, at least for novices, like VTA, VTF, compliance, azimuth and damping are explained in simple words and handy examples and suggestions for correct values are given.
Two pages are dedicated to Matching, that is the correct procedure to find a perfect partnership between tonearm and cartridge. A useful compatibility chart is also included and examples are supplied.
You'll also find two paragraphs devoted to turntable and tonearm set-up while another one is dedicated to support platforms, spikes, tables, shelves, damping etc.
A final paragraph explains how one can find and cure hum, buzz and RF problems that might affect analog replay. This is, actually, one of the main concerns of any analogue-addict and a real nightmare for first-timers!

The booklet is well written and is very easy to read and understand, even for a first-timer in the analogue world. Perhaps George Merrill should plan a new edition with simple drawings and/or pictures that would help explaining the theory, eventually adding a section devoted to phono preamps with USB output, considering many entry-level turntables are equipped with this component. It would undoubtedly become a best seller. A PDF edition would be even better.

While many advices are just pure common sense, others might appear rather controversial. For example George Merrill suggests to use a groove lubricant, such as his own GroOove Lube. This might remind the infamous Lencoclean of the Seventies but, if I understand well, the GroOove Lube is a one-time application, while the Lencoclean required to play wet records all the time.
Moreover, George Merrill suggests to avoid spikes (most of the times) under turntables, since rubber damping feet should be used instead. Turntables stand/supports should be heavy (for example marble or granite slabs), while the British school suggests stiff and lightweight stands/tables instead. The point is that everyone should try different approaches and find the one which works better in a given situation.


Easy, concise, straight to the point, these are the adjectives that better describe this booklet. A must-have for novices or even for seasoned audiophiles still in trouble when it comes to foolproof turntable and cartridge/arm set up.

Copyright © 2011 Lucio Cadeddu - direttore@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com

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