how to balance tonearm without counterweight

Balancing a tonearm without a counterweight can be challenging, as the counterweight plays a crucial role in setting the correct tracking force for your turntable cartridge. However, in a pinch or if you have a turntable without a counterweight, you can use some makeshift methods to approximate the correct tracking force. Keep in mind that this method won’t be as accurate as using a proper counterweight, and it’s essential to be cautious to avoid damaging your turntable or vinyl records. Here’s how you can try to balance the tonearm without a counterweight:

Tools and Materials You’ll Need:

  • Your turntable
  • A level surface
  • A small digital scale (a kitchen scale with grams measurement)
  • A tracking force gauge (optional but recommended)


  1. Ensure a Level Surface: Place your turntable on a level and stable surface. It’s crucial for accurate tracking force measurement.
  2. Identify the Tracking Force Range: Check your turntable’s user manual or online resources to find the recommended tracking force range for your cartridge. This information is essential for setting the correct tracking force.
  3. Zero the Scale (Optional): If your digital scale has a “tare” or “zero” function, use it to reset the scale to zero with nothing on it.
  4. Place a Record on the Turntable: Put a vinyl record on the platter as you would for normal playback. Ensure that the tonearm is in its resting position (lifted and secured).
  5. Measure the Tracking Force: Carefully lift the tonearm and manually set it to the middle of the record. If your scale is small, you can use a small piece of folded paper or cardboard to support the tonearm near the pivot point while keeping the stylus on the record.
  6. Use the Digital Scale: Gently lower the stylus onto the scale, allowing it to rest on the scale’s surface. Note the reading on the scale in grams. This reading is your tracking force.
  7. Compare to Recommended Range: Check the tracking force measurement against the recommended range for your cartridge. If it falls within the specified range, you’re close to the correct tracking force. However, this method may not be entirely accurate.
  8. Fine-Tune the Tracking Force: If the tracking force falls outside the recommended range, make adjustments as needed. To increase the tracking force, carefully move the counterweight (if available) toward the back of the tonearm. To decrease it, move the counterweight toward the front.
  9. Check with a Tracking Force Gauge (Optional): If possible, use a tracking force gauge to confirm the tracking force. A tracking force gauge is a more accurate tool for this purpose.
  10. Test Playback: After making adjustments, test playback with a vinyl record to ensure that the tracking force is set correctly and that the stylus tracks the grooves smoothly without skipping or excessive wear.

While this makeshift method can help approximate the tracking force without a counterweight, it’s crucial to remember that it may not be as precise as using proper equipment. If you’re an avid vinyl enthusiast, it’s recommended to invest in a turntable with a counterweight or a separate tonearm that allows for precise tracking force adjustment. This will ensure better audio quality and prolong the life of your records.

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