What is Anti-Skating on a Turntable?

Anti-skating is a feature built into nearly all turntables that keeps your tonearm, cartridge, and needle properly in the grooves of a record. It helps to keep these components from skating across the record and is integral to getting proper sound

My name is Donovan, and I’m a turntable and vinyl enthusiast. I love listening to, writing, and recording music and spend much of my time doing those three things. I know through first-hand experience what anti-skating on a turntable is. 

This post will explain what anti-skating on a turntable is. I’ll highlight everything you need to know about this important feature on your turntable to get the best sound and vinyl listening experience. 

Let’s get started. 

Key Takeaways

  • The anti-skating feature on a turntable helps keep the stylus, cartridge, and tonearm properly weighted down on records for ideal playback. 
  • This feature prevents these components from skating across the record, effectively holding the needle down with enough pressure for proper operation. 
  • Nearly all turntables have an anti-skating feature, and it might need to be calibrated when you buy a new one. 
  • You can adjust the anti-skating feature on your turntable to your liking or for ideal operation. 

What is Anti-Skating on a Turntable? 

Anti-skating on a turntable is a feature that helps balance the tonearm, cartridge, and stylus for optimal playback and audio quality. Nearly every turntable has an anti-skate feature that you can adjust when needed. 

Without this anti-skate feature, the arm can skate across the surface of a record. This essentially means that the needle will bounce around or move too quickly toward or away from the center of the record. 

Anti-skating is effectively a counterweight on the end of your tonearm. This often looks like a little knob on the opposite end of the arm from the needle and cartridge. There is usually a little dial you can twist to make adjustments. 

The arm won’t drift across a record if the weight is not balanced correctly. And if it’s too heavy, it can dig into the grooves and cause distortion. This isn’t the same as skating across the record, but it still results in audio issues you want to avoid. 

Knowing how to adjust the anti-skate feature on your turntable is a must if you like listening to records. You might not need to adjust this often, but you’ll want to fix things quickly if the settings get messed up or out of whack. 

Anti-Skate Turntable Settings

Nearly every turntable will have an anti-skate feature that you can adjust. It’s typically located at the base of the tonearm, on the opposite end of the arm from the cartridge and needle. And it looks like a dial or knob with various markings on it. 

Different turntable models will have different anti-skate knobs, but they all function essentially the same way. By twisting or otherwise adjusting the knob, you change the counterweight, which affects the balance of the arm. 

Most turntables will have the anti-skating set to zero when it comes out of the box brand new. If you just purchased a new turntable, you probably don’t need to make any adjustments right away, and everything should work correctly. 

But if you bought a used turntable, you might need to adjust until you get these settings right. You just need to turn the knob one way or the other until the settings are where you want them. Making minor adjustments is usually the best course of action. 

You also will need to make adjustments to the anti-skate settings if you change the cartridge on your turntable. If you go with a different cartridge, it likely won’t be the same weight as the original. This means you need to adjust the anti-skate to compensate for the changes. 

There isn’t one setting that works for every turntable or cartridge. You’ll need to play around with the settings until you get things dialed in how you want them. It’s pretty simple to do this, but you might need to spend some time getting used to it. 

Is Anti-Skate Necessary?

While it is technically possible to use a turntable without anti-skating, it’s not ideal at all. That’s why virtually every turntable has this feature built-in. Without it, you won’t get proper playback, and the needle and arm won’t stay in the record’s grooves as they should. 

The force of the tonearm and needle into the record also affects audio quality. That’s why anti-skate settings are so important. Anti-skating can affect both the physical playback of a record and also how the record sounds during playback. 

Since both factors are essential, you can see how vital anti-skating is to listening to vinyl. I’d say it’s necessary with that in mind. And if you’ve ever dealt with a turntable that has a broken anti-skate feature, I’d bet you agree. 

I don’t know why you’d choose to use or need a turntable without anti-skating. Quite simply, a turntable won’t function without this feature. Whenever you buy a new or used turntable, you want to ensure that anti-skating is working properly. 

It’s also good to know that some turntable manufacturers don’t make adjustable anti-skating. It’s just built into the tonearm and turntable. If you get this type of turntable, you’ll want to use the exact same cartridge to avoid issues with skating if you ever replace it.  

How to Tell if Anti-Skate is Working

You can tell if anti-skate is working on your turntable in a few ways. Knowing these are good for every vinyl enthusiast because if it’s not working, you won’t get ideal playback, and it can even damage your records. 

Listening to your records is one quick way to tell if anti-skate works. If you know your needle is good but still hear a lot of hissing or distortion, the anti-skate might not be set properly. 

Distortion is a sign that the anti-skating is set too heavy because the needle is digging into the grooves of a record and causing distortion. Hissing or static can mean the anti-skate is too light and not in the grooves. 

Another obvious sign is if the tonearm is skipping or bouncing out of the grooves in your records. This is obviously not an ideal situation, and you won’t be able to listen to a record properly if the needle doesn’t stay in the groove as it spins.

You can also watch the tonearm as it tracks over the record. If it moves really quickly toward the center or outside of the record, you likely have an issue with anti-skating. This can be subtle or very severe, depending on the settings.  

Some vinyl enthusiasts have really in-depth methods for getting the best anti-skating settings on their turntables. They might use a blank lacquer record to observe how the turntable tracks without playing music. 

These methods are a bit overkill for the average vinyl listener, but they are an option if you really want to dial in your anti-skate settings and ensure they are working perfectly. 


Here are a few short answers to some of the most commonly asked questions related to what anti-skating is on a turntable. 

How does anti-skate affect sound? 

Anti-skate on a turntable affects sound by balancing the needle and tonearm properly for optimal audio playback. Without proper anti-skate settings in place, the needle can bounce around or skate or just not deliver a high-quality stereo playback. 

What happens if anti-skate is too high? 

If the anti-skate settings on your turntable are too high, the arm will have too much weight pressing down on the needle into the groove of the record. This can cause audio distortion and alter playback, resulting in a less-than-ideal experience. 

What happens if anti-skate is too low? 

If the anti-skate feature on your turntable is too low, the tonearm and needle won’t fall properly into the grooves of a record. This can cause the needle to bounce or skate across the surface of the record. You won’t get optimal playback when it’s too low. 

What should my anti-skate be set at? 

You need to get your tonearm properly balanced by utilizing the anti-skate feature. You can make adjustments to the anti-skate until the arm moves freely when lifted out of its holder. Typically this is set to zero out of the box, but adjustments might be needed. 

When should I adjust my anti-skate? 

You can watch the tonearm as a record plays to know if adjustments need to be made to the anti-skate feature. If the arm is skating towards the center, the anti-skate knob can be tightened. If it’s floating outward, you can loosen it up. 

Final Thoughts

Anti-skating is an important feature on every turntable that helps create the proper balance in the tonearm and cartridge for ideal playback. Without this feature, a needle can skip or bounce around and even cause distortion or damage to your record. 

Most turntables come with adjustable anti-skating that you can tweak with the turn of a knob. After replacing a cartridge or buying a used turntable, you always want to ensure your arm is properly balanced. 

Have you ever made adjustments to the anti-skating on your turntable? Let me know in the comments below. 

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