In order to strike the right balance between staying firmly in the groove and being able to move freely enough to track the bumps of music stored on the vinyl, each cartridge has an ideal tracking force (also called downforce). Usually measured in grams, the tracking force just means the amount of weight that’s pressing down on the cartridge as it runs through the record grooves. Too light, and the stylus will jump over critical details, and may even skip out of the groove; too heavy, and the stylus will struggle to move subtly enough to catch fine details, or even grind away at your records (as well as the delicate tip of the stylus).
It’s a fiddly process, and getting it right can be tricky. We’ve got a handy guide on balancing your tonearm here, which only requires your turntable, the counterweight and a bit of patience.
If you want something a little more precise, though, we recommend the Ortofon Stylus Pressure Gauge. This nifty little scale is a straightforward way to check that you’ve got your tracking force set correctly, so you can pop a record on safe in the knowledge that it’s sounding the best it can, and that you’re taking good care of your vinyl.