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Re: tone arm travel
Tonearm is misaligned. This usually happens when you've moved the unit, or something has fallen on the tonearm, causing it's bearing to be misaligned. This is not an easy fix, and you will more than likely have to take it to a service center to have it repaired and looked at.
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Yes. you need to set the travel on your arm. I don't know your specific model but they are all the same concept. On the back by the pivot point there should be a small screw that you can adjust the travel before it returns.
Make sure that the wires leading from the tone arm are not binding. And you might also want to check for bearing friction in the tone arm. Under light stylus pressure conditions, low friction is mandatory.
I gather you don't know how to adjust the tonearm. First put the stylus pressure, and antiskating to zero. Balance the tonearm for a free floating position. Ortofon cartridges will list the stylus pressure, generally 1.5 grams. Dial in the correct pressure, and set the antiskating to the same as the stylus pressure. If you require more assistance, or would like to inquire about repairing your Technics, please visit my website at audioserviceclinic.com. You may contact me there. Thank you.
Regarding the poor sound quality (and possibly the skipping):
check the needle condition, see if exchanging it with a needle (or the entire pickup head) from a working turntable does any good.
Check the pickup connection pins (contacts on the pickup head and on the end of the wires coming through the arm from the unit), see if there is any dirt or oxydation and clean the contacts if necessary, also check for any damage to the wires.
As for the skipping - a heavily worn needle may affect the sound quality and cause skipping as well - if cahnging the needle (or the pickup head) doesn't make a change, try to realign the weight on the tone arm so that the pickup head will become a bit heavier, this could help somewhat (before you actually try to realign the weight, try to put a small coin or a small weight of some kind on the pickup head while it is playing a record, if the skipping goes away, you need to realign the tone arm weight).
This could also be a problem with the tone arm lifting mechanism (may be obstructed by something or damaged so it won't let the tone arm sit properly onto the record and "grab" the groove).
I just mentioned a few things you might want to check, but don't take anything for granted, the problem may as well be elsewhere in the unit.
A. Do not try to close the case when there is a record inside!! The fact that the turntable cannot do this is not a design flaw--you'll be hard pressed to find a portable turntable that can close with a record inside because if you were to pick up the player with one inside, it could easily slip off of the spindle and scratch against the sides of the player.
B. Are you using the cueing lever to lift the tone arm before you place it on the record? Read the instructions to see where the cuing lever is (it's a little switch on the right side of the tone arm). When you lift it, the tone arm will lift up and allow you to position it wherever you want on a record, then you depress the lever to make the tone arm touch the record and being playing.
I hope that helps!
Just guessing, but it sounds like you haven't counterbalanced your tone arm. When a tone arm skips, it's usually because there's too much counter weight on the rear of the tone arm. You want between 3-5 grams, but first you have to calibrate your tone arm (balance it so you know where zero is). If you don't know how to do this, refer to the Ion directions called "Tonearm Setup" in the instructions.