This depends on the scenario, let me explain:
Properly installing and accurately setting up a cartridge with the right hardware and precisely calibrating overhang, azimuth, tracking force, anti-skate, VTA, arm lifter position and height using the correct tools and test records can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 60+ minutes with a complex deck or installation.
With this in mind, it’s unfortunately not viable to fit every cartridge for free. That would be like asking a mechanic to replace everyone’s sparkplugs for free or a doctor to write free prescriptions. It’s not a reasonable expectation of any professional.
I have a system that works well:
- I offer free precision installation and alignment on cartridges I supply with an RRP of $375 or more, in most cases. I absorb the cost of the installation and alignment, giving customers a better deal and encouraging the correct fitment of better cartridges. Try getting that from an online seller.
- With cheaper and customer-supplied cartridges, I do charge for installation. For that, you get a full, precision alignment. In these scenarios, it’s a perfect opportunity to have your deck carefully inspected and precisely adjusted, something that may never even have been done.
Either way, you come out ahead.
“Why do some stores offer free installation?”
Two reasons. One is that, like me, they absorb the cost. Keep in mind though that many folks in stores cannot correctly install and set up cartridges. This brings me to the second reason. Many stores only offer a ‘quick and dirty’ alignment’ using a generic paper or plastic protractor. This isn’t a proper alignment.