There’s a Spirit Level in the iPhone

Recorded on March 17th, 2016

A while back, I bought one of those small, round-bubble spirit levels to keep by the turntable. Your turntable must be exactly level so no unwanted side forces pull on the stylus as it rides across the LP. This avoids all kinds of terrible things: uneven wear as the stylus careens into the valleys of the groove walls and gouges into them, a bent stylus, unbalanced left/right signals, and a smeared stereo image. I won’t even talk about uneven stress on the platter bearing. You do not want any of this. You need a spirit level.

photo of spirit level

The level I have has worked ok’ish. As with a lot of the cheap ones, there seems to be some internal friction with the liquid inside it, so the bubble gets a little “stuck” until you tap the thing to loosen it up, and never seems to read the same thing twice. I’ve never fully trusted it.

I started this morning with a browse of The World of Bespoke Idler-Wheel turntables - Garrard, Lenco, EMT, etc. on Facebook, of course. While there, I was delighted to see a photo of Martina Schoener using an iPhone to level a L’Art du Son 301 Transcription Reference turntable. But what app was she using?

The built-in Compass app! She was on the initial compass screen, which has a tiny crosshair in the center relative to the larger crosshair to indicate how far out of level your phone is.

screenshot of Apple Compass app

That is pretty cool by itself. Even cooler is what happens when you swipe to the next screen to get to the dedicated bubble level. In real life, it moves around a bunch until you settle it down.

screenshot of Apple Compass bubble level

When you’ve leveled your phone, it turns green and looks like this.

screenshot of Apple Compass bubble level

It’s really sensitive, and doesn’t appear to get stuck like my physical level does. The one thing to watch out for with the iPhone is that pesky camera lens that sticks out of the back. If you have a hard case that smooths that protrusion out so it’s flush, you’re fine.

So, there. No need to buy ugly third-party spirit/bubble levels. It’s all built in, and has been there since iOS 7. Go forth and level that turntable.

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