A big thanks to VE members Wayne (wgallupe) and Nick (nickjj), Nick for giving me a great deal on a Rega/Audiomods designed Mint protractor and Wayne for providing a copy of the instructions.
Before receiving the Mint Tractor I had been using an AccuTrak Arc Protractor. It’s a nice product, but no matter how carefully I aligned the cartridge, I just couldn’t seem to get the offset angle right: I would get everything aligned, and then when I would re-check my work, the angle didn’t line up-I attribute this to my ageing eyes rather than the AccuTrak protractor. As such, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head that I wasn’t getting the best sound possible from my set up. A Mint Tractor built for my tonearm/table combo came available at a very good price, so I thought I would give it a try; I had heard many positive things about the Mint Tractor and understood that it provided a very exacting set-up. There seems to be some question on the Internet about which alignment system the Mint employs. After using the one, I can say that it employs the Loefgren A/Baerwald alignment, because when first placing the cantilever of my Denon DL-S1 on the very fine lined arc of the Mint protractor the overhang was spot on; I checked and re-checked this four separate times-with the same result: no adjustment to overhang was required. Off-set was a different story, but I will say that I had gotten very close using the AccuTrak protractor as I only needed to pivot the DL-S1 inward about 1/64 of an inch to achieve Mint’s offset alignment. The Mint protractor’s visual sightlines provide an exacting, albeit tedious, set up. Did I say that the lines are very, very fine? Well they are! They will tire your eyes quickly, so be sure to give yourself lots of time. I will say that I spent a good four hours in total using this protractor-with probably about one hour of hands on work (I was careful to rest my eyes after every ten minutes or so) and would conduct several re-checks before making a movement. I used a 10X Loup and can’t imagine trying this without that level of magnification. I am sure that alignment is now correct because that no matter how many times I re-checked, everything was lined up correctly-I’m a happy camper…
The differences are subtle, (remember my alignment was really close to being correct) but audible. The biggest change was an overall lowering of background noise: clicks and pops and surface noise are now a bit more recessed. The DL-S1 does a good job with this anyway, but now the overall presentation is quieter. In higher amplitude recordings (opera, choral) there is a greater ease in the production of sound: everything seems smother and more relaxed. I had been loading my DL-S1 at 50 Ω (to tame the highs on higher amplitude recordings) but since using the Mint, I’ve been playing around with loading and have settled on 500 Ω, which has opened up the soundstage a bit. I believe that this slight misalignment created a distortion that caused the high to sound a bit harsh-this was more noticeable on some recordings than others-and necessitated a 50 Ω loading. The Denon DL-S1 is unique in that it is a very low output, .15mV, but a relatively high impedance of 40 Ω. Anyway loading it at 500 Ω is closer to the general rule that one should load a cartridge at about 10x its impedance. I’m quite happy with what the Mint protractor has brought to my vinyl front end- highly recommended!