Cartridge alignment basic question

the thin end of the wedge
Paulo Abreu
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Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Paulo Abreu » 20 Aug 2019 16:42

I am aware this is (may be?) a complex topic, several formulas and opinions - However, following the turntable manufacturer instructions it doesn't let much margin for creativity or error, it seems simple. So maybe I'm missing something obvious since this is something I'm looking for the 1st time...

AFAIK there are only two adjustments on the cartridge (disregarding weight and tonearm lift), its the length (for/back) and tilt, right? using the gauge that came with the TT for length and keeping the cartridge parallel to the headshell (as for manufacturer instructions), there is only 1 possible "correct" setting, right?

So I assume that aligning the cartridge using any one of the different protractors available on this website (or purchased), setting for/back/tilt until cartridge is aligned for both neutral points, can only lead me to the same setting, or, if not, then the manufacturer doesn't know how to align the cartridge to get even better results in the gear he designed/build? :roll:

Is that it? its just after all a question of "taste"? shouldn't it only be a question of obtaining the best tracking ability?

Boltman92124
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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Boltman92124 » 20 Aug 2019 17:39

Paulo Abreu wrote:
20 Aug 2019 16:42
I am aware this is (may be?) a complex topic, several formulas and opinions - However, following the turntable manufacturer instructions it doesn't let much margin for creativity or error, it seems simple. So maybe I'm missing something obvious since this is something I'm looking for the 1st time...

AFAIK there are only two adjustments on the cartridge (disregarding weight and tonearm lift), its the length (for/back) and tilt, right? using the gauge that came with the TT for length and keeping the cartridge parallel to the headshell (as for manufacturer instructions), there is only 1 possible "correct" setting, right?

So I assume that aligning the cartridge using any one of the different protractors available on this website (or purchased), setting for/back/tilt until cartridge is aligned for both neutral points, can only lead me to the same setting, or, if not, then the manufacturer doesn't know how to align the cartridge to get even better results in the gear he designed/build? :roll:

Is that it? its just after all a question of "taste"? shouldn't it only be a question of obtaining the best tracking ability?
Sounds like a Technics TT? The alignment gauge is a general setting for overhang on Technics arms. It is close to Stevenson alignment but not exactly. Using a protractor will most likely be different in terms of overhang and alignment. A protractor will potentially provide better tracking on inner grooves. So if you think you are getting some distortion on those inner grooves, you might want to expand your options!

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Paulo Abreu » 20 Aug 2019 17:53

Boltman92124 wrote:
20 Aug 2019 17:39
Sounds like a Technics TT? The alignment gauge is a general setting for overhang on Technics arms. It is close to Stevenson alignment but not exactly. Using a protractor will most likely be different in terms of overhang and alignment. A protractor will potentially provide better tracking on inner grooves. So if you think you are getting some distortion on those inner grooves, you might want to expand your options!
Yes, its the SL-1210GR. Ok, I didn't notice distortion on the inner grooves. So whatever the alignment (Stevenson, etc.), its always a question of compromise? I'll give the benefit of doubt to Technics then. Shouldn't the tone arms have a moving pivoting point, maintaining the stylus always aligned on the grooves? :lol:

Boltman92124
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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Boltman92124 » 20 Aug 2019 18:10

Paulo Abreu wrote:
20 Aug 2019 17:53
Boltman92124 wrote:
20 Aug 2019 17:39
Sounds like a Technics TT? The alignment gauge is a general setting for overhang on Technics arms. It is close to Stevenson alignment but not exactly. Using a protractor will most likely be different in terms of overhang and alignment. A protractor will potentially provide better tracking on inner grooves. So if you think you are getting some distortion on those inner grooves, you might want to expand your options!
Yes, its the SL-1210GR. Ok, I didn't notice distortion on the inner grooves. So whatever the alignment (Stevenson, etc.), its always a question of compromise? I'll give the benefit of doubt to Technics then. Shouldn't the tone arms have a moving pivoting point, maintaining the stylus always aligned on the grooves? :lol:
If you want to try out a good protractor, the post by Charlie Hoffman is near the top of the forum. Traditional arms are really only perfectly tracking at two points on the LP..the null points. Some protractors have the second null point closer to the inner grooves than others. If you lay down your Technics gauge aligned stylus on some of these, you'll find you are not in alignment to the grooves..thus starting your trip down the protractor wormhole! But the Technics gauge does provide good performance for most people..even AT LP120 owners like me.

abs1
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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by abs1 » 20 Aug 2019 18:14

All cartridge alignments are a compromise. That's why there are several to choose from.

Some tone arms (SME in particular) have adjustable bases that allow you to move the entire assembly so the pivot-to-stylus adjustment can be made, but most with this feature may not have slotted headshells which accomplish the same goal.

I think that Technics opted for their cartridge adjustment gauge to allow new owners to make a simple and easy adjustment that will allow them to play LPs without having to get into more detailed (and tricky) adjustment schemes. More complex adjustments can be made using a choice of protractors that will provide more detailed adjustment capabilities. Technics isn't limiting you by providing the factory cartridge alignment tool. They're simply providing you with a choice. Go hard or go easy, it's your option.

Cheers,
Al

Paulo Abreu
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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Paulo Abreu » 20 Aug 2019 21:25

Thanks Al. I am now relaxed with my simple "factory” adjustment.

After playing a few brand new vinyl records on my new turntable, I think I am getting ... gulp... addicted 8) I guess its something old in the bottom of my brain that just tells me “this is the enjoyment of music”. But don't judge me fast, 80% of my music is from my DAP with headphones/IEMS, only because I can bring it with me wherever I go, at work, on the beach, you know... but returning to vinyl has been a fantastic experience in the last two weeks, brought a flush of fresh air to my home system, no wonder its taking terrain over CDs...

Boltman92124
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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Boltman92124 » 20 Aug 2019 22:09

Congrats on the new 1210GR! What cartridge are you using?

Paulo Abreu
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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Paulo Abreu » 20 Aug 2019 22:13

Boltman92124 wrote:
20 Aug 2019 22:09
Congrats on the new 1210GR! What cartridge are you using?
Thanks! I'm using the Nagaoka MP110

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by nat » 21 Aug 2019 00:08

The comment that all alignments are compromises is absolutely correct. Matsushita (Technics' parent company) is a large company with lots of excellent engineers who have produced a lot of excellent audio components. If you bought a Technics table, presumably you bought it because of that heritage of quality. So why would you then feel you had to second guess the engineers about aligning cartridges?
All pivoted arms have some distortion because of misalignment because they transcribe an arc, not the radius of the record (I'll not get into potential misalignment of linear arms). Where you think that distortion is least objectionable will guide your opinions about the merits of the Stevenson, Baerwald, Lofgren, and all variants thereof, alignments. But do you actually have an opinion about where in the record the highest and lowest distortion is? Or is it that you feel you should have an opinion? I hear distortion from time to time - it would be odd if I didn't since I've owned many of my records since the early 70s, and even more came from the dump or garage sales. But I've never said to myself - Dammit, there is goes again, that slightly increased distortion 1/3 of the way into the record! And then, not long after - there it goes again, 2/3s of the way in, I can't stand it!
I have, however, said to myself - actually I've said it often - that cartridge, which I aligned with a Baerwald protractor even though it was a Technics table, looks stupid as hell cocked dramatically in the headshell, and just barely in alignment because the headshell slots aren't long enough. I've even thought about filing out the slot to allow better alignment (more cocking).
I don't use Technics turntables, but it's not because of the alignment (regardless of the one chosen). It's because the good ones can be sold easily and profitably, and the lesser ones are not the equal of my other tables. Which protractor I use has nothing to do with it. So I suggest you use the Technics doohickey, and sit back and enjoy.

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Paulo Abreu » 21 Aug 2019 16:44

Thanks Nat for your feedback and explanations, this is all now much clearer.
Regards

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by NOYB » 22 Aug 2019 01:05

I think which alignment is best to use depends on your goal.

Manufacture supplied gauges seem to be aimed at ease and small IGR to minimize distortion on the vary inner most grooves. However IGR on most of my records is far greater than what the mfg supplied template aligns for. Also having the cartridge square in the headshell may not result in an accurate alignment at the null points. It is a general purpose tool.

If the goal is to minimize the compromise and/or tailor the alignment for the set of records that are typically played then using a protractor is the way to go. With a protractor the IGR and OGR can be tailored to the typical records that are played. Thus minimizing the alignment compromise.

I opted for the arc protractor using Lofgren A with the Typical IGR/OGR because it best matches the IGR/OGR of my records. Few of my records have an IGR less that 63mm and most are even a few mm larger. I doubt any of them have an OGR greater that 145mm.

The alignment arc template generator by Conrad Hoffman is free and a very nice tool for learning, experimenting and setting cartridge alignment. It comes with a readme.txt file that contains a lot of good information about cartridge alignment and using the arc template. Be sure to read it.

The online "Tonearm Alignment Calculator Pro" in the "Tools" section is also a nice way to experiment and see how various alignments affect tracking and distortion.

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by JeanPP » 22 Aug 2019 06:16

When using "Tonearm Alignment calculator Pro" (or others), you have to enter the geometry of the tonearm
For SL1200 (and others Technics arms) it is (data from Technics):

Pivot to spindle = 215mm
Effective length = 230 mm
Overhang = 15 mm
Offset angle = 22°

The results for Lofgren A and Lofgren B show that offset angle increases with effective Length.

It is impossible to set if cartridge stays aligned with headshell.

Geometricaly speaking, for any tonearm, when effective length increases by increasing overhang offset angle decreases (and opposite when overhand decreases).

Il you want to apply Lofgren A or B you have to cheat on the offset angle, that is to say to misalign a little bit the cartridge with the headshell (by 2 ou 3°)

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by NOYB » 22 Aug 2019 07:52

The only required entry is the pivot to spindle. The others are optional.

The graphs of the "Tonearm Alignment Calculator Pro" are nice to narrow in and decide on an alignment. Then using the Conrad Hoffman arc protractor to apply the settings (effective length and offset angle) it can be done very accurate.

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by Paulo Abreu » 22 Aug 2019 08:59

Great info guys - thanks. The tone arm calculator pro is awesome - the graphs are easy to read and really express the term "compromise". Regards

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Re: Cartridge alignment basic question

Post by sng » 01 Sep 2019 16:26

Like someone said - seems simple, right?

I'm new to this game. After a break of 30 odd years I thought I should check out that stash of records that I've saved all this time. So I bought myself a Clearaudio Concept with a Satisfy arm and Concept MC cartridge. After reading many online forums and hifi magazines, I became convinced that it's important to align my cartridge so I bought a Clearaudio alignment protractor. Something I had never heard of even though I used to own an SME 3009 S2 fitted out with a Shure V15 on a Thoren TD126 TT. Back then HiFi News Test Record was the way to go. Just adjust tracking force and mess around with anti skating until no distortion is heard on the 2 or 3 torture tracks on the record.

And yes, I found that my Concept was not aligned properly according to Clearaudio's protractor, though it was supposed to have been performed at the factory (or maybe by the local distributor). The sound seems much clearer, bass improved and all was great. Then I decided to upgrade (HiFi's curse) and ended up with a Transrotor Zet 1 with all the mods and with a Reed 1X arm fitted. I chose a Benz Micro Glider cartridge. Silly me, did not realise that the Reed does not have an indicator for the pivot centre which is what is required by the Clearaudio protractor as well as others such as the Feickert etc. Not to be put off, I discovered (from the forums) that another way to align is to use a 2 point protractor and so I ended up with an cheap Ortofon one which I used and found I had difficulty ensuring the cantilever was correctly aligned to the line passing through the 2 points. I thought I did a good job after hours of messing around and the music did sound very nice. The itch appeared again and I thought I could do better with an arc protractor such as the MintLP Best Tractor as it was custom designed for the effective length and overhang specs of my tonearm and it was mirrored which made the cantilever alignment easier since all I needed to do was to observe the parallax effect in the mirror, so I ordered one custom made to the specifications of the Reed arm. I got it after a 3 week wait and immediately got down to work. I have only 1 word to describe the end result - DISAPPOINTING. The new setting found the cartridge moved backwards towards the pivot by almost 3mm. Even if I was cockeyed using a 2 point protractor, I certainly did not expect such a large error. I double checked that the specifications were correct and estimated that the MintLP's design was very close if not exactly the same as the template that was supplied with the tonearm (the difference being that the tonearm's supplied template did not have a grid for me to align the cantilever to the tangent at the two points). This was a huge quandary. I kept thinking that arc protractors were the best there were. Clearaudio's protractor and others like Dr Feickert's also rely on this as they ensure the overhang is set to the tonearm manufacturers specs. The sound I heard from my system was no where as good as that from the 2 point protractor setup I had. It simply sounded lifeless to me. So after spending close on to $120 I went back to my $10 Ortofon 2 point protractor. I also double checked the setting with a DB Systems protractor and they both agreed quite closely.

The engineer in me, decided that this was no good and that something like the Clearaudio protractor which received good reviews (including this website) could not be wrong so I set about trying to estimate the pivot centre on my 1X. I felt that I could get to with 1 mm of the pivot centre with patience. After many hours I think I got pretty close to it. Again I aligned the cartridge and found that this time the setting was almost within the bounds of visual measurement errors as compared to the 2 point protractor setting I had earlier. The sound to me is about as best I can attain in my current set up with explosive dynamics, extended frequency range, precise location of instruments, voices in the soundstage and taut and deep bass.

So after all that (and sorry for boring all of you with my long winded story) I have a few conclusions but I am not sure which is right -
1. 2 point protractors are good, though they do not care about the length of the tonearm or the overhang. The use of parallax to align the cantilever may help to achieve better accuracy because using the cartridge's body will not work.
2. arc protractors even though supplied by the tonearm manufacturers have to be approached with caution and need to be verified before accepting their settings.
3. Clearaudio's protractor is as good as it gets for what I need and even though they rely on the spindle pivot distance have somehow managed to find a setting that is very good (at least for my system). I don't know if this can also be said of protractors from Dr Feickert etc.
4. what is the purpose of providing overhang information with tonearms when this info can actually be incorrect as far as sonics are concerned? The Clearaudio protractor seems to use only the pivot to spindle distance. There is no mention of overhang. This is some magic number they use since it appears to me that irrespective of tonearm length the overhang set when using this protractor is exactly the same. The same can be said about 2 point protractors.
5. Am I being too obsessive? I'm sure many out there like me are trying to extract maximum performance out of our investments so am I wrong?
6. The whole science and engineering of tonearms really needs a more solid foundation. Or, the true and tried techniques and rules are there. Just many designers do not apply them consistently. (I am really not qualified to say this but I am quite annoyed that I have to spend so much time and effort on something like this).

I know that I am just venting, but has anyone else come across a similar problem? How can this be improved? Just use a 2 point protractor? (I know professionals who setup turntables and tonearms for a living swear by them but they all have better eyesight than me. At the same time many also swear by the Feickert protractor and similar.)

Comment: Manufacturers who do not provide a pivot centre mark are doing their customers a great disservice.

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