Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

the thin end of the wedge
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conoroconnell
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Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by conoroconnell » 19 Nov 2019 16:58

Hi all, this is my first post on this forum.
Last week I bought an AT-VM95E cartridge for my Audio Technica LP 3 turntable. This was my first turntable which I've had over a year- the original cartridge came pre mounted so I wasn't aware that 'alignment' was even a thing until last week when it came to replacing the cartridge.
I quickly found there are few things in life more annoying. I spent one whole evening using the standard printable Audio Technica protractor to try and align the thing (which also has bevelled sides just to make life more difficult), during which time I got so frustrated that I fired the turntable instruction manual to the other side of the room, narrowly missing two shelves of antique Victorian bottles, a collection I've built up over the last ten years. That naturally left me shaken, so decided to leave it till the next morning, when I thought I finally did it, and thought it best for my own sanity to just leave it and not fiddle with it any longer.
However, over the last week its made little to no impact on the level of inner groove distortion and I have resolved to try it one more time. I have a few questions:

1. I am very confused about whether to just 'twist' the cartridge or actually slide it up and down in the headshell. No videos that I can find explain this properly and Id like someone to just explain in simple English when to twist and when to slide, so to speak.

2. Is it normal for this kind of cartridge to not lay perfectly parallel to the platter, i.e it tilts upwards towards the headshell very slightly. I think this is just design but may be wrong.

I would really appreciate some help here- I JUST WANT TO LISTEN TO SOME RECORDS :( :(

Btw I have no idea why, when typing it in caps, 'help' in the title appears in lower case.

JoeE SP9
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by JoeE SP9 » 19 Nov 2019 20:09

Her you go. These directions are from our own Alec124C. They are IMO the best and easiest to follow I'm aware of.

A 2-point protractor can be used with any arm.
With a 2-point protractor, set the stylus on the crosshairs of the outer grid, and square the cartridge to it.
Move to the inner grid, stylus on crosshairs.
If the cartridge angles toward the middle of the record, move it forward a bit, and start over.
If the cartridge angles away from the middle of the record, move it back a bit, and start over.
When the cartridge sits squarely in both grids, stylus on crosshairs, you are done.
When you have used a protractor, do not then try to adjust the cartridge to any other "overhang."

conoroconnell
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by conoroconnell » 20 Nov 2019 17:12

JoeE SP9 wrote:
19 Nov 2019 20:09
Her you go. These directions are from our own Alec124C. They are IMO the best and easiest to follow I'm aware of.

A 2-point protractor can be used with any arm.
With a 2-point protractor, set the stylus on the crosshairs of the outer grid, and square the cartridge to it.
Move to the inner grid, stylus on crosshairs.
If the cartridge angles toward the middle of the record, move it forward a bit, and start over.
If the cartridge angles away from the middle of the record, move it back a bit, and start over.
When the cartridge sits squarely in both grids, stylus on crosshairs, you are done.
When you have used a protractor, do not then try to adjust the cartridge to any other "overhang."
Cheers!

conoroconnell
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by conoroconnell » 20 Nov 2019 18:13

Christ this is really annoying me. Printed off a Baerwald protractor to try and attempt the job again. Loosened the screws and gave my cartridge a good 'ol shuffle up and down the headshell just to start me off, expecting the thing to be really misaligned when I put the stylus on the grid. No matter where on the headshell I position the cartridge, it always seems to be aligning, even with a magnifying glass. That can't be right, and yes, i'm putting the stylus in the right place. I cant even manage to get a piece of pencil lead stuck to the bloody thing to help me as the front is so curvy. Frustration level 90%.

JoeE SP9
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by JoeE SP9 » 20 Nov 2019 19:55

I would guess you're not using the protractor properly. Ralph's instructions are foolproof when correctly followed.

A cartridge will always easily align at a single null point. You have to make it align at both null points without further movement.

When you start on the outer grid place the cartridge in the middle of the slots in the head shell. After that, follow Ralph's instructions.

Japi Roelofs
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by Japi Roelofs » 20 Nov 2019 21:10

conoroconnell wrote:
20 Nov 2019 18:13
No matter where on the headshell I position the cartridge, it always seems to be aligning, even with a magnifying glass. That can't be right, and yes, i'm putting the stylus in the right place.
What you are experiencing is called the Parallax effect. You can compare it with driving a car and looking at the dashboard meters. If you're in the drivers seat, the pointer ligns up perfectly with the scale behind it. But if you're in the passenger seat, all of a sudden it doesn't.

So in order to establish if the cantilever ligns up with the grid, your head needs to be in the exact right position. This is easier said than done. Move your head a bit to the left or to the right, and everything is off. Or, in your case, just right...

To overcome this there's a handy tool which is a so called mirrored protractor: the grid lines are printed on a mirror, and looking at it from the front, when the center lines line up with their reflections, your head is in the right place.

conoroconnell
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by conoroconnell » 21 Nov 2019 17:38

Japi Roelofs wrote:
20 Nov 2019 21:10
conoroconnell wrote:
20 Nov 2019 18:13
No matter where on the headshell I position the cartridge, it always seems to be aligning, even with a magnifying glass. That can't be right, and yes, i'm putting the stylus in the right place.
What you are experiencing is called the Parallax effect. You can compare it with driving a car and looking at the dashboard meters. If you're in the drivers seat, the pointer ligns up perfectly with the scale behind it. But if you're in the passenger seat, all of a sudden it doesn't.

So in order to establish if the cantilever ligns up with the grid, your head needs to be in the exact right position. This is easier said than done. Move your head a bit to the left or to the right, and everything is off. Or, in your case, just right...

To overcome this there's a handy tool which is a so called mirrored protractor: the grid lines are printed on a mirror, and looking at it from the front, when the center lines line up with their reflections, your head is in the right place.
Thanks. I think it's kind of that, but it's also the stupidly curvy shape of the front of the VM95E- there's only a tiny part at the front that is truly straight, making it a lot easier for the eye to play tricks. Cartridges like the AT95E must be easy to align with it's straight front. I finally managed to get a piece of pencil lead taped to the front and that highlighted my errors straight away, allowing me to make the adjustments and finally ( I think ) get the cartridge aligned. I know they say align the cantilever but I would find that impossible without a mirrored protractor. I'm not that much of an audio buff anyway- as long as my records produce a decent sound without too much IDG, I'm happy. I'm not concerned about half and quarter- millimetres at this point.

wolfie62
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Re: Aligning my cartridge - first time help appreciated

Post by wolfie62 » 21 Nov 2019 19:56

Those 2-point protractors are the most annoying things to use. Trial, error, trial, error, trial, ......

I switched to using the Conrad Hoffman Arc Protractor. Suddenly, life made sense, the birds sang, the sun shined, the trees were green again! It really is very precise and easy to use. Takes me 10 minutes, at most, to align a cartridge. And, you only have to align to ONE null point and get it parallel to that one set of grid lines.

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