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Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

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Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby pulsetsar » 25 Mar 2013 02:39

I know there have been many posts about the use of this protractor for turntable setup. I wanted to report my impressions and add to that topic, though I don't have much experience using other protractors. I've used the Vinyl Engine Rega specific ones, printed out on regular computer paper, to compare Baerwald (Loefgren A) to Stevenson on my Rega P5 (w/Groovetracer upgrades) with a Dynavector 10x5 cart, and I didn't hear that much of a difference. I ended up leaving it aligned to the Baerwald arc and loved the sound, though there were still some difficult tracks on some records where sibliant performance that just fell short of perfect. Dialing in tracking force and antiskate was important and improved much about the sound, but not the sibliant performance.

After reading through all the positive reviews regarding the Mint LP, I decided to try this out as my first "real" protractor. I went with the stock Rega one offered by Mint LP (Stevenson alignment), since it would ship immediately and I didn't think a Rega Baerwald version would really be worth the wait.

Yip, from the company, got back to me within hours of placing my order and I had a protractor in hand about 1 week later (later than I could have if I had waited at home for the package instead of picking it up at the post office). Yip's customer service, communication, and packaging was superb. This guy was a class act - off to a good start already!

I then read the instructions about 20 times or so, along with every review I could which included notes or setup tips. I played around with the 3x and 10x magnifiers, practiced immobilizing the platter (with silly putty), and made sure I understood the parallax effect. Then, I waited until I would have a free afternoon to work on this with good daylight - this took another week.

Finally,I sat down to complete the alignment - start the clock. I moved my turntable and equipment to the living room table so I had light and space to work. I leveled my turntable meticulously using a bubble level, decreased the tracking force a bit, and set the antiskate to zero. I then set the overhang. Using the outer most portion of the arc, actually located past the edge of the platter, I moved the protractor until the stylus was sitting right on top, as evidenced by a 10x magnifier. I then swung the arm in as close to the spindle as possible and noted the amount of overhang in relation to the inner portion of the arc. I moved the cartridge back in the headshell almost to the arc, but not all the way. This is crucial - it is not in the instructions, and I picked it up as a tip in another post. I then swung the arm back to the outer most portion of the arc and moved the protractor so that the stylus sat on top of it in the magnifier. These two steps were repeated until the overhang was perfect. Remember - outer arc adjustments are made by moving the protractor; inner arc adjustments are made by moving the cartridge almost to the line, but just short of it. One hour down.

I then used the two null point strips to adjust how much to twist the cartridge in the headshell. You have to get the stylus right onto the center of the crosshairs that can only be seen using a 10x magnifier. You then use a 3x magnifier to see if the cantilever and stylus exactly bisect the inner null point lines when viewed with one eye, dead-on. This is determined with the aid of the parallax effect and is quite tiring. I did end up using the 10x magnifier to confirm the degree of twist after getting it close with the 3x. Finally, when I thought everything was spot on, I tightened the cartridge screws and rechecked everything just to be sure - still dead on in terms of overhang and alignment with the null points. Two hours down.

The last thing to do was set the vertical tracking force to just past 2 g (recommended 1.8 - 2.2 for the Dynavector 10x5). I used the HiFi News test record to set the antiskate approximately, then dialed it in using a few records - this step always has to be done my ear and, at least in my setup, is vital.

First impression using my 2003 reissue pressing of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon: whoa.... Using Grizzly Bear's Vekatimest: no way.... Using the reissue Beatles Sgt. Pepper: holy !@#$

Improvements: top and bottom extension and overall cohesiveness; bass is tighter and contains more information; instrumental timbres are smooth and effortlessly portrayed; complex passages easily sorted through; transients kick you in the friggin face; low level detail everywhere; images are better defined and better placed in a wider soundstage.

Mostly, it made me want to spin every record in my collection again 8)

I don't know how this performs compared to cheaper protractors that fall somwhere in between the zero cost paper printout and the $110 Mint LP, but I'm happy with my results and the improvement is more than what $110 worth in upgrade cost has ever gotten me before. Color me impressed.
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby blakep » 25 Mar 2013 04:21

I own and like and use the Mint and think it's definitely a precision instrument, but I find the instructions lacking and the 3x and 10x magnification to be almost useless.

The links below are to generic arc protractor instructions at Audioasylum which, in my experience, are the easiest to follow and understand (the protractor never moves using this method, only the cartridge), as well as two very inexpensive items which make the process much, much easier: an illuminated 20X loupe and a hand's free miner's headlight.

http://db.audioasylum.com/mhtml/m.html? ... t%3Dmorrow

http://www.amazon.com/SE-Illuminated-Lo ... B0013E3DAG

http://www.amazon.com/Hands-Free-Miners ... B00309Q1DI

The key with any arc protractor is really nailing the overhang; if you're using an alignment which results in a different offset angle (ie. aligning to Baerwald on a Rega arm), it's going to help a bit to know which way you're going to need to angle the cartridge to achieve the new offset to save some time, and in most cases that slight angle will probably be toward the spindle. But if you really (and I mean really) nail the overhang (and offset as well-you can't nail the overhang without nailing the offset as far as I'm concerned-it's clearly much more simple if you've got a cartridge that's supposed to be square in the headshell but that's not always the case depending on which alignment one chooses) I find that there's not much work to do on the grids beyond confirming you've really nailed it.

Working from the instructions above and using the hands free light and 20X illuminated loupe I find that I can now use the Mint to achieve dead on alignment in about 15-20 minutes max as opposed to the hours that most people talk about spending using the Mint. I think it's really down to the instructions and having great lighting and magnification.
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby dconsmack » 25 Mar 2013 11:46

I have used the Mint LP Best Tractor for my Pro-Ject RM9.1 (Baerwald) and another Mint for my Technics SL-1210 M5G (Stevenson). I am a big fan of the Mint and I am convinced that the Stevenson alignment is superior to Baerwald. Baerwald seems better on paper, but I found that Stevenson works better in practice.
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby nabil » 25 Mar 2013 15:12

dconsmack wrote:I have used the Mint LP Best Tractor for my Pro-Ject RM9.1 (Baerwald) and another Mint for my Technics SL-1210 M5G (Stevenson). I am a big fan of the Mint and I am convinced that the Stevenson alignment is superior to Baerwald. Baerwald seems better on paper, but I found that Stevenson works better in practice.


I've had the same experience-for me it is simply easier in a Rega tonearm (Audiomods Series IV) to use the Stevenson alignment as the arm was designed to be used with that alignment.
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby plastico » 31 May 2014 14:14

I just recieved my Mint and checked my alignment on my Rega P3 - Audiomods arm. I had been using a printed protractor up until this point. When I checked with the Mint I was off a 1/2 mm. Now, I scoffed and shook my head when I read people heard such a difference when their cart was out by this miniscule amount. Well, I too, have heard this. The image is sharper, more details are presented, playback is quieter, and you just want to spin more records!
Cheers, Doug
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby 33-45-78 » 01 Jun 2014 00:21

Another Mint/Audiomods success story here.

- Crosstalk is greatly reduced, confirmed with dual trace audio oscilloscope & test record.
- L/R phase is perfect, confirmed with 'scope & test LP.
- Channel balance is as good as can be expected, allowing for cartridge manufacturers tolerances (also confirmed with 'scope & test record.
- Those 3 improvements result in better imaging, separation, coherence and fluidity that vinyl is noted for. A much more relaxing and natural presentation. Piano sounds real, with piano scale; the shimmer, decay & 'hang time' of cymbals is spooky
-Inner groove distortion is greatly reduced, tested by ear on Anabasis from the Dead Can Dance LP Anastasis and Ain't it Funny? from Buckshot LeFonque. Both tracks feature very peaky female vocals that displayed prominent break-up in both channels prior to alignment with Mint.

I was very fortunate to discover that I had set the overhang perfectly prior to using the Best Tractor, and the cantilever was only off by microns, so I moved the cartridge 'with my mind' as Yip recommends and sure enough the Force was with me - it was dead straight to the printed lines with no parallax error on the first attempt. So the lessons learned are:

- ZYX cartridges are very sensitive to setup, the audible difference between near enough and perfect is failure and success.
- The difference that microns make is all the difference.
- I have Jedi mind powers.

A brilliant product!
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby plastico » 01 Jun 2014 01:50

Fantastic! This proves that in the micro world of carts we need the sharpest of tools to get it right! 8)

Cheers, Doug
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Re: Mint LP Best Tractor First Impressions

Postby Drewan77 » 08 Nov 2014 14:00

I have recently used the Mint protractor on my modified Rega RP6 with Audiomods V arm and Mr Yip asked me to write up my installation experience which I repeat below. I thought that after using accurately printed paper protractors for years I would see little improvement but as I believe others have also found, this tool takes accuracy to a new whole level. It is quite easily heard too..... just as well as that is the whole purpose !

Before ordering, spindle to pivot measurements were taken. The record clamp is the same height as the top of the Audiomods pivot point. Both have accurate centre markings. The scale ruler was ‘Blu-Taked’ in place, behind at both ends and didn’t move when these shots were taken. The ruler markings had also been checked with an accurate vernier beforehand. 221.5mm spindle-pivot and the Groovetracer spindle diameter were confirmed with Mr Yip before manufacture of the Mint
Record weight 2.jpg
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Pivot point.jpg
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After manufacture, the Mint protractor was despatched when promised and received within 8 days from Hong Kong. I had a free afternoon to install it, with a good idea what I was doing because I have used Conrad Hoffman & other printed arc protractors previously and knew how to go about setting the overhang etc, having done this many times over the years. The cartridge I am aligning below is an Audio Technica AT150ANV

On receipt, the package had been carefully wrapped and protected the delicate glass protractor very well. Quality of manufacture appears to be to a very high standard. The box also contained an illuminated 3x magnifier. The Mint is supplied inside a plastic protective sleeve

After carefully placing the glass protractor onto the spindle, I found that when I first positioned the stylus exactly centre of the arc line at the outer extreme of the Mint, when moved to the inner, almost touching the spindle, it was about 1mm back from the line. Even though I had adjusted my printer to 4 decimal places and checked the print with a scale rule, the printed arc I previously used was clearly still quite a way off being correct for this arm (it had been printed for the correct 221.5mm pivot-spindle)

For anyone still interested, I will detail the process used below:

1) There was good lighting from several directions + above and I used the supplied Yip 3x magnifier together with a 20x loupe for hitting the protractor line very precisely in the middle. It is also worth thoroughly brushing the stylus/cantilever first to remove all dust because at x20 magnification the diamond itself is very clear and every strand of fluff is visible. Before I go further, I will repeat that you should aim to hit the arc and null point lines exactly centre so use the largest magnification you can. These are extremely fine lines and the resulting accuracy is only as good as the warmware (ie me!), not the hardware

2) The anti-skate counterweight was raised onto a small pot to ensure that as the arm tracked the platter, the nylon cord remained slack so there was zero bias. I also placed a blob of Blu-Tac onto the rear of the main counterweight to achieve the reduced tracking force as recommended by Yip. Audiomods arms use a small threaded lower stub counterweight and turning this this was sufficient to re-set tracking force after using the Mint and after removal of the temporary Blu-Tac. This avoids moving the main weight at any point during the process

3) Sliding the Mint onto the Groovetracer spindle was extremely ’snug' but a perfect fit. I put three soft wedges under the TT platter to stop movement and checked with 2 bubble levels as below. The one on the protractor confirmed it was completely level at all places on the arc, likewise for the small one on the headshell, You can see both bubbles are exactly in the centre. I used the Audiomods arm micrometer to equalise arm height for this second bubble. A feature I have found very useful and does make an audible difference to playback between the extremes of vinyl thickness
Bubble.JPG
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4) Next I used the ‘standard’ procedure to achieve overhang, adjusting the cartridge over the arc nearest the spindle after moving the protractor at the outer edge until hitting dead centre on the arc line at both points - quite easy using the 20x magnifier shown below, the small screwdriver and very steady hands. Mr Yip also mentions using ‘the force’ for the tiniest adjustments but I didn’t need my light sabre on this occasion! Once overhang was set, I taped the Mint carefully to the platter and re-checked at both the extreme inner and outer points on the arc to make sure the stylus tip was still centred on the line. It was
View.JPG
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5) Finally, offset angle was set against the cantilever itself using mirrored parallax lines. This is a clever feature of the Mint Protractor and achieves extreme accuracy. Firstly I used the 20x magnifier viewing from the front to check I was exactly on the centre line, then the 3x magnifier as supplied with the Mint to check parallax, twisting the headshell slightly left until spot-on. After that I re checked both the extreme inner and outer points on the arc once more to confirm the stylus was still centred at all points. A tiny adjustment and then another check against parallax. Repeated until perfect (or men in white coats came to take me away…..)

(My iPhone camera could not show a shot through either magnifier but in both cases the image is very large - especially via 20x. For parallax you need to view further back to view the whole cantilever and 3x is perfect for that. It also helps that the 150ANV cantilever is white)

6) After gently removing the protractor from the platter (the only nerve-wracking part of the process, very gentle twisting and lifting eventually freed it) & the counterweight Blu-Tac I then used digital scales to re adjust tracking force, finally removing the small pot under the anti-skate weight and the 3 platter wedges

….In all, less than 2 hours and actually quite easy

The result:
TT1.jpg
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Vinyl playback already sounded excellent and I had resigned myself to just one or two LP tracks where there was very slight mistracking on one channel in a couple of places (but never inner groove so I put it down to previous damage). I expected a little improvement but nothing dramatic. What I never expected was the easily audible step-up in image clarity and tracking after using the Mint. I played the worst two albums I own and there is no longer any mistracking whatsoever. This was very unexpected ! I was quite cynical that I would hear a difference in overall playback after aligning with the Mint but like everyone else seems to find, this tool achieves exactly what it sets out to do and the improvements were very apparent

I think my vinyl upgrade journey is now complete

Footnote:

Now it just so happens that my other Rega (Planar 3) TT has the same unmodified arm geometry as the Audiomods, an RB303, originally from the RP6 above and also aligned at 221.5mm spindle-pivot. The Mint also fits tightly onto the spindle so I repeated this process with my other TT and Ortofon 2M Black/Blue. I had previously made sure both arms & spindle-pivot were as identical as I could make them during fitting of the arms so one Mint could be used for both. Once again the cartridge showed an audible improvement in clarity & imaging

The 2M Black is a very fine cartridge but after comparing to the AT150ANV at two audio shows, I purchased the AT. They are very close in sound but the AT seems to have a slightly smoother & more natural treble, a slightly more dynamic or punchy sound and definitely lower surface noise from the vinyl. I swapped and played both on the same arm (pre-Mint) for many weeks before making this comment
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