Cartridge Azimuth - Is It Worth The Hassle?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by colby2415, Jun 7, 2017.

  1. colby2415

    colby2415 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    I have my MP-110 aligned as best as possible by me, but I have been wondering lately about azimuth. Is it worth the effort to set it? First of all, I have no idea how to even check it without any fancy equipment like a volt meter and test record. Is it best to just visually look how the stylus sits when playing a record? If the azimuth isn't set right can it cause damage to my records? Also, how exactly do you adjust the cartridge azimuth? I get that you can rotate the headshell on some tone arms, but what if you use multiple cartridges/headshells?

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks
     
  2. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    Just use the mirror method, you will need like a jewelers loupe so you can see the stylus tip and make sure it is pointing straight down. With the mirror you will get a reflection that you simply make sure that line it creates is going straight up and down. This picture shows you what I mean...

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Erocka2000

    Erocka2000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    You can also use the bottom of an old CD if you don't have a mirror. The CD is also close in thickness to a record.
     
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  4. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Location:
    Vallejo, CA
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  5. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Stockholm
    Can´t say if it´s worth it or not to others, to me it is. I believe the best result in cross-talk and channel balance is definitely achieved if measuring. Good cross-talk is good to have; one thing is that there can be a phase difference between the head channel and the leaking cross-talk.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  6. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Have you noticed any channel imbalance on your system? How anal are you when it comes to this stuff? Personally I would not sweat it if you don't notice channel imbalance or anything like that. IMHO Fogzometers and all that should be left for really expensive cartridges.

    How did you align your cartridge? What are you hoping to improve?
     
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  7. ZenMango

    ZenMango Forum Resident

    Location:
    Florida
    Have one. Least expensive of all the overpriced units available...
     
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  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    IIRC, there are some headshells that have an azimuth adjustment screw built into them. More expensive than your standard $20 headshell though.
     
  9. colby2415

    colby2415 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Canada
    Not really looking for improvements to anything, it is just more a peace of mind thing. Don't want to be inadvertently damaging my vinyl collection. In regular play I don't notice anything, but there is a 1db difference between channels in my needle drops, but i think those are just normal tolerances for carts. If you are asking about alignment, I just used a stevenson protractor .
    Alright, I just did this with a cd as someone else suggested, couldn't find a mirror to use. Anyways, I found it really hard to look close up to the cartridge even with my jewelery loupe. I did take some photos though, and to me it looks good, any thoughts?

    Imgur: The most awesome images on the Internet

    Thanks again for the assistance.
     
  10. bluesky

    bluesky Forum Resident

    Mirror works for me.

    Then 'listen' to both channels.
     
  11. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    1db isn't anything I'd be too concerned about. Doubt you are damaging anything either. Re: the protractor, did you use a generic one or did you generate an Arc protractor? If the former, you could try the latter if you're paranoid about alignment.

    Here is a decent video about arc protractors. Azimuth is also discussed briefly:

     
  12. amgradmd

    amgradmd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    I, personally, think it's pretty important. I had previously setup my cart by eyeballing with a mirror as far as azimuth goes. I figured it wasn't too far off since it sounded good to my ears. Then I broke down and got the Feickert Adjust+ disc and software. My estimation wasn't even close as far as azimuth and was over 1.5 degrees off. The difference between crosstalk and phase was huge, like over 10 dB and 90 degrees of phase. Then after adjusting with Adjust+ I noticed a big difference. I hate the term "holographic" but instrument separation was much much better with more detail. It was like I had upgraded my cart! So now I wouldn't t set up a cart without paying close attention to azimuth, but that's just me.
     
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  13. back2vinyl

    back2vinyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    London, UK
    A word of warning - if using a mirror, make sure it's not metal-backed. The cartridge is magnetic and I'll leave you to imagine the rest.
     
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  14. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    The problem with relying solely on electrical measurement or oscilloscopes, etc., is that this optimizes the electrical performance, but it does not necessarily optimize the way the stylus seats in the groove. That is because perfect alignment of the stylus to the signal generating parts of the cartridge is not always achieved in the manufacturing of the cartridge. I once had a shop do the cartridge alignment while I observed the procedure. They used an oscilloscope to find the ideal alignment, but, that alignment had the cartridge tilted quite a bit. I would rather sacrifice cross-talk performance to get better physical alignment in order to reduce record and stylus wear, so I went with visual alignment over the measured one.

    I use visual approaches to get the basic setup. If tweeking the azimuth by using the measurements of my Fozgometer does not change the tilt radically, I go with that. With my current cartridge, the Fozgometer change was so incredibly tiny, the change was visually imperceptible. I was amazed at how sensitive the meter turned out to be.
     
  15. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    IMO if your cart is "tilted quite a bit" to achieve close to equal measurement in each channel....Then I would have to seriously consider sending the cart back for inspection, I would assume the stylus is way off.
    Also we are assuming that whatever test record is being used, that pressing is "perfect"!! The 1kHz tone grooves are perfect and giving an accurate reading if your stylus azimuth is off. I think the science is perfect but could be the real world application has faults at times.

    If your cart is tilted that much then yes, you are probably going to damage your vinyl as well as your cart much quicker than normal. If after azimuth is set and visually your cart is pretty well perpendicular to surface then I would assume you have a well assembled cart, we should not forget that higher end carts are pretty much all hand made so things can go wrong.

    Always finish setup with your ears......
     
  16. Licorice pizza

    Licorice pizza Livin’ On The Fault Line

    Great idea, thanks.:)
     
  17. Licorice pizza

    Licorice pizza Livin’ On The Fault Line

    I think the only way you would achieve this is if your stylus was off a bit and you played the same album a gazillion times back to back. If you have over a thousand Lps, like myself, the chance of that happening is very slim.
     
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  18. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    It was tilted about two degrees, as a rough estimate. I got the same tilt when I set the azimuth with this cartridge by ear. That is why I took it to the shop where they confirmed that the ideal position to optimize separation and channel balance was this tilt. I chose to keep the azimuth at the optically vertical position. Fortunately, my current cartridge visually and by measurement (Fozgometer) agree as to the proper alignment.

    I set VTA by listening to the result rather than by visual examination. This comes pretty close to the arm being parallel to the record surface, so I am not concerned about whether this is the ideal theoretical angle.
     
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  19. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    Do all the people that adjust the azimuth have tonearms with said adjustment capabilities?
    No azimuth adjustment on Linn tonearms, was wondering if there is another way to make the physical adjustment.
     
  20. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Some kind of very thin spacer on the side of the cart that needs to be tilted I'm guessing.
     
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  21. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    I thought of a shim between cart and headshell as you suggest, but then you'd compromise the coupling to the headshell, which I thought was very important.
     
  22. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I suppose it's a matter of picking your battles. I can't do azimuth adjustment without spacers either, but none of my carts are high dollar handmade jobs so I choose not to worry about it. If a cart sounded very obviously imbalanced to a degree where it bothered me, I would just return it.

    Half the replies in this thread make me wonder if anyone actually read OP's post. He's talking about a ~$120 cart. Would you take a Camry to an F1 shop to have the suspension tuned? I know I wouldn't.
     
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  23. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington, D.C.
    A thin spacer/shim could be used, but, that would affect the way vibrational energy in the cartridge body is transferred to the tonearm. The tight coupling of the cartridge body to the headshell allows for more effective coupling and transfer of energy. The arm is then used to dissipate the energy or to transfer that energy to the tonearm base and the plinth so that it is not reflected back toward the cartridge. A shim would change this process, although it is hard to say whether it would be an adverse change or not.

    As with most aspects of audio reproduction, each approach has its strengths and weaknesses and trying to optimize one aspect of performance means compromising some other aspect. Tonearms that allow for azimuth adjustment will need to allow for some kind of movement of the headshell or the arm itself and some form of clamping to then fix the position. That introduces something that either affects rigidity, changes the way energy flows past that point (i.e., creating some kind of boundary that might reflect energy or restrict transfer of energy), or require additional mass. Some manufacturers, such as SME, believe the cost, in terms of performance, of allowing for easy azimuth adjustment outweigh the benefits.
     
  24. amgradmd

    amgradmd Forum Resident

    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    Peter Lederman suggests placing a think strip of a business card front to back between the cart and the headshell and adjusting by tightening or loosening the set screws to get azimuth right for those without an adjustable tonearm. He says this has no deleterious effect on the sound. This can also be done to adjust stylus rake angle with a shim in front or back if you're tonearm doesn't adjust enough up or down.
     
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  25. VinylRob

    VinylRob Forum Resident

    Hi Corby,

    Yes, it is certainly worth the work. With some of the fine carts and arms I have heard at your place, it should make a fairly decided difference.

    A Fozgometer or voltage device will help out a great deal. I use the former with reasonable success.

    Yes, indeed it is not advisable to drag a PVC groove past a stylus that is misaligned in any way. Not good for the stylus, and not good for the vinyl.

    If you do not have a headshell or arm wand that will rotate in the azimuth plane, the only way to adjust the attitude of the cartridge would be with some kind of small shims. I have purchased on Amazon (cheap) sets of feeler gauges (used for automotive use) and then with a pair of cross cutters trimmed small bits off of the stainless steel blades and employed different thicknesses placed between the cart and the headshell near the fastener screws. These work very well as they will take to a good solid torquing done.

    Like most things in analogue, and as you well know, you get what you put into it, and this takes quite a bit of effort and patience.

    Get in touch with me and(Ken and Jimmy) and I would be happy to come out some time and be of any help we could, supporting you through the effort.

    Happy listening! And thank you for all the great listens!
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
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