Alignment of SME 309 vs. Shure protractor

I recently bought a Shure M97xE for a bedroom turntable, but out of curiosity laid the supplied protractor on my VPI, which has an SME 309 arm that was properly aligned with the SME protractor (that came with the arm).

The Shure protractor is the typical two point alignment type, while the SME is specific for the 309 arm, and contains one point to place the stylus and then an outline of the arm which the arm itself should fit into if viewed from above.

The Shure shows very different results than the SME. The Shure version would suggest that my arm is mounted way to close to the platter. Anyone have an idea as to how the two could be so different?
Hello Opalchip,

Here's how the SME and Shure version could be different: Not all 2 point protractors have the same alignment distances; some have null points at 66mm/121mm, some at 70mm/127mm, some at 60mm/121mm.

I own the SME 309 and find that its method properly aligns the cartridge. If there's no distortion, especially on the inner grooves, then you're aligned properly.

Hope this helps,
This is hard to address without more information. My first guess is that the Shure could be right because it uses a two point (the two null points in the stylus' arc) system that allows you to triangulate to find the location of the tonearm pivot, versus the SME which has only one point (and presumably assumes the correct pivot location).

I note that the SME 309 typically comes mounted on a "sled" sliding device that permits adjustment of the key tonearm pivot-to-platter spindle distance. Perhaps your arm is out of adjustment.

The SME web site is:
This web page identifies the correct pivot-to-spindle (center of spindle) distance as 213.4 millimeters for the 309. If you think the distance may be set incorrectly, I would urge you to measure it and see if it is close to this number. If not, it is likely you can adjust it using the "sled" apparatus. Good luck.

You SHOULD get different results from a two-point protractor vs. a single-point one. If your cantilever is tangent to the groove at a single point near the middle of a side, how could it also be tangent at two, seperated points? That's not possible without moving either the cartridge or the arm.

With the stylus mounted at any given distance "X" from the arm's pivot point, the arm will need to be farther from the spindle for a single-point alignment than for a two-point alignment.

Since that's what you observed, all is normal in the universe! ;-)

The exact difference in arm mounting distances required by two different protractors will depend on the precise null points used by each, as Jhorowitz128 already alluded to.

One good example of the importance of this is the frustration experienced by many Rega (type) arm owners who attempt to use a Baerwald (two-point) protractor. Rega (type) arms are designed for single point alignment and Rega specifies a mounting dimension 223mm from the spindle. Unless your cartridge has a very long cantilever, achieving Baerwald alignment with this setup will be impossible. You'd have to slide the cartridge farther forward than the slots allow. To achieve Baerwald alignment with a Rega (type) arm and any normal cartridge requires that the arm be mounted closer to the spindle, 219-220mm works quite well. Now the stylus can reach the two Baerwald null points.

It helps to have a turntable with a pivoting armboard, like my Teres and many others. This makes adjusting your tonearm mounting distance a simple, 30 second operation and you can use any protractor you please. If your table has a fixed mounting distance, you're usually stuck with whatever alignment method the designer had in mind.