Best protractor for aligning to cantilever


I am trying to find a protractor that makes it easy to align the cantilever rather than the body to a grid. I have a cartridge where the cantilever is not perfectly parallel with the body. It's a Grado and the plastic on the front of the body is not seated correctly or something. The cantilever is parallel to the back, but the front being out of alignment makes it hard to align to the body. It is merely a cosmetic issue so I would like to keep the cartridge.
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I bought the Wallytractor Universal and love it. It will solve the problem you're asking about and then some.

The good thing about the Wally Universal, it works on linear track, and pivot arms. Pivot arms it works with include 9" and 12" in both Baerwald and Löfgren formulas.

http://www.simplyblack.net/WVC/index_wally.html
What is the advantage of the Wally over using the setup included with the VPI and JMW arms? The needle needs to be placed over points on the curve. If it is really easier to be more accurate then I would get it But it is $250.
I am not sure about the Universal, as I do not have one, but my older Wally Tractors have parallel lines scratched in a mirror that allows the user to eliminate parallax while aligning the cantilever. Look over the instructions to see what I am talking about.

As with all recommendations of the Wally tools, understand that there are considerable problems actually getting them from Wally. Do a search here and on othet boards for more information.
I, too, have the Universal WallyTractor. I'm glad I bought it (over the non-Universal) simply because I've changed tonearms in the time that I've owned it.

If I had my druthers, however, I'd prefer the non-Universal WallyTractor. The null points (where you set the zenith angles) are on a different line from the overhang arc. This takes a fair amount of bending/stooping/body gymnastics to get the stylus accurately positioned on the zero points. The non-Universal version's null points are marked on the overhang arc so there's no more repositioning (and no additional body-gymnastics) of the WallyTractor to line up these spots.

Chris

p.s. Fortunately, I had no difficulties ordering my Tractor through Wally. It arrived to me days after I ordered it from him.
Hi Hyper:

First of all, I would recommend using the cantilever rather than the cartridge body with ANY alignment tool. If the cantilever cannot be viewed or is not referenced on a tool, I would discard that tool. This assumes the stylus is correctly positioned on the cantilever but that is better than making assumptions relative to the cartridge body.

I have not tried any of the Wally tools but understand they come highly recommended. Over the years I have used various two-point alignment devices but now have a Dennesen Soundtracktor with a single stylus reference point calculated from the Baerwald formula. It is marked for cantilever alignment. Both metal and plastic versions were produced. The only limitation with the Dennesen for me is that it requires precise location of the pivot point for the arm. Otherwise, it can be used with any pivoted arm (length).
I recently tried buying a Wally tool. Sent him a check in November for a protractor that was in stock. He asks you to call him and remind him to ship a week later. I found that odd but did. After many weeks of calls and emails he finally called to appologize and said he would ship it right out. Three weeks later I still had not received and cancelled my order with 3 months wasted. If you choose to order be prepared for a prolonged hassle.
Harry W told me that the DB protractor is a very good one as well.
If you're using a Grado with a plastic body, I suspect (but I could be wrong) that you'd rather not drop the coin required for a WallyTractor.

Basic cartridge alignment isn't rocket science...it's actually 7th or 8th grade geometry. If you have a spare hour and an installation of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Visio, it's *very* easy to create and print your own protactor custom made for your tonearm. You'll need John Elison's Excel spreadsheet for the correct measurements.

If you have MS Excel / Visio and are using a Rega (or Rega-based) arm, PM me and I'll send you something ready to print and use. I could even send it to you in .pdf format if you'd like.

If you understand the basics of cartridge setup and alignment, you'll stop worrying about which protractor to use and if your setup is "correct". Until I went through this exercise, I wanted to try every damn protractor out there to verify my setup. Now I understand what is important (hint - it's the process for the setup, not the tool).

As for the question about the VPI setup, John Elison just posted an interesting article about that very subject over at the Vinyl Engine.
The protractor from www.turntablebasics.com is the poor man's version of a Wallytractor. Just $20 and usually instant shipping.

It doesn't have the finely scribed lines of a Wally, but it is built on a mirror, which just as important. No non-mirrored protractor is as accurate as a mirrored one. A mirror lets you use parallax to ensure you're sighting exactly down the intended line. Not possible on a non-mirrored device.
Dougdeacon,

Is there a mirrored protractor for Stevenson geometry? I have a vintage Yamaha YP-D8 table and if I understand correctly Yamaha used Stevenson for their arm/table alignment. I have a turntablebasics mirrored protractor that I used with my old table, but haven't used it since I got the Yammie table. I have Stevenson printed on a sheet of paper, compliments of vinylengine, but find it hard to use, since it lacks rigidity and the mirror surface. Thanks,
Rich
Here are my issues with the Turntable Basics protractor:

1) The Turntable Basics protractor is made from a 3mm thick piece of Plexiglas with the mirrored surface on the underside. The silk-screening is on the top of the Plexiglas. This 3mm gap between the mirrored surface and the silk-screening creates a series of reflections that (IMHO) detracts more from the process than it helps. I feel like I'm looking at one of those '60's spinning swirls that is sucking me back in time.

2) The Turntable Basics protractor is (again, IMHO) another example of an alignment tool that "tells you the answer" without giving you a logical process to arrive at that answer. Think about it...what you are trying to do is create a triangle of *very* precise dimensions. The Turntable Basics protractor (among others) facilitates this by defining one fixed point (the spindle), guessing at a second fixed point (the pivot) and fiddling with a 3rd point (the overhang) until you arrive at "the answer". This is insane by itself, and then throw in a table that has an adjustable pivot-to-spindle distance. It will almost make you run screaming back to digital. Almost.

And here's why I like a paper protractor:

I have a Teres turntable, and due to the arm board configuration, my pivot-to-spindle distance is adjustable. My first challenge is to make sure my pivot-to-spindle distance is precisely 222.76mm. I print out my protractor, use a couple of pieces of clear adhesive tape to reinforce the 7mm spindle hole, and use an Exacto knife to cut out the spindle hole.

Since I'm using a OL Silver arm, the mounting hole in my arm board is 25mm. It just so happens that the outer diameter of a piece of copper water pipe is 25mm. I stick this small piece of pipe in the mounting hole to bring the 25mm mounting hole "reference" on the same plane as the platter (and spindle).

Again, I use a couple of pieces of clear adhesive tape to reinforce the 25mm mounting hole (the center of which is 222.76mm from the center of the spindle), and use an Exacto knife to cut out the mounting hole. I can now use my template to ensure an accurate pivot-to-spindle distance (no guessing or approximating) and I now have 2 fixed points on my triangle.

Next, I use some painter's tape to tape the paper protractor to the platter, and the platter to the turntable plinth / base. Since I only paid $0.02 for my protractor, I don't mind cutting away the part that extends to the arm board so I can remove the pipe and mount my arm. With the arm mounted, it takes a minute or so to set the effective length and the offset angle.

At this point, a Turntable Basics protractor does come in handy to verify the offset angle...and maybe that's the whole point of this thread. But unless the rest of your planar geometry is spot-on, it is really worth obsessing over offset angle?

Now, if someone could help me print my protractor on some sort of paper-thin mirrored piece of plastic, I think we'd be on to something.
Rich,

I don't know of a mirrored protractor for Stevenson. I imagine Wally could make one...

Nrenter,

1. The dual reflections that trouble you are what gives the TTB the advantage I described above. They are its best feature. You just have to practice using them. Whiskey helps. ;-)

If you're trying to sight down the centerline of an alignment grid, having two images makes it possible to get precisely lined up. The printed line and its reflection are either directly on top of each other or they're not. This degree of precision is impossible without dual images.

2. No need to guess at the second fixed point (the pivot). A length of thread makes aiming the TTB (or any universal protractor) simple and highly accurate.

A. Tape a length of thread to the beginning of the protractor's sight line. Make the thread long enough to reach across the protractor and over the top of the tonearm pivot.

B. Aim the protractor roughly and pull the thread gently taut, with the free end crossing directly over the pivot.

C. View the thread from directly above. Move your head back and forth to align the thread and its reflection from the mirror. This guarantees you're sighting exactly vertical.

D. Pivot the protractor until the sight line, the thread and the thread's reflection all line up. Voila! A perfectly aimed protractor. Simple, repeatable and exact.

(Thanks to Frank Schroeder for this tip.)

I don't see how an adjustable armboard affects the use of a cartridge alignment protractor. I have a Teres too. The function of the swivelling armboard is to set tonearm pivot-to-spindle distance. Once that's locked in you don't move the armboard again unless you change tonearms. By the time you're ready for cartridge mounting, the armboard is fixed.

If using a universal protractor, absolute precision in pivot-to-spindle distance is unnecessary. That's the whole point of an aimable protractor and headshells with slots. Pivot-to-spindle is a hair off? No problem. The protractor will automatically produce a pivot-to-stylus dimension to compensate. If the stylus is square at both null points your triangle is correct, by definition.

BTW, if you're using a Baerwald protractor with an OL arm, you may have better luck mounting the arm at ~220mm than the stock distance of 222.76. Regas weren't designed for Baerwald and some cartridges aren't long enough to reach the Baerwald null points with the arm mounted at the stock distance.

Now, if someone could help me print my protractor on some sort of paper-thin mirrored piece of plastic, I think we'd be on to something.
That would defeat the major advantage of the mirror. See #1. :-)
Nrenter, I think the Dennesen addresses the concerns in your Issue #2. It adjusts for the triangulation between the table spindle, the arm pivot point, and the overhang. It includes an indentation for the stylus tip which falls on the proper overhang arc. While not a mirrored finish (as stated earlier, both metal and plastic versions were produced) there is a reference line etched on the surface that passes through the stylus tip point. I find this line easy to use in aligning the cantilever for offset.

My recommendation for the Dennesen is based on it's accuracy and ease of use. I've owned and used multiple protractors, including the DB, and the Dennesen is the hands down winner for me.

Unfortunately I believe both Dennesen models have been out of production for some time, but may appear on the used market from time to time. A new device, the Frickert, appears to be very similar in design although I have no experience with it.
Just to point out one real downside the TTB does have, its printed lines are pretty coarse. I'm sure the same protractor with finer lines (aka, a Wally) would allow better accuracy.

It's thicker than an LP, though it's not quite 3mm. For best results you have to raise your arm up to achieve normal VTA. No problem on some arms. Major headache on others.
Hello, you can get a custom protractor made for your particular arm for $90.00 from mintlp.com in Hong Kong. Good customer service. Just give him the specs for your tonearm.
Dmgrant1- You are the man!!! or woman!!! or person!!! I have some of their LP fluid, but did not know that they did protractors.
Dmgrant1 - thanks for the info.
Dmgrant1 i also want to give you a big thank you. What a drag dealing with you know who.
If you're trying to sight down the centerline of an alignment grid, having two images makes it possible to get precisely lined up. The printed line and its reflection are either directly on top of each other or they're not. This degree of precision is impossible without dual images.

I spent some time with my TTB protractor today and I see what you mean. If the lines were thinner and they got rid of those concentric squares, I think it would be a better tool, though.

If using a universal protractor, absolute precision in pivot-to-spindle distance is unnecessary. That's the whole point of an aimable protractor and headshells with slots. Pivot-to-spindle is a hair off? No problem. The protractor will automatically produce a pivot-to-stylus dimension to compensate. If the stylus is square at both null points your triangle is correct, by definition.

ok...I get it. Finally. It only takes 6 or so times to sink in.

BTW, if you're using a Baerwald protractor with an OL arm, you may have better luck mounting the arm at ~220mm than the stock distance of 222.76. Regas weren't designed for Baerwald and some cartridges aren't long enough to reach the Baerwald null points with the arm mounted at the stock distance.

I know we've discussed this before, but I've never experienced this as an issue (Shelter 501 mk 11 and a Denon 103R).
If the lines were thinner and they got rid of those concentric squares, I think it would be a better tool, though.
Agreed! One line through the null point plus one on either side for squaring yourself up would be better.

I can't think of any use for all those squares. They confuse the eye with alot of unnecessary information. Maybe they're intended for aligning the cartridge body rather than the cantilever, but why do that?

The Rega/Baerwald incompatibility will only arise if a cartridge's stylus-to-mounting screws dimension is shorter than average. I had that with one cartridge (can't remember which). An inward nudge of the armboard fixed that.
So who can etch something (and drill a hole in) a piece of glass mirror for us? Let's make a 12" round mirror and use the space to really make something useful. :)
Well I got a Wallytractor,on loan from Jeff Catalano of High Water Sound.Got it in two days,and offered to buy it from him,as I want to re set up my newly arrived Phantom using other means for comparative purposes.The supplied jig is good,but I am getting fanatical these days.Tired of fotzing around too!!!-:)
Jeff mentioned he could get these readily,as he is friends with Wally!Some who have had bad experiences ordering these may want to give him a call.
From just looking at the Wally I will say that it seems to "really" cover the spectrum of set-up issues quite well.
My ONLY complaint is that one would have to be in really good GYM shape,what with all the body contortions necessary for exactitude,and re-checking azimuth etc.
Fortunately,I hit Ballys four times a week,but I have a sneaky suspicion that I will be exhausted tomorrow,at this time!-:)
Best.
Wally answered the phone yesterday and assured me that my order is going to be shipped. He also apologised for the delay and is including a 10% refund with my order.

Sirspeedy I'm like you getting a little fanatical my self. Since Tri Planar arrived the improvement in sound is nothing short of phenomenal. I want to be absolutely sure my arm adjustments are 100% correct.
Stltrains,I'm really happy for you!!!DON'T get too fanatical though.-:)
I just got my new Phantom,and spent all of last Saturday setting parameters.Listened Sunday,and fine tuned.....
Broke down the set-up yesterday(what a pain in the tush)and re-set parameters,since I had tightened up the play in the Graham jig,to a tighter tolerance(it is now perfect).I couldn't live with the thought of setting up everything with a little play in the jig,knowing I had tightened it up,and could do better.Went to dinner,and watched the boring Heavyweight fight on HBO...I would have played around some more(last night)but the wine said "no"!
Just finished another 1 1/2 hrs re-setting everything,and will listen,and tune some more this afternoon,when I will do some comparisons between the Wallytractor and the Graham set up tools....WHEW!!!!!!
I believe the Graham jig is now dead perfect,and am very confident I got pivot to spindle distance,and stylus overhang "spot on"!...But us being fanatical(rubbed off from other Audiogoners,I suppose)is valid with regards to the money spent(alot),and the potential performance from LP!
I have a suspicion the WALLY will be very helpful with azimuth,in my afternoon session,today.After that I think I'll be collapsing from exhaustion!!!!
Now I know why some friends of mine use additional set up guys.I,myself like to do stuff on my own,but my back is paying the price.-:)
I am rediscovering vinyl and wish to set up my (Micro Seiki) arms correctly, but am only familiar with the basics. I'm not even sure what a protractor is supposed to do, or what the subject means. I would appreciate suggestions on how to proceed. Cost is a consideration.
I just got word that a mint lp was shipped to me from Hong Kong yesterday. It's for a Linn Sondek 12 w/ a Basik tonearm. Since Linn tonearms are the same length, I can upgrade and still use the tractor.
Setha2z go to mintlp.com and check out the tractor.
Polk432 -- Yip at mintlp is quite helpful and has me researching the subject at informative sites before I use his services. I have one well-documented vintage arm and a rare, undocumented one, so this should get interesting. Thanks!