A friend bought one, (based upon my recommendation after seeing all the glowing reviews), for me to use in setting up his turntables. (He had two identical Basis 2500 turntables with Vector tonearms.) And while I had never used one before, I found it rather easy to use, (and even better than the Basis protractor to be perfectly honest).
And boy, was I was really glad that it worked so well, since he bought it strictly based upon my recommendation!
However, I will agree with you that having really good close up eyesight is a good thing when using it, (or any protractor for that matter).
Good Luck in your second attempt.
Wes4390, can you be specific about the problems you're encountering?
Hi, like you, I have had trouble due to the myth of the Golden Years, but I found if you get your table to the brightest possible source of light, might even try direct sunlight, and get a magnified lighted loupe (of which I got two, one of which was lighted, when I ordered my Mint from Yip.) Just practice looking at your stylus and the lines on the tractor before you even try to make adjustments, and after awhile, you should learn how to best see what you need to accomplish your goal. I use both loupes at different times, using a mini-maglite with the unlighted one. As Yip admonishes , just relax, don't stress, it's not brain surgery, and you can stop and rest at any time. The most important thing I have learned, other than ya gotta see what yer doin', is to get the best possible results, having the front of the cartridge body parallel to the front edge of the headshell is critical. Other than that, It's very easy to do, once you get used to it. If you have trouble, email me, I'll see if I can lend a hand.
Best of luck, regards,
Tvad.......the problem was with the second part of the process. I just could not seem to pick up the knack of holding the magnifying glass and determining whether or not the cantilever was straight or lying at an angle. When I give it a second go I will move the table to a brighter spot.Do you look at the cartridge 'head on' or from above?
A bright spot is very helpful. You look the cantilever from head on, so you can see the parallax effect in the MintLP mirror.
The instructions are pretty thorough, and the photos are excellent. Frankly, I think the step-by-step instructions and photos are as valuable as the tool itself. Follow them carefully, and IMO you really should not have a problem (although the process is still tedious).
I had to use additioanl magnifying glasses and a different loupe from the Peake loupe I got through Mint, in order to get the focusing distance right, and a stong light that can be precisely positioned is needed. I think Mint supplied a 3x glass, but I also needed a 5x to see things properly at one step; and the loupe from Yip was shaped in a way that it couldn't be positioned at the correct focusing distance with my Grado cartridge (the cartridge body got in the way, this wouldn't be an issue with something like a Lyra). The problem is my aging eyes, not the Mint, but one tends to accumulate magnifying lenes as the eyes lose the ability to focus, so I had what I needed at hand. In the end, the sonic improvement was striking.
It toook me some time to get the hang of it. Lots of eye-strain. As Yip advices, patience and rest are very important as well as excellent lighting. I set my turntable on a desk right next to a window with bright northern light. My revelation came when I realized that to get the cantilever parallel to and between the lines at the two null points, it was a matter of rotating the cartridge in the headshell ie. zenith or off-set angle and NOT azimuth. After I figured this out, everything lined up perfectly with a degree of precision that is incredible. The improvement in sound - details, air, and bass definition - were well worth the $110 and set-up frustrations. It is a wonderful tool and definately the best bang for the buck I have ever spent on my system. Very highly recommended.
Thanks for the comments...................as I suspected my inexperience and poor eyesight!! I will let you know how I get on after my next attempt.
Hi Wes, I also had trouble seeing the line at first and the parallax lines with the loupe. I then went to Lowe's and bought a quartz light on a stand that can be adjusted similar to a dentist's light and it could be folded down, side to side etc., and it lit up the platter and protractor beautifully. With this light I could see satisfactorily and had no other problems.
With regard to the parallax lines, I was able to see them best when illuminated from *behind* the cart. (I have a halogen desk light which I can aim in any direction--very helpful.) I would humbly recommend using the 3x magnifier and eyeballing pretty low and head-on.
Having used a Turntablebasics protractor (also a mirror) for many years, I found adapting to the Mint very easy - "just" a matter of having good closeup vision and enough light, as several have said.
As with most new tasks, understanding and improvement come from practice. Take a day to relax and try again, starting from step 1. Stop for a breather whenever you feel frustrated, cartridge alignment is definitely not a race.
Once you think you've got it, wait a few days and then do it all over again. Each repetition will build understanding, the process will go a bit faster and your results will undoubtedly improve. (Which reminds me, I haven't checked my alignment in a couple of months. Time for more practice!)
Wes, once you get sorted out with a suitable well lit work area.
Have on hand several tools that you think may help during set up, read through the MintLp threads for suggestions.
However what works well for others especially optical aids may not work for you, some experimenting has to be done on your part.
I give the instruction manual for the Mint tractor highest marks, follow it step by step and learn to have PATIENCE.
In the end hopefully you will be thrilled with the results of a highly accurate catridge set up and just think, one you did yourself.
I am a novice at best and each time I checked set up of my cartridge I further dialed it in with notable improvment.
What better way is there to know your turntable.
Wes4390 hang in there. Make SURE you have GOOD lighting, and try to put the TT so that it is at eye level when you are sitting down. Also angle the TT so that where the left front and left side corner meet is facing you to get a little better angle to see. I was going to go to a coin shop to see if they had a 20x 50x or 100x loops for sale. My eyesight went back to normal after a couple of days. No more walking into walls. Good luck, it's worth the effort, and the sound will be better and more accurate.
Having read the responses I now understand that I made several fundamnetal errors...............these I can correct, don't know about the eyesight though I may have to enlist the help of mrs. wes or even junior wes to act as back up !!! will keep you posted when I have another attempt, probably the next free rainy day I have, which I suspect, living in Ireland, will not be far away!!
I have posted about this previously.
I too couldn't seem to really see what is going on with the Mint LP. I looked far and wide for fiber optic devices that could get me in close to see the alignment, and took a chance that this would work, which it does very well.
It's a bit expensive at over $200 with shipping, but it is invaluable in terms of getting a good view. I should email Yip about this, but he might be hesitant to recommend a viewing device that is twice as expensive as his protractor.
Is the problem really that the markings are so small?
Or is everyone just missing a set of eyeglasses with the proper prescription lenses?
Has anyone used the Mint LP to check alignment AFTER setting up a cartridge on a Phantom using the Graham cartridge mounting device? If so, was there was difference?
Nice tool Emailist. As my presbyopia creeps with age such a tool will become valuable for this kind of work.
yes, the lines are smaller. This is why the MintLP is different from any other arc protractor. The finer the lines, the more precise the target. Aligning to a more precise location (stay between the lines. the lines are our friends.)is what results in the increase in performance all of us get with this tool.
I have found the Graham jig to be fairly off compared to what the mint unit gave me. Anyone else.
Emailists - After listening to your Phantom as set up with the Graham jig, did the set-up with the Mint LP produce a significantly better sound or no significant difference? Thanks.
I understand that the lines are finer. But are they really so small that someone with normal (or normal corrected) vision will have a problem with them?
I have the Phantom and the Mint alignment guage did make quite a positive difference in sound as I am sure with the slightly better Wally alignment tool.
For me mainly in clarity and lack of distortion in the last 3rd of an LP.
The Phantom jig gets you 98% there, but that last 2% is pretty important IMO.
Jimjoyce my vision is good and I guess my vision would fall into the category of normal.
However attempting set up with the Mint arc protractor without the use of a magnifier of any kind and expecting and getting highly accurate results would be an incredible fluke.
The Graham Phantom jigs are exceptional and tower over many other tonearm manufactures supplied set up jigs.
"Careful" set up using this arc protractor from MintLp has a noteable repeatable improvement over the superb Graham jig.
Once you hear the results there is no going back.
Having used the Graham jig on friend's arms, I entirely agree with Downunder and Stiltskin's responses to Rgurney.
The Graham tool is wonderfully easy to use, far easier than the Turntablebasics clone that comes with a TriPlanar for example, but there is zero probability that anyone using either one could match the accuracy made possible by a protractor like the Mint.
We're talking about error reductions of SEVERAL orders of magnitude - it's not even remotely close.
I understand that the Mint LP uses the Stevenson null points and neither the Baerwald or Lofgren points. Doug/Emailists - could this account for the improvements?
The trick to seeing the small (thin) lines is to use the Lupe Yip suggest, the 4X lighted magnifier he includes, following his direction, photos, and online tips, and keeping your head BACK enough for the magnifying glass to focus. I always find my head creeping in closer to get a better focus, but its heads BACK. BACK. IMHO.
The results prove its worth!
Rgurney, I believe Yip will make a protractor with either but it may depend on the tonearm. However, you should ask him directly so you get the facts, and nothing but the facts. ;-)
Seriously, he responds pretty fast to emails.
Thanks :-). I contacted Yip and he quickly informed me that the protractor for the Phantom uses the Baerwald alignment.
Great, Rgurney! I owned a 2.2 for about 1 1/2 years so I'm familiar with the Graham setup jig. I wish I had a Mint back then.
Sorry to go a bit of topic. I am interested in the mint LP tractor. However I'm a bit worried. I have never ever setup a tonearm myself, is it newbie friendly? My other concern is that I might want to upgrade my JMW9 to a JMW9 sig one day. Will I still be able to use the mint LP tractor?
You may have an "easier" time by starting with a Mint (or any arc protractor) - at least easier in the sense of an easier time getting it right.
The level of precision achievable by the Mint means that anyone using it will be fiddling around quite a bit. Differences of .2mm pivot to spindle distance will be apparent, and will frustrate you until you get the "grok" of how to use it.
For someone who has never aligned a cartridge, learning how to use a 2-point protractor will its own source of grief. You'll have difficulty visualizing how to approach the adjustment - whether the pivot to spindle distance needs correction, the effective length (fore/aft movement in the headshell) or offset angle (rotation in the headshell).
To a certain extent, understanding a two-point protractor will confuse you even more than an arc protractor will. Two-point protractors can confuse even the experienced user.
So, starting with the Mint is the way to go ... might as well pay your dues learning how to use a great tool instead of a merely adequate one.
And ... yes, the Mint uses Baerwaald alignment. It checks out against the arc protractors I prototyped last year.
If you can set up your cart using the VPI jig then you'll do fine with the Mint. It takes more time and patience, but if you follow Yips instructions and tips you should be fine. The same Mint is for both arms and will truly improve your set up.
I just rec'd my Tractor for the VPI 10.5i arm. I'll have to find some quality time this weekend to get into it.
With the proper lights and the magnifiers, I hope to get it going without too much hair loss. I can see right away that the VPI jig is very different alignment wise from the Mint.
I'll post with results soon.
I've recently got a MintLP Tractor after having used the Graham alignment jig for about 18yrs. I've read lots of posts of how time consuming and frustrating the MintLP tractor could be, and I wasn't exactly looking forward to using it.
In actual fact I found it a breeze. It probably helped that I have a large window directly behind the turntable to flood with natural light - but I had no trouble getting exacting alignment in less than half an hour.....including lots of rechecking. I didn't use the optional 10x loupe I got from Yip. The standard (lighted) 3x magnifier worked much better and provided plenty of magnification for my eyes to see exactly what was going on.
I'm truly impressed with the absolute precision possible with the Mint. My (early) Graham jig has marking lines far to thick too get anything like the same accuracy - and the there are no lines present to exactly position the stylus on. Not to mention the inaccuracy of the tilt on the flip over plate, not using true playing VTF, no parallax error correction and freeplay in the actual jig itself.
Given the above, it was hardly surprising that the Mint was more accurate - but I still couldn't believe the major improvement in sound quality.
Much better consistency of sound from beginning to end of the record. Improved focus, lower colouration, better soundstaging and, most importantly, greater sense of naturalness/ease and musical flow. The previous observations were true for both my Uwe bodied 103R and Ortofon Jubilee - taking both cartridges to new heights in my system.
The best $100 I've spent on my analogue setup!
FWIW, I still love the brilliant concept and ease of use of the Graham tool (and maybe later jigs are improved?). I'm a long-term Graham user and remain a huge fan of Bob Graham's designs. However it is hard to argue with the results provided by the MintLP tractor.
I had my second attempt a few days ago, took on board most of the comments and tips and had a better result. The greatest help was doing the whole thing in my brightly lit Kitchen and with the turntable on one of the kitchen units, which sits at 900mmm high (approx. 35 1/2")more at eyelevel when I sat in a chair. A great improvement over my first attempt. Practice does make perfect and I will go through the process again in a week or so.............oh and buy the way If you leave the wine until after your finished it also helps!!
I got to it today. Took about 1 hour. The overhang and effective length was perfect on the Mint so the VPI jig is fine. I inspected with the 10x loupe and it was dead on.
The zenith was just so slightly off. You need super light touch. The overhang went off a hair after my attempt to correct the zenith. After several times of back and forth, I finally got it perfect.
The 10x loupe is necessary. I made a stand for it so I can look at the stylus from the front.
I think the VPI jig is correct. It is just that with Mint, you can actually get it perfect because you can see that you are looking at the lines dead on with the mirror surface. The VPI jig doesn't have anyway to really make sure you are looking exactly from the front.
The first thing I noticed in sound was records had a lot of less surface noise! And the tad of harshness on trumpets went away. There is more clearness in the upper mids and highs but not at the cost of less low end.
A great upgrade in sound in my opinion!
Given the availability and success of the Mint LP tractor, I wonder if that will put the kybosh on attempts to obtain the similar device from Wally, given the history of that notorious difficulty.
I actually tried Wally before I knew about Mint. He called me right away and asked me to email him some measurements. I did and then never ever heard from him again...
Hi all,The best tractor I ever had but,as we all know:
'it depends...' In my case it depends from the sylus.
No trouble at all with my Ortofon Jubilee because I can
see the stylus clearly. Much more trouble with my Benz
Ruby because the stylus is smaller. I.e. I need more time
for the Benz.
Thom_mackris and Srwooten
Thank you for your answers. I however have never setup my turntable. When I bought my cart I had a friend of mine set it up. I'll think about buying one.
The VPI metal jig is NOT correct...that is, the Mint gave me appreciably better sound. If one suggests that there is no benefit from the Mint over the VPI jig, they had better check carefully again. I used VPI's jig on my 10.5i, checked it, then did slight adjustments using the Mint...the difference was astounding. ...and yes, the VPI 9, and 9Sig uses the same Mint protractor. The only difference between these 2 arms is the wiring - Nordost for the Sig, and Discovery for the regular one.
If you've never set up a TT before, there's more to it than just aligning the cartridge (which is all the Mint or any protractor can do).
If you need resources, check through old threads here, read the archived articles on Vinyl Asylum and/or watch Michael Fremer's DVD on turntable setup.
Doug's advice is good, and I'd follow it. Know that the most mechanically "challenging" element of a setup is in achieving the correct geometry. This is where most people are intimidated.
Depending on your arm's other features, you may well be setting up azimuth. This is as much art as it is science. Here's where a good mentor (or the Fremer DVD) will help you.
Over the recent few years, Doug, myself, and others have become impressed with the importance of having a light touch with both tracking force adjustment and anti-skate.
By this, I mean (in the case of tracking force) applying just enough to avoid mistracking. Any more, will compromise dynamics.
The same holds true for anti-skate. Treat getting to this point as a refinement - after you've lived with your setup for a month or more (or until the itch strikes to explore).
VTA is certainly important, but if your arm doesn't have a fine adjustment for this, I wouldn't get too crazy about it. I'd try to get it right (eliminate sibilants), live with it for a while, and then mess with it some more.
If you have an MC cartridge and a phono stage with adjustable loading, it may take you a bit of time to recognize the difference between too high of a VTA setting and too high of a load.
The key is to be patient and treat this as a journey. Don't get totally hung up on the destination and enjoy each new discovery as you make it.
Thom @ Galibier
...and yes, the VPI 9, and 9Sig uses the same Mint protractor. The only difference between these 2 arms is the wiring - Nordost for the Sig, and Discovery for the regular one.
While you do use the same protractor for both the regular and the signature JMW 9 arms, there are other differences in the two arms than just the wiring. A different arm wand, fine adjustment for VTF, and an oil damping well too.
I forget where I saw the original post, but I found this to be more helpful than the Peak Loupe when using the Best Tractor:
I admit the build quality is not that great, but I was able to position this easier than the Peak on my setup.
I have had good results with the Best Tractor... especially with those unusually long LP's made with VMS-8x cutting computer.
Using a loupe or magnifying glass to check stylus angle, etc. is always a problem for me. First, my eyesight isn't what it used to be and second the circumference of a loupe makes it difficult to fit into the angle of the cartridge and turntable (at least for me).
My solution was to purchase a pen microscope with 25X magnification. It is, as the name suggests, about the size of a pen so I can maneuver it into tight places and the 25X magnification - you can get higher - helps my old eyes.