Contact VPI, then contact Don Corleone and have him talk to your friend with making him an offer he can't refuse. like paying for the repair of the tonearm.
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That sucks, but let's not get desperate.
First, pull the tonearm and take a very, very close look at the tip of the vertical bearing post
(with magnification if possible) -does it appear to be bent, blunted, or damaged in any way?
If not, replace the tonearm, 'balance' it (stylus guard!) and nudge it back and forth over the platter in a horizontal plane-does it move easily, with no herky-jerky stops? If not, you're probably a-okay-the 'out of level' syndrome was just the azimuth setting needing adjustment. Go through the entire adjustment procedure, and listen to sweet, sweet music.
Saying all this, I'd still call VPI one way or the other-they're the experts. And counsel-in no uncertain terms-your dickhead pals to stay away from the delicate stuff. Give 'em a CD to plop in the player.
The center post the uni-pivot sits on is very, very hard. It's doubtful that it was bent. More likely, the balancing weight was turned enough to unbalance the tonearm, making azimuth canted to one side. As Johnbrown said, take a close look at the pivot and seat, and as JB said, tell your "F"ing friends hands off!
Hey all, thanks for all the great responses. I'll take a really close look at the seat & pivot area with some magnification to see if I can indeed see any damage. Hearing that part of the tonearm is very hard is a good thing. I'll also do the movement gig (Johnbrown) putting it through the full range of motions with close attention to all being smooth as I go.
Your responses have really helped put some "real worrying" back farther into my head someplace and not walking around stewing over it.
I agree with the maybe cd touching. Maybe pulling a cd out of my storage case they want to hear. Not so much messing with my system or actually letting them operate anything. Even though it was an accident they just don't understand how us audio nuts feel about our systems.
I never did tell my friend Andrew what may have actually happened after he dropped that massive dust cover onto the tonearm. I know he felt bad about it and he did apologize. He just doesn't know what's involved in these systems we build... research, COST, comparisons, travel, set-up, honest contacts, accomplishment! I could go on. To them it's just a stereo... like the Accoustic Wave they have plopped on their kitchen counter.
Anyway, thanks again all, will let you know what we find.