Just got my Scoutmaster, need setup suggestions...

Hey guys,

Just got my Scoutmaster (actually got it 2 weeks ago but just got around to setting it up now). I set it up as best I could with the dealer's help over the phone (for 1.5 hours). This was my first TT that I ever owned, much less set up.

Now, I balanced the tonearm + Dyn20XH to 2.0g using a Shure gauge... it took some trial and error, but I got it pretty close.

Now, the sound is overall very good, much better than my digital front end by a very good stretch. The only gripe I have is that image is a bit to the right....

I switch back to my digital front end and the image is dead center.... so I know it's not speaker/seat positioning that's off.

The Scoutmaster uses the JMW9 tonearm... and there's a weight in the back of the arm that one uses to calibrate and balance the arm/cart on the gauge (sorry if I'm not using good vinyl lingo here). I noticed that the weight is a little off kilter though... making the tonearm skew a little bit towards one side moreso than the other (rolling more towards one angle).

Is this affecting the imaging?
I have a Superscoutmaster with a VPI arm which is very close to what you have. I know the reviewers have said how easy this turntable is to set up, but mine took weeks to get it perfect. You are looking for perfection. Don't give up, there is great sound hidden in your records, and with careful setup, you will be plaesed. This non-centering issue probably comes from the fact that your tonearm is not square to the record. Put a record on the table. Take a straw or coffee stirrer (VPI gave me a long aluminum rod that is embedded in a piece of cardboard - I don't know if you just didn't see it and tossed the cardboard with the rod). Anyway - lay the coffee stirrer, rod, or straw, on the tonearm headshell right in back of the screw slots. Let the tonearm down on to the record. Looking from the front, eyeball if you can, or (what I did), measure the distance between tha ends of the rod, coffee stirrer, etc, to the record. Take your time and be careful. Make sure the rod is in that groove in the headshell's top, and measure very close to the rod on both sides. Check again that the rod hasn't moved and twisted out of that groove in the headshell. Measure very close to the rod to avoid parrelax errors being careful not to touch the coffee stirrer. I'll bet one side is higher than the other. The object here is making the 2 measurements from the coffee stirrer to the record, absolutely equal. The adjustment for this is the weight in the back. The weight hangs down from the arm tube itself. If you loosten the allen screw rotate the weight, and firm up the set screw, gravity will force the weight down which will equalize the distance bewteen the ends of the coffee stirrer, etc. at the headshell. Yes, I know, that will ruin the careful vertical tracking force adjustment. You will have to break out the Sure guage, and reset the tracking force. Yup, the coffe stirrer ends are not equal to the record again. BE PATIENT. You will go back and forth a number of times, but eventually, you will find that exact adjustment. When you get tired, go get a cup of coffee, and come back later. There's no hurry. It takes lots of time.
Make sure the imbalance is not due to downstream components.
One thing you can do to make it easier to sent the weight and arizmuth is get a 1/2" o-ring and slide it onto the back of the arm. With the ring on and pushed up against the counter weight adjust the weight to the desired grammage.
Now when you lossen the set screw to ajust for the arizmuth the counter weight will not move back. Adjust the weight left or right and keep it pressed up to the o-ring. tighten it up and the weight should not have changed that much.
Stringreen got it right. What you are adjusting is azimuth. The Scoutmaster manual (from the VPI website) mentions this but doesn't do a good job of explaining the procedure. The manual does state to use something like a coffee stirrer so the aluminum rod must not come with that model (bet they saved 0.01 cents!). The manual for the JMW 9 manual is not coming up on the web site but the manual for JMW 9 signature does and gives a better description and does indicate the aluminum rod comes with it, go figure. One point to keep in mind, if after getting the azimuth set up using the rod/stirrer if the image is still off center there may be a slight mis-alignment of the stylus. Not unusual, but will require adjusting azimuth by ear. Ah the joys of vinyl!
JPV, thanks for the o-ring tip. That's a really smart trick to help deal with a vexing part of setup.
There is another method that you may find more user friendly, but you'll need a test recording that has output from one channel and then the other. I use the Cardas burn-in test LP and the instructions from the 21st Century Vinyl DVD. One of the tables he demonstrates setting up is the Scoutmaster. If you don't feel like purchasing it, I believe that it can be rented from Blockbuster. It's NOT the only way, but I find it easier to get quantifiable results. I also use the Scoutmaster with the DV 20XH cartridge and have found it requires a LOT of patience and adjustments to get best results. When it's right, it is an amazing setup. HTH
You need to buy the Michael Fremer Turntable setup DVD which has him setting up your turntable.. the visual method and pausing it on the tv will really help.
Forgive my stupidity, but what is the azimuth?

I haven't felt this dumb in a while....
I dont want to add to many different suggestions but thought these might help.
You can ground the spindle at the bottom of your table with some stranded wire, wrap it around the threads and then ground the other end this will eliminate static buildup.
If you are using the mechanical anti skate put the slip ring on first then the weight. After you set the needed weight for your cartridge move the slip ring against the weight and then set the azimuth. You wont lose your weight adjustment.
Azimuth is leveling the arm and cartridge to the platter. Its not hard to do i use a ruler that has a slide on it, put a record on and place the rod supplied by vpi on the groove. Get a good eye ball starting point and then use the ruler. Move the weight either right or left in small amounts until you get the same reading on both ends of the rod. When you get this set tighten the alan screw tight on the weight.
One more and most important thing get your table absolutely level.
Don't get to carried away with how difficult this all sounds. Its easy and you will be payed off with sounds that your digital source cant deliver like a well set up turntable.
good luck you can do it
Azimuth is the fancy term for how the arm sits on the record, looking at it from the very front - in the face of the cartridge. It should be absolutely horizontal to the record. Its exactly what I suggested to you above.

Read this and look at the illustration. It'll help you understand how to set it up.
Also, invest in a good protractor if you don't already own one. turntablebasics.com has a good one.
And I suggest a digital gauge.
Joey, Simple Layman's Terms of Azimuth.... That the Stylus-Needle is perfectly vertical to the record's surface, and grooves. Us nutty vinylphiles will use a host of goodies, and doo-dads, such as magnifiers, jeweler's loupes, thus inspecting that cartridge alignment is exact in all planes. Some Tonearms, suchas my Audioquest Arm have no provision for Azimuth, but aparently yours does. If there's any sort of adjustments on your Arm-Table, count on them being out of whack, and you cannot take anything for granted.

Another aspect of the JMW Arms, or any Arm for that matter, is Anti-Skate. If an anti-skate is so badly off, this could possibly cause an imbalance, but some gurus say anti skate is a non issue. I wonder why though, if the stylus is pressing so had to one side of the groove, and neglecting the other, how they say this is a non-issue? Time will have an impact I believe on the record, and also on the stylus itself I believe if antiskate is so far scewed.

If your problems aren't solved by any checks of the Tunrtable, and Arm, then I would go on to suspect a bad phono stage. If it was a Tube Stage, I might suspect a bad Tube. Otherwise, there's also the possibility of a bad cartridge. Of this is all bought new gear, I would try to resolve this issue, as the dealer should then make eveything right if there's a problem. Mark
Just back from RMAF and the Roy Gregory analog demonstration was nothing short of revelatory as far as the differences minute adjustments make esp. to VTA and alignment but also the postion of the cartridge in the headshell. I know very little myself but I know what I heard. Both he and Richard Foster demoed the averaged "prescribed" VPI set-up vs one with more care and the use of a better than supplied protractor using same arm and cartridge on a VPI TNT HRX with Lyra Titan. Man it was the difference between hearing ordinary subdued sound without any real objections and having the singer sing directly for you, fully present- all the difference in the world. At all times it was played on a first rate system with 20K Zanden phono pre and at least 25K worth of CJ and Nordost. It totally threw my usual beliefs about better components and better synergy always equalling better sound out the window. Set-up is absolutely vital and probably their prescription on set-up rather than anyone else's. Let me say: Beg, borrow or steal to get that knowledge and get it right if you paid a dime for your VPI.
I was able to "fix" the counterweight on the back of the JMW9 tonearm and get it to be a bit more balanced. However, I am now away from my TT and I just read the prior posts talking about the Azimuth. I get what the Azimuth is now, but I was not able to tweak/work on this aspect as of yet.

The image has definitely improved and has gone from the right and it is now pretty centered. The only problem I have is I feel it should have more weight to the central vocal image.

What else can I do to improve vocal weight?
The mirrored protractor from turntablebasics.com will help a lot with the adjustments and fine tuning. You will need to set the overhang, azimuth, zenith, vta and re-check the downforce. VTA/SRA and downforce are affected by changes to either, so re-check downforce after each VTA/SRA adjustment.
Riding slightly tail down will have fuller sound with less emphasis on highs. Also don't forget to let your cartridge break in for about 100 hours. During which you periodically check the VTF as cartridge suspension settles.

Anyway it is tough to do all the adjustments and fine tuning without a good protractor. I wasted enough time trying to fine tune the table until I bought the mirrored protractor.

Good luck.
Someone's please define the following:

Btw, thanks for the input Audphile1. Also, what did you mean by riding "slightly tail down"?

Do you recall the details of the set up Roy Gregory used?
Which protractor?
How did he set azmuth & antiskate?
Did he actually do the set up at the demo, or just have 2 arms adjusted differently?
Tail down pertains to vertical tracking angle..that is, looking from the side of the cartridge while its on the record, between true horizon and the angle of the cartridge - presuming the stylus was put on correctly by the cartridge maker. Verical tracking angle or VTA will change with the VTF (verical tracking force, or downward weight of the cartridge) and/or by raising or lowering the height of the arm. Tail low means the arm is to be adjusted a little lower in the back so that the cartridge rides tail low. The quesion hera is how much, and you adjust that by ear. I, first adjust the downward force of the cartridge to a little bit heavier than the center range suggested by the manufacturer. Your VPI has the capability of adjusting the height of the arm while the record is being played if done carefully. I would start with the arm being perfectly horizontal. I do that by taking a lined index card and folding it in half so that the lines on the card are horizontal. Carefully match the edges of the card, so that the lines are indeed perfectly horizontal. Put the index card between the arm which is on the record, and the spindle - very close to each other. The platter should not be spinning. Get down and eyeball the line on the index card that corresponds to the horizontal line of the tonearm. If the tonearm is not exacly horizontal, use the very front to the arm to decide which line on the card lines up with it. Mark that line in pencil. If you notice, there is a notched thumb wheel around the pillar of the tonearm. Turn that notched wheel so that it is firm against the bottom of the turntable. There are 2 allen screws at the base of the arm..one on the right side, and one in the rear. When these allen screws are released, the arm will be resting against that thumb screw. By turning the thumbscrew, you will be raising or lowering the tonearm. After turning the screw a couple of times, use that index card to see your progress..if the back of the arm is going up or down. Continue to adjust the arm until the arm is perfectly horizon and parallel to the marked line on the index card. Look and align with your head at the same plane as the arm/line on the index card to eliminate parralax errors. Once the arm is horizontal, remove the index card, turn on the turntable and play the record. By turning that thumb wheel, you can lower or raise the rear of the arm/cartridge which adjusts the VTA. Some, listen for the quality of bass. I adjust for maximum air and depth. I had to play with this adjustment many times, over many days to hear any change at all. When you learn what to listen for, you can adjust that VTA until the sounds kind of snap into focus. When you are satisfied, tighten the two allen screws at the base of the arm, and you will hear a big improvement again. That index card will enable you to repeat your setting, because if you really are after perfection, 200 gram records need a different VTA than the 180 gram records, etc.
Joey, look at my first post on this thread for the link where you'll find a clear difinition of each.
Also Joey, read up on this. I found it very helpful when I was setting up the table for the first time.
Jdolgin: I wish I could have kept up with each thing that was being descrbed but it was a short session, maybe 40-50 minutes max. For each change he had set-up in advance 5 or 6 arms for the VPI and Richard Foster switched them out on his cue and this was of course the only system variable changed. He gave the small group of listeners an idea of what had been changed, we listened and then he put into words a brief description of the salient things we had just heard; then he changed again. It all happened for me much too quickly and he wanted to make several points that to the relative novice of set-up (like me) it would take more time to explore in detail and digest. He also wanted to show what that a Mono cartridge could really do for mono records and the impact of having RIAA equalization in the phono pre as the Zanden and the Graham Slee have. I was trying to get my head around everything that was going on and trying to reconcile that I had never really loved some of the brands (CJ, Nordost) when heard in the past few years. I am used to pretty good sound at home on a Rega P9 and Nagra PL_P etc. But when the music played on the well set-up arms I had every reason to nearly fall out of my chair and was riveted as I have perhaps never been. But, as I said it was over pretty quick with a perfunctory exit. I think one of the most important issues was with the after-market protractor and I remember vaguely that he mentioned (anyone?) one that was mentioned in a recent issue of HI-FI+. If anyone has more info on this or the demonstration I would be overjoyed to know it and any other specific details of what went on.
Great post, Stringreen!
Stringreen and Audphile1,

Thanks very very much!

Joey.......Papa Dave here, I'm watching you !!!

Call me !!!