Tedious and slow going, yes. But, clearly explained and not difficult to accomplish.
The results should be rewarding.
Let us know!
The results should be rewarding.
Let us know!
You will find a difference between the VPI protractor and the Mint or Wally tractor.
This does not mean the VPI is incorrect, just different.
the VPI is designed to have less distortions, smoother sound in the 2nd half of the LP. BTW, I have the 12 inch JMW, not the 10.5 so the effect might not be as pronounced.
Mint and Wally are more uniform over the entire LP.
IME, the VPI will sound not as good in the first half and better during the 2nd half of an LP. Assuming you aligned the cantilever correct in the first place.
let us know what you feel has happened in your system
When I checked the alignment, so that the stylus was exactly on the line at the farthest point from the spindle, it was ahead of the curved line of the Mint about 1/2 mm at the closest point..near the spindle. Even though it seemed only a very small difference, I went ahead with the adjustments. Yes, the directions are very clear, however it is a tedious task, Adjustments are very small, and these old eyes were struggling. With the protractor a lighted magnifier is included, and I opted for the 10X Peak loupe. I have a work table in the garage with lots of light (very much needed)and a 100 LED flashlight (very glad I had that). I find glasses very helpful for reading, however when I removed the glasses and used the lighted magnifier, I found that I never needed the 10X loupe. The procedure took about 2 1/2 hours, going slowly and as accurately as I could. I lucked out in that I didn't have to adjust the cartridge for section "B" since my Benz Ebony LP has a square face, and my careful setting was absolutely correct for section B. That would have required me to redo section A again. Anyway, I certainly didn't think that my original setting was very far off, (I checked it with the VPI tool before I began using the Mint to be assured I didn't screw up the original setting. Yes that was right on. When I got finished with the Mint, and put the record on, I was floored at the improvement. I could tell there was going to be something good, just as the stylus touched the record, and all that "air" blossomed into the room. The biggest improvement I heard if I could pick out one thing was the silence between the notes. This allowed a much cleaner presentation of everything. Willie Nelson's guitar...you could hear the pick snapping the string, and then the vibration of the instrument in response to that. The improvements in sound extended from the beginning of the LP to the end. Sung S's were good before, but now have a realism that it didn't have before. Separation of instruments enable one to follow each instrument individually..the instruments aren't attached to each other as they were before. It was thrilling. The singer was clearly directly between the 2 speakers...no bleeding to the sides. I found this to be no small bump. I encourage everyone to send their 100 dollars to Singapore ...it IS worth the trouble and money. I thought my turntable was good before...wow. My wife couldn't believe such an improvement could come of such a small adjustment.
I believe you are spot on. Its tedious work at best but worth every cent. The biggest revelation IMHO are the jet black inky silences from which the music now erupts. My jaw dropped(believe me this is not a cliche) last night listening to Shelby Lynne - Just a little lovin.The improvement in my vinyl setup post Mint is spectacular.
Thank you Yip.
Congrats there, Stringreen. What you describe in increased performance sounds very much like what I heard when I first used the MintLP protractor. The reason is very, very simple. Yip has not invented new math, or new curves, or anything else. He has just given us a more precise target.
I agree. Using this protractor correctly is time consuming and something of a pain in the arse. Yip will tell you that even with how much you have improved things you can still get it better if you keep working at it. He's a mad man! :-)
I'm glad to hear you're happy with your results. Downunder beat me to the punch with what he said about different verses wrong. The Mint and VPI methods may not agree but it doesn't mean the VPI is "wrong". As I understand it, no matter how you align the cartridge there will be two null points in the arc it subtends. Different alignment methods simply bias where these will fall to minimize distortion at all the other points along the arc. That's why alignment is largely a matter of taste. The Mint method satisfies most who try it which is why I think it's worth a try. I also think Yip provides a more precise tool for acheiving his method than Harry provides for his. I'm anxious to get mine in the mail and give it a try. Meanwhile, I'm glad to hear there's another satisfied customer out there.
The Mint protractor certainly is a pain to use, but oh so rewarding. Incidentally, Yip told me he uses a "custom" version himself that he wouldn't dare market since the line pitch is about a third smaller than what we're using. He does however report that it is even better than the stock model. Personally, I couldn't imagine that. BTW, Yip is located in Hong Kong (so there's no confusion).
Folks, I urge you to try a GOOD arc-based protractor custom cut for your arm. You'll scratch your head wondering why you didn't try it sooner. I know some folks stick tenaciously to their "universal" alignment protractors, figuring they are close enough. The difference is akin to watching a Quasar console from the 70's vs. a nice HD plasma display...you'll get a picture on both, but one is certainly a more immersive experience than the other.
I finally got around to checking my set up yesterday and found i was out by 2mm . I am running a Phantom on an Oracle tuntable. I have to use the supplied cartridge spacer to allow me VTA down adjustment.When using the supplied spacer the Graham alignment jig does not fit properly, so i had to make as close a setting as i could but was out by 2mm.
Using the MInt Tractor is a slow and tedious job but something i found enjoyable. I plan to go back and check my setup again after i find a better magnifying glass that will allow me to get closer to the stylus for a more accurate setting.
Now the sound is more focused and the highs are INCREDIBLE, the chimes , bells and cymbals ring on for ever. Each instument is more focused and can be clearly heard through out the track even if it is quietly playing in the background . I am very suprised and happy at the improvement the Mint Tractor provided.
Just received ours yesterday. No time to realign yet, but it looks as precise as other users have described. Nice tight fit on the spindle - too bad none of my LP's is drilled this accurately! ;-)
One technical correction to Yip's (excellent) instructions. For setting overhang he recommends setting the stylus on the outside end of the arc, moving to near the spindle, then adjusting cartridge position by the amount of the error.
Wrong - if you did that precisely as described you'd endlessly iterate between equal amounts of too much overhang and too little.
The correct procedure is to adjust for ONE HALF of the amount of the error. Then reposition the arc and iterate again.
FWIW, my overhang appears off by about .2-.3mm. Not much, but probably worth correcting. Saturday project coming up.
P.S. Loved the teeny tiny Magic Eraser bits. So cute!
I just ordered one for my recently ordered Tri-planar arm, which will go with my DPS-2 and Zyx Atmos.
It should be interesting to use and contrast, as I also have experience setting my table up with a friend's Dr. Feickert alignment disc.
But I like the price of this one much more than the Feickert and especially the Wally Tractor.
I've been watching this thread with some interest, as I've been enjoying the benefits of Yip's handiwork for a couple of weeks now. I was sure Stanley would find improvement over the VPI jig, as I did. So refreshing to get such major improvement with so little cash outlay. Wish I could find several more similar upgrades for so little money. Thanks Stan, for being so forthcoming with the happy results. I'm also quite interested in Doug's impressions after his re-calibration. Good stuff! Regards to all, Dan
I would respectfully disagee, the VPI alignment is not "off"; Harry has intentionally chosen this alignment and feels it is superior to the common Baerwald alignment. So, you, and I, may not prefer the VPI alignment, but the choice of where the tangency is optimized, is a legitmate choice and not "off" at all, simply different. A pivoted arm is only tanget to the record groove in two places and where those fall is open to some debate. Rega arms, when used in the three screw mounting scheme with Rega cartridges, also diverge from Von Baerwald alignment, so the VPI alignment is not some odd abberation.
Viridian...I don't think that VPI has a different alignment. When I last spoke to Harry, he said that I could use the ubiquitous DB protractor as a check to the VPI protractor and get the same results. My thought is that the Mint protractor is more accurate. The device compensates for the dreaded parallax error which could introduce additional significant errors.
Executive Summary: HOLY MOTHER OF @$!!!
I couldn't wait for Saturday to "Mint" my setup, so I did it Friday night. We had the Olympics on and I spent the evening jumping between TV and TT. Not the most focused approach and certainly not the fastest. It took me 5 hours, but 4 of those were spent watching the athletes. If I'd been doing nothing else a half hour would have been plenty. I'll double check the setup today with the help of daylight.
I would have sworn on a stack of London bluebacks that my spindle-to-pivot distance was correct, but since this is critical with an arc protractor I double checked. Good thing I did, it was short by nearly a mm!?! I don't know if it moved over time or if it got nudged somehow, but it's easy to adjust S2P with a pivoting armboard and now it's cranked down pretty snug.
My old alignment wasn't necessarily wrong because of the S2P error, since I was using a universal Baerwald protractor (TurnTableBasics), but the Mint is far more precise so it's likely to produce superior results.
I found using the Mint easy and intuitive, no more tedious than any other protractor and far more accurate. I haven't used a Wally, but nothing else I know of rivals this. As Yip's text and photos explain, the ability to use parallax to be sure you're sighting *exactly* down the alignment line is critical. This was always the best feature of the TurnTableBasics and no non-mirrored protractor can provide it. The Mint just adds several orders of magnitude better precision.
For my eyes the illuminated 5X loupe was fine, though the optional 10X loupe gives a better view of whether the stylus is *exactly* in the center of the arc. It's tough to get the viewing distance right with the 10X loupe since the field of focus is so short. One trick: unscrew the clear base and use just the black part - that lets you get closer. Yip's Tips on how to work and think are excellent BTW. People who have trouble or get frustrated at any stage should review those.
So, how does it sound? WOW!!! I expected audible improvements, but nothing like what we got. Most of what I'd describe would repeat what Stringreen, Sunnyboy1956, Palasr, Tshulba and Dan_Ed have already reported so I won't bore you. I'll just emphasize their enthusiasm. As Palasr said,
I urge you to try a GOOD arc-based protractor custom cut for your arm. You'll scratch your head wondering why you didn't try it sooner.
One thing several of them mentioned which we didn't get is greater blackness between the notes. Frankly, we already had that and Minting didn't increase it. What it did do between the notes was ennable even lower levels of detail. Decays and soundspace cues are much better than before, giving more of the illusion of a live event.
The other major change we heard that was not previously described may be cartridge-specific. The UNIverse/TriPlanar combo is unique in our experience at keeping separate musical sounds separate. The compexities that make up the timbre of a particular instrument and the L vs. R channel information that produce stereo imaging are never "mushed" together. If zenith alignment is off, this great resolution of tiny differences can make a system sound analytical. The slight time shifts caused by tracking angle errors don't produce painful distortions, they just let us hear each tiny sound slightly time shifted, which picks timbres and images apart. A time shift between L and R channel information also reduces peak amplitudes, since the two sounds aren't leaving the speakers at *exactly* the same moment. Our system has always had some of that character. It made it easy to hear and adjust what was going on system-wise, but it could be more analytical than musical.
Minting our setup changed all that. Without losing (and in fact gaining) low level detail and subtle harmonics, these are now better integrated and sound more like real voices and instruments and less like a collection of "sounds". L to R imaging is better, peak amplitudes are WAY better and the soundstage expanded in all directions, including upwards. Bass response in particular is much stronger but with more articulation.
Four musical examples:
Ella sings Gershwin Songbook (1970's Verve reissue, white label promo copy) - Ella's voice was more fleshy and human, less diagnostic. The backup orchestra became even more amazing as musicians. We heard little vamps and riffs that were literally inaudible before. An incredible record got incredibler!
Vivaldi, Concertos #1-3 from 'La Stravaganza'. Hogwood and the AAM on L'Oiseau Lyre (impossibly talented musicians on a great label) - Original instrument performances provide some of the toughest system tests we know of. The Mint nailed everything while bringing the vivacity of 18th century Venice to living, breathing life right in front of me. That must have been one rockin' convent! Minting produced extraordinary improvements in the reality, energy and emotion of every instrument. Vivaldi was a genuine superstar, and this playback session made it clear why.
Poulenc, Concerto for Organ and Orchestra, Marie Claire Alain on a late issue French Erato (the best, from that label) - YIKES! The poor cats zoomed out of the room. They couldn't take the increase in dynamics AND clarity. This is a big recording of a big piece, and the improvement in soundstage stability laid out every instrument in a 3-D holographic presentation that could make you believe you were there. The big, complex organ and drum lines were clear as crystal even while rattling the house more than ever before. This was just scary.
Dark Side of the Moon - some reissue - We aren't frequent rock listeners and Swampwalker, Dan_Ed and Raul will all tell you our system isn't voiced for it. Until last night we agreed with them. The main issue was that tendency of our system to pick most modern recordings apart and display the pieces in their separate little bits, obviously recorded in different sound spaces and assembled in the mixing room. Post-Minting, we can still hear all that but it's no longer thrown in our faces. The huge increase in bass amplitudes and the better integration of each instrument into a whole now lets this record ROCK like it should. Hope the neighbors didn't mind, it was 2AM. ;-)
So, if you have a rig worth optimizing and provided it's Baerwald compatible, I can't recommend the MintLP protractor highly enough. As others said above, it's an amazing upgrade for a very low cost. Buy it. Use it.
Looks like I'll be getting the Mint!
Stan, Harry is not correct, at least not with my 10.5i arm. I have the DB protractor, the VPI jig does not line up with the DB protractor. It is off by quite a large margin at the outer null point, closer at the inner null point. This, as expected, noting the VPI setup is closer to optimum at inner tracks vs. outer. I think I'm going to try the DB allignment next in order to acertain the effectiveness of the VPI jig.
Well, I just ordered thr mintlp protractor as well, figured I might as well get on the band wagon with the rest of you fellas! lol I'll try posting my results as well when it comes.
Just a question I have, is this protractor indeed an actual glass mirror, or a plastic mirror, similar to the Turntable Basics Protractor?
Stanley (Stringreen) Remember about 9 months ago, you were having some sonic dislikes with your Benz LP Cartridge, and we were trying to weed through possible tweaks-adjustments to get you smiling? Maybe this was the one Key issue (alignment) that we all just didn't think of at the time? Mark
Then I imagine one should remember to excersize extreme care when installing, and removing the mintlp protractor on Spindle?
No lifting by the edges, no bending-flexing, remembering to lift the entire protractor straight up.
I informed Yip my VPI HW-19 MK-IV Spindle was exactly .282" diameter. Hope it fits correctly, otherwise, crrrrrraack, and you can then chuck it in the garbage can! Hopefully it will fit, and I won't have to resort to some sort of sandpaper to ream the Spindle Hole.
I'm glad Stanley that your Benz LP is really singing now for you. I reckon you were worried, and pulled your hair out for awhile there, trying to hit that nirvana sweet spot with it. We were all stymied there for awhile.
I'm waiting to see what improvements might be had with my relatively low hour ZYX Airy3X. It's sounding pretty darn fine already, and gets better, and better each time I play it. Mark
Doug, good write up on the effect the Mint had on your system.
Stringreen glad you started this thread, as we found out, precise cartridge set up IS absolutely critical.
I sent Yip's web info to the VPI dealer I heard the HRX and my Raven at.
Also I apologize to you and other VPI owners for my offencive drunken rant.
On a lighter note regarding the use of the Mint tractor.
I borrowed a high quality 10x loupe with a 40mm barrel from a collector of ancient coins.
I positioned the loupe on the platter with the bottom of the barrel about 3 mm or so from the stylus.
I then carefully ramped the loupe up on a angle so I could comfortably view the cantilever and stylus position on the tractor.
This worked very well and with the exceptional clarity of the optics this was a tremendous help opposed to using inexpensive plastic lenses.
I found these 10 and $20. 8,10,and 12x loupes a real source of aggravation, poor optics and too small to handle in such a fragile area.
Spending a little extra for a high quality loupe you could also use it to view your stylus for stuck on vinyl deposits on occasion.
Hi All, i placed an order with Yip as well. I figured might as well jump in both feet in like you guys. However, Yip returns an email asking for spindle diameter. No problem there as i have a micrometer to measure.
He also asks to look at the tonearm spec sheet for: effective lenght and spindle to pivot distance. OK for the effective lenght but the PTSD don't you have to physically measure this with a ruler. I do not think that PTSD would be stated in the owner's manual (spec sheet).
Tonearm is a Phantom II.
No lifting by the edges, no bending-flexing, remembering to lift the entire protractor straight up.Bending and flexing aren't possible. It's a sturdy sheet of glass. Lifting straight up? It's such a snug fit on the spindle there's no other choice. Swinging it back and forth while nudging upward/downward near the spindle works best.
CAUTION: Take care to not move the protractor or tonearm when the stylus is down on the plastic sheet. The tip can hold on and that would stess the cantilever and/or damage the sheet.
TIP: If your tonearm has VTA adjustment, remember to raise it to compensate for the thickness. You want to align with the cartridge at a normal playing angle.
This valuable thread (agreeing with Stiltskin) has also proved what we all knew, that a tangential tracking arm has the potential to be superior to any pivoting arm. Even with "perfect" alignment all we've done is managed tracking angle error. We've not eliminated it. Users of top end tangential arms are smiling while sharing knowing winks. ;-)
Further Minty observations:
Paul reports speaker integration for the first time. His favorite chair is way off center so he never listens for imaging. From that position we've always heard two distinct speakers, no center image. After Minting there's some center image integration happening for the first time.
After 2-3 sides my ears told me I could reduce anti-skating. I went from 3 little O-rings on the A/S dogleg to 2 and had the impression I still had a hair too much. Last night I reduced to 1 O-ring and even very dynamic LP's tracked perfectly. Another benefit of the Mint, since reducing A/S always improves cartridge performance. :-)
We can most certainly thank Palasr for getting us up off our collective butts to try going arc-style. My relatively imprecise card-stock protractors (compared with Yip's MintLP's) immediately caught my attention, and while not perfect, they result in a far superior setup to anything I've achieved with ANY two point protractor.
It's to this point that I provide every new owner of a Schroeder, Triplanar, and Artisan tonearm one of these card-stock protractors - not as a final solution, but rather to provide sufficient evidence and motivation to point them to MintLP.
The biggest effect this order of magnitude level of alignment improvement has is that it takes you out of audiophile mode and into music appreciation mode.
Along these lines, I'm going to make a prediction about what you'll notice in the coming days - that you'll get less finicky about making VTA changes for individual records. Now, this has always been a dragon you've sought to slay, but my prediction is that it will become quite a bit smaller and will breath quite a bit less fire than before.
Thom @ Galibier
Yep, Doug and all, I am certainly glad to be on the same page as you heavy hitters as far as the MintLP is concerned. My modestly-tricked-out Sig. Scout sounds better than I ever dreamed it would, the arc device from Yip making the biggest difference of all. Even budget set ups can sound great with alignment parameters maximized. Thanks to Yip, Mark, (Stiltskin) and all, and Audiogon for making it happen. Got to go and spin some vinyl!
Dan that's great.
I know you went through a period of doubt with your vinyl play back and came close to giving up on it entirely.
However you kept working away at it, with a bit of encouragement ,it slowly improved.
Then it finally paid off using the Mint.
Palasr, Dan-ed and Tim are the one's who brought the MintLp to our attention and I gratefully thank them...
I spent some time with Doug(deacon) and Paul yesterday and I can report that the speaker integration and what I would call more "holistic" sound are there in spades. Now they also have new speakers (Diamond version B&Ws, 805d I think; replacing non-diamond 805s) so some of what I heard is undoubtedly a result of that change. But the somewhat "analytical" nature of their system has now tipped toward "relaxed" or musical. More precise imaging, wider soundstage, excellent pitch definition in the bass. BTW, we also found that their Tri-P/Univ arm/cart tracked the problem child new Norah Jones live LP just fine. I'm a big fan of hers, so I'm sorry to report that the recording, esp. the bass, is, well there's no other way to put it, TERRIBLE. Paul thinks it was the result of miking they used; I have not idea, but the bass drum esp. was powerful and ill-defined, but with almost a reverb quality to it. Just a gigantic "thump". NO skin, no air, just WHAM!
I bought the Mint LP protractor recently but have not been able to yet do an alignment. Right now I keep swtiching carts so frequently since I had to send my Strain Gauge cart back to Soundsmith for an extra styli to be fit.
I can't wait to get my system settled so I can do a proper alignment, and experience Yip's excellent product. He was also great to deal with via email.
The one shortcoming I find of this entire process, is that I find it difficult to easily see the stylus tip on the protractor. I am using a 10X lupe in reverse, the 6X magnifier provided by Yip, and another brand of 10X magnifier I bought from B&H.
I wonder if there is some type of tiny fiber optic lens that could get very close and allow viewing from 6-12" away or further.
Emailists..I wear reading glasses (father time is creeping up on me), and found that the supplied illuminated magnifier worked best without my glasses. I also have the 10x loupe which I found very difficult to focus with my eyes...others with younger eyes would probably benefit. To find the proper focus...put the magnifier near the cartridge, and move your head farther and closer until the image is clear.
I still have not received my Mint tractor so can't add my alignment experience but let me say this about Yip's service. He obviously follows these threads because I hadn't even contacted him yet and I had an e-mail expressing his concern. He checked his records and has assisted me in tracking it down to the post office right here in West Des Moines. Evidently we've just been missing the mail man every time he tries to deliver it. Here's a guy with a great product at a very fair price and service that's really above and beyond. How often do you find that anywhere?
I aligned my Benz LP with this excellent tractor this morning as directed. I find the results very satisfying already although I have some VTF adjusting to do. The cartridge had to come back about 2 mm to accomidate Yip's overhang and this has changed my VTF from 1.95 to about 1.87 causing a slight loss in bass weight. Hoping that increasing VTF slghtly won't throw off the overhang but so it goes.
My main question and minor problem is that the Scotch tape holding the tractor in place has left light marks on my super platter. Did you encounter this and if so did you get them off somehow. There's no adhesive residue and distilled water has failed to remove them. Maybe in time they'll fade.
The LP contiues to impress by the way. It's a fine cartridge.
I've abandoned the tape-down approach altogether. Between the weight of the plate glass protractor and the platter on the Galibier, it simply doesn't move. I used to tape the platter to the 'plinth' using blue painter's tape, but now I find even this to be unnecessary. I do however go back and reconfirm overhang when I've completed alignment.
As careful as I am, Richard (and I am quite careful), I'd be very unhappy if I accidentally nudged my platter. This is my concern...not the platter moving on its own. So, I will continue to tape it down. There are enough tapes available that will not leave a residue (blue painter's tape for example).
I think I might try the blue painter's tape when I align my 90x hopfully this weekend. The marks from the Scotch tape are not that bad but I'd just as soon avoid them. I did recheck my alignment and overhang on the Benz LP without tape after increasing VTF to my prefered range without mishap. I think the marks are already fadding(wishful thinking?)
Like others I'm quite satisfied with this method of alignment. I am most impressed with the tool itself. I feel much more confident that I got it right thanks to the lack of paralax interference and the flat and accurate tool. I still think the VPI alignment sounds quite good but wonder if an arc style protractor wet up to that method will ever be available. Is that what the Wally is? On the Fremer video, his Wally alignment seems to match up well with Harry's.
Yip will need your pivot to spindle distance and overhang both of which will be posted on the VPI website. Take the arm off and measure yourself too just to double check. Your dealer obviously set your table up using some other tool so don't be surprised if the overhang is different.(I'd be surprised if it wasn't)Also, bear in mind that each time you make a change in one parameter it often affects others as well. You'll need some sort of scale to set VTF to the approximate range first. Otherwise when you change it you'll likely change the overhang too. Even when you're done, always double check everything to make sure no adjustment has changed another parameter unintentionally. If you don't have Fremer's video, it's a good way to get oriented to all you need to do in the beginning though you'll soon develop your own habits. You can recheck all of this with your VPI jig too before the mint arrives and acheive surprising results with it too. This all takes practice and patience but it will go a long way in getting you where you want to be.
I do have Fremer's video - it's given me a good understanding of what's involved, how some things work etc, but I'm not yet at the stage where I'm going to tackle things myself. that being said, I can totally understand the benefits of that and acquiring the tools is the first step.
I'm sure I'll be watching Fremer's video several more times. :-)
I ordered a Project stylus force gauge from musicdirect.com; hopefully this will handle the VTF duties adequately (if not, please straighten me out).
I'll check VPIs site for the measurements and double check them.
Any digital scale should be satisfactory. I use the Audio Additives and like it. It was $99. I doubt spending more than that gets you anything extra. This is harder with a 9 sig than the 10.5i with the VTA adjustment knob, but the VTF measurement really should be done with the arm level to the platter. This means raising the back for the measurement. If you fold an index card lengthwise exactly you can put it next to the arm and it's a lot easier to tell if that tapered arm is level(ala Stringreen). Then of course, level the arm back to record level when done. VTA is hard enough to change on the 9 sig that you'll probably have the best and easiest results just leveling the arm to 180 gm record range and leaving it there. As long as azimuth is still reasonably close, you're then ready to align with the Mint tractor. And on and on it goes but it's worth it.