Mint Tractor / Protractor for SME IV arm

About 6 weeks ago I went and ordered a Mint Tractor for my SME IV arm. I figured that since I had just dropped a bundle on a new Shelter 901 iii that a hundred bucks for a state of the art alignment tool was not unreasonable. 

Yip  was very and helpful via email for me to get info and cartridge measurements to him to custom tailor a protractor. The tool arrived well packed and in a timely manner.

My first observation is that the instructions included are not at all for SME arms as they go to great lengths describing cartridge adjusting for overhang. So any SME owners be advised that although there is an explanation on his web site, the instructions are generic and not helpful at all for the SME arm as far as that step is concerned. 

My second observation was that the tool itself was an ingenious idea and implementation but that the assembly and finish of the product is horrible. The actual gauge is printed on a type of mylar which is then applied to a mirror surface that is cut and drilled to appropriate shape and size. It is not acid etched or applied via decalomania or silkscreen. The glass was polished well enough on teh edges so there is no danger of accidentally cutting myself with it, the hole was properly drilled, but the actual mirror surface was absolutely filthy with smudges and streaks. It is actually so filthy that using it was more difficult than it should have been if the surface was properly cleaned with Windex before applying the gauge. The big deal here is that the mylar gauge is (hopefully) very accurately applied to the glass surface and cannot simply be peeled off of the mirror for easy cleaning. In fact, the instructions contain warnings about not wiping or disturbing the surface of the tractor. 

The third observation is that my alignment was amazingly close having used my trusty old plastic MFSL Geodisc that I have had and used for 20+ years.

The last observation is that making even seemingly tiny changes in alignment made really dramatic differences in especially the so-called soundstage effect. I now have a much greater sense of startling realism in that regard. I haven't even played extensively with the tracking or VT angle yet.

So all in all I am glad that I bought the Mint Tractor, and just wish the guy would splurge on a bottle of window cleaner! I feel like the thing is really ugly and shoddily put together, and for no reason but carelessness. I wrote to Yip and explained what I found, hoping that he would offer to send a replacement (especially since the thing would be no good to anyone else, it's not like I could put the junk one on ebay), but I got no response after 3 weeks. 

I highly recommend buying one, and telling him when you do to make %$#& sure he cleans the glass before applying the gauge on top of it. 

regards, HM

I bought one for my Basis and immediately sold it.  I think they may be great for cartridges with the cantilevers sticking out in front like Lyra or Clearaudio, but it was impossible for me to use it with my Transfiguration, which has a tiny cantilever tucked well under the body.  I'm sure it can be done, but not by me.  Not a knock against the product, just a little info to potential buyers.  
I have a couple of the Mints, but I much prefer the Wally ones as they are cut into the surface and much easier to see.

No problems with marks on either one.

Of course, the Wally ones came in pretty rough shape.
I'm so pleased I have a Linn arm and Linn cartridge. Three bolt mounting, done. Don't need no stinkin' gauges
About the Mint
It’s very accurate. It’s very difficult to use. It works.
I found out the hard way that the spindle to pivot distance must be dead on exact or the alignment will be off. At about 2 mm long the symptoms were: the stylus could not be made to trace the arc exactly - only very, very closely - and the azimuth could not be set simultaneously at each null point. Lots of sibilance.

Never tried the Mint. Have always had success with the Goedisc. Just bought the SME and thought it was going to be a pain to set up, but was surprised when it went very smooth. Initially I was going to bring it in to have it installed, but thought I should at least give it a shot.  Was easier than I expected.
I used the Mint and it was hard to see things, but it worked fine on my LP 12. You clean the surface with lighter fluid.
I have a mint that came with my tonearm (bought here on the 'Gon) and found it perfectly clean and smudge free.  It is very accurate so it seems. Other options are Ken Wills's Accutrak http://http//
These are printed on a plastic card stock that is slightly soft and slippery.  Custom made and cheaper than the Mint.  I like the one he did for me for my SME-V.  Has three different alignment schemes and doesn't require you to guess where the tonearm pivot point is.  I like his over the free one on VE because I don't have to cut that stinking spindle hole out which I believe is hard to do accurately.
What was wrong with the SME alignment gauge??

Did you even try it?
There's nothing wrong with the SME alignment gauge, which is really quite clever. But, it's not the equal of a good mirrored gauge, which allows the cantilever itself to be aligned. I like the WallyTractor gauge.
I bought a mint, it worked great, well worth it, it was clean and well made.  
The problem I have with the SME arms is NO AZIMUTH ADJUSTMENT!

Proper azimuth is as important as alignment for optimal sound. 

The azimuth is usually off on even the most expensive cartridges.
I have the SME factory protractor.   Problem one is the pinhole is not in the center of the printed cross.  So that leaves a question.  Use the pinhole or the printed lines?  I contacted SME and got the answer yes the pinhole in the cross is correct.   I bought a second one and it was the same. Got similar answer to my repeat question.  Problem two is that you are looking at the protractor  from above it and my access is somewhat  limited .  A little parallax really screws up this design.   Oh yes,  if your cartridge is of non standard mounting hole to stylus distance, the way you come sate is to estimate if the arm is equidistant from the printed lines.  Not the best.