Need help setting overhang on the Technics SL-1200

Recently I picked up a Technics SL-1200 and have mounted a Shure M97XE cartridge. I am curious if the white plastic overhang guage that comes with the SL-1200 is truely accurate; my ears seem to tell me the cartridge sounds better moved further out toward the tip of the headshell (presently I have it out as far as it goes). Also I am wondering what the ideal tracking force for the M97 is and how high the rear of the arm should be set for the VTA (between 0mm and 6mm). Your thoughts would be appreciated.
Here is some information for you on the cartridge :

M97XE Technical Specifications:

Output: 4.0mV RMS at 5 cm/sec

Stylus:Diamond tip, Polished natural gemstone, Elliptical, Side x front radii: 0.2 x 0.7 mil

Cantilever: Shure Type II - Very Low Mass, Heat-treated aluminum alloy / tubular, 1.0 mil wall thickness / 20 mil diameter

Frequency Range: 20 to 22,000 Hz

Tracking Force: 0.75-1.50g

Weight: 6.6g

Stereo Channel Balance: Within 2 dB

Channel Separation: @1 kHz - 25 dB

Recommended Load: 47 kilohms in parallel with 250 pf

Height: 15.875mm

Amplitude: 80 ┬Ám at 400 Hz

Here is the link ( if you want to read more )
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I just set mine today (1210 with a AT 440mla in a Sumiko headshell) using a similar protractor to the Vinyl Engine Baerwald design. The results are definitely different than you would attain with the overhang jig.

Be prepared to spend some time getting it right. I don't know what the preferred method is, but I roughed in the tracking force and the VTA, then set the cartridge alignment and then fine tuned the tracking force again.
Thanks Ho72. I'll definately keep that in mind if I ever try the AT 440 in a Sumiko headshell.
Riley804 - does the height of the M97 cartridge, 15.875mmm, include the stylus? I measured roughly 18mm on mine with the styles included which would mean that the height of the arm should be set at 3mm if you go by the Technics SL-1200 manual. Also wonder if Technics takes into account the thickness of the record.
Hi Bob,

I didn't mean to imply that the steps I took are specific to my gear. They apply to most turntable and cartridge combos, and certainly to the Technics tables that we have.

For example, when you set the VTF (vertical tracking force) at the outset, just get it close because any movement you make with the cartridge (forward or back) during null point alignment is going to affect VTF because you're changing the balance of the tonearm assembly. Similarly, VTF and VTA are related because the force on the stylus changes the deflection angle of the cantilever.

There has been a lot written about TT setup and you can read to the point of overload and exhaustion. Note that there are practitioners of the TT arts who have a fanatical devotion to detail and demand absolute adherence to the one-and-only proper procedure, i.e., the procedure they themselves practice while spitting on all others. They may descend upon you like a plague of locusts... or not. Most of them don't think the 1200 is worth fussing over. If they show up, listen to what they have to say, but don't lose sight of the goal: sound that *you* like, reproduced by equipment that doesn't damage your records (or itself) during the process.

Your manual, if you got one, has a page with VTA settings based on overall cartridge height. This is probably an approximation at best, as is the overhang jig. Download or buy a protractor. Get a stylus force gage. A decent, powerful magnifying glass and a good flashlight are invaluable as well. Move your TT to a comfortable, level working position if its location in your equipment rack will make you spend a lot of time bent over or on your knees.

But first, read up. Google is your friend, as are the denizens of this forum. You may want to start here, just to get an idea of what lies ahead:
Bobgates ..

Buy as soon as possible the MintLP Best Tractor for the Technics SL12xx and let the white plastic gauge into the box , you can't imagine the difference!
Ho72 - actually I have always felt that finding the correct overhang is the most important thing and have always done this before anything else; after the overhang is found I check the tracking force and set the antiskate; and lastly I attempt to find the best VTA. Thanks very much for link.
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Tvad - I have just today set the overhang of the Shure M97 using the Mint Best Tractor and have to agree that the SL-1200 Mk2 now sounds absolutely incredible; I am amazed that I am getting this good kind of sound out of a cartridge that can be purchased brand new for under $100. If you mount the headshell on the Technics SL-1200 white plastic overhang gauge you will see that the tip of the stylus is now 3mm further out. As far as other settings go I have the tracking force set at 1.3 grams and the tonearm height set at 3mm. Thank you Tvad; I appreciate your recommendation to use the Mint Best tractor.
Well I spent the weekend continuing to "push the envelop" with this Shure M97 on the Technics SL-1200. I still wasn't completely satisfied with the VTA and decided to see if the top of cartridge was exactly parallel with the record. I placed the cartridge down on a stationary record and measured the front of the cartridge and the back of the cartridge. The back of the cartridge was lower than the front so I ended up raising the tonearm from 3mm all the way to the 6mm maximum to get the top of the cartridge perfectly level with the playing surface. After listening I have to say this is a definate improvement. Curious if anyone else has tryed this.
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I have always used a caliper to check for the perfect arm parallelism over the LP .. this is the best way to have the real paralelism and not a "supposed one"
Tvad - I'm afraid with the M97 though, because the body of the cartrige slants down from the mounting brackets, the only shure way to tell if the VTA is correct is to take a very strong magnifying glass and eyeball the stylus while the record is playing.
Curio - I initially set the VTA with the arm tube parallel with the record; it was set at less than 1mm as I recall. I found out that with the headshell parallel with the record surface the VTA is set at 6mm. I have been talking with an person that knows a great deal about the M97 and have discovered that the correct setting for the VTA on the Technics SL-1200 is 2.5mm. Listening to several albums has definately confirmed what he told me.
01-24-09: Tvad
The Technics white plastic jig does is not accurate. It does not allow for cantilever alignment, nor is the overhang optimal when one compares the results to that of the MintLP or this Technics arm protractor downloadable from The Vinyl Engine (scroll down the page). Be sure to download the instructions as well.
I've had my SL1210 M5G for nearly two years now. I started with the plastic jig and an M97xE and go OK results, but I've since moved to the Vinyl Engine protractor referenced by Tvad and I've been *really* happy with the results, both with a Denon DL-160 and my current cart, an Audio Technica AT150MLX (a superb match w/the Technics, btw).

I also agree that VTA is best adjusted by starting with the tonearm on a record eyeballed to horizontal, and then adjust VTA on the fly until you dial in your optimum sound. Use a variety of music to get a good average setting. What gives you the most vivid cymbal crashes may not be the same height that gives most satisfying female vocals.
Johnny53 - thanks for your comments. I liked the results obtained from the Vinyl Engine protractor also. I will definately give the Audio Technica AT150MLX a listen.
01-26-09: Bobgates
Johnny53 - thanks for your comments. I liked the results obtained from the Vinyl Engine protractor also. I will definitely give the Audio Technica AT150MLX a listen.
Although the purchase prices are only about $150 apart, the AT 150MLX is definitely in an entirely different ballpark. Whereas the M97xE is a serviceable, "do no harm" entry-level cartridge, the AT150MLX gives you A LOT of what prompts people to spend big bucks for in the high end. It's better in every way--faster, tracks way better, more linear, more extended, more inner detail, more separation, more articulate, more musical.

If I had it to do over again, I would have started with an AT150MLX mounted on an LPGear ZuPreme headshell. It would have saved me the intermediate steps of the M97xE and Denon DL-160, both of which are utterly left in the dust by the AT150MLX. And replacement stylii are only $179.95 (same price as a DL-160) from LPGear.
Johnnyb53 - I'll have to try the Audio-Technica 150 MLX. Have you compared it to the Ortofon 2M Bronze, which falls in the same price catagory? Thanks. Bob
01-29-09: Bobgates
Johnnyb53 - I'll have to try the Audio-Technica 150 MLX. Have you compared it to the Ortofon 2M Bronze, which falls in the same price catagory? Thanks. Bob
No, I haven't heard the 2M Bronze. The two cartridges are in the same price category if you order from Needle Doctor or many other places, but you can get the AT 150MLX for $249.99 SHIPPED from J&R Music World here. Furthermore, you can get the replacement stylus for $179.95 from LPGear here. I don't think anything else comes close at that cost of purchase or stylus replacement. The AT 150MLX was designed to compete in the $400-500 range, and I suspect it still does, but at $250 it's a no-brainer.

Internally the AT 150MLX is wired wtih high purity single-crystal HPOCC copper, making it very fast, transparent, and smooth. The stylus is a Micro-Line (MLX), very similar if not identical to the Micro-Ridge stylus of the last, discontinued Shure V15VxMR cartridges. This stylus shape hits the unworn portions of the groove and the AT stylus is very nicely polished from what I've read.
Johnnyb53 - a person who has compared both cartridges just told me this today: "the AT 150 is a wonderful cartridge, but I say stick with the 2M Bronze. The AT can grab some really high frequencies better than the Ortofon, but for overall balance and bass, the Ortofon trumps it."
Bob, thanks for the info. Given the way the 2M Black has re-defined the price/performance ratio at $599, it doesn't surprise me that the same cartridge engine with a different stylus (Fritz-Geiger, I think) would do the same thing at around the $389 price point.
Johnntb53 - I just ordered an Ortofon SH-4 detachable headshell to use on the SL-1200 - as soon as I get it I'll remove the Ortofon 2M Bronze from the Rega P3-24 and listen to it on the SL-1200 - should be interesting.
Well believe it or not I have found that the overhang that provides the best sound was brought about by using the Shure protractor that comes with the M97 cartridge. So much for spending a great deal of money on other protractors.
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Tvad - I found both protractors gave very similar results; only maybe a millimeter apart. I've listened with and without the dustcover and the table does definately sound better with the dust cover removed. Thanks for the tip Tvad.