Phono Protractor. Recommendations?


After purchasing a new Cartridge recently, I'd like to purchase a good protractor.  There are so many available, each claiming to be the one to have, I'm confused.  
What do you recommend?
louisl
If you need a universal for all tonearm and turntables, also with 3 different alignment methods on one protractor then look for Dr.Feickert (made in Germany, top quality).

If you think you will stick to one tonearm and one turntable then you can order cheaper plastic protractor designed for your specific tonearm.

Why Dr.Feickert is better ? Read here about all the option you can get. 
I’ve been using the GEO-DISC for years. It works for me!
https://www.needledoctor.com/Mobile-Fidelity-Geo-Disc
The absolute cost no object best is the SMARTractor. The next best and much easier to use and cheaper is the Feickert. For one tonearm only, the Mint.
Enlightenment/awareness, is a good thing if you want to play with audio.

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/vinyl-heresy-overhang-induced-distortion-is-not-that-importan...

Food for thought before you open your wallet.
Second the MoFi Geo-Disc. Of course if you want to overthink and work and sweat for it and have a thing for expensive Rube Goldberg contraptions you could do a lot better. But if you just want to know your cartridge is precisely aligned and get it over with as painlessly as possible the Geo-Disc is the way to go.

And yes as tablejockey so helpfully notes above the consensus among those with experience is alignment is nice but just nowhere near as essential as the people with the contraptions would have you believe. In other words pretty damn close is more than good enough. The Geo-Disc gets you pretty damn close about as easy and fast as possible.

lewm
6,705 posts
+1

The absolute cost no object best is the SMARTractor. The next best and much easier to use and cheaper is the Feickert. For one tonearm only, the Mint.

-2
Commentary from a person who knows little about turntables

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/vinyl-heresy-overhang-induced-distortion-is-not-that-importan...



Exactly what Lew said: "The absolute cost no object best is the SMARTractor. The next best and much easier to use and cheaper is the Feickert. For one tonearm only, the Mint." 

The SMARTractor is more precise than the Feickert and easier to get exact. It just costs an arm and a leg. Borrow one if you are lucky to know an owner. 
The Mint is close in accuracy, but limited to being made for each combo of arm and cartridge. 
The Feickert is a great compromise option with simplicity and good results, but it's not the be-all-end-all. Without a mirrored surface, it can't be because with many cartridges you can't see the stylus from the front and are forced to align to the body. As much as we'd love to believe that cantilevers are perfectly mounted, it's just not a reliable assumption. You've got to align the stylus, not the body. Cheers,
Spencer
I have the Mint, the Geo disc, The Feickert and the paper ones from Vinyl Engine.
https://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge-alignment-protractors.shtml
The Mint is the most exacting for overhang if your Pivot to Spindle is spot on but useless for alignment if P2S is off even a little. The Geo disc is more prone to user error for me because 1) I may not be able to see the pivot point I need for a reference and 2) I can’t continuously focus down the alignment rail to the pivot without peering over and then through my specs. The Feickert is nicer with some arms than others because of the ease/work of pivot locating. The paper protractors work well if I’m careful about punching the spindle hole.
Two possible caveats are 1) is the stylus mounted to the cantilever exactly right and 2) is the stylus tip cut exactly right in relation to the shank. In other words, any protractor is only as good as the cartridge build and your eyes and your ears. Listening is the final step. If the protractor says it’s aligned right but it doesn’t sound good, or just ho-hum, I try again. And it always gets better. I find "Good enough" rarely is good enough in high end cartridges.

Here’s just one example that will highlight not only the futility but in fact how misguided even the most well-intentioned advice turns out to be.

You must align the stylus not the cantilever.

Nope. Not even.

Here’s why:

While this seems to make a lot of sense- all that sophisticated stylus geometry is wasted if the darn thing is out of whack in the groove- its blinkered down to just one small part of the picture.

At the other end of the cantilever is the coil (or magnet) that generates the audio signal. The electric signal is supposed to be an analog of the groove modulation. So think this one through, stylus alingment people: how is it gonna be if you rotate the whole thing relative to the grooves?

Can’t be. So yeah sure you can have the satisfaction of having done what few others have ever been bothered to do. But only at the cost of having messed up something else.

Its like this with everything. You can spend a fortune getting everything to electron microscope precision. Until you actually try and play a record and hear... nothing. Which is why the clear consensus among the people with ears (see the above vinyl heresy thread) is beyond a certain very quickly and easily reached point its all a colossal waste of time.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. Go listen to Mikey Fremer’s setup videos where he very frankly and accurately admits its all just one big tradeoff after another.
I have a Feickert and a Geo-Disc , if you can see the exact pivot point the Geo is very near  as accurate , but as wlutke says , that's a big if , but some  do make it easy like the Pioneer  PLX-1000 .

The piece of paper Shure put  in on the 97xe was better than either but only for that cart .
I hav a Smartractor and Geodisc. The Geodisc is approximate and good for most applications. The Smartractor is outstanding and very precise.
@wlutke 
How do I find what the correct "pivot to spindle" distance is supposed to be?  (My TT is a VPI Classic 3, my tonearm is the JMW 10.5).
If you want the best, and have multiple arms, get the SMARTractor. 
If you want the best, and have one arm, get the Mint. 
If you want to throw away $20, get the Turntable Basics protractor. 
louisl,
Your spec is most likely 258 mm. Remove the arm and measure pivot spike to spindle center for the actual.
I have all 3, Mint, Dr. Feickert, and SMartractor. They are all good. I like Smartractor the best. If you plan to change cartridge more often, I recommend the Smartractor. 
get a 3D arm and the 2nd pivot.
Send an email to Mike Fremmer.  He knows this stuff better than anyone I know.
Is the SMARTractor more precise than the UNI-protractor? I ask because I have the UNI, and actually prefer my old Wallytractors.
wrm, I too own the UNI, not the Smartie.  The way I think of it, the Smartie is an evolution of the UNI.  The UNI actually costs or used to cost more.  The problem with my early production UNI is that it does not have metric graduations on the cross arm that spans the distance from spindle to pivot.  Ergo, it is not possible to use it directly to set up a new tonearm de novo.  This function is provided for by the Smartie, on the other hand.  If I were starting over, I would by the Smartie. 

One of the reasons I like to use the Feickert, at least to set P2S, is that it does provide metric P2S distance markings.  I have often set up the tonearm itself first using the Feickert and then done the rest of the job of aligning the cartridge with my UNI.  Acoustic Sounds did update the UNI with a cross arm that does bear distance markings, after I bought mine.  They offered to sell me the updated cross arm, but I declined to make the purchase due to the high cost.  Does your UNI have markings for precise establishment of P2S? If so, you were lucky to get a later production version.

Louis, The P2S distance is entirely a property of the tonearm, regardless of what turntable you are using.  So, look up the value for your VPI tonearm, either by consulting VPI or on Vinyl Engine, etc.  If it's 258mm, as Wlutke suggests, you are done.
Lewm, thanks for details. No, my positioning arm has no demarcations at all; it's just clear acrylic. I did buy the P2S tool when Daniel brought it out -- as I recall, he offered a special discount to UNI owners. It dovetails nicely with the UNI to provide exact P2S for tonearm mounting. Sounds like the SMART essentially offers both in one package, without the need for all the separate templates. 
Get a K Willis Accutrac arc protractor.
He has them all ready to print and make up for most tonearms.
Setup in 15 minutes and then tweak vta.

I find this "print-your-own" method to be practical:
https://www.vinylengine.com/tonearm_alignment_calculator_pro.php

But recently got one of these:
https://www.needledoctor.com/DB-Systems-Protractor

It's easier for me because the pivot point on my tonearm is difficult to see.
I own both the Smartractor and the Feikert and have used a few others.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages.  The Feikert and Smartractor are universal and offer choices on alignment scheme you want to use, but, both require precisely finding the pivot point of the arm.  The Smartractor has an optical grid to make that easier to do if your arm does not actually display that point.  The lines on the Feikert are easier to see (clear, high contrast, not a mirrored surface), but, the Smartractor mirrored surface allows for more precise alignment because you can readily see when your eye is precisely aligned with the line along which the cantilever should follow (you move your head until only one line appears),  A mirrored surface is also helpful when your stylus is not easy to see because of its location deep under the body of the cartridge.  The Smartractor also has three different sizes for the turntable spindle so there is no slop and attendant inaccuracy.  The Smartractor comes with a magnifier that sits in a slot for that purpose and it makes it much easier to see what one is doing than going it without such an aid.  But, the magnifier is something you can find on line, so that is somewhat of a trivial advantage.  In terms of ease and speed of alignment, the Smartractor is hard to beat.  Once you have located and aligned the arm on the protractor with the center of the pivot, you only have to align the cartridge at a single point on the protractor surface.  The only thing I would add to the Smartractor kit would be a rubber wedge or some other means of absolutely holding the platter still.

Something like the mint is easy to use and very precise, but, it is custom made and meant to provide only one alignment choice, and only for a very specific pivot to spindle distance.  If that distance is not measured accurately, the mint will not work.
Dear @louisl : Your VPI TT does not came with its dedicated tonearm/cartridge protractor?

If not, then ask directly to VPI for they can send you that tool. 

VPI, don't use Löfgren A or B and obviously not ST but a deciated one that HW choosed years ago.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
R.

@lewm 

I too use both the UniTractor, and the Dr. Feikert in conjunction with one another. I find the combination of both, offers the greatest ease, and accuracy. I must point out though, that we are probably both a little off the deep end, because how many lay out the $$ to have both?

@larryi 

I have made up some small wedges out of cedar wood. Works a charm, and they are very soft, so no scratching to plinth/platter, and easy to make with an Exacto knife, or box cutter.

Something I've never understood: If you are lined up perfectly at point A, how can you not be also lined up perfectly at point B? Then what do you do? compromise between the two?
Point B is just to verify that point A is correct. if point A is perfectly lined up then point B will be perfectly lined up. if point A is slightly off then point B will be slightly off.