Setting Azimuth

VPI Scoutmaster
JMW 9 standard tonearm
Soundsmith Zephyr cartridge band new
Using a Fozgometer and Hi Fi News Test LP both also brand new
I'm measuring at the interconnects off the turntable.
I cannot seem to achieve a proper azimuth that will give even channel balance. The only adjustment on this tonearm is the counterweight which is weighted a the bottom so turning it side to side should effect azimuth. Only extreme changes are affecting channel balance. I changed the interconnects in case they were causing the problem, but I get the same results. The right channel is a few decibels louder no matter what I do to the azimuth unless I make an extreme adjustment which has the tonearm cocked to one side and obviously this is not correct.
Get the soundsmith counter intuitive. It will make your life a bit easier. It is another small weight that fits over the vpi offset counter weight. It comes with an adhesive grid that you attach to your vpi weight. Then you slide on the soundsmith weight over it. Once it is in place you can fine adjust azimuth and VTF with a grid to mark your adjustments. A VERY useful device. Check it out.

I haven't used it but I would recommend looking into the Soundsmith "Counter Intuitive" which allows precise adjustment of azimuth AND tracking force. They are currently backordered but I'm going to pick one up when available. Meanwhile, I've had my Scout for like 8 years now and agree that getting the azimuth correct is challenging and it is particularly hard to do so without upsetting your tracking force adjustment since when you move the counterweight laterally in inevitably alters the tracking force. What I have done is purchased rubber "O" rings which fit snuggly around the tonearm shaft at the rear end behind the counterweight (i.e. the "stub" end). I slide a few on and then set my tracking force approximately where I want it. Then I do the azimuth by swinging the counterweight into the proper position. Finally, I go back and add or subtract "O" rings to marginally increase or decrease the tracking force. (Each "O" ring works out to approximately a tenth of a gram). Again, the "Counter Intuitive" seems like a much better solution but my approach has also works quite well. One additional thing I would say is that your azimuth adjustment is probably LESS critical given the stylus profile of the Zephyr, which is designed to account for "azimuth roll". Other cartridges will require a more precise adjustment of this parameter depending upon how forgiving the stylus profile is. So I am a bit surprised that you are not getting an even channel balance unless your azimuth (or some other parameter) is way off the mark.
Check the offset angle of your cartridge. A misaligned cartridge will cause channel imbalance. The Mint protractor is an excellent alignment tool.
I cannot seem to achieve a proper azimuth that will give even channel balance.
Azimuth has little if any effect on channel balance (except when very badly mis-adjusted, as you've experienced). You're measuring the wrong thing.

This has been discussed many times on this forum. I suggest you search and read before further spinning your wheels whilst aimed in the wrong direction.
When I measure each channel separately with the fozgometer using tracks 4 & 5 of the hi-fi news test lp the right channel reads a stronger signal than the left channel.
I have a Zephyr and a Counter Intuitive on my JMW 10.5i arm and had little difficulty setting azimuth with my Fozgometer. Peter Ledermann does have reservations (which I've forgotten) about the Fozgometer, by the way.

I love this cart/arm combo but did call Peter when I was having a "low rider" situation with the stylus coming too close to the LP for comfort. What he said kinda surprised me: run the arm slightly tail-up (rather than level) and set the VTF at 1.4g, which he said would work fine with my arm, instead of the 1.8 to 2.2 range shown in the "manual" that came with the cart. This certainly did the trick as far as the low-riding was concerned.

I've not experienced any issues with the cart clearing the outer ring clamp. I'm running at 2.0grams with the arm level. I've checked cartridge alignment against my Mint LP alignment template, and I'm tracing the arc properly and the cart is aligned to the tangent marks. There's no real anti-skate on this arm. Just the twisting of the tonearm wires coming out of the top into the junction box. It's just frustrating I cannot seem to achieve a close to equal signal on both channels. No matter what I do, the right channel is louder. I'll give your recommendations a try (1.4G and higher VTA) and report back.
Have you calibrated the Fozgometer? Mine had a similar issue. Downloaded the calibration tracks, burned them to CD, hooked the Fozgometer up to the CD player and calibrated it following the instructions. You will find thm on the Musical Surroundings website.

Try that and then recheck your azimuth via the Fozgometer.

Ran the calibration. Left channel with calibration test disc is reading a bit lower than the right. I can reach 20db with the right channel, but the left reads slightly lower. I'm beginning to doubt the accuracy of the fozgometer.

If it never changes with extreme left and right swings in azimuth settings, then I would doubt the Fozgometer too!
I'm about to give up. Just checking out side two of my Hi Fi News test LP, and it's OFF CENTER. How the heck am I supposed check critical and minute adjustments of the turntable with an off center pressing? I hope Music Direct will exchange it for me.
The Fozgometer measures crosstalk and channel levels, and that's it. Good enough to get you in the ballpark but not worth $250 IMNSHO. Minimizing phase error is what's important, which isn't necessarily at the same azimuth setting as minimum crosstalk.
The azimuth ring is for fine adjustment, for coarse azimuth adjustment, you have to move the counter-weight side to side. This is made tremendously easier with a SS counter intuitive weight, as someone has already mentioned. Otherwise, you will almost certainly affect the tracking force when you loosen the counterweight.
Soundsmith cartridges are notorious for uneven channel balance. Fremer wrote about it in his Analog Corner a while ago. A friends of mine had a similar issue with his Soundsmith cart a few years ago. Apparently, Peter does not share the same opinion regarding channel balance in cartridges as many others do, i.e., he does not consider cartridges defective even if they exhibit differences in channel balance that many would consider unacceptable. I also have heard of problems with Fozgometer accuracy, but it just might be your cartridge.
I don't have the counter-intuitive, but isn't it only worthwhile to repeat a setting already worked out? It doesn't do anything to make the initial setup any easier...or am I wrong..
The CI allows minute adjustments without disturbing the counterweight. As I'm sure you know, VTF and azimuth changes on a VPI tonearm can be quite painstaking as fractional adjustments are very difficult. You still need to dial everything in quite closely, but the CI makes it much easier to make that final adjustment, whether it's your initial setup or not.
Hi, Arnold; before you come to a conclusion about the Fozgometer you need to eliminate other possibilities. Have you tried switching the RCA leads from the CD player during the calibration test to see if the CDP has equal signal output? Switch RCA leads and set the meter to zero (with RW1) playing test tone track 1. Then, using test tone track 3 (to account for the reversed RCA connections) set the right meter to 20. If the CDP is correct and the Fozgometer is off, test track 2 should put the meter slightly below 20 as before. If the CDP is off the meter should read slightly above 20 since you calibrated for a lower output coming out of the left channel.

What I'm going to do is let the cartridge break in. Then I'll attempt to fine tune the azimuth again. I've ordered the SS Counter-Intuitive as I've wanted one anyways. I agree it should make minute and repeatable adjustments possible. This arm also does not allow the rotating of the side weights for azimuth adjustment like some of the other JMW arms. I like this turntable, but the JMW 9 basic arm is frustrating. I'd love to put a 10.5 arm with adjustable VTA on it but not sure how if it could mount on this turntable.

Agree with Actusreus re the CI. I own the VPI Classic and had always found adjusting azimuth and VTF nightmarish. But the CI changed all that. I believe that with the use of a tiny featherweight bubble level, I can adjust azimuth almost perfectly. Interestingly, VTF cnanges very slightly over the disc -- from outer edge to inner edge near the spindle. I suspect this is because of the timy force exerted by the tonearm wire twist used to make a rough justice AS adjustment.
Wow! You got a lot of response in a short time. I am too lazy to read them all, but the answer, as far as I am concerned, is that azimuth is NOT a way to change channel balance, if you are talking about the output of each channel. Azimuth has very little effect on output, as you have discovered. Azimuth affects crosstalk, the amount of information in the R channel that leaks into the L channel, and vice-versa. And adjusting azimuth is done to minimize crosstalk. Period.
And adjusting azimuth is done to minimize crosstalk. Period.
Wrong. You heard what I did with your neighbor Michael's rig. Minimizing crosstalk was not the objective.
I recall looking at the display on your computer and seeing how adjusting azimuth affected the relative phase of the two channels. I know you prefer to say that adjusting azimuth affects phasing. Most of us do not have the equipment to monitor phase whilst adjusting azimuth. However, I am fine with your correction of my bald statement; obviously azimuth affects both phase and crosstalk. But I don't think it's wise to confuse the OP. His issue seems to be channel output. My basic point is that adjusting azimuth is not a way to cure a difference in output between the two channels. Are you arguing with that point? I still say it is NOT a good way to do that. Nor is it even wise to correct channel balance by adjusting azimuth, since that may throw off the phase relationship, in your parlance, or result in suboptimal crosstalk, in mine.
Agree... despite responses from me, Essentialaudio and Lewm trying to help, the OP still seems fixated on trying to adjust channel balance.

Until he understands that azimuth does not particularly affect channel output it won't matter what widgets he sticks on his tonearm, what test records he uses or what measuring devices he buys. One can't optimize a car's front end alignment by checking the oil. Buying a better oil filter and a dipstick with a digital readout won't change that. ;-)

Like many I optimize azimuth (and VTF... and SRA) by listening to music with a thoughtful ear. The endless fascination for overpriced gadgets like the Foz amongst vinylphiles astounds me. What happened to learning what music actually sounds like. then working toward getting your rig to sound closer to reality?
Lewm: No, I take no issue with the point about azimuth adjustment not being a way to change channel balance. Far from it.

Doug: I agree with your remark about overpriced gadgets, but adjusting by trial and error without measurement can be akin to throwing darts blindfolded. I charge a nominal fee for my alignment service and get raves every time.
Dear Brian,
Doug Deacon and I agree: Azimuth does not have much effect on channel balance. But I am just a shlub. Don't take my word for it, although I did experiment with this just to prove to myself that it is true. Using the suitable test track and my Signet Cartridge Analyzer, I was able to demonstrate to myself that changing azimuth from one extreme to the other, using my Triplanar tonearm which has easily adjustable azimuth, had a less than 2 db effect on channel balance, and to get that much difference, you have to go to ridiculous extremes with the azimuth setting, as much as 10 or 20 degrees off the vertical. Also, if you go to Vinyl Asylum and search the archives, you will find white papers on azimuth by both Victor Khomenko (chief engineer at BAT) and by Brian Kearns; these make similar statements vis a vis channel balance. Those two treatises plus the experiment I personally conducted are the bases for my statement. Please tell me why you disagree, with some supporting data or a reference, if possible. I am willing to be proven wrong, but not by a mere assertion from you.

By the way, it would seem that the OP's own results support my thesis. He admits that he made large changes in azimuth, and it had little to no effect on channel balance. For this he blames the Fozgometer. My point is that he should not have expected azimuth to affect channel balance. Thus the Fozgometer may not be defective at all. I think this is Doug's point, too.
Ok, I get that azimuth has to do with proper phase; the needle sits between the walls of the groove equally. How does one adjust channel balance? I would think if the right channel is louder than the left by a few decibels, this results in the the sound stage shifting to the right. This is my first attempt at trying to get accurate alignment. Before I would line up the cartridge and forget about it. But since investing in a $1000 cartridge, I feel it worthwhile to check all the settings and make sure it's aligned properly.
"How does one adjust channel balance?" When all else fails, you need a classic balance control on your preamp/linestage. Modern equipment frequently omits such a control. The two channels may be different in output for any one of a number of reasons. All you have to do is think about the signal chain. Anything in the chain where gain is added to the signal could be creating the imbalance you perceive. Starting with the cartridge itself. Then we have the phono section and the linestage, if you are using two boxes. But even one-box preamps have a phono stage feeding a hi-level or linestage. Both sections add gain to the signal, so either could be at fault. If you have tube gear, it would be a simple matter to swap tubes between L and R channels, and see whether the problem follows the tube swap. If tube swapping does not reveal that the problem resides in either the phono section of the linestage, then one has to blame the cartridge.
Actusreus....nope...making those arm adjustments are not that difficult at all. There is a weight IN the rear of the arm adjustable with a large Allen wrench to make the arm lighter unscrew the weight a make it heavier, screw the weight in a bit. From the factory, the weight is totally in, so before you start, just unscrew the weight a bit. The counterweight can be forced around the arm tube without damage. The tightening screw captures a plastic piece, so its friction controlled. With the counterweight firm, just rotate the weight while holding the arm headshell. This is not a difficult proceedure,
I agree with Lew,
Apart from the reasons given.......the room itself can often give 'unbalanced' sound to the channels?
My left speaker fires into the room with a lofty angled ceiling over whilst the right-hand speaker has a flat ceiling.
The left channel generally sounds louder with almost all my cartridges even when I sit off-centre closer to the right?
I also used to fuss about this but now I simply set my channel balance 2 dB higher on the right.
Why do you think most amplifiers have this facility?
Relax and enjoy :^)
Dear Arnold, Last night I realized that the suggestion I made re tube swapping to localize the source of your channel imbalance, in my last post, was needlessly laborious. Whether your phono and linestage are tube or transistor type, all you need to do is swap L and R channel leads, between tonearm and phono and then between phono and linestage (if you have a 2-box system). If the problem resides in the cartridge, the louder signal will move from one channel to the other when you swap leads between tonearm and phono input, etc. If the imbalance is unaffected, etc.
Lewm's interpretation of my comment was correct. The experiment described in the OP clearly demonstrated that azimuth has little effect on channel output. Like many useful experiments it proved that the going-in hypothesis was false. That's just as useful as a positive result.

How does one adjust channel balance?
Cartridge alignments and adjustments have little effect on channel balance. If you're actually getting significantly different output from one channel vs. the other then the flaw is probably internal to one (or more) components. Adjusting the cartridge won't change that.

You should perform a diagnostic:

1. Is the sound balanced when playing a CD or other line-level source?
- if yes, the imbalance is occurring somewhere in the phono reproduction chain.
- if no, the imbalance is occuring in your line stage or after.

2. If #1 demonstrates that the imbalance is occuring in the phono reproduction chain, try reversing the cartridge clips. Does the imbalance flip sides?
- if yes, the imbalance is internal to the cartridge. Repair or replace the cartridge.
- if no, the imbalance is internal to the tonearm wiring or phono stage.

3. If #2 demonstrates that the imbalance is internal to the tonearm wiring or phono stage, return the cartridge clips to their normal position and reverse the phono leads at the phono stage inputs (or at the TT if you have a detachable phono cable). Does the imbalance flip sides?
- if yes, the problem is in the tonearm/phono cable. Check and clean all connections. If the imbalance continues you probably have faulty wire (seems unlikely).
- if no, the problem is in your phono stage. Check tubes if you have or try another phono stage.

The diagnostic process is tedious but critical for accurate problem solving. Isolate the cause first. Then decide what needs adjusting/repairing. Making adjustments without examining what needs adjusting is just, "Ready - Fire! - Aim." ;-)
I've eliminated the phono stage during my first test. I had the fozgometer connected to the interconnects directly off the turntable. I even switched to a completely different pair of interconnects and the results were the same. I have not done the reverse channel test yet. I'll do some more troubleshooting and report back.
Oh yes, forgot that you were reading off the tonearm cables. Just out of curiosity, does your system SOUND like there is a channel imbalance in the same direction as indicated by the Foz, when you connect the tonearm to the phono stage? If not, then the Foz is back in the soup.
BTW, for your Scoutmaster, you can trade in your JMW9 arm for a Classic from VPI...I traded in mine for a Classic 3. You'll get a really nice kit with a template, drill bits etc. a wonderful improvement!

I assure you that adjustments on any VPI tonearm are much easier with the Counter-Intuitive. Even reading your post confirms how much easier this device makes setting up the VTF and azimuth compared to all the effort you have to go through without it to get everything dialed in. If you're happy and ok with setting up your tonearm with several different Allen wrenches and trying to maneuver the counterweight so perfectly that it goes only where you want it to go, which to me is just impossible, that's great and more power to you. However, virtually all those who bought the CI agree that it makes adjustments much easier. Those are the people who have tried it both ways, while you haven't and it simply appears you don't like the tool for some reason. Arguing against something easily verifiable such as this device's benefit or lack thereof without first trying it is just silly.

That is a path I'm considering going down. Wasn't sure if the arm was upgradable. Now that I know, I may do that. I know they are busy moving to a new warehouse, so I'll ask them about it next week.
I did a few needledrops with my new cartridge. The channel imbalance is pretty obvious. Here is a screen shot of Sultans of Swing digital, then normalized evenly for both channels.
Actusreus.. I'm not against it, I just think its not a belt and suspenders. It takes a few minutes to dial in the VPI arm...probably the same time it takes to install the Counterintuitive. If you change cartridges the device has merrit because you can repeat the setting for the cartridge needed after first having properly installed the cartridge, however, it would even be easier to simply have another arm properly set up with the new cartridge already mounted in it and replace the old arm with the new one, and plug it in. Again, if you like the CI, zei gazundt.
How do you save these calibration files to your computer? For some reason they show up as quicktime files and I can't save them without buying a pro quicktime license.