Tracking error distortion audibility

I recently unpacked my turntable from a couple of years of storage. It still sounds very good. Several times during playback of the first few albums I literally jumped from my chair to see which track was playing as it sounded so great. After a while I realized the "great" sound was always at one of the "null" points. They seem to occur at the approximately the proper place (about 125mm from spindle) and near the lead out groove. Questions:
Is this common? I have improved the resolution of my system since the table's been in storage but I don't remember hearing this before.
All others geometric sources of alignment error not defined by the null points (VTA, azimuth etc.) are essentially constant through out the arc correct? If so they should cancel out. I assume the remedy is a linear tracking arm but I am surprised at how obviously better the sound is at these two points.
Table - AR ES-1, Arm - Sumiko MMT, Cart. - Benz Glider, Pre - Audible Illusions, Speakers - Innersound electrostatic hybrid
Do linear arms really sound as good across the whole record as I hear at only the nulls with my set-up?
Check your alignment; very small changes in alignment can have very large effects where sound quality is concerned. I assume that you are using Baerwald alignment by the null point that you reference. Why not try Stevenson? At any rate, I feel that you are hearing what you think that you should be hearing, as the inner grooves should also diminish the sound quality, due to the worse tracing of the increased radius of curvature and the lower amount of information passing the stylus for a given unit of time and you do not reference this.
I think inner groove distortion is very common. I recently went nuts trying to align my cart perfectly (Clearaudio Virtuoso). I confirmed using Baerwald and "Lofgren B" that my alignment was spot on. Some say that increasing tracking force can help eliminate the inner groove distortion, but until I receive my new digital stylus force gauge, I have no idea what I'm actually tracking at.

A lot of albums I have appear to have inner groove *damage*. It must have been caused by a setup that was incorrect by the previous owner of the album. Obviously there's nothing you can do in that case except buy a new copy. But even on my new albums, in grooves that are very close to the center of the record, I often hear a diminished quality of sound, and sometimes I notice sibilance which is very loud. All I can hope for is that this is not damaging my albums because my setup is practically perfect; one person even suggested that I try another cart (even though the Virtuoso is already a $875 cart...hardly an "entry level" cart).
Sounds like an alignment, not software, problem.

The chance of that many records being damaged is very small when compared to the chance of a single misalignment.
Audiofeil: I know you're in the business, but you are not going to be able to persuade me to buy one of your expensive protractors :-)

I've used several alignment charts/printouts, and all indicate that my alignment is dead on, as well as overhang.

Feathed: Does your alignment chart provide an arc to help you adjust the overhang? You can try using the cartridge alignment program on this page:

Those who are in the business to sell expensive protractors/alignment tools may tell you that an alignment chart printed on a piece of paper can, in no way, compare to a professionally made device. I have faith that the printouts I made from that application are accurate. You'll have to obtain the spindle to pivot distance for your tonearm (I got mine from Clearaudio's website). One note, make sure you measure the 20 mm reference distance on the printout for the X and Y axis. You may have to adjust the X/Y "Printer Correction Factor". You can at least give this a shot before choosing to buy anything.
Oh and one other thing to note. The quality of the paper you print on does matter. I printed on standard copy paper, and certain environmental factors (humidity) can cause the paper to change shape ever so slightly. It's best to use thick, heavy photo paper if possible.

Sure, things like that help the argument that a real protractor/alignment tool is superior; I don't doubt that they are. If I was ok with spending the extra money, I'd probably say forget this and just buy a MintLP or something just to have that peace of mind. If you aren't the type of person that wants to be bothered with making printouts and such, then a professional tool would definitely help you.
RE: "Expensive" arc protractors- the $100 Mint has been demonstrated to my ears and many others, to provide big improvement in "dead nuts on" aligned rigs. One major advantage of a mirror-tractor over a paper protractor is parallax correction. Second advantage is very fine alignment grid which inkjet on paper cannot provide. Third is arm/table specific alignment (the mint anyways). Not saying that is your problem but even very anal and very technically proficient analog masters have found the mint at least to be very helpful. And you won't have to wait months/years like w another custom arc-tractor maker.

Also, have you tried playing w anti-skate?
Dear friends: I read again and again this inner groove distortion subject even if the alignment/set-up of the TT/tonearm/cartridge is on target.
Why is that? what happen? because I don't " suffer " on that problem and IMHO the linear tracking tonearms are not the answer.

Other than the alignment IMHO there are at least ( between other factors ) four things that can cause the " trouble ": a un-matched tonearm-cartridge combination, a tonearm bearing of low quality, a cartridge suspension out of specs or a combination of these " factors ". Of course that depend on each record quality and what is recorded on each recording.

Btw, the two null points alignment against the arc protractor are the same because those two null points are on the " arc " and IMHO if anyone align on two points that cross on an arc then it is a " perfect " align on that " arc ".
Now, the alignment between Baerwald or Lofgren is less than 1mm, which one is correct?: both, could anyone hear the differences? not anyone system but certainly you could hear it.

Regards and enjoy the music.
G'day all, re 'inner groove distortion' and related stuff, I've recently done up an article dealing with my approach to optimised overhang set up. For what it's worth I don't have any 'inner groove distortion' issues on any of my vinyl playing gear. Regards Fap.
I would argue that an arc protractor produced on thick paper is superior to the best two point protractor produced on mirrored plexiglass, laser etched stainless, etc. I won't name names to protect the guilty.

Is a paper protractor as good as a precision tool like the MintLP? You'll have to answer that question for yourselves.

I checked the above site and took a look at the excellent FAQ he wrote (the readme file). He points everyone to the fact that his protractor should be in perfect agreement with John Ellison's spreadsheet. He strongly recommends playing with the Ellison spreadsheet, so we're in complete agreement here as well.

I need to play with this a bit. Don't get confused by his inner groove radius and outer groove radius entry boxes. He is NOT talking about the null points (i.e. 66.0 and 120.9 for Baerwaald). I'll play with this and verify it against the the ones I've drawn for the Tri-Planar, and of course, against my MintLP.

I encourage everyone to play with this program. Read his excellent FAQ, and play with the Ellison spreadheet as well.

Another nice stiff paper you can use in place of photo paper is called "card stock". You can pick it up at places that sell an assortment of printer paper (e.g. Office Max).

Hint about cutting a nice record spindle hole. Use a straight edge razor and cut pie shaped wedges (8 of them) to form the record hole.

Start slicing from the circumference of the spindle hole and work your way toward the center. Cut 8 radial lines to form 8 "pie slices".

This will not only get you real close to "nuts on", but the hole will also be self centering if your spindle is a bit wider than the circumference of the hole.

After I sent samples made this way to many of my customers, they became true believers.

The only risk you are taking is that you might learn something (grin).

Thom @ Galibier
I do not sell the Mint LP protractor. I simply use it with all of my turntable/tonearm combinations.

Let's not confuse my business interests with your inability to properly align your gear.

Whoa, easy. It was more of a joke than anything.

My gear is aligned properly. I'm glad you're happy with the Mint LP.
>>My gear is aligned properly<<

Can't be if you're hearing all the distortion and sibilance.

Good luck and hope you can find the proper tools and skills.
Just to make it clear, I wasn't trying to undersell the MintLP. The fact that we go round and round on this and it gets contentious is a bit silly - especially in light of the voluminous comments on several threads archived in this forum over the past 6 months.

All of the doubters (experienced audiophiles) became true believers, and it's not because they drank the Kool-Aid. They opened their mind to the fact that they may not be as skilled as they might have thought - that a better tool yielded better results.

My take is that it's simple for anyone with a printer to test this for themselves for the cost of a piece of paper.

To date, the only person I've encountered who can achieve the same audible results with a two point protractor as I can with an arc protractor is Frank Schroeder.

So, stop debating this, get off yer duff and prove it for for yourself. If you like what you hear, you can decide for yourself whether it's worth the $$$ to try a MintLP.

Thom @ Galiber
I think we can all agree that alignment is difficult to get spot on and visual means have many inherent inaccuracies. To me this screams out for verification with a test record and instrumentation. I would think it possible to measure the distortion and confirm the positions of the nulls. You can then position them to agree with whatever formula you prefer or fine tune in combination with listening tests. I thought I remembered 20 years or more ago one could bring his or her table to a dealer and they would analyze the output to assess alignment. Did or does such a thing exist?
Dear Thom mackris: +++++ " who can achieve the same audible results with a two point protractor as I can with an arc protractor is ....." +++++

any one can do it if the two null points protractor is " works "/designed in almost perfect way and if what you are comparing against the complete arc protractor is the same: Baerwald vs Baerwald or Loefgren vs Loefgren or whatever.

This adjustements is not " black magic ", it is almost easy maybe the subject is that many people do not have the right know-how/exprience about, I hope that you can do it in the same way than Frank and many other people.

I don't know why so many put this subject arc protractor like something " unique " or sophisticated, because IMHO it is not.

Maybe I'm missing something but IMHO it is " crazy " to me that the only way ( almost ) to go is through an arc protractor when a two point one is an " arc ", my God!

I think that the first real target to everyone of us is try to match the tonearm and the cartridge making a in deep research before making a choose about.
Like you say there are " thousands " of words on this thread subject when the main subjects/basis/foundation about tonearm/cartridge is a little not discuss in deep.

Anyway everyone is totally free to post anything on this open forum, that's the way things are and nothing wrong with that.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Raul,

You may be one of the exceptions, and that would put you in Frank Schroeder's class of setup wizards. I was of the same opinion that you were before I started experimenting with this last Spring.

I have an old Ortofon, mirror-backed acrylic, two point protractor that I never let out of my sight. I dreaded losing it because it had very fine lines which gave me great insight into correcting for parallax when aligning at the two null points.

It now sits in my historical archive (a.k.a. "junk bin").

Thom @ Galibier
FWIW Maybe not on the current subject as I don't wish to debate protractor merits.
Since audibly my null seemed to be at about 128mm and since Lofgren B seems to be most correct as I don't hear inner groove distortion and both Lofgren B nulls are nearer the middle grooves, I increased my cartridge overhang and it did seem to sound better. I wouldn't suggest trial and error by ear as at least I can't be that precise with just my ear so I got out my protractor. I use the DB Systems. I found it very easy. Lofgren B did require about 1mm greater overhang and 1.000 smidgen units counterclockwise rotation.
Regarding alignment tools that require input of pivot to spindle length, I can't accurately measure that because of my arm's pivot design. For the system cited above where one uses the manufacturers pivot to spindle distance, No one drills the arm board where the tonearm maker specifies do they? Unless of course you have fixed cartridge mounting holes. If you have slotted mounting holes one should always mount your arm further from the spindle so as the maximize effective length and minimize tracking error. I've not read about this but I just assumed everyone did that.
What about alignment of the stylus to the cantilever? A misaligned stylus renders all methods discussed above (except maybe listening) null and void. They are utterly and completely useless.
Dear friends: There are two or three very interesting subjects ( that I experienced ) on what we are talking, let me to explain, example:
normally we have to align the cartridge cantilever and I find some cartridges that in static way its cantilever is not align with the cartridge body so I aligned not with the body but with the cantilever but guess what: that cartridge/cantilever when is running/dynamic state/way the cantilever is not mis-aligned from the cartridge body but it is aligned ( in " automatic " ) with the cartridge body, so I have ro re-align with the cartridge body: why is that/happen? I can't say it but it happen.

Other very important issue is that the two point protractors usually use the Baerwald/Lofgren parameters and the tonearm geometry parameters are different: VPI, Rega, Lustre, SAEC, Micro Seiki, Ikeda, etc, etc.

Why is that? are they wrong ?, certainly not IMHO those tonearm designers decide to choose different trade-offs against the Baerwald/Lofgren or other tonearm geometry parameters, so what happen when you re-align according to different geometry parameter through a different protractor like the one mentioned in this tread, easy it sounds different ( many say better, I don't agree totally with this. ).

I try several times/tonearms to go with different geometry parameters ( on the more orthodox " road ". ) and always likes me in the short time and till to know never in the long run, I always return to the manufacturer instructions/manual about.

I'm totally sure that those tonearms un-orthodox designers have a precise reasons of the why they do it in that way and IMHO everyone of them are just right and with al respect to everyone of you when you change those geometry parameters on the tonearm/cartridge alignment you are changing the designer " job/targets ", I don't do it anymore I try to follow the tonearm designer " feels ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
Using a good protractor is essential for proper setup. John Elison has created a superb spreadsheet to aid setup, available online in a couple of places such as Enjoy the Music (bottom of page).

Among the tools I use is a Feickert protractor for setting overhang and horizontal alignment, as a starting point. This is followed by the Feickert computer software to optimize the alignment for best performance in situ. People have used oscilloscopes for similar analysis; the Feickert program was expressly written for the purpose and gives clear visual indication of performance, enabling fine tuning of parameters such as azimuth and damping. Due to manufacturing tolerances the stylus may not be perfectly aligned in the cantilever, but this is no longer an obstacle since the software removes the guesswork.

Dealer disclaimer.
Feathed, how are you verifying pivot to spindle distance?

One can adjust a cartridge to one or two null points all of their life and never get anything close to correct if the pivot to spindle distance is not dead on. This is what an arc protractor designed for a specific p2s provides the user. None of this getting "close enough". It is possible to get it dead on at a point past the spindle and at a point off the edge of the platter. That is how you know it is tracing the proper arc in the proper location. You can't do that with any other type of protractor. If you get p2s correct, aligning to the null points HAS to be more accurate regardless of which alignment style you use.
I have never used an arc protractor, but to me it just makes more sense. Put the tractor on the platter, sight it to the pivot point, immobilize the platter and tractor, align cart........ None of this align cart to point A, rotate platter and align to point B, repeat. Having a fixed and stationary datum, will always result in a more accurate alignment.

"Feathed, how are you verifying pivot to spindle distance?"
Unless one needs the distance for making an alignment device, the pivot to spindle distance is of no relevance at all.
Dear Feathed: I can't understand your last post and maybe I'm wrong but making a quick revision on my original tonearm jigs to mount the tonearm in a TT in all cases that distance determine the exactly position of the tonearm in the TT. Am I missing something here?, please explain about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
For this discussion ignore the arc protractors. Universal protractors work for various spindle to mounting hole distances correct. If you have slotted headshell mounting holes you can adjust cartridge angle and overhang correct. If you drill your mounting board hole further from the spindle than manufacturers specs, simpling slide the cartridge closer to the end of the tonearm and adjust angle accordingly. You get the exact equivalent of a longer effective length tonearm. You obviously need to allow for slight differences in mounting hole to stylus geo in case you change cartridges but they vary only slightly. Brooks Burdan (sp) explained this to me 20 some years ago. It's so simple I just assumed everyone did this. I've never given it a second thought.
Gosh Feathed,

You initiated this thread asking if any of us find substantially improved tracing in the area around the null points. Well, for me, the answer is no. Distortion does not noticeably increase as the stylus departs from the null points.

So, let me get this straight. You very possibly have a sub-optimal setup, or at a minimum should find a means of eliminating this from consideration. Still, you have categorically decided that debating the choice of tools to verify this is not a topic for conversation.
No one drills the arm board where the tonearm maker specifies do they?
Why would a dealer not mount the arm according to the manufacturer's spec? I can think of two reasons: (a) Incompetence, and (b) a conscious decision based on selection of an alternate alignment.

As an example of (b), I mount both the Dynavector DV-507 as well as the Artisan tonearm to Baerwaald and not to the manufacturer's specified alignment. Of course, I communicate this to my customers as well as my reasons for doing so. Now, with a Galibier, this pivot to spindle distance is easily changed at any time due to the articulated armboard, but I do this for individuals with fixed mount turntables as well.

My reasons are that most people do not have a protractor for other than Baerwaald or Loefgren, so I derive the Baerwaald (typically) pivot to spindle distance appropriate to the effective length of the tonearm.
If you have slotted mounting holes one should always mount your arm further from the spindle so as the maximize effective length and minimize tracking error. I've not read about this but I just assumed everyone did that.
Not so ...

(a) the increase in effective length is trivial as is the reduction in distortion. You can verify this by plugging the numbers into the Ellison spreadsheet

(b) even if there were a reduction in distortion, you run the risk of compromising cartridge mounting surface's contact with the headshell and have problems with energy transfer - not a good tradeoff.

(c) assuming a fixed mount turntable/armboard, why paint yourself into a corner the next time you mount a cartridge with a "short" cantilever one whose stylus is closer to the cartridge bolts (yielding a shorter effective length) that might not allow you to achieve the alignment you intend?

You are technically correct, - that you can establish your favorite geometry around any effective length (and therefore pivot to spindle distance) as long as you have enough headshell slot length to achieve the geometry you're after. Of course, with a fixed mount turntable you've hopefully selected a pivot to spindle distance that will allow you to achieve this.

I suspect you misunderstood Brooks Berdan's intent when he explained this to you. I'm sure he was arguing that small mounting errors could be compensated for at the headshell, which is of course true. I'd have great difficulty believing that someone with his fine reputation would argue in favor of stretching the effective length of a tonearm by some 3-4 mm to reduce distortion (see points above).

Regarding alignment tools that require input of pivot to spindle length, I can't accurately measure that because of my arm's pivot design.

The MMT was made by Jelco - a company I'm quite familiar with. The bearing tower's center is fairly easy to find on these arms:

Assuming you want to draw an arc protractor for your arm (I maintain faith that I can "reach" you), you can back your way into your effective length using the p-s that you measured. Using the Ellison spreadsheet - set your precision level to 3 or 4 decimal places and plug in effective lengths until you arrive at the pivot to spindle distance you're after.

Again, if you play with an arc protractor printed on paper, you can make up protractors that bracket around this effective length - to compensate for a measuring error on your part. One of them will be "right". Given the opportunity to produce an arc protractor on a laser printer for any effective length, why would you not go through the exercise of trying this?
What about alignment of the stylus to the cantilever? A misaligned stylus renders all methods discussed above (except maybe listening) null and void. They are utterly and completely useless.
Bingo! You have made yet a further argument in favor of an arc protractor. With a two point protractor, you're trying to line up the cantilever at the two null points. If you try to deviate from a lined up cantilever with slight clockwise and counterclockwise rotations, you'll go crazy trying to keep it straight in your head.

With an arc protractor you can vary your offset angle in both directions, knowing that you've maintained the correct effective length because you have the arc for verification. In other words, you can separate the variable of offset angle from overhang.

You have just (again) argued in favor of using an arc protractor.

Thom @ Galibier
Thom @ Galibier,
I'm sure any competent person would not make the errors you cite above as reasons to not deviate from manufacturers set-up, certainly not Brooks. I understood him to mean increasing effective arm length with slotted head shell models is a trick he uses with no downside. I assumed it was commonly used by experience turntable techs. I am sorry if I misunderstood but it seemed pretty clear to me what he meant. You might have understood something different but I don't recall you being present during our conversation although I might be mistaken as you indicate you heard it with great clarity "I'm sure he was arguing.....".
I am glad even happy that you like your protractor. What is your reference that verifies your protractor's set-up? What do you use to verify the stylus is perfectly aligned to the cantilever? Your protractor?
Hi Feathed,
I'm sure any competent person would not make the errors you cite above
Well, that leaves the other possibility - that they are misinformed. It's no crime, and I surely have a lot to learn as well as the next fellow. Frankly, this is one reason I post on this forum. No one can know everything, and collectively, we are all better for the exchange.

OK, I'll do some work for you and for Brooks. Based on the Ellison spreadsheet, here are the distortion numbers for 239mm and 243 effective lengths:

Effective length = 239mm:

at 57mm = 1.16%
at 146mm = .62%

Effective length = 243mm:

at 57mm = 1.14%
at 146mm = .61%

As far as references are concerned, I primarily use the two appendages on the side of my head along with all of the other individuals who,like myself thought that years of working with two point protractors yielded as good results as you could reasonably expect to achieve. I don't know of a single individual in my listening circle who still has this opinion.

I'm going to be in So. Cal in a couple of weeks' time, and had planned on visiting Brooks. This thread gives me one more topic of conversation. Brooks is someone I've admired for quite some time. If indeed your memory of your conversation with him is accurate, then I'll take the opportunity to set him straight.

Thom @ Galibier
Dear Feathed: +++++ " It's so simple I just assumed everyone did this. " +++++

everyone that wants to change the effective tonearm length.

+++++ " You get the exact equivalent of a longer effective length tonearm. " +++++++

and a " little " different performance.

IMHO the designer tonearm voicing was taking in count that spindle to pivot spec along the overhang and " original " effective length.

How do you know what the tonearm designer intented through its original specs? IMHO it is not only the geometry tonearm parameters what define the tonearm performance. Nothing is perfect and has trade-offs: how do you know which trade-offs choose the tonearm designer?.

You can change those parameters but like I told you the performance will be different.
So, IMHO that spindle to pivot spec is still useful and necessary.

There are times where is important to preserv/guard a little respect for the designers.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Your longer effective length calulations show lower distortion and there is NO downside. You just proved the point. You claim to respect Brooks and you don't know everything yet you will
"set him straight".
Not mounting a cartridge exactly where a manufacturer's direction say is not disrespecting the designer at all. The arm manufacturer has to allow for inaccurate drilling of the mounting board and has to accommodate all possible cartridges. I bet all designers would applaud taking the effort to tweak the most performance out of their arm. I'm not insisting anyone has to do this. You, like the manufacturer may want to drill in the middle of the range in case of a slight error during the drilling or in case you later wish to sell the table to someone with a very odd cartridge. I very much doubt the increase in length will make a significant improvement but why not optimized all you can?
Your longer effective length calulations show lower distortion and there is NO downside. You just proved the point. You claim to respect Brooks and you don't know everything yet you will "set him straight".

.02% (that's .0002) is not audible, and even if it had some marginal effect, all other variables need to be taken into account in order to understand the cost (if any) of this small gain. One needs to remember that this is a sub-system and not a single isolated parameter.

As Raul correctly points out, all design and implementation parameters of a cartridge/tonearm sub-system are interrelated with each other. I pointed out one potential downside to extending the cartridge to the very front of the headshell in my point (b) above - the possibility of compromising headshell/cartridge interface.

Because I respect Brooks does not mean that he is any more infallible than I am. I walked a fine line in my comment, and gave you the benefit of the doubt that you understood Brooks when I wrote: "If indeed your memory of your conversation with him is accurate, then I'll take the opportunity to set him straight."

Can you help me understand why I should believe that you are accurately conveying Brooks' explanation any better than you are assimilating Raul's and my comments?

Thom @ Galibier
Dear Feathed: Normally who makes the drilling is the TT manufacturer or the tonearm manufacturer if the tonearm comes with the TT ( VPI, Avid, Rega, SME, and the like ).

Now, if we have to make the drilling normally too we leave 2-3mm for " to play " with the tonearm position in order to put on the precise position, at least in a fixed arm board, because in a round and with movement one like in the Micro Seiki or Acoustic Signature, I think Galibier and others to find out that precise tonearm position is extremely easy and there is no excuse not to do it, even for a non experienced person.

Yes, I'm with the tonearm design instructions and with the designer.
IMHO there is no reason why has to be in other way. I know that many people don't do that and send to build a dedicated protractor ( that several times ( almost always ) goes against the tonearm designer targets. ) or build by it self, I'm not in favor of any one of them ( hear things different not always means better ).

Well this is my opinion, I respect yours.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I beleive Raul is of the option that if a designer approved an alternative drilling option he or she would explicitly state that. I on the other hand beleive the presence of a slotted headshell is explicit approval to tweak. I completely respect his choice.
You are obviously quite intelligent, knowledgeable and articulate. You know perfectly well that a cartridge can be moved forward without encountering any of the issues you raise. Quit being silly. You seem to be simply trolling for an argument. I have finally recognized that and will no longer read your arrogant, condescending and offense posts.
Good Bye and good luck.

I see that you are new to Audiogon. Perhaps if you sincerely ask questions, listen when people answer, and think about what they answer you may just learn something new.

You started this thread with the assumption that tracking distortion is somehow inherent in vinyl playback and cannot be avoided. You have two of the most knowledgeable setup guys around here telling you that your assumption is bullshit, but you insist that they are misguided, mis-informed or just plain wrong.

As soon as you told me pivot to spindle distance doesn't matter with cartridge alignment, especially tracking error distortion, I knew it was no use trying to discuss this with you.

Good luck to you!
Dan_ed beat me to it!
I was just about to write a similar response although I wasn't quite believing what I was reading.
Here was a guy (Feathed), who wrote a question about a perceived problem in his arm/cartridge set-up "Tracking error distortion audibility" yet continues to defend his set-up and argue illogically against any proposed suggestions to help him?
I have 2 different arms and cartridges and do not hear this distortion and I have heard at length 2 parallel tracking arms (the Air Tangent and the Rockport) and hear no differences to a well set-up pivoted arm.
I am at a total loss as to the intent of his post, but perhaps he was simply looking for an argument?
I am really hoping that Feathed just got mixed up a little and that he'll come back with a more open mind.
Feathed also made the same post on AudioAsylum, if you haven't seen it. Here is a quote from him:

"I just hope I get the alignment on the Alphason perfect to hear it at it's best. I suppose I should get my alignment template out and check for problems with my current setup. I hesitate though as my eyes are terrible compared to 10 years ago when I mounted the cartridge."

Looks like it's been 10 years since he's checked the cartridge setup.
With such knowledgeable folks as Raul and Thom attempting to carry the flag of reason, I'm a little hesitant to join the march. But I'll go ahead and step in line anyway.

Feathed stated "I on the other hand believe the presence of a slotted headshell is explicit approval to tweak." So I must ask, is there an industry standard for stylus tip location relative to the cartridge body mounting holes? Simply looking at the variety of body designs and cantilever lengths the answer must be no. Therefore, the slotted headshells (or slotted mounting base such as the SME) are intended to accommodate a variety of cartridges to be correctly mounted on a given arm/headshell. Fortunately, they also allow for minor adjustments if an arm is not mounted precisely.

I have been in this audio hobby for roughly 40 years and have included vinyl playback for the entire time. This is the first time I can recall anyone suggesting that overhang is arbitrary and can be set anyplace (i.e. at the end of the arm) at the user's discretion.
Hi Pryso,

The forward position of the stylus relative to the cartridge mounting holes is more of a statistical norm than an industry standard. Frank Schroeder has observed this norm to center around 9.25mm.

I know the ZYX (Airy-3 and Universe) come in at 9.00mm, and the Dynavectors vary, but in general fall into the 8.00 to 8.25mm region. I haven't compiled as large a database as Frank has, but don't doubt his 9.25 number.

SME's assumption is that you can compensate for these small differences in effective length by moving the arm for and aft in the track, to arrive at a workable combination of effective length (as dictated by your cartridge) and overhang/pivot-spindle.

In my early days at Galibier, I advocated this as well, using the articulated armboard to adjust pivot to spindle distance. To a certain extent, I trivialized the importance of offset angle as does SME.

While I now advocate the use of an arc protractor (certainly for precision in setting of effective length and overhang/pivot to spindle parameters), the importance of offset angle is still one that I would like to explore further.

In a conversation with Yip at MintLP, I posited that offset angle might be considerably less important than dialing in the effective length/overhang parameters (tracing the arc perfectly). Yip has been thinking the same thing.

Both of us however have been respecting all three parameters, and need to experiment with the effect of screwing this third one up (offset angle). Of course, with an arc protractor, it would be a simple matter of separating offset angle from the other two variables (e.g. tracing the arc) in order to observe the effects.

I'm thinking out loud here, but as I visualize the solution, a clockwise rotation of the cartridge (relative to that dictated by Baerwaald for example) would have the effect of shifting both your null points toward the record spindle. So, with a Baerwaald arc, you'd have an alignment that slightly favored the inner grooves as does Loefgren.

I need to both think this through as well as play with this a bit.

This concept of optimizing for the inner grooves at the expense of overall higher distortion in the majority of the record is an odd one to my way of thinking, yet I understand why the fellow who listens to large, romantic works with big climaxes might make this choice.

Back to our old friend, the SME ... Of course, there are two reasons for having a bit of play in the holes in the headshell holes - both of them relating to adjusting the offset angle: (a) due to an alternate effective length dictated by the fore/aft position of the stylus relative to the cartridge holes, and (b) to correct for "out of true" cantilevers resulting from normal production variances.

It's been too long since I owned an SME (an original Model V), but I don't recall much play in the cartridge holes in the headshell. I recall one poster commenting on this forum that he opened up the diameter if his holes a bit in order to play with offset angle.

Thom @ Galibier
Dear Pryso: +++++ " This is the first time I can recall anyone suggesting that overhang is arbitrary and can be set anyplace (i.e. at the end of the arm) at the user's discretion. " +++++

me either and the problem was/is that he never answer the " right " Dan question about the spindle to pivot distance. He say works with the DB protractor where you can't to measure any of those distances: effective length or spindle/pivot.

So everyone has to assume ( like you ) that the overhang and effective length were take it at " random " because there is no reference point taked about.

I think that maybe he has a misunderstood on the subject or needs an up-date but of course he can " drive " the road he choose it ( like it to us or not ) where he already has such " distortions " where only can have " great " sound around the lead out groove ( null pont ) due to its " odd " tonearm/cartridge set-up.

I'm with you, Halcro, Dan and Thom on the Feathed " argument ".

I always say that all of us ( in this forum ) have the opportunity to learn every single day from everyone: things are that we want it, a not always " easy " attitude.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Hi Thom:

Of course I realize the headshell slots allow for offset adjustments as well as overhang. To simplify the argument (which seems to have become complex enough on its own!), I was focusing only on the overhang as it relates to individual cartridge dimensions. This was to address Feathed's quote regarding the headshell slots. And having met Brooks Berdan I will look forward to your report back with his take on this discussion.

I've never used an SME arm but it is fairly obvious that their mounting slot accommodates overhang adjustments. I hadn't considered their use of headshell holes rather than slots as limiting offset adjustments -- good point.

But as Raul points out, these forums are an opportunity to learn. So whenever anyone posts information that runs contrary to science or common knowledge there is also the chance to misinform. That is unless they can produce new proofs to support their position.
Hi all,
I'm getting a bit late into the fray of it all. I have the SAME inner groove distortion issue, AND every recipe that's been kicked around was tried, and failed.
Set-up is bit easier in my case I guess, since I sport an almost brand new SME-V arm, Peer Windfeld cart that's well played-in ~ 1/2 year on an SME-10 tt, ML326S phono-boards with SUT! Pass 350.5, Burmester 961 Mk3. So, call it high resolution is why I go into it.

I can move over-hang on the fly, VTA pretty much so, Azimuth is fixed on the V, and it IS ok (checked by mirror method), VTF has been tried as has been, also on the fly anti-skate. -------- AND I still have inner groove distortion. Marvellous reproduction every where else but through the last ~ 25% on the inside. I do understand the respondent arguing if he like me has tried all of that USUALLY brought up set-up stuff. Tried it all, nothing works!

Einstein once said: To keep on doing the same thing over and over, and expect different results -- IS THE SIGN OF INSANITY!

So, In also recall very well that the analogue fundi of Image-HiFi Mag. Dirk Sommer has been moaning about those "dreaded inner groove distortions" again!
Hallo, there is a guy on the level with M. Fremmer saying this?! How so?

Now my good Audio friend tried to fix his inner groove distortion --- and got it fixed beautily! Now he has OUTER GROOVE DISTORTION! Whow, not my idea of a fix either.

Why do I mention this? HE CAN'T SEEM TO HEAR IT!?!
So I think, it also has to do with hearing, like e.g. sibilants, and of course the higher you system resolution the more you CAN (or aught to) hear it.

Lastly I have a notion (but can not prove it) that it is EXACTLY this issue that make folks go for 10.5" - 12" tonearms.
(I'm sure we do not need to explain the geometry differences here)


What you are describing is NOT normal and does NOT have to be accepted. New or used arm doesn't matter. If one can't set up a 9" arm correctly, one probably can't set up a 12" arm correctly either.

Sorry for your sonic pain. I've no doubt you hear exactly what you describe. I used to hear it too. I don't now, ever, and I agree with Dan_ed. Inner (or outer) groove distortion does not have to be accepted.

There's at least one thing you didn't mention and presumably haven't tried (because your tonearm won't let you?). You haven't done a really good alignment of your cantilever zenith angle. This requires a headshell with room for movement (ie, slots) and a truly good protractor.

Sliding an SME back and forth moves the null points, which is why you can shift the distortion from inside grooves to outsidge grooves, but it doesn't change the overall alignment scheme to one that eliminates distortion at both extremes. For that you need a top quality protractor designed to such a scheme and a tonearm that will let you use it.

Until you have the right tools, you'll continue to beat your head against this wall.

I just finished re-aligning my Air Tight PC1 in my SME V arm using the MINTLP TRACTOR. I learned much in the process. First, contrary to what I've read about the SME V, cartridge zenith is slightly adjustable. When I noticed through the 10x loupe that the cantilever was not parallel to the thick MINT lines I was able to rotate the cartridge about 3 degrees by loosening the mounting screws and turning the cartridge until it lined up with the markings on the MINT. Second, azimuth can also be slightly adjusted by tilting the arm base before tightening the set screws. Though more modern arm designs like the Graham Phantom and the Tri-Planar are much more easily adjusted, the SME V can be adjusted in all of these areas for what I have found to be near-perfect alignment.

The MINT arc-style protractor is an excellent tool for alignment. I'm not experienced enough to know if proper alignment will solve your tracking problem, but rest assured, your SME V can be properly adjusted for excellent alignment. I have found that after I adjust anything on my arm, I have to recheck the armtube distance to the spindle with that SME supplied plastic guide. Good Luck.
I have a 10" Continuum Copperhead and a 12" DaVinci Ref Grandezza mounted on my Raven AC-3 and I can hear no increased distortion on the Copperhead over the DaVinci on the same recordings.
I agree with Dan_ed that without correct alignment, the 12" arm will sound just as poorly as the shorter one without correct alignment.
Dear Axel: I owned and own several Ortofon cartridges ( MM/MC ), normally are very good trackers I can't remember any single problem with any of them like the one you are having.

From my experiences on it the V maybe is not the best match for your heavy weight and almost high compliance Windfeld. I never try it this cartridge but other than an out of specs in the cartridge suspension mechanism or a mis-match with the V I can't see where is the problem " culprit " because you already try almost every " rule " about.

You can try that cartridge with other tonearm and that V with other cartridge and see what happen.

Btw, I read somewhere that in your system that cartridges needs over 1Kohm on load impedance, IMHO and through my experiences with other Ortofon LOMC ones 100 Ohms is more than enough and if yours needs over 1 Kohms I think that there is some " trouble " elsewhere in the audio chain because it is not normal to load so high a cartridge with an internal impedance so low like the 4 Ohms in that cartridge.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Axelwahl, dear Feathed, you should check and read (for inspiration...) the thread about "oldskool tonearms...." from last month. During this thread the problem of tonearm geometry was discussed in length. Inner groove distortion is either a problem of:

a) miss-alignment/-adjustment of tonearm (any of its parameters)
b) miss-alignment/-adjustment of cartridge (any of its parameters)
c) worn or damaged stylus
d)...there is no d)

If you hear clear and precisely that the sound is significantly better at the 2 zero-error points, than your set-up is NOT optimal (in fact - far from it).

Please do re-check your whole tonearm-cartridge set-up (for the sake of your record collection....) with a good (Denessen or similar) tonearm alignment tool.
Dear Axelwahl, BTW - I know Dirk Sommer - and honestly, he is NOT into tonearm geometry at all (noone of the staff at Image-HiFi is really into tonearm geometry - they are all happy if they do NOT have to mess around with that ...). The tonearm/cartridge combination you are using can be - assumed that nothing is defect - adjusted to excellent and homogenous sonic results and no distortion at all.
Its a matter of skill, care and precision.