Turntable Setup by Ear?

Has anyone setup a turntable using only their ears and not a protractor or any tools?
88e01d28 0eb9 4170 809a af5910f1b124thegoldenear
I did back in the 70's and 80's, with much less expensive gear.

Nowadays I always use a protractor and Digital scale, though I still setup VTA by ear.
The best set-up is the one removing as many variables as possible. Using a protractor and digital scale will leave VTA as the variable. That is more reliable and faster than guess work.

Digital scale (reliable enough for our purposes) from DealExtreme are less than $20. Protractors are free from vinylengine.com.
The best set-up is the one removing as many variables as possible.
+1. Well said.

Considering the many variables that are involved in optimizing setup of a cartridge (overhang, offset, VTF, VTA/SRA, azimuth, anti-skating, resistive loading, capacitive loading), doing it all by ear will inevitably result in a bunch of non-optimal settings that at best may be **somewhat** complementary.

IMO. Regards,
-- Al
I set up an Ariston rd11e with a Grace707mk2, and ADC Xlm 3(then a Koetsu Rosewood) by ear(I was a broke student, and it was in the early Linn LP 12 years.). Yes, you can hear what everything does(including the springs). In fact, I would suggest that until you know what everything does, it's a bit of guess-work to an extent. I did use objective parameters as a guiding light, though. You should use objective parameters(level, gauges, etc.)to start with, and, now, I don't like to have too many variables. I tried the same with an Oracle Delphi 11, and I just couldn't really hear what the springs did(and the bounce was never correct[I've seen on youtube the same table with a perfect bounce.]). Later, I did just okay(the armboard was never really even with the top plate-and it was me, not the armboard.)with an Ariston rd110, sumiko arm, and many cartridges. I think you set it up objectively(scales, etc.), then extremely slightly change something in one direction, then back in the other(slowly), until you start to hear what those adjustments do. Then you will know where to put it. I'd also suggest you don't worry about, if changing one thing affects another thing(it complicates the thinking too much.). It doesn't hurt to be reading about these things during the same time(I had a lot of time back then.) If you start to get confused, you are on the wrong track, and need to go back to where it was simple.
Use the tools for initial set up and fine tune by ear.
What tools? Eye and ear for me.
What tools? Eye and ear for me

That's like finding a black cat in a dark room. It can be done but it easier with the lights on.
so far i have had better success after a day of doing it by ear than 2 years using tools, maybe i know how to follow directions which leads me to another question. Does any not use a felt mat or cork or any other material on their platter? Vinyl on glass????
So, you adjust over hang and off set by just moving you cartridge around and disregard the manufactures recommendations? If so, why not start with their recommendations and make changes by ear after that?
my comment above should have been "maybe i dont know how to follow directions" :) I have a template for my rb300 and im using the denon dl110, I have to look at the recommendations. im just at my wits end with this LOL
03-20-15: Thegoldenear
so far i have had better success after a day of doing it by ear than 2 years using tools,

Well, maybe you really do have "The Golden Ear", or maybe, you just have the wrong tools, and/or don't know how to use the tools.
Why do things the hard way? A good protractor and small level will make nailing your cartridge setup much faster and eliminate guesswork. More tools are useful but not absolutely necessary.

In the old days when I used to tune up my own cars I used an ignition timing light and a spark plug gap tool. Was I doing it wrong, or maybe missed enjoying the experience to it's full potential?

What works best for you works best.
ok so i went back to using a protractor and spending some time making sure the alignment is within the lines printed on the template were just so. there seems to be a major improvement with using both my ear for fine tuning and the protractor to getting me where i want to be, but the inner grooves on some recordings still give me terrible "S" pronunciation, im not sure how to tone that down. or zero in on eliminating it, what can i do for that issue?
Inner groove distortion is a not uncommon problem, which can have many causes. Two questions:

1)Is tracking force set too low? If you are not already doing so, set it at or near the upper limit of the range recommended by the cartridge manufacturer.

2)I couldn't find a manual for the RB301, but I note that the manual for the RB300, which I presume is somewhat similar, indicates that anti-skating should be set to be numerically equal to the tracking force. That seems to be a common recommendation among various tonearms and turntables, but it is completely ridiculous IMO/IME, and the experience of many others.

While the stylus is in the groove of a ROTATING record take a look at the cartridge from the front. If you have set anti-skating per those instructions in the manual you will probably see that the cantilever is deflected significantly to the left (toward the center of the record), relative to the approximately straight-ahead position it assumes when lifted off of the record. If that is what you see, reduce anti-skating until the cantilever has no perceivable deflection to the left or right, relative to its position when the stylus is lifted off of the record. Based on my experience with other arms, that will probably occur with anti-skating set to be numerically equal about 50% to 60% of the tracking force.

The technique I use to accomplish that as accurately as possible is to adjust anti-skating until deflection just begins to be perceivable in each direction, and to then set it to the mid-point between those two values. I then verify that no perceivable left or right deflection occurs when the stylus is at a number of different points on the rotating record.

Hope that helps. Regards,
-- Al
@Al, thank you very much yes i have played around with the anti skate and i knwo what you mean when the cantilever "sways" towards and away from the center of the record. I will play around with this more this evening and report back :) thank you for the advice..

I wasn't expecting comments about not using tools. But honestly, I don't even think about it and it doesn't take long and maybe it is because I am doing this a long time but it is no hassle!
Adjustments done by ear are one thing and OK for an individual, but you can't always catch everything. I do a pretty fair number of setups both for people who purchase analog gear from me and for those who simply find out about the service I provide. The tools I use don't come cheap, and there's a learning curve associated with each, yet they deliver repeatable, reliable results for customers each and every time.

I've encountered some defective cartridges and successfully documented their flaws, saving customers a lot of grief and aggravation, not to mention money. The latest such incident involved a cartridge new out of the box with 6 dB of channel imbalance, which despite costing several thousand dollars went unchecked by both manufacturer and dealer. The dealer, distributor, and manufacturer are completely embarrassed, as well they should be, and the customer is livid and on the verge of demanding a refund in lieu of a replacement cartridge which is now going on two months of waiting. I'd love to name the manufacturer and parties involved but I don't want to get sued.

Folks, when you spend your hard earned money on a cartridge, you deserve so much more than being handed a box. Demand better. Spend your money wisely.