As a matter of fact you are in good company. Don't take this out of context, but in terms of what you're talking about both Michael Fremer and whoever is the lead designer at Origin Live (forget his name) have said precise alignment isn't the be-all its made out to be. Grain of salt, you will never get great imaging if its too far off. But as Fremer points out in at least one (if not all) of his alignment videos, no matter how you do it its only gonna be right at two points on a side. Rest of the time its off. Which means the rest of the time you've got tracking angle distortion. Which since a point is infinitesimally tiny means its always off. Just by varying amounts. Which if this is so important then how come nobody, ever, in the whole history of audiophiledom, ever said oooohwee I put a record on its just awful but then it gets better but then worse and worse it was getting so bad there I could hardly stand it but then it started getting better but oh no now its getting worse again? Which is exactly what happens every single side. Yet nobody ever said that. Its just one of those things audiophools obsess over.
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Surprisingly, perhaps to you, I will be the 3rd person to find some truth in what you say. But keep in mind also that as little as 2mm of error off perfect alignment (conforming to one of the standard algorithms) can result in NO null points on the playing surface of the LP, which is to say no points where the cantilever is tangent to the groove walls. The question in my mind is whether that matters. It is possible that tracking angle error, and the "distortion" it produces, are over-rated as causes of truly audible distortion in playback. Keep in mind that the algorithms for cartridge alignment by Lofgren and Baerwald were published originally in 1941. In 1941, we did not have stereo, we did not have LPs, we had 78 rpm lacquers played back on hand cranked phonographs using steel styli of indeterminant shape.
What started me thinking so heretically is my finding that UNDER-hung tonearms, like the Viv Float and the RS Labs RS-A1 sound so good. If the stylus underhangs the spindle (and with ZERO headshell offset angle), then you are certain to get one and only one null point on the surface of an LP, and you can line up your tonearm so as to place that null point at the mid-point of the playing surface. But you will ALWAYS achieve tangency at one point; there's no danger of no null points. The "negative" consequence of this is that the max tracking angle error of an underhung tonearm at the extremes (e.g., at the innermost and outermost grooves, if you align for a null point at the mid-point) is much greater than the worst case predicted scenario for PERFECT alignment with an overhung tonearm and an offset headshell. Yet, like I said, the few underhung tonearms sound excellent and I perceive no change in the SQ across the surface of an LP, something one can sometimes perceive with a conventional overhung tonearm. (In fact, my RS Labs tonearm can sound like a master tape.) This is despite the max tracking angle error of such tonearms. Another way in which underhung tonearms are interesting is that the direction of the skating force changes as the stylus crosses over the single null point. For that reason, there is no sense in using anti-skate devices. Further, there is no added skating force due to headshell offset angle, because the headshell is not offset.
Please don't jump on me; these are just thoughts I've had. Lately, I've done what some of you mention, just listen to cartridges in overhung tonearms without even bothering to do an "alignment". They typically sound shockingly excellent.
My disenchantment with the religion of very precise alignment took place quite by accident. I had my Ortofon MC2000 in a headshell that had been aligned for the tonearm on my Kenwood L07D turntable. The MC2000 did not work well in that system due to inadequate phono gain. (If you don't know already, the MC2000 is infamous for its tiny voltage output, 0.05mV at the standard velocity.) I had reluctantly decided to sell it, but I thought I ought to give it a try in my other system, just to prove to myself that the MC2000 was not in fact defective in any way, and out of curiosity as well. So I popped the headshell/cartridge onto a Dynavector DV505 tonearm in my other system, without any effort to re-align, and to my surprise, the MC2000 sounds stellar in that context. I subsequently did do an alignment on the Dynavector (using a Feickert protractor), and I heard zero major difference, let alone any improvement, as a result of my effort. And so on, to an FR64S tonearm without further re-alignment, in this same system. This is a scientifically worthless anecdote, in a sense, but there it is. I probably deserve criticism for even putting this story on line, but I cannot ignore what my ears tell me.
Is this actually a controversial point of view? I don't think I know anyone who thinks that ultra-precise overhang alignment isn't pretty much the least critical of all factors involved in getting one's vinyl set-up sounding as good as possible.I thought it was but I am glad to see it is not. I remember Mikey reviewing a Japanese made turntable a few years back and slamming it for not allowing his preferred method of alignment. I think we can agree that there is a lot of discussion about various methods to get alignment correct. Yes, we all know that among the various formulas there is no single right method but has it been accepted that deviating from each of the four or five popular formulas is again not that critical? There is much talk about stylus tip geometries and the necessity to get Zenith correct for micro-line and replicant stylus shapes among others and yet once again, Zenith will only be perfect at two null points.
I agree to the extent that I think (what some call) horizontal tracking alignment or angle (HTA) is not as important as some have made it seem. In the first place, with 2 points of tangency or one (as HW of VPI has often argued for) almost all the time there is no tangency. And as everyone knows there is no absolute agreement on how to set up HTA. I am often very amused therefore when the purchaser of a multi-hundred dollar (or pound) protractor device announces that the improvement blew him away.
IMO, with HTA somewhere within a reasonable range, other things are at least, perhaps more, important: azimuth and (depending upon the stylus shape) SRA.
I setup tables as a service and as a hobby. I still take time setting basic geometry...but my 'wow' moments in setup always come from chasing the right sra/vta.
It takes an open mind to talk about distortion not mattering in the way we would assume. Sort of like people assuming a simpler signal path is always better....
It takes an open mind to talk about distortion not mattering in the way we would assume. Sort of like people assuming a simpler signal path is always better....
The above is a perfect analogy. The first statement points out the oft-held assumption and the second confirms that people make this assumption.
Many of us think the way millercarbon does. It makes perfect sense on paper. I have been "disabused" of this notion. My ARC Ref 6 preamp has circuit boards and not PtP wiring and it has a BAT-like maze of capacitors and signal paths from input to output. It sounds amazing. And yes, it has a sound. A preamp on paper should not have a sound, right? (Sam Tellig evil laugh here). Well, not so fast. Those who love their passive or buffered attenuators say yes to that, those of us who have active preamps of the likes of my ARC say otherwise. The debate goes on. This whole concept of all distortion being bad is just another form of the same argument. I think audio enlightenment lies in embracing the reality that there is always distortion.
Dear @fsonicsmith : I can't argue against what you are " listening " in your home room/system.
I can comment some issues about your thread and other gentlemans posts:
""" I submit that any differences in distortion due to sub-optimum arcs and deviations from the two null points and where they are located (those peaks in distortion) are masked several times over by distortion imposed by my tubed gear..... """
Exist several reasons why in an audio system we can't be aware of distortion levels on cartridge/tonearm alignments.
First is that distortion levels is changing at each single LP groove and the difference in between two concecutives grooves is really tiny for any one but a bat could hear it.
Our ears/brain/body can discern on distortion levels when the difference in between those distortion levels is a little higher than tiny tiny differences. We as human beens have limits about of what we can detect and each one of us due to our age and over the time we all have less sensitivity about, the loss of audibility each day goes fall down.
Other reason is the room/system resolution level and its distortion levels where tubes has distortion levels and resolution truly inferior to solid state good designs: everything the same tubes is way inferior to solid state electronics from inside a price range.
You are full of tubes and agree with your statement where in other words you said can't be aware of the cartridge/alignment distortions levels due that your electronics/speakers high distortion levels: agree with you. The resolution levels in your room/systems impedes to be aware about.
By coincidence lewm owns electronics that has tubes. Btw, I owned the RSA-1 tonearm and never like it and sold.
Other reason is that to be truly aware or detect differences in any kind of room/system evaluations/comparisons we need to have a well proved full self test proccess where at least needs that " always " make the evaluations using the same tracks with different LPs and not even that but to have identified at each LP track the part or parts we use for different kind of evaluation/comparison characteristics. With out that proccess and self training on it we just do not know exactly where we are " seated ".
Other reason of what lewm posted is that we are accustomed to some quality listening levels and when we listen something different a priori we can say: wow !. But that wow is really a precise better quality sound?
Now, the orthodox cartridge/tonearm alignments what makes is to achieve " more or less " the distortion levels at minimum with and the underhung or what you experienced means almost nothing with out all those I pointed out.
One thing is what we like and other thing is to listen with distortion ( any kind ) room/system at minimum. Exist a measurable difference in between, many times what we like it is really wrong but who cares: that's what we like it.
I'm in the other side: to stay truer to the recording and what helps to stays nearer to that target is to put room/system distortions at minimum and the cartridge/tonearm traditional alignments is a true way to walk in that road not what you experienced about.
But that is only my target and opinion and for you the validity is only what you like and your experiences, at the end is you who live with and you are satisfied. Good.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Raul, my Beveridge system is mostly solid state. The Manley Steelhead is a hybrid. The Beveridge amplifiers contain active solid state crossovers and the amplification is entirely solid state. Only the output stage uses tubes, a necessity for direct drive of the panels which requires high rail voltages.All the observations I reported regarding cartridge alignment were made using this system.
Further, you, Raul, used to claim that exact alignment was over-rated. I know you've changed your tune, just as you changed your tune on MM vs MC cartridges. All of that is OK, but don't pretend to be perfectly consistent in your views.
For my part, I was asking for trouble with my post, because of the un-scientific nature of my report, NOT because I do or don't use tubes, and I hope not because I am not worthy, as you infer. This subject is not really a matter of opinion. The hypothesis that accurate alignment according to one of the popular algorithms is or is not vital to purest reproduction of music from vinyl can be tested. All we need is a test LP with a single pure test tone encoded over the entirety of one side, lets say 1000 Hz, a very high quality protractor, and a distortion analyzer. Maybe the test LP would have a mono signal on one side and a stereo signal on the other. I would be very interested to conduct this experiment. In fact, I would be willing to buy a distortion analyzer in order to do it (they are readily available on eBay and cost is nominal), but I don't know whether the required test LP exists. If anyone has info on that subject, please let us know.
I try to read your posts. For a man that has submitted almost 9,000 posts, almost all of them long, you surely have had ample time to learn and practice your English skills. You still write the way Yoda talks. Object-subject-verb. By now you should know that we who speak English place our verb before the object and not after. Your object, subject, verb way of speaking must surely be on purpose.
I am a 59 year old lawyer who writes and reads for a living. I don't have any more patience for trying to decipher your messages. Further, the content I can glean from your sentence structure is often rambling and fails to follow a linear path of logic. Most of us write in paragraphs even on the internet. Each paragraph contains sentences that build on the former sentence in a linear train of thought. Yoda talk notwithstanding, you write as if each sentence were a card from a poker deck and you threw them all up in the air and then picked them up randomly-what we in the States call 52 Card Pick-up. I apologize in advance for my ad-hominem remarks but until you try half as hard to communicate as you do to argue, I will ignore your responses.
Dear @fsonicsmith : You can ignore what you want it that's your privilege but your thread says you are wrong no maters what.
The fact that you can't be aware ( for whatever reasons. ) of the real and true differences in an accurated cartridge/tonearm alignment against one at random speaks for it self and can't say in any way you are rigth.
I respect what you like it and respect you as a human been but at analog/audio/MUSIC levels you are way wrong. Period.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
Yeah, I know it was a bit unkind to bring this up but if Raul is going to post, Yoda-talk aside, make a point in linear fashion and stop throwing darts at four different walls leaving it up to us to draw the lines (lots of metaphors there). Yes, Raul is obviously very knowledgeable. That just makes it more frustrating. If he knew nothing, I would not waste my time responding to him or trying to read his posts.
Raul, your by-line is "enjoy the Music Not Distortions". So I will make my point again since you seem to ignore it. You can work on reducing distortion but you can not eliminate it. You can work on maximizing the relatively benign distortions (odd order) and minimizing the more harmful even order distortion (and yes, there are many other types of distortion including the type we are discussing), but you CAN NOT eliminate distortion Raul! Your listening room adds distortion. Do you use headphones? Well the transducers add distortion. I don't give a rat's pa-toot if you use solid state or tubed electronics, you are adding distortion. Digital gear-distortion! Better tubed gear has less harmful/unwanted even order distortion than solid state but tubes bring their own set of problems/shortcomings so you gotta pick your poison, no amp is perfect or even close. And Raul, there is distortion recorded into the master tape from the microphones, the recording booth, the recording electronics, and more. And Raul, you're listening to a facsimile of the real thing-the minute you make a recording of anything real and try to play it back, you are working on creating a very rough illusion of reality. In real life, we don't hear in Stereo or multichannel. Human ears/brains hear real sound differently than recorded and reproduced sound.
And the conclusion to be drawn as I set forth in my OP is that overhang-arc induced vinyl playback distortion is minimal in comparison to so many others. Let me draw this analogy since I have to go on a dreaded cruise in May that I don't really want to go on-dwelling on perfect cartridge alignment is like scraping barnacles off a cruise ship hoping it will sail faster as a result. I am in favor of getting as close as you can. Doesn't hurt. But like I said, VTA, SRA, VTF, azimuth, and quality of the drive and tonearm are more important.
The odd thing is that Raul's native language is Spanish, or I assume it to be. In Spanish and other Romance languages, the verb usually does not come last in a sentence. Truth be told, I usually understand Raul, but I did not understand all the nuances of his latest diatribe against me, as noted above. I just tried to get the gist of it.
What Raul was saying is:
I (LewM) cannot hear the differences afforded by exact proper alignment, because:
(1) I use "tubes". (Note that he is essentially incorrect regarding my Beveridge system.)
(2) Raul once owned an underhung tonearm (the RS Labs RS-A1). He didn't like it.
(2) I am not a trained listener, as he is. None of us is trained, but Raul is trained. He trained himself.
(3) We should enjoy the "music", even though we are not worthy.
So, I ask Raul or anyone else to produce data to support his underlying assumption that proper alignment according to one of the three standard algorithms (Lofgren, Baerwald, Stevenson) produces less or lower audio signal distortion over the course of playing a typical LP than would be the case if the alignment did not conform to any of those standards. Here we have to be careful, because, as I noted, it is fairly easy to misalign the cartridge to such a degree that there are no/zero null points achieved across the entire surface of an LP. Whereas, there are probably un-documented alignments that do result in 2 null points. So, we have to decide on what alignments to compare. I have done an internet search to find out whether there is a published paper on this subject, from the AES, for example, and I don't find any. Baerwald's alignment was published in 1941!!! What one would do is to measure THD at the output of a phono stage vs time (t) from the start of play to the run-out grooves, using a test LP that encodes a single pure tone. Then plot THD vs t for two or more alignments. If alignment is critical, then THD should be minimal at the exact moment when the cantilever is tangent to the groove, etc. The time-based data could be converted to THD vs distance from outermost groove to innermost groove.
The funny thing is, I had the serendipitous experience that leads me to question the need for precise alignment using Baerwald, Lofgren, or Stevenson, only about 2 weeks ago. And it was unexpected. But I'd like to know "the truth", or a better approximation of it.
Great post. I believe that there have been some scholarly articles published in Stereophile on the subject. The popular alignments do a fairly good job of minimizing average distortion over the course of the side depending upon multiple factors; primarily inner groove circumference and whether crescendos toward the end of the side-if you are a classical music fan-should be optimized.
I totally buy into the notion that having two null points and having them strategically placed apart from each other with the lowest possible distortion in between and beyond them is preferable in an abstract world. My OP was to discuss relativity of this topic in a real-world audio system.
I think we all knee jerk into conflating distortion with noise or some other objectionable sound. In reality, distortion is only the difference between the input and the output of a device. A parametric equalizer, which virtually every mastering engineer uses, technically distorts the sound, but in a way that the engineer believes will make it more pleasing to the ear, not less. So when a cartridge is not optimally aligned, while I agree there may be more distortion over the arc, it may well be preferable to the listener, unless it causes mistracking, which I would think everyone would find objectionable. Most turntable manufacturers and recognized experts, for whatever that's worth, seem to say that the sound will be better with as close-to-perfect alignment as possible. Once you get to a certain level in this hobby, "better" becomes very subjective. Even if distortion is measurably higher in a given component, one may prefer the sound to another better-measuring component.
Actually, Spanish has considerable fluidity w.r.t. Subject Verb and Object.
Just about any combination of SVO is possible, depending on which part of the utterance you're putting the emphasis on. Not too much room for ambiguity, given common sense construal of the sentence and particularly if a "personal a" is involved, indicating which is the Object.
fsonic et al, What is measured is the tracking angle error, the degree to which the cantilever deviates from tangency. All the plots I have ever seen plot distance from outer groove to inner groove as a function of the angle by which the cantilever is not tangent. Thus you see a horizontal line representing the x-axis, labeled "0", to indicate zero tracking angle error. Then you have on the y-axis positive numbers above the x-axis and negative numbers below the x-axis, to indicate that the tracking angle error can go either positive or negative with respect to its vector direction. Then we audiophiles conflate these data with audio signal distortion. But I have never seen any experimental proof that the two are linearly correlated. In the modern era, there is no one who would bother to do that, because we live in the era of BS rules. In the era from the 50s through most of the 70s, there were reputable audio companies and publications that might have conducted such work. Shure, for example, published beautiful treatises on cartridge design and performance, in those days. Early Stereophile did some nice stuff, and so did Audio Magazine. Then there is/was the Audio Engineering Society.
Certainly, it makes sense to maintain tangency as much as possible. I don't dispute that that is an attractive idea.
I've mounted cartridges with alignment done via different tools over the years: dbSystems, WallyTractor, Feickert, UNI-Protractor (best I've used.) One goal is to get the stylus tip on the null-point(s), another goal is get the cantilever properly aligned with the 'engine'. For moving coil, that could be coil(s) on the end of the cantilever aligned with internal magnet(s). Granted all thus presumes a well made cartridge.
Doing this I played records and listened. Sometimes I'll put the 'table back on my bench and check the alignment. Sometimes I find I can do a better job aligning the cantilever. Invariably when I do that and listen again I experience better sound. The degree of difference may not be huge but I find it is audible and worth the second alignment.
Null point(s) alignment can change with tracking weight, with VTA adjustment, and with cartridge break-in. I usually check alignment after, say, 300 hrs of initial use and when adjustment is required I find sometimes sound improves.
If tracking error was so very important to our listening pleasure; why with all the technical knowledge and manufacturing prowess we now have; are we not all owning linear tracking tonearms on all of our turntables? I would say that there must be far more important factors at play that would lead one to the logical conclusion that the tracking error must not be that critical of a factor in our enjoyment of spinning our records. But that's just my opinion.
I've recently put a London Decca Maroon (mono) on the end of an Naim Aro, an arm designed around this very premise, which has no provision to adjust overhang having holes rather than slots. The arm board I have was made when I was using a DV17D3, the Maroon put's its stylus 2 to 2.5mm further past the spindle than the DV did so that is my overhang error. After optimising VTA and VTF as best I can by ear I can still hear the music sounds different (and preferable) half way across the disc compared to the beginning so I put the numbers into Vinyl Engine's tracking error calculator assuming 20mm overhang against the recommended 18mm and found the cartridge doesn't actulally cross a null point, but it's not far off half way through the side, the error at the first groove however was ~3 times greater than a correctly aligner cartridge would have. I don't find it unlistenable but I noticed it before I ever checked the alignment with the Feickert, it's enough to make me use up my spare armboard blank to correct it. This system is middling Naim (stageline N/282/Hicap/250) with a pair of Thiel CS1.6.
Dear @testpilot : Certainly you need the rigth tool to make the cartridge/tonearm alignment, no questions about.
What you don't need is to spend all that kind of money you posted to do it. You can buy from MINT LP a dedicated protractor for around 100.00 that's really accurated.
The issue in this thread is that as @lewm pointed out the OP posted something that's a wrong opinion ( I respect his opinion but that's all. ) because I think he does not understand why Mr. Löfgren created the tonearm/alignments calculations. In the other side the OP can't be aware because he said does not listen improvements, it's clear that he do not know what to look for with and with out Löfgren alignments calculations set up.
What the OP was doing is to " live "/return to 1937 year when Löfgren not developed yet his calculations about that he did it in 1938.
So if the OP is happy living in 1937 no problem about, he is satisfied with but do it your self a favor and make the rigth thing with the tonearm/cartridge alignment. Don't let at random as the OP.
Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
This thread is a collection of anecdotal subjective impressions.Then your reading comprehension is suspect. I explained in my OP how setting up cartridge alignment using the Mint Protractor on a VPI Classic and Prime resulted in lackluster sound. Do you need laboratory proof that I indeed used the Mint Protractor and used it correctly? On the one hand I may be posting anonymously and I may have no credibility to defend but how do you know that any measurement from say, John Atkinson, is valid and correct? And how many meaningful measurements are there that explain how a turntable/tonearm/cartridge sounds? To say "this thread is a collection of anecdotal subjective impressions" is like saying "zoos are full of captive animals". Yes, but what is your point?
Dear @fsonicsmith : Using orthodox tonearm/cartridge alignment set ups every time the tonearm effective length change it changes too the off-set angle and P2S distance.
You said you changed at random your tonearm/cartridge efective length with out other changes but: " VTF, VTA, SRA, and azimuth. " and I understand that you can’t detected differences in the SQ and " defy " any one to pick out the differences.
Well, I did it (As I said several times I almost always make tests on a different opinion of mine to attest if I’m totally wrong or if I can achieve a better SQ with what other gentlemans explain. ) and compare it against Löfgren A orthodox alignment and in my system exist differences in between the four alignments where the common characteristics of the 3 at random overhang is a tonal unbalance where in the forward overhang high frequencies are more prominently and we can think better than the hf in the Löfgren alignment but after a few minutes we can aware that it’s only with more brigthness due to higher resonances/distortions. We have to remember that with cartridge at headshell forward position we are changing too the inertia moment ( effective mass and the tonearm cartridge resonance frequency value. ).. The back ward position is almost " unlistenable " in comparison and in both extremes the bass range is a little bloated in comparison with the Löfgren. There are other things that are more subttle in differences.
I did those tests using my self developed process that includes almost always the same parts on each same LPs tracks and I did it with that process because is the way I know what to look for on each of them The process is full tested in my system and other system and almost bullet proof.
As always I did it at near field seated position and at normal position too.
As you I re-set the other parameters but the off-set andgle and P2S.
Again I’m not questioning what you listened in your system and for me is very hard to think that we can’t detect SQ differences changing tonearm/cartridge effective length at random with out touch the other orthodx related parameters and that’s why I made those tests and confirm that at least Löfgren A alignment makes in my system a better " job ". So, I will stay with the orthodox kind of alignments.
Raul, Before now, I thought your favored alignment geometry is Baerwald. And isn't Baerwald equivalent to Lofgren B, not A? Surprised to read here that you strive for A.
I think one reason this topic is controversial relates to a point that Raul made earlier: the tracking angle error and therefore any audio signal distortion created by TAE, is changing every second, as the stylus traverses the playing surface, while we listen to music. It may be very difficult for the brain to detect the audio distortions, because at any one moment in time, the distortion being generated by an erroneous alignment may be no worse than the distortion momentarily created by any one of the standard alignments, at a different distance from the spindle on the same LP. This could pertain even if, on average, we are best off with one of the standard alignments (assuming here Lofgren or Baerwald, since Raul hates Stevenson as much as he hates tubes). This business is not as simple as detecting and eliminating a distortion that is a constant.
Dear @lewm : """ This business is not as simple as detecting and eliminating a distortion that is a constant. """
Agree, everywhere every time, we just can’t avoid distortions in a home room/audio system.
That does or could not means that because the audio systems are " full " of distortions we don’t try to fix or put at minimum those distortions we can detected and that we have the knowledge to lower its levels even if we can’t detected as the OP where exist the tools to do it as is the cartridge/tonearm alignment that certainly is better to do it in the orthodox universal alignments that just leave it at random.
@uberwaltz : """ Sounds almost like a good case for the linear tracking arm ..."""
exist no single audio items that are perfect in audio and certainly LT tonearms are not, do you think that if the LT is the rigth way to go the AHEE where we all belongs did not choosed it instead the pivoted designs?. Everything has its own trade offs even that the users of it stay satisfied with.
You already read my posts in your thread and I don’t want that those " devoted " gentlemans come here to make again a " big deal " about with subjective explanation but no facts comparisons.
Exist a dedicated thread for the ET LT tonearm why always that gentleman did/do a big deal when I or other audiophiles post some of the LT trade-offs? Makes no sense. Of course that every one is free to post anything in any thread.
Dear @stringreen : Yes, everything is important and certainly azimuth is a critical alignment to SQ. Not very easy for me to rank the importance of each single issue relative importance. To complicated to do that in an " universal " way because depends of each one audio experiences and knowledge levels about.