VPI JMW setup

I finally decided to get a "big boy" tonearm and retire the Rega, I ended up choosing a JMW9 mem for my HW-19 and am extremly pleased with my decision. Unlike with the rega, I can get about 90% "there" with the jmw in about an hour. Its that last little bit of detail I can't eek out of the jmw that I'm inquiring about. I'm using a grado reference platinum with a 2.5 gram headshell weight like vpi recommends, with harmonic tech crystal silver phono cables and a krell kpe standard. Does anyone have any observations or tricks they could share to save me some time with setup.


The most helpful thing I did to my VPI arm was to adjust it with a Mint protractor. The VPI metal protractor is ok and gets you to the neighborhood, but the Mint takes you into the house. There is a definite sound improvement with the MINT. I protested on these pages, but was urged by others to get it, and now I'm urging others in the purchase.
I already own about 7 protractors including the vpi, I'll bite, whats the difference?
Yep, what Stringreen said...the Mint brought out stuff in my Scout/JMW9 that I had never heard before...all good.
How about the Azmuth? I too have a HW-19. It had a Rega RB300 and with it's mods I loved it. Then just like you I bought a JMW-9 and this has been an improvement as well. I find that getting the Azmuth right really helps the soundstage. That and careful set up.

VPI says to put a light weight stick or straw in the groove of the headshell and measure to see that it's level. I have a very small very light bubble level and I just put that on the headshell. It's amazing how when it looks visually level that it's not.

The sound definitely improves when you get it level. This is something you can't adjust on the Rega.

By the way, I went crazy earlier this week and removed the motor from the standard base mount and affixed it directly to the plinth -- a la the new Classic. Then I put the plinth directly on the base without the pucks (or springs).

I think this made a HUGE improvement in the sound. I spoke with Harry at VPI about it and he was excited to discuss it and encouraged me to keep going in this direction. He now thinks that this is the way to go.
Creativepart, what did you use as your spindle to pivot distance? I started at 223mm and moved in to 222mm and noticed an inprovement. additionally I had noticed a wobble or a lateral bounce from side to side as the cartridge tracked. I added weight via stainless cartridge weights that are a part of my Souther sl-3 setup and set vtf back to where it was before and noticed the wobble disappeared, the image stabilized and overal tracking was improved. Where can I find info on this mint protractor?
HOLY CRAP, $110 for a protactor. It's really worth it, eh?
The actual stp distance is 222.8. So, you're fine either way. 222 is the accepted distance. There is a guy KWILIS on the Vinyl Asylum that creates really nice protractors for $50. He just did one for me and it's great.

As for the wobble, That sounds like a LP pressed off center not a cart problem. I've never noticed this.

Do you have an accurate VTF gauge? And, is it calibrated. I use one of those digitals that you get on A'gon for $50 but are sold at Music Direct for $130 and it works great. But it got out of calibration and I didn't realize it. I kept having cart problems and finally I double checked the VTF and found the problem. Easily fixed.

I shoot for my tonearm to be pretty much level when setting VTA, but some carts will want the tail up and some others will want the tail down. But I'm not a big believer in this needing obsessive attention.

Getting my azimuth more or less set has made the biggest improvement in my sound.
Creativepart, what cart do you use and what is the recommended vtf? I obsessively adjusted the azimuth after my last alignment and it is a major difference being dead on. I think stinggreen is preaching the truth as well. The VPI tractor is good, but not precise enough to hit the bulls eye. I think I may find myself looking more closely at the mint tractor as alternative to the VPI.
$110 for the mintLP protractor is a lot of money, but not so much when you consider the gear you are working with. I'm certainly no analog expert, but the mintLP was the first protractor I've used that didn't leave me wondering whether I really got it right. And the improvement I heard confirmed it.

Now, if Yip could come up with something for azimuth, I'd really be in heaven. I still haven't come up with a way to really dial it in. I guess WallyTools would work, but it's hard to get in touch with that guy.

correct me if this is the wrong way to do this, but I simply removed a vial from a cheap level, placed it on the machined groove for azimuth alignment, and centered the vial on the cartridge. voila!
The "true" best way is to set it electronically. There is a computer program and you can dynamically adjust it. Or you use voltage meters to minimize cross-talk. But the way you've done it is the way that I do it and makes both sense and good sounds to me.

The computer program costs a couple of hundred dollars and you need an outboard A/D convertor (sound card, etc) to get the info into the computer. It's a new thing.

Wally sold a device for this that was meters etc. But you can't get Wally to deliver anything unless you work for Stereophile magazine.

I don't have VPIs protractor. I have three that I printed out plus Ken's protractor that I mentioned earlier and I feel with these I'm getting it set just so.
Oh, what cart do I use. I have a couple that I use and interchange between them. I have a 1980's Audio Technica AT155LC MM cart which is fantastic and a Denon 103D MC cartridge that I love as well.

I've ordered an Ortofon 2M Black MM cart which should be here next week or so.

The AT cart's VTF is 1.0 to 1.25 grams and the Denon's is 1.5 to 1.7 grams.
The Adjust Pro + works really well for azimuth if you have a arm with a headshell that can rotate.

On a unipivot arm like my VPI 10.5i, it is a bit difficult as you have to use the counterweight and is very touchy. And you can not place the level on the headshell and take measurements as the arm rests on the arm rest and won't give correct reading that can be reproduced.
This is how I adjust for azimuth with my VPI 10.5i. I use the rod method, however, it is difficult to see accurately if the rod is truly horizontal....so..... I use a Cardas wood block (looks kind of like a domino). I took 2 of the blocks, and added a metal washer on top of each one. I put one under each end of the rod that is resting on the tonearm headshell...with the cartridge cued down on a record. If you position the 2 blocks under those ends, and if you made the blocks/washer, be just high enough to barely touch the rod ends, or slightly lower, it is very easy to square up the arm.
I've also noticed that the jmw9 mem is much less resistant to hum than my old rega, and really needs to have a good ground. I am using a pair of harmonic tech silver crystal phono cables as well as having made a ground strap for the bottom of my hw19 plith. the difference when disconnecting either the ground wire for the cables or the plinth is very noticable.
I think the point of Adjust is to reveal the shortcoming of the visual method.

Having the cartridge at a 90 degree angle visually does not guarantee correct azimuth...
I found the JMW9 hum problem to be best solved with good SHIELDED cables from the junction box to the phonostage. I do still need a ground wire from the junction box ground screw lug to the phonostage and I also tie that junction box ground wire into the ground wire that exits out the bottom of the tonearm shaft.