In my experience Clearaudio cartridges have always been right on the money. I have owned and examined 4 of them. One of them was the one that lost it's diamond which was covered under warranty. The one Soundsmith I have is right on the money. The AT VM75ML that I put on the Sota when I sold it was not so good. It's SRA was about 89 degrees. I had to lift the back of the arm up quite a bit to compensate. Azimuth and zenith were fine. The Grado Statement that I used for years also had the SRA off by 2 degrees as well as the azimuth being off a degree or so requiring me to tilt the cartridge a bit.
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Good question. Back in the day I must have returned at least 10 new cartridges because of cantilever stylus defects. My sense is that in general things are much better now but still examining every cartridge when it comes out of the box is a good idea. I know Elusive Disc will replace any cartridge that is remotely off. One degree of SRA error is not big deal and easy to correct for but I will not tolerate any azimuth or twist, excuse me, zenith error. I have not seen any for a while. I think the Grado was the last and I did not return that one for some reason I can't recall.
The Transfiguration in the above article should never have made it out of the factory.
A "new" parameter is discussed which they are calling "zenith." I have always called it "twist" ...It’s not a new term at all. Zenith = Horizontal Tracking Angle. It's an often overlooked alignment factor and one reason I prefer mirrored alignment gauges that allow aligning the actual cantilever.
Perhaps this will lead to cartridge manufactures providing a certification documentation of quality control including pictures, physical and electronic measurements.
As as an alternative, if I was buying a $5-10k plus cartridge, I would insist that it be sent to someone like WMW for an independent assessment.
@testpilot , from the article it seems to be what they had in mind, a Wally certification process for high end cartridges. It would push the price higher but for many people this would be reassuring I suppose. I have been looking at styli for a while now and can not imagine having trouble getting a warranty replacement. When a Clearaudio cartridge lost it's stylus I just sent in a USB micrograph of a perfectly straight cantilever sans stylus and I was immediately sent a new cartridge along with a return label for the broken one. I had a new cartridge in 3 days.
A usb microscope is not that expensive and is handily the best way to set SRA. The biggest problem is making a stand that will hold the microscope in the right position to watch the action. You can not hand hold one, way too shaky.
@cleeds, the definition I learned for zenith is the point in the sky directly over your head. I have no idea how that relates to horizontal tracking angle. Lateral tracking angle would probably be a better term but "twist"
is short and sweet even if nobody knows what I am talking about. It was the article that called the parameter "new." I was just paraphrasing. I have never seen a significantly twisted stylus bit that Transfiguration in the article is pitiful. I personally avoid cottage manufacturers and prefer sticking with the big guys even if I am missing some excellent cartridges.
It seems to be that most Cartridges when set on a Headshell and Tonearm are not optimised, as the Cartridge is aligned using a visual of a Alignment Tool and a visual of a underside of a Cartridge Body.
It also appears that when a Stylus is set at a incorrect SRA position,
as well as, set in a Rotated Position on a Cantilever.
The common used Cartridge Setting Up procedures are compromised.
With the evidence being presented and the methods for correction being made available, that are quite costly.
It seems to me to be that there are Cartridges more commonly being offered for purchase, that will require a unusual geometry to be put in place.
The Tonearm and Head Shell will potentially be set up with not so commonly seen geometry to overcome the production shortcomings of the Cartridge.
There are Multiple Cartridge Purchasers, who use their Cartridges regularly, at which could be calculated as a ball park from
$00.50 to $4.00 per Album Played.
Using Cartridges not set up in a optimised condition, even though for many are thoroughly enjoyed, as I do with my own Cartridge.
As an alternative view, using a Cartridge that is not optimised as a set up, can quite easily be seen to equate to a expensive outlay for a inferior service.
A Cartridge that is supplied that has a assembled parts that allow for a traditional setting up to achieve a almost optimised set up would be the ideal.
As many Cantilevers and Stylus are supplied as a Pre Assembled Part.
It does seem that there will be 'Tolerance Allowances' for the
This is the usual commonly used Business Model for many Corporate Businesses. .
If a Stylus is requiring Zenith Correction and is to be rotated by adjusting the Cartridge.
In a worse case, it can't be corrected, because the Cartridge when mounted on a common type Head Shell can't be rotated sufficiently to correct the Zenith, then this will be a Assembly of Stylus / Cantilever that should not be welcomed and accepted as a part to be used by a Cartridge Producer.
In the Case of Head Shell Mounting, the Ideal would be a Cartridge that requires the minimum rotation, if any.
Same again for the Stylus Rake Angle - SRA
If the Pre Assembled Stylus / Cantilever Assembly has a requirement to adjust a Tonearm Wand way beyond the common angle of 180 degrees to correct the VTA, then the SRA supplied should not be welcomed and accepted as a part to be used by the Cartridge Producer.
A Cartridge Producer would do their customers better, if they challenged their suppliers and demanded a improved set of tolerances
for Setting a Stylus on a Cantilever from their supplier.
This will ensure a customer can use their Tonearm set up close to its ideal geometry.
If a Cartridge Producer is Setting a Stylus in a Cantilever,
the Customer should expect a very tight tolerance for the Stylus setting,
as they would be most happy knowing their Tonearm's are set as close to the ideal geometry for usage, and the Cartridge when set in the Headshell will seat in a very close to optimised position.
... the definition I learned for zenith is the point in the sky directly over your head. I have no idea how that relates to horizontal tracking angle. Lateral tracking angle would probably be a better term but "twist"is short and sweet even if nobody knows what I am talking about ...I agree with you about the traditional definition of "zenith" and that's why I don't care for use of the term as applied to phono cartridges - it's unnecessarily confusing. The traditional literature (SME, Van den Hul) refers to what you call "twist" as "Horizontal Tracking Angle."
The Terminology is not off importance, the need to investigate and carry out the additional alignments are the practices that have importance.
The World of Vinyl replay is governed by Multiple Disciplines that need to be adhered to, with the intent to achieve the best performance / presentation that can be acquired.
Working backwards with a Vinyl System from the mounting of the fully assembled system > mechanical and electrical interfaces > to the basics of the Geometry used for the Tonearm > Head Shell > Cartridge Assembly.
Taking into account the Products commonly used in the above System, there does not seem to be blatant failings being discovered by Producers that are akin to a very poorly aligned Stylus > Cantilever Assembly as offered by the Cartridge Part Suppliers and Producers of Cartridges.
It seems from my research that in multiple cases when a Conventional Tonearm Design is set up with a Wand at 180 Degrees the Cartridge Manufacturer has been allowed to get away with their failings, and have been able to repeatedly offer a product that will not offer a almost ideal configuration for a Alignment of a Stylus Set on a Cantilever.
This failing from the Cartridge producer is now leaving doubt with the Cartridge End User and further measures that are being incorporated to achieve a basic geometry, with such ancillaries as,
i.e, Microscopes, Computers and Measuring Software.
It does not feel correct that such expensive products that typically cost
$500 - $4000 are to be subject to the requiring expensive ancillary support to overcoming what are basic assembly defects.
The use of such additional ancillary measures would be best justified if used to ensure a already near optimised set up through a conventional set up, was fine tuned with a Technology to offer a assured final set up with the data produced to confirm.
As said before I feel most Cartridge Users like myself have a user enjoyment satisfaction with a Cartridge set up in the conventional manner.
A careful use of conventional protractors for alignment and maybe a Test Record has sufficed.
The Cartridge Industry owes the End User of their Products a much more prioritised approach to how they align a Stylus on a Cantilever.
This failing to offer a consistent Geometry for a Stylus set on a Cantilever is the Antithesis of the 'Zenith',
and would be better referred to as the 'Nadir'
@pindac, absolutely, but please don't get in a conversation with rauliruegas, the two of you will drive us crazy:-)))
If we get critical enough with our microscopes and such the deluge of returned cartridges will keep the manufacturers honest. In my recent experience the major manufacturers do quite well, Ortofon, Clearaudio, and Soundsmith for certain. It is the cottage manufacturers who can't afford to waste a lot of stylus assemblies Like the now defunct Transfiguration that would worry me the most.
The Terminology is not off importance, the need to investigate and carry out the additional alignments are the practices that have importance.Actually the terminology matters very much, as it does in any pursuit. Only by mutual agreement of what terms mean are we able to then discuss the topic.
It seems from my research that in multiple cases when a Conventional Tonearm Design is set up with a Wand at 180 Degrees the Cartridge Manufacturer has been allowed to get away with their failings, and have been able to repeatedly offer a product that will not offer a almost ideal configuration for a Alignment of a Stylus Set on a Cantilever.Your wand is at 180 degrees to what? It isn't clear what you're talking about, what research you've done, or what "failings" you've found.
It does not feel correct that such expensive products that typically cost $500 - $4000 are to be subject to the requiring expensive ancillary support to overcoming what are basic assembly defects.Precise tools tend to be expensive and they're what's often needed if you want precise results. If you're willing to settle for less than that you can use less expensive tools. Many people do just that with their phono cartridge setups and they're perfectly happy.
The use of such additional ancillary measures would be best justified if used to ensure a already near optimised set up through a conventional set up ...Are you saying that a phono cartridge should be aligned twice - first with cheap tools, then with more precise tools?
As said before I feel most Cartridge Users like myself have a user enjoyment satisfaction with a Cartridge set up in the conventional manner.But you just claimed that phono carrtidges "repeatedly offer a product that will not offer a almost ideal configuration." So which is it?
Frankly I am a bit surprised that the three main players manufacturing cantilever/stylus assemblies even bother to do so anymore. This is a small market. But yes the manufacturer must grade the parts. Doesn't mean those slightly off need get trashed. Just that the top carts need the perfect ones. Seems obvious no?
Just to make this terminology a bit more complex, I was once informed that the azimuth adjustment on a triplanar tonearm is flawed, because as you alter azimuth you are also altering zenith. So, I thought about how the triplanar azimuth adjustment works as I tried to understand “zenith”. TheTriplanar allows you to twist the arm tube back at the pivot point. With that information, I thought of an analogy with a light plane landing on a airstrip. If you watch airplanes, you can see that when they get caught by a gust of wind the tail section can sometimes lean to the left or right and down, with respect to the direction of the plane. That seems like what would happen to the stylus when adjusting azimuth with the triplanar tonearm, because of headshell offset angle. So I thought that was zenith, with respect to a phonograph cartridge. It’s an aircraft analogy I think. Pilots talk about “zenith”.
@lewm, that is called "crabbing." The airplane is flying on a vector to counter the wind. They actually crab at altitude also, whenever there is a cross wind. My brother is a pilot. In his Cessna you can feel it in the seat of your pants just like when you kick the a-s of your 911 out:-) Zenith is straight up and the stylus is twisted on that axis like a plane crabbing. Twisted on it's zenith? Whatever.
The Schroder CB adjusts azimuth the same way. I like Soundsmith's solution. You have 3 stiff rubber logs that fit into slots in top of the cartridge. You can compress one side more than the other changing azimuth maybe a couple of degrees. I have not tried it yet as I still do not have a turntable. I'll report on it when I do.
@cleeds, You have to give pindac the benefit of the doubt. There is a language barrier as with rauliruegas. He means well.