The Gift of the Stone

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The Gift of the Stone

Postby mandym » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:08 pm

If I were to name the single most valuable lesson I learned from my affair with the Koetsu Coralstone, it is that azimuth plays a major role in audio reproduction.

A stylus that is out of kilter with the recorded grooves will naturally generate spurious artifacts that can only interfere with the quality of the playback. The Koetsu convincingly demonstrated that the deterioration caused by misalignment is significant and harsh. "Spot-on" azimuth of the stylus is fundamental!

Unfortunately, most audiophiles (me included) operate their cartridges well below their capabilities because very little effort is spent to align the azimuth. If the VTA lives in the realm of soundstaging and neutrality, the azimuth lords over image focus, solidity and spatial definition!

We all have had our bouts with channel imbalance, the "solution" being simply to touch up the balance control and leave it at that. That is most probably the wrong way. The image might be centered but the soundstage might be lopsided and trapezoidal, the sibilants may appear to come other than the vocalists mouth, images ill-defined, etc.

I have learned to put up with these anomalies by blaming the room, the amps (down to the very tubes and capacitors), speaker placement, even my own ears when I have a slight cold! The Coralstone showed me where the problems lay. Get the azimuth right and the problems disappear.

In appreciation for the Gift, I put together a simple procedure. Following it may take your cartridge to new heights!

How to experience the Gift of the Stone

1. Use a good "mono" record, set the preamp to "mono". Precisely center the image through the balance control. Set the preamp back to "stereo".
2. From the exact center of your listening position, locate the "virtual" center of the image. If it is biased toward the left, tilt the cartridge toward the right (clockwise) and vice versa. Adjust in tiny increments so as not to overcompensate. The image has to be dead center, no compromises!
3. Validate results:
a. Illusion of depth even on a "mono" recording.
b. Holographic imaging.
c. As the head is slowly shifted away from center, there is a smooth transition of the coherent
image. Abrupt changes in the coherence of the image means the azimuth is off.
4. Put on a "stereo" record and prepare to be pleasantly rewarded!

Some issues:
1. As usual, the degree of improvement is system dependent ( a conical stylus is probably more tolerant of azimuth errors).
2. Some recordings have off-center vocalists. Do not attempt to correct this error by adjusting the azimuth.
3. Most tonearms have no provision for precise azimuth adjustment. Only coarse adjustments are possible. This is done by twisting the headshell or using shims.
4. Perfect alignment is perhaps too difficult to achieve because of interactions between VTA, VTF, Azimuth and tracking error.

The above is based solely on my personal experience. Please feel free to voice your comments, suggest other ideas/interpretations about the "azimuth phenomenon". Anything at all to advance our Art.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby TheAnalogSource » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:29 pm

i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures. im too lazy to do it so i rely on the one-eye-plus-mirror technique. but there are cases when center imbalance is caused by other gears as well as the room dissymmetry. just recently, in one session the center imbalance was caused by the phono tube not properly plugged in.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby Jon Agner » Wed Mar 24, 2010 5:37 pm

True, since the stylus of the koetsu is quite slim (quadrahedron), minute differences in its azimuth will have an effect on its performance.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby jadis » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:26 pm

Very well thought out and well written as well, Mang Mandy. Very provocative insights too and I have learned a lot from reading them. You are absolutely correct in that we tend to blame lots of things when we hear some anomalies on our system. A lot of things. And mainly we do not know which is the culprit. That is the biggest problem. Your idea of isolating things, and changing one setting is the best way. Though hard and time consuming, it may be the only way to identify an anomaly, and this takes a lot of patience.

And the value of a good 'test record'. You mentioned that "Some recordings have off-center vocalists. Do not attempt to correct this error by adjusting the azimuth." Spot on. And this is just ONE of the many parameters that needs proper attention and testing.

You know your tonearm very well as you built it with all adjustment parameters in mind. That is another important thing, with regards to tonearms. Many friends have asked me why I still use my old ET2 linear air bearing arm when there are various tonearms around the market. In a word, it's 'adjustabilty'. Azimuth adjustment, for one, is very easy with this arm. Twist and lock. VTA adjustment, on the fly, even while playing. Overhang is also a slide and lock thing. And these adjustments, when played through my reference LPs, do bring out the best in our system and indeed play a major and significant role in home audio reproduction.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby jadis » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:31 pm

TAS wrote:i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures. im too lazy to do it so i rely on the one-eye-plus-mirror technique. but there are cases when center imbalance is caused by other gears as well as the room dissymmetry. just recently, in one session the center imbalance was caused by the phono tube not properly plugged in.


I have heard from a few very experienced analog tweakers that to maintain proper azimuth, one needs an oscilloscope, and maybe even a cartridge analyzer, like the one made by Audio Technica. But in the real world, how practical is that? By second choice, the tuning by ear method is the next best method. And in my experience, once you get these things right, it's going to give you the feeling of analog heaven for a long long time.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby JackD201 » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:40 pm

Hee hee hee. Bingo Tito Mandy!

The Koetsus have short stubby and stiff cantilevers by today's standards. The low compliance does not do as well with Unipivots (even mine which has magnetic damping) as they do with more traditional arms. That was what I was alluding to when I said I'm waiting for another arm to become available. :)

I've heard Koetsus sound best with SMEs and best of the best with the Triplanar VIIs. I'd love to see how you were able to give gimbal like sturdiness with your new arm :rock:
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby jadis » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:42 pm

JackD201 wrote:
I've heard Koetsus sound best with SMEs and best of the best with the Triplanar VIIs. I'd love to see how you were able to give gimbal like sturdiness with your new arm :rock:


And also, may we request for a picture of 'THE ARM'. :)
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby mandym » Wed Mar 24, 2010 6:54 pm

TAS wrote:i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures. im too lazy to do it so i rely on the one-eye-plus-mirror technique. but there are cases when center imbalance is caused by other gears as well as the room dissymmetry. just recently, in one session the center imbalance was caused by the phono tube not properly plugged in.


Sorry TAS, I recognize that loose/bad connections do happen and cause all sorts of symptoms. I was talking about problems inherent to cartridge misuse (misalignment).
The Koetsu taught me to use my ears critically. I do not trust my visual acuity to resolve 1 or 2 degrees tilt on an object less than 1/2 mm long. At any rate, the end result is judged by ear, not by eye.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby mandym » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:05 am

jadis wrote:
JackD201 wrote:
I've heard Koetsus sound best with SMEs and best of the best with the Triplanar VIIs. I'd love to see how you were able to give gimbal like sturdiness with your new arm :rock:


And also, may we request for a picture of 'THE ARM'. :)


Hi Jack, my arm is about as sturdy as one of those toy dogs with a nodding head :D :D. I do not know exactly why unipivots work but work they do. Maybe it is because the teeter-totter resonant frequency is well outside the audible spectrum (my arm has a resonance of maybe 2 Hz)? I am glad we don't have too many earthquakes :) ! I'd be very interested to hear about your findings on your anticipated arm.

Jadis, I'll post the picture soon.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby jadis » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:41 am

mandym wrote:
jadis wrote:
JackD201 wrote:
I've heard Koetsus sound best with SMEs and best of the best with the Triplanar VIIs. I'd love to see how you were able to give gimbal like sturdiness with your new arm :rock:


And also, may we request for a picture of 'THE ARM'. :)


Hi Jack, my arm is about as sturdy as one of those toy dogs with a nodding head :D :D. I do not know exactly why unipivots work but work they do. Maybe it is because the teeter-totter resonant frequency is well outside the audible spectrum (my arm has a resonance of maybe 2 Hz)? I am glad we don't have too many earthquakes :) ! I'd be very interested to hear about your findings on your anticipated arm.

Jadis, I'll post the picture soon.


Looking forward to it, MM.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby dante » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:26 am

mandym wrote:2. Some recordings have off-center vocalists. Do not attempt to correct this error by adjusting the azimuth.


Hi Mandy, may I know if you can recommend some test mono LPs where the vocalists are placed at dead center?
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby TheAnalogSource » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:48 am

jadis wrote:
TAS wrote:i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures. im too lazy to do it so i rely on the one-eye-plus-mirror technique. but there are cases when center imbalance is caused by other gears as well as the room dissymmetry. just recently, in one session the center imbalance was caused by the phono tube not properly plugged in.


I have heard from a few very experienced analog tweakers that to maintain proper azimuth, one needs an oscilloscope, and maybe even a cartridge analyzer, like the one made by Audio Technica. But in the real world, how practical is that? By second choice, the tuning by ear method is the next best method. And in my experience, once you get these things right, it's going to give you the feeling of analog heaven for a long long time.


phil, my point is actually strengthen with your mention of gadgets to test azimuth. its not about practicality but more of exactness. imho, turntable setup is both a combination of exact physics and art. there are factors that should be to exact specifications with no compromise...to mention some - speed and azimuth. there are others that is more of preferences such as vta, vtf.

to further illustrate... speed should by 33.3 period. azimuth should be dead perpendicular period. best to know that these specs are all right is none other by micromeasurements like tachometer for speed and voltmeter for azimuth. whether your choice of by ear or my choice of by sight...the margin of error may or may not be allowable depending on many factors such as system, our natural defects, room, lp, etc thus can only be said to be approximating but not exact.
sure its not practical as even with speed i tuned by ear most of the time as am too lazy to bring out the tachometer so am not saying that it cant be done manually as i usually hit it right within +/- 0.1 rpm error upon retest... but just to stress a point...if you want it dead perfect, you have to do it with an instrument.

now, this comparing with vta, vtf which although a cartridge comes with a manufacturer specs... adjustment is actually an art and for me separates the men from the boys. you can always follow manu specs to be safe but musical bliss is achieved with playing around and mastering this setting. to give an example, even arthur salvatore mentioned that the better or is it his preferred vtf for xv1s is at 2.7g way above the specs of 2.2g. michael fremer points out that arm should be parallel but cartridge setup preferences here and elsewhere shows tails either both up and down. it is at this time that i surmise that their preference is brought about by listening to changes brought about by changes in settings.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby TheAnalogSource » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:58 am

mandym wrote:
TAS wrote:i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures. im too lazy to do it so i rely on the one-eye-plus-mirror technique. but there are cases when center imbalance is caused by other gears as well as the room dissymmetry. just recently, in one session the center imbalance was caused by the phono tube not properly plugged in.


Sorry TAS, I recognize that loose/bad connections do happen and cause all sorts of symptoms. I was talking about problems inherent to cartridge misuse (misalignment).
The Koetsu taught me to use my ears critically. I do not trust my visual acuity to resolve 1 or 2 degrees tilt on an object less than 1/2 mm long. At any rate, the end result is judged by ear, not by eye.


as pointed out in previous post sir, ears is all ok.... but what im saying that in order to do it well...all the other factors should be well in placed. and to add ...a system that is revealing else minute discrepancies may not be noticed in a more forgiving system.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby JackD201 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:55 am

@ Mandy - Tito Mandy I'm betting your bespoke arm has fairly high effective mass and a wide taper close to the pivot point. I would also venture to guess that your counterweight assembly is slung lower than the arm tube. Tama ba? :D


@ Tas

Theoretically TAS, you are correct. Sounds straight from a textbook or at least a Fremer DVD.

In practical terms I question heavily all this micro millimeter exactness. Why? You would have to assume that not only is the rack and table level to the same micro mm standards but that the record itself is perfectly flat throughout the entire playing area. Even supposing that the test record is perfectly flat, it does not mean that every single record in the collection is. So you may be "slap yourself on the back satisfied" after all the extreme geekification performed on the test LP but when you start playing you collection, you're back in an operating range and not an exact setting, a range that could be had by just using your ears.

Let's face it. In LP analog there currently is no such thing as exact. Even VTF changes with changes in VTA and VTA changes constantly with the minutest warps of even the most NM or M grade LP. The same is true for speed and alignment. No exact period. You may be 33.333333 midway but near the end what the carts see is faster. Alignment? Last I checked there were 6 arcs to choose from and the number is growing.

Arthur Salvatore and your namesake HP are swell guys with a wealth of experience but some of their assertions like tracking an XV-1s heavy makes me wince. There's no black magic when it comes to VTA and VTF. All that is needed is an understanding of how they affect each other sonically. Knowing art is different from making art though. The major difference between a critic and an artist. This is also what gives rise to one of the world's most famous sayings...."a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". What really separates the mens from the boys is patience, steady hands and good ears for the minutest of changes. Traits shared by the likes of MT, Doc Lito, MSM and Eric Lim. What puts them at master level for me is that they can get the sound I ask for and not what they like only because at this stage of tuning their focus is on execution and not mechanics. The mechanics have become second nature so aren't even in the thought process for these guys.

Back to Salvatore and Pearson. The electronic sonic analogs of the two common parameters are compressors for VTF and a fixed Q parametric EQ for VTA. At 2.35 grams the XV-1s begins to compress very audibly. At AS' 2.7 distresss is audible and at HP's 2.85 the sound is thick in the midband and instruments like a wire brush on a snare sounds like sand paper, the cantilever flex is also so extreme at these weights it is no wonder that the manufacturer actually published warnings NOT to do what these two recommend. I know you said all this in a context of preferences but it just makes me wonder what the preferences of these two really are. One thing for sure, they certainly don't match my own. Being a studio brat in my past, I hate compression be it signal or thermal and favor only the most judicious use of EQ.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby TheAnalogSource » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:34 pm

JackD201 wrote:In practical terms I question heavily all this micro millimeter exactness. Why? You would have to assume that not only is the rack and table level to the same micro mm standards but that the record itself is perfectly flat throughout the entire playing area. Even supposing that the test record is perfectly flat, it does not mean that every single record in the collection is. So you may be "slap yourself on the back satisfied" after all the extreme geekification performed on the test LP but when you start playing you collection, you're back in an operating range and not an exact setting, a range that could be had by just using your ears.

Let's face it. In LP analog there currently is no such thing as exact. Even VTF changes with changes in VTA and VTA changes constantly with the minutest warps of even the most NM or M grade LP. The same is true for speed and alignment. No exact period. You may be 33.333333 midway but near the end what the carts see is faster. Alignment? Last I checked there were 6 arcs to choose from and the number is growing.


i thought the thread is about setting the correct azimuth and the way i read correct means perfect. so i pointed out that to perfectly measure it is the use of measuring instruments. however... be it by ear or by eye, there is a degree of acceptability or significant value in engineering terms which in real life is either practical and/or acceptable for the purpose. I even pointed out that i use the eye-mirror method for azimuth adjustment and have never used the voltmeter system even if tools are available readily and test procedure is not that hard as i find the eye-mirror method good enough.

please dont get me wrong as my first post in the thread is actually to remind posters and readers that listening for center position singer has other factors aside from azimuth orientation. so it is not about being geeky, or textbook correct, etc.

while we are at it...you have pointed out other factors such as warp, groove location affecting the speed...and so does it affect the azimuth when playing not to mention arm design. so i think for purpose of discussion.. we should also discuss now when, how, and where azimuth should be adjusted....statically, dynamic... start, mid, or end of record. as my experience in a unipivot arm when you set it singer centered in one part of the record..it may appear somewhere else on other part of the record. on worst case...there is even banking of the cartridge.

JackD201 wrote: There's no black magic when it comes to VTA and VTF. All that is needed is an understanding of how they affect each other sonically. Knowing art is different from making art though. The major difference between a critic and an artist. This is also what gives rise to one of the world's most famous sayings...."a little knowledge is a dangerous thing". What really separates the mens from the boys is patience, steady hands and good ears for the minutest of changes. Traits shared by the likes of MT, Doc Lito, MSM and Eric Lim. What puts them at master level for me is that they can get the sound I ask for and not what they like only because at this stage of tuning their focus is on execution and not mechanics. The mechanics have become second nature so aren't even in the thought process for these guys.


exactly my point that vta, vtf are beyond exact physics and more of art (lets include the entire turntable setup process) with much admiration to the masters mentioned. last time i checked, there were no mentioned of adjustments and/or correlation of vta, vtf to the final outcome of sound in turntable instruction manuals. so i believed there is art in these adjustment techniques which are discovered and developed by the masters while perfecting their craft summing up the little knowledges and experiences they acquire over time or something like that. to arrived at a certain sonic preference, i would assume that each masters may not have the same procedure but in the end has probably the same result. i concur that turntable setup is more than mechanics but i have to reiterate that there is art in it. to correlate to singing... you may hit the right note every time (mechanical) but to sing with grace is another thing (art).

as with salvatore, pearson, and fremer...they do not even agree with themselves. so what they write or say may not be the absolute truth. it was an example pointing that vta, vtf setup are not absolute or mechanical nor exact.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby JackD201 » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:32 pm

TAS wrote:i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures. i'm too lazy to do it so i rely on the one-eye-plus-mirror technique. but there are cases when center imbalance is caused by other gears as well as the room dissymmetry. just recently, in one session the center imbalance was caused by the phono tube not properly plugged in.


That's a bold statement with the IMHO unattached Nols. Like I said text book theory, fine. You know engineering though and I know you know it well. Engineering is about real world applications.

My view is that there is no such thing as perfect and the use of oscilloloscopes in fact punctuates the point. It will only be "perfect" for that narrow length of that one LP under test and under the test parameters selected. So in my mind.....what the heck for? To me it's not a matter of being lazy, it's an exercise in futility. It is the azimuth equivalent of getting up and changing your VTA and VTF every time you go from a 150 to a 180 then a 200g. 150 to 200 maybe... but every time? Just seems ludicrous to me unless the person willing to do this is a sonics junkie more than he is a music lover.

To me that makes the OPs thread all the more interesting. It is a practical, well thought out method that anyone can do satisfactorily that is applicable to even simple systems and more importantly allows use of azimuth in ways to ameliorate acoustic and electrical channel imbalances albeit to a limited degree in good but not necessarily extreme performance systems . Best yet, it is simple and useful for anyone be they users of simple or hyper performance systems.

Oh by the way, Azimuth set using a dynamic reference especially with uni-pivots is my favored method.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby mandym » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:49 pm

JackD201 wrote:@ Mandy - Tito Mandy I'm betting your bespoke arm has fairly high effective mass and a wide taper close to the pivot point. I would also venture to guess that your counterweight assembly is slung lower than the arm tube. Tama ba? :D


Right Mr. Holmes (Sherlock, not John!).
The counterweight is slung much lower than the arm. The arm is fairly high effective mass because I use the Centroid Shifter (formerly called Sweet Spot Shifter) on it.

On Harry Pearson, all I can say is I dropped my subscription to the Absolute Sound because of him.

TAS, if you align the azimuth by eye as best you can yet the symptoms of misaligned azimuth remain, what do you do? Do you go back and re-eyeball or do put your total trust on your eyes, let it go and just put the blame other factors? Sorry TAS but I just find it incongruous for an audio connoisseur to overrule what he hears by what he sees. I sincerely hope that I just misinterpreted your message.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby jadis » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:44 pm

Just touching on the subject on VTA as was mentioned above, I would just like to share a few more insights which demonstrate the usabilty and adjustabilty of VTAs on tonearms. Below is the VTA adjustment lever on my ET2 arm, that is backed by a circular scale with numbers. These numbers do not correspond to any degrees but merely are points in scale to see how low (or high) the VTA is while listening to a particular LP. My own subjective marker for 180g LPs, for example is at the 12 o'clock mark, or +1 in the ET2 scale and when I view the level of the base of my cartridge, it appears to be parallel to the surface of the record. The good thing here is, depending on whether I like the sound of that +1 setting or not, I then can adjust it downward to 0 ( or any in between 'bars' as shown in the 2nd picture. I believe the ET2 is the only arm I've seen that actually allows such adjustment even while the record is playing without the need to screw in a bolt to tighten the VTA shaft.

Azimuth adjustment is altogether another thing. And the adjustments can be so small I cannot imagine any bars on a scale to be help here. But then again, the setting of azimuth, via listening tests, can happen only once, which is when you get it right, unlike the VTA wherein adjustments (higher or lower) needs to be made more frequently since the thickness of LPs varies.


Image

Image

An analog hobbyist friend of mine from Novaliches who was the first owner of this Forsell TT and air bearing arm, and one of the most ardent tweakers I've seen, took the same approach when he installed a Mitutoyo micrometer/caliper and somehow hooked it to VTA shaft of his tonearm so that as he moves the VTA lower of higher, he will have a sense of where is the 'best setting' for a particular thickness of record he plays, ie. 180g or 120g, etc. Without a scale, one can have the best sounding setting say, for 180g, then adjusts it to the level where 120g sounds best, but he will not know again how many turns to make or how high to get back to the desired 180g setting. To me, this is what VTA adjustment, or adjustability is all about.

Image

Image
Last edited by jadis on Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby jadis » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:57 pm

TAS wrote:to give an example, even arthur salvatore mentioned that the better or is it his preferred vtf for xv1s is at 2.7g way above the specs of 2.2g.


I personally would not try to go beyond the manufacturer's maximum recommended VTF for any cartridge. While it may sound better (which again is subjective and many vary as ancilliary components changes), I believe the manufacturer knows his design better in setting the max VTF level, and instantly my concern is that stress done to the cantilever with excessive force, and faster groove wear (of records) may happen as well.
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Re: The Gift of the Stone

Postby TheAnalogSource » Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:47 pm

JackD201 wrote:
TAS wrote:i think as compare to vta, vtf fine adjustment which is best done by listening imho, perfect azimuth orientation should be done electrically with a test lp and a voltage meter as indicated in some test procedures


That's a bold statement with the IMHO unattached Nols. Like I said text book theory, fine.


sorry wrong placement of word...the imho is in reference that vta and vtf adjustments, although with manufacturer specs, is best fine tuned by listening.

in contrast...it may be bold and theoretical but the premise of perfect azimuth orientation is balance signal of the two channels. on second thought...made me realized that the word perfect is too much for the voltmeter way as you point out the oscilloscope hehe. but again, i point out the eye-mirror method gives me a more than good enough range which although not point perfect is acceptable to me just the same as your center singer method.

JackD201 wrote:Oh by the way, Azimuth set using a dynamic reference especially with uni-pivots is my favored method.


my choice as well... but it is in here it will show that the singer cannot be dead center all the time thus your setup should give a acceptable range of leaning on both sides. here i am now talking of my short listening experiences as i havent encountered one with a dead center singer all through out the record.

mandym wrote:TAS, if you align the azimuth by eye as best you can yet the symptoms of misaligned azimuth remain, what do you do? Do you go back and re-eyeball or do put your total trust on your eyes, let it go and just put the blame other factors? Sorry TAS but I just find it incongruous for an audio connoisseur to overrule what he hears by what he sees. I sincerely hope that I just misinterpreted your message.


i have heard this problem in a few unipivot set ups (mine included) thus my enthusiasm in joining this thread. it is but natural that after all the settings done, if you hear that the singer is off centered...the initial suspect is azimuth misalignment. however, i have pointed out that you have to check other factors of off-center other than azimuth. the reason also of asking how you check the azimuth...within a specific track only or the entire lp...as the singer leans side to side as the cart travels through the records. for me, azimuth orientation is changing so it should not be that the singer is dead center but more of should be on an allowable range of leaning which might be misconstrue as misaligned azimuth orientation. of course, this discussion is different if we are talking of linear trackers and to some extent gymbals.

how i do it...yes by eye. first static with eye-mirror technique. then observe azimuth/banking of cart at different point of the record while playing. after all adjustment is done to maintain almost perpendicular azimuth all the way.... i listen and range of leaning is acceptable most often.

please also look into the situation where example in that experience where the off-centered is cause by the phono tube not plug in properly even if the azimuth is all right... what if you do not confirm by sight that the azimuth is ok and proceed with adjustment to center the singer by adjusting azimuth...then you'll end up with a misaligned azimuth and a centered singer. of course that's absurd but its a case.
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