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Cartridge alignment - the Mint LP Best Tractor

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ServerBaboon View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ServerBaboon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jan 2010 at 5:41pm
Spooky.. I am expecting my Mint protractor in the next week or so, he even sent me a couple of photos showing the protractor with my name on (not Serverbaboon) and the various bits of the package before it was posted.
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Chivas View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chivas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Jan 2010 at 5:52pm
I don't think you will be dissapointed ServerBaboon. It's very precise, I don't think you can get closer than that, without using a parallel tracking arm. The instructions are also very clear, so you shouldn't have any problems. It totally eliminates the parallax error made with conventional methods.
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tg View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Jan 2010 at 9:52pm

Good stuff Chivas, glad you finally got a setup that you are happy with.

Sort of nice having the personalised touch of your name on it isn't it.

I do think the main factor in its success is in concentrating on aligning the cantilever rather than using the cartridge body and assuming the cantilever to be parallel to the body.

That said, particularly with a more radically profiled stylus tip (say FGS or similar), you are still at the mercy of the cartridge manufacturer getting the tip squarely across the cantilever.

Whatever, be good to hear your results too SB.

If you really want to wring the last bit of performance from your records, try giving them a good wash (does not matter if they are new - it still helps) and applying LAST record preservative.  Even brand new pressings benefit from this two stage treatment.

Recent impressions suggest the improvement to be cleaner (duhh), richer, fuller and smoother sound, with greater ambience and presence and a lovely definition to softer, more background parts, eg the spoken parts on DSOTM.

viva la musica

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drewan77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 5:24pm

I have recently used the Mint protractor and Mr Yip asked me to write up my installation experience which I repeat below. I thought that after using accurately printed paper protractors for years I would see little improvement but as I believe others have also found, this tool takes accuracy to a new whole level. It is quite easily heard too..... just as well as that is the whole purpose !

As is often the way with me, this post is lengthy and rambling Embarrassed – feel free to use it as an alternative to counting sleep or just look at the pictures…..

Before ordering, spindle to pivot measurements were taken. The record clamp is the same height as the top of the Audiomods pivot point. Both have accurate centre markings. The scale ruler was ‘Blu-Taked’ in place, behind at both ends and didn’t move when these shots were taken. The ruler markings had also been checked with an accurate vernier beforehand. 221.5mm spindle-pivot and the Groovetracer spindle diameter were confirmed with Mr Yip before manufacture of the Mint



After manufacture, the Mint protractor was despatched when promised and received within 8 days from Hong Kong. I had a free afternoon to install it, with a good idea what I was doing because I have used Conrad Hoffman & other printed arc protractors previously and knew how to go about setting the overhang etc, having done this many times over the years. The cartridge I am aligning below is an Audio Technica AT150ANV

 

After carefully placing the glass protractor onto the spindle, I found that when I first positioned the stylus exactly centre of the arc line at the outer extreme of the Mint, when moved to the inner, almost touching the spindle, it was about 1mm back from the line. Even though I had adjusted my printer to 4 decimal places and checked the print with a scale rule, the printed arc I previously used was clearly still quite a way off being correct for this arm (it had been printed for the correct 221.5mm pivot-spindle)

 

For anyone still interested, I will detail the process used below:


1) There was good lighting from several directions + above and I used the supplied Yip 3x magnifier together with a 20x loupe for hitting the protractor line very precisely in the middle. It is also worth thoroughly brushing the stylus/cantilever first to remove all dust because at x20 magnification the diamond itself is very clear and every strand of fluff is visible. Before I start, I will repeat that you should aim to hit the arc and null point lines exactly centre so use the largest magnification you can. These are extremely fine lines and the resulting accuracy is only as good as the warmware, not the hardware

 

On receipt, the package had been carefully wrapped and protected the delicate glass protractor very well. Quality of manufacture appears to be to a very high standard. The box also contained the illuminated 3x magnifier. In the picture below, the Mint is also still inside its protective sleeve


2) The anti-skate counterweight was raised onto a small pot to ensure that as the arm tracked the platter, the nylon cord remained slack so there was zero bias. I also placed a blob of Blu-Tac (visible on the platter in the picture) onto the rear of the main counterweight to achieve the reduced tracking force as recommended by Yip. Audiomods arms use a small threaded lower stub counterweight and turning this this was sufficient to re-set tracking force after using the Mint and after removal of the temporary Blu-Tac. This avoids moving the main weight at any point during the process


3) Sliding the Mint onto the Groovetracer spindle was extremely ’snug' but a perfect fit. I put three soft wedges under the TT platter to stop movement and checked with 2 bubble levels as below. The one on the protractor confirmed it was completely level at all places on the arc, likewise for the small one on the headshell, You can see both bubbles are exactly in the centre. I used the Audiomods arm micrometer to equalise arm height for this second bubble. A feature I have found very useful and does make an audible difference to playback between the extremes of vinyl thickness


4) Next I used the ‘standard’ procedure to achieve overhang, adjusting the cartridge over the arc nearest the spindle and the protractor at the outer edge until hitting dead centre on the arc line at both points - quite easy using the 20x magnifier shown below, the small screwdriver and very steady hands. Mr Yip also mentions using ‘the force’ for the tiniest adjustments but I didn’t need my light sabre on this occasion! Once overhang was set, I taped the Mint carefully to the platter and re-checked at both the extreme inner and outer points on the arc to make sure the stylus tip was still centred on the line. It was


5) Finally, offset angle was set against the cantilever itself using mirrored parallax lines. This is a clever feature of the Mint Protractor and achieves extreme accuracy. Firstly I used the 20x magnifier viewing from the front to check I was exactly on the centre line, then the 3x magnifier as shown below to check parallax, twisting the headshell slightly left until spot-on. After that I re checked both the extreme inner and outer points on the arc once more to confirm the stylus was still centred at all points. A tiny adjustment and then another check against parallax. Repeated until perfect (or men in white coats came to take me away…..)

(My iPhone camera could not show a shot through either magnifier but in both cases the image is very large - especially via 20x. For parallax you need to view further back to view the whole cantilever and 3x is perfect for that. It also helps that the 150ANV cantilever is white)


6) After gently removing the protractor from the platter (the only nerve-wracking part of the process, very gentle twisting and lifting eventually freed it) & the counterweight Blu-Tac I then used digital scales to re adjust tracking force, finally removing the small pot under the anti-skate weight and the 3 platter wedges

 

….In all, less than 2 hours and actually quite easy




The result:

Vinyl playback already sounded excellent and I had resigned myself to just one or two LP tracks where there was very slight mistracking on one channel in a couple of places (but never inner groove so I put it down to previous damage). I expected a little improvement but nothing dramatic. What I never expected was the easily audible step-up in image clarity and tracking after using the Mint. I played the worst two albums I own and there is no longer any mistracking whatsoever. This was very unexpected ! I was quite cynical that I would hear a difference in overall playback after aligning with the Mint but like everyone else seems to find, this tool achieves exactly what it sets out to do and the improvements were very apparent

 

I think my vinyl upgrade journey is now complete (until the ‘gold’ GSP MM phono stage that is….)


Footnote:

Now it just so happens that my other Rega (Planar 3) TT has the same unmodified arm geometry as the Audiomods, an RB303, originally from the RP6 above and also aligned at 221.5mm spindle-pivot. The Mint also fits tightly onto the spindle so I repeated this process with my other TT and Ortofon 2M Black/Blue. I had previously made sure both arms & spindle-pivot were as identical as I could make them during fitting of the arms so one Mint could be used for both. Once again the cartridge showed an audible improvement in clarity & imaging

 

The 2M Black is a very fine cartridge but after comparing to the AT150ANV at both Aylesbury and Cranage, I purchased the AT. They are very close in sound but the AT seems to have a slightly smoother & more natural treble, a slightly more dynamic or punchy sound and definitely lower surface noise from the vinyl. I swapped and played both on the same arm (pre-Mint) for many weeks before commenting



Edited by Drewan77 - 26 Sep 2014 at 5:36pm
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Andrew
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tg View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tg Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 6:54pm

Great post Andrew, lots of nice pics and good to hear you found the results to be worthwhile too.


Tony G
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 7:00pm
+1 Thumbs Up
Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote marshmid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 8:37pm
Great post and perfect timing for me.

Thanks Andrew

Marsh
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