Cartridge alignment Q

Laudanum · 4629

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Offline Laudanum

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on: August 14, 2011, 02:51:18 AM
I've got my budget TT set-up (almost) for adding vinyl to my headphone system, Seduction is on the way.  
I grew up with LP's and I currently have a table on the main system so doing a basic, decent cartridge alignment isnt a problem but I am far from an expert and never had the desire to get too technical with it.  
But, I picked up another Shure M97XE, and as seems customary with this cart.  (and this is my third)  the cantilever isnt perfectly in-line.  So during cart. mounting I aligned the cantilever which resulted in some slight but audible distortion.  I realigned, aligning the cartridge body instead which sounds fine but doesnt make much sense with the cantiever being slightly askew.  So I've gone back and forth with this, driving me nuts in the process ... mainly due to assinine mounting issues related to mounting hardware (screws/nuts) with the Shure in a Rega arm which is a rant I'll stay away from for now.  

To cut to the chase, after re-aligning to the cantilever and tweaking it several times, I end up having to go back to aligning the cartridge body itself.  It sounds good this way eventhough conventional wisdom says I should be aligning the cantilever.  The only thing that I can think of is that the stylus itself may be fixed slightly askew on the cantilever compensating for things.  I dont have a loop or any way of actually looking at the stylus itself.   Since it sounds good with the cart. body aligned, I've decided to leave it be, atleast for the time being.  
But I would like some input from the catridge alignment wizards.

Thanks
« Last Edit: August 14, 2011, 02:53:23 AM by Laudanum »

Desmond G.


Offline Grainger49

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Reply #1 on: August 14, 2011, 10:25:52 AM
Desmond,

If it is a newly purchased cartridge return it.  If not then check the alignment of the stylus.  If it is aligned with the cantilever then the cantilever should be in line with the cartridge carrier.  But as you have stated, with the cantilever in line with the cartridge carrier it distorts.

Then there is the adjustment of the azimuth, VTF and anti-skating.  If your head hasn't exploded yet it will soon. 

I do have a way of adjusting the anti-skating:

http://www.bottlehead.com/smf/index.php/topic,878.0.html



Offline Laudanum

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Reply #2 on: August 14, 2011, 11:00:19 AM
I may return it but QC at Shure isnt what it used to be IME.  I havent gotten a single M97XE with a perfectly straight cantilever (out of 3 over the last decade) so I wouldnt hold out hope that a replacement would be so either.  Maybe they should skip the metal case and put some more QC into the stylus assembly down there in Mexico.

There is no Azimuth adjustment on the arm itself.  VTF isnt a problem.  I'll check out your antikate link.

Thanks.

Desmond G.


Offline VoltSecond

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Reply #3 on: August 14, 2011, 11:51:34 AM
How long do phono cartridges last?

I have some low mileage, but old, cartridges I'd like to use if they won't mess up the LPs.



Offline Grainger49

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Reply #4 on: August 14, 2011, 01:18:13 PM
There are a number of factors, you aren't surprised, are you?  Both the vinyl and stylus should be clean so they don't contaminate each other nor wear each other unnecessarily.  The number of hours played is pretty directly involved with stylus wear.  Some will say stylus force but if set properly for the cartridge range I think it drops out of the equation.  The suspension in a stylus will droop with time and it can be adjusted for VTA periodically to compensate till it has no travel left.  I have used the same stylus for over 15 years at one time and it still showed no wear that made me worry about my vinyl.

Generators are long lived if not submitted to extremes of moisture and heat so a new stylus every so often can make a cartridge last decades.

Edit: two days ago I played a 27 year old Denon DL-103.  It sounded fantastic!  I keep the stylus and my vinyl clean.  Just goes to show....
« Last Edit: December 19, 2011, 08:09:50 AM by Grainger49 »



Offline Laudanum

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Reply #5 on: August 15, 2011, 12:00:10 AM
Just to add, and I dont know this to be 100% accurate but the thing to worry about most is the stylus itself.  From what I have read, the suspensions (probably the right term) can become brittle with age which would depend in large part on the material they were made from and environmental conditions where they were stored (heat, moisture).   The cartridge itself should last a very long time but buying NOS replacement stylii from years ago may not guarantee that the NOS stylus is good ... IOW, a stylus that was made 30 years ago, eventhough it is NOS, may no longer be good because of possible deterioration to the rubber or whatever degradable material was used for the cantilevers suspension.  Again, this is going by what Ive read ... Old Cartridge usually fine, old stylus (even NOS) may not be.
Grainger or any of the other experts can feel free and should correct me if Ive been mislead but it does seem to make sense.

That said, I have had a few old Cartridges that I have purchased a replacement stylus for and they were perfectly fine.  Two that come to mind are an 80's Audio Technica that I found a NOS stylus for.  This was about 10 years ago now which made the replacement stylus about 15 - 20 years old.  I didnt use it long but it seemed fine and sounded fine.  Recently I picked up a replacement aftermarket stylus for a Shure M91ed that came off an old Pioneer PL12D table.  It is an inexpensive Japanese made replacement stylus and the combination sounded very good.  So, I wouldnt hesitate to use an older cartridge if a good replacement stylus can be found for it.  Or, if you can somehow verify that the existing stylus is good ... which, outside of how it sounds (probably not the ideal indicator) is beyond my experience.

Desmond G.


Offline Laudanum

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Reply #6 on: August 15, 2011, 03:03:12 AM
Desmond,

If it is a newly purchased cartridge return it.  If not then check the alignment of the stylus.  If it is aligned with the cantilever then the cantilever should be in line with the cartridge carrier.  But as you have stated, with the cantilever in line with the cartridge carrier it distorts.

Then there is the adjustment of the azimuth, VTF and anti-skating.  If your head hasn't exploded yet it will soon.  

I do have a way of adjusting the anti-skating:

http://www.bottlehead.com/smf/index.php/topic,878.0.html

Grainger, I checked your antiskate link.  Unfortunately, I dont have access to an O-scope any longer.  I guess that my ear will have to remain my tool for now.  I dont even own one of the Test LP's and never have.  I probably should do some research and pick one up but I grew up on vinyl and have never used one.  If it sounded good I just let it be. All my old LP's still sound fantastic so whatever damage my simplistic approach may have done, I cant hear it, not even with the heaphones.   Going down the techie cartridge/arm set up road now would probably be maddening for me and have me worrying about all sorts of things.

Anyway, I took your advice and purchased another M97XE.  Hopefully the cantiever alignment will be dead on with this one (but Im not holding my breath).  I'll do a stylus assembly swap and then a return for a refund (Amazon, easy-peezy).   Much easier than an exchange and having to re-mount the cartridge again.  Plus, they just knocked another 7 bucks off the price of the Shure so I'll save 7 bucks in the
process :-)  

Thanks

Desmond G.