Tonearm alignment help needed please

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
Hi everybody.

I have an SME 3009 S2 Improved tonearm with a fixed headshell on an ERA Mk6 turntable. I have been looking into the setup of this arm, but I have to be honest and say, I'm a bit confused.

I'm happy with the balance and cartridge weight set, but I really need some advice on the alignment for the cartridge; I have a Shure V15 III cartridge fitted.

Do I need to calculate the null points for the arm/cartridge, or does a protractor deal with this for me? Do I need a specific protractor for this setup and how is it used?

Apologies for the vagueness of my message, but as you can tell, I am new to this.

Any help would be gratefully received.

Thank you.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Vinyl Engine is a great resource.

Essentially you need to decide what sort of alignment you want to go for (if you aren’t inclined to get into all that, just go for Baerwald) and then find an alignment protractor on the link provided by Ugg10 corresponding to the effective length of your tonearm.

You can print it off (make sure it prints 1:1 scale!) and very carefully punch a hole where marked, so you can fit it over your spindle.

Remove the power supply from your turntable to prevent any accidents...

The alignment protractor will have the null points marked on it, 2 of them, each within a set of grid lines. It should have a guide-line that has to point at the the exact centre of the point where your tone arm pivots, then you know that the protractor is perfectly positioned. You need to loosen off the cartridge bolts in the headshell (loose enough so that you can just about move the cartridge about, but tight enough so it stays where it is if not being deliberately moved - you may need to loosen a little and partially re-tighten for each little tweak)

Then carefully try to place the stylus on the first null point. If it doesn’t quite line up then raise your arm and move the cartridge back or forth as needed until it lands precisely on the mark. Then see if the cartridge body lines up with the grid lines. If not then raise the arm and twist the cartridge slightly as needed, and lower again. It should be absolutely square to the grid lines. If your cartridge is an annoying one without parallel sides, then just go by the front and make sure it’s perfectly parallel to the lines.

Once you’ve got it perfectly aligned on the first null point, then move over to the second. It should also be perfectly aligned to that. If it’s not then check that the spindle guide line is perfectly aligned To the tonearm pivot. You may have to shuffle back and forth between the 2 null points iteratively tweaking the cartridge alignment until it’s perfectly aligned on both null points.

Once it is then very very carefully tighten up the headshell bolts ensuring that you don’t accidentally move the cartridge as you do so (possibly the hardest part). If you do then you need to start again.

It’s a fiddly old job. Don’t try to do it in a hurry. I’d say set aside an hour so you can take your time.

If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, then this is about the best in the business, offering a choice of alignments, can work for any tonearm effective length (within reason) and it makes the whole thing a lot quicker and easier. It only has one null point marked because it’s impossible to mis-align the protractor itself.
The picture shows the older version, make sure you get the one with 4 different alignments on it.

Hope that helps!
 

eatapeach

Active Member
If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, then this is about the best in the business, offering a choice of alignments, can work for any tonearm effective length (within reason) and it makes the whole thing a lot quicker and easier. It only has one null point marked because it’s impossible to mis-align the protractor itself.
The picture shows the older version, make sure you get the one with 4 different alignments on it.

Hope that helps!

A Dr Feickert alignment tool is a lower cost alternative offering exactly the same. If you are near me I'll gladly bring mine to help you set it up
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Thank you for time @DT79, the information provided is very useful.:thumbsup:
While I’m thinking about it, do say if you need any pointers on vertical tracking alignment, vertical tracking force, azimuth and anti-skate :)
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Is that what positrons do at the ice rink?
Very good :thumbsup:

Did I just use the American term? I remember there are two terms but could only recall one and wasn’t sure which it was.
 

oscroft

Member
Did I just use the American term? I remember there are two terms but could only recall one and wasn’t sure which it was.
Oh, no, anti-skate is the most common term here as far as I know - I think bias is the other term?
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Oh, no, anti-skate is the most common term here as far as I know - I think bias is the other term?
Ah yes I think you might be right.
 

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
I think I have the anti-skate, force and balance sorted. However, just to confirm, the anti-skate is set so the arm remains in place without drifting in or out?

I have decided to use the Stupid Baerwald protractor as a first attempt. I assume the perpendicular lines to the spindle line are to line up with the arm pivot?

Thank you.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
I think I have the anti-skate, force and balance sorted. However, just to confirm, the anti-skate is set so the arm remains in place without drifting in or out?

I have decided to use the Stupid Baerwald protractor as a first attempt. I assume the perpendicular lines to the spindle line are to line up with the arm pivot?

Thank you.

On the protractor, yes, hopefully there’s a obvious mark on the top of the arm base which denotes the exact point at which it pivots, but if not you need to point as best you can at the middle of the base of the arm.

Anti skate - pretty much, you want to counter balance to force that pulls the stylus inward when it’s in the groove of a spinning record. Look from the front and drop the stylus into middle of a spinning record and see which way the cantilever deflects - adjust anti skate until it doesn’t.
 

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
On the protractor, yes, hopefully there’s a obvious mark on the top of the arm base which denotes the exact point at which it pivots, but if not you need to point as best you can at the middle of the base of the arm.

Anti skate - pretty much, you want to counter balance to force that pulls the stylus inward when it’s in the groove of a spinning record. Look from the front and drop the stylus into middle of a spinning record and see which way the cantilever deflects - adjust anti skate until it doesn’t.
OK. So I want the stylus to drop vertically onto the record?
 

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
It's an SME 3009,so the peak indicates the pivot.
 

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DT79

Well-known Member
OK. So I want the stylus to drop vertically onto the record?
When it hits the groove of the spinning record you want it to deflect neither to the right or to the left.
 

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
Sorry, its me again. I assume, due to the line nowhere near in the direction of the pivot, this is the incorrect protractor for the length of the arm? It does state that this protractor is for 99% of setups. Maybe I'm in the 1%.🤔
 

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DT79

Well-known Member
Sorry, its me again. I assume, due to the line nowhere near in the direction of the pivot, this is the incorrect protractor for the length of the arm? It does state that this protractor is for 99% of setups. Maybe I'm in the 1%.🤔
Actually as long as it's definitely stated to be the right one for your tonearm effective length and you can get your cartridge lined up on both null points (without having to move the protractor as you switch between the 2) then by default it has to be correct. I should have said that not all templates would have the tonearm pivot 'pointer'. That's kind of why there are 2 null points.
 

oscroft

Member
Actually as long as it's definitely stated to be the right one for your tonearm effective length and you can get your cartridge lined up on both null points (without having to move the protractor as you switch between the 2) then by default it has to be correct. I should have said that not all templates would have the tonearm pivot 'pointer'. That's kind of why there are 2 null points.
Yes, the pivot pointer is not relevant in most cases, if you have a protractor for the correct effective arm length. But with many protractors (and certainly that one) you will need to rotate the turntable between the two null point measurements, because the arm traces an arc across the record and not a straight line. The inner null point needs to be further forward than the outer one to match the stylus position.
 

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
Actually as long as it's definitely stated to be the right one for your tonearm effective length and you can get your cartridge lined up on both null points (without having to move the protractor as you switch between the 2) then by default it has to be correct. I should have said that not all templates would have the tonearm pivot 'pointer'. That's kind of why there are 2 null points.
Excellent. My cartridge was lined to both points whilst the protractor was stationary. 👍

One more thing. The original stylus looks bent to the left as shown in the picture. I assume this will have a negative effect on the sound reproduction? I have ordered a replacement Jico stylus, but just awaiting delivery. I would rather know how many miles are on the clock of a stylus, therefore reducing the risk of Vinyl damage.

Thanks again for your help.
 

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DT79

Well-known Member
Excellent. My cartridge was lined to both points whilst the protractor was stationary. 👍

One more thing. The original stylus looks bent to the left as shown in the picture. I assume this will have a negative effect on the sound reproduction? I have ordered a replacement Jico stylus, but just awaiting delivery. I would rather know how many miles are on the clock of a stylus, therefore reducing the risk of Vinyl damage.

Thanks again for your help.
Yeah, it’s hard to know what, if any effect that would have, but it can’t be ideal, and makes setting it up that much harder, so better to get a new one and be sure. Re-check your alignment once you’ve put the new one on.
 

hamlynrudd

Novice Member
Yeah, it’s hard to know what, if any effect that would have, but it can’t be ideal, and makes setting it up that much harder, so better to get a new one and be sure. Re-check your alignment once you’ve put the new one on.
Will do. Thank you.
 

simon132

Standard Member
thanks so much for the detailed links, in particular re: tracking / protractors etc, will try and get that done this week.
 

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