Turntable setup advice needed for newbie with top cartridges

KPC

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I'm 60yr+ a bucket list audiophile who over the last 6 years been researching and accumulating components for my analog+digital audio chains. Because I'm late in the game I'm trying to experience various but excellent sonics, so I purchased Lyra Etna, Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Aida Mammoth Gold mkII, VDH Colibri Grand Cru. I have a VPU Avenger and am in the process of purchasing tonearms including a 4point. Second arms may be ViV Rigid Float, Reed 3P, or Schroeder. Also debating on a SPU tonearm (Ortofon Century SPU, GOLD SPU, FR7fz). Still puzzling on which arm for the VDH GC because the consensus seems all over the map:

I heard horror stories of user screwed up cantilevers/stylus. Even though I can be careful, I'm have no direct experience in mounting a cartridge, but I studied how online. After receiving my cartridges, I planned to send to WAM Engineering for their stylus alignment report - I'm a big believer in getting the stylus correct regardless of cantilever or body position. I'll be picking up WAM tools and maybe an oscilloscope (have to figure how this works also).

Should I seek help mounting help (which seems like a stupid question)? If so, how should I go about this? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
 

tima

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Should I seek help mounting help (which seems like a stupid question)? If so, how should I go about this?

You have some nice cartridges. If you look for another tonearm, get advice here on matching cartridges with arms.

No doubt you'll get offers from west coast setup people. If you go that route, use someone who is willing to let you observe and teach you what they are doing.

Imo, being serious about vinyl means learning how to set up a table, arm and cartridge on your own. Wrt cartridge setup, I suggest selecting an inexpensive cartridge to use for practice and training - iow, don't start with the Grand Cru. :)

There are tutorials and setup steps on the Web. Aligning a cartridge is positioning an object in 3-dimensional space. There is a particular terminology associated to cartridge setup and you'll want to become familiar with that so you'll know what people are talking about.

Patience and the willingness to take your time are key. Some setup tools are a necessity - you will get different advices on that. You'll need good lighting. Magnifiers will help.

I suggest: a) a decent cartridge scale, I like the Ortofon DS-3; b) the Wally Reference to assure the top of the cartridge is level in both horizontal axes; imo this is critical to the start of the alignment process; c) the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor alignment protractor as the easiest to use, has good instructions, high precision and will work with virtually any cartridge. There are tools for azimuth. Stylus Rack Angle (SRA) can be set by ear.

If you want to use a setup person, I suggest to first setup an inexpensive cartridge on your own. This will teach you a lot that the setup person can affirm or correct while also evaluating your work. Vinyl is a rewarding hobby.

Edit:
Still puzzling on which arm for the VDH GC because the consensus seems all over the map
SME 3012R

0515TAB.jpg

Don't forget to clean your records!
 

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dave slagle

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I would reach out to J.R. Boisclair who is a forum member and is reasonably close to the bay area.
 
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KPC

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You have some nice cartridges. If you look for another tonearm, get advice here on matching cartridges with arms.
I plan to purchase a 4point. Second arm maybe ViV Rigid Float, Schroeder CB, or a Reed 3P. I’ll open another thread.

No doubt you'll get offers from west coast setup people. If you go that route, use someone who is willing to let you observe.
There are tutorials and setup steps on the Web. Aligning a cartridge.
I hope so. Then I can observe first hand. I’ve already reviewed many cartridges set-up tutorials online and Fremer’s videos.

I suggest selecting an inexpensive cartridge to use for practice and training - iow, don't start with the Grand Cru.
If you want to use a setup person, I suggest to first setup an inexpensive cartridge on your own.
Great idea. Maybe I’ll start with something like the Denon 103r. Then I can play with different headshells.

Some setup tools are a necessity - you will get different advices on that. You'll need good lighting. Magnifiers will help.

I like the Ortofon DS-3;
I’ll likely start with WAM tools, a usb microscope (92degrres), and a oscilloscope. Although probably easy to use an oscilloscope, never used one and cannot find online tutorials/instructions- guess I’ll ask JR at WAM.

Don't forget to clean your records!
I’ll get a Degritter as I believe the best cleaning is ultrasonic.

Still on the fence about getting the Kirmuss also. I interpreted Fremer’s review the Kirmuss as it’s better than the Audiodeck and maybe by extension better than the Degritter “…even more brilliant than a similar record cleaned with the Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaner. That's pretty stellar.
Best of all, when I played it—holy crap! The top end was fully restored, the backgrounds were superquiet, transients were sharpened, and the amount of inner detail”

Thanks for your valuable input
 
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KPC

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I would reach out to J.R. Boisclair who is a forum member and is reasonably close to the bay area.
Thanks Dave. I believe you are the SUT guy (guru) at EMIA? I have a VDH Grail SB (current) and some Ortofon SPU carts (my sideways trip). I haven’t verified whither I can use the MM inputs for SUT use. Would a added SUT (silver) improve sonics?
 

jazdoc

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The difference between learning how to set up a cartridge from a Youtube video versus in person from someone skilled is akin to the difference between online porn and actually have sex...a lot of the important nuance is missing.
 

ACHiPo

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Feb 22, 2015
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I'm 60yr+ a bucket list audiophile who over the last 6 years been researching and accumulating components for my analog+digital audio chains. Because I'm late in the game I'm trying to experience various but excellent sonics, so I purchased Lyra Etna, Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum, Aida Mammoth Gold mkII, VDH Colibri Grand Cru. I have a VPU Avenger and am in the process of purchasing tonearms including a 4point. Second arms may be ViV Rigid Float, Reed 3P, or Schroeder. Also debating on a SPU tonearm (Ortofon Century SPU, GOLD SPU, FR7fz). Still puzzling on which arm for the VDH GC because the consensus seems all over the map:

I heard horror stories of user screwed up cantilevers/stylus. Even though I can be careful, I'm have no direct experience in mounting a cartridge, but I studied how online. After receiving my cartridges, I planned to send to WAM Engineering for their stylus alignment report - I'm a big believer in getting the stylus correct regardless of cantilever or body position. I'll be picking up WAM tools and maybe an oscilloscope (have to figure how this works also).

Should I seek help mounting help (which seems like a stupid question)? If so, how should I go about this? I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The WAM folks are in Santa Rosa so you may want to just have them come to you to help with set up. They also can teach you quite a bit. Absolutely agree with others that you should get a decent yet inexpensive cartridge (with stylus guard and/or replaceable stylus!) to try yourself, experiment with VTA, etc., then have JR or whomever come to you, critique your set up, and teach you how to do it yourself on one of your top-end cartridges.
 
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astrotoy

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I'm also in the SF Bay Area. I have used Sterling Trayle for many years to do my TT/cartridge setups. He is one of the top people in the world and has done set ups for Michael Fremer, Roy Gregory, etc., besides plebians like me. Not cheap, but typically takes close to a day to do the set up (mine is for two cartridges on two arm wands for my VPI Classic 3.) Larry
 
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tima

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Thanks for your valuable input

You're welcome.

I plan to purchase a 4point.

It is an excellent arm. I have one. Be advised the effective mass for the 11" arm is 18g. It is well suited for low compliance cartridges such as the Fuuga. Likely not your Grand Cru -- check the box lid; it will tell you effective mass range. That can be altered by vdH to work with the 4P -- they did that for my Master Signature.

Although pioneered by Wally, imo USB microscope for SRA is not all that it's cracked up to be.

I’ll get a Degritter as I believe the best cleaning is ultrasonic.

Still on the fence about getting the Kirmuss also. I interpreted Fremer’s review the Kirmuss as it’s better than the Audiodeck and maybe by extension better than the Degritter “…even more brilliant than a similar record cleaned with the Audiodesksysteme G;läss Vinyl Cleaner. That's pretty stellar.
Best of all, when I played it—holy crap! The top end was fully restored, the backgrounds were superquiet, transients were sharpened, and the amount of inner detail”

Check the Record Cleaning subforum here. You're right that ultrasonic cleaners can do an excellent job, but they are not all equal. The Degritter is okay for an off-the-shelf single slot desktop machine though it has a few issues similar to other such models. Personally I would avoid Kirmuss.
 

tony22

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I’ll likely start with WAM tools, a usb microscope (92degrres), and a oscilloscope.
@KPC, I’ll echo what others have said regarding your selection of very nice carts. I’ll also echo @tima to recommend starting with something less… painful to lose if something goes wrong. With respect to getting a scope, though. If you’re considering that, then I’d say consider just jumping into the deep end of the pool and getting AnalogMagik, or at least Adjust Plus+. Can a cart be set up without either of these? Yes, that’s been going on successfully for decades. But if you’re thinking about getting a tool to open up a more technical view into cart set up, either AM or AP+ is way better than an oscilloscope, IMO.
 

TrackingAngle

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I'm also in the SF Bay Area. I have used Sterling Trayle for many years to do my TT/cartridge setups. He is one of the top people in the world and has done set ups for Michael Fremer, Roy Gregory, etc., besides plebians like me. Not cheap, but typically takes close to a day to do the set up (mine is for two cartridges on two arm wands for my VPI Classic 3.) Larry
 
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TrackingAngle

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Why would you think anyone but I would have set up my turntable? Since 1982 the only person who has ever set up my turntable(s) is me. The idea that it takes a day to set one up is absurd. With proper tools and measurements it shouldn’t take more than a few hours MAX to properly install and adjust a cartridge for overhang, VTF, SRA anti skating and azimuth. And usually it takes less. There’s no voodoo or guesswork involved. It’s all measurable, verifiable and reliable. Minor by ear adjustment takes very little time. I suppose a person charging by the hour could claim it takes all day.
 

astrotoy

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Thanks for the clarification. Larry
 
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KPC

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…..getting AnalogMagik, or at least Adjust Plus+.
I researched the best set-up softwares including AnalogMagik and read that it may have some limitations the details I cannot recall. After I discuss and purchase some set-up tools from J.R. Boisclair at WAM Engineering I’ll re-examine AnalogMagik.
 

TrackingAngle

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I used to use Adjust+ but never trusted the results. I firmly believe in using actual not software based measurements.
 
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tony22

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I used to use Adjust+ but never trusted the results. I firmly believe in using actual not software based measurements.
Mikey, I don’t wish to bash either product, but I guess I’ll say IME I’ve found that the results from AM line up better with what I hear, but that just could be me. I also use direct measuring instruments including a Dinolite AM3013T, plus just listening for final refinement. I’m not saying only one way is the way to do it. ;)
 

TrackingAngle

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I'm not "bashing" either. I just better trust non-software based measurements because the software programmer determines the results rather than the end user.
 

tony22

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Understood. In my case I can only go by what the totality of everything tells me in the final listening. Examining a cart with the Dinolite even before setup. Tracking force. Proper setup with a SMARTractor or similarly good tool. In my case a check with my SW tool of choice, usually checked as well with a Fluke scope. SRA check. Listen, check, listen, check, listen, tweak if needed, listen. I actually wanted to corner - is it JT? / JR? - during the Florida show to find out more about the resurrected Wally Tools, but he was busy as a bee whenever I had any free time. WAM tools are the only ones I don’t yet own. I have just about every other cart tool and test device, and have I think learned to use them - and when to question them. I’m no expert, but after 45 years of doing this - with your and other’s help along the way - I found a method that works for me. I’ll agree that raw data is always the first priority.
 
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microstrip

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I'm not "bashing" either. I just better trust non-software based measurements because the software programmer determines the results rather than the end user.

We can use the software based tools for diagnostics and assurance of repeatability - we are not forced to pick the recommended choice of the programmer for optimization.

If the tonearm and cartridge are properly designed, having a decent geometry, clear straight lines and allow a good perspective of alignment set up is simple, fast and repeatable. However some vinyl gear seems to be designed to make alignment an hazardous nightmare.
 
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KPC

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Just received my Aida Mammoth Gold mkII and the cantilever looks hairline breakable - Yow. Better order a practice cartridge or two. I was thinking a Denon 103r because I can play with various headshells, but it's conical tip may not be challenging enough for me to develop set-up skills. Not familiar with carts at Denon's price point- more research required. Maybe I should punt and ask forum members in another thread.
 
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