Turntable Setup - Better done by a "Gifted Pro" or can regular folks learn to do it well?

caesar

Active Member
May 31, 2010
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#1
Fremer does a lot of turntable seminars at shows. Can normal folks actually learn to do it from a single seminar?

Is it a matter of repetition and feedback, kind of like surgeons get good at their craft? How many times does one need to do it to master it?

Or do people who are really good at it have a "gift" of great aural sense to do it well, in addition to having mastered the mechanics?

Are most people better off finding someone who has done it a lot and has a "golden ear"?
 

ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
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Boston, MA
#2
You can certainly learn, and it's not very difficult... however, installing the arm can be a daunting task, especially if you need a special armboard, as is setting up VTA/SRA, and to a lesser degree, aligning the cartridge. For a beginner, have the dealer you buy from do it, then tweak yourself.
 
Nov 19, 2015
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Hutto TX
ibelieveinhifi.com
#3
"Well" is the keyword in your question. Most tables are not that complicated that if you can follow direction and take your time (and I really mean take your time) then you can of course do it yourself. But to do it as well as a gifted pro is difficult. To start to go down the road of optimization with advanced tools and testing is something you have to have the ....ahem...patience for as it is to a large degree very tedious and artistic.

Recommendation: Buy a very inexpensive used or goodwill table and use that for practice. Take it apart and set it up over and over again until you feel comfortable and then take the optimization in pieces. Then when you are ready buy a Torqueo table from me :)

Good luck
 

treitz3

Super Moderator
#4
^^^ Agreed sir. ^^^

You can take a nominal (on this site and others) LP setup, set it to manufacturers specifications and still get to 90-95% (estimated IMO) of what digital can offer on an extreme digital setup.

It's not that hard and perhaps that's why we are seeing a resurgence of vinyl.

Tom
 

jazdoc

Member Sponsor
Aug 7, 2010
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#5
^^^ Agreed sir. ^^^

You can take a nominal (on this site and others) LP setup, set it to manufacturers specifications and still get to 90-95% (estimated IMO) of what digital can offer on an extreme digital setup.

It's not that hard and perhaps that's why we are seeing a resurgence of vinyl.

Tom
The flip side to this is that many vinyl newbies get discouraged with vinyl and wonder what all the hype is about.

A vinyl system, especially a high end rig, is by nature an interactive experience. You will never know how good your system can sound unless you commit to learning how to optimize the set up. I am near sighted with deforming arthritis in my hands and an unfortunate genetic predisposition to in-coordination. If I can learn how to do a reasonable set up, anyone can.

A friend once made the brilliant analogy that vinyl is a lot like motorcycles. After reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", I would strongly endorse that position.

 

jadis

Active Member
Apr 28, 2010
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Manila, Philippines
#6
In my experience, the essential things in a good analog set up are patience, tools, and confidence. Many people, including me, are weary of a totally new installation from scratch, as in straight out a a box assembly. I was weary before, as I didn't have much tools, and in some instance, a tonearm or turntable 'jig'. I probably didn't have the patience then too, and a slight lack of confidence, as in breaking a cartridge in the process. I've lived with an ET2 tonearm for 20 years and after the dealer set it up for me on my VPI table, all I have to do is recheck the VTF, azimuth and overhang when I had to change the cartridge. It was fairly easy. And I have some small tools for some of the tasks. I believe we all can learn to do it when we have those 3 things. :)
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Co-Owner, Administrator
#7
I'm a newbie in vinyl yet feel quite confidant that I can take down and set up my turntable. Its the arm and cartridge set up IMO wherein lies the art of set up
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
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#8
The flip side to this is that many vinyl newbies get discouraged with vinyl and wonder what all the hype is about.

A vinyl system, especially a high end rig, is by nature an interactive experience. You will never know how good your system can sound unless you commit to learning how to optimize the set up. I am near sighted with deforming arthritis in my hands and an unfortunate genetic predisposition to in-coordination. If I can learn how to do a reasonable set up, anyone can.
don't believe a word, he is doing his typical 'Clark Kent' deal.......

I've been around a few very, very fine tone arm <-> cartridge set-up people, I've seen no one do it better than jazdoc.

not only that, I've seen no one more patient and relentless about it. whenever I really want my set-up 'uber' perfect, it's Superman.....er I mean jazdoc to the rescue.
 

Mike Lavigne

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 25, 2010
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#9
back on topic.....

I think cartridge set-up is a total mind set thing.

assuming reasonably steady hands and decent eyesight, it's simply a matter of doing it a few times. and the biggest issue is fear to do it. once you've done it twice; it becomes just something to do.

it helps to have the right tools, good lighting, and the tt at a good working height and being able to get your body in position to sight things properly. the hardest thing is setting up a second or third arm where the angles for sighting require you to twist around and lean in a way that our bodies no longer do very well. but do that a few times and that becomes a normal thing too. at times I avoid dealing with my second arm since I've not messed with it in awhile. then I do it once and I get comfortable again with it and it's easy peasy.

repetition reduces this process to routine.

the best set-ups are when your system tells you the most. and it helps to have a go-to pressing and cut that you can rely on. this is where the challenge is. relating sonic adjustments to changes in set-up. again; you get better with practice.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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London
#10
I also understand that as a cartridge wears off, one has to readjust VTA etc to compensate, so if a pro sets it up it will work only for a few days.
 

jazdoc

Member Sponsor
Aug 7, 2010
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#11
don't believe a word, he is doing his typical 'Clark Kent' deal.......

I've been around a few very, very fine tone arm <-> cartridge set-up people, I've seen no one do it better than jazdoc.

not only that, I've seen no one more patient and relentless about it. whenever I really want my set-up 'uber' perfect, it's Superman.....er I mean jazdoc to the rescue.
I'm blushing.

But your subsequent post makes my point. Set up is much more about practice and persistence than talent
 
May 9, 2015
267
2
18
Cologne, Germany
#12
a cartridge set up does need some qualifications:

- If you struggle to fit IKEA type of stuff, do not do the cartridge thing....,
if you know how to fit and install small things with little screws and tiny connectors, you can do a cartridge fitment as well.

- you need to be self confident about "what sound right", as changing the different parameters of the cartridge will give you a lot of different sonic signatures. You have to choose "what sounds best" and this is sometimes not an easy task, as the differences can be small. You should understand, what structured iteration on multiple parameters means, as this is mostly the only way to come fast to a satisfying result.

- some believe in measurables..., using computer programs and records with dedicated signals. This is better, than nothing, but music is more, that what you can measure. My experience tells me, it is not always the best measuring cartridge, what sounds best...

If you ask someone to fit your cartridge, be sure , that the specialist knows, what you are looking for. Some people prefer a cartridge set up with more substance, some prefer slightly more resolution, so VTA can become a killing field of different philosophies....

juergen
 

cjfrbw

Active Member
Apr 20, 2010
2,144
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Pleasanton, CA
#13
Why would you want to substitute your own audio OC disorder for somebody else's audio OC disorder?

Precision setup is over-rated. I remember before I got my Da Vinci arm in the correct position, for shits and giggles I set it up with a hypothetical 20 percent tracking distortion. It still sounded better than my previous arm.

You can dance the azimuth dance, twerk to the VTR rumba, do the protractor cha cha, you will still wind up somewhere unknown within a large error envelope. All the different thicknesses of vinyl, their different shapes, warps and groove angles, the different materials and cutting heads etc. assure that you will never be spot on, no matter what the "precision" guys tell you, so level the table, truss the suspension appropriately, pick a spot that is in a reasonable protractor range for the arm, cartridge and table, then forget about it and enjoy.

If your "enjoyment" is fussing with the turntable rather than listening to the records, then get the fussiest and most obstinate, finicky turntable/tonearm you can find and let it rule your life!
 

Solypsa

New Member
Jun 7, 2017
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Seattle
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#14
I also understand that as a cartridge wears off, one has to readjust VTA etc to compensate, so if a pro sets it up it will work only for a few days.
If one examines all of the theoretical challenges with vinyl playback it boggles the mind that it sounds like music at all!

In practice getting all of the parameters "in the zone" yields a sublime experience that doesn't need to be twiddled with every side played. Of course some prefer to optimize SRA for each record thickness (and remember the cutterheads are all set by hand to approximate an ideal and so vary) and more power to them.

One of the hard parts about setup (assuming you have good tools etc) is that when you get close, and the work to get there was a bit taxing, you might decide to not push further. If you do press on, this may mean going 'backwards' or trying to regain what you had...but this is when the fine improvements happen.
 

Solypsa

New Member
Jun 7, 2017
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Seattle
www.solypsa.com
#15
One of the hard parts about setup (assuming you have good tools etc) is that when you get close, and the work to get there was a bit taxing, you might decide to not push further.
Yesterday I was mounting a cartridge and my initial rough in resulted in the cart being nearly spot on. Coincidence I assure you. I sighed knowing that, despite how cool the coincidence was, I had to get in there and make it right. Funny moment.