Can you set up and align your own cartridge?

As technology marches on, some of the old audiophile ways become lost arts. Do you still have the skills needed to set up and align a cartridge on a tonearm and turntable?

Can you set up and align your own cartridge?
59% (89 votes)
With a little help
9% (13 votes)
No, I let the dealer do it
16% (24 votes)
No, I have a pal that does it for me
0% (0 votes)
I don't have a cartridge
16% (24 votes)
Total votes: 150

Dave Bennett's picture

These days, you'd better be able to set up your own cartridge.

Willis Greenstreet's picture

T'ain't easy!

audio-sleuth's picture

Good question, but I wonder how many people who answered "Yup!" really do know how? It might be interesting for Mikey to do a quiz to test your turntable setup know-how. Might make a good contest.

Clay White's picture

But if I have the chance I welcome help from those with better set-up gear.

Allen's picture

Certainly do, however probably not enough skills to get the best possible sound. With time being the ultimate luxury, and the pressing needs of friends, work, wife, kids, family, etc, any time spent with my audio system is intensely precious> As a result, these days I slip in a CD rather than stuff around with VTA, pitch, alignment protractors, leveling, and so on.

Graeme Nattress's picture

Absolutely, and it's not hard. Best thing to do is get an alignment record like the Hi-Fi News one that also comes with a full set of great instructions.

Enzo's picture

All it takes is a spare hour or two, some preparation and a few bits and bobs. For preparation, I like to start a week ahead with complete abstinence from food or drink containing even the merest traces of caffeine or alcohol. Two days out, I require two consecutive sleep ins, proceeded by no stress days. Twelve hours prior, my wife is forbidden from communicating with me. With one hour to go, I perform an ancient Tibetan meditation, which blocks out the superficial wasteful monetary importance we place materialistic worldly objects, in particular items with exposed cantilevers. As for bits & bobs, I like to have on hand, a test record, an assortment of jeweller

Terry M's picture

Haven't done so for years but, yes, it's something I'd approach. Last cartridge I bought, though, was for my LP12/Ekos and I was delighted for the dealer to carry out the set-up.

Paul J.  Stiles, Mtn.View, CA's picture

Math is sort of hard for me to pick up (including geometry), but once I learn something, it stays learned. I did real good in math in college and I still know what I learned. Now, if I could just make some SERIOUS money from it. Paul

Melinda Coates's picture

'Tis an essential skill.

Allan Stock's picture

I gave myself a belated fiftieth birthday present: a new cartridge. With age, my tastes may have improved but my eyes certainly haven't. I asked the dealer to mount the cartridge.

macksman's picture

Yes, I can roll my own. I can roof my house and build a fence, too, but that doesn't mean I'm going to do it. I recently replaced my old Well Tempered turntable with a Wilson-Benesch and I enjoyed helping (just a little) my dealer set it up and mount the cartridge. When I select a new cartridge, I'll let Gary do most of the work mounting it. I know enough to tell that he's very good at it. That's the key.

Randy's picture

Living in North Dakota for six years forces you into self-sufficiency. But cartridge alignment became much easier with the Graham tonearm.

dB's picture

Cartridge, Magazine, Clip all for the ammendment. Oh a turntable cartridge, my bad

Mike Parenteau's picture

Never did do it myself as I have always dealt with good dealers who set up my cartridge for me.

Spin Doctor's picture

In this day and age, people who own analog gear generally have extensive knowledge of the format and hardware!

jt's picture

Bob Graham's tools make if very easy for Graham owners to do the job. It was a real struggle on my previous arm, an SME IV, even with all the SME tools.

Dennis's picture

I prefer having the pros set up my VPI rig, but, yes, if forced to, I can. Been doing it snce I'm 14 years old—I'm now 44.

TwoCents's picture

There are many tools available for audiophiles to setup and align a cartridge in a tonearm. Audiophiles seem to love to tweak their systems. And this just another way for us to get a little more out of our system and a little satisfaction for a job well done. Good listening!

Gerald Clifton's picture

Yes. Three cheers for Wallytools! When I first started buying high-end equipment, you had no choice (mid 1960's) because so many dealers wouldn't bother with it, or they would charge you an arm and a leg (that is, high retail) for the turntables and cartridges: if you had limited bucks, you bought from catalogs at a discount and did it yourself. I remember Shure was the first to make a big deal out of the vertical angle of the stylus to the record surface with their "V-15" cartridges. Now, this is a much more important spec/procedure, with $2000 cartridges being commonplace, as this angle severely affects high frequency reproduction. The only problem is the ambiguity involved: you hear an LP that doesn't sound as good as you'd like, and you think to yourself, "are you sure you set this thing up right??" and go back and do the whole thing over again. Most dealers are willing to do it for you, if you can find one with an analog specialist who has set-up expertise.

Travis Klersy's picture

I have never mounted a cart, but I am starting to acquire the necessary tools. I wish Michael Fremer or Wally M. would publish a book on the matter. I know the info is on the net, but I'd really like a nice analog copy.

Paul I's picture

But it seems every new cartridge requires stronger glasses. Either they are getting smaller or my eyes are getting worse.

Louis P.'s picture

My next cartridge will cost over $1000, so I'll let the dealer install it, even if it costs me a few dollars more. I miss the "good old days" (up until the CD player was introduced) when even $99 turntables came with a little plastic device that slipped over the headshell, and you could align the cartridge near-perfectly.

Nate's picture

I've done it many times, but some efforts are easier than others. For instance, setting up a Rega cartridge with 3 mounting holes on a Rega arm is a snap, and the same goes for suitably equipped Linn arms & cartridges. Others usually require a steady slow approach, and it can easily be done. About 20 years ago, I bought a Shure V15 Type V cartridge—it included a mounting jig, which made alingment a snap. Other manufacturers should do what Shure did. I guess this kind of boiled down to when someone first got into hi-fi. If it was before the advent of CD, as is my case, cartridges were a fact of life, as was constantly fiddling with one cartridge or another.

Serpieri's picture

But I'm willing to learn.

beken's picture

But I don't do it very often. Set it up and leave it.

mike myers's picture

Vinyl rules! But this skill, with all its variables, is a little hard to acquire. And this from someone who has been a vinylphile for thirty years. in my area no one has a clue. Since everything has to be just right for perfect fidelity, I just don't trust myself. I wish there was a class nearby.

Anonymous's picture

Not too much problem. I bought the HFF (or whatever) setup album that includes a protractor....and have done it a couple of times now..

KRB's picture

I thought that's what P-Mount was for.

MIke Agee's picture

I can, with help from a few articles and instruction sheets. But am I ever sure I really got it right? Not really. Another reason to crave a tonearm with micrometer worm drives on a turntable that reveals all.