I am unique in providing this level of service in the midwest. Committed to the best possible analog performance at almost any budget level, I have the tools and knowledge to apply them for your benefit and listening enjoyment.

The service usually takes between 3 and 4 hours to do, not counting time to and from your home. I don't time myself, though. I just get it as perfect as humanly possible. Read the testimonials.

The cost is $300 within 50 miles of Barrington, Illinois, plus $5 per additional 5 mile increment and any parking costs. If your tonearm lacks azimuth adjustment there are two options; please call to discuss. Not cheap but as serious as it gets, and a deal that can't be beat.

What the service includes

  • Setting overhang and offset angle using the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor
  • Setting tracking force
  • Adjustment of antiskating
  • Measurement of phase error and crosstalk for different azimuth settings, and adjustment for best performance
  • Wow and flutter speed accuracy
  • Frequency response
  • Tonearm/cartridge resonances
  • Harmonic distortion
  • Tonearm resonances
  • Correct setting of stylus rake angle (SRA) using a microscope

What differences should you expect

  • Better imaging
  • Deeper, wider soundstage
  • Lower noise and distortion
  • Clearer high frequencies
  • More tuneful, better defined bass
  • Richer tone and harmonics
  • Reduced record wear
  • Longer stylus life

 

Iron-Clad Satisfaction Guarantee

People consistently say this is by far the biggest bang-for-the-buck improvement you can do to your system. We're so confident of that, we're willing to put our money where our mouths are.

You must be absolutely delighted with the results of our alignment service, or you don't pay the standard fee.

  I have to tell you, the money I spent on your turntable setup is the best use of money for me in a long time. It simply sounds fantastic!

-- Dennis G.

An example of what the correct azimuth setting will do for you

The client in this case listens to vinyl only and carefully maintains his records and keeps his equipment in perfect adjustment. Accordingly, the cartridge body was perfectly level, parallel to the record surface.

adjustplus azimuth angle

The graphs below, generated by the software program, show the phase response (upper graph) and crosstalk (lower graph) measurements taken for different azimuth angles (shown on the horizontal axes). The light blue vertical lines highlight the measurements taken at zero degrees azimuth angle, the initial setting, while the yellow vertical line toward the left side of the graphs highlights the measurements taken at the optimum azimuth angle of -1.4 degrees. Because the software program is configured for azimuth angles in 0.5 degree steps, for measurements at the final azimuth setting of -1.4 degrees we "pretended" to the program that the azimuth was at +2.5 degrees -- a region that's not of interest since crosstalk is increasing for positive azimuth angles and phase error is relatively unchanging.

adjustplus azimuth graph2

From the graphs you can see the phase error at 0 degrees azimuth was huge: 155 degrees! Where the curves in the upper graph cross at -1.4 degrees azimuth angle, there is zero phase error, which is readily audible to the untrained ear. The crosstalk figures at this azimuth setting reflect improvements up to 7 dB, which again is huge! (a 10 dB difference is twice or half as loud) The ear is more sensitive to phase error than crosstalk, so -1.4 degrees was selected as the optimum azimuth setting.

From the moment the stylus hit the groove, the differences were mind boggling. Everything from top to bottom was clearer, better defined, with dramatically less noise and grain. The client raved about it the improvements and continues to say how it's almost as if he's hearing each record again for the first time. He laughed, saying he never would have deliberately put the cartridge and arm at a funny angle like that, but sure enough he heard the difference right away. Every client has said the same things. We're batting 1.000!

Whether the perfect azimuth setting for your system is as little as a few tenths of a degree from where it is now or even more than what's shown in this example, you'll hear the improvements time and again. Your favorite records will last longer, and so will your stylus.

It's truly the biggest bang for the buck improvement you can make to your system. Your ears will thank you!

Here is what Jim Howard of Applied Fidelity had to say on a popular audio forum:

  I can vouch for your set up, Brian, it is the best I have heard. PERIOD.

That Feickert software just nails set up. I am very lucky to have watched you perform the set up a couple of times now.

This kind of attention to detail goes way beyond a simple paint by numbers approach.

Link to Jim's post

Testimonials from other satisfied customers:


  OK - I got done working and have been listening to some favorite LPs.

Pant-crappingly good.

(...a few hours later:)
I have been listening more - I am too busy weeping. No shit.

My turntable has vaulted beyond my high-end digital stuff in a way I can't express at the moment. I always liked it better - but it was just sort of warmer and happier.

Now there is no comparison.

-- Mark M.


  I just got the chance to listen to the TT, it really sounds great. The issue that I had with the harsh highs is gone. Vocals are really clear. Thank you. I believe that it was money well spent. Thank you again for your help, I hope to talk to you again soon when I am ready for a new cartridge.

-- Thomas S.


  Brian did an alignment job on my Oracle Delphi/Rega/Shinon Red for me in February and I just now got my table hooked back up due to the shelf project. My complaints were with mistracking and sibilance. Brian did some fancy schmancy alignment work and turned my rig around. I was so frustrated with getting the last 10% I decided it was time to give it to someone with more experience. I had met Brian in the past and he is an AK member so why not?

After much fussing and use of a computer Brian was able to do some real magic. He gave me a stack of printed data that makes absolutely no sense to me. I can say that my rig sounds MUCH better and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. It's almost a 4 hour round trip to get to his home but it was worth every penny.

I also had my table at Robie's house for an AK get together and it really went over well. I would have been embarrassed to take it there if Brian hadn't sorted it out for me.

Thank you very much Brian.

Evan

Evan's comments can also be viewed here.

  I have to tell you, the money I spent on your turntable setup is the best use of money for me in a long time. It simply sounds fantastic!

-- Dennis G.

Here is what Jim Howard of Applied Fidelity (turntable aftermarket 'hotrodder') had to say on a popular audio forum:

  I can vouch for your set up, Brian, it is the best I have heard. PERIOD.

That Feickert software just nails set up. I am very lucky to have watched you perform the set up a couple of times now.

This kind of attention to detail goes way beyond a simple paint by numbers approach.

Link to Jim's post

Around the time I went to work at Music Direct, Christopher F. asked me to come set up his turntable and dial in his cartridge. His reactions to the results were ecstatic, as you can see in his long post on Yelp, part of which follows:

  Mr. Walsh drove to our home in Madison, set up the table, installed the cartridge, then optimized the cartridge and showed me what he achieved with the software set up tools and his expertise; 35db separation almost exact in both channels; SRA of 92.4 degrees. He showed me the arm tube resonance and frequency response of the cartridge as well as the speed of the turntable.

From the moment the stylus touched down in the groove it was instantly apparent how alive and real was the sound.

Mr. Walsh's business card says "Analog Expert" and this is not hyperbole.

If you have invested $2,000 or more in a turntable and cartridge and want to have music extracted from your LPs in the most optimal way, go see Mr. Walsh.

I believe if you purchase a turntable from Music Direct he can set up the table in your home regardless of where you are, otherwise your table must be transported to their showroom for set up.

The $400 "Ultimate Setup" service was the best upgrade to our system with tangible results that your ears will easily discern. Finding Mr. Walsh from Wisconsin was finding a needle in a haystack; a Miracle; we are so grateful to him.

Please note: Music Direct no longer offers this service since I was the one doing it.

Testimonials from other satisfied customers:


  OK - I got done working and have been listening to some favorite LPs.

Pant-crappingly good.

(...a few hours later:)
I have been listening more - I am too busy weeping. No shit.

My turntable has vaulted beyond my high-end digital stuff in a way I can't express at the moment. I always liked it better - but it was just sort of warmer and happier.

Now there is no comparison.

-- Mark M.


  I just got the chance to listen to the TT, it really sounds great. The issue that I had with the harsh highs is gone. Vocals are really clear. Thank you. I believe that it was money well spent. Thank you again for your help, I hope to talk to you again soon when I am ready for a new cartridge.

-- Thomas S.


  Brian did an alignment job on my Oracle Delphi/Rega/Shinon Red for me in February and I just now got my table hooked back up due to the shelf project. My complaints were with mistracking and sibilance. Brian did some fancy schmancy alignment work and turned my rig around. I was so frustrated with getting the last 10% I decided it was time to give it to someone with more experience. I had met Brian in the past and he is an AK member so why not?

After much fussing and use of a computer Brian was able to do some real magic. He gave me a stack of printed data that makes absolutely no sense to me. I can say that my rig sounds MUCH better and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. It's almost a 4 hour round trip to get to his home but it was worth every penny.

I also had my table at Robie's house for an AK get together and it really went over well. I would have been embarrassed to take it there if Brian hadn't sorted it out for me.

Thank you very much Brian.

Evan

Evan's comments can also be viewed here.

I have been doing this for over ten years and am unique in providing this level of service in the midwest. Committed to the best possible analog performance at almost any budget level, I have the tools and knowledge to apply them for your benefit and listening enjoyment.

The service usually takes between 3 and 4 hours to do, not counting time to and from your home. I don't time myself, though. I just get it as perfect as humanly possible. Read the testimonials.

The cost is $300 within 50 miles of Barrington, Illinois, plus $5 per additional 5 mile increment and any tolls and parking costs. Beyond a one day round trip, other reasonable travel expenses apply. Not inexpensive but as serious as it gets, and a deal that cannot be beat.

If the cost of the Ultimate Setup is too much you can opt for the Standard Setup for $100 (plus any mileage, etc. from Barrington), which includes the bold items below. If your turntable system is worth $2000 or more I highly recommend the Ultimate Setup.

Referrals: Once you have had the Ultimate Setup service done, for each friend you refer for the same service you will receive $25.

Dealer inquiries invited - contact for info

What the service includes

  • Leveling the turntable
  • Setting overhang and offset angle using the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor
  • Setting vertical tracking force
  • Setting antiskating
  • Azimuth adjustment by measurement of phase error and crosstalk
  • Platter rotational speed measurement and adjustment for 33 1/3 and 45 RPM. Adjustment for minimum wow and flutter.
  • Frequency response
  • Resonance and vibration measurement and minimization
  • Vertical tracking force optimization
  • Cartridge loading optimization
  • Phono preamp gain optimization
  • Stylus rake angle (SRA) optimization through measurement
  • Antiskating optimization through measurement

The SMARTractor's extreme accuracy is due to its precision machining, where at the correct overhang distance the diamond stylus tip drops into a tiny divot in the mirrored surface, much like a golf ball going into the cup.

This photo shows a Lyra Atlas cartridge I set up using the SMARTractor. The stylus is in the divot.

Smartractor Atlas

Some of the tools used

  • Acoustical Systems SMARTractor
  • Dr. Feickert Analogue Adjust+ Pro software and test record
  • AnalogMagik software and test records
  • USB mciroscope

What differences can you expect?

  • Better imaging
  • Deeper, wider soundstage
  • Lower noise and distortion
  • Clearer high frequencies
  • More tuneful, better defined bass
  • Richer tone and harmonics
  • Reduced record wear
  • Longer stylus life

 

You will be satisfied

People consistently say this is by far the biggest improvement with highest return on investment you can make on your system. I am so confident of that, I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.

You must be absolutely delighted with the results of my setup service, or you don't pay the base fee.

 

An example of what the correct azimuth setting will do for you

The client in this case listens to vinyl only and carefully maintains his records and keeps his equipment in perfect adjustment. Accordingly, the cartridge body was perfectly level, parallel to the record surface.

azimuth angle

The graphs below, generated by the software program, show the phase response (upper graph) and crosstalk (lower graph) measurements taken for different azimuth angles (shown on the horizontal axes). The light blue vertical lines highlight the measurements taken at zero degrees azimuth angle, the initial setting, while the yellow vertical line toward the left side of the graphs highlights the measurements taken at the optimum azimuth angle of -1.4 degrees. Because the software program is configured for azimuth angles in 0.5 degree steps, for measurements at the final azimuth setting of -1.4 degrees we "pretended" to the program that the azimuth was at +2.5 degrees -- a region that's not of interest since crosstalk is increasing for positive azimuth angles and phase error is relatively unchanging.

azimuth graph

From the graphs you can see the phase error at 0 degrees azimuth was huge: 155 degrees! Where the curves in the upper graph cross at -1.4 degrees azimuth angle, there is zero phase error, which is readily audible to the untrained ear. The crosstalk figures at this azimuth setting reflect improvements up to 7 dB, which again is huge! (a 10 dB difference is twice or half as loud) The ear is more sensitive to phase error than crosstalk, so -1.4 degrees was selected as the optimum azimuth setting.

From the moment the stylus hit the groove, the differences were mind boggling. Everything from top to bottom was clearer, better defined, with dramatically less noise and grain. The client raved about it the improvements and continues to say how it's almost as if he's hearing each record again for the first time. He laughed, saying he never would have deliberately put the cartridge and arm at a funny angle like that, but sure enough he heard the difference right away. Every client has said the same things.

Here is another example where the correct azimuth setting was -1.0 degree (headshell rotated clockwise) for zero phase error. The crosstalk levels are much less as well.

azimuthgraphs

Whether the perfect azimuth setting for your system is as little as a few tenths of a degree from where it is now or even more than what's shown in this example, you'll hear the improvements time and again. Your favorite records will last longer, and so will your stylus.

It's truly the biggest bang for the buck improvement you can make to your system. Your ears will thank you.

Azimuth angle is the angle measured between the top of the phono cartridge body and the record surface when viewed from in front of the cartridge while the stylus is in the record groove. If the cartridge is perfectly level, the azimuth angle is zero (0) degrees. If the cartridge leans to the left a bit in the counterclockwise direction, the azimuth angle is positive; if it leans to the right, the azimuth is negative.

Here is an illustration of azimuth angle:

adjustplusazimuthangle

Due to manufacturing tolerances the stylus may or may not be at the ideal orientation to the record groove walls when the azimuth angle measured is zero. This can be due to a variety of things, including the orientation of the stylus shank mounted into the cantilever, the alignment of the coils inside the cartridge, tracking force, and so on. Antiskating force can play a part as well.

We perceive performance to be best when phase response error between the channels is minimized, often at a similar azimuth setting where crosstalk levels between the channels are minimized.

This is a very complex question. Clarity, detail retrieval, frequency response, and record and stylus wear are but a few things affected by stylus shape, also called stylus profile.

Here are some examples:

stylus shapes

Rather than repeat what has already been written on the topic, here are some relevant links:

The cartridge manufacturer specifies a range for recommended tracking force, based upon physical characteristics of the cartridge such as suspension stiffness, cantilever and coil mass, etc. It is best to set it according to the manufacturer's recommendations for best tracking. Too little tracking force, and it could mistrack and not sound balanced. Too much, and record and stylus wear could be affected and the coils will not be centered in the motor assembly inside the cartridge.

Antiskating force, also called bias, is used to compensate for the tendency of the tonearm to seek the center of record. Antiskating mechanisms most often employ small weights to apply slight force to the tonearm to push it outward. Some tonearms use a magnetic antiskating mechanism. For conventional gimbal type arms you often set it based upon the tracking force used. Unipivot arms may require little or no antiskating. There are at least a couple of methods for setting the correct amount of antiskating force, the results of which are properly centered image and good tracking across the record.

VTA is the angle measured from the cantilever pivot point to the stylus tip and the plane of the record surface. SRA, which is what counts, is measured between either the centerline of the stylus shank or the rear edge of the stylus (depending upon stylus shape) and the plane of the record surface.

SRA to centerline of stylus shank

SRA measured from rear edge of stylus

An excellent article from a 1981 issue of Audio magazine, More Than One Vertical Tracking Angle (PDF), covers the topic well.

Michael Fremer has written articles on these topics:

 

 

Ready to realize your system's full potential?

 

 

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