Turntable Cartridge Alignment Protractor PDF – Download & Print

September 19th, 2023 by Gregory de Richemont

Cartridge Alignment Protractor PDF: Introduction

Welcome to Le Son Audiophile Blog!

In this article, I will guide you through the simple process of downloading and printing a cartridge alignment protractor pdf for your turntable. I will also provide clear instructions on how to use this tool for precise cartridge alignment.

While exploring the web, you may have encountered various free turntable cartridge alignment tools, such as those available on vinylengine.com. I have personally tested several of these tools, with some delivering outstanding results and others being less effective.

The primary challenge is ensuring you select the right one for your specific tonearm. There is a multitude of alignment geometries to choose from, including Baerwald, Löfgren, Stevenson, Guru, and more. Additionally, different alignment methods like one point, two points, and arc protractors are available.

In this article, I will introduce you to the best arc protractor generator I have come across, which is ideal for turntables equipped with a pivot tonearm. This remarkable tool was created by Conrad Hoffman. It is freely downloadable and allows users to effortlessly generate and print a high-quality arc protractor for their setup.

Hoffman’s protractor generator is based on Graem Dennes‘ Tonearm Geometry Analysis paper, originally published in 1983 and most recently updated in May 2023. You can find the complete paper available for download in PDF format here.

Now let’s dive into the 4 quick and easy steps to align a cartridge on your turntable with this tool.

1. Find your turntable Pivot to Spindle Distance (Effective Length – Stylus Overhang)

The essential step to take before creating a protractor for your turntable is to determine the precise tonearm pivot-to-spindle distance.

Most turntable manufacturers provide this mounting distance in their user manuals. They may specify it directly or indirectly by indicating the tonearm’s effective length and the cartridge stylus tip overhang.

Acoustic Signature Double X 2019 Pivot to Spindle Distance

Acoustic Signature Double X 2019 User Manual.

Technics SL-1200GR User Manual.

Here is a handy formula to calculate it:

Tonearm Pivot to Spindle Distance = Tonearm Effective Length – Stylus Tip Overhang

So given the information above, the pivot-to-spindle distance for the Technics SL-1200GR is equal to 230 – 15 = 215mm.

As examples, here are the pivot-to-spindle distances for some popular turntables:

  • Acoustic Signature Double X 2019: 222mm
  • Clearaudio Concept: 222mm
  • Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC: 200mm
  • Rega Planar 3 (RB330 tonearm): 222mm
  • Technics SL1200 / SL-1210 MKII MK3 MK4 MK5 MK6 MK7: 215mm
  • Technics SL-1200G / SL-1210G: 215mm
  • Technics SL-1200GAE: 215mm
  • Technics SL-1500C: 215mm

If your turntable is equipped with a non-standard tonearm, you can measure the tonearm pivot-to-spindle distance manually with care.

2. Generate your Universal 2-Point Protractor PDF

Download Conrad Hoffman’s protractor generator here or from his website (third line).

Unzip the folder and launch the TemplateGen.exe software.

On the pop-up window, fill-in the Spindle to Pivot Distance (in mm) for your turntable.

Choose DIN for outer and inner groove radii, which is the most versatile setting.

Choose between Löfgren A (Baerwald), Löfgren B, and Stevenson alignment geometries. I recommend Löfgren A (Baerwald) as it is the most versatile one.

Conrad Hoffman Cartridge Alignment Protractor PDF Software

Example: values to generate the protractor for the Technics SL-1200GR turntable.

Click on Print Arc Template, then OK, and the program will generate the pdf file.

Cartridge Alignment Protractor PDF example

Example: protractor generated for the Technics SL-1200GR turntable.

3. Print your 2-Point Arc Protractor PDF

Example: printed protractor for the Technics SL-1200GR turntable.

Print the cartridge alignment protractor PDF file at a 1:1 scale using a high-quality printer. Photo paper is the optimal choice for this task due to its smoother surface, reducing the risk of the stylus catching, and its heavier weight, which provides greater stability.

Verify with a trusted ruler that the measures on the X and Y axis are accurate.

Cut the template on the curved line (cut here!).

When cutting the hole for the spindle, precision is crucial to ensure the template’s accuracy. Instead of cutting the square shape which is difficult and often inaccurate, here is a better method that makes the job simple but extremely precise:

Free Cartridge Alignment Protractor Hole Cutting Method

First, use a thin pencil to extend lines A and B.

Free Cartridge Alignment Protractor Hole Cutting Method

Then trace line C so it intersects the spindle hole like this.

Cartridge Alignment Protractor Hole Cutting

Finally, just cut along the two red lines with a sharp knife , and push the circle area over sthe spindle. The paper will bend up along line C and make a very tight, accurate fit exactly at the correct location.

4. Align your Phono Cartridge

First, ensure that your anti-skating mechanism is either disabled or set to zero.

Then place a record on your turntable, and the printed protractor on top of it.

Technics Cartridge Alignment Protractor PDF

Here, we are aligning a Le Son SL1 MC Cartridge & Headshell on a Technics SL1200 tonearm.

Your initial objective is to position the cartridge in the headshell so that the stylus traces the arc on the template. Gently lower the stylus at various points, but never slide it across the paper.

To start, you can visually align the spindle-to-pivot line with your tonearm pivot as a reference point.

If the stylus touches the arc near the platter’s edge but falls short of it near the spindle, shift the cartridge forward within the headshell.

If the stylus touches the arc near the edge but extends beyond it near the spindle, move the cartridge backward within the headshell.

By adjusting the cartridge’s position in this manner, you should soon reach a point where the stylus tracks precisely along the arc, regardless of its position.

Once the stylus precisely follows the arc, align the cartridge’s offset angle with either grid. The grids are placed at the two null points, and feature closely spaced double lines for those who prefer aligning the cantilever instead of the cartridge body. A central line and a perpendicular line are provided to prevent misjudgment caused by the arc’s angle within the small circle.

Cartridge Alignment Protractor Grid Alignment

Here, the stylus of Le Son SL1 MC Cartridge is spot on, and both the cartridge cantilever and body are aligned with the grid.

Once the stylus tracks the arc precisely and the cartridge body or cantilever aligns with either grid, congratulations, you’re all set!”

Cartridge Alignment Protractor PDF: Conclusion

I hope that this article has assisted you in reducing tracking errors on your turntable and, in turn, enhancing the quality of your sound system.

Now, it’s time to savor the rich tones of your vinyl records.

Long live analog sound!

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    Gregory de Richemont

    At the helm of Le Son, Gregory combines his business administration expertise with a deep passion for high fidelity sound. Renowned for his skill in analog audio, Gregory's journey from corporate life to audiophile expert is a testament to his dedication to pure sound. Discover more on our About Us page.