Aligning your turntable stylus helps you to ensure you achieve the best sound reproduction from your record; as well as preventing your record from wearing down prematurely and there are various tools you can use to achieve this alignment – one of the most common being the Alignment Protractor. We took the time to collate all the information you need to know aboutAlignment Protractors here.
Table of contents
What is an Alignment Protractor
As we previously stated, proper alignment of your turntable stylus helps you to achieve the best sound out of your turntable; and a Cartridge Alignment Protractor is one of these tools you can use to achieve this.
An Alignment Protractor is essentially a template onto which are printed the lines of tangency and null points with which the cartridge should be aligned. The tangency of the stylus is incredibly important; if the stylus is perfectly tangent to the record grooves, then you hear the best sound as the stylus moves in the desired direction of the record grooves. If the stylus is not tangent with the record, then the stylus will be pushing slightly towards one of the “walls” of the groove – this will affect the sound quality and increase the wear on the record.
It is also important to recognise that different cartridges will have different alignment protractors based on their design.
How to use one
When using an alignment protractor, it is essential to remember that you are attempting to align the cantilever and stylus, and not the cartridge body.
Firstly, place the protractor on the platter and get it into the right position by placing the styles at each end (inside and outside of the platter) and make sure that the stylus is about the same distance from the arc at each point.
With the cartridge square in the headshell, move the cartridge within the headshell so that the stylus can follow the arc – this sets the overhang. Once you have done this, place the stylus on one of the grids on the protractor and check the cartridge in the headshell is parallel.
And that’s it! It’s always good practice to double check what you have done, and make sure that all adjustments should be done with the tonearm and cartridge raised clear of the protractor.
There are a bunch of different types of alignment protractors, from cartridge specific to universal protractors.
From what we know, it is best to use either a protractor designed for the specific cartridge you have, or a two-point universal protractor are probably your best bets.
So now you know what an alignment protractor is and how to use one! For more information on how to look after your records, check out our guide to cleaning your vinyl records.