Azimuth observations and importance

After adjusting azimuth with a Fozgometer loaned to me, the following is what I observed. Individually, these changes were subtle although noticeable. The combined effect however, was significant to the overall presentation.

Imaging improved.

Vocals became more focused, not as big and wide as before.

Instruments more detailed with greater air. Location is more precise.

Tighter bass versus the slightly lingering bass notes previously.

Better top to bottom detail and clarity.

I never realized how important correct azimuth adjustment is and this exercise was quite a learning experience for me. Thinking I was correctly adjusting azimuth by visually setting the headshell as level as possible was a reasonable but flawed attempt.

I have found at least two stylus issues that if present will affect azimuth and sound.

1) A straight cantilever that is twisted left or right changes the attitude of the diamond and its relationship to the groove. By twisted I mean the cantilever has rotated on its own axis. This one is very difficult to see without appropriate magnification.

2) A cantilever that is canted to the left or right a degree or more but is still straight, not bent. It points left or right probably because it was not centered correctly when the cantilever was installed. It also changes the attitude of the diamond.

What is probably basic and common knowledge to everyone here is something I have just been enlightened about after giving it very little thought. I am now convinced that accurate azimuth is a required step in the turntable set up process and I will be giving full attention to this part of the equation.

No more guesswork and eyeballing which I am embarrassed to say was the norm. Doug
My opinion on azimuth is that it's always a compromise, no matter how long you agonize over it. I set the arm up to look balanced and see how it sounds and adjust by ear if necessary. I've never really believed the compromise you spend ten minutes on is much worse than the one you agonize for weeks over. Having said that, I'll soon have a Reed 3P to play with. Maybe the fine adjustments on the fly will change my mind on this. Meanwhile, my system sounds great without multimeters, filters or fozgowhatevers.
I realize I'll likely be blasted for the above post but, as great as vinyl is, it's not a perfect playback medium. Do we really believe all records are cut the same? Even from the beginning of one side to the end can vary. The perfect adjustment for one LP is great as long as you only play that LP. Where is the line drawn between good setup and just dwelling on minutia?
I've mentioned my set-up technique in other threads, but it may be worth mentioning it again for additional comments.

First off, I own a Classic TT with a Classic 3 waand. My cartridge is a Sound Smith VPI Zephyr (MI) which was jointly designed by Harry Weisfeld and Peter Ledermann. Although I liked the Clear Audio Maestro (MM) a bit more, Mike (VPI) and I just could not get it to work well with either the Classic 1 or 3 wand.

I use the VPI jig which came with the TT to align the carty. It's based on Baerwold (sp?) geometry. I double check alignment with an old Sumiko metal protractor. Alignment is perfect.

Now as to azimuth, my old protractor kit comes with a feather weight tiny bubble balancing level thingy. I am able to set azimuth -- with the help of the SS Counter-Intuitive devise -- 100% level; 180 degrees. No guessing, estimating or eye-balling.

Let me add, that Peter recently retipped by Zephyr. Not that this is necessarily relevant, but he said my old stylus was 80% worn -- and the wear pattern on each side of the stylus was equal.

When the Zephyr came back after the retip, I noticed that the cantilever appeared to be axially twisted about 15-20 degrees from 90 degrees dead center. I have read elsewhere that this is done intentionally to match the cutting angle of LP masters.

As far as sound is concerned, the retip improved imagaing, detail, and so forth and so on across the board, which is no big deal since the stylus is new.

What I don't know is whether the cartridge is operating at optimal channel balance performance as discussed elsewhere above, notwithstanding the care I take with set up.

In the next several weeks, I am having the tone arm base upgraded to the Classic 2/3 version. At that time, I will ask Mike (VPI) to reset my carty. Mike uses an oscilliscope. It will be interesting to see how well my set up technique compares to what Mike comes up with.

I'll report back after I have VPI do the upgrade.

With my Alphason HR100-S, I use the discs created from punching printer paper with a hole-punch. This was suggested by somone in Stereophile. Usually only one or two are required - placed near one of the cart bolts/screws. I use two, stacked together, for my current cart.