Correct alignment for Fidelity Research 64fx/SPU?


I've recently paired SPU Spirit with FR64fx (& additional counterweight).

FR64fx is mounted at 230mm pivot to spindle distance on my Garrard 301.

I currently experience a light distortion and mistracking. As I tried the SPU before on almost ad hoc mounted 3012 and that sounded technically correct (though not as convincing as with FR64fx in terms of emotional performance), I'm pretty convinced I will need to realign the tonearm.

I would appreciate any info related to an experience of 64/SPU users here, which would differ from a usual 230m PTS alignment. Also, I keep on reading that Stevenson alignment would be preferred, is there any explanation why so?

Basically I need to make a good decision as I have no armboard - whatever decision I make I will need to get a new top board with a new hole for a new alignment.

Many thanks!
In my experience a 3012-r + SPU beats the pants off any SPU + FR combination, including the 66s & the recent Ikeda arms. The FR mount doesn't have the flexibility of the SME and as you noticed, short of a new arm board you won't get the proper tracking angle for this combination.
From the German HIFI Magazine 'Das Ohr' (1984!) I learned that the pivot-spindle distance should be 231,5mm for the optimal geometry(64S+64FX) I use this geometry since and rcentlyordered by Yip his Mint Tractor fo this distance + the SP-10 spindle 'thickness'. Those seem to differ by different TT's.
DKarmeli, Perhaps your comparison of SME 3012 to FR and Ikeda was unfair, if you made the latter tonearms wear pants. They sound better naked.

Seriously, no one can argue with your considered opinion based on what you heard in your own system (the best possible data base), but based on reputation, your result is surprising, at least. Maybe that speaks to the abundance of hyper-inflated reputations in the audio world. (You can probably buy three 3012s for the current asking price of an FR66S.) Then too, the SPU is kind of a special case among cartridges. That may play a role in your experience.
The SME 3012 is inferior to any FR Arm. This has nothing to do with "personal taste", it is technical fact. The SME was made for the ultra soft Shure System and is not able to handle the energy from cartridges which guide their energy into the Arm (that is the reason why you can sometimes the comment "dancing bearing"). The fx can't be compared to a regular FR with the steel tube, maybe it is a mismatch with the SPU, maybe it is wrong alignment, maybe it is stiff grease inside...but anyway, a Garrard has so many internal vibrations that is very hard to rate something correctly.
Lewm, I've been at this for years now and spent enough time comparing arms and cartridges on high end tables to finally settle on the 3012-R, and yes the cost is also important. At any given time I have 16-20 arms setup on various tables, aside from sounding great the 3012-R is the most flexible and most economical too.
Syntax, it's not a fact at all, only your opinion. Technically the 3012-R's
sliding base makes them much more flexible and accurate setting tracking
angle on various cartridges, you're much more limited in your cartridge with
the FRs. Where do you get limited to Shure system from? I have everything
from Shure to Neumann DST set up on a pin modified 3012-R and they all
work and sound fine.

Yes alignment is an issue with FR arms with many cartridges, fx and steel
tubed, that's a design flaw. You can also add arm leads, mats and even belt
tension to your list of things that can affect comparisons. Garrard's
vibrations can be mitigated with a properly designed and built base
and even go further by having standalone arm bases which allow more
flexibility of alignment for FR/Ikeda arms. But the Garrard is colored
and not the ultimate in resolution making this kind of assessment difficult. In
my case I lived with FR66s and 64s for many years and had them sitting
side by side with 3012-Rs on the same tables, SX-8000mk2 and American
Sound AS-1000x, the most neutral and natural sounding table I heard or
owned. I find the 3012-R superior, specially in the low in the lower
frequencies. Let me add that I don't like the sound of silver wires and my
FRs are all wired with it.
I'll bring this back to your original question: "correct alignment for the arms designed by Ikeda son." All of his arms are optimized for Stevenson alignment, this is the only alignment method that he uses. I purchased a Mint Protractor and have absolutely zero tracking error with my SPU, Shelter 5000 or Denen 103r.

The downside on the Mint is that you can't vary the spinal distance. Dertonearm recommends the 231.5 distance on the FR64, you will have to buy a different protractor.
Dear Jeff, Regarding the 'original question'. I prefer to
put this question otherwise. Not as 'what is the correct
alignment' but as 'what is the optimal geometry ' for the
64 series? After all both , Stevenson and Bearwald should
be considered as 'correct' but, as I mentioned in my reference
to 'Das Ohr' Magazine and you to Dertonarm the
'optimal distance' should be 231,5 mm. But this means
Bearwald geometry as well the assumption that Bearwald is
'optimal' and consequently that Srevenson is not.
Question to those who use SPU:
Isn't there something "funny" about this cartridge, such that the tonearm has to be adapted for proper alignment, or something like that? I think it has to do with the distance between the rear of the cartridge body and the stylus tip.
Lewm, the SPU comes in its own fixed headshell so don't have ability to change the tracking via the headshell like a standard cartridge. In case of the SME the base is also adjustable but not with the FR. In this case you need to move the arm hole on the board for optimum tracking angle.
The set up instructions for the FR 64S and Ikeda 345 state a 50cm distance from the stylus to the headshell mount. Ortofon SPU's have this 50cm distance so there shouldn't be an issue if the arm is set up properly from the beginning.
"50 cm" = ~19.6 inches!!!!
Probably you meant to write "50mm", but I wouldn't know for sure.

I thought I read in one of Art Dudley's commentaries that the SPU required special mounting and/or tonearm adaptation. Dkarmeli's post suggests I was correct; the cartridge directly mates to the headshell mount on the arm wand. So I imagine you cannot either twist the cartridge in its mount to achieve, say, Baerwald geometry, nor move it fore and aft so as to achieve correct pivot to stylus distance. You have to take into account its stylus to mount distance when siting your tonearm pivot.
50 cm is equal to 19.6 inches. 2.54 cm per inch. Whew! I'm glad I got that off my chest.
Lewm, That's correct, it fits directly into the bayonet mount of the arm. The only twisting you can do is for azimuth adjustment.
LOL....yes mm and not cm. I set all of my cartridges to 50mm stylus to mount distance and the SPU is just plug and play.
Very late to this one but 52mm is the stylus to arm collar distance on an SPU. People working to 50mm are going to get a nasty tracking error.
The alignment of FR64 arms with integrated headshell cartridges is pretty straight forward. Ikeda designed the arm to accomodate his FR7 cartridges with integrated headshell allowing 51mm stylus to arm collar distance. When you observe the specified 230mm spindle to pivot distance of the FR64 you get perfect alignment with the Stevenson geometry. This set up has the convenience to also operate SPU's without having to change the S2P distance. This suggests that the stylus to arm collar distance on SPU is also supposed to be 51mm. Perhaps Ortofon has changed this recently, but my SPU's have 51mm and fit the FR64 perfectly. No tracking errors.

 To add to some original comments made regarding 
the SME 3012 and its suitability or not, the specific reference
was to the R version and differs from the standard 3012 model
quite a bit.

The R series was modelled after the first series 1, 3012 circa 1955
which differed in both mass and materials used for the arm tube. 

Comparing any 3012 to other than the original rare series 1 or 
the JDM R version is apples and oranges.


While we're at it, since you brought this 6-year-old thread to the fore.  Jeff1225 said (in 2014) that he had "zero tracking error" using his Mint Protractor with his FR or Ikeda tonearm.  THAT is a feat, indeed, unless he turned his pivoted tonearm into a linear tracker and then had the high skill level and luck necessary to set it up perfectly.  The point being that all of this business with aligning a pivoted tonearm is about compromise or preference. All algorithms admit tracking error; it's only a question of where on the LP surface and how much.
The problem by integrated headshells is that one can't move the
stylus to ''optimal position'' as is the case by ''ordinary headshells''.
Even the FR -7 kinds have different cantilever length which imply
different stylus to pivot distance . So the only way to get correct
geometry is to move the arm in its base to correct distance in
the sense of stylus to pivot distance. 
Dear @edgewear:  ""  you get perfect alignment with the Stevenson geometry. This set up has the convenience to also operate SPU's without having to change the S2P distance. ...... but my SPU's have 51mm and fit the FR64 perfectly. No tracking errors....""

No tracking error? seriously? because Stevenson alignment is the worst kind of alignment due to its very high tracking error all over the LP surface but at the last 3mm. Is the worst of all kind of alignments.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

@rauliruegas  I should have expressed myself more accurately. Obviously there are tracking errors with any pivoted tonearm. In response to @montesquieu  I should have said "no nasty tracking errors". You see, I don't hear audible distortions using Ikeda's specified 230mm S2P distance for the FR64 in combination with the FR7 cartridges, which were designed to be used with this arm (and the FR66). The same goes for using the FR64 with SPU's: no 'nasty' tracking errors. 

I know you hate the FR64, but I happen to admire Ikeda's designs and I have no reason to doubt that he knew what he was doing when he chose the Stevenson geometry for his products. As far as I'm concerned the sonic results speak for themselves. If you happen to think differently, that's perfectly fine. I couldn't case less.

Dear @edgewear : "  I know you hate the FR64.."

maybe my several posts about through the time give that  conclusion but the FR main subject I don't recomended it ( even that I own it. ) is that it's a non-damped tonearm design.

The tonearm looks really fine but any tonearm needs to " fullfil " the cartridge needs and one critical need on a cartridge is precesily to damp so many kind of resonances/distortions developed in between the LP/cartridge/tonearm.
I know that the FR as SAEC tonearms likes to almost all people because one characteristic is that is so alive as the live MUSIC.

The kind of nice distortuions developed through FR/SAEC tonearms are just that: nice distortions and I prefer more clear MUSIC information with lower " nice distortions ".

This FR/SAEC tonearms example is in some ways similar on why we like more analog than digital or tubes over SS electronics.

So, everything belongs on what be our room/system main targets and mine is try to stay truer to the recording and one path that puts me near to that target is try to leave all kind of distortions generated by the room/system at minimum elsewhere the room/system and a well damped tonearm designs helps a lot to achieve that target.

@rauliruegas we agree to disagree, no problem. In my system using the same turntable and the same cartridges I can compare the FR-64S directly to the Audiocraft AC-4400. As you well know this is a tonearm with variable damping. There's no doubt these tonearms have different characteristics, also taking into account the difference in effective length. But even in direct comparison I don't hear the kind of distortions that you attribute to the FR-64S.

Here is more information about FR tonearm on another forum, the last version was 64FX with damped armtube, then 66fx. Someone posted catalogs, download them if you don't have it.  
@chakster I also own the 64fx (with silver wire inside) and I've made some thorough comparisons between them. I like them both, but ultimately I prefer the 64S (also silver rewired). Especially with heavy low compliance cartridges like FR7 and SPU. 
@edgewear : I own both tonearms too and cartridges performs different mounted on each of these tonearms and different because both designs are different and not only in the EL characteristics but the kind iof pivot design: fixed vs unipivot.

It's not easy that two persons can be in agreement in this subject damped vs non-damped tonearms when the premises of those persons are different ( with different room/systems too. ) and obviously full of subjectivity.
Btw, from some time now I'm not with unipivot any more even that I still own unipivots designs.

Anyway, i understand your points.

Yeah, i know

Great tonearms in my opinion

I can’t hear distortion with Stevenson alignment using 64fx+W250+N60 with FR-7fz...

Your thought on 64s vs. Ikeda 345 if you have one (my version is rare matt finishing) ?

@rauliruegas the box of my AC-4400 says 'double points oil damped' tonearm. So not unipivot, contrary to the AC-3000/4000. In any case it doesn't 'wobble' like unipivots do.

@chakster I have no personal experience with Ikeda 345, so can't answer your question. 

@edgewear : Yes I know is a double point but it's not a fixed bearing as FR or Technics or other true fixed tonearm designs. A fixed tonearm pivot design is a lot more stable than a single or dual pivot designs.

Dear @lewm  : I like well damped tonearms with fixed bearing pivot and with removable headshell.

Vintage Technics and Lustre are inside those characteristics along AT design. All internally re-wired.

From some time now I'm using my own designed and builded tonearm and my favorite with any mounted cartridge.

From today and even that some have non removable headshell: Triplanar, Audio Note, Davinci, Durand ( fixed pivot design. ), Kuzma 4 point, SME, Thales, Reed, Townshend. I have no experiences with the fixed VPI but I can think is a good design.

Now, my take is that for any audiophile the favorite tonearm is that that gives the best quality performance levels match with the cartridge he own, at the end these couple is whom has the " last word " about.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@lewm  : How can I forgot this one?, the MS MAX 282 that's one of the best ever tonearm design.

This may be only tangentially related, but where damping is most advantageous, and is of most potential benefit, is at the pickup/cartridge/headshell end of the tonearm. In the late-60’s/early-70’s, turntable design was investigated in depth at the Cransfield Institute of Technology in England (perhaps England’s equivalent of MIT. Am I alone in considering England the motherload of all things LP related? And not because my bloodline is over 50% English/Irish ;-), where the concept of a trough of silicon damping fluid into which is inserted a "paddle" (a hollow aluminum tube), the upper end of which is attached to the arm’s headshell, was proposed. More detailed information about that research is readily available to those interested enough to search for it.

Max Townshend, a brilliant mechanical and electronic engineer, licensed the rights to the idea, and designed a turntable incorporating (amongst other concepts) the front-end damping developed at Cransfield, which works with all pivoted arms: The Townshend Audio Rock Turntable. The Rock has been available in seven different incarnations (currently out-of-production), and is a turntable rarely seen for sale second-hand. I bought mine (a Rock Elite Mk.2) almost thirty years ago, and though modestly priced (and modest in appearance), it is my most prized hi-fi component. I own a gun, but it is my Rock which would need to be pried from my cold, head hands.

Raul, Thanks for your response.  Triplanar and Reed are two of my favorites, too.  (Naming the only two tonearms on your list that I own and use extensively.)  I have a Technics EPA-250 with two arm wands, one for low compliance types and one for high compliance types.  I have never been able to mount it on any of the turntables I own, owing to the massive base.  I am not crazy about the fact that the arm wand electrical contact to the pivot depends upon those delicate copper prongs. I am sometimes tempted to sell it, but it is too beautiful a piece of industrial art for me to part with it.  Sometimes I just look at it. You, like most others, probably prefer the EPA100.  That would be high on my list.
Bdp, Are you inferring that the Townsend damping trough was your own idea in the first instance?  If so, I am impressed.  Yes, I agree the Townsend turntable is an audio classic.  Its admirers are only less strident than those who worship the Linn, else it would be better recognized for its unique design elements.
Dear @bdp24  : ""  is at the pickup/cartridge/headshell end of the tonearm...""

I agree because it's there where exist the very first " touch " in between cartridge and tonearms self generated vibrations/resonances/distortions and its feedback.

That's why is so important that pivoted tonearms can comes with removable headshell design for in this way the system owner can choose and test diferent headshells that can help to that damping cartridge needs.

The damping approach at the tonearm headshell does not means the tonearm overall damping work is finished because that tonearm has different points along its design that needs damping in cartridge signal benefits. But yes, at the tonearm headshell the most advantageous and many times not an easy task to have it exactly there.

@lewm  : For me over the EPA-100 is with out doubt the MAX-282. This tonearm comes with 3 diferent arm wands where one of them is a removable headshell J shape wand.
It comes with a silicon oil facility at the pivot position and its unique gyroscopic type bearing is just a beauty.

But not only is a great tonearm design but really good quality performer that permits that the cartridges can make very good job.

I think that you need to own it. I don't have it any more because I just do not need it due to my own tonearm design. As with other very good tonearms I finished putting on sale and sold fast.

Well i read this with some interest as i am making a few armboards for my turntables at the minute, so i will make an fr64s board for my own Townshend Rock Elite - i will let u know the results. That said i bought a plastic townshend trough to be used on a sony tts 8000. I think the trough is genius. I had a very informative discussion with an arm maker and he said that the silicone used is so thick in part to stop dripping. A thinner oil will get the same results without over straining the cantilever (which can be a problem with off centre records). @rauliruegas whilst there are other arm resonances the damping trough kills them at source and that energy is put into the silicone - a different head-shell still dissipates into the arm.