setting azimuth on VPI turntables

I purchased a VPI Scoutmaster a few weeks ago, being unenthusiatic over the sound, I was considering selling up until last night.

I had been over cartridge setup for this table a number of times, getting overhang, alignment, azimuth, VTF, and VTA just right. Still, things were not sounding all that good.

I had previously purchased the Fremer DVD so I did know about setting up this table optimally. I surmised the rod method of setting azimuth, as instructed in the VPI manual, was not optimal and part of the culprit in non-involving sound.

I finally got around to purchasing a DMM with a low enough AC voltage scale the other day. After much trial and error I finally got a crosstalk differential of less than 1%, a miracle with this setup. Setting azimuth on this table is a real PITA, everytime I got azimuth within specs, VTF went out of balance.

Eventually I got it right, the payoff in sound was way big time! Center image is now 'locked in', way more solid and dimensional. Images are also now floating free of the physical speaker, spaciousness, air in spades, a much more organic sound.

Having heard some complain about this table's uninvolving nature and lack of musicality prompted me to post this thread. I suspect many have not had their table set up correctly, because I certainly heard what they were talking about prior to getting azimuth 'locked in'. VPI owners, it is absolutely necessary to set azimuth electronically, the rod method in not nearly good enough! Get a proper DMM or get someone knowledgable to set up your table, you just might be in for a big surprise!

Vinyl setup:
VPI Scoutmaster, non-signature, Valhalla wired arm wand in near future
Dynavector 20XL
Cayin Phono One
DIY wall shelf using 3" thick maple
Bright Star Big Rock, going to try Gingko 11 in near future
SDS and ring clamp coming soon
The DMM and Cardas gives excellent results...but so too does the rod method if done carefully. The DMM method is a bit of a pain to go through the hoops, but the results are very clear. As I have said in another post, if you reduce the distance between the record and the rod on both sides (I use the Cardas Myrtle blocks, and build it up even further with the same size washer for each of the 2 blocks - one on each end, under the rod ends), and if the rod is not bent, and if the stylus was manufacturer square to the cartridge body, the results are the same. As you can see there are a lot of "ifs", however, it can be done. I would save the 500 dollars for more meaningful projects
Sonofjim, yes, the adjust + is what I was referring to in an earlier post. From what I can gather, the perfect azimuth adjustment can change from record to record, depending on how it was cut. The Adjust + allows one to make azimuth absolutely correct for each record. I know this is ultimate, but hey, fiddling with VTA is enough for me!

As for setting azimuth by rod, I think Viper z's situation makes it clear that the DMM method is the only definitive method, and an absolute necessity. It appears his cartridge is defective, or at least out of tolerance. The DMM method and results gives him the ammunition to be able to go back to the dealer or manufacturer for an exchange or refund. He would have never known this without the DMM.

Having said this, and I did mention this to Stan, I do think an experienced audiophile who is well acquainted with the sound of his particular system could set correct azimuth by listening only. With a high resolution system you can hear when that sound is 'locked in'. Even then, I still like the DMM method as it gives comfort knowing you have the optimum setting.

For the perfectionists among us, the Feikert tool will be the ultimate.
Yes, my system does have that locked in quality just from carefully leveling azimuth with the rod. I think I will double check this with a DMM for about $40. I'm not sure I want a $400 tool that makes me feel like I need to check azimuth for each record. I guess the next step would be to buy a separate alignment protractor for each record!
the new soundsmith counter intuitive 49.95 placed on the tonearm counterweight solves the problem a simple device that does work...allows you to really fine tune the vtf and asimuth after u get a ballpark reading without loosening the set screw ,,,
I use the Adjust + and it is not for setting azimuth to every LP you listen to.

You use the test LP from Feickert and it measures crosstalk along with phase angle. VTA will make changes to the measurements as well on some cartridges. I find it a bit of an "art" to interpret the results with this tool. You want to choose the azimuth where the phase angle and crosstalk intersects or very close.