Cartridge Alignment Gauges

Cartridge Alignment Tool for 12 Inch Records
Cartridge Alignment Tool for 12 Inch Records

Correct alignment of your phono cartridge and needle is critical to obtaining detailed, high-quality sound from your turntable.  Improperly aligned needles will produce greater distortion, abnormal and accelerated needle wear, and damage to your records. The complete job of setting up your turntable also involves leveling the turntable, making sure the tonearm is mounted at the correct distance from the platter spindle, setting the height of the tonearm base, and if you have a mono-pivot tonearm, setting the azimuth to level. Turntable Tuneup offers custom alignment tools for every size of record: 7 inch singles, 10 inch EPs and 78 RPM records, 12 inch LPs and 16 inch transcription records.   Every size alignment tool comes in two versions, the Baerwald geometry model, and the Löfgren-B model.

Our series of alignment tools is designed to be very easy to use, and highly accurate.  The double-sight line allows the user to set tonearm effective length by looking down the middle, between the two parallel lines, and keeping the pivot point of the tonearm in the mirror’s view, instead of obscuring the point you’re aiming at with a single sight line.  The mirrored surface also makes the checking of angular alignment, vertical tracking angle and azimuth much easier and more accurate.

Two Alignment Models: Baerwald and Löfgren-B

In the audiophile world, there are two major schools of thought as to which alignment model produces the best results.  The mainstream model, proposed by H. G. Baerwald in 1941, produces the lowest maximum error anywhere along the playing band.  But another model, which has a serious constituency of adherents, was proposed by Erik Löfgren in 1938.  The Löfgren-B model has a lower average error across the playing band, and lower errors in the middle part of the playing band.  This comes at the cost of higher errors at the beginning and ending of the playing band.  These two models are very close to each other in practical terms: for any effective length, they both prescribe the same offset angle.  For the same mounting distance, these two models prescribe effective lengths which differ by about a half of a millimeter.  The most noticeable difference is that the two models have different null points at which the angular error will be zero.  On a 12 inch record, Baerwald has the null points at 2.60 and 4.76 inches; Löfgren-B has the null points closer to the center, at 2.77 and 4.60 inches.

The subject of optimal angular alignment is discussed in more detail on the Topics: Playback Quality page.

This chart shows angular errors on a 12 inch record for both the Baerwald and the Löfgren-B alignment models.

Angular Errors on 12 Inch Records, Baerwald and Löfgren-B Setups
Angular Errors on 12 Inch Records, Baerwald and Löfgren-B Setups

Alignment tools for 12 inch records are in stock and ready to ship.  Within each geometry model, there are two versions: Standard Spindle Hole, for most turntables.  Its spindle hole has a diameter of .282 inches.  The Oversized Spindle Hole version has a spindle hole diameter of .288 inches, and is necessary for a few brands of turntable: Acoustic Research, Empire, Garrard, Luxman, Music Hall, Sota, Systemdek, Thorens, VPI, Well Tempered.

12 Inch Alignment Tools – Baerwald Geometry

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 12 Inch Records – Baerwald Geometry

Spindle Size



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12 Inch Alignment Tools – Löfgren-B Geometry

 

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 12 Inch Records with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Löfgren-B Geometry

Spindle Size



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Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records

For collectors of 45 RPM singles, this is a must-have item.

Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 12 Inch Platters
Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 12 Inch Platters

By customizing your setup for the narrow playing band of a 7-inch records, you can reduce the average angular error between the stylus tip and the record groove by a factor of more than 6 to 1, and the maximum error by a factor of almost 9 to 1.Using a 7 inch alignment tool to set up your turntable for 7 inch records will bring a dramatic improvement in the tracking quality and accuracy of playback from your 45 RPM collection. Aligning the cartridge for 7 inch records on a 9-inch tonearm will reduce the average angular error from 0.6657 degrees (with a maximum error of 1.312 degrees) with a 12 inch setup down to  an average of 0.1017 degrees – with a maximum error of 0.205 degrees.

Angular Tracking Error on 7 inch records
Alignment Error when playing 7 Inch Records goes down dramatically when you custom-align the cartridge for the format you’re using. (Baerwald geometry)

The chart of angular errors across the playing band of a 7 inch single illustrates far greater angular error between the stylus and the groove when playing with a 12 inch setup. This is partly because the inner groove of a 7 inch record is closer to the spindle – it’s outside the dimensions of a 12 inch records.  But the major reason we can achieve more precise cartridge alignment on a 7 inch record than on a 12 inch LP is that the playing band is so much narrower.

Cartridge aligned for 7 inch records
Headshell and cartridge aligned correctly for 7 inch records

Naturally, you will not want to re-align the cartridge every time you switch between 7 inch and 12 inch records. What we recommend is that you obtain an extra headshell and cartridge for your tonearm (many tonearms have standardized, interchangeable headshells) and set one up for 12 inch records, and the other for 7 inch. Or, you may also want to set up a dedicated turntable for playing 7 inch records.

It may be necessary to re-mount the tonearm slightly farther away from the platter spindle in order to get the cartridge to align correctly. Hopefully there is enough adjustment available in your headshell to allow you to align for 7 inch records without re-mounting the arm.  The alignment tool comes with complete setup instructions, and we have complete charts of tonearm mounting distances along with offset angles and overhang lengths for every tonearm length, for every size of record (7, 10, 12 and 16 inch) and for both Baerwald and Löfgren-B models.

For the same mounting distance (the distance from the platter spindle to the pivot point of the tonearm), the effective length will need to be slightly longer for a 12 inch setup than for 7 inch. For example, a tonearm with a 9 inch effective length will need to be mounted 8.285 inches away from the spindle for a 12 inch setup. To align that tonearm for 7 inch records without re-mounting it, the effective length would need to be about 8.68 inches. This means that you would need to move the cartridge body 0.32 inches back from its 12-inch setup position. Also, the offset angle would change from 24.12 degrees to 17.61 degrees, meaning you would have to rotate the cartridge body about 6.5 degrees away to the outside from its original position.

Another way of thinking about the difference between the 7 inch alignment setup and playing a 7 inch record on a 12 inch setup is how much smaller the overhang length is.  In the above case, overhang would come down from 0.715 inches to 0.395 in, a reduction of 45 percent.

Shorter Overhang Length is shorthand for more accurate tracking angle.

Overhang length, the difference between effective length and mounting distance, is also the distance from the needle to the spindle when the tonearm is brought all the way to the middle of the platter.  The needle travels along an arc, and overhang is how far away that arc is from a perfect radius-tangent line.  We compensate for the distance between the arc and the radius-tangent intersection by twisting the cartridge body toward the inside to create an offset angle.  What we get is angular alignment that is perfect at two points and minimally wrong everywhere else.  If the overhang length is reduced, then the needle is traveling more closely to the radius-tangent intersection, the offset angle can be lower, and the needle spends more of its time tracking more closely to a perfect tangent to the groove.

Playing a 7 inch record on an alignment setup that’s customized for the narrow playing band (it’s barely more than an inch wide) instead of using a 12-inch setup may reduce the overhang length by nearly half – very impressive – but the reduction in offset angle is phenomenal. The maximum error at the start of the playing band will be about one fifth of what it used to be.  At the end of the track, error will be one ninth.  Average error across the entire playing band is reduced by a factor of six and a half to one.  This means less noise and crackle, less record damage, and better quality playback all around. If you play 7 inch records, it’s impossible to ignore the benefit of customizing one turntable, or one headshell if yours is interchangeable, for the purpose of spinning your singles.  It will sound better and minimize damage and wear on your needle, and record grooves.

Cartridge Alignment Tools for 7 Inch Records are in stock and ready to ship. There are five versions within each geometric model.  The most common is made for turntables with 12 inch platters.  People usually choose the Standard Spindle Hole, for most turntables.  Its spindle hole has a diameter of .282 inches.  The Oversized version has a spindle hole diameter of .288 inches, and is necessary for a few brands of turntable: Acoustic Research, Empire, Garrard, Luxman, Music Hall, Sota, Systemdek, Thorens, VPI, Well Tempered.

There are also two models for 45 RPM players with smaller platters that play 7 inch singles only.  You could use the 7 inch alignment tool for 7 inch platters on a 12 inch platter; the alignment geometry is the same.  However, the sight lines don’t come as close to the base of the tonearm as the 12 inch platter version does, and you’ll have difficulty sighting the pivot point in the mirror.

If your 45 player has a permanent full-width spindle, we have a model with a 1-1/2 inch spindle hole as well.  You could use this alignment tool on standard-spindle turntables with a record spindle adapter, but you’d lose a degree of accuracy in the spindle center position, as well as the continuity of the mirrored sight-lines.

And, you’ll want to choose between Baerwald and Löfgren-B alignment geometries.  The Löfgren-B model provides a lower average angular error, and lower error in the middle of the playing band, at the cost of greater maximum errors at the beginning and end of the playing band.  The Baerwald model provides the lowest maximum error.  Here are some numbers to consider.

7 Inch Setup Baerwald 7 Inch Setup Löfgren-B
7 Inch Record Mean Average Error (degrees) 0.10172617 0.08864393
7 Inch Record RMS Average Error (degrees) 0.11418562 0.10462842
7 Inch Record Max Error, PLaying Band Start (degrees) 0.20549425 0.24847419
7 Inch Record Max Error, Playing Band Middle (degrees) 0.16128524 0.10893667
7 Inch Record Max Error, Playing Band End (degrees) 0.14670166 0.20982285
Angular Errors on 7 Inch Records, Baerwald and Löfgren-B Setups
Angular Errors on 7 Inch Records, Baerwald and Löfgren-B Setups

7 Inch Alignment Tools – 7 Inch Platters – Baerwald Geometry

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 7 Inch Platters with Standard Spindles
Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 7 Inch Platters with Standard Spindles

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 7 Inch Platters with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Baerwald Geometry


Spindle Size



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7 Inch Alignment Tools – 12 Inch Platters – Baerwald Geometry

Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 12 Inch Platters
Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 12 Inch Platters

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 12 Inch Platters with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Baerwald Geometry


Spindle Size



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7 Inch Alignment Tools – 7 Inch Platters – Löfgren-B Geometry

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 7 Inch Platters with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Löfgren-B Geometry

Spindle Size



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7 Inch Alignment Tools – 12 Inch Platters – Löfgren-B Geometry

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 7 Inch Records on 12 Inch Platters with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Löfgren-B Geometry

Spindle Size



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Cartridge Alignment Tool for 10 Inch Records

Collectors of 10 Inch EPs and 78 RPM records will want to set up their rigs to play their music with the most accurate playback possible, while doing the least damage to their collection.  Converting a 9 inch tonearm with a 12 inch Baerwald alignment setup to play 10 inch records would involve moving the cartridge back in the headshell by a distance of 0.129 inches for a new effective length of 8.871 inches, and also twisting the cartridge outwards from an offset angle of 24.128 degrees to 21.685 degrees. This would reduce the overhang length by 18 percent, from 0.715 to 0.587 inches. Average angular error is reduced from 0.731 degrees to 0.468 degrees, or about 36 percent. Maximum angular error at the end of the playing band comes down from 1.312 degrees to 0.547 – a reduction of 58 percent. If you don’t have a separate turntable for your 78s and EPs, then you should consider running a separate headshell and cartridge with a 10 inch alignment setup.  There should be enough travel in a standard interchangeable headshell to accommodate the difference in cartridge position without having to re-mount the tonearm.  But if you do want to re-mount the tonearm to maximize effective length, have a look at our Tonearm Mounting Data Charts. This chart should illustrate the reduction in angular error achieved from customizing your playback system for 10 inch records.

Angular Errors on 10 Inch Records, 10 Inch and 12 Inch Baerwald Setups
Angular Errors on 10 Inch Records, 10 Inch and 12 Inch Baerwald Setups

Also, our 10 inch alignment tools available in Baerwald and Löfgren-B geometries.  Here are some numbers to help you choose between them:

10 Inch Setup Baerwald 10 Inch Setup Löfgren-B
10 Inch Record Mean Average Angular Error 0.46805864 deg 0.41474634 deg
10 Inch Record RMS Average Angular Error 0.53009837 deg 0.49469743 deg
10 Inch Record Max Error at Playing Band Start 1.07693572 deg 1.22387468 deg
10 Inch Record Max Error at Playing Band Middle 0.71419281 deg 0.49798389 deg
10 Inch Record Max Error at Playing Band End 0.54652712 deg 0.85436690 deg

This chart of angular errors across the playing band of a 10 inch record should also shed some light on the difference between Baerwald and Löfgren-B setup models.  The Löfgren-B model provides a lower average angular error, and lower error in the middle of the playing band, at the cost of greater maximum errors at the beginning and end of the playing band.  The Baerwald model provides the lowest maximum error.

Angular Errors on 10 Inch Records, Baerwald and Löfgren-B Setups
Angular Errors on 10 Inch Records, Baerwald and Löfgren-B Setups

Alignment tools for 10 inch records are in stock and ready to ship.  Within each geometry model, there are two versions: Standard Spindle Hole, for most turntables.  Its spindle hole has a diameter of .282 inches.  The Oversized Spindle Hole version has a spindle hole diameter of .288 inches, and is necessary for a few brands of turntable: Empire, Thorens, VPI, Systemdek, Luxman and Well Tempered.

10 Inch Alignment Tools – Baerwald Geometry

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 10 Inch Records with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Baerwald Geometry

Spindle Size




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10 Inch Alignment Tools – Löfgren-B Geometry

Phono Cartridge Alignment Tool for 10 Inch Records with Standard Spindle Hole (0.282 inches/7.163 mm) – Löfgren-B Geometry

Spindle Size




Shopping Cart Supports Paypal, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express