Originally Posted by bbophead
Oh, I know you're right but it may be a journey too far for this old leveler.
It always ultimately boils down to how much one is willing to do in order to get great sound. That on average it means Rega level of "precision" when it comes to stylus alignment in the groove. I am not saying Rega is poor in other departments, but in this crucial one it simply does not allow you to get
the optimum from any given cartridge. At least not in stock form.
I use Eminent Technology ET2 linear tracking air bearing tonearm as my default choice for cartridge testing/evaluation. Of all arms I am familiar with, it is the single one sporting correct geometry in 3D, even when and during VTA is changed while playing. It has a bad reputation that it is (about) the hardest one to get adjusted right. To say that it pops out of the box and mounts itself on the TT and adjust itself while brewing your tea would be the biggest lie I can think of in regard of turntables; but once set up, cartridge change is not that bad and although quite expensive, additional arm wands do help in this regard. Wish I could afford more of them.
To illustrate the point: many years ago, somebody brought to me a "XY, non Rega" turntable complaining "something is wrong with balance" . Sure, it did sound mighty strange, but nothing one could directly attribute to parameters you can adjust on Rega. I measured the thing and it turned out that cartridge had a massive azimuth error, exceeding anything I had ever measured before. As otherwise this cartridge did both sound and measure very promising, I reluctantly removed a painstakingly adjusted cartridge from one of my ET2 wands and mounted that azimuth offending cartridge. It turned out it required a massive 3 1/2 degree of compensation, but once properly adjusted, turned out to be about as perfect as it gets.
One machining of a proprietary custom 3 1/2 degree aluminium wedge to go between non azimuth adjustable arm headshell and the offending cartridge later, the ugly duckling turned into a VERY beautiful swan. If I did not have the capability to check for the correct azimuth compensation, no way I could ever find this cart was soooo good, save for the azimuth.
In theory, cartridges should be azimuth error free. In practice, they are not. Once you go past the 35 or so dB channel separation, it is less than 1/3rd of a degree azimuth compensation required. Arm manufacturers can claim their arms are correct for azimuth to within a fraction of degree; look at the real life photos of the styli/cantilevers and you can not but realize that insisting on fixed azimuth is asking for trouble in real life. There are good solutions for azimuth correction out there, some are even clever enough to contribute to better damping of the arm tube than it would be in the case of a single piece tubing - negating the rigidity claim, which is the usual argument for the manufacturers who provide no azimuth adjustment.
A relatively very modest TT, far lower on the "food chain", can, if properly adjusted, sound far better than a superior product with slight mismatch in adjustments. Trouble is - once you hear it right, you will not want to return to anything less.
Then again, there is always "a bridge too far" .