Is THIS Why Some Audiophiles Think Vinyl Sucks?
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
We thought we'd share an email we sent to someone who recently emailed asking about why he would want the WallyReference given that he had already dialed in his SRA (stylus rake angle) by ear and his azimuth electronically. Since we have had a few variations on this question several times, we thought we'd share our response to him for all to benefit from:
"So, you have electrically determined ideal azimuth for your cartridge - great! Now, do you know what angle the cartridge is tilting at and how much to adjust your tonearm height to compensate for how the tilt in azimuth has impacted your SRA? That's only one of several useful - and totally original to the market - traits the WallyReference provides you.
Have you had your stylus analyzed optically and know your cartridge's native SRA? ("Native SRA" is the stylus rake angle of your cartridge with the top surface perfectly level to the playing surface, nominal VTF applied and the lens taking the photo completely perpendicular to the cantilever.) If not, then how do you know whether you have a good stylus mount in the first place? Your rig might sound decent right now, but how can you be sure you aren't compensating for poor mechanical alignment in your cartridge/tonearm by "tuning" your cables/electronics/speakers/room? If your cantilever has a good stylus mount, how much do you know to raise/lower your tonearm by in order to achieve a perfect 92 degrees under dynamic conditions? Further, once you do raise/lower your arm to achieve your ideal SRA, how do you know how much you just impacted your azimuth by this change?
The answer is: you do NOT know the answer to any of these questions with any certainty unless you have a WallyReference.
In case you THINK your cartridge was built well, consider this: In the past two days alone, we have analyzed a $9000 and a $2000 cartridge at 96 degrees and 87.75 degrees stylus rake angles respectively (pictured below). These stylus mounts are severe enough that you cannot get the cartridge to ride at 92 degrees under dynamic conditions on most tonearms without a shim between the cartridge and headshell to correct for the stylus mount error.
We see this far too often.
Many cartridge manufacturers are often shipping product that we are paying big $$$ for and most audiophiles will never know about the stylus mount error unless their cartridge is optically inspected in the PROPER manner. The guy who owned the 87.75 degree cartridge basically gave up vinyl years ago for digital as he found it "lifeless".
Who can blame him?!
Having a 87.75 degree SRA is the sonic equivalent of taking a perfectly mounted stylus on a cartridge and dropping the tonearm by almost 1 INCH at the pivot point. That would be impossible to do as you would hit the record with the armtube first. If this same fellow could drop the tonearm in such a manner for a cartridge that had a perfectly mounted stylus he would hear what he remembers about vinyl: dull, sluggish, no dynamic slam, bloated and definitely not exciting to listen to.
I am sure he is one of many people that, despite their interest in vinyl, never got the vinyl bug. Many will NEVER know that the "problem with vinyl" isn't the musical medium, it is often a poor stylus mount.
What many WallyReference owners are doing is sending me their cartridge for analysis - and confirmation they got what they paid for - and then I provide them with the precise angles they need to mount the cartridge for SRA and azimuth. They then replicate these angles perfectly with the WallyReference, so no need for SRA or azimuth analysis on their end and they can be SURE they got a quality stylus mount. I also do my best to measure the zenith angle since I have a solution in the works for zenith error in stylus mounts.
In cases where the stylus mount is unacceptable, I do what I can to help facilitate a return/repair or I can custom make wedges to fit underneath the headshell to compensate for the mounting error.
As another WallyReference ownership benefit, it allows you to measure your exact SRA and azimuth angles and then use the WallyReference to move the cartridge to another tonearm and have ALL setup parameters done in 15-20 minutes. It makes moving the cartridge very, very fast.
When using a mechanical transcription instrument such as our high-end turntable rigs, we CAN and MUST avoid mechanical errors in the instrumentation used to read the precious grooves. Setup parameters that CAN be known objectively (NOT SUBJECTIVELY!) and independent from influence from other setup parameters MUST be known. All it takes is the right tools, a little learning and some patience. You will be rewarded!
Want to learn more about Stylus Rake Angle? Read this post: https://www.wallyanalog.com/post/stylus-rake-angle-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-a-garden-hoe