Free turntable setup tools

Record on a turntable – a phono cartridge alignment protractor is used for setting up a turntable

This website offers several free turntable setup tools. Generate free custom phono cartridge alignment templates with our arc protractor and 2-point protractor generators. The cartridge loading and and compliance caclulators will help you choose the right cartridge for your preamp and turntable.

What is a phono cartridge alignment protractor?

An alignment protractor is a tool that will help to align the stylus of your turntable cartride as precisely as possible. This is an important step when setting up your record player. Precise alignment minimizes noise and inner groove distortion. Your vinyl records will sound better and last longer with a well aligned needle.

How does cartridge alignment work?

With a pivoted tonearm and the phono cartridge mounted at an offset angle, there are only two points at which the stylus will be perfectly tangent to the grooves on the record surface. These are called the null points. The tracking error at the null points is zero, so there is no additional distortion there. The exact location of the null points also determines where there is the most distortion. A phono cartridge alignment protractor will help you to align the stylus at the null points.

What is the difference between 2-point and arc protractors?

2-point protractors can be universally used on any turntable (provided the slots in the headshell are long enough to allow for the chosen alignment geometry). Arc protractors on the other hand are designed for a particular record player’s pivot to spindle distance.

What is the advantage of arc protractors?

The great advantage of an arc protractor is that overhang and zenith angle are set independently. This makes aligning the cartridge easier than with a 2-point protractor.

Which kind of protractor should I use? Universal 2-point or arc protractor?

If you know the pivot to spindle distance, you should use the arc protractor generator. If you don’t, a universal 2-point protractor will do the trick just fine. The geometry is the same for either alignment tool, so the results will be the same.

Where can I get a protractor for my turntable?

This site allows you to generate either type of alignment protractor free of charge. Simply print them out with your home printer. No download of software required.

How can I download a turntable cartridge alignment protractor?

Use one of the protractor generators on this site, open your browser’s printing dialogue and select “save as PDF” instead of a printer. To save a protractor for future use, you may also bookmark it or save the URL. It is also possible to share your protractor with others by simply sending the link.

Which alignment geometries and groove areas are supported?

You can choose between Baerwald, Löfgren B and Stevenson geometries. IEC, DIN, JIS standards for the grooved area of the record can be selected. You may also enter custom dimensions for the groove area.

Why not use an overhang gauge instead?

There are various types of overhang gauges that come with turntables. Most of them allow setting the distance between the stylus tip and tonearm pivot quite precisely, but the zenith angle is hard to get right. If you like the neat look of the manufacturer’s stock alignment with the cartridge being parallel with the headshell, try generating a protractor that matches the geometry used by the turntable manufacturer.

Does every cartridge need precise alignment?

Spherical styli are less sensitive about alignment than more advanced types such as elliptical, microline or Shibata styli. That means they are easier to set up, but you should still try to align them well for best results.

Microline stylus on an Audio Technica AT-VM95ML phono cartrridge
The tiny microline stylus of an AT-VM95ML phono cartridge requires precise alignment
What else do I need to know to setup my turntable?

Cartridge alignment is important, but it’s only one of many steps in setting up your turntable. Don’t forget about anti-skate, vertical tracking force (VTF), vertical tracking angle (VTA), stylus rake angle and azimuth.

What is cartridge loading and why does it matter?

The phono cartridge forms a resonant filter with the input of the phono preamp. If the technical parameters match well, the frequency response will be close to linear.

What is cartridge compliance?

The cantilever of a turntable cartridge has a certain stiffness. It pretty much acts like a spring and is part of a mechanical system that involves the entire tonearm. This system will resonate at a subsonic frequency. The cartridge compliance needs to be a good match for the tonearm, otherwise this resonance may cause problems. The resonance calculator will help you figure out whether a cartridge will work well for your record player.