TERMINATOR tonearm (Pt 5) – alignment

Back in 2016 – see TERMINATOR linear tracking tonearm (Pt 1) – I suggested an alignment gauge and provided a PDF template if required by anyone. (As pictured below)

Aligning a cartridge on a linear-tracking tonearm appears to be a simple task, simpler than a pivotted tonearm it seems.

However, over a long while, I’ve found that, instead of trial and error, it’s much more accurate, logical and efficient to follow a methodical approach.

My Terminator ‘alignment gauge’ can be downloaded here for print-out if you wish.

Step 1 – Align the cartridge to the tonearm:

Assuming that your cartridge is built to high quality standards (it should be), you should be able to assume that the stylus and cantilever are accurately aligned to the body of the cartridge. Next, check (by measurement) that the cartridge mounting screw holes are aligned ‘square’ (at 90 degrees) to the long axis of the cartridge.

With the Terminator arm wand raised slightly, approximately set-up Effective length (cartridge longitudinal position in the headshell slots) using the record centre-line on the alignment gauge.

Next, using a lightweight, straight rod (I used a small diameter aluminium tube from a ‘model/hobby’ store) sitting against the mounting screws, check by measurement and cartridge adjustment that the cartridge is aligned ‘square’ to the Terminator ‘air manifold’. (If, like me, you have screw-nuts on the top of the headshell, ensure that the two hex-nuts are rotated identically.)

Edit: This is also a useful method to check cartridge ‘azimuth’. (You can fine-tune using other methods later if you wish.)

Step 2 – Prepare the alignment gauge/template for use:

It is helpful to use a pin to make some small pin-hole indentations on the paper or cardboard alignment gauge – at outer and inner groove approximate positions along the record centre-line. (It will be helpful to make quite a few pin indentations.)

Step 3 – Align the tonearm to the record centre-line:

Now, you can use the alignment gauge / template to precisely align the Terminator tonearm manifold, by dropping the stylus into the pin indentations at (i) outer groove and at (ii) inner groove (approximate) positions.

My suggestions:

(1) Drop the stylus at the inner groove pin-hole first. If, at the outer groove, the stylus does not reach the record centre-line, then loosen the arm-mount screws and (slightly) rotate the Terminator manifold outward (clockwise). See diagram below:

Then, check again for perfect inner and outer groove alignment – until the stylus drops into the pin-holes, at both inner and outer groove positions. Repeat if necessary.

(2) If, on the other hand, after the stylus is placed in the inner groove pin-hole, the stylus Effective Length is too long at the outer groove, then (slightly) rotate the Terminator manifold inward (anti-clockwise). As diagram below:

You may find, like me, that a methodical approach is more re-assuring & accurate than simple ‘trial and error’ approach to alignment of a cartridge on a linear tracker.

And if you think that a linear tracking tonearm sounds good, wait until you align it more precisely! 😉

Consistent, dynamic and low distortion sound and secure tracking.

Especially when using cartridges with ‘extended contact’ type stylus profiles.

Finally, another teaser photo of my Terminator with Andrey’s (Music from Vinyl) carbon-fibre arm wand (report coming).

Enjoy and stay safe!

Links for Terminator tonearm:

See also:

TERMINATOR linear tracking tonearm (Pt 4) – new arm mount

TERMINATOR linear tracking tonearm (Pt 3) – stop the chatter

TERMINATOR linear tracking tonearm (Pt 2) – Ladegaard’s thinking

TERMINATOR linear tracking tonearm (Pt 1)

2 thoughts on “TERMINATOR tonearm (Pt 5) – alignment

  1. I notice the heavy counterweight and the extra weight towards the front on the carbon wand. I can’t see the cartridge used, but I have found that using a low compliance cartridge, (mine is 10cu @ 10hz), you need mass, even with the aluminum wand. The carbon wand is even lighter, so first I made sure the cartridge was mostly towards the front of the wand, like yours, which is done by adjusting the manifold until the cartridge is way more towards the front. This in itself should help with effective mass by moving away from the pivot point.

    I used ~12 extra grams at the cartridge end, (my cartridge is ~10.5 grams itself), and then used ~22-25 grams on the counterweights, but making sure the weights are all the way back as far away from pivot point as possible. The theory about moving counterweights closer to pivot points for better sound did not apply in my case, and with a very low compliance cartridge, the more effective mass the better.

    So anyway, your weights on the carbon wand are exactly what I finally came around to after much trial and error. Higher compliance cartridges are much less fussy with this arm, and it seems most folks would agree that this arm works best with a higher compliance cartridge. But with some patience, adding mass strategically solves the problem. And anyways, starting with a low mass arm and adding weight is much easier than starting with a high mass arm and having to remove weight.

    The carbon wand removes that last bit of ringing, (I use horns), so the midrange tonality is much better, bass punchier, treble a bit cleaner. Some would say carbon makes things sound dead, (many posts about carbon headshells or carbon tonearms) well it could be that they need to add back the mass they removed as well, or readjust effective mass. If I removed the extra mass it does sound flatter, but again I use a very low compliance cartridge, so it’s always case by case.

    • Hi Jim ,
      My cartridge installed here is a London Decca Super Gold.
      (Previously mostly low compliance MCs – Koetsu, Miyajima, Transfiguration, DL103.)
      Exceedingly difficult to align because the Decca has no cantilever in the conventional sense & the stylus is v difficult to see.
      And yes, the Decca also benefits from a good amount of Effective Mass – the Terminator has substantial horiz Eff Mass, but vert. Eff Mass is v low.
      Mounting the cartridge forward also helps (a little) the main drawback of these types of short arm wands – sensitivity to record thickness & needing regular VTA adjustment.
      I am using a horn spkr system myself, coincidentally –
      https://darklanternforowen.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/tractrix-midrange-horn-drive-units/
      Thanks for your interest.
      Owen

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