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Hensa

Friends of Fidelity SMARTractor

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After being the benefactor of the recent competition generously run by Audio Fidelity and SNA, I thought it was the least I could do to briefly share my experiences with the prize.

 

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Firstly some background. I've been setting up cartridges for some 30 years on my own turntables as well as those of friends, audiophiles or otherwise. Over the last few years, I've used with good success, the Dr Feickert alignment tool and tended to align to either Baerwald or Stephenson with a slight preference for Baerwald. Aligning to three points and readjusting between each successive point's alignment was always a fiddly affair that often had me checking and re-checking two or three times before locking it in.

 

My current crop of turntables includes direct drive, idler drive and belt drive with a mix of straight, fixed headshell arms and S-shaped arms with removable headshells. Right now, the front end looks like this:

 

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From left to right: Denon DP-60 with Van den Hul DDT II Special MC cartridge (or alternatively, a Hana SL); Garrard 401, Jelco 750L tonearm with Dynavector Karat 23R MC cartridge; and SOTA Sapphire III, Linn Ittok with Benz Wood L2.

 

I must say that on initial inspection, the SMARTractor looks somewhat daunting. So much so that before delivery, I had done some research and found a very handy YouTube video that made it look a lot simpler than I had thought. Putting the SMARTractor together out of the box was straightforward and done in a matter of minutes.

 

I decided to try the much lauded UNI-DIN alignment and within the space of 30 minutes, I had set up four cartridges across the three turntables. Being able to precisely align the cartridge to one point and ensure the cantilever was parallel with the grid lines using the provided magnifier, was all that was involved. I actually finished the alignments so quickly, I thought I'd missed a step somewhere but checking the detailed instructions made it clear that all was in order.

 

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The UNI-DIN alignment, I'm happy to say, is outstanding. Not a hint of distortion, inner groove or otherwise. Tracking on all four cartridges has been first rate and it all just sounds right.

 

So, there you have it. A tool that looks like you may need a degree in Astrophysics is actually as simple to use as any of the two-point protractors I've used. That it also provides the UNI-DIN alignment is the icing on this analogue cake. I'm a convert and can't see myself returning to the Loefgren, Baerwald or Stephenson alignments that have served me so well in the past.

 

My thanks again to Audio Fidelity and to SNA for the opportunity to win this fabulous tool! For my numerous SNA mates, let me know if you'd like to try the tool and the UNI-DIN alignment. I'd be happy to drop over and do a quick alignment of your cartridge and can let you know in advance (for the few who may not know) that I'm partial to good tunes and a drop of Pinot!

 

 

 

 

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Hey Greg

 

good stuff.  Glad to hear you enjoying the tractor and UNi-Din alignment.    

 

I have one of the original Uni Tractors - and you think the complexity of yours is daunting :)   I originally quite liked Uni-Din, but went back to Stevenson and preferred that ultimately for my Japanese DD's.  I like the front end spark and less tracking error at the end of LP's that Stevenson brings.

 

  Some homework for you - align baer, Loef or whatever and check with the Feickert that you get the same result:)

Edited by metal beat

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  Some homework for you - align baer, Loef or whatever and check with the Feickert that you get the same result


Interesting that you suggest this! The first thing I did was check my Benz's Baerwald alignment on the SMARTractor. Overhang was spot on though the cantilever was not precisely parallel with the grid lines. If I had been planning on sticking with Baerwald, I'd have needed a micro adjustment to the azimuth.


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Thanks a lot for the great write-up @Hensa, Dietrich Brakemeier gives a great walk-through of the SMARTractor for those of you that might be interested.

 

if we can convert a 30 year veteran by chance, I'm quietly hopeful that maybe we can convert some more to UNI-DIN:)

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I've been thinking for some time that I'd like to get myself a SMARTractor.

 

Generally I have used a printed out arc protractor but have always wanted to upgrade to a decent tool such as this, when I can find the funds.

 

For my SME M2-12R arm I have been using the supplied template and aligning as per the SME method of moving the arm via the sliding mechanism until the cantilever lines up; can anyone tell me what alignment this corresponds to though? What do other owners of SME arms do? 

Although very quick and easy, I have doubts as to the precision of the SME method, versus the use of a proper alignment protractor like this one. 

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On 13/11/2017 at 11:51 AM, ochremoon said:

I've been thinking for some time that I'd like to get myself a SMARTractor.

 

Generally I have used a printed out arc protractor but have always wanted to upgrade to a decent tool such as this, when I can find the funds.

 

For my SME M2-12R arm I have been using the supplied template and aligning as per the SME method of moving the arm via the sliding mechanism until the cantilever lines up; can anyone tell me what alignment this corresponds to though? What do other owners of SME arms do? 

Although very quick and easy, I have doubts as to the precision of the SME method, versus the use of a proper alignment protractor like this one. 

Sorry for the late reply! The later M series SME arms were designed for the LofgrenA/Baerwald IEC alignment. The UNI-DIN alignment of the SMARTractor would be even better, IMHO.

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