Cartridge setup experts: Azimuth critique

Would you be satisfied with this?  I know lighting plays a big part, but I think this is a pretty representative picture.  This is a micro ridge stylus.  It's pretty difficult to make fine azimuth adjustments on my arm, so I'm reluctant to mess with this, but if it's is not optimal, I will.



You can't optimally  align a cartridge visually. You can get it close but you will never get it right... you need tools. The Wally way is one approach.

I use Analog Magik. Can't believe I went all these years without it. 

bottom line, visually may be a starting point, but it is never an end point

You are right on, @karl_desch - tiny changes to azimuth are easily measurable and audible. Of SRA, VTA (different things and important for different reasons, actually!), zenith correction and azimuth, the azimuth angle is most sensitive to angular changes. This is not only borne out subjectively, but there is a mechanical reason to it as well.

If more people understood the purpose of the stylus’ major radius, perhaps they’d be less intent on visually aligning the azimuth angle and pay attention to what really matters - an orthogonal relationship between the 45 degree groove wall and the coils (discounting any left/right variation in the magnetic flux field, of course).

Below is a link to an image of a PROPERLY aligned cartridge on the azimuth axis. 2.6 degree tilt! While this is the product of less than attentive assembly, it is certainly where this cartridge performs its best. Its ~50um major radius allows for this kind of angle without causing one contact edge of the stylus to meet the record land/groove junction. Both contact edges remain properly seated in the groove.


Perhaps it is indeed a placebo effect, but, when I use adjust + to set the azimuth I am consistently impressed by the more lifelike imaging.  I also notice that very small adjustments on my Kuzma arm result in better electrical results.  No way I would be able to visualize these differences with my USB microscope.  The stylus looks good both at reference levels parallel to the surface (love the Wally Reference Tool) and at the final Adjust + optimal settings. 

These are not night and day differences but its enough to motivate the effort. And much more of a pain in the butt with a Jelco style headshell.

@ketchup  IMO you're way ahead of many of the posters here. First, you recognize that lighting is a factor, and that it's tricky. Second, you realize that perpendicularity is a matter of degree in the real world. Third, you know enough to ask for advice. Fourth, you know your tonearm and how repeatable the adjustments are, and how hard it's going to be to improve on what you have.

I say, play something. If the channels sound more or less equal, that is volume and distortion, leave it alone.

Just my opinion.

@ketchup , It has to be exactly perpendicular to the record. If I can easily see it at a casual glance it needs to be corrected. 

Impossible to see on a microscopic level.

Play some Joni Mitchell Blue (or a little Wayne Newton 😆) and listen for detail vs Sibilance. That should tell you everything.

If sibilant, simply rotate azimuth towards the channel that breaks up first - clockwise for inner groove left channel & vise versa while observing proper anti-skating.

@baylinor & @mijostyn 

It seems tilted to the left a bit.

No. The stylus is not perfectly perpendicular to the record. It is slightly tilted to the left side of the photo. 

Correct.  That is what I see and why I started this thread.  I wasn't sure if it was off enough to warrant making another adjustment.

No. The stylus is not perfectly perpendicular to the record. It is slightly tilted to the left side of the photo. 

The more expensive cartridges today from reputable manufacturers are perfectly set. All you need is the Wally Reference Tool and you can set azimuth and VTA perfectly.

IMHO the best protractor is the Smartractor. It is a breeze to use and it gives you the choice of any number of alignments including Loefgren B which I prefer. It is also very useful in tonearm installation. Leave it out and you have a fascinating conversation piece.   

IF you have a removable headshell, this has two advantages


1. adjustable azimuth

2. no sides, so you have complete access to hold anything below without the sides blocking fingers/tools/vision.

Happy, yes. Plenty good.

Shim kits are a real pain, and you might not improve your nearly perfect angle anyway, and you add something less solid between headshell and cartridge as well as a tiny unsupported gap both side to side and front to back.

Shims SUCK!!!


I use a mirror the thickness of an LP.

looked at (not magnified) from the front, you see the actual and reflection of the headshell.cartridge body top.sides, straightness of the cantilever. Any error of angle is reflected 'opposite', so it becomes easy to rotate till reflection agrees with reality above. 

This unmagnified method 'assumes' the maker has mounted the diamond on the cantilever. Listening and looking at the diamond magnified can conform that as you have done here.

Seeing a slightly 'bent' cantilever is easy with this method.


Now, this set of magnified mirrors, picked up, wobbled this way and that beow the stylus let you see the cantilever/diamond and it's cleanliness quite easily


Sorry- I meant to say it has nothing to do with the alignment of the stylus or cantilever with the groove. 

Please watch this to understand WHY we adjust the azimuth angle. Spoiler alert: it has nothing at all to do with the stylus/cantilever assembly. 


The object of the exercise is to have the stylus perpendicular to the record. It looks like you have achieved this. Small adjustments should be made by ear - but if this is difficult, I wouldn’t bother. You would probably end up worse.

I would not install a compliant pad between the cartridge body and the tonearm or shell. Rigidity is what I seek, not compliance.

As for the Fozgometer, if I remember correctly, it works by equalizing crosstalk. That may work for some cartridges. I tried this with a Koetsu and it ended up at an absurd angle, and sounded terrible. Probably made a mistake of some kind. Anyway, I adjusted by ear, and the stylus ended up perpendicular. With my new tonearm I adjust on the fly to a few minutes of arc and it does make a difference - subtle but it’s there.

I say, enjoy what you’ve accomplished. Well done!

Buy a Fozgometer

best money ever spent

version 1 is fine

Good lick


I have never been this close to my stylus!

It seems tilted to the left a bit.

Like others say, enjoy the music, but if you can't let it go, get an azimuth meter so you can get some sleep.


100% @tablejockey 

Play it on a record.  Do you like the sound?

If so, best not to over-obsess.

Trade your microscope for some nice LPs and try to stop worrying.

avanti, You have stated the cogent argument for setting azimuth so the stylus profile is symmetrically sitting in the groove and ignoring electrical parameters while also choosing only well made cartridges from mainstream companies that are likely to have constructed the unseen vital parts of the cartridge correctly, or very very nearly so.  I have adopted that view lately.

the stylus will wear in and correct any minor azimuth errors mechanically.  

actual azimuth happens in the generator between coil and magnet alignment and affects channel balance and crosstalk.  

we adjust azimuth to equalize electrically even if the stylus is off a little.  

this is why i stick with quality cartridge makes that have demonstrated good relationships between and aligned stylus and an aligned generator.  

Azimuth is optimized by sound but it looks good  

Try an Origin Live Enabler for fine tuning.


The stylus is on a reflective surface, not a record.  I'm not sure that having it on a record would add any value, would it?  If anything, it would eliminate the reflection which would be a worse way of looking at it.  Is it even possible to see the relationship between the stylus and a groove with anything other than an electron microscope?

No grooves on the LP. The idea is a symmetrical contact with the groove, but looks ok. Don’t sweat it.