Have We Opened a Digital Can of Worms?

Have we opened a digital can of worms recommending using a USB microscope to set SRA (Stylus Rake Angle)?

One website claims that the recommendation "takes us back to the dark ages" of turntable set up.

Lyra's Jonathan Carr sent me an email telling me of an exchange with a Kleos owner that has created major issues.

First, the website claiming USB microscopy "takes us back to the dark ages," makes the claim in an ornate story using a large model of a stylus and showing that unless you view the stylus precisely from the side, you will get an incorrect measurement.

Well, guess what? No instrumentation, no measurement technique will produced accurate reliable results if you don't do it correctly. No big news! It is essential that if you do use a microscope, that you get a perfect side view, or yes, you will not get an accurate measurement. Does that really need to be spelled out?

Do it correctly or don't do it! And as we said in the original story, when you use the software to measure, there is a degree of subjectivity to drawing the lines, so draw them a few times and produced an average. Get it close to 92 degree and then, yes finalize by listening if you're not satisfied with the results—just as you should set VTF by ear within the recommended range.

As for Carr's issue. A Kleos owner had bought a USB microscope and found that he had to lower the back of the arm so far to get 92 degrees that the "washi" paper that's attached to the underside of all Lyra cartridges was rubbing on the record.

Now, first of all, unless the stylus/cantilever assembly was way out of whack to begin with, and I mean way out, I suspect the user was either not using the microscope correctly or he didn't understand what he was looking at.

So what did he do? Despite the instructions warning NOT to remove the "washi" paper under any circumstances because it will void the warranty (when the cartridge is tuned, the washi paper "locks" everything in place), the buyer removed the "washi" paper! And now the cartridge doesn't sound so good.

The cartridge needs to go back to Lyra in Japan. Do you think the owner should be charged for the repair? I do. Mr. Carr thinks so too. The owner will send it back but in the mean time he's asking to be send another cartridge use during the repair. Do you think that's a fair request? I don't. The end user removed the "washi" paper when the instructions were quite explicit: "do not remove the 'washi' paper"!

Now, it's true that had we not opened this digital can of worms, none of this would have happened, but do you think our advocacy is in part responsible for this mess? I don't. By the way, the photo is one Wally Malewicz took of my original Lyra Titan i after many years of use, clearly showing the wear as an oval dark spot. The shot was taken with a digital camera but of a close up made using an optical microscope.

Jim Tavegia's picture

You warned everyone and showed everyone how to do it properly. I would be tipping the cart body before doing what he did. If your scope is not level all bets are off. No freebies. 

Martin's picture

It happens. When someone gets a bit of knowledge, does not understand, but now knows enough to get himself into trouble.

Setting up a turntable is a tricky operation to get right.

Dpoggenburg's picture

I read the technical articles you post up with interest, but all the while knowing I do not even REMOTELY have the skills to mess around with my tables (SME 30 for stereo, and for mono a Linn LP12 with a Lyra Helikon mono cartridge).

There's an implied caveat in any discussion that the reader should know their limits, that if they start tweaking they do so at their own risk, and finally, that if the result is getting really abnormal, MAYBE, just MAYBE, they're doing something wrong and should reverse course immediately. In other words, use some friggin' common sense.


AndyPrice44's picture

I am thankful for the knowledge passed down through these setup articles and I would not have known as much about correct SRA and alignment if it wasn't for articles like the ones on this site. I have made adjustments to my turntable using information I have learned on this website in particular. Some of this is information I had not known previously. I think common sense applies here and if you don't know what you are doing then ask somebody that has more experience than you. I have had a few questions in the past and Mikey was gracious enough to spare some of his time to answer them for me. That being said, myself being the end user are responsible for my actions and correctly applying that information. You cannot place blame on the person that gave you the information when you did not do the adjustments or modifications correct or as stated. Like the guy that had the problems in this story, I had problems with my tonearm being too low as well. I didn't dismantle or alter my cartridge. I asked questions and tried to find a sensible solution to my problem. As it turned out, My stylus was set on the cantilever at a 96 degree angle. I had to send it in to the manufacturer to have it fixed, which was done in a timely manner and at no cost to me. If it wasn't for Mikey doing these setup and adjustment articles, I would never have known that my stylus was on the cantilever at the wrong angle. Thanks Mikey, You did help me and I didn't manage to screw up my equipment. I think most of the readers here are competent enough to do the adjustments in the articles here as long as you don't take a bull in a china shop approach like the guy in this story did. I can see him now..... "What the hell is this little piece of paper in the way, I guess I will just rip this off."  HA HA....


Mikey Can't be blamed for others stupidity........

AND....  Lyra shouldn't send him a "loaner" to use while his is being repaired. He would probably mess that one up as well. This is why you keep a backup cartridge, just in case you need it. I am using an ortofon 2M red while my main cartridge is being repaired. This inexpensive cartridge sounds just fine for the time I don't have my main cart. I didn't expect a "loaner" cartridge from the manufacturer. I feel that since he was responsible for the damage to his cartridge, He should be responsible for the cost of repair.

Andy Price

Moko's picture

I think he makes some good points, but I still think using a microscope / camera gets you much closer to the correct angle than the old method of just guessing that the tonearm is level.

I suppose it depends upon how much you are a perfectionist, to me if the angle is somewhere near 92 degrees I'm happy and the sound did improve over its original position in my case

There does seem to be a bit of a split developing between the old school vinyl people who know what the sound is supposed to sound like and therefore adjust to their own ears. Then there's the newer people like myself who haven't got a clue at what to aim for so they like using digital / computer measuring devices as its a world they are used to.

Not that ones right & the others wrong but if it helps people into vinyl and gets them closer to great sounding records I'm all in favour

Martin's picture

When I bought my turntable, and the cartridge, the guy who ran the hi-fi store came round to set it up.

He set the tone-arm up slightly higher at the back, saying, "in my experience, the SME tonearms sound better slightly tilted up at the back, particularly with very well made cartridges like the Skala".

It certainly sounds great. It probably comes close to the 92 degrees.

mauidj's picture

There is no question that this is a very tricky set up proceedure. I have been messing with mine for about 2 weeks and because of the stylus profile on my StrainGauge cartridge I have found it difficult to get a consistent reading. But that certainly has not prompted me to modify anything.

Rather, it has allowed me to delve into the intricasies of the cartridge/arm interaction and learn more about my table and audio system in general.

For all it's difficulties it has been great fun checking this stuff out and the microscope has allowed me to look at my stylii and see the wear, dirt and other details that have been previously invisible to me.

I think this site and Michael's blogs and instructions are the best thing to happen for analog nuts in ages. This is what makes our hobby so much fun and so very exciting when we get something to sound that bit better than we previously thought possible.

Obviously the person in question has the popular social desease known as" blame someone else and make a profit from it." 


SRA set up with StrainGauge cartridge.

Don E.'s picture

If I lowered my arm enough that my Washi paper was rubbing the record, I would assume that I was doing something wrong. I would never think of removing the paper. Neither Lyra nor you are responsible for this guy doing what he did.


AndyPrice44's picture

Nice strainguage Don. I have really been wanting to listen to one of those. That design principal intrigues me. Hope you enjoy it.


AndyPrice44's picture

Nice strainguage Don. I have really been wanting to listen to one of those. That design principal intrigues me. Hope you enjoy it.


AndyPrice44's picture

thank you

gorkuz's picture

That is a nice strain gauge picture, Ray, and they do sound good, have heard it. Those large knurled nuts, though...Are they intentional for tuning reasons or just convenience? As massive as they look, it seems inevitable they will affect polar momentum, meaning the compliance of the system. Are they there to reduce compliance intentionally?

And ditto on the original issue. If you can't use a tool sensibly, don't blame the maker or reporter. No compensations are deserved for foolishness. If he didn't know enough to know that his results were seriously unreasonable, he didn't know enough to be modifying the cartridge. Some "common sense" should have been applied - like asking about doing this at the least, first. What that fellow does deserve he's getting right here in all these comments. Not that common sense is at all common!


mauidj's picture

Mahalo gorkuz!

The EZ-Mount screws are also from The Soundsmith. They certainly do help with convenience but they are also used to tune the resonant frequency of the arm. The kit comes with 4 different types. (Aluminum, stainless, brass and plastic).

Peter Ledermann suggested the aluminum or brass for my SME312S. But so far I've just used the aluminum ones. I don't know if I can handle another variable! I believe Michael tested them and wrote about his experience in a Stereophile issue a while back.

In fact the photograph accompanying his Digital Microscope article shows them in use on his rig.


AndyPrice44's picture

I also use the EZ mount screew. My soundsmith boheme cartridge was a little bit too light to match up well with my JMW tonearm. The brass screws did add just enough weight to tune the resonant frequency to be a good match.

rlw3's picture

I think mike has made very clear several times that you only work on carts when you are not stressed, in a hurry,loaded or in any way incapable of reasoned logic. Many people are so emotionally charged when working with their audio gear that emotions get in the way of good results. It is also my experience it is easy to break analog gear especially carts and phono cords, my bad.

mauidj's picture


I was re reading your StrainGauge article and you mentioned setting the SRA to 92 degrees. Did you do that with their SGS-5 or SGS-6 stylus? If the SGS-6...How??? It is almost impossible to see where to draw the line unless you are not looking from the side exactly. Any advise would be so apreciated. I promise not to blame you!


Michael Fremer's picture

Jerome: It is hardly "simplicity". It can be done simply but the results will not produce the full performance a good cartridge is capable of delivering. Your comment says "ignorance is bliss."


Yes a spherical stylus tipped cartridge can be set up relatively easy but once you get into severe stylus geometry it's a different story.


Getting azimuth correct, not to mention SRA and basic overhang make a huge sonic difference. When it's all "locked in" amazing things happen.


I've demonstrated that at shows all the time with CD-Rs made from vinyl....without announcing anything I'll say "track 3" and inevitably people say "wow! What version of that is that? I have that CD and it doesn't sound like that!"


When I tell them it was from vinyl they are shocked.


As for tuned with PAPER? Putting the delicate washi paper back on is not easily done...but beyond that, the cartridge isn't tuned with the paper. Obviously it's tuned with the suspension, the damper etc. but the paper is the final step and it affects the sound....they say.

detroitvinylrob's picture

Let's see, go back to the dark ages of not visually being able to measure anything... and just swag it?

Or, enjoy enlightenment, with a little personal responsibility expected?

Ahhhh, the later!

About the digital can of worms, some (not all) folks are always fishing for someone else to blame for their ineptness. Mikey, Wally, and Jonathan are not to blame. And on a personal note, I prefer analog worms to of course, catch analog fish. Call me old fashioned.

Happy Listener!

egsp's picture

After reading all these posts, I've gotten all fired up and got a microscope set up.First thing I noticed was how dirty my stylus was. I ddefinitely have to adopt a new cleaning system! Also gettting a stronger lens. This is a AT 150MLX with maybe 75 hours on it.

It's got a gold plated cantilever.



As I was searching for information I found this-sure looks nice...

Says you can adjust SRA, overhang, azimuth, and offset angle: