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Azimuth – Shoot the Messenger

Galibier Design - KuzmaWe’ve all been there … a component upgrade and suddenly, your system sounds “off”.

Sometimes it’s a case of shooting the messenger (the “upgrade”), and this can leave you scratching your head, especially if you’re evaluating the changes through your analog rig.

After a successful prototyping trial of the ETI Legato connectors on our Headwaers power cables, we ordered a batch for inventory and fit our entire “A” rig with them. 

After burn-in, something was “off” and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Our initial prototype employed a single cable (connected to our preamp).   A full-out replacement of every cable significantly built on the positives of a single cable and revealed the setup issue.

Diagnosing the Changes

Having been there before (haven’t we all?), I took to checking my analog setup. 

  • VTA/SRA – check.
  • Geometry – unchanged.
  • Tracking force – close, but I bumped my Lyra up by .02g (to 1.71) – minor improvement in dynamics, but the major issue was still there.
  • Antiskate – no problem found.
  • Azimuth … bingo!

The problem with azimuth is that no matter how good a tool you’re using, the final adjustment is done by ear.  If your system’s resolving power increases, you’ll find yourself returning to all of those “by ear” adjustments. 

In the case of the Legato connectors on the Headwaters cables, the dramatically reduced noise floor and resulting improvement in treble extension and purity revealed the azimuth problem in bold relief. 

It was as if we were changing from a 3x to a 10x magnifying glass. 

Now, we ultimately realized that the resolution of the ETI Legatos surpassed the capabilities of the Headwaters cable , and the Wind River cable was born, but that’s an entirely different story for another day.

The Feickert and Azimuth in General

The Feickert software is very good, but has its limitations due to the adjustment systems of various tonearms (sometimes, you can’t fix someone else’s problem).  When using the Feickert software, the final tuning needs to be done by ear. 

BTW, if you’re interested in why I don’t use the Fozgometer, contact me offline.

Galibier Design - Feickert SetupUsing the Feickert involves sampling 9 points in .5 degree rotational increments:  from -2.0 degrees through +2.0 degrees. 

The software compiles this information and develops graphs of channel separation and phase  behavior.  When you evaluate the output, you may see (for example) that “optimum” is at +1.2 degrees. 

With most tonearms, you can’t reliably make fixed interval azimuth changes (i.e. in fractions of a degree) – either to generate the graph, or to make the “final” setting.

Galibier Design - Feickert Bubble LevelWith our Kuzma 4Point, we adopted an arbitrary scale – equating 1/16 turn of the azimuth screw to a .5 degree rotation. 

The Feickert comes with a small bubble level to assist in making these settings – helpful for arms that have  no indicators and repeatable means of changing the azimuth. 

You can well imagine that no level can be precise enough for this application, but it’s much better than guessing.

Galibier Design - Feickert Azimuth GraphWith either of these methods, the exact rotation in degrees isn’t as important as making each headshell rotation as consistent as possible. 

A larger or smaller rotation (in degrees) will only affect how “stretched” or contracted the x-axis is (again – assuming you rotate the headshell equally for each setting).

It has no effect on determining the “sweet spot” which is determined by the intersection points in the graph.

Tonearms that Make it Easy

The arms I’ve found which best allow for reliably and repeatedly dialing in azimuth are the Kuzma 4Point series.  Another excellent arm in this regard is the Durand Kairos. 

The more expensive Telos isn’t as precise in this regard, and the earlier, Durand Talea, with on the fly azimuth adjustment certainly had its benefits. 

The Tri-Planar has a similar rack and pinion adjustment to the Kuzmas, but there’s a bit of “gear lash” in the threads, and no reference lines.  It’s very workable as long as you understand its characteristics.

No tonearm is perfect, so don’t take the above observations as anything but that.  You may have different preferences and working styles.

Galibier Design - Kuzma
Laser Etched Azimuth Reference Indicators & Lock Screws

The beauty to me, of the 4Points lies in the fine toothed rack and pinion gearing (with virtually no lash), in combination with the laser etched index marks which allow you to fine tune very easily and return to the previous setting. 

If you’re not using the Feickert software, the precision of the Kuzma’s mechanism combined with the index marks give you the confidence to try other settings, even if you think you have it “locked” in.  You’ll be able to return to that previous setting in one or two tries. 

With most other arms, you’re relying on a frustrating and extensive trial and error session.

How Much?

Look at the close-up of the laser etched lines on the Kuzma arm tube.  We ended up making an adjustment of about 1/3 of a line width and it transformed the presentation from “meh” to outstanding.

I guarantee you will hear a rotational changes as small as this.  I don’t know what this translates to in terms of degrees of rotation, but it’s most certainly well below .1 degree. 

Can you imagine trying to return “home” without something like Kuzma’s reference lines helping you?