Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stylus gauge blues

Well, as I mentioned that I'd given up the ghost on my drained Cartridge Man gauge when I learned I'd have to pay serious dollars north of a hundred just to have the battery replaced and the machine recalibrated back in the UK, but my search for a cheaper and easier alternative has not been without hiccups. I first chose a Jennings CD stylus gauge which is cheap and semi-reliable. I say 'semi' deliberately. It measures consistently in its center spot but since the scale is formed in the size of a cd in a case, it produces variable measurements depending on where on that surface you place your stylus, which worried me endlessly, not least because it seemed to be inconsistent only with a stylus, not with a fixed calibration weight. Add to this, it's physical thickness makes measuring the tracking force at the height of the LP surface is near impossible.

Next up, I tried an Audio Additives gauge from Music Direct at $79, despite the suggestion in this online review that most such gauges are rebranded versions of a cheap Chinese sourced scale that was never designed to measure tracking force of cartridges. Well, fired up to dial in my rig after some shuffling and moving, imagine my disappointment on Saturday, a day I'd set aside for indulging in vinyl pleasures, when the damn scale would not even calibrate properly, returning only 'fail' or blinking blankly at me when I tried to set it up. A fiery email to Music Direct resulted only in a "Sorry, let us know if you want to return it or get a replacement, we're now closed, back Monday" message. Arg.....As I told them, that was the wrong answer! The right response should have been: "Sorry, we're shipping a replacement today, and issuing you a return code to ship back the faulty one" so I would at least have known one was coming. By monday they told me they would send another one (after I complained) but would have to charge me for it, promising to reimburse me for the original faulty one once I'd returned it and they'd determined it was actually faulty. From there, I'd see my account credited 2-3 business days later.....sheesh, it's all in the mail as I write but it makes me wonder if I really should have taken Bill Feil's advice a couple of months back and just paid up to have my Cartridge Man sent back to the UK...I'd be sitting prettier now, that's for sure.

I think I am definitely going to get a cheap Shure or Clearaudio analog scale as back up after struggling to set VTF by ear and struggling for hours to get things near where they should be. Am confident the cheap and approximately accurate manual scales would get me closer quicker 99 times out of 100.

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