Essential Audio is unique in providing this level of service in the midwest. As a dealer committed to the best possible analog performance at almost any budget level, we have the tools and the knowledge to apply them for your benefit and listening enjoyment.
When you purchase a phono cartridge, tonearm, turntable, or some combination of the above and perhaps other components, Essential Audio provides its exclusive setup and alignment service in your home free of charge as part of providing real value for your investment.
The service usually takes between 3 and 4 hours to do, not counting time to and from your home. We don't time ourselves, though. We just get it as perfect as humanly possible. Read our testimonials.
For turntable systems not purchased from us, we offer the same service at the reasonable cost of $300 within 20 miles of Barrington, Illinois, plus $5 per additional 5 mile increment and any parking costs. If your tonearm lacks azimuth adjustment there are two options; please call to discuss. Either way, $150 of the fee may be applied toward future analog purchases, and such purchases include the setup and alignment service for free. Not cheap but as serious as it gets, and a deal that can't be beat.
What the service includes
- Setting overhang and offset angle using the Acoustical Systems SMARTractor
- Setting tracking force
- Adjustment of antiskating
- Measurement of phase error and crosstalk for different azimuth settings, and adjustment for best performance
- Wow and flutter speed accuracy
- Frequency response
- Tonearm/cartridge resonances
- Harmonic distortion
- Tonearm resonances
- Correct setting of stylus rake angle (SRA) using a microscope
What differences should you expect
- Better imaging
- Deeper, wider soundstage
- Lower noise and distortion
- Clearer high frequencies
- More tuneful, better defined bass
- Richer tone and harmonics
- Reduced record wear
- Longer stylus life
Iron-Clad Satisfaction Guarantee
People consistently say this is by far the biggest bang-for-the-buck improvement you can do to your system. We're so confident of that, we're willing to put our money where our mouths are.
You must be absolutely delighted with the results of our alignment service, or you don't pay the standard fee.
-- Dennis G.
An example of what the correct azimuth setting will do for you
The client in this case listens to vinyl only and carefully maintains his records and keeps his equipment in perfect adjustment. Accordingly, the cartridge body was perfectly level, parallel to the record surface.
The graphs below, generated by the software program, show the phase response (upper graph) and crosstalk (lower graph) measurements taken for different azimuth angles (shown on the horizontal axes). The light blue vertical lines highlight the measurements taken at zero degrees azimuth angle, the initial setting, while the yellow vertical line toward the left side of the graphs highlights the measurements taken at the optimum azimuth angle of -1.4 degrees. Because the software program is configured for azimuth angles in 0.5 degree steps, for measurements at the final azimuth setting of -1.4 degrees we "pretended" to the program that the azimuth was at +2.5 degrees -- a region that's not of interest since crosstalk is increasing for positive azimuth angles and phase error is relatively unchanging.
From the graphs you can see the phase error at 0 degrees azimuth was huge: 155 degrees! Where the curves in the upper graph cross at -1.4 degrees azimuth angle, there is zero phase error, which is readily audible to the untrained ear. The crosstalk figures at this azimuth setting reflect improvements up to 7 dB, which again is huge! (a 10 dB difference is twice or half as loud) The ear is more sensitive to phase error than crosstalk, so -1.4 degrees was selected as the optimum azimuth setting.
From the moment the stylus hit the groove, the differences were mind boggling. Everything from top to bottom was clearer, better defined, with dramatically less noise and grain. The client raved about it the improvements and continues to say how it's almost as if he's hearing each record again for the first time. He laughed, saying he never would have deliberately put the cartridge and arm at a funny angle like that, but sure enough he heard the difference right away. Every client has said the same things. We're batting 1.000!
Whether the perfect azimuth setting for your system is as little as a few tenths of a degree from where it is now or even more than what's shown in this example, you'll hear the improvements time and again. Your favorite records will last longer, and so will your stylus.
It's truly the biggest bang for the buck improvement you can make to your system. Your ears will thank you!
Here is what Jim Howard of Applied Fidelity had to say on a popular audio forum:
I can vouch for your set up, Brian, it is the best I have heard. PERIOD.
That Feickert software just nails set up. I am very lucky to have watched you perform the set up a couple of times now.
This kind of attention to detail goes way beyond a simple paint by numbers approach.
Testimonials from other satisfied customers:
OK - I got done working and have been listening to some favorite LPs.
(...a few hours later:)
I have been listening more - I am too busy weeping. No shit.
My turntable has vaulted beyond my high-end digital stuff in a way I can't express at the moment. I always liked it better - but it was just sort of warmer and happier.
Now there is no comparison.
-- Mark M.
I just got the chance to listen to the TT, it really sounds great. The issue that I had with the harsh highs is gone. Vocals are really clear. Thank you. I believe that it was money well spent. Thank you again for your help, I hope to talk to you again soon when I am ready for a new cartridge.
-- Thomas S.
Brian did an alignment job on my Oracle Delphi/Rega/Shinon Red for me in February and I just now got my table hooked back up due to the shelf project. My complaints were with mistracking and sibilance. Brian did some fancy schmancy alignment work and turned my rig around. I was so frustrated with getting the last 10% I decided it was time to give it to someone with more experience. I had met Brian in the past and he is an AK member so why not?
After much fussing and use of a computer Brian was able to do some real magic. He gave me a stack of printed data that makes absolutely no sense to me. I can say that my rig sounds MUCH better and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. It's almost a 4 hour round trip to get to his home but it was worth every penny.
I also had my table at Robie's house for an AK get together and it really went over well. I would have been embarrassed to take it there if Brian hadn't sorted it out for me.
Thank you very much Brian.
Evan's comments can also be viewed here.