I received the Smartractor a couple of days ago loaned to me by the very kind member of another Hifi forum at £499 it is something I would probably never buy myself so it is a real treat to try it out.
Out of the box you can see it is German engineering at it’s finest and looks like a Phonophiles dream Christmas present, usually reserved for setting up cartridges way more exotic than my very simple Audio Technica VM60SLC which is mounted on the a Rega RB880 both of which cost not much more than the Smartractor itself.
I’m really interested to see if setting up my cartridge with an instrument as fine as this can make an audible difference my guess is yes it can so today I will get to work and will post later my findings later about both the Smarttractor itself and it’s effect on the sound of my Rega P8.
Hope it came with instructions.
I thought a smart tractor was a self driving Fordson Major.
What calibrates it? How do you know if it is accurate itself? Looks very technical Bob.
I’m guessing it’s pre-configured for specific nullpoints? Or can you do multiple alignments with it?
Smartractor + Analogmagik software can make a big difference
Shame the software is Windows only.
Well it was surprisingly easy to use and to answer Neil’s question it uses the Vernier Scale for the tonearm mounting distance and for the cartridge alignment there are five different tangential curves.
A. Baerwald /Loefgren A IEC
B. Baerwald/Loefgren A DIN
C. Loefgren B IEC
D. Loefgren B DIN
E. UNI - DIN
The manual states that your choice of curve depends on personal preference and your record collection.
If most of your records are post 1985 then use curve A or C.
Or if they are pre 1980 then use B or E.
If your collection is mostly classical or vocal then use E.
The whole unit is put over the spindle and locked in place with spindle spacers. If you wish to measure the mounting distance of the tone arm the you extend the long black measuring bar until it is above the pivot point of your tone arm you then insert the pivot pin through the hole in the measuring bar and into the pivot hole.
Rega arms do not have a pivot hole but do have horizontal markers you then have to look through the top of pivot pin and align the crosshairs to give you the pivot point and them measure the distance to the spindle using the Vernier scale on the measurement bar.
The RB880 measured exactly 221.7mm which is exactly the distance given by Rega so well done to them and the factory for mounting the tonearm to a 10th of a mm.
Mounting the cartridge is exactly the same as using any alignment protractor except the Smartactor has a magnified viewing glass that allows you to drop the stylus directly onto the crosshairs you then move the cart left and right, up and down within the headshell as you would with any other alignment gauge until it lines up with protractor lines.
I thought the whole process pretty pain free but what seemed like 20 minutes was actually an hour and 20 minutes. The Smartractor is an excellent tool and is highly recommended but I can’t say I’d fork out the £499 to set up my level of equipment but if I owned a £2 or £3000 deck and a £2000 cartridge then I absolutely would.
Now the big question is did it improve the sound coming out of my Record Player and I’d have to say yes it did, separation of instruments and vocals where especially good and my VM60SLC no slouch in the tracking department anyway tracked even better my Track original Quadrophenia sounded as good as I’ve ever heard it.
I will proceed with playing different genres and recording the results but will say that thus far the Smartractor is an excellent tool.
Your deck is in that range of course. Your cart might not, but is at the top of MM. Not saying you should get it, especially as most people don’t set them up that often. Plus, you seem to be able to borrow one when you do.
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