Cartridge alignment. What do I need to know?

I have avoided this for 35 years.
I’ve done the usual, read the forum, Google, YouTube. It varies from looking difficult to straight forward.
The cartridge will be on a Rega arm. ( but not a Rega cart)

Looking at the videos the aim is to get the needle correctly aligned at the 2 null points. And this means correct overhang and the stylus parallel to the gauge at these 2 points. Align at the first, check at the second.
Not at this stage going looking for VTA or Azimuth " issues". My ocd will have to wait for those!

So, what do I need to know?

You need to pick a geometry too, think there are 3 main ones, differing in inner/outer grove distortion. Some sound better on the very inner grooves, some better elsewhere.

[Edited to add, closing one eye, and taking the belt off both help getting things lined up]

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Sounds like you understand the basics. It’s best to not put any stress on the bearings so best remove the arm from the deck if you can when you come to finally tighten up the cartridge bolts. You’ll want the bolts done up nice and tight and evenly torqued, but not too tight if the body of the cartridge is made of a soft or deformable material. Once fully tightened you’ll need to use the alignment protractor again when you replace the arm as there’s usually a tolerance in the arm cutout.

I was there some months ago. First time I dared to do it. You need a Rega Protractor. Here is my little success picture.

And you need a digital balance too.


I had a cardboard template for my Tabriz arm. I just couldn’t get my head round the fact you had to punch a hole in it to use it :scream:

It did have arm specific overhang on it though, which my current acrylic Pro-ject protractor does not :confused:

I think I recall someone on here recently experimenting with different geometries, with a very expensive, loaned IIRC, piece of equipment. Sorry to ping you @Dunc - was that you?

Oops, nope! Sorry!

Got a balance, albeit one that is via amazon. But I have checked its cal at 5g and a few points in between and its linear.
Got a alignment mirrored tool on its way.
I think I’m ready to go…
Looks like there are more alignment virgins than I thought. Good, I’m not alone.


I have a brand new Wally tractor that I have not even used, as it took so long to come from the USA, by the time it got here I had sold the SME. This turntable you can’t use it or any, as the arm tracks different to every other tonearm, so that was a waste of over £350

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I thought I’d keep things simple to start with. And, it’s all I’ve got. Rega arm, that uses the newer 3 point mounting of the arm to arm board.
Hopefully that keeps things simple!

Vinylengine website is an excellent source of free info you just need to sign up.

Saw that thanks. Downloaded the paper alignment thing then bought a mirrored/perspex one for £12.
Perhaps I’ve been overthinking it too much. The needle needs to exactly drop into a hole, to get the correct overhang. Then the needle needs to be parallel to the tool’s lines.
First thing I’ll do is check what my two current setups are ( P6 and gyro se). Not least to see how good they were set up.
The alignment tool should be here this week.
And I’ve also got the cardboard alignment thing in the rega arm box. Are they just for basic reference?

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You need this lol

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You’ve got the basics correct so don’t get hassled by the work ahead! I’d recommend setting the arm’s bias to zero and just set the tracking force to around that normally used. Just take your time.

It is very likely that your arm board has been drilled for Stephenson alignment. If it is a Rega turntable, it will be Stephenson. You can attempt others but you’ll notice the cartridge won’t be straight in the arm if you do.

I find the main stress inducing moments involve the cartridge tags…especially those Rega ones.

Or you could buy a Rega Exact or similar. Difficult to get that one wrong!

Even I can fit a Rega cartridge. Popping an Exact on the P8 was so easy. With the Ortofon I was never entirely sure that it was right.

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Not a Rega cart for Roberto

I know, he said. I was simply saying it was easier than an Ortofon.

He wants the Dynavector though.

Haha. Yes. I have sort of assumed that getting the tags onto the new cartridge is straight forward. Perhaps not?
I’m reasonable dextrous and ( with decent light) should be able to see what is going on. Rega arm( s), and DV cartridges. Decks are P6 and gyro se.

Took me a while to work out why a
Rega cartridge is easy to align on a Rega arm!

Yes, many forget that an arm on a specific deck is designed to work specifically with one of the particular alignment protocols…with the Rega arm plus deck, the cardbord supplied protractor is the correct alignment


The mirrored gauge was a good move I’d say. If it’s not Rega geometry don’t worry if the cartridge doesn’t quite line up with the head shell when you’ve done. I’ve tried several alignments but always seem to return to Baerwald DIN rather than Rega’s preferred Stevenson alignment.

Not so sure about @Richard.Dane ‘s “tight as possible” that depends a bit on the arm and cartridge in question and not just because of the risk of stripping threads. It affects the transfer of energy between the two. Rega used to supply a little torque drive which I think was pre set to 40Ncm, which was on the high side I thought but presumably suited to their own cartridge/arm combination. The tools that came with my Ortofon make it hard to reach even 4Ncm without resorting to a pair of pliers to hold the peg driver and I don’t think that’s accidental (I have a small and adjustable torque driver and checked). Assume the tools with the cartridge are appropriate and don’t use superhuman force on them but it’s something that can reward experiment I think, if in search of that last bit of performance, but don’t worry too much about that for now.