1) Understanding the AnalogMagik Distortion Analyzer
AnalogMagik is basically a complex computer-based distortion analyzer, with carefully pre-programmed settings optimized for each of the measurement functions. It is different than ordinary distortion analyzers because it has algorithms built in to account for imperfections of the LP format, such as LP warpness, off-centered spindle holes, and other data spurs which need to be filtered out.
Do not be surprised when AnalogMagik results may be different vs other stand-alone distortion analyzers or other products, because they do not have the algorithms optimized for the LP format.
2) Understanding Baseline Distortions Levels and establishing Correlation.
AnalogMagik is a tool which attempts to measure incremental distortion levels as you make a change to a particular setup parameter. However, whether a correlation can be established is heavily influenced by the baseline distortion levels.
For instance, the VTA tool is one of the most popular function of AnalogMagik. Changes to VTA usually causes IMD% to change approximately 0.3 to 1.5%. The above chart shows three scenarios:
Setup A has a baseline distortion of 1.5%, an incremental change of 0.5%-1% in IMD%
represents a 33%-50% change, which means it is a rather large fluctuation
making it easy to establish a correlation.
Setup B has a baseline distortion of 5%, an incremental change of 0.5% represents
a 10% change, making it more difficult to detect.
Setup C has a baseline distortion of 10%, an incremental change of 0.5% represents
a 5% change, making it almost impossible to detect.
Therefore, it is important to reduce baseline distortion levels as much as possible. This applies to all the test parameters.
3) How come AnalogMagik does not automatically give out good numbers?
Make no mistake about it, AnalogMagik is only a tool which spits out what it reads. It does not do any calibrations for you. What separate a set of good numbers vs a set of bad numbers is your ability to perform detailed fine adjustments to your setup. This is also limited by your equipment.
For instance, if your setup requires Anti-Skating but your tonearm does not offer it, do not be surprised if VTA, Azimuth, or VTF cannot be optimized because they are all inter-related to each other. It does not mean the program does not work. Your setup simply has a mechanical constraint where the solution cannot be solved by AnalogMagik.
Or if your turntable does not have a speed adjustment, this is a problem the manufacturer must solve for you, not Analogmagik.
Fine tuning requires a lot of patience and minute adjustments. Those who are not willing to put in the time and effort will not achieve good results. Good results do not come easy.
4) What is the typical time frame for achieving good results?
It is typical for numbers to be all over the place or bad at the beginning, and it will take 4-5 hours to go back and forth between each setup parameters to achieve good results. Some test parameters are also limited by the quality of the equipment. Some cartridges are very responsive to changes (such as ZYX), others are not as responsive.
Your goal is to achieve good results with as many parameters as possible without overly emphasizing a particular one.
5) Can you tell me the sample time required for each function, that is to say, do I have to play the entire track or is playing 20 seconds good enough?
Speed: Simply play and adjust until it shows 3150Hz
Wow & Flutter: Play for 30 seconds, unless if you want a second reading
Anti-Skating: Must Play the entire track
Azimuth: Play for 15-20 seconds is enough, or the same spot on repeated readings
VTA: Play for 15-20 seconds is enough, or the same spot on repeated readings
Gain: Play for approx. 30 seconds
Loading: Play for approx. 30 seconds
Vibrations: Play for 30 seconds to 1 min, or the same spot on repeated readings
VTF: Play for 15-20 seconds, or the same spot on repeated readings
Resonance: Must Play the entire track
Vertical Resonance: Play the entire track but expect results on if significant resonance is detected
6) Why do the numbers fluctuate, and do not remain stable?
The LP format itself is imperfect and gives off fluctuations. The baseline distortion will fluctuate, the ability to detect incremental changes depend on whether the change is greater or smaller than baseline distortion fluctuations.
To have completely stable numbers will require an excess amount of mathematical averaging. Customers will be happy believing they have achieved optimism, but in reality, the results are fudged by over-averaging. Too little averaging will cause the numbers to fluctuate too much, reducing the ability to establish a correlation.
We spent many hours on each function to perform complex averaging algorithms which we believe will give the most accurate result, paying close attention to accuracy vs stable results.
7) Why does the number trend up or trend down sometimes?
As you move away from the null point, the level distortion level changes and will cause a trending up or down depending on where you are on the track and which geometry you used during the setup.
Imagine the data points are plotted on a curve, what's important is not so much the trending up or down, but the over shifting UP or DOWN of the curve as you make an adjustment.
8) How can I reduce baseline distortions?
This is a multi-faceted question which cannot be answered by a single answer. The most important thing to do is to being with a good alignment tractor, we recommend the Acoustical System SMARTractor.
Other factors include proper viewing angle during alignment, paying close attention to the landing behavior. Then there are factors such as motor vibrations, tonearm resonance, table isolation and other external factors which you may or may not be controlled.
A good turntable, tonearm and cartridge combination, will usually give very low baseline distortions levels. For example, my JC Verdier La Platine Vintage, with a Reed 3P Tonearm, and a My Sonic Lab BC Cartridges, exhibit extremely low baseline distortion levels, the entire setup is very responsive to changes, even with the slightest adjustments.
But one some setups, the motor may have vibrations rumbling, the tonearm bearing may have too much chatter, and the cartridge may have very low channel separate, in such cases, baseline distortion levels are usually high, which makes measurements difficult. AnalogMagik is just a distortion analyzer, it does not perform turntable, tonearm or cartridge upgrades. That is the job of your manufacturer, not us.
9) Why are my results different when using different tools?
Most test records on the market use 140 grams LP, so the number you see will correspond to 140 gram records. Our record is 180 grams, this will cause a change in Azimuth because VTA as well as VTF has changed, so it is normal to see slight variations. If you don't see a difference, then something is wrong.
Our programming incorporated algorithms to account for the imperfections of the LP format, including slightly off-centered spindle holes, slight warpness as well as the effect of Wow & Flutter. Do not be surprised if you see slightly different results because almost all distortion analyzers, including hardware based ones, do not take these factors into account.
We also do not advocate using a single parameter (such as Azimuth) as the sole reference and stand-alone parameter as the ultimate determinant for setup accuracy. Most users have ingrained in their minds to compare AnalogMagik vs say the Fozgometer (which is an excellent crosstalk analyzer with metered results), solely on the Azimuth function. This is not possible due to different LP thickness, as well as algorithm differences
A true accurate setup takes into account VTA, VTF, Anti-skating as well as alignment variations, therefore the optimal setting should take into ALL other parameters, rather than just over emphasizing on Azimuth. You have to go back and forth between all test parameters rather than treating them independently. The results will be different when you take into account VTA, VTF, it will not be based on Azimuth numbers alone. If you use AnlogMagik's VTF, VTA, and Antiskating function to optimize the setup and then go back to use a Fozgometer, you will find that the result will be different then when VTA, VTF, Antiskating is not in the equation.
In an ideal world, all test LPs are accurate. In reality, nearly all test LPs are slightly different in terms of thickness, groove distance, cutting angle, etc. We believe our test LPs are accurate, and we have verified our test signals to the best of our abilities, conducted by world renouned recording engineers and sound producers. The reality is all the test LP we tested deliver slightly different result, ie) no one is the absolute standard because the format itself is not the most reliable.
10) I have decided AnalogMagik is a very good (or a very bad product), based on my setup.
AnalogMagik is simply a distortion analyzer which attempts to detect distortion results base on a change you make. But the LP format, as well as the equipment, will exert factors which influence the data sampling process, all of which depends on your setup skills and equipment quality.
We do our best to detect incremental changes, but the reality is some setups will show strong correlations, and some setups will not.
We are also constantly improving our program. Windows 3.0 cannot because judged on a single release, it took many years to become Windows 10. AnalogMagik offers methods to cartridge setup which we believe will benefit the analog community. We are interested in engaging with individuals who shares a positive outlook and a genuine interest to see what we have discovered, and to share new ideas with the analog world.
We welcome suggestions, what we cannot do today, we may be able to do tomorrow because of your suggestions. Please feel free to contact us. We take suggestions to heart, and will implement changes as needed.
But to combative, aggressive or hostile individuals, no thanks.