Will AnalogMagik work with
my equipment?   FAQs on
Distortion Analyzers

1) Will Analogmagik work with my equipment?

 

This depends on how we define "Work".

AnalogMagik is a distortion analyzer, and it will always "Work" as a distortion analyzer.    You feed information into AnalogMagik and it will display a number, just like any hardware distortion analyzer.   It does not "work" by making any cartridge adjustments for you.  The user has to perform adjustments on all the parameters. 

Whether AnalogMagik will "work" with your equipment depends on two things:

 

  • The user's ability to perform adjustments to a level where "incremental changes" can be measured by AnalogMagik

  • The equipment must have a baseline distortion level low enough so that the noise level does not make measuring incremental changes impossible

AnalogMagik is a tool for the user to measure Incremental changes as you adjust your cartridge.

 

For example, if you attempt to measure turntable speed, and AnalogMagik displays 32 rpm, the onus is on the user to perform the adjustments so that the displays 33.333 rpm.   However, if the turntable has a rumble (such as vibrations from an idler wheel), and the speed is jumping between 32 rpm and 34 rpm, AnalogMagik is still "working", but the user is unable to detect a stable number due to distortions and low equipment quality.   

 

In such situations, people will say AnalogMagik is "Not Working".   In reality, this has nothing to do with AnalogMagik, because a distortion analyzer will not fix your turntable's rumbling, it is the manufacturer's quality issue.   The problem is the data you are asking it read is unstable, so your results are unstable.

2) Can you explain to me what is "Baseline Distortion Level", and what is "Incremental Changes".

Baseline Distortion 1.png

Each piece of equipment has a fixed level of distortion, and it is the manufacturer's job to ensure
this distortion is as low as possible.   This is called a "Baseline".   The end user usually cannot change this baseline after it has left the factory.   AnalogMagik, cannot change this baseline.

Cartridge setup is a process in which the user utilizes his setup skills to adjust the variable portion of the distortion level, above the baseline.  How the stylus sits on the LP groove will increase or decrease the variable portion of the distortion level which can be adjusted by the user.  This is the cartridge alignment and optimization process. 

AnalogMagik is a tool that attempts to measure this change as the user makes adjustments.   An optimized setup is therefore defined as one where the variable section of the distortion chart is reduced to the minimal (green section).   However, the Red portion of the chart is the baseline level of the chart, and usually cannot be changed.
 

Baseline Distortion 2.png

In the above diagram, (A) Represents the initial setup.   (B) is the setup after the user performs an adjustment.
If after the adjustment, AnalogMagik is able to detect a measurable change (Green section on the diagram), then setup (B) is assumed to be a better setup than (A), because in (B), the variable portion of the distortion level is lowered after the person performed adjustments. 

AnalogMagik is a tool that assists the user to lower the Green Segment on the above diagram.  Through our instructional tutorials, we will assist the user to understand each parameter, what adjustments to make and what numbers to look for in order to optimize your cartridge setup to retrieve signals accurately.

The Red Segment on the diagram is fixed.   It is determined by equipment quality, the end user should not expect AnalogMagik to have solutions on lowering baseline distortion levels, that is the job of the manufacturer, not the measurement tool.    For example, if your cartridge has a channel imbalance, you will see a "Channel Imbalance" on that measuring function.   AnalogMagik cannot fix or repair this for you.    It is like a thermometer that measures body temperature, but it cannot lower that fever because it only performs measurements. 






3) Will AnalogMagik be able to detect incremental changes in my system?

The answer to this question depends on your equipment's baseline distortion level.  In the diagram below, setup (A) has a very much higher level of baseline distortion than (B).

Baseline Distortion 3.png

When users make adjustments to the cartridge position, it will affect the variable portion of the distortion level.  But the end user can only do so much. 

In setup (A), the amount of variable change due to adjustments represents only 10% of the total distortion because baseline distortion is high.

In setup (B), the variable change represents 40% of the total distortion, because the baseline distortion is low to begin with.   

It is much easier to detect a 40% change, than a 10% change.     So in Setup (B), AnalogMagik will be able to detect the change easily, in this case, the end user will say "AnalogMagik" is working and the user will feel he has done his job. 

In Setup (A), it may be difficult to detect a 10% change, the user may feel frustrated, and say "It is not working".  
In reality, AnalogMagik is still working as a distortion analyzer, whether or not the change can be detected does not depend on AnalogMagik, it depends on the baseline distortion level and the user's ability to make variable changes.





4) What determines the Baseline Level of distortions?

The Baseline level of distortion is determined by the summation of all the distortion levels of all your equipment in the chain (Cartridge, Tonearm, Turntable, and Phono stage).  This baseline is fixed by the equipment manufacturer, not AnalogMagik, nor the end user
 

Baseline Distortion 4.png

For example, if your turntable (A) has an idler wheel that induces rumblings and vibrations onto the platter, it will increase the baseline distortion levels.   If the cartridge has a channel imbalance, it will affect the accuracy of crosstalk measurements, again increasing baseline distortion levels.     If your preamp has a bad tube that creates a static noise, it will add to the baseline distortion levels.

The summation of all these will increase the baseline distortion level, which will determine whether it is easy to detect an incremental change.   Therefore, it is important to have a low baseline, but this is an element that AnalogMagik cannot control, it depends on your equipment quality.

In the variable portion of the diagram above, the end user makes changes such as adjusting speed, loading, gain, azimuth, vta/sra, and anti-skating, with the goal of reducing the variable portion of the total distortion curve.



5)  How accurate is AnalogMagik?

AnalogMagik itself has a benchmark, and that benchmark is the Audio Precision Distortion Analyzer.    We have also benchmarked against other hardware distortion analyzers such as the Neutrik A1, the B&K, and other distortion analyzers.    We have discovered that AnalogMagik's accuracy is almost on par with the best distortion analyzers, and in some cases, the filters we use makes detecting changes easier.    That is to say, you can detect variable changes easier on AnalogMagik than on a hardware distortion analyzer.

But let's assume for argument's sake, that AnalogMagik only has 90% accuracy versus, say a Neutrik A1.   Let's assume that measured total harmonic distortion (on anti-skating), is measured at 0.9% when in reality it should really be 0.8%  This would increase the baseline distortion level by 0.1%.     This will be a serious problem for the equipment manufacturer because the distortion analyzer will benchmark the overall quality of the equipment and the accuracy of the published specification.
 

Baseline Distortion 5.png

However, for cartridge alignment purposes, the accuracy of the distortion analyzer represents only 1 of the many contributors to the baseline level of distortion.     Overall accuracy is less relevant because, for analog cartridge setup, we are concerned about "incremental changes".    The baseline distortion level, whether it can be measured accurately or not by the distortion analyzer, is not relevant.   The ability to measure incremental change is far more important than the accuracy of absolute numbers for the person setting up a cartridge. 

 

In other words, even if AnalogMagik is assumed to be inaccurate, as long as you can measure incremental changes, your can still optimize your cartridge setup because the setup process has to do with the variable portion of the total distortion level, not the fixed portion.

 

AnalogMagik has been benchmarked against the most accurate distortion analyzers, if you can detect an incremental change using a hardware analyzer, you will be able to detect it on AnalogMagik, and vice versa.

Based on the thousands of setups we have performed, we can say for certain that the quality of the cartridge, tonearm, and turntable is the biggest contributor to baseline distortions levels.  If incremental changes cannot be measured, nearly in all cases, it is not caused by the distortion analyzer, but by the equipment quality.  



6) Can you give me an example of why absolute numbers are less important than incremental change?

When you use any distortion analyzer, be it an Audio Precision, a Neutrik A1, or an AnalogMagik, you will often find that the numbers displayed do not meet published specifications. 

For example, if your cartridge specifies a Channel Separation of over 35dB on the brochure, but when you measure crosstalk between the Left and Right channel, it only shows -26dB on the Left and -28dB on the right.  No matter what they do, they cannot get the number to meet specifications.   Some users will email us and demand us to get their number above 35dB.

Lets further assume there is a slight discrepancy between the 3 distortion analyzers:
 

  • Audio Precision:   L = -27.2   R=-29.2

  • Neutrik A1:            L= -26.5    R= -28.7

  • AnalogMagik:        L = -27.5   R = -29.6

     

All 3 numbers do not meet factory spec.   

 

Despite the discrepancies between 3 distortion analyzers, for the purpose of setting the Azimuth, the user will still be able to determine the optimal position because the incremental change is what's relevant during the setup, not the absolute number.     Your goal in setting azimuth is to make adjustments so the 2 numbers come close together between L and R channels.   Whether the number can be above 35db (meeting spec), is irrelevant because that is something you cannot adjust, it is a fixed baseline of the equipment quality. 
In reality, getting the number above 35dB is more of a matter of psychological satisfaction. 


It is the job of the end user to make the adjustment so that incremental change can be detected, and the job of AnalogMagik is to act as the tool that allows you to measure the change.    But only the manufacturer can make the equipment meet specification. 

 

Broad stroke dismissal of distortion analyzers' usefulness and accuracy, be it on the Neutral A1 or AnalogMagik, simply goes to show a person's lack of understanding of what is being measured and likely lack of experience with using a distortion analyzer as a whole.




7) What if the optimal setting as determined by the distortion analyzer, is at a different position than the eyeballing position?    Say a perfectly horizontal azimuth or precisely 92 degrees on SRA?

One has to ask the question, what is the goal of analog setup?    AnalogMagik's answer to that question is always "The accurate retrieval of recorded information at the lowest possible distortion level."  

AnalogMagik does not have different benchmarks, nor does the benchmark depend on visual satisfaction or someone's ear.    We do not have a pre-commitment to any eyeballing by eyesight, microscope, or arbitrary lines drawn on computer screens, your ear, feeling, opinion, assumptions, or emotional response.

You will find that many people will have a different benchmark on different setup parameters.    He may try to eyeball the VTA and assume at a certain position will always yield the lowest intermodulation distortion.   He may try to use bizarre tools such as a grooveless LP to set anti-skating and assume a "certain speed" he felt to be "just right", to be the optimal anti-skating position.   He may say the setup is optimal only when Mr. X says it sounds good.   Mr. X's ear is not AnalogMagik's benchmark.

 

AnalogMagik's philosophy is "accurate retrieval of recorded information at the lowest possible incrementally detectable distortion level", and that is our benchmark.   

 

After having performed thousands of measurements, a perfectly flat azimuth level or 92 degrees of visual satisfaction bears almost zero correlation to the optimal position as determined by measurements.   In fact, 2 cartridges of the same brand, and model, with 2 exactly the same visual setup, may yield different results on the distortion analyzer. 





8)  After I perform the setup using AnalogMagik, Mr. XYZ came over and thinks the VTA should be lowered by 3 degrees, he says it sounds better at that position. 

We do not believe a person's ear or his opinion on the sound, is a relevant factor, or an accurate benchmark.   If you or someone feels the sound is better at whatever level, please free free to do whatever you like.    The distortion analyzer does not determine or dictate to you the optimal sonic performance for your ear.  AnalogMagik does not determine subjectivity.

AnalogMagik's job is to perform its duty as a distortion analyzer so that users can determine the lowest incrementally detectable lowest level of distortion across all parameters, regardless of what the subjective sonic response of a person may be. 

If you are compelled to use a different benchmark, please feel free to do so, but that benchmark may not be AnalogMagik's benchmark, nor is it a better benchmark because we believe signal integrity is the only correct benchmark. 



9) I do not trust distortion analyzers, they are not as accurate as my eyeball.    

The entire audio world and the equipment manufacturing industry rest upon distortion analyzers.    Each piece of equipment, including your cartridge or turntable, is benchmarked against a distortion analyzer.    It is true that some are more accurate than others, but as explained above, analog setup hinges upon "Incremental Changes", not absolute numbers on distortion analyzers.

Eyeballing basically assumes that a certain "eyeballed" level will yield the lowest distortion level.    This is a major metaphysical and physical leap of faith, and a major assumption, not a conclusion.     It also assumes the arbitrary viewing angle or lines drawn on a computer screen based on a static position bear a fixed correlation to actual distortion levels.  It does not.   

  
Based on our experience when using various hardware distortion analyzers and AnalogMagik, eyeballing bears zero correlation with the optimal level of distortions.  In fact, it bears almost zero correlation at all.   And even if you assume it correlates, whatever static position you assume to be optimal, it will change as soon as the platter spins.    Stylus operates in motion, not static positions.    So eyeballing is only good for providing a starting point, but it does not determine the optimal position. 

 

 

 

10) What if AnalogMagik cannot detect incremental change on a specific parameter?

 

The baseline level of distortion will largely determine or not whether incrementally change can be detected, and AnalogMagik does not guarantee you will always be able to detect a change.  It depends on factors beyond our control. 

Please see this cast study where a user cannot detect a change when trying to measure VTA, because the customer installed the bearing incorrectly and it was scrapping the platter, causing a huge rumbling.

If you cannot detect a change on AnalogMagik, it is very likely that you will not be able to detect a change when using an Audio Precision or Neutrik A1 hardware distortion analyzer.

There is a limitless combination of equipment, we simply cannot even being to imagine how your equipment will perform and how they measure on a distortion analyzer:

  • Some cartridges have inherent channel imbalance and no matter what you do, the crosstalk readings will be inaccurate.   

  • Some uni-pivot tonearm wobbles side to side during play and crosstalk readings are unstable, rendering results meaningless.   

  • Some turntables have inherent rumblings which induce significant vibrations onto the platter causing the fixed distortion level to be so high that it renders all readings meaningless.   

  • Some cartridges have diamond shapes that are not very responsive to alignment changes or vta changes.  

  • Some tonearm and cartridge combos do not resonate and therefore no resonances can be detected

  • Some tonearm and cartridge combos do not require anti-skating and therefore no changes can be detected

  • Some tonearm does not allow you to adjust the lateral balance, therefore it cannot overcome the moment of inertia, causing a higher pressure on 1 side of the groove walls, thereby causing distortions to be high regardless of what anti-skating level you adjust to.

  • Some systems' frequency response is off so much that it attenuates certain frequencies, reducing the amplitude of the test signal.

Basically, there are a limitless number of reasons and causes, and AnalogMagik does not have solutions or answers to many of these problems.  The onus is not on AnalogMagik to solve such problems for you, because it is just a distortion analyzer,   It doesn't fix anything, it simply displays what it reads.  It does not play the role of the engineer for the manufacturer of your equipment. 

 

The onus is on the manufacturer to produce equipment that meets spec, and for the end user to assemble a combination that has a low baseline level of distortions so that AnalogMagik can detect that change for you. 

If you can detect an incremental change, AnalogMagik will allow you to determine the level which corresponds to the lowest distortion levels. 

Some parameters are easier to measure than others.    For example, Speed is very easy to measure, and the Audio Engineering Society has a standard on how to do it.    The other parameters such as Vertical Tracking Force, it is more difficult to measure, because the industry has no universal standard or methods offered on how to set optimal tracking force. 

11)  Why do the test results fluctuate a bit, why is it not a fixed number.

If you use a signal generator (or a cd player playing a test signal) to feed into AnalogMagik, the results will fluctuate very little.   However, the LP format itself is not a stable format.   There are numerous mechanical and physical movements that cause signals to fluctuate.   The nature of the format in itself produces small fluctuations.

For example, when measuring Crosstalk for setting azimuth, you may notice the numbers fluctuate within a range, and each measurement attempt produces a slightly different result.   This is exactly how numbers are supposed to be with the analog format. 

 

If the numbers are heavily averaged or manipulated, then the numbers will be stable.     With crosstalk measurements, if you see a stock solid number, say fixed at -30dB, you can be sure the number is heavily manipulated or averaged to produce a repeatable rock solid stability.    This will make the end user happy, but in reality, the number is simply overly "averaged", and it does not reflect what the stylus is experiencing in the grooves.

 

AnalogMagik's design goal has always been, to display results as accurately as possible, including fluctuations, even though most users will be happy to see fewer fluctuations.

12) Can you give me some hints as to what cartridges, tonearm, and turntable combinations will be easier to measure incremental changes?

For cartridges, we find My Sonic Lab, Haniwa, Air Tight, Ortofon, Lyra, and Phasemation to be some of the brand names that stand out as having very consistent manufacturing quality.  Optical cartridges such as DS Audio also measure very well. These brand names also have very low channel imbalance, which makes crosstalk analysis a lot more accurate.    Two names that I find to be very responsive to adjustments, are MSL and ZYX

 

On the other hand, we find some other cartridges to measure very poorly, some have significant channel imbalances.  Other Cartridges with stylus zenith issues, channel imbalance out of the factory, and various suspension problems tend to be less responsive to adjustments, or they may exhibit very mediocre numbers.  The bottom line is if the cartridge is bad, do not expect to detect incremental changes easily.   

Tonearms that have high machinery precision, with fewer wobbly parts tend to provide efficient energy transfer, they tend to register much lower baseline distortion levels.    Tonearms with lots of moving parts that fit together poorly tend to measure very poorly. 

For turntables, those that have better isolation tend to measure a lot better.     Idler wheels, rim drives, and older tables with lots of mechanical moving parts tend to measure very poorly, they produce a lot of vibrations which makes baseline distortion levels high.    It is difficult to detect incremental changes with these tables.

Users should not have the expectation that AnalogMagik will "Fix" problems with equipment quality.   It is like a thermometer, it only measures temperature, and it doesn't cure the fever.   It is simply a tool to perform measurements.

13) Can you give show me how AnalogMagik works in a real setup?

 

 

 

 

The above cartridge alignment was performed on my personal TW Raven AC table.    The speed was dead steady at 33.333 rpm with a W&F of only 0.17 percent.   

A My Sonic Lab Signature Platinum which I reviewed, was mounted on a Restored Fidelity Research AnalogMagik FR-66S tonearm.    Antiskating was not needed, as the arm and cartridge combo yielded a steady 0.65% to 0.7% THD between L and R channel on the Antiskating test track, suggesting an equal side wall pressure.

Azimuth readings began at -23.2 on the Left and -29.8 on the Right, this number fluctuated with a range of approx. +/- 0.3 to 0.5.    After 3 adjustments, in less than 10 mins. I was able to achieve less than 1 dB between L and  R channels, at about -27.5 to -28.0 dB between L and R channels. 

VTA adjustments began at what you saw above 4.58% L and 3.30% R, after a few tests, together with Azimuth, I was able to reduce IMD% on VTA measurement to less than 2.0%.    The VTA Angle for the lowest Intermodulation Distortion % was computed by an industry-standard formula that AnalogMagik adhered to with 99.999% accuracy, and it was determined by real-time live measurement, not an eyeballed level which registered a much higher IMD% reading.

In fact, the optimal angle was not determined by eyesight in all 3 planes, using the Zenith, Azimuth, and VTA function.   None were "by the book" perfectly aligned, eyeballed, straight positions.   All were determined by live measurement at a point that yielded the lowest possible distortions.   They were scientific and repeatable.

 

Further fine-tuning of optimal gain and loading was also determined using AnalogMagik's signal-to-noise ratio test, and frequency response test.     Adhering strictly to the principle of signal integrity, not visual satisfaction or metaphysical extrapolated assumptions. 

This was a perfect example of how I developed AnalogMagik for my own use, and I believe it served its purpose marvelously.   I am confident AnalogMagik carries true innovation for the vinyl industry, advancing analog setup accuracy to a whole new level. 

I hope you will benefit from AnalogMagik, as much as I have, in my own system.