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Vinyl Asylum: REVIEW: UNI-Protractor UNI-Protractor Tone Arms by Stitch

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REVIEW: UNI-Protractor UNI-Protractor Tone Arms

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Model: UNI-Protractor
Category: Tone Arms
Suggested Retail Price: $ 799
Description: Universal Alignment System for a wide range of Arms
Manufacturer URL: Not Available

Review by Stitch on April 30, 2011 at 07:20:07
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for the UNI-Protractor

The Dark Side....

Stitch: ,Hi‘
Buddy of Stitch: ,Hi‘
Stitch ,May I have back my Protractor?‘
Buddy: ,Protractor?‘
Stitch ,Yes, the one I gave you for loan last weekend?‘
Buddy: ,Huh? Me? What weekend?‘
Stitch: ,L-A-S-T weekend, when we met each other‘
Buddy: ,No. You‘re mistaken. We didn‘t meet us last weekend‘
Stitch: ,We did‘
Buddy: ,No‘
Stitch ,Hey, that is a nice, new cartridge there‘
Buddy: ,Yeah‘
Stitch: ,And? Precise aligned?‘
Buddy: ,Yeah. Perfect‘
Stitch: ,Great. Btw. does your wife know you spent 8000$ for it?‘
Buddy: ,No‘
Stitch: ,She saw me last weekend. Wait, I will call her....‘
Buddy: ,Aaahhhh, no wait, now I remember, THAT weekend....‘
Stitch: ,Yeah, THAT weekend. And?‘
Buddy: ,Aaahhhh, you mean the UNI-Protractor, sorry for misunderstanding....let me look...‘

(I told him last weekend it is limited and made on custom order only...)

Well, my whole life I enjoyed listening to music. For me, the human voice is the real 'magic' of recorded music. The human voice and the fact, that 50 years ago, there were made the best and most fascinating recordings of all time, amaze me every time when I listen to my records. So the system is for me the transmitter to the most intelligent and creative musicians who lived at this time and who were never surpassed, no matter for what kind of music, classic, jazz, pop, rock etc.
Based on this I have a lot of records from 1955 to modern ones from today. In the last 10 years I had a lot of audiophile communications about Arms, Turntables, cartridges and so on. And I also heard from a lot of users having problems with ,this‘ and ,that‘, a cartridge (or Arm) can‘t do this or has sharp „s“ in voices, limitations in some frequency areas, a kind of compression with some kind of music, some work better with Jazz, others are great in voices, Distortions and so on.
When we go back in History, the Golden Age of Analog we will find a lot of information about recordings, orchestras, conductors, recording teams, cutting systems, mikings, Presscodes...
In those days without dynamic compression in the Mastering for most records, the last track is much, much closer to the spindle than from more modern Records (lets say 1980++), also in the classic - Ballet- recordings we find the most demanding tracks in the last 3.
This space difference is one reason for different cartridge alignment to records which simply doesn‘t show these extreme cuts. Some have one Nullpoint right at the beginning and another one in the middle area, some have it in the area of the 2. Track and closer to the end to reduce the distortion.
But that is not enough, there are also Design differences in tonearm Geometry. Not all are the same. Some Japanese ones are made for tracking the most demanding tracks (closer to spindle), more modern Arms do a good job with reissues and are more or less calculated for that. And can show some problems..
When we want to adjust them now properly, we need some information. For what kind of records, which era and we need the right alignment tool. The customer can choose among endless of them, buys one and relies on it, that he can made the ,perfect‘ set up.
Well, he will do a kind of set up, but even when done right (from this geometry) it won‘t work with everything (see the lines above about the age of records).
He can buy different alignments and when he is ready, it can be possible, he has 3 alignments from different manufacturers for only 1 Arm and when he sells it, he can sell the tools too and will start the new game again and again.

This guides the way to the UNI-Protracor. A main unit which uses different calculated plates for a lot of different tonarms with all kind of Set ups (Loefgren A/B, Baerwald, Stevenson and a custom made calculation when the customer wants to try something different).
It was introduced at Audiogon and is made in pre-order batches in Germany. Some private examples were made, the feedback was positive, some talked about it, the interest grew and it became available now for more enthusiasts. Specially for those who own multiple Arms, seperate cartridges, some have big record collections and know the difficulties or differences in adjustment. They ordered the main unit with different plates and are able to get it right for all their Arms.
Now, what is in the Box (size from a tonearm, all parts in foam)?
Or what you can get.There are some nice options for a custom order:

Interchangeable mirror parallax templates (precisely (1/100 mm) laser engraved) for the 6 major tangential curves - Baerwald IEC and DIN, Loefgren IEC and DIN, Stevenson IEC and DIN - as well as 25 individual templates optimized for the most important tonearms following their individual geometry as specified by the manufacturer.
It further incorporates 3 spindle adapters to accommodate and perfect center every spindle diameter from 7.10 to 7.20 spindle diameter without "play". (Not unimportant, never had problems with spindle diameter? I had. Wallytractor)
It comes with an unique NO-touch center locator, a micrometer linear drive to accommodate and perfect tri-angular positioning for EVERY tangential curve calculation, EVERY effective length and EVERY mounting distance.

All parts are precise and from a very high quality. No cheap stuff.
UNI-Protractor main frame (metal)
Laser engraved templates (will parallel lines for azimuth check)
-4- of them are included, whatever the buyer wants
2.1 These are the calculations you can choose
Baerwald IEC, Baerwald DIN,
Löfgren IEC, Löfgren DIN,
Stevenson IEC, Stevenson DIN,
D.B. - UNI (new calculated, never available before)
2.2 The calculation is available in combination with these Arms
Audiocraft 300/3000, Audiocraft 4000, Breuer, DaVinci, Continuum Cobra/
Copperhead, Dynavector 501/505/507, EMT 997, Fidelity Research 64s & fx,
Fidelity Research 66s & fx, Grace G 940, Micro Seiki MAX-237, Micro Seiki MAX-282,
Ortofon AS, Ortofon RMG 309, Pioneer / Exclusive EA-10, Reed 9", 3 Q 12",
SAEC-WE8000, SAEC 506/30,Schroeder, Simon Yorke, SME V, SME 3012, Talea 1 &
2, Technics EPA-100 /-250/-500, Triplanar, VPI...
and when yours is not among it, you can ask ...
2.3. When the buyer wants another template, the price is 69,--$ each
A magnifier (glass lens, no plastic)
A micrometer linear-drive
A positioning/locator arm
A stainless steel 300 mm ruler with .5 mm scale to determine accurate P2S
(more a present, very accurate, but more or less a control unit, I used it with a 2-side
Tape onto the Arm and went reverse to the spindle, but each his own)
A Azimuth template
A true overhang gauge/template
And a nice manual pdf.

There is another option, which is called UNI-Scope.
It is an USB-microscope with adjustable cold-light (8 LEDs), 2 MB camera and magnification from 20x to 220x. Including software for MAC OS Leopard, Windows 2000/XP/Vista and LINUX. Easy to use with a Laptop right beside your Turntable. That one really works, it will be delivered with in a special inclined carriage which allows perfect angle for viewing cartridge during alignment AND allows for distance alternation. It is adjustable, fits perfect in the cut out from the magnifier and all can be seen clearly.

Based on the detailed Manual (with Pictures) it is a very easy Set up. The user is „guided“ how to do it right, where some care is necessary.
Precision is mandatory. When we multiply a regular Tonearm by Factor 100, the Arm is about 27.34yd (25m) long, the Cartridge System is about 1.09 yd (1m) high with a Length of the cantilever in the area of 0.55 yd (0.5m) and the contact area from the Diamond is only 0.020 in. (0,5mm) ! Similar is the Mass in comparison.
A simple example to show what analog reproduction really is ... And why sonic performance can be improved with some care and the right tool. From everyone.
The adjustment will need some time, but when it is done, you are spot on.

Not all Arms have the same Geometry and the Owner can choose now to order a Plate with the original specs for his Arm and / or additional ones.
Older records (from 1950-1965) are in general cut with higher dynamic swings, they often have the most dynamic power in the last 3 tracks (Mercury Living Presence, RCA Living Stereo, Decca), newer ones aren‘t that extreme.

newer records

Based on that, different Nullpoints do exist (lowest distorion). The Owner of old or modern Arm can choose now whatever he needs or wants. He can try different settings (and can go back when his records work better with a different one).
Look at your records, what age you have most, put one of them onto the turntable, put the UNI Protractor onto and you see two lines, one is DIN, another one is IEC.
DIN is closer to the spindle, the better calculation for high dynamic records which are cut to the limit in the last tracks.
Now look which run-out grooves are closer to the DIN or the IEC marked ending and you know, what geometry you should choose.
IEC will be the right one when you have records - modern ones - made after 1980.
This is a general view about it, there are 3 universal alignments ( for either DIN or IEC)

Loefgren A / Baerwald (identical)
They give a low and equalized distortion in the 3 tracking error peaks. The result is a fairly moderate distortion level and it fits for most modern records.

Loefgren B
This gives a noticably lower distortion in a wide range of tracks compared to Loefren A, but will show higher distortion figures towards the inner grooves.

Stevenson tries to optimize tonarm performance in the most inner part. It has nearly no tracking error towards the inner label.

This is a short description only, when you wnt to know more about it, there is enough information in www available.

Discussions about the „best“ are a good reason for endless discussions, 40 years ago, today and I am pretty sure, in the coming years also. Probably not for everyone, it depends...
My recommendation:
When you want to try it with Your Arm, with Your records, you can order Plates for your Arm with all the calculations (alignments) above. You can adjust and listen, after finishing you will have a result which really serves you best. End of discussions. Not much time needed and whatever alignment you‘ll choose, you know, your cartridge is adjusted in the best possible way.

Some Arms (EMT, some Japanes ones...) don‘t follow modern alignments, they have a own Geometry. For these is also an alignment available (Manufacturer). Or a ,personalized‘ Plate for that Arm with a new, modern calculation to reduce distortion across the whole record.
Different Arm geometries can show interesting results, SAEC 8000 for example (506/30 is not so extreme, but similar), has from the construction at the beginning the highest distortion and close to the last track zero. Even for such extreme designs are calculated plates available.
Read the Data which is calculated for your specific Arm (for example Triplanar: 5,88, Graham Phantom: 4,58, FR-66s: 6,33...) turn the micrometer drive to this number, check the metal frame that it did slide into the position (important: extremely low drill tolerance! When you live in a cold area the sliding will be a bit tough based on the different material -Aluminum, steel rods-, make it warm, then it runs absolutely fine), so let‘s go.
You will need a few minutes to get used to it, but I bet, adjusting your second cartridge will be done in half time. My setting was done in 10 min.

Interestingly, for the FR-64s you can choose what kind of Point to Spindle Distance you prefer. In the most manuals (outside Japan) is 230mm, but when checked old reviews and Data Sheets from the 80‘s, there was written 231,5mm. Probably a typing error lots of years ago?
Anyway, with 231,5mm this Arm changes Performance dramatically. Hard to believe, but Soundstage, Physical Force, Tonal Colors, the reproduction of moved air (when it is in the tapes) must be heard to believe.

Compared to the original Setting this calculation creates a deeper Soundstage, offers more low-level resolution, longer decays and a richer Bass.
A wide, transparent soundstage, with an increase of focus, transient speed and „Body“. This no-noise (silent tracking) is very, very, very rare to get. The sense of musical flow is improved. Outstanding.

Now to the final: is it worth the price?
Hm, that is a decision for everyone who signs the check. From the Quality of Parts, yes, no doubt. It is expensive, the knowledge behind all that is great and very hard to find.
From using: There is no difference between an entry level Vinyl Enthusiast with a 400$ cartridge in a Rega Arm and the Enthusiast with 6 different Arms and multiple expensive cartridges. The Difference between very close to spot on and spot on is audible. You will hear it when done right.

Where to buy?
Offered at Audiogon.

Product Weakness: None
Product Strengths: Precision done right

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Pass Aleph 0
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Lamm L2R
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Basis Debut vac.
Speakers: Reference 3A
Cables/Interconnects: Audioquest Sky
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Decca SXL / RCA LSC / Mercury Living Presence
Room Comments/Treatments: done
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 month
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): none
Type of Audition/Review: Home Audition

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Topic - REVIEW: UNI-Protractor UNI-Protractor Tone Arms - Stitch 07:20:07 04/30/11 ( 26)