The Cartridge Man : HiFi News Analogue Test LP

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HiFi News Analogue Test LP : The Producer's Cut

 

HiFi News Analogue Test LP - the Producer's Cut

 

Hi-Fi News Producer's Cut Test LP

"As a response to the lack of newly produced test records, and due to customers requiring a definitive means of setting up their vinyl replay systems, the Cartridge Man has, on the back of the success of his previous test LP, produced an all-new test record. Recorded onto audiophile quality 180g vinyl, the new version also includes a full-sized set-up protractor and includes an additional frequency sweep test."

 

Best of all, the test LP has both audible and visible cues rather than a need for test gear.

"The 'Producer's Cut' is the successor to the original HFNRR Test LP, first pressed in 1996.

 

Len Gregory, The Cartridge Man, who produced the original version, had over the years concluded that there were a number of improvements that could be made to his earlier work which in the four years since it's release had sold an amazing 10,000 copies around the world.

He went back to Graham Durham at The Exchange for a new recording session, to re-cut the original tracks, to add a frequency sweep track and to extend the Pink Noise tracks.

Then it was off to Pallas in Germany to arrange for production, their best quality Audiophile pressing on 180gm virgin vinyl.

The resulting mechanical quality is excellent, flat, stable and quiet, everything that an audiophile pressing should be!

In total, there are now seventeen tracks.

 

Side one covers channel identification and phasing, pink noise, and bias settings (Four tracks at increasing amplitudes.

 

Side two contains tracking ability bands at the outside, middle and inside of the disc, cartridge/arm resonance and alignment tests, full frequency (20Hz-20Khz) test and a residual noise test. All bands are separated by locked grooves.

The package is completed with the inclusion of a unique, multi-discipline, alignment protractor, a truly universal device that can be used to set up all sizes and types of arm to fine degrees of accuracy, a reprint of the seminal article by John Crabbe on the theory and practice of arm/cartridge alignment, and copious sleeve notes to take the user through the set up procedure step by step."

 

Soundscape HiFi Notes :

Some of the most important (and famous) tracks here are the biasing tracks (for anti-skate setting), tracks 6 to 9 on Side 1. 

 

The tracks that are mandatory to pass are tracks 6 and 7.  

 

Tracks 8 and 9 have grooves that are not cut according to commercial standards.  We find many users setting their anti-skate to pass all tracks 6 to 9, and as a result ending in frustration in not being able to achieve it, or end up with very high anti-skate settings or tracking force.

 

Prolonged use with wrong anti-skate settings also result in having cantilevers slant to one side in the long run.

 

The 8th band on Side 1 is cut higher than any signal that you will find on a commercial pressing - if the cartridge tracks this it will track anything (many moving coils don't make it past band seven).  

 

The 9th band is a "torture" track and if you whack the playing weight of a cartridge high up, like the MusicMaker up to about 2 grams (which we do not recommend!), it would track this band easily, moving coils don't even stay in the groove.

 

The whole point of this preamble is to bring us to the point of saying 'so you have a buzz on one/both channel/s', so what? How does the music sound?  This Record is exactly what it is supposed to be, a 'Test Record'.

 

This means that not only can you set up your system with it but also see / hear the 'outer limits' of performance as it were; hence, the tests for resonances in both the lateral and vertical modes. 

 

Anti-skate is at best approximate, at worst way out.  Make sure you manage tracks 6 and 7 and you'll be alright.  If you can manage band 8 without a murmur, that is great.  Otherwise, don't get hung up on it, just enjoy the music.

The unit of measurement for anti-skate is the same as that of Vertical Tracking Force.   It is usually recommended that anti-skate force should be the same as vertical tracking force, at least at initial setup.

 

Anti-skating figures above the recommended tracking force, in our experience, means too much anti-skating applied.  We normally have anti-skate figures  lower than the tracking force setting.

 

It is easier to check excess anti-skate on tonearms with anti-skate scales, as one can simply compare against the tracking force arms such as SMEs, Regas, Naim Aros, Linns, etc.

 

On other tonearms without markings, such as Schroder and Scheu, it not as straightforward.  To get around this, in addition to the biasing tracks on this HiFi News test record, we also use the Cardas test record's blank grooves (running at 33-1/3 rpm) to check anti-skating.  We have found the Cardas instructions to be ideal - i.e. correct anti-skate is achieved when the cartridge slides in slowly towards the record label.

 

Some claim that using blank grooves is inaccurate as prolonged use leaves marks on the blank grooves in which the stylus will track onto.  This does not really matter much as we are only interested in the speed of the cartridge's movement towards the record label.  Or simply use fresh blank grooves for those who are doubtful.

 

Some folks believe that the stylus should be stationary and unmoving when placed on a blank groove, we found this not to be ideal for us, resulting in too much anti-skating.

 

What is the effect of proper (or improper) anti-skating sonically ?  Read more on this from a great article by Bernhard Kistner at the Vinyl Asylum forum (with other setup tips).  His experience also suggests that the correct anti-skating is always below the tracking force.

 

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Test Record specifications and features:
  • Channel identification
  • Phase check
  • Channel balance
  • Pink noise L/R
  • Anti-skate/bias setting
  • Tracking ability

 

  • Cartridge/arm lateral resonance
  • Cartridge azimuth
  • Residual system noise check
  • 20Hz to 20kHz frequency sweep
  • Set-up protractor
  • Recorded onto audiophile 180g vinyl
 

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HiFi News Analogue Test LP - the Producer's Cut