October 2010 Adam Smith, HIFI World (UK)
All vinylphiles are well aware of the importance of correct tonearm and cartridge alignment, so it might not be unreasonable to consider that the world of needs another cartridge alignment gauge like a hole in the head. However, as part of their plan for increasing world domination, the very nice people at AVID have come up with not one, but four of the blighters. "Yawn", I hear you cry, "big deal". But hold on a minute; these items are a little different from the norm, particularly in the case of three of them...
These actually came about when AVID were designing their own tonearm (which I am told will be making an appearance some time in the near future) and looking into the process of alignment, null points and other such worthy aspects of arm design. This led to a new universal alignment gauge, which to company describe as "very accurate" but also to three design-specific items for arms corresponding to Rega, SME or Linn mounting geometries. As my Alphason HR-100S is designed around the latter, I couldn't resist grabbing one to have a play.
The gauge itself is very reasonably priced at £26 (£24 for the Universal type) and has a lovely mirror finish that attracts fingerprints like crazy. However, it has a bonus that I had not considered before, namely that it gives a very good underside view of the cartridge and headshell. This may seem a trifling matter but if you have a headshell with enclosed sides, making sure the cartridge is straight can be a tricky chore.
Popping the gauge briefly onto my Empire 598 and checking the Denon DL103 mounted therein showed that it was indeed a little askew. Moving onto the Alphason on my Garrard 301, the gauge showed that it was ever so slightly out in alignment terms, even though it had been set up using a good quality universal gauge. Correcting this added a surprisingly obvious extra frisson of clarity to my vinyl reply and so proved very worthwhile.
All in all, a very neat little vinyl gadget that won't break the bank even if, like me you really need one of each!