Trans-Fi Audio

Home of the Terminator Tonearm

 

THE TERMINATOR TONEARM

This tonearm is aimed at enthusiasts that are experienced with setting up the various components in a hifi system. If you are a novice, unfamiliar with VTF & VTA, this is not for you! 

Nomenclature


Mounting

Playing a Record (setting levels, earthing etc)

Trouble Shooting Guide

Setting Up Air Supply

Dimensions

note: pictures may differ in this manual from your product which will encorporate the latest updates.

Mounting the Terminator is fairly simple. It is usually positioned using existing mounting hole & lined up with the back edge of the plinth.  If your plinth isn't square, use a virtual line that represents the back edge!

 

Mounting to deck

If you have no hole for a pivot arm in your plinth, one needs to be drilled anywhere in the yellow area shown in this diagram. It needs to take an M6 bolt, so a 6.5mm hole will do. It needs to be drilled perpendicular, so a bench drill is essential.

Note: If the existing hole on your deck does not line up with the yellow triangle an adaptor plate can be provided!

For those of you building or adapting a plinth, here is a more detailed drawing on where to drill mounting hole:

You will be provided with a custom made mounting column needed to bring the stylus roughly in line with the record surface. Bolt the mounting plate with arm assembly loosely to the plinth:

Note: This 10mm spacing is a rough guide & not critical as there is 15mm of adjustment in the VTA control. If the mounting column I supplied is way out & correct VTA cannot be achieved with the cartridge you are using, please contact me & I will supply another.

Terminator is bolted to the deck using the supplied parts as shown in the diagram below. You may or may not be supplied with all the parts shown in the diagram....it depends on your individual case. 

NOTE: AIR SUPPLY NOT CONNECTED DURING SETUP PROCEDURE

Use the appropriate bracket slot so that the Manifold edge is close the the record label.

 Keep bolt finger tight at this stage until you set the lateral position.

Note: This position is not hyper-critical. Try to aim for a wand length between 40-60mm.

UPDATE: As from 2014 I will be introducing a mounting plate with the slots cut at right angles to the current production. These plates will have the slots running North to South which means fine tuning the wand length can be done by moving the manifold.

For the lateral adjustment, select the slot which lines up the spindle between the 1st & 2nd air holes.

 Slider Orientation

Ensure the grooves in the slider & manifold are lined up facing the same way. This will ensure air cushion is working to maximum efficiency.

NOTE: Recent manifolds may not have these grooves in which case slider orientation will be marked by a green dot.

 

Setting Lateral Position

Slide Mounting Plate in slot so that second air-hole lines up with platter spindle:

Spindle should  align between the 1st & 2nd holes.


Check the carrier remains parallel to the back edge of the plinth by eyeballing it so it looks right.  Once this is done you can clamp the M6 bolt tight.


Setting up Tomahawk Wand

Setting Wand Length  (quick method)

Length adjustments are made by sliding the wand through the bearing. There is along slot to accommodate this. Loosen the cap-screw on the base first so the bearing slides smoothly but with some resistance.

Tomahawk 2 Variation

(Note the position of the wire exiting the wand. This is important for the wire dressing which is covered in more detail in the 'Playing A Record' section)


Line up the stylus tip with the center of the record spindle by adjusting the wand length.
Note the cartridge end of the wand will need to be supported by hand as the cueing device does not extend this far.

Once everything lines up, retighten the capscrew.

Note 1: No responsibility is taken for operator error if you damage your stylus in this procedure. If unsure, it is recommended you keep the stylus guard protector in place or use an old dispensable cartridge!

Note 2: This is a quick method to get you up & running, but may be between 0.8-2mm out depending on spindle height.


Slow Method (more accurate)

A more accurate & time but consuming method to set wand length would be to use the HFN template or an old record with a line scored through its diameter.

Using the roughly set up stylus as a guide, initially rotate the platter so the score line is the same distance from the stylus at the start & end of the record. Wedge the platter in this position & adjust the wand length so the stylus just contacts the line  consistently along its travel. More detail below.

This is a trial & error process. Return the wand to its slider  & lower stylus onto the outside edge of the score line, then slide to the label side of the score line observing the distance from the line. Ensure the distance of the stylus to the line remains equal throughout its travel (even though it may not be exactly touching the line at this stage) by rotating the platter slightly to accommodate. Wedge the platter in this position so it wont move.

The wand length can now be adjusted so the stylus sits in the score line throughout its travel. Once the length is correct tighten the cap-screw. 

Note variation for Tom2 where only headshell needs to be adjusted.


You now have perfect tangentiality!

UPDATE 2013: Introduction of the Tomahawk 2 Fixed Head (FH) wand means there is no rotating/sliding headshell arrangement & the bearing pivot point is fixed. Length adjustment is now by means of slots as a conventional pivot-arm headshell.

Excuse the rough finish on the metal work  This is a pic of my first working prototype & does not represent the production model!

Setting the Azimuth

Setting the azimuth is done by simply screwing the Twin Point Pivots in or out until the top of the wand is parallel to the record surface:


Setting the Vertical Tracking Force:

Ensure the brass counterweight is fully screwed in so it butts up against the black delrin pillar. Loosen the aluminium thumbscrew so the whole tail assembly moves in the slot & position to just over the tracking weight you are trying to achieve. Tighten the tailpiece in this position with the thumbscrew ensuring the thread faces rearward. Screw out the brass counterweight for fine adjustment until the correct tracking weight is reached. You are supplied with 2 counterweights of approximately 6g & 3g. Usually, only one or the other is needed.

NOTE: The delrin pillar needs to be set behind the cue rod.

 

Setting VTA & Manifold  Tilt (level)

This is especially useful for dialing in the VTA, where making a note of the calibration marks can give you a repeatable reference point...............or simply for changing wands & resetting VTA height to match different height cartridges, trying different height platter mats, or accommodating varying record thicknesses. The pivot screw may need adjusting. It should be snug enough to remove play, but not so tight as to make operating the VTA knob a struggle.

The level knobs control the tilt of the manifold. This is the most critical part in Terminators operation & there will be more information on this in the 'Playing a Record' section.


Wire positioning through the Gantry

 Look for the rubber grommet on the wire harness. This may have slid down toward the connector end. It slots into the open end of the wire loop.The Gantry is held in place by the connector block screw. More on wire dressing later in the 'Playing a Record' section.

 (This will also work with the optional VTA display)



Optional Digital VTA Display

For the enthusiasts requiring repeatable accuracy of 0.01mm  resolution, an optional VTA digital display is available for 40GBP. This is retro-fittable onto the back of the RCA block.

ONE COMPLETE TURN OF THE VTA KNOB CORRESPONDS TO  0.5MM HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT



Gantry + Digital VTA display

Gets a bit cluttered, but do-able!

Wire will need slight bending to miss VTA gauge.

 

A Note on  the Cueing Device & Operation

This has been designed to have a wide range of operation independant of the VTA height. However, you will manually need to limit its movement. This is one of the minor irritations with the Terminator design as the window of operation for the cue adjustment is small. To increase it would mean it would encroach on the counterweight.

 

Once the stylus touches the record, do not carry on pushing the lever down to its full travel or you will foul the straps & stop the slider from sliding! It becomes second nature once you understand its operation.

Note on Tomahawk wand: If the twin point azimuth adjusting screws are set too low, stylus clearance may be limited. Simply raise the height of the wand in the saddle straps by turning the screws clockwise.

The 'stiffness' of operation can be adjusted by tightening of loosening the pivot screw. Only a slight tweak is necessary. If over time this screw keeps working loose, it may need re-loctiting. Remove the screw completely & re-insert adding a drop of loctite to the thread. Tighten the required amount & let set before re-using. Make sure to replace the nylon washer.


If you find when using the cue bar that the cartridge height varies excessively across the record, it may need a slight tweek to correct. Bend the bar gently downwards to raise the cartridge and upwards to lower it. Only a slight tweek is necessary. Keep the lifter handle pointing forwards when you do this.


Important:  Position the stylus over the groove by moving the sliding saddle itself, not the headshell or wand! 

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Playing a record

Connect air supply & set pump to maximum. Do a rough leveling of the manifold by allowing the slider to float without the wand & adjust the level screws so it remains more or less stationary.

At this stage it may be an idea to familiarise yourself with the tilt level adjustment & how sensitive it is. Tiny adjustments will cause movement of the slider. Practice making the slider move inwards & outwards. Also note the thumbscrews work in opposition, so tightening of one must be compensated by loosening of the other to take up any slack.

Plug wand wire molex connector into socket (red on red) or RCA direct to phono connectors into phono stage. Dress wires and position grommet as shown in diagram below. There should be enough slack  in the wire to form an 'U' shape. Detailed photos below.

Keep wires splayed slightly by ensuring there are no cable sleeves binding together the section of wire between the gantry & wand mounting clip.

This will exert less tension.

Note: With time you may notice the Twin Point bearing of the wand migrating towards the right. This is invariably happens if you return the slider to its rest position with too much force so it bumps against the cue disc causing the pivots to shift a little. Just return gently & periodically check the pivots remains centered.

Sliders will now encorporate  a clip the wire from the wand attaches to. This has the effect of splitting the vertical & horizontal component in the wire tension simplifying VTF which is no longer affected by the movement of the slider across the record.


Setting up should be self explanatory from the pictures. There is a green sleeve which you insert into the clip, which faces the rear. Allow enough slack to prevent fouling.

The harness is then looped through the gantry via the rubber grommet.


Dress the wire is such away so it does not interfere with the slider travel.


You can modify your own slider if you have an older Terminator. Details on the updates page:

http://www.trans-fi.com/tomahawkupdates.htm


DYNAMIC BALANCING OF TERMINATOR

No matter how mathematically parallel the slider is to the platter it will always need to be dynamically balanced. The extreme sensitivity of the air bearing means it is subject to minute external forces, be it the dishing of the platter, varying thickness of the records from edge to center, or tension of the wire harness. It is not theoretically possible to eliminate these forces, and I really have not noticed any detriment to the sound, but this is what I found to be the best compromise.

At this point I am assuming the platter is PERFECTLY level & the wire is positioned as per instructions above:

Start up the record & lower stylus onto a space in between tracks approx half way across the record GENTLY. Observe the cartridge body as the stylus just hits the surface of the record. There will be an initial tendancy to skate inward or outward due to dynamic forces acting on the stylus. Compensate by tweaking the thumbscrews slightly as described above so that placing the stylus in the middle of a record results in zero movement of the cartridge body.

Ensure the grommet holding the wire is in exactly the same position above the center of the record and there is plenty of slack in the wire.

Tip: If you find the earth/ground wire is not necessary in your setup you may remove this from the harness. This will help reduce wire tension.


Note 1: the sensitivity to level of these airbearing tonearms takes some getting used to & can be a source of frustration during set-up, especially if you have been used to a pivot arm. Keep at it.....I can assure you it will be worth it! Once you get the feel of how the slider reacts to tiny tweaks, it becomes second nature.

Note 2: if you have the molex option. when unplugging wand connector be sure to grasp by the insulation sleeves covering the connectors, not the wires!

Note 3: Take care when placing & removing record from platter. Coming from a pivot arm where there is no obstruction the tendancy may be to lift the record straight off. If you do this with Terminator, you will damage the record,Terminator or both! LP's need to be eased into place by sliding under  the carrier & dropping onto spindle. There is approximately 4cm clearance so its not like threading a needle! Just needs to be pointed out! Again, after familiarisation, it becomes second nature.



A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE SLIDERS
A few clients have enquired about the coating on the inside of the sliders. I need to explain that before this layer existed, to ensure a high floating efficiency the sliders needed to be accurately paired by sight metal to metal with the manifold. This was a time consuming
hit & miss process  that led to alot of wastage of extrusion because if a matching pair could not be found the extrusion was rejected. This rejection rate was also dependant on the tolerance of the extrusion as it was supplied from the manufacturer........... sometimes good, sometimes bad.

To eliminate this variable all the slider extrusions are now dynamically paired using a thin layer of resin. This layer may appear uneven & varying in thickness. This is normal & does not indicate the extrusion is worn or is defective. It simply means the resin layer is doing its job adapting the slider/manifold interface to the best possible fit, thus ensuring slider efficiency.


When the adaptation is done, the resin will be thicker where  more space existed between the fitting surfaces, & thinner where there was less.....so in some places the aluminium will show through. There may also be a few 'voids' where air bubbles are present. These are normal minor adaptation artefacts & are not defects due to wear & tear. This surface will not deteriorate with use as the layers are separated by an air cushion.
 Before these units are sent out, they are torture tested with a half kilogram weight to ensure they are working at maximum efficiency.

 

Further Tweaks

If the stylus it tracking reliably, you should see the saddle swaying to & fro smoothly with eccentric records. There should be no strain on the stylus, which should remain stationary relative to the cartridge body.

To obtain optimal airflow turn the air pressure down at the pump until the stylus starts skipping, then raise it the minimal amount required for reliable tracking.

As mentioned at the start, the pump can be boxed to reduce noise, but leave a hole for air to get in.......it must not be airtight or the pump will starve of air & the arm will mis-track.

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Troubleshooting causes of mistracking

The carriers are thoroughly tested before dispatch, so if you are getting mistracking it is most likely something to do with set-up.

Most common causes are:

  • Carrier out of level, or TT not level. The platter & carrier must level & in the same horizontal plane.
  • Wire from wand dragging or twisted to exert a tensioning force.
  • Dirt/debris on saddle or carrier.
  • Slider & manifold orientation different.
  • Air supply problem......eg.,leaky hose, smoothing tank (check lid) or insufficient air pressure. Ensure pump intake not blocked!
  • Cue lever fouling wand or saddle straps.
  • Insufficient tracking force. 

 

A note on 'bounce-back':

At the end of a record side, you may experience a tendancy for the wand to bounceback. This may be due to tension in the wires pulling on the wand, dishing of the platter, or something not level.

Check levels again.

Dress wire so it is not pulling. You may need to twist the connector clockwise or anti-clockwise to counteract.

If the above fails, apply a slight compensating tilt to the manifold. Then check you haven't applied too much if the wand skates inwards at the start of the record!


Earthing / Grounding arrangements

Audio & Chassis earths are kept separate on Terminator which means it is versatile enough to suit every system.

If your turntable is metal & already earthed, Terminator will automatically be earthed via the mounting bolt. If you need a chassis earth, this can be done connecting a wire either to the 6mm mounting bolt on Terminator or the Gantry screw.

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Setting up the Air Supply

Note: This section is intended for overseas buyers where shipping the bulk of the airtank would be prohibitively expensive &  pump would not suit voltage .There has been a recent (2012) drop in transatlantic shipping costs by FedEx meaning airsupply & tank can be shipped for 36GBP . You only need a small 220-110V converter available for a few dollars.

In this section I have gone through the stages of DIYing the smoothing tank & pump connections in case you have elected to purchase your tonearm without these elements.

I use a Sera 275 LPH (liters per hour) aquarium pump with adjustable output. It is important that the pump has a control knob. I run this with the control knob half way, but is dependant on the weight of the cartridge.

Any similarly equivalent aquarium pump will do. The RENA 400 pump seems to be widely available in the US & runs at 110V so will be suitable.

On eBay.com, I have recently noticed the Chinese are quoting the rated output for their pumps @ 220V, NOT 110V! You will either need to use a step up transformer, or get a pump rated at double the output to run @ 110V, approx 600 LPH (liters per hour) or 10 LPM (liters per minute) or 150 GPH (gallons per hour). These pumps usually have 4 outputs. The advantage of running a 220V @ 110V is it will run quieter!

Note: Terminator only requires gentle airflow to float. Excessive pressure will result in audible hiss from the manifold where normally it is none. Pressure control should also be done using the air pump controls. The use of needle valves at the Terminator end is not recommended for the turbulence they cause. This can result in slider oscillation &  noise transmission through the playback mechanism.

For the smoother tank (necessary to smooth out the pulsations from the pump) I use a 5 liter (approx 1 gallon) plastic gas can available from most car parts shops, or something similar. The volume must be over a liter. You will also require 4mm internal diameter tubing available from aquarium shops & a pair of hose barb adaptors.

Note: If you have difficulty obtaining the hose barbs, taps & drill I now have the option on the order form to supply you with a kit (10GBP) containing all the parts you need to tap & drill your own tank.

You will also need a drill, 4mm drill bit &, a M5 x 0.7mm thread tap & sealant:

You can get the drill & thread tap combined too, which is what I will be using:

You need to drill & tap 2 holes in the tank, the first one in the back. I usually aim for the seams:

Insert hose adaptor after covering threads with sealant. Careful not to cover opening!

I find only finger tight is necessary.

Next drill the hole into lid. Some cans have a nipple which I trim off with some wire cutters:

Drill & tap as before. Make sure to drill in the middle!

......and insert hose adapter after applying sealant:

Then I like to fill well around hose adaptor to strengthen seal:

Make sure the tank is airtight. Blow through one of the connectors while blocking the other with a finger. Pressure should build up inside & release when you remove your finger. Put completed tank to one side.

Next prepare pump. It comes with Y connector & a couple of filters. Discard the filters.

Cut some of the hose as shown:



Completed installation. The cap end of the tank will attach to the Terminator:


Ensure the outputs from the pump are not kinking as they enter the Y connector as this will restrict air flow.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although we are using an aquarium pump, this does not mean it must be immersed in water. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MUST THIS BE DONE as there is a severe risk of electrocution. This may be obvious, but apparently wasn't for one of my clients. Then he wondered why Terminator would not work!

I have housed my pump in the same room as the hi-fi, but boxed it in a cupboard surrounded by foam. It is perfectly unobtrusive:

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Dimensions

Weight approx 800g

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