Buy one of the cheap electronic VTF scales - about $40 - well worth the expense. Most anti skate settings are in numeric order according to grams of VTF.
I would just get a Shure mechanical one; I have found the digital ones unreliable and prone to failure. Some quite good arms did not have the anti skate calibrated correctly; the Grace 707 provided twice the necessary force if I remember. I would start with the minimum and slowly increase it if you think it necessary. Most of the time I use none at all; I have never even installed the AS part of my Graham 2.2. No matter where you set it it will be wrong for most of the record anyway.
A cartridge's ability to track correctly depends on a number of things, however the range of acceptable VTF is very small. To set the VTF at "what seems like a light force" is madness. There may be legitimate reason to change VTF to suit a particular record, but get a good scale and experiment with the VTF within the range recommended by the manufacturer. Most cartridges cannot track correctly at the low end of this range except on the very best tonearms. Set it too light and the stylus cannot maintain solid contact with the groove. The stylus can then bounce around causing groove damage. It's better to be a little too heavy than a little too light.
While some on here have said that they change the TRACKING ANGLE for different records, even writing the correct angle on the jacket, I don't remember anyone changing the force. I was suggesting you set the anti skate by ear if you want to use it; too little being preferable to too much IMHO. There is little about LP playback that is agreed upon; look at Vinyl Engine for more info on arm set up and proper geometry etc.
Q1)IMO a good starting point for anti-skating adjustment, which can then be further optimized by listening, can be determined by observing the cartridge from the front as it is lowered onto a ROTATING record, and adjusting the setting such that the cantilever deflection to the left or right, if any, is the same when the stylus is in the groove as when it is not. Since the setting may vary at different points on the record, perform this check at several points and find the best compromise.
Based on my experience with older turntables I suspect that the numerical value of the setting that is found in that manner, as indicated on the anti-skate dial scale, will be in the rough vicinity of 60% of the value of the tracking force.
Q2)I second the caution about the possibility of groove damage if VTF is set too light. Usually some value towards the upper end of the range suggested by the cartridge manufacturer is best.
I would just get a Shure mechanical one; I have found the digital ones unreliable and prone to failure.I have had both mechanical and electronic. I have bought electronic ones off ebay which didn't cost much and proved accurate enough and reliable.
Also regarding accuracy of anti-skate, Stanwal also said:
Some quite good arms did not have the anti skate calibrated correctly; the Grace 707 provided twice the necessary force if I remember. I would start with the minimum and slowly increase it if you think it necessary. Most of the time I use none at all; I have never even installed the AS part of my Graham 2.2.So I'm not sure what he regards as the "correct" or "necessary" force.
Similarly for vtf if it is too light you risk mistracking, so most would advocate more rather than less.
Yet with no anti-skate mistracking is a distinct risk on the right channel, yet this is often recommended.
However, it is not the case that
No matter where you set it it will be wrong for most of the record anyway.This is a common fallacy. To counteract the skating force you need around 20% of down force, in real terms (most calibrated arms use a scale which may attempt to provide this or another value, but is marked to correspond with VTF)
This anti-skate may indeed never be exactly correct, and might vary by a few per cent either way across the record. But using no anti-skate means leaving a residual skating force of much greater magnitude than the above error. If using no anti-skate sounds better, that doesn't mean skating forces don't exist. That is another question, and assumes that with a zero setting there is no drag in the internal wiring or other hidden outward acting forces, which can easily be the case with arms using insufficiently fine wire, especially if it doesn't exit as close as possible to the pivot.
a good starting point for anti-skating adjustment, which can then be further optimized by listening, can be determined by observing the cartridge from the front as it is lowered onto a ROTATING record, and adjusting the setting such that the cantilever deflection to the left or right, if any, is the same when the stylus is in the groove as when it is not.My question for Almarg is: what, precisely, do I see when I am looking for "stylus deflection"?
what, precisely, do I see when I am looking for "stylus deflection"?First, note that I said "cantilever deflection." If you are viewing the cartridge from the front, and if the anti-skating force is significantly misadjusted, as the stylus enters the groove of a rotating record you will see the cantilever deflect either to the left or to the right. In other words, it will change its angle relative to the cartridge body, either towards the spindle or towards the outer edge of the record, compared to its position before the stylus made contact with the record.
If you are unsure as to whether or not you may be seeing a small deflection, it might be helpful to misadjust the anti-skating until you definitely do perceive a small deflection, and note the corresponding setting of the anti-skating scale. Then misadjust until you see the same amount of deflection in the opposite direction, note the setting, and set the adjustment mid-way between those two points.
There are those that say that there is no need for side thrust compensation at all. VPI says that all arms should remove the device because it can be heard as it works, providing noise to the original signal. Never the less, as posted above, the anti-skate should match the vertical tracking force, which should be toward the high side (never the low side) of the published range for the cartridge.
Are you guys saying that the mass of the cartridge, varying from one to another, has no effect on skating forces nor their possible correction?
Only the vtf?
And what about stylus size and configuration (e.g. elliptical vs. spherical)?
I am not at all knowledgeable on this subject but it seems to me I have heard that these and a couple of other factors, too, are involved in skating phenomena.
My partner and I do tweak VTF at least daily and in certain listening conditions I've been known to tweak it more often, including sometimes to the individual LP level.
No matter what the specs may say, some cartridges do perform best very near the threshold of mistracking, (ie, near the light end). My guidance for users of the original ZYX UNIverse (for example) was always to play it so and many found that to be best. With that cartridge, the optimal VTF range is less than .01g, below the useable resolution of most scales. I fine tune by listening.
With a cartridge that sensitive, an LP that's easy to track does have a different mistracking point than one that's difficult to track. Thus the opportunity (need?) to tweak from one LP to the next.
Of course this all assumes that you adjust with your ears. With highly sensitive cartridges one can't rely on specs or mechanical measurements for anything more than getting in the ballpark.
The Grace info came from tests done in the 80s on the 707 by Martin Colloms and Paul Messenger; following the dial gave twice the force indicated. I just bought a cheap electronic gauge from Hong Kong, showed a tracking force 1.5 grams more than the Shure. I previously had a $150 name brand one [which appears identical] that I am a dealer for. It quit working shortly after I sold it; after I took it back the importer did not respond to emails about it. If you have an electronic one you better have a weight to check the reading. I am with Harry W. and Martin Colloms on the value of anti skate. I always track at the top of the range also; in this case too much is better than too little.
No one has mentioned the use of test records and monitoring the relative Left channel vs Right channel output voltage levels. If the anti-skating force is not properly set, it should show up in different left vs right output levels. I'm not sure how sensitive this test is, but forces large enough to visibly deflect the cantalever should have an impact on balance levels.
Anti skate can be set by ear. Find a recore with some vocals and some decent dynamics. Then set the force to zero. This works best with someone helping you, but you can do it yourself if you're patient.
Listen to the right channel and you should hear it almost lower in dynamic volume than the left (a bit recessed). Slowly turn the tracking force up, I mean very slowly a wee bit at a time. Eventually you should start to hear the right channel coming up and getting closer to what the left channel is producing dynamically. Then as you get higher you should hear both channels sounding more dynamic and just better and better. Move the anti-skate up very slowly now.
At last you will hear a fairly dramatic drop off int he quality of both channels. You have now gone a wee bit too far. Back it off a notch and you have optomized your anti-skate.
Well after very careful and long listening with my new toy I did indeed notice that the anti-skate had a distinct effect on the sound of the left channel mainly. Skipping and mistracking was fairly uncommon even when VTF was on the lighter side "light". I still found that the cartridge performed beter in my view with lighter VTF.
This old Signet AMS really digs up lots of fine detail that I have not heard with other MM carts. It is really a very nice surprise and the Tag Sale price even better.
I am not sure who made the tone arm for this Hitachi table but it couldn't be all that bad as some have suggested. It has that typical 70s semi-S shaped Japanese arm that seemed to be on most mid fi+ tables. With the anti-skate as a dial vs the little dangling wieght. It also has a highly stylized perforated detachable aluminum (I think) headshell which will make comparing carts easy when I finally get my real gear back. I am separated from my equipment as well as my soon to be Ex wife.
Thanks a lot for the input and advice. You analog guys rarely seem to agreeon anything. I am afraid that I am becoming one myself, these days I rarely listen to CDs. With my other equipment I listened to CDs 90% of the time.