Any of you experiment with optimal VTA for Benz Micro Cartridges

I've heard that some cartridges vary as to what VTA is actually optimal for them contrary to what the perfectly horizontal/vertical  positioning of the cartridge body might suggest.  I have my Benz Micro mounted such that the front plane of the wooden body is perfectly vertical as I assume that was the design intent for the correct VTA. Is that true?
I have a Benz Micro LPS mr and I found on my SME 10 the optimal performance level was with the tail slightly up.

Your experience may be different.
..not for my Benz prefers (maybe I prefer) tail up a bit.  I suspect no cartridges are built with that much precision. ...and too it depends on the age of the cartridge.  The suspension settles after while.
Dear @elunkenheimer : It does not exist a universal VTA set-up not only for your BM cartridge but for any single cartridge.

Only if two audio systems has exactly the same audio links in the system chain, exactly the same whole system set up with exactly same resolution level, installed in exactly the same room enviroment and that both owners have exactly the same MUSIC/sound priorities and same kind of " ears " sensitivities.

If all those does not even then VTA with same cartridge models will be different.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC not DISTORTIONS,
Thanks all. Shifting to the "tail-up" angle a bit on my Graham did noticeably improve the sound in all aspects.  This shift may also account for the suspension having settled with age and perhaps the point of contact with the stylus is now a "fresh spot" all contributing to the improvement. Well my wife isn't going to see much of me this evening. Gosh I love analog!
Reviving an old thread in case anyone reads this and wants more input... I've owned a Benz Micro Wood SL for over two years.  I have always set VTA with the top of the cartridge level to the playing surface.  Recently, I listened to some vinyl rips of a Lyra Delos that I briefly owned (bought one while the Woody was being serviced).  The Wood sounded a bit dull when comparing the same recordings.  So I slowly raised the tail on my VPI Classic tower an listened at each interval.  It wasn't until several (many) turns later that the highs returned to where I remembered them being when the cart was young.  So, the suspension definitely settled in over time and it caused the highs to be truncated.  Now, the tail is raised maybe 1-2 degrees above level and it sounds fantastic (again).  I am amazed that I had to go that high.  But I wish I would have done this a year or so ago.  I would recommend for anyone to experiment.  Go way above what you think is level and have a listen.  Then go further up still and check again.  You might be surprised.
Well I recently bought my first really high end turntable - Transrotor Fat Bob S - and it came with a Benz Micro Ebony L cartridge.  I don't know what the hell I'm doing in terms of turntables and I'm utterly mystified by how anyone knows about what "tail" their cartridge prefers.

Looks like I'll have to bookmark this thread and do some learnin'.

Nice turntable.

This discussion was about the slope of the cartridge, back to front, with comments that the BM sound better with with the back (tail) of the cartridge slightly higher than the front so the comment "tail up". 

I hope you have plenty of gain for your Benz Micro Ebony L. The output is very low.


I barely can remember the difference between a MC and a MM cartridge (in fact, if you asked me right how...I couldn't tell you before having to look it up again).

But I've had a much more turntable-experienced pal advising me so I think I'm ok.

Some info I found on my Benz L cartridge:

The Ebony L (.26mV at 3.54cm/sec, 5ohm coil impedance) optimizes with high gain phono stages (>60dB) with input impedance of less than 300 ohms or when using step-up transformers.

And this is the phono stage I bought:

It seems (as far as I understand it) to have the flexibility to accommodate the Benz cartridge.


Enjoy your new analog set up. Your phono stage looks like it has enough gain and plenty of settings for load.

Best Regards,

Jim Perry
Good to have that confirmed, Jim.

BTW, what is the point of a manufacturer making such a low output cartridge?   It seems to me in theory come with the liabilities of higher noise in the system, not to mention needing a phono stage with enough gain.

I seem to remember once reading that low output MC cartridges had at least in theory some advantage for sound quality, but I'm not sure what it is.
@prof regarding why low output vs higher in a MC? Well one advantage of a lower output rather than higher is that getting more output entails more coil turns and hence more mass to move. 

There's lots of discussion on this point in threads such as this

The phono stage you've selected looks as if it should work well. Have you also invested in a suitable set of mounting tools and templates? My recommendation would be to go with a setup like this (which is a simplified version of the Acoustical Systems alignment tool I own)
Thanks for the link folkfreak.

I'm trying not to be sucked into too much tweakery as far as turntables go, though of course I want to have good performance.  I intend to have someone from a local high end store set up the turntable to ensure I'm off on the right foot.  (It was purportedly already set up by the dealer of the person I bought it from, though I have no idea if anything might have drifted due to the turntable being transported in my car).

But...if there are in fact tools that make some DIY adjustments easy enough I may grab one, such as the project align-it tool.
Irregardless of whether you have a dealer set up your table for you you really need to know how to align a cartridge yourself. Cartridges age and suspensions sag so VTF and VTA will need to be adjusted as the cartridge ages. In addition if you ever change the cart you will need to align the new one and so on

A minimal set of tools I would recommend anyone owning a table of your budget and potential should have would include
Finally you must purchase some form of record cleaning system -- my strong recommendation is an ultrasonic

While this may seem like "tweakery" it is actually the minimum necessary for you to realize what your LP system is capable of

As you get more into it then you can explore turntable isolation systems, mono specific cartridges and the like but for the time being the stuff I've outlined above will get you going

Great info folkfreak.  Thanks for helping out a turntable newbie.
I've bookmarked this thread.
@prof  That looks like a very nice phono stage to go with a killer turntable and cart!  The other guys nailed it on what you should look for/do.  Congrats either way!
Thanks for the optimistic comments, audiom3.  Makes me excited to finally listen to my turntable...sometime soon once I've re-done my rack to accommodate it.

For years, playing vinyl now and then, I've used an older micro seiki dd-40 turntable given to me by my father-in-law.  It sounded great.  But the turntable and cartridge were both around 37 years old or so, and since I was finding myself more heavily into vinyl I figured time to upgrade to a modern table.  It was only when I researched selling my Micro Seiki that I discovered it was such a venerated old table.  But I had already committed to buying my new one.  Plus I wanted to upgrade from my cheap, very old Rotel phono stage a pal had given me decades ago.

I am loving buying lots of vinyl again (aside from my bank account)  but at the same time I didn't want to make the turntable part of my system in to a new hobby itself.  I didn't want to buy low, and then wonder what I could get if I spent more, and go through the upgrading turntable, cartridges, etc.  I was willing to throw the top amount of money I'd be willing to spend on a turntable at the issue the first time and be done with it.

I was first focused on the VPI Prime Signature Rosewood turntable.  I'm an absolute sucker for audio jewlery aesthetics and that table is a beauty.

But then a friend pointed me to the Transrotor Fat Bob being sold locally - quite a rare item to come for sale, especially nearby, no shipping involved.   It was an as-new item, barely used, came with 12" Transrotor arm, additional external motor control (usually extra) AND the over $3,000 Micro Benz cartridge thrown in.  That's a value of around $15,000 CDN and I could get all that for even less than I'd pay for the VPI new, and the VPI wouldn't even come with a cartridge!  That was a deal I couldn't pass up.  So, hear I am, excited to hear the new beastie in my home.  I'm sure I'll enjoy the sound and knowing I got as much (more actually) turntable as I'd ever want to throw money at, I'll not be second guessing and wanting to upgrade.  I'm done.

(Unless for some reason the sound sucks...)

I have always liked the sound of the benz cartridges with a little negative VTA
I have always liked the sound of the benz cartridges with a little negative VTA
There is no such thing as "negative VTA." VTA is typically in the range of 15 to 20 degrees. Please see this graphic for a clear depiction of VTA.

What I meant is the tonearm is not parallel but is lower towards the counterweight
You have a nice vinyl  playback system. I had the Ebony L for quite a few years and it is a fine performer. One thing I'd suggest is that you load the cartridge at 47k which is the default setting for moving magnet cartridges. I ran mine at 47k with much success. You will get a lot more air at 47k. Not sure how/if your  phono preamp will allow it  but it is worth a try. BTW this is not a novice idea but one suggested by the founder/designer of Benz, Mr Luschadek. 
Have fun

Terrific tip!  Thank you very much!

With all the cartridges out there it's been tough to find much on that particular Benz.  So your input is quite valuable.

Atmasphere gave an informative post in another thread concerning cartridge loading. I always thought loading was necessitated by the cartridge design. But this is not the case according to atmasphere. It is the stability of the phono preamp which determines the necessity. Here’s his post from that thread

I’m just curious as to why you said loading does not make a difference with the 4D, and with low ouput MC cartridges with low internal impedance in general.
The reason why has nothing to do with the cartridge directly. It has to do with the stability of the preamp.

The inductance of the winding of the cartridge is in parallel with the capacitance of the tone arm cable. This forms a Radio Frequency tuned circuit (also known as a tank circuit). The tank circuit is set into oscillation by the energy produced by the cartridge. It resonates in this case at several MHz and thus produces RFI (Radio Frequency Interference). Some preamps don’t like that and don’t sound right as a result.

The loading resistor detunes the tank circuit enough that it will no longer resonate. Then the preamp sounds fine.

If however, the preamp is properly designed and is stable with RFI, then the loading resistor will be found to have no effect.

IOW, if you need the loading resistor to make your cartridge sound right, it points to a stability problem in the preamp.

You can find this topic discussed elsewhere on this site and others. Jonathan Carr of Lyra and Jim Hagerman have discussed it at length as well as myself. Jim has a good article online:

-which goes into the math of it.

We did not use any loading on our ZYX- our preamps are stable so there is no need.

One additional point- when loading the cartridge, you are making it do work. This stiffens up the cantilever, changing its tracking characteristic- it will be less compliant; that’s not a good thing. You are better off with a stable phono preamp.
Notice the last paragraph. I suspect the open and airy sound I have heard on the Ebony L and now the Zyx are a result of the better tracking of the stylus (needle)

BTW, the Ebony L is indeed hard to find any info on. I suspect that only a few were sold in the US with the majority sold in Europe & Asia. I’ve only heard of one other poster who has/had one When you get it set up I believe you will be very satisfied.

Also, I believe I had my arm parallel to the record for VTA. I always start there and try moving the base (pivot end) down slightly to see if I hear any difference. But parallel usually works for me. Play with it a bit. But don’t become overly obsessive


I just noticed your additional post.  Thanks again for that info!
@atmasphere  is totally correct.  I decided to try my Benz Woos SL wide open (@47k) about a week ago.  To my surprise, I love it.  The Sutherland 20/20 phono pre is stable enough with the highs just as smooth as they were when the Benz was loaded @ 1k.  The difference is a little faster cartridge with more air and a wider/deeper soundstage.  Bass could be a little lower now but I won't call that one as I'm not positive.  For reference, I've put over 1k hours on the Wood SL, so I am very familiar with it's traits for this comparison.

I've finally started listening to my new Transrotor turntable with my Benz Micro Ebony L cartridge.  The sound is incredibly clear, spacious, focused and free of hash.

Being a newbie, I'm still wondering about the recommendation to try running the cartridge "wide open @47k." Which I presume is the impedance setting?

 I don't understand what "wide open" means.

But on my JE Audio phono stage, it makes it easy to select impedance/gain settings using buttons on the front of the unit.

You can see close up photos of the front panel here:

The MC impedance values I can select from are:

10 - 33 - 100 - 250 - 500

I was told since it's an MC cartridge to start out setting impedance at "100" as a good baseline.  Artemus, you said to try 47k which is "the default for MM cartridges" and I see that aligned with the "100" value for MC cartridges is "47" on the MM cartridge line.  Does that mean that the 100 value I've chosen amounts to the 47 value you suggest for MM?  I'm not sure how this works as I've plugged my phono arm into the MC input and I'm using those values.

Thus far the 100 impedance setting yields a gorgeous clarity and lushness, but in absolute terms it's a tad on the "dark" side, slightly rolled off.  Since I was told by my turntable pal that increasing impedance tends to brighten the sound, I tried the next highest setting of 250.  This indeed brightened the sound, giving back more air and that golden sparkle to things like cymbals and acoustic metal guitar strings that I really like.  It definitely sounds more accurate - for instance playing the same CD master against the vinyl of an album, the vinyl sounds more like the CD on the 250 setting.  But, things can get a tad analytical/piercing on this setting as well.

So I'm not sure what is left in the toolbox in tweaking the sound to my liking.  My ideal would be to have a dial between the 100 and 250 impedance setting where I could get a mix of that lushness and spaciousness of the 100 setting, and the more accurate sparkle of the 250 setting. 

Does adjusting things like VTA or the "head/tail" angle of the cartridge alter the sound and in what type of ways?

Ah...just had a conversation with my turntable buddy...he's saying if I find the 250 impedance setting on the phono stage maybe edging into a bit piercing it would only get worse using the MM input and going way up to 47k impedance.  That seems to make sense, if generally going up in impedance make for brighter sound.  So I'm wondering how that actually worked for others here?

Also, he pointed out I'd lose quite a bit of gain, as the phono stage can only give up to 45db gain for MM vs the 65db gain I'm using on the MC setting.
@prof. If you re-read the post from @artemus_5 from atma-sphere, you will see that the general rule about higher resistance settings sounding brighter is dependent on the phono-pre not the cartridge.  Of course there are many other factors that affect tonal balance as well such as cartridge design, VTA/SRA and tonearm specifics.  That being said, with your preamp and cartridge, I would recommend listening to all the impedance settings in the MC mode and decide what you like. You won't hurt anything.  When using your MC cart that has low output, keep it on the higher gain MC setting.  Enjoy!