Cartridges & Sensitivity to VTF

Cartridges & Sensitivity to VTF

Throughout the years of my involvement with vinyl. I’m beginning to wonder if some of these cartridges are more sensitive to Vertical Tracking Force than others. I only having direct experience, in my home, with the Benz L2 Wood and the Lyra Skala, I don’t have the experience to form much personal experience. I hope to get a general understanding which cartridges are more sensitive to VTF variations when compared to others.

For those of you with your Cartridges…

Could you provide some insight on the VTF range and sensitivity of your cartridges?

Which cartridges you have owned that are very sensitive to (0.0x grams)?

Which cartridges you have owned that are very sensitive to (0.00x grams)?

Care to share any other observations?

I'd really like to hear from some ZYX, Lyra, Benz, and Dynavector Owners on this issue.

For myself, I've found the Skala to be well behaved within it's range (1.65 to 1.75 grams VTF) I currently run the cartridge @ 1.68 Grams. I don't think the differences are readily apparent within this range of VTF. I'd have to go through the exercise again because nothing sticks out from memory on this one. Of course, others that own this cartridge my have different experiences. This is why I'm hoping to get many responses to this thread in order to gain more insight from your experiences.

XV-1s, I find it responds to changes of ~.02 grams quite nicely. Same with a Denon 103r.
Benz Ruby 3, I've used it for almost 2 years and find it is incredibly sensitive to very small changes in both VTF and VTA. Much less than a mm on VTA, e.g., a single turn of the screw on a SME IV.Vi, and 0.02 grams VTF.

Part of the reason I changed from my previous OL Encounter tonearm to the SME was due to the difficulty in making very small VTF changes on the Encounter. VTA, no problem, I could hear a single "playing card thickness" difference of change.

My previous Benz cartridges, the Glider series 2 and a Glider series 1, both demonstrated adequate resolution to VTA and VTF changes but did not come close to the Ruby 3 in their ability to respond to very small changes.

Too much time has passed to clearly remember other cartridges well regarding this issue.
Every MC I've used long enough to play with VTF has responded audibly to changes of
.02-.04g, less in some cases. That includes Denon 103/103R, Ortofon Jubilee, Shelter 901, seven different ZYX models and probably some others. I don't remember any MC that did not respond to VTF changes in this range.

The more resolving models are certainly more sensitive - the ZYX UNIverse is exquisitely so - but they all react in the same basic pattern. Higher end cartridges give you more for your trouble, but the same VTF-setting technique works on all of them. Thank goodness!

Note to those with arms that lack a fine VTF adjustment: you don't have to do what Txp1 did and buy a different arm (though there's nothing wrong with that). If you like your present arm in other respects and want to add fine VTF adjustment without moving that ^%$# ~! counterweight, just hop out to Home Depot and buy some O-rings. Choose an I.D. that provides a snug fit on your arm's end stub. Slide one or more onto the end stub and you'll reduce VTF in .02-.04g increments, depending on the thickness of the O-ring and the length of the arm. Simple, cheap, very fast, reliable, repeatable. Just remember to lock your arm down while adding/removing O-rings, for safety.

Thanks for the feedback on the XV-1s. I've had some time listening to that cartridge in a friends system and it sounds great. his system produces a very nice, whole, and altogether sound. Where are you currently tracking on VTF?


Where are you currently tracking on VTF?

The Benz feedback is interesting. I have and L2 wood that's in the case not being used since I got the Skala. A friend has a Ruby 3 that I mounted for him but we didn't get to do any fine tuning that night. Since then he has played with a couple VTF/VTA changes although I haven't really listened to the table since then for any length of time. I'll be sure to let him know that there are a few things he can try in order to potentially get more out of his cartridge.

I've also heard the Glider on other systems and the comments on the Glider seems to align with what I had noticed on that particular system I had listened to.

I have and Incognito modified RB-250 with the Michell Tecnoweight. For a Rega style arm user, the Technoweight makes VTF adjustments really easy. My currently mounted arm can still give me that resolution of adjustment but it's not as easy.

I have a Benz Ebony and a VPI Nordost arm. I have determined that there is not much difference at all settings except that there is more air - bloom around the instruments at the best setting. Ive read that you adjust by listening to the bass, but I dont find that much difference. I suspect that the stylus shape has a lot to do with this...spherical, shabata, eliptical, etc. I like that o-ring suggestion Dougdeacon.

Is this adjustment of 0.02 grams consistent across the cartridge manufactures suggested tracking range? For example the Airy3 (I didn't find the specs for the UNIverse) appears to be 1.7 - 2.5 grams which is a pretty large range. If not, how do you find the range of sensitivity for the cartridge that is around the 0.02 gram audible region for changes?


We first used O-rings to fine tune VTF on an OL Silver. Of course they'd work on any arm with an exposed length of end stub behind the counterweight. Just set your c/w for the maximum downforce you're likely to want, then reduce in increments by adding O-rings.

We later switched to a TriPlanar, which also had no fine VTF adjustment at that time (new ones now do). The O-rings really enjoyed this upgrade. They sound better on a $4K arm than on a $1K arm! ;-)

I've also posted about using (smaller) O-rings for fine tuning antiskating to a degree not possible with the sliding metal weight the TriPlanar comes with. Soon after that post a certain gentleman named HW started including O-rings along with the metal weight in the antiskate retrofit kit for the JMW's. My patent infringement attorney is looking into this scandalous appropriation of freeware for commercial purposes. ;-)
The "overall" system has to be capable of resolving the "very subtle" aspects of some of the stuff found on the best pressings.It is NOT only the cartridge.
Line noise,amongst other factors can cover up differences normally heard in the 1 to 2 hundredths of a gm increments from the better cartridges.Cables,room acoustics,noisey neighbors,or family noise around the listening room,to name some factors.Just because some cartridges seem to be "less" sensitive to very slight VTF settings,does NOT mean that "is" the case.
IMO,the better resolving the overall system,the more critical the VTF becomes.This doesn't mean we should get too nuts about exactitude.Only there are other factors that influence such things.Mostly system dependent,but......
I,myself,will be killing a neighbor's dog,another neighbor's motor cycle,and sawing off another neighbor's diving board(noisey bastards when diving from high above,by a bunch of teens showing off)in the upcoming weeks.The owl,looking for a mate,in my backyard is exempt,because he "took out" the squirrel family who kept jumping on my roof last spring. -:)
Hope this made some sense.

Your point is well taken. For me, this is an exercise in understanding more than absolutes. I understand that this is all system dependent and I thank you for the comments.

Assuming the overall system is capable of resolving the differences, would you care to share your thoughts on how sensitive the cartridges you have experience with are to VTF changes?

My experience with the ZYX airy 3 is similar to others in that it responds to small changes in VTF and VTA. I have a hard time separating the tweaks of VTF and VTA because if I make a small move in VTF, i unvariably will tweak VTA afterwards to find the best sound to my ears. I must admit my system is not a high performance system compared to others but i have really learned to appreciate the value of slight adjustments.
Dre j,I have only gotten experience in this critical domain over the last eight to ten years.Having been in the hobby for 35 years,I'd say the first twenty or so,was my "know nothing" era.
My last ten years have been spent with Tranny's.They are ALL sensitive to VTF.My friend Sid has had different Lyra designs(the Latest being the Titan,and they,TOO,have been just as sensitive.
I hope this helps a bit.There are many more members of this forum who have wider experience than me.It all depends on "when" they got "hip" to all these differences.Experience comes with time,and hands on(no dealer dependancy). During my ten years with various Koetsus I was "clueless".
Good luck.
Dre j,

I'm currently tracking the Ruby 3 at 1.99 grams, and very, very slight tail up VTA. I plan to try a lower VTF because one of the guys at VA has a Ruby 3 and posted that 1.85 grams with a slight tail drag worked well for him. I've never used a tail down VTA on any cartridge, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. I've been letting my new power conditioner break-in prior to making any more VTF/VFA changes.

Thanks for the update. I'll be interested in your findings when you give the Ruby 3 a try at 1.85 grams and try the tail down.