There's a reason VPI users apply excessive tracking force. Until recently, JMW tonearms had a very crude antiskate mechanism. Rather than design a proper one, VPI recommended the sledgehammer approach of increasing downforce, even to levels above the limit recommended by the cartridge manufacturer.
This approach is demonstrably in violation of the physics involved. What business does the maker of improperly designed tonearms have telling customers to ignore the advice of cartridge designers? Why would anyone using a better tonearm take such advice seriously?
The Graham 2.2 has a perfectly serviceable AS device, so VPI's reason for excess downforce does not apply to you. If you think your rig sounds better that way okay, but you are risking premature wear of your cartridge and unnecessary pressure on your vinyl.
Personally, I would ask AJ VdH before ignoring any of his setup parameters. You might find you're invalidating your Condor's warranty. If you ever decide to sell it, I hope you mention this abuse in the ad. A prospective buyer would have the right to know.
Hi Doug, Yes this is a point that I agree with regarding the VPI arms and a matter that was brought up very quickly upon it's release. I would not have thought this to apply to the graham, but for sure as physics would predict, tracking is much superior and does appear to have some merit in my system without loss of music or dynamics. Imaging was improved beyond what I would believe possible with such a minor tweak.
I have played it once like this and would like to find out if any other unipivot users have a preference for a higher setting.
I believe most unipivots will have tracking problems due to their inherent instability around the pivot point. I would hazard a guess that the Graham Phantom and Bassis Vector do not suffer this problem at all.
The point of a too high setting does worry me as this cartridge ain't cheap but it's 300 hour service is coming up so I will get some feedback then.
What arm and cartridge do you use?
PS I don't buy or sell second hand cartridges, I only have a record player and always wanted as many cartridges as I can possibly own.
You are correct that the Vector does not suffer from the same instability issues as the 2.2 can. I owned both of these arms at the same time and found this to be an issue when taking into account what cartridge I used on the 2.2. Nothing seemed to bother the Vector. However, the condor reportedly is highly compliant, at least statically. (I don't know first hand, I'm going by the cartridge database.)
I don't mean to question that you know what you're doing, but I'm curious to know what scale you are using and if you tried adjusting the 2.2's dampening fluid?
Excellent insight! I just learned another reason (besides VPI's antiskate problem) why some people achieve better results using apparently excess VTF's. Thank you for that.
Unipivots are of course inherently unstable in the azimuth plane (with the exceptions you noted). An increase in downforce would help the arm resist lateral rolling forces. Keeping azimuth more stable reduces crosstalk and improves just what you said, image focus and tightness. Brilliant!
I use a gimballed arm (TriPlanar VII + ZYX UNIverse, check my system). Like your 2.2 it has an easy azimuth adjustment, but then it gets locked in place. It also has a very finely adjustable antiskate device.
In this environment the optimal VTF for every cartridge I've used has been a small zone residing just above the mistracking point (which of course varies somewhat with the weather). Taking VTF any higher (as you're having to do) starts to smother microdynamics and the HF harmonics which give natural instruments and voices some of their unique character.
IME the 2.2 does not quite resolve some of those things, so the sonic penalties of higher VTF's are probably minimal compared to the sonic benefits you described. I've often wondered why my friend Cello prefers much higher VTF's than me when using his 2.2, even though we both use the same cartridge. It all adds up.
Thanks again for sharing an interesting experience and a keen insight,
Well, it must do something if the results are better. I don't see how adding more vertical pressure on a single pivot point can diminish the tendency for the arm to roll around the other pivot point 9" away, which also has greater mass associated with it. I was thinking that perhaps it was a by-product of having the counterweight just that smidgeon closer to the pivot, but I'm not so sure. Perhaps if the counterweight was below the plane of the pivot, or if it was concentric like the Rega heavyweights.
A stylus does not ride on a single pivot point.
A good point on the damping fluid, at the moment I am trying a combination of Graham's blue fluid with a higher percentage of SME fluid. This can be one point I need to explore again and will order new graham fluid tomorrow. The SME fluid I just find more open and transparent and it seems to allow the music to breath easier than the blue which I find a little dull sounding. I use the SME fluid full up on the dip stick which maintains the open sound but brings a more controlled soundstage (similar in sound to other threads on this site concerning damping fluid levels but without the hassle). It is an interesting point Dan_ed and I will look into this again. I use the Wally scale for tracking force.
I do find I have always been fighting a lighter sound with the Graham 2.2 (with blue damping fluid also) in comparison with say an SME 5 and with other cartridges. The higher tracking setting does bolt the sound down more into reality with better deeper bass and projection both forward and backward but it also maintains the Grahams superb movement (musical), smoothness and dynamics.
How much more VTF does Cello use?
Have you heard it?
TriPlanar, yes a very nice arm indeed, like the graham phantom a labour of love that is extremely well thought out.
We have never had it so good.
Dear Sniper101: +++++ " So as an experiment I am tryiing an additional 0.2 grams over the suggested maximum of 1.5 . " +++++
The VTF range that the manufacturer states is a value where that cartridge works " safe ", where the cartridge coils are centered, where tracking right and where perform the best.
If you use a higher VTF then the coils will be un-centered ( causing distortions/colorations ), the cartridge suspension will " suffer " and could exhaust before time, the stylus suffer a higher wear, etc, etc.
Now, if any one has a tonearm where we have to use a higher VTF that the manufacturer recomendation then change that tonearm!!!!!
Regards and enjoy the music.
What tonearm and cartridge do you use?
All the best
I haven't heard Cello's 2.2/UNIverse since he started exploring above-normal VTF's. IIRC he was using 2.3g (ZYX recommends a maximum of 2.2). Since then he's acquired a Schroeder Ref SQ. I believe his 2.2 may be collecting dust.
Raul hit the nail on the head of course. I was trying to be gentle but I agree with him 100%.
Yes, we are very lucky to have so much incredibly good gear to choose from these days! The Phantom is a major step forward by all accounts, Frank Schroeder has improved his already remarkable Reference and Tri Mai is shipping a newly enhanced version of the TriPlanar VII. Truly amazing stuff from three amazing guys.
Doug please don't forget the Basis Vector 3. An incredible tonearm that will stand toe to toe with the arms you mentioned.
Disclaimer: Basis retailer
Doug, with the magnitude of the forces that cause the 2.2 arm to wobble from side to side it might as well be a single point. Adding the additional weight vertically may slow the arm response to these forces and the high compliance of the condor may also help this, but the forces that cause this action up throught the stylus and into the 2.2 are still there. Maybe not the best fitting anology but, it's somewhat like driving down the road in an old Lincoln Town Car. It sways and floats like yacht. You can load it down with 10-15 friends and the swaying and floating will be less dramatic, but it will still do it.
Bill, I would agree that the Vector 3 with VTA is a good match in this league of quality tonearms. I think it would possibly out-perform the 2.2 in this instance. And it should not be overlooked that the dampening of the Vector can be tuned much like the Graham arms. I'd really like to play with a Phantom, and even more with a Da Vinci for that matter.
Best to all!
Dear Tris: Could you take a look to " my system " ?, there you can take an idea bout which tonearm and cartridge I use.
Regards and enjoy the music.
We haven't heard a Vector III, but we heard a Vector I easily outplay a Graham 2.2 so I presume the newer versions do too. Paul ruled out unstabilized unipivots on theory before we ever heard one. We've heard several since then and have never regretted that judgement.
When we chose the TriPlanar, Basis was not yet offering any height adjustment. That made it a non-starter for us. If we were looking today a Vector would certainly be an arm I'd investigate - and I'd drive all the way to Buffalo to hear it!
Interesting analogy. I don't like driving big Lincolns either! Remember my car? Zoom-Zoom!
I suppose some in the excess VTF camp may simply prefer stronger bass and macrodynamics at the expense of clarity and microdynamics, but that still leaves us with no explanation for Sniper101's report of superior imaging and focus. This flies in the face of normal expectations unless we posit superior stability in the azimuth plane - doesn't it?
Ah yes I see you are an analogue man indeed. A very nice setup. How does the audio technica vacuum hold down record work? what is it made of; vinyl?
Yeah, Doug. Zoom, zoom! Haven't seen any the same color as yours, though.
Perhaps it does explain it, but I believe we all agree that it is not the best solution for a tipsy arm. I'd have to ask what the imaging and focus Sniper is getting superior to. Perhaps it is just better than it was.
I agree with you and Paul about the Vector. I'm still kicking around the idea of a second arm and this would be on the short list. A.J. showed me the vta adjuster once. It wasn't mounted on an arm but I couls still tell that it was very well engineered. Seems to work much like a thickness micrometer. It's also nice to see that he has come up with a better idea than velcro for the cable junction box. I'm not sure how we would attach that on our tables. Might be able to tap into the outside surface of the armboard.
Sorry, guess I'm getting OT.
Dear tris: The Audio Technica AT666 works great and the quality improvement is all over the frequency range, when you try it you can't come back.
With a little of patience you can find one on e-bay.
Btw, it is made of aluminium.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I've set up a world wide search for the AT666. what is the proper on the box name AT-666, AT,666 what is it?
How does the vacuum work? is it Active or passive?
All the best
There is one point for the 2.2 which may be lost with the finer arms that are more able to render a fine instrument on a stage. it may be slightly out of control but in some ways it's "just enough" to get it into the great arms catagory. I do believe that once this arm is set up just right it releases the music in a wave that you just ride. Nothing too serious but real enough to convince of it's reality and maintain a "musical" flow of the whole.
it aint no slouch. but there is better.
All my favorite arms play music, say in comparison with the best arm in the world (and it's true) the SME 5 which is pure reality.
Man oh man Raul I envy your collection of cartridges I would have added another type of deck into the equation like a raven....but of course I'm dreaming and your living it.
Raul your as F*%$!d up as I'd like to be.
Dear Tris: It is named: Disc Stabilizer AT666 Plate, this one comes with a manual pump. The AT666EX comes with a battery powered pump. Both work very well.
Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Tris: The Raven TT looks great and I'm sure that it's a top performer. Till to now I don't have any quality sound reproduction problem with my Acoustic Signature/Micro Seiki TT's, they perform great.
Of course it will be " educational " to try the Raven or other top TT in my system.
Well, the TT/tonearm/cartridge chain is very important in the analog reproduction but I think that the most critical link in the analog chain belongs to the Phonolinepreamp.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I would agree 100% with the phono amplifier as it is this that does one of the most important jobs. in some ways it is more important than the arm and cartridge as the phono stage allows you to hear everything that comes off the vinyl.
I note that you have gone over to battery power on your phono/line stage. I have never heard a battery pre or phonostage but am hoping to soon as a friend has just upgraded his Klimo merlin phono/pre amp to battery supply. It makes alot of sense to use battery power especially with such a small signal.
He did this upgrade after listening to my Gryphon Orestes phonostage on his system. It would be very interesting to do a comparison now.
All the best
Looks like Raul has a disciple.
I just happened upon this dialogue, so thought I'd add a thought or two: the degree of damping fluid in the 2.2 (or any damped arm) is subject to variations and personal preferences. Too little damping and you get one kind of sound (possibly brighter); too much and things may get sluggish. That's a generalization, of course, but it does get to the point: everyone will have an opinion!
As for tracking force, I have also tried raising it a bit for different cartridges, and have found that tracking on the higher side OF AN ACCEPTED RANGE will tend to give better performance. What's the "accepted range".? One that will place the coils in the center of the magnetic field for balanced output, combined with placing the stylus tip and cantilver at the desired angles.
Here again, a compromise must be worked out, and if you increase the tracking force (thereby changing the SRA), you may need to adjust VTA to compensate, and always keeping in mind the need to keep the magnetic system in balance.
In the 50's and 60's, cartridge manufactuers were in a race to have the highest compliance and lowest tracking forces, and many consumers believed that a 1-gram force would be less wear on a record than a 2-gram setting. This would be true ONLY if the stylus tip tracks properly and does not rattle around in the groove; otherwise, the lower tracking force would cause a severe and permanent increase in record wear. That's still true today, and a few tenths of a gram tracking force will be much less an issue in saving your records than a cartridge (or arm) that does not track properly...
OK, with all that said, any debate of the 2.2 refers to an older technology that was, at the time, our best shot. Now, with the Magneglide (TM) stabilization on the Phantom B-44 Improved, there really is no comparison to the 2.2 in any meaningful way, especially in the mechanical terms of lateral stability and neutral balance. In this regard, the B-44 really behaves like a gimbled arm, due to the very strong stabilization force of the Magneglide system. In it's present Improved form, the B-44 really should be discussed entirely on it's own, with no assumptions whatever to be made from experience with the 2.2 and earlier arms. Comparisons to other arms - excellent as many are - is encouraged. Musically, this arm will perform on a level never imagined from earlier designs....
Best wishes to everyone..!
- Bob Graham
What about the Nightengale II on the 2.2? Your literature shows 1.8g VTF with no range. Should one experiment with a bit more VTF, or is that the exact best setting?
Dear Audiofeil: It is only know-how and common sense!!
Regards and enjoy the music.
By all means, use a range of force up to 2.2 grams if necessary. The 1.8 is the "standard" setting recommended by Immutable, the manufacurer of the generator we use (we make the cartridge body and supply the 4-N silver wire ourselves)... We have found it works very well at a 2.0+ setting, and with no problems with buzzing or increased wear. As I mentioned in my post, tracking a bit (but within a reasonable range, of course) heavier is actually kinder to your records than the psychologically-tempting lighter forces which may result in poor stylus contact and groove rattling (chiseling...!)
Dear Bob Graham, I would like to ask about the damping fluid if I may.
Is it better to tune the blue damping fluid (removing fluid) to get the level of damping and hence the sound right. Usually this method leaves the damping well about half full.
Or would mixing the blue with a lower viscous fluid to give the same sound be better but allowing the entire or most of the dip stick on the 2.2 to be covered.
Would the second option give a more stable balance to the azimuth as the damping fluid is acting on the upper areas of the dip stick where there is greater movement?
would their be any detriment to the arm in the desired plane of movement ie cartridge to counterbalance?
All the best
That's one of those things that can work equally well, but some may "feel better" if they have more fluid of a lower viscosity than doing it the other way. Damping is damping, and I think the arm will not care much.
In the case of the Phantom, fluid damping is only part of it; the rest is taken care of by the magnetic stabilization system Magneglide. In this regard, there is really no reason to dilute the fluid to change damping levels, and putting in a little more (or less) standard Phantom fluid will be just fine. - Bob Graham