Harry Weisfeld Was Right All Along

I'll admit that I was skeptical when I heard Harry Weisfeld of VPI say that his JMW tonearm sounded better without any antiskating device a few years ago. All the arguments for antiskating compensation seemed plausible if not undeniable.

But today, I've seen the light. I own a Michell Orbe SE with a Wilson Benesch Act 0.5 arm and a Shelter 501 II cartridge. I dialed everything in, but still had the compunction to fiddle around with something so I removed the funky anti-skate weight from the WB. Not only does the arm behave much better (no annoying, backswing when indexing), but it actually sounds better to my ears. Smoother, more dynamic, less etched/more natural are the changes I hear. I wonder how many other arm/cartridge combinations would benefit from eschewing their anti-skate mechanisms.

While I originally thought that Harry Weisfeld was simply making excuses, in reality, he was probably just being honest. I'm sure the twisty-wire approach he now uses is a good way to implement anti-skating for those who must have it.
There are those who feel anti-skating compensation isn't incorrect in theory, but rather that there will always be, to one degree or another, introduced compromises inherent in its mechanical implementation (whether through weights or springs) which will outweigh, in their view, any benefits it may confer. I'm not sure if HW is of this school, or if he simply rejects the theory outright. Frankly, I feel I can hear a very slight benefit to using anti-skate (primarily in the areas of solid imaging, and avioding the introduction of a minute but perceptable hollow-ish, phasey tonal quality in the mids), but mostly I'm concerned that if I don't, it could cause excessive and uneven record and stylus wear. Either way, I find VPI's default position that you should be able to fuss with the dressing of their lead-out wires to affect anti-skate control to be an unsatisfactorily imprecise and inconvenient (for the user, that is) proposition.
Think about it. If there ever was a guy committed to analog and finding the best ways of extracting music from your vinyl, it's Harry Weisfeld. It would have been much easier for him to employ the conventional antiskating devices. Probably would have helped him sell more tonearms, too. As the happy owner of a JMW 10.5, I'm glad he resisted the "obvious." And it's not as if his arms don't give you the benefits of anti-skating. They do.
Some arms need the anti-skate more than others. In general, longer arms will need less. Linear arms don't need any. It should always be adjusted by ear anyway. If you feel you get best results from none, then fine. If wear is going to be higher due to this, you should be able to hear a channel imbalance caused by it. I'd say if you don't hear an imbalance, then it is going to be ok.
TWL, what you said makes sense. Right now, I think not having the anti-skate hooked up is working for me. But I'll live with it for a while and see if I still feel the same way next month. I don't think it's as critical an issue as some make it out to be. And I have used antiskate on some arms where I thought it helped a bit. Right now, I'm not so sure it helps on the WB and I'd be interested to hear from other WB owners to see if they have tried this experiment and what the results were... I'm getting a quality of sound that is quite excellent without it. I thought that it was good with it, but not quite as transparent and natural.

So if anyone wants to fiddle around and try their arm without antiskate and report back the findings, I'd be interested in hearing your comments -- especially from owners of uni-pivot arms.
hi Plato -

I have the wilson benesch Circle turntable set up which uses that same arm. How did you disconnect the anti-skate? Just take the ball and thread off the horizontal piece? Seems easy enough to try out. what differences did you hear?

This is a interesting post. When I was running my Sony PS-X555ES Linear Tracking Bio Tracer table (no antiskate) the balance was equal on my pre amp, the sound stage perfectly centered. I retired the Sony, purchased a Michell Gryo SE with SME V arm, and transfered my Benz Micro Glider over. As soon as I fired up this new rig, I noticed a difference in balance (sound stage) which I corrected by adding five points of volume to the right channel. It took me six hours to set up the Michell/SME so I hesitate to "putz" with the antiskate, since it is tied into and is suppose to be adjusted with the tracking force utilized. Any comments?
Hi Ed,

Yes, you just remove the ball and thread. I left the rubber o-rings on the post because I figured it might damp any tendency for the metal post to ring. I was surprised that removing the antiskate didn't seem to affect the tracking force or the azimuth, but it didn't. So just unstring that thing and tell me what you hear (or don't hear)...

Quincy, I'm not sure how the antiskating mechanism is set up on the SME V. I don't know whether it can be defeated simply, or not. You may not want to mess with it. However, I doubt that it would change or disturb your other settings to do so. My theory is that the effects of antiskating are more pronounced with unipivot arms, for whatever reason. I don't know how much the SME- or Rega-type arms would benefit, if at all. Still, if you find that it's easy to do, you could try it. Also, "5 points of volume" difference seems excessive; I wonder what's up with that. Did you change other things at the same time you were setting up the new turntable??
I have the a TNT MKV/JMW12.5/Van den hul, Black beauty combo. I used the HiFiNews test record to set the
"anti-skate" I found that twisting the wires does have an effect on tracking in that the mistracking buzz will start in one channel or the depending on how the wire is twisted.

By the way, this combo is an incredible tracker. It goes through the first three bands of the torture test with no problem, whatsoever, and can almost track the last bank. And it sounds as good as it tracks.
Hi Plato,
This is Quincy. No, nothing else changed in the system at that time. Only the table and arm were new. The five clicks on volume were on my Conrad-Johnson Premier 17 LS which utilizes a sealed relay type system for each .5 (or so) dB of volume setting. It just makes me wonder a bit about antiskate and the theory behind it. For the time being, I think I will let things be.
Quincy, I think your problem may be azimuth not anti-skating. I am not sure whether you can change this in the SME.
Great thead. My old HK/Rabco ST-8 (linear) tracked all four HFN antiskating tracks, although track 4 was pretty tough. The slight buzz on track 3 and very loud buzz on track 4 switched from L to R. Obviously it was mistracking generally without regard to (nonexistent) skating forces.

My new Teres 265/OL Silver/Shelter 901 handles track 4 better than the old linear arm, even using the same cartridge! It tracks all four test tracks easily, though there's fairly loud buzzing on the R channel during track 4.

On track 3, buzzing in the R channel can be minimized (not quite eliminated) by setting antiskate at the max, which is labelled for a VTF of 2g. Our actual VTF is 1.75g, so this is theoretically too much antiskate, particularly as OL's literature says the best antiskate setting should be LOWER than VTF. OTOH, when I put the stylus down in dead space in the runout area, it moves fairly quickly OUTWARD. This suggests I have too much antiskating force, but if I reduce it the test track buzz gets worse. Are these results as inconsistent as they seem to me? Any suggestions?
You must remember that the need for anti-skating changes with the stylus position on the record. It needs more at the area close to the label than at the outside. This is why most anti-skate systems are a compromise at best, anyway. There have been some arms that attempted to solve this progressive change problem, but I don't know if any were perfectly successful.
Skating force is only one of many critical adjustments necessary for a pivoting arm, most of which can only be optimized for one location on the LP. I finally decided that you can never get them all right, so I went to a linear tracking arm, which I find to be flawless.

Anti-skating force permits the pickup to track at a lower downforce setting. If you are willing to add a gram or so you can do without antiskating. Whether or not this causes greater wear depends on the quality and condition of the diamond.
Hi Plato,
I have a Wilson Benesch Nanotube one tonearm, similar to the WB 0.5. Does it fit in the Orbe hole for mounting or do you need some adaptor? Thank you very much.
TWL - I don't think you're correct. Because the cartridge really tracks at a greater speed in the outer (away from the label) portion of the record, more anti-skate is needed there with gradually less as the record plays with nearly none at the label end.
I would suggest you read more on audiogon about anti-skate. I agree that uni-pivots are a different case, and it seems that people who own these arms have to look into it differently. Has someone done anti-skate by ear for uni-pivots? Why would anti-skate be necessary for linear tracking arms? Logic(as in HW being an expert on analog, and therefore correct on anti-skate) may or may not lead to correct conclusions. Note also that some cartridge manufacturers recommend a much lower anti-skate than VTF, which may be due to stronger cantilever materials?
To be absolutely correct, it wasn't Harry but Joe Grado (and sure Mitch Cotter was involved somehow) who pointed out the "compromises" involved with setting antiskating on an LP.
Stringreen, I can assure you that TWL knows what he's talking about. (I wonder if Tom still scans these forums from time to time.)

The forces that led to the need for AS are always present. The need to apply AS is not always present, IME.

I haven't used AS on my Triplanar in over a year.

As for uni-pivots and AS. I have a new Durand Talea, which is a uni-pivot for those not familiar with this new arm. I've mounted Lyras, Dynavectors, Transfiguration, ZYX, and Shelter cartridges so far and have yet discover any situation that shows ANY need for anti-skate. YMMV, and all that.
I have always wonder about setting anti-skate. Typically, I ignored instructions and merely put a blank record on a dropped the needle and adjusted accordingly. But for some time I had the Shindo turntable with it updated Ortofon tonearm which never had an anti-skating adjustment.

You have no concerns with anti-skating with linear arms, but they should be perfectly level and move neither way.
I found this thread by searching for anti-skating w/ Wilson-Benesch ACT 0.5 tonearm, and I've had results similar to Plato's. I set up a NOS WB ACT arm on an Oracle Premiere TT and set the A/S per the manual. Initially it seemed to work okay, but after about 100 hour of play the A/S force seemed to increase and the trend of the arm backswing during queing an occasional back skipping I tried to reduce the A/S setting. I could never get the adjustment for ball on string method to change enough no matter how far I set it back towards the arm pivot point. So I finally gave an remove the A/S ball and string.
Any comments on this? Is it feasible that the unipivot arm bearing wearing in defeated the need for the A/S?
After experimenting with and w/o anti skate, I've determined that it sounds better with none...a rightness to the sound...solidity, etc. I've posted on these pages for years about this.
Just to clarify Harry's statement about antiskating with his unipivot tonearm designs, he did not say that his arm sounds better with none. Rather that the loop of wire in his arm's design provides a level of inherent A/S force, and that in most setups it is sufficient and sounds better than using an additional mechanism to provide A/S force. He now includes an adjustable mechanism on his arms due to some customer demands which allows users to apply a desired level of A/S, but still feels that it sounds better without using that device.
It is an old thing. If you listen with an open mind you will find that with a majority of 9" and 10" tonearms anti-skate makes the sound more hifi-sh and mechanical. Without anti-skate it is more natural but a wee bit fuzzy which I do not mind. The only exception I have seen in this regard is Naim ARO. It doesnt detoriate the sound with anti-skate on. I think the solution is to go for longer tonearms if your TT can support one. Else choose between a compromise, with or without antiskate.

I personally prefer to add a really low antiskate just to strike a balance and also to ensure that the cartridge cantilever is not stressed too much by the side force.
According to Tri Mai of Triplanar there is in fact no standard for the amount of anti-spate to be applied.

In practice I have found that very little is needed on the Triplanar. I don't use the weights- just a few tiny rubber o-rings on the antiskate mechanism.
Pani...if it sounds fuzzy add just a we bit more downward force.
Ralph (Atmasphere) ... I own a VPI Classic with a 10.5 inch uni-pivot wand. I use one rubber donut on the JMW arm AS thingy. I can't say that using that dribble of AS force makes much of a difference in sound playback.

The only reason I use the AS is because Peter Ledermann told me that the stylus on my Zephyr cartridge (my previous primary carty) was showing uneven wear. Peter suggested a little AS to even out the wear pattern.

My current primary cartridge is the Lyra Kleos, a truly wonderful performer. I still use the one donut, but again, not to tweak the sound, but rather to make a rough justice attempt to even out stylus wear.

Just an anecdotal experience FWIW for the benefit of fellow A'gon members.
TBG....that is absolutely the wrong way to correct for a/s adjustment
Is it feasible that the unipivot arm bearing wearing in defeated the need for the A/S?
I certainly hope not. Tonearm bearings should not wear in any detectible way for many years, if not decades. If it wore that much in just 100 hours, it would soon become completely unplayable.

Stringreen, I agree with your comment to Tbg, but you're about 4 years too late. ;-)
TBG....that is absolutely the wrong way to correct for a/s adjustment

I got a nice picture from a - former - proud member of NASC (No Anti Skate Club), it shows his Lyra Titan i in the typical harly used, excellent condition :-)

Well, each his own, but the repair bill did let him look for another club ...and TBG's description is definitely one which can save you a lot of money.
This shouldn't be a blanket statement when everything depends on everything else.The design of the arm in combinations with the cartridge will dictate what works and what doesn't!

On my classic 1 I twisted the wire one turn and passed the first 3 anti-skate tracks on the HFN test disk. With that I took the mechanical device off the table entirely.