how do you determine anti-skate settings?

my tt (Origin Live Illustrious) has no scale for anti-skate, which consists of a little weight hanging from a string, connected near the rear of the arm. Is there any good method, or tool, or test record to use, for determining optimum anti-skate settings?
I keep it as minimum as possible as long as stylus doesn't damage the groves from the start by sliding rapidly or simply try to place the needle right on the beginning of playable grove.
What I would try is to keep backing the skate level off until the needle just starts to skip and sounds like it isn't playing right..That tells you the A/Skate is too low..Then just add back a very small amount at a time..Once it sounds great don't go any further..As mentioned less is better.....Trust your ears..It works...
In addition to the suggestions above, a commonly used method is to view the cartridge from the front while a record is being played, and adjusting the anti-skating force such that the left or right deflection of the cantilever (if any) is the same as it is when the stylus is lifted off of the record.

Skating force will vary somewhat with the position on the record, so if that method is used the check should be performed at more than one point.

There are more sophisticated methods available, for instance using an oscilloscope to monitor the signals while a suitable test record, such as the Analogue Productions "Ultimate Analogue Test LP," is being played.

As the others have indicated, it is best to err in the direction of too little anti-skating force, rather than too much. Some people find that none at all works best.

-- Al
If you consistently observe mistracking in the left channel, decrease the anti-scating; if the mistracking is in the right channel, increase it. You can use test records for this or just listen to your own records. The inner cuts are usually the most critical.
I recently spoke to a Clearaudio rep about this very topic. I was trying to figure out how to set up anti-skate. His response surprised me. He said that as long as your TT is level (use a bubble leveler to make it so), anti-skate is not only worthless, but can actually harm both stylus and record. So, I asked, if that's true, why even bother to supply your rigs with anti-skate weights and hooks for them? He said, "if we don't, people think the design is incomplete or defective." Basically, he said the stylus will track most true in the grooves without any anti-skate at all. He also told me that on cartridge tracking forces, what's listed is actually a bare minimum, tossed out there to prevent a cacophony of phone calls about damaged styli. He suggested that I nearly double my "suggested" tracking force to get optimal results. Take it for what it's worth....I've ditched AS entirely, and my turntable seems to produce better bass as a result. I've also set the tracking force on my Talismann cartridge for 3.5 grams, well above the recommended 2.2-2.4 grams.

I recently spoke to a Clearaudio rep about this very topic... He said that as long as your TT is level (use a bubble leveler to make it so), anti-skate is not only worthless, but can actually harm both stylus and record

Clearly, that Clearaudio rep is not an engineer and knows nothing about physics. He should not be speaking on behalf of a company that designs a tonearm with anti-skating adjustment.

Just my 2 cents.
In my rig, less is better. I recently did a bunch of testing and it sounds better at about 1 than at zero. IOW, half the value of my vertical tracking force (2.0g for AirTight PC-1) on my SME V arm. I have found it to be very arm/cartridge dependent. Trust your ears.
i spoke to the benz micro distributor and they said the same thing as the clearaudio rep said mentioned above by Afc. i was recommended to increase the tracking force of my benz ebony to 2.8gms and back off antiskating to zero.
my bass is now rock solid and deep and no issues with mistracking.
Let me pass on some information as it relates to Clearaudio pivoted tonearms and phono cartridges and Benz Micro phono cartridges. We retail these lines and use various combinations of these products from eight to twelve hours each day. It's usually pretty nice to have a job where you can listen to the hi-fi all day while you are working.

First, in response to Afc's post, Clearaudio pivoted tonearms do not have anti-skating weights and hooks, but instead feature magnetic anti-skating. It's real simple to adjust and can be adjusted during play if you are careful.

Perhaps the "Clearaudio Rep" that was mentioned was partially misunderstood. Here is what I know based on experience.

Benz Micro phono cartridges track best near the top end of their recommended tracking force range in any tonearm, Clearaudio or not, that I have used them in. In some instances, and in some tonearms, they may track best if they are set up a bit above the top end of the range, but I have not found that to be the case very often, and not at all so far when they are mounted in Clearaudio pivoted tonearms.

I believe it is true of the Benz Micro cartridges, when used in a Clearaudio pivoted arm, that they will perform their best together with zero or nearly no anti-skating force. In other words, Benz cartridges and Clearaudio pivoted tonearms seems to perform best together with the tracking force set near the top of the recommended range and with the magnetic anti-skating set at or near zero.

Clearaudio moving magnet phono cartridges, by comparison, seem to need a bit of anti-skating applied to work optimally with a Clearaudio pivoted tonearm.

Although I haven't tried it, I have every reason to believe that in certain instances that Benz Micro and Clearaudio phono cartridges could pass along bass that certain users would find satisfying if the maximum recommended tracking force is exceeded, but I have not tried this myself.

Things will likely be different when you throw a different tonearm into the mix, which I can attest to based on the anti-skating setting needed when switching to an Ortofon AS Series tonearm, for instance. However, I have generally found that all of the cartridges that I have tried, and I have not tried anywhere near everything in my forty plus years of owning record players, that I like to run all of them at near the top end of the tracking force range that is recommend for each one.

That's all just my opinion. I haven't perfomed any formal studies or listening panel tests, but I do listen to record players a lot. What I do know is that one person can have a different perceived result with this sort of thing than the next person has. That's why it's always wise to do a little bit of careful experimentation on your own to see what suits you best.

Dealer disclaimer.

Jim Pendleton
Osage Audio Products, LLC
Interesting reading. VPI says the same thing about their tone-arms. While they recently starting making an anti-skate assembly that can be retrofitted to the older arms, they recommend an increase in tracking force vs. the use of anti-skate.

Just set everything by ear with some reservations for VTF; you don't want to be too far outside the specified range. What seems to be the problem?
Isanchez, I misspoke. I spoke to a Clearaudio distributor, not a rep. Granted, not an engineer. As far as "he should not be speaking on behalf of a company that designs tonearms with an anti-skate adjustment," I think he addressed that fairly clearly, as I stated. "If we don't have anti-skate available, some will think the design is incomplete or defective." Another words, it's window dressing. I'm not arguing with you....the reason I contacted my dealer (who put me in touch with the distributor), was because at ANY anti-skate setting I used, when the tonearm was lifted with the riser mechanism, it would move back towards the periphery of the record. If you lift the tonearm, and it moves, that's too much anti-skate. And I already had it at the minimum setting. That's when I was told to get rid of it entirely. Perhaps an isolated case? Not what he said- he was very clear that anti-skate is deleterious to both record and stylus wear. Surprised me, just as it surprises you.

Jim, appreciate your input. I use a unipivot Unify tonearm. The anti-skate mechanism is a weight that attaches to a small arm on the back of the tonearm. The nylon thread the weight is attached to is placed through a keyhole support wand that is part of the tonearm base assembly. Unless I'm a total stooge (not out of the question), my Clearaudio Unify tonearm/Champion Limited package has no magnetic anti-skate adjustment on it. Am I missing it somewhere (I do actually read the instruction manuals, LOL)? From the manual- "feed the anti-skate weight through the anti-skate support wand and secure it to the threaded shaft at the top of the tonearm bell." The threaded shaft has grooves in it- anti-skate is adjusted by moving the weight thread closer or farther away from the pivot point. No magnetic adjustment that I can find. I even tried moving the wand to different positions- nearly parallel to the tonearm so that the anti-skate vector would be more linear than radial- so that the force vectors applied to the tonearm by the anti-skate weight would be lessened. It was useless. At any position, weight or wand, the tonearm floated back towards the periphery of the record when lifted with the riser mechanism. That is too much anti-skate. If it can move the entire tonearm assembly on its' pivot, it's gotta be too much.

Physics or no physics, all I know is that I get more bass and a cleaner sound without anti-skate. Like someone else said, trust your ears. Just because anti-skate is there doesn't mean it MUST be used. There's a ground screw on the bottom of the CMB bearing on my TT. It's there on all Clearaudio TT's, I think. Do I use it? No. Do I need it? No. But it's there.....

Not trying to create a stink. Just passing along what, for me, was in a practical sense pretty useful information.
I think that some useful data might result if those who have used zero anti-skating in combination with high vtf, and also if those who have adjusted anti-skating purely by ear, were to indicate if noticeable left or right cantilever deflection occurs when the stylus is playing a record (as viewed from the front), compared to the cantilever position when the stylus is raised above the record.

Obviously this should be checked when a soft (low volume) passage is being played, so that any deflection is not obscured by groove modulation.

-- Al
Hi Afc,

Yes, the Unify that you have does have the anti-skating mechanism that you describe and not the magnetic type. You are exactly correct. In practice the effect of the settings would be the same.

As I mentioned, for whatever reason the Benz cartridges in particular like little to no anti-skating force when used with Clearaudio pivoted tonearms. Benz cartridges seem to me to work best on the Ortofon AS Series tonearm that I mentioned at about one-fourth of the recommended anti-skating force. This seems to be something a little out of the ordinary in comparison to other cartridges.

My most recent practical experience is with Benz, Clearaudio, Ortofon, and a few brands that I don't carry. The Ortofon and the other brands seem to perform as expected in terms of anti-skating force required in the Clearaudio and Ortofon tonearms. The Clearaudio cartridges seem to require less than the Ortofon cartridges, but more than the Benz.

To answer you Al, yes, I did make it a point to check the deflection carefully when I first ran into this because my first thought was that the setting could not be correct.

All of this may be true with the VPI arms as well, but I do not have any recent comparable experience with them.

But apart from this, I have personally observed better performance by running VTF in the top half, or near the top of the recommended force range on a number of catridges regardless of the anti-skating force.

But that's just my experience. I have worked with a number of tonearms and phono cartridges in the past two years, but far from any majority of them. I can only speak with any kind of knowledge about the limited exposure that I have had during that time. I will mention that I have had a number of customers mention that they get the most satisfaction by running cartridges in their rigs near, or at the top of their recommended VTF ranges.

But that may just mean that I'm not only guy out there with a tin ear.

Jim Pendleton
Osage Audio Products, LLC
I recently installed a Benz Ruby 3H cartridge on my VPI Clsssic - the local Benz distributor was kind enough to come by and set it up for me. After two hours of tweaking, we determined the set up worked best without any anti-skating and with the tracking force set just a bit more than recommended, from 2g to 2.10g (the tracking range of the cartridge is 1.8-2.2g).

Similarly, before this, I had a Clearaudio Concerto cartridge on the Classic, set up with no AS and tracking a bit over the recommended force.
This was told to me years ago how to check anti-ska.Find a record that has a large blank lead out with no grooves at the end of the record.With the record moving cue down the tonearm and see if it moves towards the spindle,if it does then apply anti-ska .You can do a little at a time ,when it is correct the tonearm will not drift at all.
There are various vinyl test records that you can get on line. Just google them. They'll usually have a blank unrecorded cut long enough to adjust for anti skating along with frequency tones, balance test ect. Luckily I have an old Johnny Winter "Second Winter" double record set that has an entire blank side. I guess they didn't have enough material to fill it. It's great for skating adjustments.
Re the posts by Yogiboy and Oddlots, I've read on several occasions that the technique of using a record having a blank side to adjust anti-skating is not a good one, and will usually result in a setting that is excessive.

That is because a basic factor in the origin of skating force is friction between groove wall and stylus, and the blank record does not have any groove walls. Therefore the resulting contact and friction are very different in the two cases.

It would be interesting if Yogiboy and Oddlots were to perform the visual check of cantilever deflection that I described earlier. I suspect they will find that the cantilever deflects to the left as it enters the grooves of a record, unless the suspension of the particular cartridge is stiff enough to resist the excessive anti-skating force.

-- Al
As Al has mentioned, I have observed that anti-skating is normally not correct if you try to set it using a flat surface. What we should hope to achieve is to have the stylus squarely track a modulated record groove. This is what we want to do when we are using the record player to listen to music.

Al's method of carefully watching for stylus deflection is a good one, and much can be gleened from simply listening for any distortion as John Tracy mentioned earlier in this discussion. Substantially incorrect anti-skating will many times manifest itself as distortion in one channel and not the other while playing a record that is known to not have groove damage.

Jim Pendleton
Osage Audio Products, LLC
Re Almarg's allegation that anti-skate should not be set using a blank LP track: the frictional force that is a component of the skating phenomenon is between an offset stylus tip and a moving record surface. But he/she forgets that skating occurs on an ungrooved record too, so NO groove-wall friction is involved. And if anti-skating is properly set on an ungrooved record the L and R frictional forces that arise when a grooved record is played will be equal and opposite, and will cancel each other.
The thing that you notice when you set anti-skating with an ungrooved record is that the degree of correction depends on the radius. I usually set it for a halfway-across radius. The settings I have found for a variety of tonearms and cartridges are invariably lower than those usually recommended by manufacturers, who generally advise to dial in the tracking force. This is always too much. Rega arms for instance require about half the tracking force according to their dial calibrations.
Another misconception is that anti-skating has something to do with the behavior of a balanced tonearm floating above the surface of a record. Wrong - if the stylus is not touching the record the required friction is completely absent. The direction the floating tonearm swings has nothing to do with skating.

I'm with Almarg on this one. Is the argument by some manufacturers in favour of zero bias actually justified based on their hardware? (In some cases you see arms designed without any bias adjustment feature, the manufacture puts some positive spin on it and turns it into a selling point while avoiding a difficult engineering problem?)

Traditionally, higher VTF has always been balanced by proportionate antiskate(?) so higher VTF cannot be a solution, only make matters worse?
Personally, having watched stylii placed on blank vinyl with minimal antiskate skip towards the label at high speed whilst witnessing the kind of mistracking this produces in the RH channel if no action is taken and indeed the kind of stylus deflection that Al describes, it's hard to accept that these manufacturers are making any sense.
I can also attest to the fact that on occasions, with certain carts that are well run-in, the most subtle bias adjustments can reap considerable gains, so I'm having real difficulty suspending my disbelief.
Almarg is spot on.

Yogi, Odd, and Mac need to bone up on their physics.
check out this thread over at Vinyl Engine for some additional info and ideas

anyone have success with Rega arms using zero or close to it anti-skate
Radioheadokplayer, Rega arm set close to zero. Antiskate was determined with a blank record.
Some basic physics: the skating force results from the fact that the stylus drag generated by the stylus moving though the groove is not directed straight back to the pivot point due to the off-set head. This drag is the result of friction. The amount of friction (and thus the amount of drag) will depend on the VTF and also the stylus geometry. Different cartridges with different geometries (fine line, micro ridge, elliptical etc.) will require different anti-skating compensation. It should also be obvious that setting the anti-skating on blank vinyl (no groove) is worthless. It must be done by ear with the needle in the groove.
I adjusted my ant-iskating on blank vinyl and it corresponded to my ear in the groove.
Thanks so much for all the responses. I am experimenting with the suggestions. Best results seem to fall in the minimal settings region.

My former arm, a Rega, seemed to do best with the antiskate at about half the recommended force, as some suggested.

My new cartridge is a Lyra Helios. They are adamant that tracking force should stay within a narrow recommended range, as it is a crucial element of the design, so there is not much wiggle room on VTF. Great cartridge, btw.
oops, new cartridge is a Kleos. They do not make a "Helios" yet...