Listening for Proper VTA Setting


I had to take my old Eminent Technology 2 tone arm apart to replace a wiring harness.  It is back together now and sounds good, but I am paranoid about whether I have the adjustable VTA set properly.  If anyone could suggest any particular recordings or instruments to listen to refine the VTA setting or any visual clues I would really appreciate hearing about it.
kingharold
A good place to start is with measurement, such as with a VTA block.

There’s a lot of advice on the subject on this board. Do a search on SRA.
You don't have to buy any devices.
KH
You have the only tonearm in existence - that I am aware of - with a patented system for adjusting VTA.
How it works - when you raise the armtube higher and lower - vertically - with the VTA lever, the worm gear system in the VTA block, at the same time pulls the arm tube in and out - horizontally - this keeps VTF and other settings intact.

Setting Initial VTA - VISUAL CLUE 1

Use the VTA lever to center the VTA in the middle of its range.

The Vertical Height of the tonearm is correct when the middle of the Air Bearing - See the Inscribed Line in the Manifold Casing - is at the record surface position.

That’s it. It’s that easy.

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To make VTA adjustments

Start with cartridge/armtube level and adjust by ear.

VISUAL CLUE 2.

If you are using the VTA dial - you can make a note of the VTA position for unique records
We know that American and European cutting machines used different vertical angle cuts. Included record angles. So there is not one right VTA setting, and everything is also affected much, by what is in each of our audio chains - speakers and the Room.
If you are set up properly you can do all the adjusting on the fly, as the record plays, and you listen to the music. I don’t use the VTA dial anymore and prefer to change settings by ear if a record seems off.

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You will find many VTA tips at the ET 2 Tonearm Owners Thread.

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/eminent-technology-et-2-tonearm-owners

Hope this helps King Harold and come say high at the ET2 thread linked above.

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Some points from the ET 2 tonearm owners manual.

Not all cartridges will be improved by using them at some angle other than the intended design angle. the top of the cartridge parallel to the surface of the record.

If the measured vertical tracking angle of a cartridge is high (greater than 22 degrees) its vertical performance will probably be improved by tilting it back 2 or 3 degrees. (front goes up) to match present vertical angles on records.

If the measured vertical tracking angle of a cartridge is 18 -20 degrees it will probably perform best when its top is mounted mounted parallel to the record.

Some cartridges are sensitive to small changes in VTA, some are not.

Cheers Chris

Recording doesn’t matter. You can set VTA just fine with anything.

For years I was the guy who fine tunes VTA for every record, writes it on the sleeve, then sets it every time. Every new record I would tweak VTA. Its really not that hard. Once you get the hang of it. The hardest part really is the first time, because at that point you’ve never really heard perfect VTA before and so naturally have no idea what its like. Once you get it, believe me, you will know it was worth the effort.

What I listen for, every sound, doesn’t matter what, there is the leading edge or attack where it starts, and then there is the body or fundamental tone. Not saying that’s all there is, just this is what to listen for with VTA.

When VTA is too high, the arm base is too high, or the arm is angled down too much, however you want to think of it, that’s where we’ll start. You can even deliberately raise your arm to where its for sure too high just to be extreme and exaggerate what I’m talking about. This is where I was the very first time I did this after mounting a new Glider on a Graham.

When VTA is too high the sound will exaggerate the attack and leading edges. It will seem detail is really good but the fullness of tone, the body of the note will be a little lean. Not that it will sound that way at first. Its only when you lower it that this will become apparent. You will be surprised how good it will sound even being way far off. That’s analog for you!

Lower it down just a tiny little bit. You should notice improved body and tone but with hardly if any loss of leading edges, attack, detail. Lower and lower, better and better. Depending on how far off you were and how small your changes and how good your listening you may be freaking amazed for how long it just keeps getting better and better. I sure was.

Then suddenly one time when you go lower all of a sudden boom, where’d the detail go? Attack, edges, detail just got a little soft. Bass, tone, fullness continued to get better, but now if you listen real close you notice the bass is fuller but just a wee bit wooly, not taut like before.

Okay so now you’re too low. But only very slightly. Raise it up half the distance you just came down. Go back and forth like this until you are splitting hairs or happy or whatever. Done.

Now people will tell you this needs to change with the thickness of the record. Almost always this is people who never actually did what I just described. In my experience, setting by ear, its the record not the thickness. Once you do this a few times you will know your system sound so well you will be like me, no longer caring what someone says, because you know what actually is.

Now it could be that what this is doing is not really matching stylus rake angle to the cutter head angle, which is what they tell you its supposed to be. It may well be that what this is doing is "just" achieving the sound I want. To which I say, "Works for me!"

Thank you very much to those who responded.  The information was very useful, and I now feel I have the VTA very close to right.  I am about to spend some time listening with millercarbon's suggestions in mind.  Thanks again.
85 bucks for the Millennium VTA Block?! You can get one on ebay for under three, including shipping.
Given all the complicated post here, I thought I would chime in. Here is my $.02 keeping in mind that success will depend on stylus shape and the quality of associated components. 

Find a recording that people say is good for hearing the differences when you adjust SRA. Do a search here and elsewhere; there are lots of suggestions out there.*  If you can't find one, take a record of a female singer and listen to it over and over 'till you know it very well. I have used Joni Mitchell's "Blue" Make sure it's something you like 'cause you'll be listening to it a lot.
Set your tone arm to level and listen to the recording a few times.  Level is only a beginning point.  It is rare for absolutely level to be the end point with a sophisticated stylus shape and components.
Read all you can about your cartridge and see if reviewers or users have a consensus suggesting tail up or down.
Change the angle in that direction a very small amount and listen to the whole record. You are listening for the voice and instruments to "pop" making them more 3 dimensional. It's quite subtle, but it's there with the a stylus having a clear rake. Do that again and again in very small increments. If you do not hear improvement soon go back and stay at level.
If your reading does not come up with a tail up or down consensus. You may have to try this in both directions.

* Flying Fish HDS 701, "Sauerkraut and Solar Energy" is a popular suggestion, though one listens for other things using this disk