Lyra Atlas experiences

A few years ago, I invested in a Lyra Atlas cartridge / pickup. I have moved up, from Lyra Clavis in the early 2000s and Lyra Titan i later. The Atlas was expensive, but I have not looked back. Yet I wonder, can something more be done, to optimize the Atlas, in my system, and others. How can this remarkable pickup run its best. What are the best phono preamp and system matches. Should the system be rearranged. Have anyone done mods or DIYs to their systems to get the "reception" right? What happened? Comments welcome. You dont need to own a Lyra Atlas but you should have heard it, to join this discussion. Comments from the folks at Lyra are extra welcome - what is your experience.
Ag insider logo xs@2xo_holter
Dear @o_holter: Because I owned/own or listen in other audio systems I already heard almost all the Lyra cartridges included that.

Years ago I was convinced that the SME V was a good mate with Lyra's but latter on my mind changed. So, my first advise could be a diferent tonearm /better mate tonearm.

In the other side I think your system has too many tubes where the Atlas can't really shines. I know very well your 3 tube items and the I/O is the one that makes more " damage " to the critical phono cartridge signal.

Your system has " land " to improve but each one of us have a diferent opinion how to improve it and you can confirm it when other gentlemans give their opinions.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Thank you! I have heard advice from others also, in the direction that the Lyra Atlas might sound better with better tone arms than the SME V. Although this is a good "work horse" I think. Suggestions are welcome, and if Lyra can comment, I am grateful.
Regarding tubes - yes, I agree, maybe too much, but I like good tube sound. I have tried the Atlas with solid-state phone stages, and that is not my preference. I agree that the system has to "land". I am very happy having a system that lands, in the sense that it "grips" and "plays along" with my room.
Best regards, Oystein

Just to make my listening reference clear:

I bought a used a Lyra Clavis pickup in 1997. I heard a Lyra Helicon in the system of a friend, later. Then I moved up to a Lyra Titan in 2005, a Titan i in 2008, and the Atlas in 2013. 
Hi Oystein
Like your self I have been a Lyra fan. I currently own the Atlas, Etna and mono Kleos. A quick question why do you think you are getting sub optimal results with your Atlas ? Have you heard it sound different/better to your ears in another system ?
If your cart is properly aligned with a MintLP, VTF and VTF are properly set, I can suggest a tweak which paid huge dividends in my system, namely burning in the tone arm wire. I was told by the good folks at Lyra that the majority of tone arms probably underperform given the minuscule mV current that the cart generates. 
Hi Sunnyboy1956 - thanks. For me, every step up the Lyra ladder has been worth it, although the cost level is now very high. I am mainly very satisfied with the Atlas, also compared to the Titan i that I used before. I have no reason to think it performs sub standard. My question is more about getting into the best optimal terrain. Thanks for the tonearm cable burn in advice, this is true, but mine is well used. How do you like the performance of your three Lyras all in all?
Where do I want improvements? I want the music to sound even better. I think it is possible. I have recently confirmed, this is very much a matter of signal to noise. A stereo is like a radar picking up interference, and we don't want anything to disturb the sound. Since my main phono stage is on repair, I use a small solid-state stage. Today I found that by turning the plug, the noise from the unit was considerably reduced. Dressing the tone arm cable (singled ended Kimber KCAG DIY) also helped lower the noise level.

A comment on setup: I have assumed that the anti-skating on my SME V arm was correct, and have dialed it in approximately like the weight (1.72 g), or a bit less. I think I have been wrong. I tried various methods: look at the cantilever deflection when it settles in a groove, use a blank record, use the HFN test record (side 2 track 1-4-8) - and even, my ears. Results are similar. A-skate needs to be set to 2.7 to avoid distortion in the right channel on the HFN tracks. I come roughly to the same conclusion using my ears. Music sounds fuller and both channels more in sync, at around 2.5 or so, or even higher. Although I have not found the exact spot, and my methods are limited. Since my arm is ca 15 years old, I wonder if the anti-skate spring has lost some tension over time. I have also found that the arm needs to be lifted a bit asymmetrically at the back, to get the best azimuth (cannot be directly adjusted on SME V).
One behaviour seems a bit odd. When the cartridge is lifted, not playing in the groove, the inner part of the cantilever is quite precisely centered in the hole on the green front (looking in a loupe). When it settles in a groove, however, it changes downwards and to the right. This seems to happen pretty much regardless of where I set the anti-skating. The inner part moves this way, even when I cannot see any deflection of the outer part (with the diamond). I wonder, is this normal behaviour?
Hi, you wrote to set AS about 2,5 to avoid dirstortion in the right channel.
What do you play when testing this? Do you use a tracking test record?

I run a VdH Frog on the SME V with AS 1.0 and on the test record the left channel begin slightly to distort about 60mµ @ 300Hz

Try to measure the antiskating mechanism like this. No really exact, but it will show you the course
Ninetynine, thanks, interesting photos, I never thought about placing the digital weight on the side. How do you measure?

My test record is the Hifi news analogue test LP, Producer's cut (HFN 002).

I will test more tonight, looking for good mono and quad records for tuning by ear.

Listening tests make me think, better go back to the SME tuning, or a bit below .

Testing, first, Lotta Lenya sings Kurt Weill (mono 1960ies heavy vinyl version), and next, Tangerine Dream: Alpha Centauri (1971). It has been argued that quadrophonic recordings are best, to set the anti-skating. I don’t have the quad version ot Alpha Centauri (twin virgin label), only a stereo version, but this works well also.

In both cases, turning off the light and just listening, I tended to go down on the antiskating scale - it can be adjusted while playing, on the SME V - and towards a setting more like the factory default (calibrated scale), to get the best sound. Listening for the holographics especially (Tangerine Dream very good at that point), I went towards a weight equivalent 1.7 (corresponding to the 1.72 g Atlas weight) or even a bit down, to 1.5 or 1.4 on the scale. Much lower than the HFN test record results (2.7 - 3). I have to recheck - this is my impression so far.

Happy listening!
Here some info from Christian Rintelen:

7. Adjust the skating force to zero and prepare yourself for
a mean experience. The right channel will not show dynamics
at all; it will sit in the corner totally bored and ignoring
you. The left channel will sit in its corner like an evil
ghost, considering to attack you in the next moment. It will
sound very dynamic in a way that numbs the left half of your
body. However, the dynamics will be nightmare-like

Now you increase the skating force to a quarter and then to
a half of the expected value. You will sense that the right
channel comes more-and-more alive and the left channel
sounds less dynamic, intimidating and artificial. This
reduction is less than the increase of dynamics in the right
channel; the while system becomes more dynamic.

You increase now the skating compensation by *very* small
steps until you reach a point where left and right channel
sound equally dynamic. Then you increase further very small
steps; both channels will grow more dynamic. One step too
far and both channels loose their dynamics completely and
sound dead. So you go back to the position where dymics and
microdynamics were maximum.
I mailed SME, and got a clear answer: do not use the HFN test record with the SME V arm. Instead, start from the equivalent of the weight, and fine tune by ear, from there. OK! I am glad that my listening tests the last evenings led to the same conclusion.

Ninetynine - thank you, I will try this some more, may make more sense now.
I don't dispute what anyone on these posts says...everyone hears differently and everyone has different components.  I can only tell you what I hear.  To these ears, there is no better cartridge that I have experience with, than the Atlas.  I have had the SME V in my system, but although built like a tank, didn't have the alacrity I was looking for and replaced it with a VPI 3D.  Perhaps (I don't know for sure), the difference was in the ability for the VPI to very accurately provide for correct azimuth.  The difference in the presentation/performance of the cartridge having proper azimuth and being even a "smidge" off is enormous.. not just audible, but enormous... maybe the most important adjustment (for me).  Another point is the (seemingly) never ending dispute regarding the use (or not) of antiskate.  For these ears on My system, I hear an improvement with no matter which arm that I adjust.  I am at present trying to evaluate the sound with/without a/s for a dispute on another site....but for the here and now, its no a/s for me.  There is a very definite difference...its not in the increase of distortion on one side or arm/cartridge tracks flawlessly with both methods....but its in presentation.....(still evaluating).
Stingreen, thanks, I agree, the Atlas is great, the best cartridge I've had in my system also. All the more reason to give it optimal conditions.
What you say about azimuth is interesting. I will check it out. Can you say a bit more, what you hear when it is right?
The SMEV is a great arm, but not for a cartridge like the Atlas. The compliance is ~ 12x10 cm/dyne bei 100 Hz
You need a heavier arm to get best results. I had a Kleos in an Origin Live Conqueror with 18gramm eff. mass and in a Reed 3P with the same mass.

The SMEV is a great combination with Van den Hull cartridges.

The simplest way to check the anti-skate is by ''tracking abiity''

test on the test records. The first distortion will appear in the

right channel. By increasing the anti-skate force the mentioned

distortion will disappear. So much about the causal relation.

However one should not try to get those 80-90 microns ''pure''

because to much anti-skate is worse than no skate at all.

Heavier arm - perhaps - I think J Carr wrote that it is possible to tweak the mass of the arm. I thought the SME V would be an OK match. I’ve tried some more mass (damping material) on the headshell and the arm but it didn’t work for me (not even some ’magic dots’ I had).
I did some eyeballing tests now, using a loupe and then some 20x glasses. Stylus settles as before, a little to the right, in the hole in the front. Mirror test; it looks vertical. I had to turn down the AS to 1.1 to avoid the arm sliding to the right (the platter is level). I wanted to have a look at the stylus tip also, but the glasses are too weak. So I tried a little 100x microscope with light. I got nervous, however, it has to go extremely close the cantilever. Perhaps later I will try a small USB microscope that I also have. But well, so far, there is no visible sign that the azimuth is off. So it should be an OK starting point for listening tests.
All theory, after repairing in Japan my Kleos had a very high compliance and my bass speakers made synchron movements to the out of center vinyl.
Nandric - as related above, the test record method doesn't work in my case, I end up with far too much antiskate (2.7), and adjusting by ear I've gone down to 1.5 or so. And I recently got a clear message from SME saying don't use these tracks, instead start AS equal to the weight and fine tune by ear from there. These distortion tests are more for a rough first check perhaps - is the cartridge very off (or damaged). The Atlas sails through them without problems.

o-holter, ''As equal to the weight'' (VTF?) will not do because the

other variable is the stylus shape. With low compliance carts I

am satisfy with 60 microns ''pure'' (aka without any distortion from

the right channel). The high compliance carts (MM) will track 80

microns with 1,5 g VTF even without any  anti-skate. So there is

no easy way out  but those test records are useful for at least

some orientation. To put it otherwise: to start with.

Dear @o_holter : You are rigth, for AS test records does not works never did and people still use it because their high ignorance level.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Post removed 

I am sorry but I was provoked by Raul's comment. Nobody mentioned in this thread anti-skate test records. I mentiond the tracking ability test and possible use of this test. What Raul deed is attributing to me statements about anti-skate test constructing this way the known ''stroman''. But tracking abiity test is not an AS test. His confusion of both illustrate his technical knowledge. However this tracking ability test can be used to determine possible probleems with both: VTF and anti-skate.

Well, I thank you both, Raul and Nandric.

Some more visual checking today - now with a USB microscope. Very interesting, although so far, I haven’t been able to stabilize the setup enough to get sharp close up images of the diamond. It seems to be OK, on my lower scale images.

Since, from visual testing, the azimuth seems good, I did more listening, trying to get the antiskating optimal. The flute in the first Alpha Centauri track works well, and also my Lotta Lenya mono. I listen for how well the voice or instrument is pictured at the front even with large background dynamics (the "guru method" of listening).

I find that the arm behaves very good with the anti-skating a bit relaxed from the weight, perhaps 1.4 ot 1.5. Listening to female vocal, going lower to 1.1 makes the sound more relaxed and open in a way, but also made the voice "crack up" a bit, as if she had smoked all her life. I tried to correct this with a bit more weight, but that did not help, so I went back to standard weight (1.72 g).

In my system, if the antiskating is set too high, the whole soundstage sounds more controlled, but also restricted, tensioned. So it is a good idea to relax it a bit, but not too far from the setting equal to the weight, since then the sound will crack up, become too loose; it can sound like using too little weight.

Perhaps the best way to set antiskate by ear - after listening to mono recordings for rough adjustments - could be to select the best-sounding stereo recordings. With this in mind we listened to Shelby Lynne, Just a little lovin. It sounded very good at ca 1.5.

0_holter....when azimuth is properly set there is great depth ...instrunents are in front of and behind others, the soundstage is very wide...sometimes beyond the side walls, images are sculpted in space with (almost) a black line around bleeding left, and right...especially with the Atlas ( Or Etna which I also think is wonderful) All these elements, are what we audiophiles cherish in presentation. I need an arm that provides for this adjustment....I use the Fozgometer and its accompanying lp as my tool of choice. Providing I use a new battery every time, I find the results accurate, and easy to accomplish.  I personally find that the use of anti/skate is detrimental to the sound.  It may lessen wear of the stylus, but I have no concern about that.  Using a/s on my system knocks some of the polish off of all that proper alignment contribute.  If anyone reading this post disagrees with me, that's fine...I've heard all the arguments....however, I maintain my stand.  Should you want to try to listen without a/s to find the differences, listen to only 1 instrument (I find percussion easiest to hear the differences).  When you can hear what I'm writing about, it will be easier to find that sonic clue on all the other instrument and singers.  My personal take is that a/s prevents the stylus from vibrating freely by exerting that outward force, and so reduces the stylus's ability reproduce those wiggles on the record.  I only write what I hear....I'm not a scientist, or an engineer.....just sayin'
0_holter....If your Atlas is distorting on one side or another, something is wrong with your setup.  I am using an Ortofon which sails through anything sibilants, no distortion, a/s.
o_holter -- regarding setting azimuth be aware that ensuring that the cartridge is level may have no bearing whatsoever on whether the azimuth is correct. What matters is the orientation of the stylus and many styli are far from accurately attached to their cantilevers. For example I own an Air Tight PC-1 and this brand is quite notorious for some sketchy stylus attachment -- 2 out of 3 of the Air Tight cartridges I observed at the last Newport show were canted visibly off to one side, including a brand new Magnum Opus. There’s no problem with this and if this is the correct setting for azimuth so be it (mine is a good several degrees off level as well)

As far as the right method for setting azimuth by all means try a fozgometer but in my experience setting it by ear using a method such as this gives the best results

Good luck!

ps getting azimuth right has far more impact than any change anti skate, at least in my experience. With my current string/weight A/S set up I simply set it somewhere in the middle and am done, not sure I cam reliably hear any difference one way or another with this parameter

o-holter, the most so called ''low compliance carts'' can hardly

reach 60 microns on the mentioned tracking ability test. Increasing

the VTF will not help. How would one determmine the right VTF

by ''hearing method''?  Anyway much more easy is to check by

which lowest VTF this 60 microns value can be obtained. The usual

recommendation with 1,5- 2,5 g are worthless in my opinion.

Nandric....I always set my vtf to the manufacuter's recommendation.  They designed the cartridge and know what is best for it.  I don't care at all how the cartridge does with test records...only how it sounds with my records. In my experiences test records that measure tracking ability can be damaged in even 1 play, and ruin any hope of accuracy.

Folkfreak...You're absolutely correct.  Some companies are worse than others, (AirTight is one of the better ones) but that is why an arm has to be able to make all adjustments.
Dear @stringreen : """  I always set my vtf to the manufacuter's recommendation. They designed the cartridge and know what is best for it. I don't care at all how the cartridge does with test records... """

You are absolutely right. The manufacture VTF range is to achieve at least two main targets: coils centered and a range to preserve cartridge suspension. The cartridge was tunned/voiced inside that VTF range.

Ignorance level is always the name of the audio game.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear all, many thanks, for your viewpoints. Who could doubt that Audiogon discussions help progress? I am grateful to you all.
Please note, in my case, we are beyond the zone of obvious errors, bleed, mistrackings, and so on. The Atlas sails throught the test record, no problem, and sounds very good. I have compared with a good mid-level Ortofon, in my system - both are good, but the Atlas is clearly superior. So we are beyond the territory of obvious faults and into the one of refinements and optimalization. The Atlas has been a major upgrade from my Titan. But since it is clearly a better cartridge, I want to tune it as well as possible, and my ears tell me, I still have a way to go.
Stingreen - what arm do you use, the vpi? what is wrong with it?
Folkfreak - azimuth important, yes I know, and thanks for link. Trying to set up my microscope to get it good enough. I went to a shop in Oslo with my older Clavis and Lyra cartridges, and asked for a microscope analysis. However they could not do left-right. All they could tell me was that that the styli were worn, from a side view, and I knew that already.
0_holter....Hi 0,,,,,I use a VPI 3D. In my experience there is non better (here come the rebukes from all).....there are other great arms- 4point et al......they all sound different, but to these ears, ...... There is coming a new mod for the 3D which puts an additional (not different) bearing in play. Harry says it makes the arm even better.....we’ll hear. There are those that say that the arms they use has "perfect" anti-skate adjustments. Harry says he can’t make a perfect anti-skate adjust. That’s because it can not be done...its constantly one needs it. (just my and a few others’ opinions - hope all can sleep well tonight) Anyway, the VPI antiskate is the best adjustment I’ve seen -  It can be set accurately so the greatest degree of pull on the record can be adjusted for the best place ( the loudest portion) of the record side. Again...for me - I just don’t use it at all.

As a person with ''high level of ignorance'' according to our

Mexican oracle I was confused by technical specs of my EMT

SFL 15. According to their own manual the output of this cart

was/is 0,21 mV. But according to some other ''measuring

method'' this value should be 1mV. I then discovered that

different manufacturers specify output voltage at specific

frequency (i.e. 1 Khz) and even at specific speed (say 5cm/s).

For those specs manufcturers use TEST RECORDS either

from Shure or ( by preference) from the famous ''CBS Laboratoris

STR 100''. As we can learn from the Mexican all test records

are for the nitwits. The real knowledgeable people who are nearly

 at his level of knowledge,  not to mention his inaccessible learnig

curve ( more in particular for his English ) depend only on their

own ears.  

Modulation levels found on test records do not exist anywhere else on vinyl music.
Therefore, their use for anti-skate adjustment is irrelevant. 

andrew9405, You are , so to speak, trying to kill an already

death person. In our endless discussion about the anti-skate

nobody ever stated that test records are the right method.

The problem has nothing to do with test records but with tonearm

geometry and different groove velocity by different record radius.

The only tonearm which addressed this (radius) problem was

Sony PUA 237 and 12'' version. All other tonearms use either

(constant) magnetic- or a weight force on a wire. This issue is

also discussed very recently.

If I may jump into this erudite group with a related question ...
My Lyra Atlas lives on a Basis Superarm 9 on a Basis Inspiration table, set up by the dealer, and it sounds superb.  But on rare occasions and only with a "hot" recording of piano, I'll hear breakup in the left channel.  Cartridge weight was set to Lyra's recommendation.  What's the most likely fix, do you think?  I don't want to start messing with the wrong parameters.  
Drastic....   After inspecting the stylus and declared it not bent......I would make positive that the turntable itself is level, I would make positive (using an electronic scale) that the vtf is exactly what the cartridge manufacturer recommends as optimum (not a range)... then I would absolutely make sure that azimuth is set correctly using the Fozgometer and its recommended lp using a brand new battery. If that doesn’t work, get back and we’ll go further.
Nandric....did you get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning or are you always mean spirited?
Stringreen - Thank you.  All this will be done.  Though I don't have a Fozgometer (my dealer does this by ear), I presume you feel that having the instrument is important so I'll get one.

Drastic - breakup in left channel - can you give some examples, I’d like to test this in my system also. I have heard that kind of thing before. Is it mainly on the inner part of the record? Can you check, it is associated with mistracking, inwards or outwards? In my system, I can’t recall my Lyras have mistracked much inwards, mainly outwards (groove is repeated). And the Atlas seldom mistracks anyway.

Stingreen - nice to hear about the arm - I have a VPI HW-19, upgraded over the years, although now I mainly use another player (Hanss T-30). I had a Souther / Clearaudio parallel arm for some years, but could never get it to work well with the VPI.

A little reality check today. I played my three versions of Credence Clearwater Revival: Heard it through the grapewine. If my cartridge is poorly adjusted, I will be confused which one sounds best. I wasn’t. Instead I could hear, not only, that all in all I prefer my latest (Acoustic sound RTI) version, next the Mofi version, and then the original - but I could hear the different plusses and minuses with each version. My gratitude to Lyra.

This experiment does not prove anything, except that it indicates that if the cartridge is fairly well aligned, other matters tend to take over - like the quality of the mastering and pressing. The guitar went from good to great, on the best recording.

Happy listening!
0_Oholter....the Atlas is phenomenally good at finding all the little differences in all that the record can reveal...performance, production, etc....That's why one pays all that money....however, it will be this microscopic, even if a bit off (we all seek perfection at this level) 

Drastic....just wondering if this mistraking is on one record, at the same place....could a damaged record be responsible?

Stringreen, I was pushed to the wrong side of my bed by Raul

and am not aware that I addressed you with any ''mean''

comment. I like you, you know . While we , the Serbian warriors

don't even need any reason to start a war I think that your

attitude against anti-skate is not sufficient to start a war against

you. BTW how deed you succeed to ruin your test record by

your first trial? To much recommended VTF perhaps?  

My samples are still ''going strong'' for longer as 25 years.

Nandric...I was writing of your unfriendly comments to our Mexican friend.  It would  be better to discuss our beloved black boxes instead.

Records are easily damage with one play when torture tracks are negotiated at poorly set up vtf, a/s , - especially with severely cut stylii, etc. which negate any value for their subsequent use.

stringreen, What about denigrating comments from your (not ''our'')

Mexican friend? BTW he can speak for himself or are you lawyer like

me (grin)?

Using a fozgometer to align azimuth seemed reasonable until I discovered that:
  • It needs new batteries
  • It has to be calibrated
  • It costs $300
  • It is a box consisting of a meter, analog difference calculation and a couple of idiot lights
  • Its output still must be interpreted (See the experience of other writers who have reported "thumbs up" from the device when their vertical angle was anywhere between 7 and 15 degrees, clearly not correct)
I will and have paid five-figure sums to purchase gear (even cables) that make an audible difference, when there's no alternative.  Since I am not an electrical engineer nor do I wish to build my own gear, there IS no alternative.  But this is a case where better alternatives exist.  Had they priced fozgometer at $50, it might be worth trying.  But this is an egregious example of pawning off an overpriced gizmo to the ignorant.

If one is going to make this adjustment using some instrument, it seems to me that instrument should be capable of delivering all the relevant information.  A decent and well reviewed digital oscilloscope is available for $400.  Or, the Adjust+ software is in the same ballpark, and it will enable deeper understanding of the task you're performing.  Both methods require learning and patience.  It's not beyond the ability of most audiophiles to do so, and we will be better informed for it.  I recommend reading Andre Jennings' article in The Absolute Sound titled "Setting up a Phono Cartridge".
o_holter: The Lyra Atlas has never actually skipped a track in my experience.  The mistracking to which I refer is a mild "breakup" on hot recordings of percussion, and piano is a good example.  It doesn't only happen on one LP.  I have heard it on a brand-new Music Matters reissue of a Blue Note, but I didn't write down the specific LP number.  I have also heard it on London CS 6996, Radu Lupu playing Schubert's Piano Sonata No. 5, where the breakup happens on side 2, last track, in the left channel.  It's rare, but disturbing when it happens.

I'll check all the parameters that stringreen recommends and report back when I've solved it.  Thanks to all.
Nandric...My wife was a lawyer (lost her about 12 years ago to a failed heart transplant that was done by the famous Dr. Oz....a much nicer guy in person than on television...we used to have dinner with the Oz's...his liscense plate was "Wizard" ((which I think was kool))  )  ...not much rubbed off on me.

Drastic....Personally I like the Foz. Yes it is very sensitive to voltage, consequently I use a new battery once, and then keep it for my smoke alarms. I’ve used mine 5 or 6 times, and think its easy and the idiot lights ...... keeps the guessing at a minimum
Drastic....  Regarding the hot pressings that put down your Lyra..... I'm sure you double and triple checked all your adjusting parameters and the stylus itself.  If it isn't long in the toothe....if it were mine, I'd send it back to Lyra for an inspection/evaluation.  I would think they would do that no cost.....but....