There is no ‘right’ IMO, other than being in the range provided by the manufacturer. Set it where it sounds and tracks best within the manufacturer’s recommended range.
I will almost always start at the min. tracking force, and increase it if necessary, or, per other users suggestion of a particular cartridge.
What is your cartridge model?
If you hear mistracking on transients or complex musical passages, then tick up the VTF about a tenth of a gram. Otherwise, what compels you to worry about it? Also, what tool are you using to set VTF? If you use the classic Shure SFG, it is not accurate within the range you are concerned to remain within (+/-0.15g), in my opinion. To feel confident about differences in VTF of 0.1g, you will need a good digital scale specifically designed for vinyl, where the weigh pan is set down as close as possible to the veritable surface of an LP. There are many available ranging in cost from ~$30 to more than $100. The low cost ones tend to measure down to 0.1g. The higher cost ones tend to at least display down to .01g. (Whether they are actually accurate below 0.1g is another matter.). Others like the "Riverstone", which is about the same price as a Shure SFG.
What are you talking about?
There is no cartridge that has a VTF as low as a .3 gram tracking force. You must be reading the instructions wrong!
"...There is no cartridge that has a VTF as low as a .3 gram tracking force. You must be reading the instructions wrong!..."
I think he left off the one, 1.3 to 1.6 for a Soundsmith Voice cart. That's with the very best matching arm. My go-to tracking force always ends up at 2.0 grams back in my day.
What is the reason for having a recommended VTF in the first place? It is because up inside the cartridge at the other end of the cantilever is where the signal is generated. In a MC it is coils moving within a magnetic field. In a MM it is the reverse, magnets moving with the coils fixed. Either way, the generator needs to be aligned and centered.
This is the reason for VTF. Without adequate VTF the cartridge will not angle the cantilever enough to center the generator. With too much VTF it will be off center because angled too much. Anywhere with the recommended range will be fine, at least as far as the generator goes.
As far as your ears go however, could be a different story. There should be no mistracking either way. Tracking should not be a problem anywhere within the recommended range. If there is the solution is not more VTF, it is more cartridge. But if you try a little more or less VTF and one sounds better than the other, and you are still within the correct range, then by all means go with what you prefer.
There is no "right" or "wrong" VTF any more than there is a right or wrong VTA, or cartridge loading. Or tone arm mount, or platter mat, or clamp- or any of a dozen other things that are all down to user preference.
Some will tell you it's for wear. As if a hundredth of a gram is going to matter. Wear is a function of stylus profile and moving mass and a bunch of other things that are all way more important than VTF. Don't believe me, check into the Soundsmith Strain Gauge 1, a cartridge with the same VTF as all the others but near zero wear due to its extremely low moving mass.
Kro means the cartridge has a range of 0.3 grams. It is not the overall tracking force.
Lewm's suggestion is the right one. It is all a matter of tracking.
Look it up. They all have ranges and/or optimum.
Fine tune with your ears.
General rule. Lower end of VTF tends to give a brighter, more detailed and slightly lighter presentation. Can mistrack if you go too low. Higher end of tracking force tends toward darker and heavier sound. May vary with cartridge. The same variation tends to occur with VTA with tonearm higher at the back being brighter and lower at the back being duller.
Funny how "low" VTF gives a "lighter" presentation, while "high" VTF (within the recommended range) gives a "heavier" presentation. And yet some people will argue there is no such thing as subconscious bias. No insult attended toward you, noromance. I just couldn't help noticing. Black components sound "dark". Silver chassis's sound airy. Gold chassis's sound warm and rich.
Except, it's an actual phenomenon. I just brought the Decca down to 1.55 from 1.65 and the metal percussion on the Doc Evans album on the table moved three feet into the room.
If the cartridge is brand new, I set it at the upper range of tracking until it is run in.
After a week of running in, I then revisit the tracking force usually set to middle of range. I also revisit VTA after run in and tracking force optimised.
Start at recommended VTF, listen a side, continue with lower or higher setting, listen again. At one point everything will blend with a good floating image like having a surround effect. Run in groove pop sound will be the first indication of being there.
Ahh so run in groove pop is good? People’s comments are right the recommended range is 1.3 to 1.6 and it is a new cart. I have been working on aligning it properly (mostly happy but Ocd has me check over and over).
listening last night it opened up after about three sides of music and measuring at about 1.5xx on my river stone electronic scale.
I bet you will not detect any difference between 1.3 - 1.6 tracking force by ears.
Would you like to tell us what is your cartridge after all ?
Just set the tracking force to the middle of the range and forget it. So if it specifies between say 1.75 and 2.0 grams, set it at 1.9. Use a good quality digital scale, not the cheap crap off eBay. Also, make certain you balanced your tonearm first. When balanced and floating parallel to platter or record, you are at zero tracking force. I would also recommend a cheap USB microscope. They are terrific for really dialing in your alignment. Hook it up to a lap top computer and the stylus appears larger than life and you can adjust the VTA much easier etc.
@noromance , The Decca is not a cartridge. It is a chisel. Don't expect it to act like a normal cartridge.
@lewm , no doubt. There are many biases; visual, expectation, cerebral etc. They do seem to be predictable. Tweaks always seem to make things sound better, hardly ever worse. I think individuals think they can filter their own biases, "I am in control." This is an illusion. Every time I test someone's reflexes they laugh. There is this quick realization that they can't control it. The leg is going to jerk regardless of how hard they try to stop it. There is a lot we do not have control over, our central nervous system is a prime example. In control? Under the right stress your brain can make you kill yourself. It can make a woman kill her children. It can make you steal a Mustang GT500 and speed yourself halfway across the country before managing to get arrested (True story! This was a manic Budweiser executive who stopped his meds. He erroneously though he was in control.) You are not in control, you are just along for the ride.
Now I'm going to get that male ego, ruffled fur business and how FOS I am. I admit it ahead of time, I am FOS. Should I report myself?
Run in pop is not good if volume setting is too high, rather a feeling of what to expect. But that's me. Being a new cartridge let it run at max recommended Vtf for a number of hours. Then most likely you will have to do alignments again.
Thanks for the tips, will try to up it to 1.6 and then go down from there. The POP is not crazy loud, just louder than my previous cartridge. Both are MM types.
Went from Clear Audio Virtuoso (used) to a NOS Voice.
@kro77 , I just got a new Voice but won't have a turntable for another month or so. Do let me know what you think of it. The Voice is a moving iron cartridge. The iron wiggles between the magnet and the coil changing the magnetic flux. The Iron weights much less than magnets or even a coil reducing the effective mass of the moving assembly of the cartridge which should improve tracking.
Mijo, We don't disagree, but I was not referring to involuntary reflex arcs or the manifestations of mental illness. I mean, when your wife asks you, "Does this dress make me look fat?", you have to wonder why she thinks it might. I was really wrong to take off on noromance's advice about VTF. The most common case in audio is the difference in SQ between copper and silver wire. Yet, they really do sound a bit different, because there is just no way to control for one's bias in that case. If you look at the audio signal that has passed through copper vs silver on a 'scope and analyzed for bandwidth and distortion, I doubt you would see a particle of difference. (Haven't done it, so don't know.) The retort for that observation is there is more to it than just bandwidth and the kinds of distortion we can easily measure. This allows us to go on thinking there is a difference between silver and copper wire. (And I admit to being one of those.)