Why not just disconnect the string prior to removing it completely to see if it makes a difference.
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Stringeen, I have run with out any anti skate for several years. FWIW, my sample size in not large. Two ZYX Universe Carts and a Tri Planer VII and a TW Acustic 10.5. But the Tri is a 9" while the the TW is 10.5"-ish. But I use no anti skate with either. One would think that shorter arms might need that more? I have tired anti skate with both but could not dial in any thing that seemed to add to better sound. No anti skate sounded the best. With a 12" arm - why? Maybe I am missing something but this seems like another issue where there is a theoretical argument that is not always proved out in actual usage.
I had similar results with a SME V/vdh Colibri combo, setting the A-S to 0 as opposed to removing the mechanism though. From memory I think my previous DV xx-2 & xv-1 carts did benefit from A-S but maybe I didn't know as much about optimising a vinly rig. Disabling the damping fluid probably gives as much of an improvement on the sme.
My table came with the VPI anti-skate device. I don't use it. I did watch Fremer's yturntable setup dvd in which he determined that the VPI anti-skate device applied too much force even at it's lowest setting. I do use the wire twist method suggested by VPI originally but, only slightly. I have no tracking problems or distortion issues. I am very pleased with the results. This is with a classic 1 and a 10.5 inch JMW arm.
I suspect my Technoarm is balanced to have some magnitude of an antiskate even if I set dial all the way to zero so as I believe with many other arms. Dialing antiskate will simply increase the action in case there are many warped records that may inflixt sliding and scratching the first track.
My preference is to place needle right on track as a habbit with antiskate set to zero. This way the stylus wear is minimized.
I'm surprised it took you so long to get there considering your many customer dealings with VPI and your long-time ownership of a VPI product. Harry has always had a strong and clear stance on anti-skating - no anti-skating sounds best, period. Every VPI manual I've seen states so.
I've myself mentioned several times in various A-gon threads discussing, or touching upon, anti-skating that my Classic sounded better with no anti-skating, which is what other Classic owners I know also found. It's yesterday's news.
In the Fremer tt video, he measured the antiskate on the Scout with the Wally gizmo and found it to be way too high, even on it's lowest setting. As i recall, leaving the device on, but with no weight resulted in the correct setting. I know he didn't remove it completely, but I think the weight of the device itself was enough.