Review: Pete Riggle VTAF Machine Turned Brass Tweak
Thought I'd post my findings about the Pete Riggle VTAF, as I thought this would help others, and also to make others aware that Pete does make this Accessory for quite a few Tonearms, not just the Rega Based Arms.
I had decided some months ago to do some various upgrades to my Analog Front End, try a couple new Cartridges, a new Benz Ruby 3, a new ZYX Airy 3X SB, and had known for many years, the inherit deficiencies of the Audioquest PT Arms, which are in essence Jelco Based Products, and others related to are thge Sumiko, the Graham Robin, the Jelco Arms, and as others know, these are all basically designed with Linn Mounting Geometry.
Adjusting VTA with this Arm had always been a pain, and an excersize in frustration, as the Mounting Base does provide VTA Adjustment, but mediocre at best, with a single Allen Set Screw, and making small incremental Arm Height-VTA adjustments are difficult at best.
Even with Dial Calipers in hand, once cannot quickly-instantly hear the fruits of your labors.
While I would've loved a better Arm, Money constraints for an Arm to better the AQ PT I knew would cost me a minimum $1K, or more.
So, I contacted Pete, was a simple process, and the VTAF arrived quickly. The quality of fit, and finish was very attractive, since I had opted for the Machine Turned Brass Finish, the Teflon mating surface Upgrade, and a custom Extension Plate for the Vertical Guide Pin Assembly.
With this last custom feature, absoutely no holes are needed to be drilled into Plinth Base.
Upon reading Pete's Instructions to familiarize myself with the sum of Parts, Pete includes all the necessary Sandpaper, Sanding Dowels, and even a simple, yet accurate way to determine proper Spindle-Pivot length if installing on a new, undrilled Plinth Base.
Looked pretty straightforward, and so simple, "a Caveman can do it".
So, the teardown of Table began, with MK-IV Platter-Bearing Well coming off first, this takes only a few minutes, off then came the Tonearm, another minute to accomplish put parts aside,, and began at Work Table with VTAF Parts in hand.
Firstly, the Threaded Screw was installed to the AQ Tonearm Mounting Shaft, and this was simple, as Pete provides Wavy Shims, so that the Vertical Adjusting Screw, and its Bushing is maintained in place firmly-securely on Mounting Shaft.
With the VTAF Threaded Screw, there is a allowable range of setting different Height adjustment, and this was a good feature with this Particular Arm, and dependant upon what type-thickness Platter you are using on your Table. The MK-IV Platter is a "thickish" Platter, and took a moment of thought where about I wanted to position Threaded Screw on the Shaft.
OK, onto the next phase, was mounting The Bronze VTAF Bushing into Plinth. Upon a sample dry run fit, I had noted that not much material needed to be removed from Tonearm Mounting Shaft hole in the VPI One Piece MDF. Pete provided 60 Grit Sandpaper with two shaping-sanding Dowels, and I found 400 Grit, and about 4 seconds of very minor finish sanding was all that was required to install the Broze Bushing in Plinth. Boy, was that simple!
Since the VTAF Bronze Bushing was such an accurate, and precise, tight fit, there was no need to screw the Bottom VTAF Extension Plate to Plinth. Nothing will move in this regard with such a precise, accurate fit.
In this scenario, this means that anytime in the future, the VTAF can be easily removed in a matter of a few minutes work, saved, or sold seperately if one desires, should one decide to return the Turntable back to complete bone stock minus VTAF With this particular VTAF on my Table, there is no need to drill any additional holes in Plinth.
So now that second phase of installation was done, and VTAF installation complete, all that was needed to be done, is to determine that the VTAF Assembly, and Tonearm were mounted correctly in regards to Platter Height. This is needed to insure a good wide range of vertical adjustment plus, and minus exact level-horizontal VTA. This didn't take very long, and after some wiping of Plinth to eliminate some fingerprints, the VTAF was now ready to go into action.
I first decided to try all out with some less than stellar Records, just in case I made some mistake.
After initially calibrating to level VTA, I then was able to begin the adjustment of VTA on the Fly, and of course, not being highly familiar with adjustment, I did accidently bump the Arm with Ham fists, and seen the Stylus slide across the Record, Zhzzzzzzzzt! lol
Once I was able to keep my fingers in thier proper places, use a steady hand, and "only touch" the VTAF Knurled Adjustment Screw, all was well, without a hint of any anomalies while record was in play. The Teflon Option was a nice touch, the Adjustment Nut-Wheel effortlessly did what it's supposed to do, and with the Calibration ident on the Knurled Nut, one can see when they make a full rotation of Nut.
It seemed once the VTAF was in Place, it was akin to the first time I ever began to achieve any semblemce of correct VTA with this Tonearm. Listening while adjusting, and also keeping a tab on my fingers, and how the Arm measured heightwise, I settled on very close to accurate level VTA for now.
Well, it was time to sit back, hear the set-up, and try noting what improvments the Pete Riggle VTAF made.
First thing I noted, was an improvement in Bass response. This was a much better, and more easily recognizable improvement versus the installation of the Expressimo Drop Counterweight, or any other adjustment tweak on this Arm.
Bass was tighter, cleaner, much punchier, more defined on this particular record, and as well as all other records that followed in my initial tests.
Seperation of instruments seemed improved as well. There was better individuality. As I sat, and listened, I knew the VTAF had made a clear improvement in sonics, and wasn't about to come off the Table.
While my Airy 3X is still young, with low hours and I'm sure more very minor tweaking as far as VTF, VTA, etc will be needed again down the road with further Cartridge break-in, the VTAF will surely make this a much easier process for me to accomplish in the future. Once the Airy 3 fully settles in, I'm sure more improvements in sonics will be realized.
The addition, the VTAF, as my pictures show, had definitely made a very attractive addition to my HW-19, sitting in contrast to the Black Plinth of the VPI Table. Pete's Machine Turning of Materials really give the VTAF mucho pizzaz, and beauty.
I believe the improvements, as Pete, and other happy users note, was due to not only now finally achieving better, accurate fine adjustment of VTA, but also due to better Isolation of Tonearm from Plinth Base.
I hope this small review helps others to realize again, that Pete can fabricate the VTAF for such Arms as the Jelco Based Arms, and its addition to this Particular Arm was IMO well worth its cost. Mark D.
VPI HW-19Jr Table, Audioquest PT-8 Tonearm, Expressimo Counterweight, VPI SDS, ZYX Airy 3X SB Cartridge.