Setting tonearm angle?

I recently lucked out and got a great deal on a VPI Scoutmaster 2 with JWM 9T arm and proceeded to set it up.
I had never owned a high end table like this so the set up was a bit new. My question concerns the VTA of the arm. I set it by measuring from the bottom surface of the arm to the record surface at several places along the arm to get the arm as close to level as possible.
Is that a logical thing to have done? Would the sound better if the angle was biased in one way or the other? (Dynavector DV-20X2 H cart being used) Thanks.
Yes, that is a sensible starting point. You might try lowering the arm a substantial amount, then raise it incrementally until it sounds best to your ear.

It will sound bass prominent at first, as it is raised, bass and treble will come into balance as the VTA gets to the proper setting.

Good luck,
agree with Islandmandan...almost all cartridges need some sort of angle not the straight line as the tonearms is set in the first time...also double check the tracking force again with the Digital Tracking Force Gauge after you set the VTA.
I use an index card folded evenly along one of the lines on my VPI Classic. Less work and less chance of inadvertently hitting the tonearm with a ruler and possibly damaging the cartridge.

I've heard there are tiny levels out there that can be attached to the headshell or the tonearm tube, but I've yet to see one. They would have to be extremely light not to affect the cart's suspension and thus the VTA. I suppose if such a level could be had, it'd be the most accurate way to set the VTA parallel to the record surface in the absence of such a feature on the tonearm itself (Graham Phantom for example).

Oh, you could rely on your ear and set the VTA to your liking...
If I change the tonearm angle I have to re-adjust the azimuth and tracking force since they change greatly.
By then I can't accurately tell the difference. The fact is that each setting I have tried - arm level, cartridge nose down or nose up, all sound great.
Then I read a seemingly very well thought out essay online concluding that this VTA adjustment actually does nothing!
Some folk with the same gear as me say nose down, some the opposite.... maybe it doesn't make any difference.
If you consider what is happening at the contact point of the cartridge in the groove, the best way to set VTA would be when you hear the most extended treble. The the stylus contact area is set to be the same as the cutting head, there will be no smearing of dynamics or high frequency. All those subtle treble details will bloom into the music. The soundstage will deepen and become more defined since all the detail will be there.
Dear Rmcfee: Seems to me that you don't have yet a reference to compare it and IMHO you need to have a reference to compare different VTA/SRA set up to decide which one is close to the reference ( live music could be a good reference to start with. ).

Changes in VTA/SRA does not only affects the parameters you named but overhang too.

At the end and as the other posts your ears and music sound reproduction priorities will tell which set up is the one for you.

Regards and enjoy the music,
True, I have no reference. I just made adjustments until bedtime.
Changing all those parameters each time is time consuming and it would be so great if you could adjust the VTA as the record played.
The azimuth setting changed quite substantially as did the tracking force so those couldn't be ignored.
Eventually I got too tired to be subjective at all.
Crazy hobby!
Why would the azimuth change when you adjust the VTA? The two are set in two different planes. The SRA and overhang, sure, but not the azimuth.
I have an on-the-fly VTA adjuster on my Dynavector 501 arm (Pete Riggle), and I have several cartridges to adjust VTA on. They vary greatly in proper adjustment, from the Dynavector XX2MKII, two different Actex LPM, and Zu Denon 103R.

Having the Riggle VTA adjuster helps considerably in quickly setting VTA to optimum height. The point being, after overhang and alignment has been set for each cartridge, in their individual headshells, I have noticed no loss in sound quality due to improper overhang, just the improvement gained by proper VTA.

In other words, I haven't noticed the necessity of adjusting overhang as VTA is adjusted. I may be missing something, maybe the fact the sub-arm is so short that when the main arm is raised, the changes in VTA may occur with less variation in height of the main arm.

Further discussion would be welcome, as I am still learning about how to get the most out of my analog rig. I think I would go nuts if overhang had to be reset each time. Makes a good case for multiple tonearms/turntables.

Best regards,
When leveling the tonearm parallel to the record surface I think it makes more sense to concentrate on the cartridge rather than the tonearm, especially if the tonearm tube is tapered.

The front of my cartridge is perpendicular to it's top, therefore if I can get the front perpendicular to the record surface, the tonearm will be level.

I made a reference block by squaring up a piece of oak with 90 degree edges on the table saw and jointer. From that flat board with square edges I cross-cut 3" long blocks, knowing the tops and ends were perpendicular to each other.

With the stylus set to it's normal tracking force and at rest on a non spinning 180gm disc , I adjusted the tonearm height until the face of the cartridge was flat against the perpendicular edge of my reference board. My tonearm and cartridge assembly were now more or less parallel to the record surface.

My tonearm has no scale or markings to measure the tonearm height. You loosen a setscrew, raise or lower the post and pray for the best as you re-tighten the set screw. I used playing cards as shims between the bottom of the spindle and the base varying the height by varying the number of cards.

I can now measurably change the VTA and judge the sonic effect for myself by adding or subtracting playing card shims. Now it is possible to adjust the VTA by ear simply by adding or removing shims.

Azimuth adjustment is also possible using thin paper shims between the headshell and the cartridge.
I agree that VTA shouldn't affect the azimuth, in theory. It does in this case. Tracking force goes off a lot too.
The VPI arm with it's free moving wobbly pivot system is a bit weird to work with. Seems to be a great system though.
Is this "unipivot" systen used in other TT designs?
Dear Islandmandan: +++++ "
In other words, I haven't noticed the necessity of adjusting overhang as VTA is adjusted. " +++++

the cartridge/tonearm alignment set up is critical to achieve the lower tracking error and lower tracking distortion. All the alignment " methods ": Baerwald, Stevenson Löfgren and the like has its foundation on the precise offset angle and overhang where any tiny tiny deviation on each of these parameters means higher tracking eror that means higher distortions.

That you be aware of those distortions or not is not the issue because that higher distortions exist if that overhang is not spot-on.

When you change VTA/SRA you change the overhang too out of its " ideal " set up and what you are hearing is not only ( as you said. ) " the the VTA change " but a degradation on distortion level of what you heard because that overhang tiny deviation.
I repeat: that you are not aware of it it does not means is not happening. To be aware of it needs in deep training on how deviation on overhang sounds, so maybe you shoul start some method to learn about.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I got a tiny bubble level for my Akito and set it on the flat top above the cartridge and levelled it. Seems to have done the job and the cart tracks perfectly.
The implicite assumption is that cartridges are made for
the parallel position with the record. The other implicit
assumption is about the bearings position in relationship
to the record surface. Those are, uh, theoretical assumptions.
The actual state or situation always start with: 'it depends...'
But VTA has only 3 possibilities: parallel, up or down.
I would say 'depending' on the position (angle) of the stylus
in the groove and the position of the coils in the generator
which depends from the VTF.
I have been looking into this recently, perhaps you should read Michael Fremer's articles on SRA and VTA. I suppose what troubles me is that in order to change the SRA by 1 degree the tonearm (9") needs to move about 4mm, longer arms more! This would put the bearings in a very unnatural position with respect to the record surface if more than a couple of degrees is required. So I don't have an answer, like you I'm searching for the truth/a solution. Just some things to think about, especially the magnitude of adjustment required to make a meaningful change in the SRA. Going by ear is fine if your baseline is close enough, you can tune the sound! but I suspect stylus and record wear may be a factor if the angles are way out. Please let me know when you find a solution.
If you want to demonstrate or hear for yourself what a mis-aligned cartridge sounds like-get a test record. I've been working on my setup's alignment over the past couple of days and think I finally have it "dialed in". The VTA's correct, the SRA is correct as is the azimuth and the amount of anti-skate and lateral balance. Before I corrected, my setup always distorted slightly during loud inner tracks. After I was sure the cartridge was mounted correctly (having used every template, etc. available), I was able to use the test record's test tones to fine tune the lateral balance and anti skate to the point of lowest distortion.
My setup passed all of the "torture test grooves" and sounds quiet throughout playback.
01-06-13: Wolf_garcia
I got a tiny bubble level for my Akito and set it on the flat top above the cartridge and levelled it. Seems to have done the job and the cart tracks perfectly.

If you don't have a Graham Phantom Supreme which seems to be the only arm with a built in VTA bubble level, I also use a small circular spirit bubble level on the top of the cart mount like you do. It works very well on my Clearaudio Universal arm that has on the fly VTA. My bubble level weighs .5 grams so it doesn't effect VTA too much through cantilever compresion due to the added weight of the level over and above the desired tracking force.
Where does one get such a small bubble level? I tried to use a small (as compared to what you usually see) level attached to the tonearm tube, but it was too heavy and was compressing the cantilever way too much to make it usable.
If you know your level is 0.5 g you can easily make that adjustment with the counterweight to counteract the compression.
I bought mine from a photo website. It is a Gitzo Tripod bubble level replacement. Here is one

Yup, I do that added weight to compensate for the added weight of the bubble level when when using it for leveling.
Thanks for the link, Rockitman!
I found a bubble level set on Ebay...a tiny one and a REALLY tiny

"Why would the azimuth change when you adjust the VTA? The two are set in two different planes. The SRA and overhang, sure, but not the azimuth. "

It depends on the arm design. If the bearings are at right angles to the arm tube then the cartridge will tilt as it is raised and lowered. The bearings should be at right angles to the plane of the cantilever movement.

For a unipivot, it depends on the way the weight is distributed, or if it has a device like the Graham.

Raul, all,

Regarding the status of my knowledge re cartridge set up, I have come a long way since re-intering the vinyl wars some 6-7 years ago. Much time and effort has been expended in expanding what I know about better set-up.

That includes a DIY restoration of my Garrard 401, including plinth and mounting the arm (Dynavector 501). What I am able to enjoy now is so much better than my previious rig, a VPI Scout Signature.

I have found there is much to learn with the vinyl format, and that is why I enjoy it so much. I have learned a lot. There is much more yet to learn, (I don't think it ever stops in this hobby), and I will attempt to see what can be gained by checking overhang with changes in VTA. One caveat here, is my old eyes, which makes fine adjustments difficult.

I intend to modify my home made overhang gauge, so it can be used with the cartridge-headshell mounted to the arm.

Even without trying to fine-tune every parameter when VTA adjustments are made, the sound is always enjoyable, and quite good, I think. perhaps a bit more attention to detail will yield even better results.

Thanks to all, enjoy,
Dear Islandmandan: ++++ " I have found there is much to learn with the vinyl format, and that is why I enjoy it so much. I have learned a lot. " +++++

I agree with you, in audio everyday is a learning day. We have to be willing to learn and to have and open mind. We can learn from any one. Like you I learn each single day.

Regards and enjoy de music,

I suppose I could be accused of stealing this thread, I hope you will indulge me.

After our previous discussion, I went a bit further in trying to fine-tune overgang/alignment last night.

I now know I have been remiss, in not optimizing overhang with changes in VTA. I was surprised by how much overhang was off, when checked with a MintLP tractor, made specifically for my Dyna 501 arm/Garrard 401. Less distortion due to incorrect overhang, made for a better listening session. I guess I'll have to stop my slothful ways.

Thanks Raul, and so many others that are the true worth of this forum.