Shelter 90X Tracking Force

What is the best for the 90X. I a full blown LP-12/Ittok LV II arm. I am currenlty tracking at 1.9 gm based on my dealer recommendation.
Recommended tracking force range is 1.4 to 2.0 grams. At 1.9 grams you are within the range and probably are fine, but the optimum will depend upon the effective mass of the arm and cartridge combination.
I have the 90x on an OriginLive Incognito Arm on a SOTA Nova V vacuum tt and also have it set at about 1.9 gm. This seems just about right for me. The dealer I bought the 90x from suggested 1.8 - 1.9 setting. I have my VTA set with slight negative rake toward the arm pivot. Using both the Hi-Fi News Analog Test LP and the Cardas Frequency Sweep and Burn-in Record I have found the 90x to be a little finicky (spelling?)with the 90x passing all but the most abusive test the test lps have to offer at the 1.9 setting. I'm still experimenting.
Thanks. Yeah this cartridge is revealing things I never paid attention to before.....and I almost bought a Zyx airy, but my dealer suggested this would provide a better fit for the sound I was after. Actually it was going to be a 901 and a Agon member suggested the 90X. I am glad I listened. I am still curious though about the Zyx/Dynavector. Take care, this stuff never ends.
I have not heard the ZYX Airy but if it sounds better than the 90x that's almost scary.
Hello all,

A bit of generic advice about high performance cartridges and tracking force ...

You've seen quite a bit of action on electronic stylus force gauges both here and on various other forums - gauges accurate to within .01 grams. You will find this level of precision to matter with cartridges at this level of resolution.

One thing to bear in mind is that you should measure tracking force at RECORD LEVEL.

Depending on the tonearm, you can have as much as a .3 gram difference between measuring at scale level and at record level. With the Schröders you'll be off by about .3 grams. With other arms you'll likely be off by less.

This has nothing to do with the absolute "goodness" of one arm over the other - we are after all tracking at record level and not 3/4" above the record.

Another thing to keep in mind is that every Shure gauge I've cross validated measures about .3 grams optimistic - with a 2.5 gram reading being in fact be closer to 2.2 grams. If have a Shure gauge, you can work around part of this error.

Position the Shure gauge so that 2 of its pads at its base overhang the record platter. This will lower the scale a slightly. This is a trick I picked up from Franks Schröder. Depending on your tonearm, you may not be able to cue your stylus down, but if you can, you'll get closer to an accurate reading. The scale will be slightly tilted, so take this into account as you line the pointer up in the mirrored area.

I've demonstrated the effect of a .05 gram change to several people on both a Dynavector XV-1s and a ZYX Universe (on both a Triplanar and Schröder Reference) - to their slack-jawed amazement.

Now, the first observation you'll correctly make is that a subtle change in tracking force affects the VTA/SRA as you load/unload the cartridge's suspension. We accounted for this by adjusting VTA/SRA both up and down. The effect you'll observe is far more gross and different in character than the result of a VTA/SRA change.

The most recent instance of this demonstration involved a Dynavector XV-1s, which I started out with a measured 1.92 gram tracking force on a Triplanar tonearm. Tracking was wonderful - contrary to numerous comments on this forum about the necessity of tracking as high as 2.5 grams.

The setup sounded a bit sluggish however - as if the turntable was running slow. I verified that the table was running on speed. The effect was that of Ricki Lee Jones' band sounding as if they were stuck in an all-night drive through Wyoming in a snow storm - with a white-knuckled bass player at the wheel. If you've ever driven through a Wyoming blizzard, you know how spent you'll feel the next day.

I lightened the force to 1.87, and BINGO! They sounded well rested and on tempo!

The above anecdote is one reason I tend to ignore comments about a cartridge's PRaT or its absence. Not to sound dismissive, but no post I've ever read on an analog setup has taken this aspect of setup into account.

People tend to think of tracking force in terms of mistracking, or in extreme instances from the perspective of maintaining the windings in the linear area of the cartridge's magnetic field. You never hear mention of under/over damping the resonant system.

On the subject of these posts on the Dyna XV-1s needing to track at 2.5 grams, I spoke with the US Dynavector distributor. He too is puzzled as to how these folks are setting up their arm and cartridge. Now, bear in mind that my above experience is limited to two tonearms at present - an 18 gram effective mass Schröder Reference, and a Triplanar (about 12 grams).

It's possible that some of the other arms in the 9.5 to 10.5 gram range behave differently. I would advise these individuals to re-visit their setup, and if you still find yourself needing to track at 2.5 grams, to increase your effective mass by adding a headshell weight - resetting the tracking force after the fact of course.

Thom @ Galibier
Tom thanks a mil. Although I have a Shure Gauge, I had my Linn dealer fine tune my initial set up of the Shelter 90X. The Shelter dealer recommended the TF of 1.9. I will probably leave it alone as I am more set it/forget it until it is time for my annual LP-12 tune up. Someday in the near future I will be ready to graduate from my LP-12. I have seriously read/researched your table. It remains confusing however that Stereophile rankings contain such a wide price margin within the class i.e. LP-12 and Quattro yet I remain excited about the opportunity to own yours. Once again thanks for the feedback.
Hi Xagwell,

There's a lot to be said about set and forget. You get to focus on the music and that's not a bad thing at all ...

If you get bored (and only if you get bored), you of course can obtain a more precise gauge. I would not mess around if I had "only" a Shure gauge because your results would not be repeatable. The subtle changes in pacing can be quite remarkable with fine cartridges like your 90x.

I've had quite a few questions as of late about the "Class B" rating. I don't want to hijack this thread to discuss this, but it's been on my mind to expand on the my manufacturer's comments (published in Stereophile and posted on my Rants page).

Stereophile limits manufacturers to 750 words. Between not wanting to be ungracious and the word count limitation, I left a lot out. My first draft was over 2,000 words. As Mark Twain once wrote "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time". It was painful to snip all of my comments. In the next week or so, I plan on publishing my thoughts on my Rants page.

Thom @ Galibier
Thank you loads for the fabulous input. Very helpful.
Sit (John)
My 2 cents. The Shelter's VTF requirment, like most cartridges, is temperature dependent. My 90X is mounted in an OL Illustrious arm and for ambient temps in the range of 68-70f I track at 1.99g. Higher temps require less tracking force. I use a trick I gleaned from Doug Deacon and use different weight o-rings slipped on the arm stubb behind the counter weight. The temerature lets me know which o-ring to use and I can repeatably fine tune the tracking force with out having to move the counterweight and measure the VTF.
Good trick, John / Doug ...

Can you imagine how much fun it is to exhibit an analog rig at CES, with the doors open to the morning air in Las Vegas in January?

It sure catches my attention.

Thom @ Galibier
Great posts as usual / Thanks
What would be your first choice for the best VTF scale that is available ?
Hi Larry,

The Durascale 100 made by MyWeigh has given me repeatable readings. You can Google for their website and link to online retailers.

The only calibrating tool I have for these is the manufacturer supplied weight.

Calibrating weights from two different MyWeigh models differed by some .08 grams for a 100 gram weight - a .08 percent consistency of the calibration "tool".

This weight variance seems good enough for our purposes, since we're concerned with repeatability more than we are with an absolute number. I don't think you care that my 1.87 is your 1.88 - especially since you need to work around the temperature in your room to establish your own norm.

Likely, a better calibrated 100 gram weight is readily available if this causes lost sleep.

The real challenge lies in measuring at record level, and here the price jumps considerably for a pre-configured solution. I'm working on having parts made for a small fitting to use with these Durascale 100's but will likely take a month or so before I get around to this.

The reason I'm using the Durascale 100 as opposed to the 50 is because the acrylic fitting comes in at about 75 grams and I need to be able to "Tare" this amount out.

Our mutual buddy Dmailer, builds up a platform to get the measuring surface of his scale to record level - without using a step-down fitting on the weighing surface.

This solution can likely work quite well with your Teres since your headshell is out in space. Pile stuff up under the scale by resting it on your tt shelf instead of on your platter. This could get a bit tricky with some 'tables. You'd definitely want this "stuff" you rest the scale on to be stable.

Thom @ Galibier
Pile stuff up under the scale by resting it on your tt shelf instead of on your platter.
I used to use our My-Weigh MX-50 that way, except instead of piling stuff UNDER the scale I built a tower that sat on top of the weighing platform. The little tray that comes with the MX-50 sat on top of the tower to provide a flat weighing surface at record height. This had the advantage of separating the magnetic scale from the cartridge.

What did I make the tower from? One sheet of copy paper. Cut to the right length, fold into a triangle for stability and Scotch tape together. The cost seemed reasonable and it worked fine.

Then Paul made a weighing drop-down step by folding a piece of brass strip he "sourced" from the local hobby shop. The cost was outrageous, about $.79, but it worked a bit better than the paper tower because it put the MX-50 in the middle of its range. Load cells perform more reliably near the middle of their range than at the extremes.

Larry, we sent you a spare brass strip quite a while ago. Have you made your weighing step yet? We want pix!
More really good, practical solutions here! I used to remove the platter on my basis in order to stack things under the scale to get it to the record height. What a PITA! The problem was that I did not have enough flexibility with the arms I was using to get into a position that would work well. Some of the ideas shared here would probably have done the trick.

Glad to see that little trick is helping someone out. There's no reason it won't work on any arm that has an end stub. I know a couple JMW owners that use it too.

Thom, that's # 6 on the TriPlanar Tips thread. It should be very helpful in those fun show conditions, at least until Tri drills the back of the end stub or the donuts and supplies a VTF thumbscrew like Frank's. I suggested that to him two years ago, but you know how it goes.
I used this trick to measure my VTF last night and it works well. Now, if I only could find a way to determine if my arm is parallel to my table for VTA purposes. The only way I can seem to even get close is look at the angle between the front of my cartridge and the record when the needle is on the record. (i.e. don't look at the cartridge head-on, but from the side) I have a RB300 arm and I don't see how people can tell if the arm is straight, when we're talking about fractions of degrees... I tried to put my bubble level on top of my tonearm near the cartridge, but this didn't seem to give me an accurate reading... not sure why, but even though my table was level, the bubble-level on top of the arm wouldn't produce a level setting that "looked level"...
Thom,as usual some great stuff.I'm becoming a real fan!BTW,you are quite knowledgable(must have come from "being at the feet of Frank Schroder" so much),but you would have a bit more credibility if you could post,"sometimes",without mentioning the two arms,you always seem to do.Believe me,I mean no disrespect,and realize these are relevant to your thoughts,often.

The Triplanar is a wonderful arm.The Schroder(particularly the REF)is probably FANTASTIC.Personally I have been pushing a friend to spring for one,so I already know how potentially good it "probably" is!I know this stuff already,and that you like these fine arms.

I prefer it,and benefit most,when you showcase your superb knowledge of all things analog,exclusively!

BTW-I have mentioned in past threads how the 2.2's damping fluid can act on the resonant factor,when attending to tracking force.So it "has" been mentioned,in these forums,yet I DO get the impression that when I address "anything" 2.2 the hands of many of our favorite forum posters go up to their ears,faster than a good magnetic protection circuit!But we can always go back to our favorite products of choice.Truthfully,though I have been accused of being a "promoter/defender" of the 2.2,I could care less who likes it and who does not.Yet,as you would attempt to correct any misinterpretation of your table,I feel the jury,for me,is out regarding how the 2.2 would perform against any of the past comparisons.OOPS,I hear those hands to ears!

BTW-I love the Pressure guage info,and am looking forward to your mod to the guage you mention.You should be aware(if not already)that the small guage being marketed on Audiogon,for 95 bucks is superb,and meets all the criteria you mentioned.I just got one,though I'd have liked it to look more like it didn't come as a free gift in a cereal box!

Sorry if any of my post smacks of condescension!I mean NO disrespect,and totally love all your posts!!


Also,I have mentioned,in many past threads
I have a rather large digital top-loader that I made a $0.50 "tool" to work with it. I got the idea from looking at the Wally Tool version. It's just a strip of plastic (retrived from the waste at local hardware store's window glazing station) that lies across the pan of the scale. One end hangs over the edge on which there is an adjustible skrew (the $0.50) with a smaller piece of plastic stip on the end of the skrew. The device is secured to the scale by placing a quarter on the end opposite the skrew and adjusting the skrew so the smaller strip is at record level. Tare the weight of the gizmo and place stylas on small strip to measure VTF. This is definately one case where a picture is worth a thousand words. I won't mention why I happen to own a digital top-loader :-)
No offense taken, Speedy One ...

I find myself in the difficult situation of trying to give anecdotal evidence while at the same time not coming off as being self promoting or condescending of other manufacturers.

Of course, I can speak only of arms I have extensive experience with, and in the last 24 months, I've lived with ... well, you know...

My 9 month stint with a Graham 2.2 in 2003-2004 was too long ago to be relevant to any current discussion. Since then, I've changed (and I'd like to think improved) my electronics and my speakers.

Part of the problem I had at the time was that my electronics and speakers had the same system bias as my Graham 2.2 did. They were all oriented toward a thin sound which tended to exaggerate "detail" at the expense of body.

I had only my turntable to balance this out. I didn't, I would likely have ripped many of these components out of my system a lot sooner.

Please don't misconstrue this as my being a bass fanatic. I can very happily live with speakers that drop like a stone below 60Hz, but I don't like components that play a slight of hand game with detail.

I'd like to re-visit the 2.2 as well as to play with the Phantom on a clean slate. Of course, this would still be in the context of a single system, but at least it would be a different system, and might better help me to triangulate in on the truth.

The Summer is a good time for this type of exercise, as folks slow down with things audio and I have time to play ... to the extent that I'm not out on the cliffs.

Gosh! What happens if I love the Phantom and start selling it. I'll be back in the same boat again (sigh).

Thom @ Galibier
Agree with John Tracy above, you can build a copy of Wally Malewicz's 'ladder' for less than a dollar. All you need is a cheap 50c plastic ruler and a plastic bolt/nuts. Can be made in 15 minutes with very basic tools.
Here's Wally's original.
Here's my copy
Use a fairly stiff plastic ruler, not the really thin bendy ones. The lower platform on my jig has the flat side of the ruler (ie reverse side of ruler) pointing up for a nice flat cartridge platform.
Thom,you simply cannot love the Phantom!!Think of what it would do to your fan base!!-:)

VTA (and SRA, which is more important) have little to do with whether your armtube is level.

VTA = the angle of the cantilever to the record surface

SRA = the angle of the stylus contact surfaces to the record surface

You should be trying to achieve the optimum angle for your cartridge, preferably by listening. Struggling to visually level your armtube is a waste of time.
Hey Thom,the Durascale 100 looks to be a SUPERB product.With the modification you are going to do to it,it would be hard to beat.I love the fact that it has a thirty year warrantee!I like quality stuff.
Could you elaborate as to when you will be selling this(with ledge/shelf mod),and what it would cost.If I could fit it in my budget,I'd consider selling my cute new,but cheap looking,guage.


Thanks for your reply. I guess reading the Rega manual was a waste of time too ;) I guess the fustration is finding "neutral VTA", which I thought was achieved when achieved when the tonearm is parallel to the record surface... I was going to then use this as a starting point... I'm still trying to get to this starting point ;) I'll keep at, but thanks for your reply.


I learned a great trick from a post no too long ago on this subject by Nsgarch. He had a great technique using a mirror and jewelers loupe. Try a search and I bet it comes up quick. His technique uses the vertical position of the stylus to determine the perpendicular setting, which is what you would be wanting with a supposed level arm. From there he as a very logical method for adjusting the arm to give a desired SRA. It's a great read and may work well for you.

Best and have fun!

Nsgarch's method correctly focuses on optimizing SRA. That's where the rubber meets the road, so if you're seeking the "best" starting point for arm height this is probably it.

BTW, there's a superb article in the FAQ's over at VA. Jon Risch authored a method similar to Nsgarch's many years ago. His article is titled "VTA once and for all". Highly recommended.

My only objection to setting SRA by eye is that it requires a bit of fussing and, when the fussing's done, all you've achieved is a good estimate for records of one particular thickness. Record thicknesses vary and even records of the same thickness were produced with different cutting angles. Setting SRA visually cannot account for the latter.

Since one can only know the ideal setting for a record by listening, it seems like an unecessary chore (to me) to fuss over a visual SRA angle that I'm going to change anyway.

My preferred method is simpler. Place the cartridge at an angle known to be effective for that cartridge. Adjust by ear from there. This starting point isn't as precise as a visual SRA inspection but it's easy to find: no magnifier, no bright lights.

If I'm going to adjust by ear, identifying a precise starting point is just not that critical.