There are much less expensive stylus force gauges; digital ones available for under $150, and yes you do need one.
12 responses Add your response
You can always use a $25 Shure gauge like I do. You need to fine tune your tracking force and VTA by ear, anyway. If you're not constantly changing cartridges or arm wands, just use the Shure to make sure you're not accidentally way over the manufacturer's maximum tracking force, and follow Lloyd Walker's advice for fine tuning your turntable setup.
And, yes you do need a tracking force gauge of some description.
You most definitely need a VTF guage. If you want to buy the last one you'll ever need, check out the one offered by member Ans for $95. I have no interest in this guage other than being a very happy owner of one. The Shure is a good way to go if you're using high compliance cartridges, but the results can be off. This can be a problem with higher end cartridges. Just my opinion.
I would second Dan's recommendation for the Stylus Force Gauge at $ 95.00.
Here is the link on Audiogon that you can copy and paste into your browser (I did not know how to make the link able to click on and go directly from this post (anyone care to educate me on how to do that in the future ?)
My take is that the VTF is more critical with lower compliance cartridges because of the compliance itself. Higher compliance is more forgiving when the stylus rides over minute bumps and warps, where as the lower compliance cartridge will force the stylus into the vinyl in these situations. Like the difference between riding in my truck with heavy duty suspension and, say, a Lincoln Town Car. Just my opinion.
On the other hand, I have found both of my Shure VTF guages to be biased by not an insignificant amount when compared to the digital guage. It is also not so easy to get repeatable readings on them as compared to any decent digital guage. Again, the digital guages aren't required unless you want the best performance. I'll never go back and neither will everyone I know who has tried one. To each his own.
It is not the effect of compiance on the guage, it is the guages usefullness in getting the VTF as close as possible to the manufacturing specs that matters. Higher end cartridges are more responsive to getting the VTF right and they tend to be of medium to low compliance. The Shure guage is just not that good.
>>Higher end cartridges are more responsive to getting the VTF right and they tend to be of medium to low compliance.<<
No. That is not correct. There are many "higher end" cartridges of medium to high compliance i.e. 15+ that require precise VTF adjustments. The list, although not comprehensive, includes Zyx, Clearaudio, Benz Micro, van den Hul, Grado, etc.
Actually most any cartridge requires precise VTF adjustment for optimum performance be it high or low compliance. The gauge, as you point out, serves as a starting point; final settings must be based on the user's ears. If you accept this premise than your argument is flawed.
All the more reason to use a better guage. It is the starting point I'm considering here and yes the final determination is done by ear. This has been beat to death elsewhere so in short, you use whatever you want. I consider compliances around 10 to 15 to be medium which is where most of the carts in your list are. Now take a Shure up in the 20-25 range, that's high compliance to me. But again, you use whatever you think works for you.