VPI setup

I just received my VPI Classic 1 -- 30th Anniversary turntable. Purchased on eBay, which I hope was not a mistake.

This is my first attempt to setup up a turntable. I have read the manual several times, and looked for videos and other sites reviewing setup. The TT has a uni-pivot arm which wobbles a lot and apparently that's just how it's designed.

So I'm playing my first records on the setup and there are two problems.

1. Skipping, even on new records. I have an Ortofon Quintet Bronze (new to me purchased slightly used on Audiogon). I've adjusted the tracking force to 2.6 using the Shure tool included with the VPI. This is slightly over the recommended range 2.1-2.5g. Do I still need to increase the tracking force a bit?

2. Voices are fuzzy. The only vocals I have are on regular vinyl. I do have some Mobile Fidelity Original Master Recordings of jazz (no vocal) and it sounds fantastic. But even these will skip, albeit less frequently.

Neither were an issue with my lesser Traveler and Bronze MM cartridge -- no skipping and no fuzzy vocals.

I've eyeballed for azimuth and followed all the VPI instructions the best I can.

I'm also wondering if given my investment I need to also purchase a good record cleaner -- better than my cheapo Spin Clean. Maybe with this step up to the Classic 1 and the Quintet Bronze it's just sensitive to every bit of dust and flaw.


VPI Classic 1 with Ortofon Quintet Bronze MC cartridge
Herron Audio VTPH - 2 phono preamp
Cary Audio SLP for linestage preamp
McCormack DNA-750 mono blocks
Vandersteen 3a Signature speakers
van Den Hul and WireWorld Silver Eclipse 7 interconnects
Go to Vinyl Engine and do some searching there
1- Have you watched the Michael Fremer tonearm set-up DVD?
2- Where in the country are you?
VPI has a forum that should prove very helpful to you. Go to www.vpiindustries.com and click on the forum button. Both Harry and Mat will field questions as well as all the users of VPI equipment.
The turntable setup article on walkeraudio.com will help you.
No you don't need to upgrade from spinclean to get it play correctly. Records shouldn't skip, so something is off. Remember that adjusting azimuth might acccidently change VTF, so repeat your measurements. Don't go over the recommended VTF range.

Take your time using the jig to get correct overhang. It that's off, you are not going to get everything else right. Cart setup is a pain. TAKE YOUR TIME, take breaks if you need to. Patience is the key! Cheers,
I agree the spin clean is sufficient.

Do not go any higher on the tracking force IMO but certainly okay to stay at the higher end of the spec.

Recheck azimuth and also make sure the arm is level(ships wheel adjustment) for rake angle.

You may also want to try some damping fluid but go slow here as too much will kill the dynamics. Hope this helps.

OK, good to hear. I will slow down and go over it again, and again as necessary. Will look for the Michael Fremer setup DVD. The instructions with the VPI are pretty spare, at least for a newbie like me. And I am actually getting feedback on the VPI forum and here as well. It all seems a little mysterious, how to get it right, even though I know that's not the case. I'm in
Baltimore and have a local VPI distributor. Thanks again. I just hope that I didn't get or cause damage to the cartridge.

I got it! I honestly just emailed my local VPI guy asking for a quote for the setup, went back for one more try and I hit it.

The problem? The tone arm was not level with the platter. I did one last eyeball, thought it could come down a bit and eureka!

I guess I just needed to by humbled by defeat before I could succeed.

Thanks again for everyone's help through this. Quite a learning experience.
Evolving....your tonearm is a very high end performer... It seems that any adjustment brings back additional riches. If you can get a Fozgometer and the accompanying test record, the results can be stunning. On your setup, remember that any adjustment in height, will also change your vtf.
A Soundsmith Counter Intuitive is a must for VPI arms - will help get azimuth set without changing VTF. An easy $50 upgrade.
I know you solved your problem but can't help but add that it is always a good idea to make sure that your arm is properly centered on top of the spike. Just pick up the arm verticallya and set it back down and then carefully check to see that the arm pivots smoothly.
Second, that Shure guage is not reliable. It is amazing it works to the degree that it does but mine crapped out in no time due to the pivots points on the see-saw being worn. Invest in a good digital gauge. Beware of the cheap Chinese knock-offs. Reliable VTF is a must!
Third-you have to make sure your table is level.
I saw a VPI veteran once simply shove a cartridge (my own Benz Glider) into the very front of the headshell when setting up my table very preliminarily and the sound was still quite passable though not optimum-the point being that the degree of problems you had could never have been due to less than optimum alignment.
And last-the VPI unipivots are not the easiest arms in the world to set up. Don't feel the least bit shy about having problems. A gimbled arm with spring set VTF like a Rega or Project are far easier. You dove into the deep end a bit.
yes, the Counterintuitive makes it much easier to set up (I forgot that yours doesn't have one....I have a 3D which is nearly impossible to set up well without it, which is why its included with the 3D.)
Yeah, I'm springing for the Counterintuitive..

And I agree that the Shure scale can't be that precise.

Anybody have a recommendation for good digital scale? I see a lot of pretty cheap ones, but really do want something that will help me drill down on the setup.
The other thing I discovered this morning:

When adjusting the azimuth ring with the screws slight loosened it can start to slide down and shorten the pivot distance.

It took me awhile to realize it had. Thankfully easy to slide back.

I'm really appreciating how simple yet adjustable this puppy is. At least now that I'm a little more relaxed with the setup!
The Mapleshade scale is accurate, reasonably priced and uses (2) AAA batteries (easier to locate, less expensive). Highly recommended!
I use a Cartridge Man digital gauge, much more accurate and consistent than the cheap Chinese digital scales!! Only downside is the price of $399. I also use the Cartridge Man digital level which is extremely accurate for my Super Scoutmaster Ref. Rimdrive and 3D arm. I view the cost of these tools as an investment towards optimizing the performance of my table.
The Mapleshade scale is all of those things BUT..
it is also poorly made. The step-tray attached to the original pan was held in place by a 1/4" wide squiggle of hot glue. It was never parallel to the pan and it continued to angle down and change the reading if you left the stylus down for a few seconds. When mine failed I cleaned and reglued it properly but the glue weight was different from the original and I needed to calibrate it. I discovered then that the calibration button sequence described in the manual was for a different model base or some such thing and didn't work. Repeated calls and emails to Mapleshade resulted ultimately in their claiming that it was not in warantee and so they would not support it with proper documentation. YMMV.
What about the Audio Additives Digital Stylus Force Gauge for $80 on Music Direct.

Reviewed here on Stereophile:

This $12.50 "New Version Professional LP Digital Turntable Stylus Force Scale Gauge led - US" on eBay will work just fine.