VTA: am I nutz?

Here's why I think I may need to have my head examined. (OTOH, I *did* hit it on the ice last week...hmm...) Anyway, my several weeks' experience in adjusting VTA during play on my Aries 2/JMW-10/Denon 103D has led me to the following conclusion: what I expected was that somewhere in the range of adjustment would be a smaller range which sounded better than the rest, and that below it would be dark and lacking in highs, and above it would be hard and bright.

However, my observation is that no such range exists. Rather there is ONE CORRECT SETTING for each record, from which you may not deviate. Nor is the "above is bright" and "below is muddy" rule always the case. In fact, I find that there is very little variation either above or below the magic setting.

Now this may sound contradictory, but it IS true that I make all my adjustments from record to record within a range of about 20-30 increments on the dial. So while the sound doesn't vary in any logical way within that range, the IDEAL setting will always be found within that range. And yes, thicker records will require a higher setting while thinner will require a lower. No mystery there.

I guess my question is this: is this "only one magic point" finding in agreement with that of other people? Or am I some kind of analog mental case?

Please, 'cause I'm about ready to order the straitjacket... ;-)
The way I understand it is that SRA (stylus rake angle) is the paramount parameter to be set & VTA is a means to that end i.e. you set SRA by setting VTA. Every record is slightly diff. in thickness so SRA set for 1 LP is not going to be the same as another. 2 very similar thickness LPs will probably share the same VTA setting as the SRA for both of them is practically the same.
So, I am not surprised that you arrived at this conclusion that each LP has "only one magic point". It appears to make sense (& seems rather cumbersome to do :-) unless you have a JMW arm, as you do).
Not nutz at all. This is the only way to really find the correct angle for the thickness of the particular record and to match the angle of the cutter used on the master. But it is a PITA - however IMHO, for those who really want the best that LP's have to offer, its indispensible.
Agreed with the above. Tonearms that have "on the fly" adjustable VTA offer a big advantage. That is, if you are truly anal about analogue reproduction : ) Sean

PS... No, you're NOT "nutz" : )
Nope, and worse, the finer the stylus, The VdH tips, Fitz Guyer, Micro Ridge etc, make it almost a required critical event, so much so that it can become a royal chore to tune each record. I get so tired of it that I end up putting on a CD, for about 2 minutes, and then well it's a chore but I remember why I put up with it.

So smile, if you can hear that sharp a change in VTA your system is truely refined indeed.

I agree with all above. This whole thing about getting the SRA to 2 degrees is itself a compromise setting that will theoretically give you the "optimum" playback for the statistical majority of LPs you spin on your table.

I'm sure we all have found LPs that sound fabulous always and even get abit sweeter when you hit that majic VTA. Then there are those turkeys that don't sound that great no matter what you do.

But to answer your question, yes, you are nutz. I consider being a little nutz to be a common trademark amoung vinyl addicts. But you're right on the mark with this topic IMHO.
Makes you wonder if these difficult stylus profiles aren't in fact a major design flaw: akin to speakers which work well only with one amplifier in the world & etc. Of course, if you are willing to put with it, but I'm too impatient to hear the music I want to listen to, and am addicted to vinyl!
Here's an interesting site on all this:


Check out the link on "VTA"
Thank you all for your responses. It should be mentioned that I wore out the set screw on my old Denon DP-60L because I fiddled with the VTA endlessly, and the only way to adjust it was to loosen the screw and raise and lower the arm column manually. Very hard to do in miniscule (and repeatable) increments, as I'm sure we all know. Eventually I ended up trying in vain to grip the sawed-off stub of a screw with my screwdriver. Little pliers didn't work either. Damn...

So that's all to let you know that this is a recurrence of a more long-standing chronic mental disorder. To get rid of it, I tried vaccinating myself with a phonograph needle, but all that did was make me talk all day long.

My next tonearm will have one of those digital readouts for VTA, and will be adjustable by remote control. The reason is that by then I will have completely destroyed my arthritic knees and ankles by jumping up and down from the couch to adjust VTA the old way.

Is all this worth it? All I can say is that when I hit that magic mark, it sounds *so* good. Knees? We don't need no steenkin' knees!
But Johnnantias, using the same logic I could make a good case for using speakers with poor resolving abilities because it is such a PITA to get them to sound good - they seem to have a bad habit of letting us hear too clearly the sources, pre-amp, amp, cables, etc. But I agree, a conical or eliptical stylus would make things much simpler. Hell, why not just use a porkypine quill. :-)
Newbee, this is precisely the sort of thing the Sumiko Celebration was designed to address, with its elliptical stylus, and reportedly there is no shortfall of detail, at least at this price point, the implication in many of the reviews that it rates as highly as the best there is, period (because it performs optimally with minimal set-up, thus maximizing its potential). The high-end needs more of this sort of thinking, as the masochism factor is already very high. For this reason I am considering buying one, as I used to own a similar wooden-bodied MC, the legendary Kiseki Purpleheart Sapphire, which used some sort of line-contact stylus profile which wasn't so demanding, and yet was extremely detailed. And, your procupine quill idea isn't so bad...when do you start production?

And Bublitchky, I like your idea for remote-controlled VTA: couldn't you make the adjustment automatic so that once the VTA error is detected it could automatically be compensated for without the need for a remote control? You'd save on batteries! When it's ready, sign me up!
Johnnantias, Thanks for the reference to the new(?) Sumiko cartridge - I'm all for anthing that makes this vinyl habit less time intensive.
You're welcome Newbee, check out the reviews, which make this object nigh-irresistable IMO. What I look for in a review is above all an account by the reviewer that he found it difficult to concentrate because of musical magic. Then I'm interested. The Sumiko reviews seem to be unanimous in this. The Blackbird also uses this stylus profile, at a lower cost. I'm sure there are others, but this is just off the top of my head. This hobby certainly has no shortage of "issues"!
As long as we're speaking of remote control items, I still want to market "audiophile" casters for under each speaker or speaker stand corner. These would each have a separate motor, controlled with a joy stick. Then, a person could adjust speaker position, toe in, the works, all while remaining in the "sweet-spot". The very epitome of comfort, laziness, and, um, decadence.... ;-)
I sense the beginnings of a company here...another excellent idea!
Here's my suggestion for a name for our new company:

LOAD (Lazy Old Arthritic Dorks) Audio, Inc.

Corporate headquarters will be in one of those heavily retirement-oriented communities like Scottsdale, Arizona.

Gee, I love the idea of sitting on my ass, adjusting VTA, and raking in the cash...
I propose we invent a device which will sit on our ass for us, which will be the showpiece of LOAD Audio.
I suggest we give the product a name incorporating the name of the corportation we just formed - We can call it LITP, short for load in the pants.
I can practically visualize the little thumbnail picture at Acoustic Sounds' web site or Music Direct and the blurb next to it:

The LITP II builds on the strengths of the acclaimed original LITP, acknowledged by Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound magazine to be "one of the landmark products in high-end history." A new, improved stainless steel harness (versus the plastic of the original version) fits around the user's waist, and he pulls his pants up over it. The supplied laser pointer, which is connected to the harness (interconnect cable not included), is then aimed at your preamp. The result, sez Mikey Fremer of Stereophile: "Some of the smoothest, most liquid highs and diaper-filling lows you've ever experienced." Whether your system is multi-kilobuck, or of the more modest 'Joe Sixpack' variety, you can be assured of the same result: a really heavy 'Load In The Pants!'

Winner Stereophile Accessory Product of the Year 2002, 2003, and 2004

List Price: $2,999
Limited-Time Introductory Sale Price (until June 15): $2,499

Special Large Size for the Portly: $3,500

Amazing how this is taking wing, isn't it?
Bublitchki, You need to explore creative writing as a way to make a living. ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!