VTA and cartridge loading

I've been reading the various threads regarding VTA and how it affects what one hears. My understanding is that as VTA increases (arm is raised), there will be more emphasis on the higher frequencies and as it is decreased (arm is lowered), the lower frequencies will be more emphasized. A quicker, airier sound versus a richer, fuller sound.

Someone also told me that VTA is really an adjustment in the time domain, meaning that it affects how accurately transient information is reproduced. If it is too high, the leading edge becomes shrill and occurs too early in time thus becoming detached from the note's harmonics and if it is too low, the leading edge of a transient occurs too late and gets mixed in with the rest of the note and it becomes a bit muddy and poorly defined.

My understanding of the affects of proper cartridge loading is somewhat similar. That is, the higher the loading, the more life and dynamics one hears. The lower the loading, the fuller, richer the sound becomes.

Are these descriptions accurate and useful? Is there any relationship between VTA and cartridge loading? Which should be set first?
In real life they have nothing in common. Whenever you change a cartridge or Phonostage, you will start all over again.
That is the main error in thinking, that doing up or down will create this or that.
It depends on the age of record, in which angle the grooves were cut. There are huge differences between an old Mercury and a MFSL reissue.
Next, all cartridges are different from angle of cantilever, stylus and the polish of it. When the needle is moved up/down in the groove, you also change the contact area of the needle.

There is no Standard, means, 100Ω from Phonostage A has have nothing in common with 100Ω of Phonostage B. You have to find you own best setting.
Analog is a chain, you have influence from the Arm cable, internal vibrations from the turntable too and from the gain to your speakers in general.
There is also a high frequency rise with MC's, a real task for Phonostage Designers (Solidstate). That is one reason why most Phonostage sound shrill when they are loaded with 1k-47k. It needs very much knowledge to make it right, the only Transistor Phonos I heard who did it were Curl Vendetta and Klyne 7.
To make the life easy, all recommend to "load" them down but in reality it is a damping and will make the carts slow and dull. But how much of "slow and dull" is each ones own try and error, more or less a compromise because the cycle starts all over agin with a new component and you can forget everything you did before. 47k for example is no damping, you can hear the cart the way it is made, without any limits, but most won't like it. But it has nothing to do with your taste, you will hear the limits from the Designers. Still a task today.

Your question to be set first?
It doesn't matter. Do whatever you like.
Hi Peter, Happy Holidays.

I can't directly answer your question, I am sure others will chime in, but I will say VTA and VTF have a definite linkage.

As you increase or decrease vertical tracking force it will change Vertical tracking angle. Now to what extent and how sensitive your setup is to this change is a debateable. For me, a .25 gram change if VTF clearly drives a need for VTA adjustment (which is easy on my TriPlanar)
vtf definitely affects vta and more importantly sra. actually, a very small amount of vtf affects the sra more than a substantial adjustment in height of the arm at the pivot point.
here's an interesting article by fremer:
I'm sorry, but I don't think my post was written clearly enough. I'm referring to VTA, vertical tracking angle, and MC cartridge loading, ie 30, 50, 100, 500, 47000 ohms. I do understand that VTF effects VTA as more or less downward force on the stylus effects the angle of the cantilever and stylus as it sits in the groove, but that is not my question.

I'm interested in the sonic results of changing cartridge loading resistive values inside the phono amp. My understanding is that the sonic results are similar to those heard when changing VTA. I'm finding that lowering my VTA can be offset by selecting a higher resistive load and visa versa, but I would appreciate comments from those with more set up experience.

For example, when I lower my VTA, lower frequency information becomes more emphasized at the expense of upper frequency information. Then to regain some liveliness and air I can raise the resistive loading value from say 50 ohms to 100 ohms. Is loading a value that should simply be set by knowing the cartridge output and matching the phono amp and leaving it alone, or should it be experimented with to find the best sonic balance?
I think that you have the VTA part, more or less, correct. But keep in mind that there is only one correct way for a stylus to meet the groove; this is not a tone control.

However all cartridges have a high frequency resonant peak. That peak usually falls at the top of the audible range (your audible range, not mine, I'm 53 years old). The impedance that the cartridge sees is, effectively, the damping of this primary resonance. Too little and the peak makes things too bright, and too much and the the sound is overdamped. Of course, all frequency response abberations have an effect in the time domain and you can see this resonance on square waves, as well as ringing in the impulse response. But the two issues, loading and VTA are completely independent and different.
Viridian is correct. They may seem coupled if you are using the loading to try and dampen a perceived increased peak due to misalignment of the SRA. Make sure the alignment including the VTA (actually SRA) is correct, then you can adjust the loading for the best performance.
Just to clarify a confusing sentence in my post.."Too little and the peak makes things too bright, and too much and the sound is overdamped." I was referring to damping, not impedance. The lower the impedance the greater the damping is. Almost counter intuitive, no?
I owned the XOno and was amazed by how many choices it provided!!!! To make life easy I set the SRA of the PC-1 at aprox 92* and the VTF at 2.1gr (the VTF landed up at 2.2) then changed loading values until I settled at 240ohm. I make very slight adjustments to VTA by the record if necessary. As you know the PC-1 is very sensitive to the slightest adjustment of any type. I think it's a matter of knowing your system and when the sound doesn't "feel" right physically/emotionally making the proper adjustment(s) to whatever.
I can't imagine the confusion the fine adjustments of the XOno might make, I only have 315ohms then 100ohm on each side of 240ohm so it is more evident that I need a slight adjustment to VTA or VTF.
Curious how cart setting has gone and what settings you've arrived at.
Hi Sam,
My AirTight PC-1 cartridge is loaded at 22 ohms at my Pass Xono. The VTF is 2.1g and antiskate is at about .8 on my SME V arm. VTA is close to level, adjusted by ear. I don't change VTA as it is difficult on my SME arm.
There is a useful thread going "MC loading at 47K" elsewhere in this chat so you can look at that for more information.

In my experience I got a much larger change in the sound from adjustments to VTA and the playing weight than the load resistance on the cartridge. But they ALL are important.

Set the playing weight at the center of the mfg. spec supplied. Set the arm level with the stylus resting on an OLD record with the table stopped (unplug it if necessary)! An index card is very useful for this leveling adjustment.Take care with the cartridge it is resting on the record!!!!

Set the load resistor at about 1000 ohms to start with (For a MC).

Now play a record. A string quartet is useful. You should get some bite from the strings and some depth to the soundstage. Raise the back of the arm by small increments. There will be a point when the lower notes die away and the sound gets too shrill. Back off the adjustment. You can level the arm and lower the back to see what happens. Usually the sound gets tubby and loses definition. Somewhere between the raising and lowering the sound will "lock in" and will sound very right.

The load resistor can now be lowered in value while playing a busy passage. Listen for definition of the various instruments in the mix.

Hope this helps.
Set the cartridge loading at 1000 to start with (MC). Set the playing weight at the center of the spec. If an optimum setting is suggested use that instead
Put a very used/scrap record on the turntable and unplug the table from the power. Rest the stylus on the record. Take Care. If you are clumsy stop!! Using a 3X3 index card level the arm by sight by placing the card on the record and sighting the arm.
Lift up the arm get a good record and plug the table back in. I use a string quartet to set VTA but any well recorded acoustic instrument will do. Raise the back of the arm in small increments till the sound stage locks in. (depth and sound). If you raise the back too far the sound will lose body and get shrill. You can repeat the exercise by re-leveling the arm and going lower in the back. The sound will get tubby and lose definition. Somewhere between you will hear it as very right!
The loading of the cartridge is a little more subtle. I use a complex passage such as an orchestra in full flight and listen for the individual instruments. A critically damped cartridge will give you that definition. Too low a resistance will reduce the highs. You are critically tuning a tuned circuit made up of resistance, capacitance and inductance. When undamped this gives the usual peak in the high frequencies seen on ALL moving coil cartridges. The resistive load you put across the cartridge (this includes the connecting cables to the preamp) helps to reduce the peak. Too low a resistance actually drops the high frequency response of the cartridge. This is another wrong case of "if some is good even less is better" This is tweaked by trial and error and depends on the cartridge and system. You cannot damage the cartridge by reducing or increasing this load resistance.

Hope this is useful.
Thanks for the response. How do you go about setting up a cartridge?
Sambar: Read my link. I hope it is clear enough. Numbers of 10 to 20 times the cartridge impedance for the load resistor are a VERY rough guide. I started with 1000 ohms so that the VTA could be set without the loading affecting the sound. You can then lower the value as I suggested after you have set up the VTA. As with all things in this hobby your ear is the final guide.
Hi Stops, I was thanking Peterayer for his response to my inquiry, I'm curious how he goes about setting up his cartridge after it's mounted on the arm. In the original post he asked;

"Is there any relationship between VTA and cartridge loading? Which should be set first?"

I use a record of "normal" thickness, set the SRA to 92* then set the VTF at a middle setting, recheck SRA, then set the loading at either 47kohm or 1000ohm and last adjust the antiskate for audio balance. I'm finding that starting with and working around the SRA (92*) is a faster, more repeatable system and much less confusing than trying to start with VTA.
I guess I'm saying SRA, VTF and loading are all first and VTA is for very fine tuning or last. There is so much going back and forth there is no one way.
I start with setting the VTF in the middle of the recommended range. Then I set the arm to be level on a thin LP. Then I set alignment using a MintLP protractor. Then I set antiskate low, maybe .5-.8g. Then I try different loading values, in my case, starting at 100 ohms as recommended by both the phono stage and cartridge manufacturers and move down, then up in value until complex passages sound clear and resolved and balanced tonally. Once that all sounds good, I go back to VTA, which with the SME V arm is a bit difficult to adjust. I now listen mostly to thin classical LPs, so I start with those and don't really adjust for thicker LPs because of the hassle. SRA is too difficult to see precisely, so I just adjust VTA by ear, basically listening for proper transient timing with respect to the note and its harmonics. The SME table and arm are really set-and-forget so I stop and enjoy the music. I have heard VTA adjusted on-the-fly by experts in this area and have been very impressed with the results, but my set up just doesn't really allow for that.
Sanhar: No problem. I think setting the VTA/SRA first is very important. It has a MUCH greater effect on the sound than the load resistance. Then you should reduce the resistance from the value I suggested. But it is your call.
If you set VTA/SRA first, do you also adjust VTA on-the-fly for different LP thicknesses. This would suggest that those listeners who do adjust for each LP, set their VTA last. Or do you then readjust loading again after you adjust VTA for each LP? Is my question clear?

I guess what I do is set VTA close (ie. level in my case) early on in the process, then set loading and finally set VTA again adjusting very slightly by ear as the final adjustment.
Peterayer: That is a good question. I set the VTA for the thinnest LP and find that it works very well for the thickest. I do not alter the VTA for each record. You can easily tweak away and not enjoy the music!

As I said in the prior thread the VTA adjustment has the largest impact on sound. You can start with a level arm (on a thin LP) and then go up in the back to optimize the VTA. However not all stylii are set exactly and 2-3 degree variations exist. The idea of starting with a load resistor well in excess of where you would end up ensures that what you are hearing is due to VTA adjustment only. If you for example chose a very low load resistor you can kill the high frequencies and may think that you need to raise the arm further in the back but you will never get it right.
I should say my load resistor on a Benz Glider SM ended up at 680 ohms for me, so maybe you should start at 2000 ohms which is where I started for this cartridge.
Thanks for the further explanation. I agree that VTA has a bigger effect on sound than does loading. This thread has me thinking I should play with loading some more. With my phono, unfortunately, that involves taking off the top of the unit and adjusting very tiny switches. The increments are also many. I'll start with a much higher setting and play some more this weekend. Thanks for the tip.
You are welcome. I suggested a method for tweaking the load in my thread of 3-30-11. I have a Phonomena and also have to take the top off. I would leave it off for a while till you optimize. I prefer good quality acoustic instruments for the "body" of the sound and complex classical for the"recovery" of the sound. You should be able to hear the individual instruments even in the crescendo on a well recorded piece.

Good luck!