Slowhand, this thread has a lot of information about stylus force gauges you might find useful:
The Jennings JS-50X or JS-100X should do the trick at $35 or $50. You have a good TT/cart. and need something with 1/100th of a gram precision. You can spend more if you want to, but you won't get anything really any better for the purpose of VTF setup.
I bought mine from saveonscales.com like Nsgarch did. It was a few years ago so it cost me $90-something. Equivalent models today are half that or less, as he said. Ebay sellers have them for very cheap too. I agree with his .01g recommendation too. It's silly to go for less.
You'll probably have to DIY some doohickey to hang off the edge of the scale and provide a record-height weighing step like the Winds has. I'm wagering you can do that for alot less than $300, especially if you use the cut-up pieces of a credit card to make it!
Some (not all) Shure gauges were made from magnetic material. Not the ideal choice for this application! When you find yours, check it with a magnet before trusting its results.
P.S. I have a spare 50g calibration weight. Anyone with a digital scale that calibrates @ 50g who needs one, please email me.
I had a Winds and it was great. I sold it a few years ago and have a Cartridge Man Digital Guage now. It works well. It's easy to use. The shortcoming is that the stylus must be dead centered on a depression in the little weighing pad to be accurate. When the stylus rests on any other part the results are different.
Overall, very good.
Dweller, I'm a believer that the gauge only gets you into the ballpark because the optimal VTF setting must be set by ear and must be determined through iterative adjustment and listening as VTA is dialed in because the two settings interact. At the risk of repeated my comment in another thread on this same topic... I've always followed Lloyd Walker's recommended procedure for fine tuning turntable setup: http://www.walkeraudio.com/fine_tuning_your_turntable.htm
So for me, greater accuracy than the Shure provides is irrelevant except in one situation: If one has multiple arm wands and needs to easily move from one to another, being able to re-establish quickly, easily and with great accuracy a predetermined optimum tracking force makes sense, and there are gauges out there that are more repeatable with precision than the Shuure. But in my opinion, that pre-determined optimum tracking force will have been determined in an earlier "dialing in by ear" process. In this case, the important factor is the gauge's repeatability of measurement (i.e., the ability to get precisely the same result over multiple measurements), not its absolute accuracy of measurement.
Hope you enjoy getting back into vinyl!
Rushton, finally someone who understands how to use a scale and the nonsense of getting highly 'accurate' scales (and expensive) for VTF setting of cartridges.
I use the small scale supplied with the B&O cartridge a long time ago and then 'tune' by ear with a test record. Repeatability is about 0.1g, which is sufficient for my purposes - I calibrate my vinyl playback system about every 3 months.
Salut, Bob P.
Thanks for the responses guys. I went on to the link for savonscales that Nsgarch posted. They have many scales. Which one do you guys suggest? As it turns out, my scale is a "My Weigh" MX 200. Saveon sells my weigh scales, but my MX 200 has since been replaced. My scale weighs to .1 gr. My problem is that it has no weight supplied with it, so I cannot check the accuracy of the scale. I bought it off someone on Audiogon a while back.
Rushton is correct of course, but there's another situation where a highly accurate scale is useful.
VTF settings on my tonearm are not inherently repeatable. Its only VTF mechanism is moving the counterweight, and the tiniest movement can throw VTF way off. Retightening the set screw can throw VTF way off again. Before I can use my fine VTF adjustment (sliding o-rings on the end shaft) I need to set the counterweight within .05g or so
Combine that scenario with a cartridge that needs a VTF tweak every time the temperature changes and the utility of a good scale becomes apparent very quickly.
Yes, we still have to fine tune by ear. But since I can only do that within a range of + or + .04g or so, a good scale is needed just to find the right starting point when setting the c/w.
Hi Doug, that's an interesting additional need for a precise gauge that I'll keep in mind.
Inpepinnovations (Bob P), that little B&O gauge always worked well for me, too, up to its weight capacity. Sounds like you and I share a similar philosophy on what works well for us with our systems!
Jsaah (Joe), glad the link was helpful. It's the small things that bring out the magic that our equipment is capable of delivering, and VTA/VTF for us analog nuts is one of those critical things. If you liked the turntable tuning suggestions, you might also enjoy reading Lloyd's comments elsewhere on his web site about how to listen critically to a system; I find those to be right on the mark, too.
Regards to all,
I tried the nickel test (assuming a nickel weighs 5 gr.) and my scale weighs it at 4.9gr. The owners manual for my ZYX Yatra has a tracking range of 1.7gr.-2.5gr. with a recommended tracking force of 2gr. If I assume my scales weigh light by .1gr. I find that records sound their best at 1.7gr. (scale set at 1.8gr.) I know this is on the very light side of the scale, but there is no mistracking and cymbals both shimmer more and have more weight to them at 1.7gr. At the recommeded 2gr. everything sounds kind of flat and dead sounding. I have played with the VTA at the 2gr. setting, but it still does not sound as good as at the 1.7gr. VTF. By the way, I am able to adjust VTA while playing a record (which is nice).
So, I think I am happier with the sound when I fine tune by using my ear and not the gauge.
I learned about a nickle weighing 5 grams in a college chemistry lab, where the instructor told us that we could use a nickle as a 5 gram weight in the balance. My recollection is that it was exactly 5 grams, but that is long ago and it is possible that the mint may have made changes affecting weight.
I am a firm believer that VTA should be set by the sound of a playing LP, and the adjust-while-it-plays feature (which I also have) is invaluable.
jig that would hang off to the side of the record and measure the the weight at the record level. The Scale was only around $30 and the parts I used to make the jig were only a few dollars. This turned out to be way better than the Shure and really helped me in getting my Shelter 901 set perfectly. I hope this helps.
I just calibrated my scale and weighed a nickel. It measured 5.02g, so the assumption that your scale under-weighs by about .1g seems correct.
It sounds like you've got VTF well nailed. The sonic effects of excessive VTF that you hear with your Yatra are exactly what I hear with my UNIverse. The first evidence of mistracking I hear is a slight tizz or lack of focus on massed strings. If I hear that I know VTF needs to be bumped up slightly.
The concensus that most ZYX's prefer a slightly higher VTF doesn't invalidate your results. Individual cartridges vary, especially in this parameter. The elastomers used in suspensions display very complex and unpredictable behaviors at the molecular level. To say that most ZYX's prefer VTF's around 1.9 - 2.0g is only a probability statement. Mine likes 1.92-2.10 depending on the weather. Cello's likes 2.15, even though he's in a warmer climate where one would expect lower VTF's. YMMV and trust your ears.
I suggest that Doug send Slow his nickel (or vice versa) so they can both be weighed on the same scale! Nickels also vary at the molecular level, to say nothing of their vintage, amount of wear, etc.
To assume the two gentlemen's nickels are identical is an obvious miscarriage of experimental design. Hmmm. . . .
Eldartford, I totally agree with you. But I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to twist the knife a little.
On the other hand, Doug is suggesting there could be a variance of .03 gm which is 1.5% of 2 grams. Is that significant?
Well, if it's due to a real difference between scales, it wouldn't matter, as long as you always use the same scale, along with your ears of course. If it's (only) due to a difference between nickels, then Doug and Slow's scales must be identical -- how wonderful!
Either way, who gives a f . . . . . . .?
It is useless to measure a parameter in a system to a greater degree of accuracy than the accuracy of another parameter of the system that also effects the performance of the system. For example, the temperature at which the elastomers are operating in the stylus affect more the performance of the stylus/catridge than the exact VTF. Surely nobody is measuring and controlling the ambient temperature of the cartridge to +/- 1%, yet we are talking about VTF measurements of that precision. Even the 'by ear' method is only correct for that specific temperature that day (theoretically) and all this fuss about needing .01g precision for VTF measurement is misplaced.
Perhaps the perceived difference in sound due to a .01g difference in VTF is due to the fact that the temperature has changed!
Bob is absolutely right IMO, however that hasn't stopped a few manufacturers from offering some really cute little cartridge warming lamps, ha ha!!
I mean, if it's THAT cold in your listening room, you need to stop buying vinyl and start paying your heating bill!
Also, on the serious(?) side, some cartridge manufacturers, notably Transfiguration, are touting a new "space-age" (are we still in the space age?) suspension material that is unaffected by variations in temperature from Pluto to Mercury! So maybe that will be a non-issue eventually.
Dear Bob: +++++ " and all this fuss about needing .01g precision for VTF measurement is misplaced. " +++++
I agree completely about.It is not only by the temperature subject or vinyl compliance ( like Eldartford told us ), it is too because does not exist any single LP that is totally flat and with the exactly the same thick over the recording area, so what sense has to have that 0.01g of precision for VTF?: none but a waste of time.
Slowhand, you don't need necessary a digital device, the analog Shure device is really good: this one is what I'm using for many years and I know that several people use it with good results.
Regards and enjoy the music.