What is best VTA for Clearaudio Maestro Cartridge?

I have a new Super Scoutmaster Reference turntable. I have put my 2 year old Clearaudio Maestro moving magnet cartridge on it. The sound is very bright and rather harsh. What is the best VTA setting for this cartridge- level, tipped forward a bit, or tipped back a bit?
Does anyone have any other set up ideas to get this cartridge sounding better?
PS. The Maestro sounded great on my tricked out Rega Planar 3, my previous table.
I recently installed a ClearAudio Virtuoso in place of a Benz Ref3 on my turntable and when I first listened it sounded so bad I thought the cartridge might be faulty.

Then I realized that the VTA was quite a bit too high in the back and started lowering it down. I got to a spot where it sounded much better and then played around a bit more to find the spot where the bass came alive and locked in.

So probably the arm needs to be level or even slightly tipped down in the back for the cartrige to start shining as it should. I'd start about level and lower it in small amounts from there. When you hit that magic spot, you'll know it.

I was really surprised at how sensitive the Virtuoso is to VTA changes. Good Luck!
Have you set up your cartridge using a Mint?... also experiment with removing anti-skate. I have the same table and no anti-skate works best with my 10.5i/Benz Ebony LP
Dear Jbcello, there is no such thing as a best VTA for a given cartridge. As the record companies never actually agreed on a reference cutting angle, there is a wide variation of optimum VTAs on the LPs we play.

Many seasoned collectors of LPs from the late 1950ies to our days do set their VTA according to label.

An example: a fairly modern Opus3 LP will need - say - a VTA which is slightly "bent forward" (tonearm base higher than headshell). If you have mounted your cartridge in a 9" tonearm, you will have to lower the base now by approximately 6 mm (1/4 inch) to meet the correct VTA for an old Mercury SR (and have to take into account that your effective length is now altered and you would have to re-align the tonearm/cartridge as you no longer are on the arc you originally aligned to).

Of course - each stylus sits in its cantilever in a certain angle. But there is no universal fixed reference on the LP to meet, as we face a wide varity of cutting angles.

So - this alignment has to be done by ear only. Its a direct interaction with the cutting angle on your records.
It depends on your records - not on the cartridge.
To fine tune, watch out for voice focus and ambient acoustic details.

Even under the best conditions and proper set up, If you have the wood version of the Maestro, you have a cart weight of 7g, which is not a good match for a unipiv. VPI JMW 9 or 10/10.5 arm. Also consider that it's of low/medium compliance, which doesn't help either. Most unipivots really benefit from higher compliance cart's in the range of greater than 15cu. Cart's in the 10+g weight would be better suited for the JMW.

If you have the 12g weight integral aluminum body version of the Maestro, you should be doing okay, and with proper alignment parameters, should sound fine.

The wood version does best with higher mass, fixed bearing arms like the sme or rega's.

Under proper alignment of VTA and VTF, azimuth..ect.. the Maestro is anything but bright, and noted for its warm, rich, yet exceptionally good tonal and transient qualities for a magnet. Like most cart's..It's proper VTA is when the stylus is exactly perpendicular to the record.
Thanks for all your input regarding this cartridge situation. When I first put the Clearaudio Maestro cartridge on the 10.5 arm I was not even able to adjust the arm to have the proper 2.5 gram tracking weight, so I put the metal weight that comes with the Maestro between the cartridge and tonearm. Now, I can adjust to the proper tracking weight, but the sound is still not very good. I was thinking of trying to put he extra weight on top of the tonearm instead of between the cartridge and the tonearm. maybe I should put an even heavier weight installed with the cartridge I have also not yet put the damping fluid in the tone arm well. I understand that this should improve things, but from what Kehut has written, this may not be enough to solve the problems. I may just have to get used to the fact that I need a different cartridge to match with the 10.5 arm. I do appreciate the information that the Maestro should not sound bright, but warm. That is why I brought the cartridge in the first place. I will continue to get a good sound out of the Maestro on this table and report back if I have had any luck. Thanks for your comments.
I have not tried the Mint alignment tool, if that is what you are referring to Stringreen. I am not currently using the anti-skate. What has your experience been with the Mint alignment tool compared to the VPI alignment tool?
Search for Mint on these forums. You'll find many dozens (hundreds?) of very satisfied users, including many who use JMW arms. The improvement vs. the stock protractor that came with my TriPlanar was (cliche alert) equal to a component upgrade. One of the best investments I've made.

I agree with Kehut in general. You might try putting the metal weight ABOVE the headshell instead of beneath. That will certainly change the way resonances behave, though whether for better or worse only your ears can tell. Damping will also help, it's often necessary with many unipivots.
Dear Jbcello: The Maestro cartridge has very good quality performance.

You was satisfied wih the Maestro/RB300., now all what other people already posted could help to improve on the cartridge performance but it seems to me that that VPI tonearm is not the best match for the Maestro.

I read that in the past you was loking for the RB1000 and here and now I think that that tonearm could be one of the best solution for that cartridge or other cartridges in the future.

So IMHO and before you make other investements about maybe it will be worth to consider that tonearm as a solution alternative.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I believe Kehut meant to say that proper VTA is achieved when the cartridge body is perpendicular to the record, not the stylus.
Records are cut at an average stylus angle of 15 degrees. Phono cartridges follow more or less the same geometry, however due to cartridge manufacturing tolerances, changes in vertical tracking force, different record thickness and non-standard VTA used by several labels, VTA is best adjusted by ear. A good starting point is with the arm tube paralell to the record.
Here is an update of my problems with getting my Clearaudio Maestro cartridge to sound good with my Super Scoutmaster Reference Turntable. As I have stated previously, because my Maestro Wood cartridge is so light in weight, I was not able to set the proper Vertical tracking force on the VPI 10.5 arm - I could not bring the rear counter weight forward enough. So, I had to use the extra small metal weight that Clearaudio includes with the Maestro cartridge. I installed this weight between the Maestro and the tone arm head shell. This enabled me to set the proper VTF of 2.5 grams.

After setting up the cartridge, the sound that was created was shrill, edgy, bright - really bad. I tried different tone arm cables with no change. I played with VTA and traking force and rechecked the arm set up. The terrible sound did not change. So, I decided to try putting the extra Clearaudio weight on top of the tone arm head shell, instead of in between the cartridge and head shell. The sound did not change much; still very unpleasant.

After living with this frustration for a while and thinking I should give up on this cartridge, I came up with the idea of trying the cartridge decoupler that came with an older MCZ Grado cartridge that I own. This decoupler is a light weight, metal like triangular piece that has three raised dimples on each of it's three corners. It is installed between the cartridge and the head shell and the three dimples rest against the cartridge, thereby decoupling it from the head shell to some extent. After setting up the cartridge for like the tenth time, I sat down for a listen. The sound was very different and much better. My records are now listenable and the sound is pretty good. I do believe there is room for more improvement though. For what I paid for this table, it should sound fantastic. So, I will continue to work with the Clearaudio Maestro. I think it can sound better.

There are a few more things that I think will improve the sound. One is the Mapleshade Nanomount system, which gets a lot of recommendations for the VPI tables. This will further isolate my cartridge from the tone arm. (see http://www.mapleshaderecords.com/audioproducts/nanomountsystem.php)

The other thing that I believe will help is to experiment with different resistance/capacitance loadings in my Magus preamp. Another Audiogon member has had good luck doing this using the same cartridge I have. Also, I spoke to Mike at VPI and he said they just got in a new McIntosh preamp that lets the user automatically change resistance/capacitance loading from a remote. Mike said that the change in sound can be startling.

The third thing is to keep trying different phone cables until I get one that sounds great.

Any comments or any other ideas that you readers may have are welcome. I have a feeling that I can make the Maestro sound great with my SSM table, but it may take a while.
Thanks for all you help. Joe
You may want to make sure that the Maestro's compliance is ideally matched to the VPI tonearm. With a Clearaudio tonearm at 2.2 grams, the Maestro tracks beatifully and does not giggle or wobble when playing warped or off-center discs, a sure sign of optimized cartridge compliance for the specific tonearm mass.
Also, the Maestro is sensitive to anti-skating force. Looking from the front, its stylus will play off-center if the anti-skating is not perfect, which seems to be difficult to set up with your tonearm.
AFAIK 2.0 to 2.2 grans is the correct VTF setting for the Maestro, not 2.5 grams. At 2,5 grams the moving iron will be misaligned with the stationary coils and the cartridge will sound dull and undynamic.
Also, if the tonearm weight pushed all the way forward gives a tracking force of 2.2 grams, do not worry about balancing the arm to zero or ading weights. A counterweight very close to the tonearmpivot will have minimal effective mass, which is a good thing to track warped records..
Good luck
Joe - I wanted to let you know that I own the Virtuoso that came with the Marantz TT, as sold by Crutchfield, and that I also purchased a used Maestro on ebay. I loaded the Maestro onto an inexpensive STANTON T.50 TT while breaking in the new Virtuoso on the Marantz. I could hear the Virtuoso open up and smooth out after about 35-40 hrs, while the used Maestro was pre-owned and already broken in. What I wanted to tell you is this: the Maestro on that Stanton (it has a removable headshell and installing a cartridge is super easy) made incredible playback of my LPs: RICHER and more plush sonics than the very fine Virtuoso, with as much and possibly more detail. The bass was so full and pleasant, while the spread and soundstage were excellent. You just wanted to stay and listen. The Virtuoso never quite gave me that same feeling. It sounded really fine, and I enjoyed analyzing each record it played in sonic terms, but with the Maestro, you just immediately heard this "richer" sound and thought: "yeah, baby - this is what I was after!", which is odd since they are so close in price. I guess my point is - before you totally sour on the Maestro due to all the histrionics you are going through with it, consider buying a (approx. $100) Stanton turntable and loading on your Maestro - it seems a great match, and will let you know what you've been missing immediately, for very little cash outlay!
There is a resonance frequency calculation tool that should give you a pretty good idea of how well a cartridge and arm will mate. You simply need to know the mass of the arm and cartridge and the compliance of the cartridge. If memory serves me right, the best resonance frequency is in the 8-12 hertz range. The problem I've had with this is that Clearaudio doesn't provide a spec for compliance (they do use a spec called trackability, but I'm not sure what that is or if it converts to compliance somehow). I've been considering a Maestro or Virtuoso wood for my VPI Scoutmaster with JWM 9 arm but can't be sure I'm even in the ballpark. But from what I'm reading here, it appears to me that the Maestro is not a good match for the arm. It's not a good/bad arm or cartridge, it's just a compatibility issue. According to the tool, and info I've gathered, the vpi 10.5 has a mass of about 10.9 gm, the Maestro wood's mass is 7 gm. Therefore it's looking for cartridge compliance of between 9 and 22 ┬Ám/mN to hit that 8-12 hertz mark. I'd really be interested in finding out if anyone has calculated the compliance for these cartridges - it would at least give us a ballpark within which to work.
I've own this exact setup for about 3yrs and have been fairly happy with it but am now looking to change the cartridge. Has anyone tried the Soundsmith Zephyer Moving Iron Cart? Looks like it's designed to go with the VPI Arm.
I'm a late poster to this thread. But I recently purchased a VPI Classic 1 turntable with the stock JMW 10.5i SE tonearm AND the CA Maestro Wood cartridge, and I thought I would share my experiences. In response to Dainapoo's 12/31/10 post, Musical Surroundings, the US distributor of Clear Audio products, specifies a compliance rating of 15 for the Maestro Wood. Assuming that the effective mass of the JMW 10.5i SE tonearm ranges somewhere between 9 and 11 grams, the Vinyl Engine resonance calculator computes the cartridge/tonearm resonance of the Maestro/JMW combination to be 10 Hz at either extreme. So, resonance compatibility, at least by the numbers, does NOT pop out as problematic.

Next, I spent quite a bit of time fiddling with the set up of my cartridge and tonearm. As I mentioned in another OP, I used the VPI jig to adjust alignment and overhang. The VPI jig incoporporates the Baerwald (sp?) geomtry in its construction. I also own a small bubble level designed for tonearm setup.

I used the bubble level to accurately adjust azimuth by placing the level on the tonearm head perpendicular to the wand and carefully lowering the tonearm onto an old record and adjusting the azimuth by twisting the weight on the back of the arm. Frankly, it's a pain in the as* because everytime I fiddled with the weight, I screwed up VTF. Ultimately, I made both adjustments.

Now, a lot of discussion above was devoted to SRA/VTA. I appreciate that record manufacturing processes can affect optinmal SRA/VTA, and I suppose to some degree azimuth too. I agree that the best approach is to adjust tonearm height to acheive a horizontal level of the tonearm head while the stylus is sitting on a record. Or, from the perspective of the stylus, 90 degrees. The bubble level made the job easy. As with azimuth, I placed the level on the tonearm head, but this time aligned the level with the wand, and adjusted the tonearm height until I achieved the desired SRA/VTA. Later, I fine tuned the SRA/VTA in the manner described above to achieve by ear optimal SRA/VTA.

I went through this detailed discussion because maybe I don't understand all the techno-talk, or perhaps I have an extremely undiscriminating ear -- which has its advantages. But after all the fuss adjusting my JMW 10.5i SE tonearm and Maestro Wood cartridge, I'm 100% satisfied with the performance of my rig. Trackability is perfect; no groove junping. The Maestro could navigate the most complex and dynamic classical music tracks. Couldn't be happier.

So I guess I'm just a bit confused. What's the problem??? What am I missing?? Have any respected reviwers commented that the Maestro Wood is not compatible with the JMW uni-pivot??
Clearaudio MM's do not work well in wimpy unipivot arms - they push the arm around in azimuth too much. I sold my VPI 10.5 and bought a vintage Zeta Black. The difference was night and day.

Get an arm that is stiff in azimuth, like an SME, and it will handle any combination of cartridge weight and lateral compliance.
Dcbingaman, what is so peculiar about CA MMs and unipivot arms and azimuth? The Maestro compliance is middle of the road: I believe 15. Why would other cartridges be a better match? I understand that the VPI Classic w/ stock arm is highly regarded. So I guess I am puzzled?? FWIW, while it takes a lot of fiddling for sure, I think my Maestro/VPI Classic combo seems ok. Maybe I just don't know what "good vinyl" is all about -- which really may be the case.
Take a look at my OP -- "VPI Classic/Clear Audio Maestro Wood Question." I'm tweaked out!
Bif, I wish I knew why. My guess is the combination of low / medium compliance and an unusually long cantilever. I talked to Mike at VPI and he recommended a 3G weight in the headshell, and a heavier "outrigger ring" to stabilize the azimuth. I tried the headshell weight, and it helped, but I still didn't get the bass response I wanted.

Dcbingaman, here's my post from the other thread:

"I'm still fiddling.

My most recent tweak is VTF. Clear Audio recommends between 2 amd 2.5 grams, with 2.2 grams recommended. I followed that recommendation, but I noticed that there was a low frequency resonance when I played classical music and the cellos and basses came on line, probably somewhere between 50 and 100 Hz.

I turned off my sub woofer, but still the resonance; the sub rolls off at 40 Hz. I fiddled around with VTA which resulted in a very slight improvement, but the low frequency resonance was still there. I then rechecked alignment -- no problem there. Azimuth was ok too.

So, I turned back to VTF. I increased weight. Yuck - even worse and the top-end took a vacation. I tried damping fluid. Worse still. I then lowered VTF to 2 grams and got rid of the damping fluid. The resonance disappeared and the top-end came back from vacation. Tomorrow, I may try reducing VTF by another .1 or .2 grams and see what gives.

Ok, so it was fun when I started, but now I'm getting bored. I just want to enjoy my music and stop listening to my equipment.

I share this tale because my experience shows just how much tweaking this arm requires. Hopefully, there WILL be an end-point, and then I can get back to the music. Also, I agree 100% with [the] comment 'that the ears will always be the final criterion in most matters concerning vinyl playback.' FWIW"


BTW, Mike and I are trading e mails about this issue. Mike said that the Classic JMW arm, if set up properly, should be a good match-up with the Maestro. Hopefully, I'll hear back from Mike tomorrow about how to best set the arm up. I'll report back with his suggestions.

If any of the contributor to this thread see this post, I have a follow up question. In connection with setting up and adjusting the Maestro Wood on the JMW tone arm, did anyone check playback quality with the mat on and off, or with the rubber washer on and off?

Maybe it's just "wishful hearing" on my part, but I think the low frequency resonance that I discussed above may be a little better with the mat and washer off. It also seems that the playback is tighter and more alive. However, as stated, it could just be "wishful hearing."

I know I'm very late to this conversation, but just found it. I have a Scoutmaster with a new Clearaudio Maestro V2 Ebony and noticed the same brightness at first. Drooped the VTA a bit and ran the tracking force at the high end (2.4+) to no avail. Then I realized the cartridge was coupling in high frequencies from the tonearm quite efficiently. A simple fix I found was replacing the supplied stainless screws with nylon one. Huge difference. I plan to further decouple it with something of my own design and will report.