Benz LP - 1.8 with the arm just a hair under horizontal from the rear. I have a Shure scale and am using it with the front feet off of the rim of the platter giving it a more accurate setting.
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Dear Sonofjim/Thomasheisig: I would like that you can share your experiences on your beloved cartridges, example:
Sonofjim, what changes in quality cartridge performance do you hear in your LP with a 1.93 and 1.95 grs against 1.94 grs ? do you check the VTA/SRA/overhang set-up with either VTF change?
Thomasheisig, could you tell us about in your Shelter 90X?: 1.89-1.91grs against 1.90grs.
Thank you in advance.
Regards and enjoy the music.
I haven't experimented with all those tiny increments in VTF. I use a digital scale that reads to the hundredth of a gram so I report what the readout says but I'm not sure how important hundredths of a gram are. I do have the other parameters you mention dialed in to the best of my ability. I try to get VTF into a pre-determined range(for the LP I wanted between 1.9 and 2 gms)as I'm setting everything else. Once it's sounding good I tend not to mess with it.
ZYX UNIverse on TriPlanar VII
Useable range: currently 1.45-1.60g (subject to change, see below)
Sweet zone: varies with weather and is always very narrow, just .01g wide or so, we fine tune daily and sometimes per each LP, by listening
Antiskating: is now virtually zero, no weight on the dogleg at all
A bit of explanation: our current acceptable VTF falls somewhere between 1.45-1.60g, but that does NOT mean we can play anywhere in that range and get decent results. All that range means is this:
- on the hottest/most humid summer days we play as low as 1.45g
- on the coldest/driest winter days we play as high as 1.60g
On any given day the sweet spot will fall somewhere between those limits, but no matter where it falls the sweet zone itself is always extremely narrow. Move more than .01g away from today's sweet spot and performance deteriorates.
Raul heard this during his visit a couple years ago. The cartridge sounded great during a long afternoon of play. Then we took a two hour dinner break and it cooled down (winter day, very cold and dry). When we started playing again in the evening the bass had gone lightweight and dynamics were weak, a sign of inadequate VTF. I added .015g and BANG!, we were back in the sweet zone.
As Oilmanmojo found, tracking a UNI at lower than recommended VTF's is not automatically possible. Mine didn't track at 1.50g when new and there was no need. Performance was ideal at 1.90g or so. It's only after many hours (1,000+) that tracking below 1.70, 1.60 and even 1.50 became possible and sounded best.
It's been the same with anti-skate. When the UNI was new we needed 6-8 little O-rings on the dogleg. Then we needed 4-5, then 2-3, etc. Now we don't need any, the weight of the empty dogleg is sufficient.
Clearly the suspension is relaxing with advancing hours. This has required adjustment to below the recommended range but there's a positive side effect: the tracking of really difficult passages (not a new UNIverse's strongest point) is much better than it used to be. There are one or two torturous spots in a handful of LP's I could never play cleanly. Now I can, and at much lower VTF's than we used a year or two ago. Practice makes perfect? :-)
Well, my VTF is normally done 1x and after that I only change it, when I use the cartridge in a different Arm. I have different settings for example with the same cartridge in the Phantom than in the Airline or DaVinci. With the FR-Arms I go to the lowest recommendation from the manufacturer.
But honestly, between 1.89 and 1.90 I don't invest much time, then I'll leave it the way it is.
Just rechecked the LP and the VTF is actually now reading 2.03. I was a bit surprised by this but I've been really enjoying the sound lately. The suggested range goes up to 2.2 and of course VPI recommends tracking on the heavy side, especially with no anti-skate. All other parameters are still dead on(I raise the arm to parallel when measuring VTF as suggested by Mike at VPI). I'm wondering if I should try lighter VTF or just leave it alone. How did you arrive at 1.8? Do you raise the arm to level when you measure this? Is it preferable to the 2 gm range? Things sound good enough I'm not sure I want to touch it.
Sonofjim et al.. I've been futzing around with all settings since I've "Minted" the setup. The VPI arm as you know is a royal pain to change VTF since every change (VTA, VTF, ec.) requires careful resetting of azimuth. Right now I have the arm almost exactly horizontal with a "bit" of damping at the pivot, no side thrust compensation, at 1.8 - maybe a wee bit heavier..I have a Shure Bros. scale which reads only approximate...especially at x2. I read on an Audiogon post that it reads more accurately when used at the perimeter of the platter with the front feet off...so I've been using it like that. As per your recommendation, I will increase the VTF, but need to be in the "mood" to undertake all that is required to set the arm up again. If the internal weight had some adjusting room, I would do it and report back, however, moving the rear counterweight requires futzing with the azimuth as I mention before. My daughter and her husband are here for Thanksgiving so it will be a couple of days before I'll get back. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. ..just to let you all know...it sounds great at its current setup...but I know we are always looking for more....
I agree it is somewhat tiresome to mess with the VTF/azimuth on these arms. That's why when it's sounding good I tend not to mess with it too. Trying to change VTF by one or two hundredths of a gram would almost be insanely tedious. Luckily I find I'm quite satisfied to be in a narrow range. When setting this, Mike at VPI says it's essential to have the arm level while the cartridge is on the scale to get an accurate reading. If it's not, when you return to a record you will be under tracking. I really find that a descent digital scale makes this go much easier. The recommendation to keep the counterweight just loose enough to move is a good one. In my case, I've had more success with the rod/by ear method of azimuth adjustment than doing it electronically. I have a marked wooden dowel that I can quickly place at various points around the rod that helps greatly in leveling it.
Madfloyd...that depends. If the internal weight is full forward, you can make the VTF lighter, or full back you can make it heavier. Someplace in between it is fully adjustable. In any case however, the azimuth will not be affected. Mine is fully forward, so to make the VTF heavier, I would need to move the main counterweight, and then check that the azimuth is again level. I check azimuth by using the rod. I have 2 Cardas blocks with washers glued to the blocks at the proper height, so that when the cartridge is resting on the record..just a hair above it...both ends of the rod will be just a hair above the modified Cardas blocks which are placed on either side of the cartridge and on a record just under the ends of the rod which is positioned on the headshell. (What a sentence that was)
I actually forgot about the fine tracking force adjustment and will experiment with that. In the past, I've found it doesn't change the VTF much but for these tiny adjustments it should be just the thing once you're in a good range. This morning I've been working on something new to double check the azimuth with the rod technique. I've simply modified the notecard recommended by Stringreen for leveling the arm initially. I cut an oval out of the folded card big enough to set it over the arm just behind the headshell. I noticed it wasn't sitting quite flat so I attached paper clips to the top edges on each side and slid them in and out until the card sits flat. Now from the front I have a level line to compare the rod with. I still double check this with my marked wooden dowel and wooden blocks similar to Stringreen's Cardas blocks but I'm finding the notecard adds a nice additional frame of reference for comparison. If this sounds like a Jerry-rigged affair, it's because it is I guess but so far I've found it very handy and effective.
OK - I did it. As per Sonofjim's recommendation, I changed the VTF from 1.8 or 9 to 2.2 or 3. I made the adjustment with the large main counterweight, because I didn't want to affect the mass at the headshell. I readjusting the azimuth, and checked the VTF many, many times, kept the bit of damping in the pivot, and with no anti-skate, I found that the sound did change. The low bass especially, had gained definition, so that it started and stopped with greater speed. Unfortunately, the depth retreated slightly, and the highs were less sweet. Singers' SSSS's became more sandpaper. Just as an experiment to try to make this adjustment better, since I surely didn't want to set up the arm again, I raised the back end of the arm by 1 hashmark on the 10.5 scale...surely a minute amount. It was like someone had switched on a button. The soundstage exploded huge. The singer was not just singing between the speakers, but was 10 feet behind, and in 3 dimensions. The speakers did their disappearing act as before, but the picture is now huge in all dimensions..height, depth, and width. SSS's are much clearer, but once in a while a bit of sandpaper still comes through. I tried different VTA settings, but always came back to that magic spot because of the openness that this setting provides. Thanks Sonofjim..
MOST OF MY TRACKING FORCES ARE BETWEEN 1 AND 1.5 GRAMS FOR THE VARIOUS SHURE CARTRIDGES THAT I OWN. THE LIGHTEST FORCE IS DESIREABLE SO THAT THERE IS MINIMAL WEAR ON THE RECORD BUT TOO LIGHT A FORCE WILL CAUSE THE TONEARM TO MISTRACK - JUMP OFF THE RECORD OR SKIP AT VARIOUS PLACES ON THE RECORD. THIS CAN ONLY BE DONE BY TRIAL AND ERROR. SOMETIMES A TONEARM WILL SKIP BECAUSE THE STYLUS IS WORN AND WON'T FIT INTO THE RECORD GROOVE. ALWAYS KEEP THE STYLUS NEEDLES IN GOOD CONDITION AND THEN THEY WILL TRACK PROPERLY. THE TURNTABLE SHOULD BE CAREFULLY LEVELED ALSO. THE BEST PLACE FOR A TURNTABLE IS ON A SHELF THAT SITS ON A CEMENT FLOOR. WOODEN FLOORS CAN VIBRATE FROM WALKING, JUMPING (KIDS) OR WHATEVER. IF YOU HAVE THE TURNTABE ON A TABLE OR RACK THAT IS ON A WOODEN FLOOR OVER A BASEMENT OR CRAWL SPACE, MORE CARE MUST GO INTO THIS ARRANGEMENT TO KEEP VIBRATION AT A MINIMUM.
For giggles one day, I set my tracking for to two grams... (unheard of for me) and was stunned at how good my albums sounded. This is the high side of every cartridge that I own, and I am so surprised at how clean, and focused everything is , how musical records are at that setting. Even when using cartridges that track perfectly at 3/4 of a gram, two is the sweet spot.
Another thing I am finding which is surprising is that many are now going from elliptical stylus to conical! (isn't that a step backward)? You won't believe how smooth sounding this simple change is. I have only tried it with one cartridge, but couldn't believe the difference.
I guess my next move is to chuck the vintage solid state gear and go tubes and horns. Back to the past seems to be where the future is at.
I have heard many report that "changing" something in your setup can sound like a big "improvement" just because it is "different" and you may be hearing new details you did not hear in quite the same way before.
Before I damaged my Grado Gold (because I am a moron) I tried a few tracking forces above and below the recommended 1.5 and ended up settling on 1.65 or something like that. It was like splitting hairs, though - microscopic adjustments made barely (if any) noticeable difference. In the end, it just "seemed" right at 1.65.
I run a Grado Statement 1 at 1.5g - 1.6g. set with a digital scale from Mapleshade that reads in hundredths of a gram. The Counterintuitive makes adjustments easy as pie on my JMW 10.5 arm. Also, since I finished setting up the extremely revealing new amps from D-Sonic, I had to face the reality that VTA differences when playing records of different thickness are now noticeable and so I adjust the arm height for every record. Too much VTF causes my bass to become muddied and reduced imaging integrity especially in the middle frequencies.
Right now I'm using the 3D arm. As I said in another post, it is a real PIA to set up with any kind of finess. The arm is very much tapered so I'm just guessing if its horizontal or not. The Benz LPS is tracking about 2.1. Harry promised me a new rear counterweight to make setup much easier. I'll dial the arm in better then. The overall sound is much better than the 10.5i even without precise setup... I'm not bothering with anything until the easier counterweight is in my hands.