What LPs do you use for VTA adjustment

Hi. I'm a newbie to this forum, and also to VTA adjustment. Been making GROSS changes to my system over the past couple of weeks, which has resulted in my getting an SME V arm to replace the RB300 on my Voyd Valdi TT, at least for now. Now for the first time, I have an arm with adjustments.

My system was optimised to my budget in the mid 80s, during my TAN (The Audiophile Network - any members here?) days: Voyd TT, British/Musical Fidelity MVT preamp, 4 MA-50 poweramps (mono 50w Class A), Rogers Studio 1a speakers vertically bi-amped, Kimber PBJ and 4TC. My current cartridge is an original Vdh MC10. The only things that have changed over the years have been cartridges and CD players.

Been playing with the HFNRR test record for tracking and anti skating adjustments. Trying to figure out what all the fuss is about VTA. The 3 records I've tried so far are Ella & Louis "Together Again" MSFL Mono, Patricia Barber "Modern Cool" MSFL, and Air "Walkie Talkie". Other than making the cartridge mistrack when the rear of the arm got too low, I'm not sure if I've honed in on the sound changes. I'm probably being overwhelmed by how good it sounds relative to the RB300, especially in the bass.

Am i right in saying its not just VTA, but a combo of VTA and VTF that needs to be adjusted? When the rear of the arm is low, more weight makes it track again.

Can you guys/gals (if any here) recommend records and tracks that YOU use for VTA setup, and what you listen for.

Right now, with the stylus in the leadout groove, using the SME V ruler to the center line on the arm, front of the arm is at the trackout groove is 1cm above the LP, rear of the arm just after the leadin groove is 0.9cm - so rear is appx 1mm lower. Anyone have or remember what setting they use on the VdH MC10? VTF at 1.8 gms.

Any volunteers in Stamford, CT that want to lend me their ears?

Thanks, Samir.
Hi Samir,

You're correct that arm height and VTF are interrelated. If you have a sufficiently accurate scale you can easily measure changes in VTF as you raise or lower your arm.

I'd suggest letting that nice new arm settle in a bit before fretting too much about fine tuning VTA. You need to get used to the sound, no doubt much improved, before attempting any subtle fine tuning.

For an interim/average setting, I'd suggest the method explained in the thead linked below. With a line contact stylus like most VdH's it should be fairly easy to do:

Jon Risch's "VTA once and for all!"

If/when you want to get more into it, setting by ear is the only way of course. There are two levels of differences one can hear. Largish VTA changes alter the tonal balance. Dropping the arm emphasizes bass and attenuates highs. Raising the arm does the opposite. This is true on any record, just find the middle ground.

When you approach the sweet spot very small VTA changes will have little impact on tonal balance. The thing to listen for at this stage is image focus. On any given record there will be a tiny range of VTA (SRA) settings that will "snap" images into sharp focus. Now you won't just hear a piano, you'll hear individual strings and hammers. On my Shelter 901 changing arm height by .04mm or less makes the difference between being in this sweet spot or not. A line contact stylus is likely to be even more particular.

What you're seeking is the precise spot where the contact lines of your stylus *exactly* match the angle of the cutting stylus. When you hit it your stylus can trace the highest freq's on the record while keeping both channels exactly in phase. Perfect reproduction of phase relationships between the two channels is what re-creates clear sonic images.

There is no "best" record for this level of fine tuning. At this level each record (or at least each label) will need its own setting. This may be the path to the best possible sound, but of course it's also the path to obsessive madness! Beware.
"If/when you want to get more into it, setting by ear is the only way of course."

Dougdeacon's comment above is absolutely true. For some guidance on the relatively simple process of setting up your turntable by ear, read Lloyd Walker's process which he follows in setting up and dialing in his turntables. Works every time, and if you haven't taken the time to do the final dialing in that Lloyd describes, you're likely missing what your system is capable of delivering...


Pay particular attention to Lloyd's recommendation to use an LP with acoustic complex music, classical or complex jazz. I particularly like Stravinsky's "Firebird" on Mercury (Classic Records reissue).
If you want a simpler record, try CSN&Y Deja Vu'. Almost Cut My Hair is a good example. Use this one for the "air" around the guitars, dial in the VTA. This whole record is good for VTA. I have the origianl on Atlantic, which is very particular for VTA. I have not bought a MFSL copy yet, but will do soon.
Thanks. Keep the suggestions coming, I just dug out my copy of Stravinksy conducting the Firebird, and had a wonderful time listening to it. Its been years since I heard it last.
Thanks for posting that page by Lloyd Walker. I read it a year or two ago and then totally forgot he'd put it on his site. Mr. Walker explains it all more clearly than I could, which will surprise nobody of course.

Who conducts that 'Firebird' you referenced? I have a mono Mercury of Dorati conducting 'Petrouchka' and it's one of the half dozen best records I own, if a little noisy.
Dougdeacon, the Stravinsky Firebird is the Dorati performance with the LSO, but in stereo. The 45 rpm version is incredible. Both the 33 and 45 versions are still available from Acoustic Sounds. The 45 is at a premium price since they are out of print, but the 33 has been reissued by Classic and is available at regular price once again.
Thanks, Rushton. I'm glad to hear that, since I already have the 45. And I totally agree with your assessment.
Dear friend: The best way to set up the VTA is: trust in your ears and experience in live music, take 3-4 records that you know very well and set the VTA where you have the better FOCUS ( I agree in all what already told you Dogdeacon ).
Best regards.
"On my Shelter 901 changing arm height by .04mm or less makes the difference between being in this sweet spot or not." Doug, do you set the VTA for each record in your collection? 0.04mm is 0.002". I measured the thickness of some of my records last night and they all varied more than 0.002". If you do set your VTA for each record you are more of an analog slave than I. very best regards, JT
Hi JT,
We are indeed shackled to analog! We set VTA for each record, or at least each change in record label and/or thickness. Even with a clutzy Rega style arm it only takes about 30 seconds. Fine tuning can usually be done with our VTF-on-the-fly mod.

There's even more to it than record thickness. For much of the LP era, different labels cut their lacquers using different cutting stylus angles. There was no standard. Even records of identical thickness may need different playback angles.

We're building a list of labels, eras and LP weights (as a proxy for thickness) along with our optimal VTA setting for each. It's become second nature to look up a setting and dial it in before cueing the arm.

Hi Doug,

When you have the list complete, or nearing completion let us know. I think that information would seem quite helpful and valuable! As a newbie to learning to dial in VTA as well as VTF it will be nice to know a certain "generality" of a said label or era, etc.

Best Regards.
I'd be perfectly willing to share my list of course, though it might be of marginal utility. All I've recorded for the VTA data point is the relative position of the mark on my Expressimo VTA collar, e. g., 7:30 or 9:45 or whatever. Unless you have the same VTA collar it would be nearly meaningless. I suppose it would give some sense of relative arm heights for different records.

Yesterday we hit a new low ;-) while playing a record on the Tudor label. (Anybody ever hear of them? This is the only one I've ever seen.) The record wasn't outrageously thin or light, about 120g IIRC, but the optimal arm height was .25mm lower than any other record I've played. This is a HUGE adjustment. It took me 5 or 6 tries to find the right spot, I couldn't believe how low I was having to go. Tudor must have cut their lacquers at a much lower angle than most labels.
One thing nice about my Graham 2.2 is that it has a graduated scale from which to take reference points and allow fine tuning while retaining the ability to get back to square one...with a vernier scale on the adjusting knob which allows fine-tuning the VTA in increments of 0.0005 inches to the vertical reference - on the fly.

The "bad" part with such flexibilty is that, like Doug, I've found myself adjusting each record-type individually. A log of such would prove very useful, I'll have to take that suggestion. But, as Doug says, the transferability of such info to a different arm would be problematic.
Dear Samir: Here it is another way to adjust VTA/SRA:
invert the polarity in one channel, put a mono record, set the preamp in mono and adjust the VTA/SRA where you hear least sound.
The VTA/SRA is a critical parameter, but don't be madness and obsessive with it.You, like me, want to enjoy music instead of adjusting equipement, so always we have to take a compromise position. I recomended that you use an average thickness record or 3 to 4 different thickneses/labels of records and finding the best compromise. Then : turn on your audio system and enjoy listening to the music.
BTW and only for information: The industry standard for cutting head VTA is 20 degrees, each cartridge is designed to function around this angle when the tonearm is parallel to the record, so you have to start with your tonearm parallel to your records, this position is very very close to the " ideal ".
There are many issues in the VTA/SRA, but what you want is to know how adjust it and I think that now you already knew it.
Best wishes and always enjoy the music.
As i recall there is no guarantee that 20 degrees is the VTA used for a given recording. It would be great if there were a standard that everyone used, but alas....In many cases the angle used is 20 degrees, but in many others the actual angle is 18 or 22 degrees or anywhere in between.
There may be a standard cutting angle today, but there certainly wasn't back in the LP's glory days from 1955-70. Optimal arm height on same-thickness records from that era varies with the record label and date. It's clear to me that Decca/London, RCA and DGG/Archiv, to name just three, used different cutting angles. It may even have varied from one plant to another within the same company.

Obviously each of us can take this as far as we wish, and one could certainly "set and forget" if one chose. I suspect this might be more satisfactory with rock or other "processed" music than with classical. Large scale works with acoustic instruments are especially revealing of tiny setup changes, even more so if a chorus and soloists are involved. Getting it just right really brings them all to life.

Warning: just a week or so ago '4yanx' expressed some surprise that I was adjusting for each record. Now he's doing it himself! Once you hear that sweet spot you'll want to find it on every record. Ever try just a little cocaine? ;-)
You mean the drug that makes you a new man, except for the problem that now the new man wants his, too? Oy...
Dear Doug: As you know I'm a newcomer to this forum. In this time my perception is that you always give an answer " because you have to give an answer and argue about ". I explain this issue: you told us that " only takes 30 seconds for do a change an do a correct adjust to the VTA ", I wonder how in this 30 seconds anybody can do it. I gave to Samir two ways to adjust the VTA/SRA: by ear and " invert the polarity ...", these is the issue for Samir and I think that these elements can help him to do it and I urge him to enjoy the music and your answer is " that this adjust has to do in each record . This is what you are doing." I think that Samir, before doing this, have severals ways to improve the quality of him sound reproduction, but this is other history. Another exmaple: the stepup transformer issue (remember ? ): you put some answers defending the use of the stepup transformer because you use it, you never said " OK. I will try a preamp with a built in high gain phono stage and we will see what happen ". I think that the only way to learn ( all of us ) is having an " open mind ". I respet your ideas but I think that you need to change your attitude. BTW, in one of your answer to me you write: " I would never quarrel with your experiences ( wich exeed mine )...", I refer to this because like in the step up transformer I already live the experience, too, with the adjust in VTA/SRA, and like always I want that the people enjoy the music in an easy manner with top quality. At one time I was an audophile, like you, now I'm a music lover ( I always been a music lover ) at my home. I already pass for everything trying to find the best music reproduction. Now, I'm worried about to have the time to enjoy the music.
BTW, like Samir, you have severals paths for to have a better sound reproduction at your home, invest your time on it and share with all us your findings. That is what I'm trying to do.
God luck.
As you yourself attest, Raul, you are a newcomer to this forum. As such, I think you are being a bit too sensitive and critical of Doug's responses. After you are here for a spell, I think you will come to appreciate that statement. He, like many others here, are hoping that readers will benefit from the sharing of HIS experiences, which is what I think he has done. Just because it doesn't match your experience doesn't mean he thinks you're wrong (recognizing that Doug can speak for himself). At the same time, you have given some sound advice which people have also read and can take or leave at their choosing.

As for adjusting VTA within 30 seconds, and assuming you have it close to begin with, how can that NOT be done? With someone sitting in the sweet spot and someone adjusting VTA on the fly, obvious changes are quickly determined. OK, maybe it would take a few such adjustments to agree on the exact spot, but you get the idea.

I would agree with your thesis on MC stages to a point. That point depends on the quality of equipment. Maybe, all things equal, your point is correct. However, from my EXPERIENCE, I have heard MC phono stages with external step-ups and internal step-ups that have sounded superior to contained MC phono stages. So, any kind of blanket statement in that respect is likely unfair.

Cheers to the music. On that I hope we can all agree!

I will give your VTA using inverted phase and mono linestage setting a go and report back!
Hi 4yanx: I really appreciate your answer. Thank's God, Doug don't match my experience, if this it happen then we don't have anything to talk about it.
My point is that, till now, Doug never open the window " to see what happen out side his home ". This is what I can see on my forum time. The stepup transformer was a transparent case on it, he write one and again defending what he has at home never told anything different on his position. He close the door. That's the point.
Anyway, TKS again for your answer and remember always enjoy the music.
Samir asked for ideas about VTA/VTF. I provided mine and you agreed with me (on 5/17). All was well.

Then you suggested choosing 3 or 4 predetermined arm height settings in order to relax and enjoy the music. I agreed that would be acceptable for many. No problem.

Then you said, "The industry standard for cutting head VTA is 20 degrees". This was a factual-sounding, all-encompassing statement that is demonstrably untrue. On that other thread, you stated that high gain stages are always and necessarily superior to transformers. This also was an overstatement, as I pointed out there and as '4yanx' has just pointed out again, using much the same arguments.

From my POV what needs to happen is that you need to temper your inclination to make absolute statements that purport to encompass the entire body of knowledge about a subject. Strange as it seems, neither you nor I know everything. ;) I try hard not to give the impression that anything I post is the whole and only truth. If you'll try to stop making such absolute statements, I'll try to stop correcting them.

And I love broadening my horizons, as many of my A'gon friends know. I still wish you'd post your system(s). That would give us all a better perspective on your experience.

Once again, I find myself apologizing to a thread starter for responding to Rauliruegas' somewhat personal style of discourse. Hopefully we can do better at staying on topic.

Regards to all,
Doug: I think that you don't understand my point of view,that I already explain to you and to our friend 4yanx,
the issue is not if you are correcting what I say ( there is no problem with it. You have the rights for doing that. ) the issue is that ( my impression ) you are a close door. That's it.
Like our friend 4yanx ( btw, wich is your name ) told us, about the stepup transformer, " all things equal ....", why don't try about my absolute statement and " we will see what happen ".
I will not hijack Samir's thread to discuss what you think of me. Other than you and me, who would possibly care?

Feel free to email me if you wish to discuss this further.

Back to the original question; I most often use "In Search of the Lost Chord", Moody Blues, Deram/London, DES 18017.

I bought it in 1969 (?) and after hundreds of playings it is my reference for "tone" adjustments. It is not the greatest for space, air, etc., but the boys had good ears for tone.

The first cut, "Departure", starts with low tones and moves to the highs very smoothly and is a good indicator of if I am close with VTA.

Cut three, "Doctor Livingston, I Presume, has some close vocal harmonies that I find revealing if I am "off."

The remainder of the album varies between passages that are complex (orchestral sound) and simple (single voice, the flute in cut 5, "Legend of a Mind" (Timothy Leary is Dead), etc.).

Plus, it matches most of my collection, which is comprised of non-audiophile, retail, LP's. When I am listening to some of my more recent purchases (200 gm reissues) I change the mat to a thicker one. This gets me very close without having to drag out the tool kit.

Best regards,

Now, this is an album I can relate to! I'm a huge Moody Blues fan, and this is one of my favorite albums too. I dialed in my VTA on my vdH MC10 + SME V, and got to the point that I was happy, and have not touched it in months..But, I think I'm going to sell the vdH and fool around with my Koetsu Black and Audionote cartridges, so I'll have to mess around with VTA again a few more times.

Thanks to everyone for the discussions on this thread..I've been lurking all summer, busy with house guests and the kids with little time to play with the stereos..Hopefully I'll have more time this holiday season.

Thanks, Samir.