View Full Version : Okay - so what should VTF really be


arcorob
08-26-2012, 11:06 AM
This is a tougher question than one would think and been discussed often but not specific in a scientific way.

Case in point. I have an AT150Mlx...this particular cart has a huge range for tracking .75 to 1.75.

Now we have all seen that engineering wise they prefer upper end (non-specific) and many audiophiles like light force, etc.

Well, nowhere can I find something that say with THIS ARM and THAT CART, this is optimal (or at least a heck of alot closer than that 1 gram range).

Some will say whatever sounds best but that is really hard to tell sometimes and really, how much sound difference would there be at say 1.40 vs 1.55 ? It could be that 1.40 is optimal but with no way to gauge...

Anyway, just thought this was interesting as I have been really trying to dial in my AT cart and AT arm (heck ..why have a 6 gram arm if I am not looking to track light right ?) and can't tell if I am too forceful or not forceful enough..I try 1.50 but that is just a happy medium...It might be PERFECT at 1.25 and I am producing unnecessary wear

avole
08-26-2012, 11:16 AM
Get yourself a test record.

Myself, I always go for the top end of the scale, so in your case I'd go for 1.75. With a test record, start at that and back off until the test tracks begin to show problems.

Bob_in_OKC
08-26-2012, 11:25 AM
I don't have an science to offer, but I lean to the high side...not necessarily the top of the range. If the range is narrow, like 0.75.to 1.25 I'll go pretty close to 1.25. But in the case of 0.75 to 1.75, I'll go to maybe 1.45 or 1.50.

I don't just set it one time and leave it. I adjust slightly later if I hear something I think could be improved with a change of force. With a Rega Elys, I eventually found myself at the recommendation, rather than above it. With my Benz, I've been playing it on the low side.

arcorob
08-26-2012, 11:34 AM
Get yourself a test record.

Myself, I always go for the top end of the scale, so in your case I'd go for 1.75. With a test record, start at that and back off until the test tracks begin to show problems.

I have a test record in fact...hadn't thought of that ..DUH...

Question, is it better to use a test record with a good set of headphones?

jsisk
08-26-2012, 11:41 AM
I have a test record in fact...hadn't thought of that
Question, is it better to use a test record with a good set of headphones?


That would be the best way to go. Depending on the test record (I have Shure's type IV test record) it can get a little tough on the ears with headphones.

mackat
08-26-2012, 11:43 AM
This is a tougher question than one would think and been discussed often but not specific in a scientific way.

Case in point. I have an AT150Mlx...this particular cart has a huge range for tracking .75 to 1.75.

Now we have all seen that engineering wise they prefer upper end (non-specific) and many audiophiles like light force, etc.

Well, nowhere can I find something that say with THIS ARM and THAT CART, this is optimal (or at least a heck of alot closer than that 1 gram range).

Some will say whatever sounds best but that is really hard to tell sometimes and really, how much sound difference would there be at say 1.40 vs 1.55 ? It could be that 1.40 is optimal but with no way to gauge...

Anyway, just thought this was interesting as I have been really trying to dial in my AT cart and AT arm (heck ..why have a 6 gram arm if I am not looking to track light right ?) and can't tell if I am too forceful or not forceful enough..I try 1.50 but that is just a happy medium...It might be PERFECT at 1.25 and I am producing unnecessary wear

Yes, I say get a test record. I need to do that too!!!:D

And when you say (heck ..why have a 6 gram arm if I am not looking to track light right ?), that's not the right approach. Yes, higher compliance cartridges that typically mate well with lower mass tonearms, track lighter, so you're tracking pretty light anyway. They have the variation to help resonances when it's put into a different mass tonearm.

Mass: think of mass as inertia. On a low mass tonearm and a high compliance cartridge, it works really well, right? That's because there isn't very much inertia compared to a high mass tonearm, which I'll get to next. So, the tonearm can go up and down very fast. Low compliance cartridges and high mass tonearms work really well also, right? That is because the cantilever is much more rigid, and the tonearm has more mass. The mass of the tonearm affects up and down movements as the whole mass (not just the tracking force) has to fall with the cartridge, tonearm, and stylus. That's why there has to be a more rigid cantilever, because with a high compliance cartridge on a high mass tonearm, you can often see the cantilever wiggling. With a low compliance cartridge on a low mass tonearm, there isn't enough mass on the tonearm, and that's what that stylus wants to flex more.

Hope this helps.

Thanks!


Ben aka MacKat

flavio81
08-26-2012, 12:20 PM
This is a tougher question than one would think and been discussed often but not specific in a scientific way.

Case in point. I have an AT150Mlx...this particular cart has a huge range for tracking .75 to 1.75.(...)I try 1.50 but that is just a happy medium...It might be PERFECT at 1.25 and I am producing unnecessary wear

Very easy: You use 1.75 while the cart is new and then after some months, when the rubber softens a little bit, you can use 1.5 or maybe lower if you're sure that tracking is always perfect.

Don't worry about wear. This won't do any harm to your records, even if you were using it at 2.0 gram.

As for the tonearm variable, a mediocre tonearm will demand more VTF from the same cartridge than an excellent tonearm.

But between 0.75 and 1.75, they are all very light and gentle tracking forces, so i'd just use 1.5-1.75 and be happy.

kirk57
08-26-2012, 01:00 PM
Wear from excessive tracking force is much less of a concern than groove damage due to to mistracking, caused by too light a force.

I go towards the upper end of the scale. using 1.5 on my 150mlx.
Sounds better that way, too.

markd51
08-26-2012, 01:11 PM
IMO, some of what's been said is correct, and some of it may be not so correct.

There will never be an optimum setting, even with two exact same cartridges, and the exact same age, time on them, on any given day.

There's of course a manufacturer's suggested range of VTF, and for non-anal purposes, the cartridge should reasonably track, and sound OK within that range. Yes, as I think others (Mackat) states, a cheapo arm, with not so good bearings might have a difficult time. I know there were some real doozy AT Arms, very nice top flight build quality, like jewels.

In general, a Catrtridge will probably behave better when new at the upper range of suggested VTF, right up the stated limit threshold. This most likely will be optimal at this point, with no mistracking noted, and as mentioned, you shouldn't have to worry about record damage. And in fact, tracking too light at any given age of this cartridge will proove more detrimental, rather than tracking a bit too heavy.

Because if the cartridge then mistracks, you've got a diamond stylus bouncing around in the groove, damaging the groove in the process.

Test records? Most are basiclly useless, except for maybe entertainment purposes, and checking things like phasing, channel balance, and a few other checks just to confirm things are wiring properly.

The torture test tracks will often proove very little if anything. Firstly, one doesn't "listen" to torture test tracks, one listens to music. Set up a cartridge to make it through all torture tracks, and you'll most likely be tracking at too high VTF. Yes, it will play on your records, but two common traits about cartridges 1. Track too heavy you'll squash-effect the highs. 2. Track too light and you'll not get quite as good bass response. That, and with too light tracking, distortion, and damage can occur.

Any apparent distortion/mistracking can be caused by other factors. As an example, an improper setup of cartridge in regards to alignment, (Overhang-Azimuth-Zenith Angle, VTA) can cause mistracking or a non-optimum playback, and by fiddling with VTF, you're then not actually properly addressing the causes of any tracking issues, only masking them, and again, you'll not achieve optimum set up with any given cartridge.

Once one is assured of proper alignment, then the fun begins and one can play with and adjust setting like VTA, VTF. Keep in mind considerable adjustments in VTA-VTF can cause geometric changes in overhang alignment.

I would say track towards the heavy range for the first 20-30 hours of play, then, and only after then, when the Cantilever suspension begins to break in, then begin to back off in very small increments of .1g with real records. Use ones that have lots of dynamic tracks, highs, good bass, mids.

Then when backing off, and if you begin to start noting issues with distortion, the arm, and cartridge seems to be getting wooly, or you are noticing a susceptibility of distortions coming from acoustical feedback, excess rumble, then most likely you are then either too light with VTA, or have other issues such as poor isolation of the table.

Tables, arms and cartidges can be finnicky, but the extra time spent with fine tuning will reap sonic rewards.

Blue Shadow
08-26-2012, 01:11 PM
The quality of the tonearm has a good bit to do with these tracking force recommendations. And SME will be much more capable of competently using a low tracking force than some low end table (names changed to protect the guilty).

But either arm may have trouble, which means the cartridge, tracking some of the highly modulated (loud) parts of a test record. I did the anti-skate adjustment last night using a test record and had to up the tracking force from the specified optimum by 0.2 grams to get better tracking in both channels while adding BBs to the bucket to get the tracking the same in the L+R channels.

The recommendation to use a test record designed to help determine mistracking is the right thing to do. CBS has a number of test records that will allow determination of different parameters of record playback systems. As stated above those torture tracks test records are for show, not alignment of the system. It all depends on what test records you have available and what they offer.

Attached is a flyer from one of the CBS Test Records I have. It explains what some of their offerings were and what they are designed to help measure, set-up and determine.

arcorob
08-26-2012, 01:12 PM
I did some in-depth testing using the test record and then some favorite albums.

First, realigned verything so that tracking and azimuth, VTA, etc. were as close to perfect as humanly possible short of a miroscope ..lol

Then I used the test record several times at various weights and adjusted anti-skate. So seems like optimal (right now) is 1.60 VTF wth approx 1.25 anti skate. Sounds pretty awesome.

One thing I detected at higher weight was the bass becoming a tad muddy and too deep ...that was at about 1.75 to 1.78...

At 1.40 or less the tracking record (especially tubular bells) had 1 discernable knock at level 2 and several at level 3...On most of my tables, with proper setup i can t least get through level 3 with some clank at level 4 so...

1.60 it is...

Thanks all for the help

Blue Shadow
08-26-2012, 01:19 PM
I agree with the anti-skate not matching the tracking force. I have never used as many BBs as specified and use considerably less, to maybe none, just hanging the bucket.

Glad you got it dialed in. Seems you got some results worth enjoying, Party-on.

avole
08-26-2012, 01:51 PM
@markd51, you don't seem to understand the concepts behind test records. Here's a link which should explain things a bit: http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/hfnrrdisc_e.html
http://www.vinylengine.com/hfn-002-test-lp.shtml
There's plenty more. They're great tools to help you calibrate your system!

avole
08-26-2012, 01:53 PM
Excellent, arcorob! I'm just about to start doing the same with my DL103 - new headshell + weight, should be interesting.

arcorob
08-26-2012, 03:15 PM
Excellent, arcorob! I'm just about to start doing the same with my DL103 - new headshell + weight, should be interesting.

I really had completely forgotten about it..and to tell you the truth< always noticed if I could get the bells to be pretty spot on, the rest just seemed to work...

I think it got me 95% there, verified my balance pretty well for anti-skate and then the final was a few albums for sound repro. When I noticed the bass a bit muddier than I thought it should be, I backed off in .05 incremets and viola...

Good luck with the DL103...some of you guys have me drooling to try a Denon but to be honest, I am pretty happy with my AT's and DONT want to spend any more money right now...lol

By the way for those who mentioned ARM's..the arm is a AT1100 with silicon damping...VERY VERY sweet...worth every penny I paid

http://www.vinylengine.com/library/audio-technica/at-1100.shtml

Herr Eickhorn
08-26-2012, 05:09 PM
If you change the VTF, doesn't that also change the VTA/SRA? So how do you know which is responsible for the better (or worse) sound?

markd51
08-26-2012, 08:33 PM
@markd51, you don't seem to understand the concepts behind test records. Here's a link which should explain things a bit: http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/hfnrrdisc_e.html
http://www.vinylengine.com/hfn-002-test-lp.shtml
There's plenty more. They're great tools to help you calibrate your system!

Nope, in actuality, you don't seem to understand these test record's uselessness as a tool to fine tune a cartridge after preliminary set-up.

The ear is the best tool, and there will never be anything to replace, and substitute for that tool.

I've had the Hi Fi News Record for 15 years, and as I previously said, if you have doubts that you wired something backwards, at least one of these records will help the clueless, and inexperienced out of the woods.


Maybe I'm sounding harsh, but without a doubt, a test record might tell you that you have a gross problem. But not be worth a damn to optimally fine tune the set up of a cartridge.

Ask Hakaplan what he thinks of the Hi Fi News record?

I've got about 6 test records here, including two Cardas. All haven't been out of their sleeves in years, other than to clean, and then put away

mackat
08-26-2012, 08:40 PM
I've got about 6 test records here, including two Cardas. All haven't been out of their sleeves in years, other than to clean, and then put away

I'll take one, thanks! :D:D:D:D:D


Ben aka MacKat

arcorob
08-26-2012, 08:59 PM
Nope, in actuality, you don't seem to understand these test record's uselessness as a tool to fine tune a cartridge after preliminary set-up.

The ear is the best tool, and there will never be anything to replace, and substitute for that tool.


Respectfully, I have to disagree. While the preliminary setup is essential and the ears the final arbitar tool, the test record uses selected sounds at varying degrees that allow you to use those ears much as one would use a meter or oscilliscope.

It provides singular type sounds at incremental degrees which bring forth mistracking issues. I experienced it myself today using the bells to dial in a better VTF.

I am not saying a test record is a be all end all..just saying all tools help..protractor, digital scale, levels, etc..all assist. No, I don't have a USB microscope to measure SRA but I think I am pretty close.

In all, I agree that your ears are the final judge...but I certainly appreciate the tools that get me there....:yes:

markd51
08-26-2012, 09:38 PM
Respectfully, I have to disagree. While the preliminary setup is essential and the ears the final arbitar tool, the test record uses selected sounds at varying degrees that allow you to use those ears much as one would use a meter or oscilliscope.

It provides singular type sounds at incremental degrees which bring forth mistracking issues. I experienced it myself today using the bells to dial in a better VTF.

I am not saying a test record is a be all end all..just saying all tools help..protractor, digital scale, levels, etc..all assist. No, I don't have a USB microscope to measure SRA but I think I am pretty close.

In all, I agree that your ears are the final judge...but I certainly appreciate the tools that get me there....:yes:

Which record, and which tracks are you referring to?

avole
08-26-2012, 09:41 PM
Nope, in actuality, you don't seem to understand these test record's uselessness as a tool to fine tune a cartridge after preliminary set-up.

The ear is the best tool, and there will never be anything to replace, and substitute for that tool.

I've had the Hi Fi News Record for 15 years, and as I previously said, if you have doubts that you wired something backwards, at least one of these records will help the clueless, and inexperienced out of the woods.


Maybe I'm sounding harsh, but without a doubt, a test record might tell you that you have a gross problem. But not be worth a damn to optimally fine tune the set up of a cartridge.

Ask Hakaplan what he thinks of the Hi Fi News record?

I've got about 6 test records here, including two Cardas. All haven't been out of their sleeves in years, other than to clean, and then put awayThen you should read the instructions carefully, and try them once more, because they do help in setting up systems.

Respectfully, they've mostly been designed by people with a lot more knowledge than yourself.

arcorob
08-26-2012, 10:04 PM
Which record, and which tracks are you referring to?

Shure Audio Obstacle Course - Orchestral Bells. It is an original, advertising the Shure V15-II ..so must be from the 60's...:D

Pefect condition. I don;t get much out of the cymbal crash but the bells and seperation on side II is pretty cool.

mackat
08-26-2012, 10:13 PM
Shure Audio Obstacle Course - Orchestral Bells. It is an original, advertising the Shure V15-II ..so must be from the 60's...:D

Pefect condition. I don;t get much out of the cymbal crash but the bells and seperation on side II is pretty cool.

I have a V15 II improved and a booklet for the original one. Cool stuff! :thmbsp:


Ben aka MacKat

markd51
08-26-2012, 11:17 PM
Then you should read the instructions carefully, and try them once more, because they do help in setting up systems.

Respectfully, they've mostly been designed by people with a lot more knowledge than yourself.

Some tests, and checks may be beneficial. Such as a Bias tracks(s) Yes, there are others that are useful, and interesting. I shouldn't say "totally" useless, that was not correct, and should've elaborated a bit more.

Yes, a tool, like many others.

But many tracks for tests may not properly, or fully replicate real music that one might listen to. And again, I'm relating this all to fully optimizing, and fine tuning a cartridge set up. They are not "real world" criteria to judge.

While they can aid, they can also be a source of confusion, and errors to optimal adjustment-set up.

One example would be a record, or two that distortions, or something that doesn't sound right rears its ugly head. Then, perhaps turn to a test record thinking this will help, further mal-adjust the cartridge, and one would then find they are no closer to ideal, but actually further.

And that's one reason I'll stand by my earlier statements, that such tests may actually be more a hindrance, than a help. There will need to be a degree of experience, and one cannot blindly defer to any such test records as being the absolute truth in proper-optimal set-up. Yes, they can be an aid-help.

But as I earlier stated, I'll still stand by real records, and the human ear as the best, and final ultimate criterion.

markd51
08-26-2012, 11:23 PM
Shure Audio Obstacle Course - Orchestral Bells. It is an original, advertising the Shure V15-II ..so must be from the 60's...:D

Pefect condition. I don;t get much out of the cymbal crash but the bells and seperation on side II is pretty cool.

I believe I have Era II, III, and IV of those Shure Discs. Been so long using such, I cannot honestly recall the tracks you refer to. I also have the Hi Fi News Disc


About the only test disc I don't have, is said to actually be one of, if not the very best of all, the Analogue Productions Disc.

I have perhaps overlooked, and forgot to mention that such discs can be useful for other checks, other than Cartridge set-up, and perhaps are very useful for checking for resonances, or perhaps doing a demag sweep without harming a cartidge.

markd51
08-26-2012, 11:31 PM
Then you should read the instructions carefully, and try them once more, because they do help in setting up systems.

Respectfully, they've mostly been designed by people with a lot more knowledge than yourself.

http://www.analogueproductions.com/index.cfm?do=detail&Title_ID=35532

Perhaps read about this Analogue Productions Disc, and see what others more knowledgeable than myself will say, such as people like Harry Weisfield, Steve Hoffman, etc etc.

avole
08-26-2012, 11:42 PM
Respectfully, that's advertising blurb for a test record. What are you trying to prove?

markd51
08-27-2012, 12:24 AM
Respectfully, that's advertising blurb for a test record. What are you trying to prove?

Well, I should've mentioned I have no affiliation, nor was trying to twist anyone's arm into a sale, that was not my intended purpose.

My main purpose was to show that those who have dedicated their entire lives to analog reproduction, those who are smarter than myself, are true authorities on the subjest have said some of the same things I've said earlier.

That some test records, and some of the tests on these records are actually useless.

When I read such people making such claims, I definitely wanted to reseach the reasons why, and decided to invest time, and understanding to these claims.

With such subjects, I always felt that any personal ignorance of my own on such subjects isn't always necessarily "bliss". Quite the opposite in fact. Mark

TobascoKid
08-27-2012, 12:51 AM
Ears are the final authority so why do we all fuss with cartridge positioning using precision protractors?

Excuse me for a moment as I go back on topic.

VTF affects the frequency response. Changing it means tonal distortion.

Using a middle-value VTF means cantilevers are in correct position inside cartridges. The cantilever is centered in the magnet field the way the manufacturer recommends. This is the ideal point to give the smoothest frequency response without exaggeration.

Increasing the tracking force forces a cantilever on the hidden end to pivot away from the cartridge-heart, the magnet field, so the response changes. In heavy weight position the weaker field picks up mostly the strongest signal, the lower octaves, and a little more distortion; a slight roughness. The midrange and upper octaves are much weaker so they are reproduced at lower volume. That is why increasing VTF to maximum insures heavy doses of lower octaves.

In reverse; lighter than normal VTF means the magnetic field is too close. It is transmitting too much midrange and treble; again, it is out of proportion.

Unless an average VTF is used, it is all tonal distortion in the audio range. It is likable to many but it is tonal deviation from specs.

Users and cartridge makers would probably love to see absolute VTF numbers. If we all had the same equipment in the same condition it would be easy to have one value. Because of different quality of equipment and a wide variety of record conditions, we are forced to live with cartridges having fuzzy value ranges.

If you have an average turntable then the proper VTF for your AT-150MLx would be 1.25g. Of course we all have stellar turntables so we always aim for less VTF. Properly set, a cartridge should dance smartly on a record, not plod, leap, or giggle. Increase to 1.75g if you have problems with warped records. Feel free to go lighter if you have a rare super-tonearm with a massy headshell. But note that changing VTF will change the tonal balance.

It is upsetting.

markd51
08-27-2012, 01:34 AM
Ears are the final authority so why do we all fuss with cartridge positioning using precision protractors?

Excuse me for a moment as I go back on topic.

VTF affects the frequency response. Changing it means tonal distortion.

Using a middle-value VTF means cantilevers are in correct position inside cartridges. The cantilever is centered in the magnet field the way the manufacturer recommends. This is the ideal point to give the smoothest frequency response without exaggeration.

Increasing the tracking force forces a cantilever on the hidden end to pivot away from the cartridge-heart, the magnet field, so the response changes. In heavy weight position the weaker field picks up mostly the strongest signal, the lower octaves, and a little more distortion; a slight roughness. The midrange and upper octaves are much weaker so they are reproduced at lower volume. That is why increasing VTF to maximum insures heavy doses of lower octaves.

In reverse; lighter than normal VTF means the magnetic field is too close. It is transmitting too much midrange and treble; again, it is out of proportion.

Unless an average VTF is used, it is all tonal distortion in the audio range. It is likable to many but it is tonal deviation from specs.

Users and cartridge makers would probably love to see absolute VTF numbers. If we all had the same equipment in the same condition it would be easy to have one value. Because of different quality of equipment and a wide variety of record conditions, we are forced to live with cartridges having fuzzy value ranges.

If you have an average turntable then the proper VTF for your AT-150MLx would be 1.25g. Of course we all have stellar turntables so we always aim for less VTF. Properly set, a cartridge should dance smartly on a record, not plod, leap, or giggle. Increase to 1.75g if you have problems with warped records. Feel free to go lighter if you have a rare super-tonearm with a massy headshell. But note that changing VTF will change the tonal balance.

It is upsetting.

This is not true, and I amicably disagree with these comments, and assumptions you made.

MM Cartridges may not be quite as sensitive as MC Cartridges are in this regard, but one can take 5 identical MC Cartridges, and none will necessarily track optimally, or give each of their optimal sound at the exact same VTF.

And as a MC Cartridge will age, what worked optimally when the cartridge was new and breaking in, will be different with that same cartridge at 200 hours, 500 hours, a 1000 hours of use. These are common known facts, no cartridge, particularly an MC is not a "Popeil" proposition, meaning just set it, and forget it. That is, if you wish to extract it's best sound.

Ambient room temperatures as well can influence what VTF may be needed at any given time. Some MC Cartridges are quite sensitive to such, and differences can be heard.

Middle-range setting of VTF won't necessarily insure correct magnet-coil placement. Mark

avole
08-27-2012, 02:42 AM
Which, Mark, is where the test record come in, QED!

flavio81
08-27-2012, 03:20 AM
Not all cartridge suspension rubbers are in the same state, even when cartridges are identical. Mark has a point here.

As for the test records, sadly test records like the Shure "Era IV" etc. are tracking ability test records with tracks that are far, far louder than normal program material.

It is my belief that adjusting VTF and particularly antiskating to "clear" (cleanly track) this tracks, leads to too much antiskating compensation, which is detrimental to the life of the stylus.

william13
08-27-2012, 08:45 AM
Could I be directed to a place to get a test record. I need one.

TobascoKid
08-27-2012, 10:02 AM
The best option would be to have the cantilever in the center of the magnet field. Other than excess bass or treble, there is no alignment error when we play a cartridge set to minimum or maximum tolerance and records that are perfectly flat. With a warped record, a minimum setting allows the cartridge to leap off the groove. Would you agree that is not ideal? The danger is the maximum setting is less noticed but always a surprise. Maximum VTF, like a primed spring, and a warped record can send the cantilever past the magnet field giving us the always impressive WOW sound. This is not ideal. It does not happen when we stay in the guidelines. Either choice it is a surprise and we all love surprises.

Driving on 50 year old tires that are bald is not what a sane person would do. If a cartridge needs VTF care to compensate for a history of careless use and/or compliance problems then a sane person would think for the safety of records that the cartridges needs to be replaced. They should not be fretted over. Permanent damage happens with just one screw up. I do not like surprises, stay within guidelines, do not push tolerances to the edge, and still have my great sounding half century old records.

arcorob
08-27-2012, 10:27 AM
Ears are the final authority so why do we all fuss with cartridge positioning using precision protractors?

Excuse me for a moment as I go back on topic.

VTF affects the frequency response. Changing it means tonal distortion.

Using a middle-value VTF means cantilevers are in correct position inside cartridges. The cantilever is centered in the magnet field the way the manufacturer recommends. This is the ideal point to give the smoothest frequency response without exaggeration.

Increasing the tracking force forces a cantilever on the hidden end to pivot away from the cartridge-heart, the magnet field, so the response changes. In heavy weight position the weaker field picks up mostly the strongest signal, the lower octaves, and a little more distortion; a slight roughness. The midrange and upper octaves are much weaker so they are reproduced at lower volume. That is why increasing VTF to maximum insures heavy doses of lower octaves.

In reverse; lighter than normal VTF means the magnetic field is too close. It is transmitting too much midrange and treble; again, it is out of proportion.

Unless an average VTF is used, it is all tonal distortion in the audio range. It is likable to many but it is tonal deviation from specs.

Users and cartridge makers would probably love to see absolute VTF numbers. If we all had the same equipment in the same condition it would be easy to have one value. Because of different quality of equipment and a wide variety of record conditions, we are forced to live with cartridges having fuzzy value ranges.

If you have an average turntable then the proper VTF for your AT-150MLx would be 1.25g. Of course we all have stellar turntables so we always aim for less VTF. Properly set, a cartridge should dance smartly on a record, not plod, leap, or giggle. Increase to 1.75g if you have problems with warped records. Feel free to go lighter if you have a rare super-tonearm with a massy headshell. But note that changing VTF will change the tonal balance.

It is upsetting.

If thats true then lets postulate this
The recommended tracking force for the AT150Mlx is .75 to 1.75. That would assume the wide range is due to the random nature of tonearm and headshell mass. So given that, one would think there would be a formula that says

for range x to y, VTF = mass X something (okay my math is weak ( but what I am getting at is there should be a matrix that given the range and the mass of the headshell, cart, arm combo you coudl determine near optimal VTF

Example - I have a 6 gram arm with built in headshell, cart and hardware weighs 7.5 grams = 13.5

So a matrix such as this should be possible (se pic...this is just a sample with no basis in fact, just depicts an idea)

mackat
08-27-2012, 10:44 AM
Rob, that would be going the other way...just sayin'..lol


Ben aka MacKat

flavio81
08-27-2012, 11:00 AM
Maximum VTF, like a primed spring, and a warped record can send the cantilever past the magnet field giving us the always impressive WOW sound. This is not ideal. It does not happen when we stay in the guidelines. Either choice – it is a surprise and we all love surprises.

You mean "wow" as in wow and flutter?

Wow with a warped record is caused by the position of the stylus being shifted back and forth (relative to the length of the groove.) It is not caused by the magnet being off alignment.

And as long as the compliance is adequately matched for the tonearm, and that the tonearm is rather light (<11g), the vertical position of the cantilever relative to the groove should not change. The tonearm will be the one who rides up and down.

As for the VTF range, if you examine the internals of a Shure MM, Audio-Technica MM, or Stanton MI/MM, you'll see the range in which the magnet is within the magnetic pole pieces is very very wide.

arcorob
08-27-2012, 11:53 AM
Rob, that would be going the other way...just sayin'..lol


Ben aka MacKat

You mean the scale is reversed ? I don't know...I would think a lighter arm would need more VTF , no ? Regardless, someone with more kinowledge than I would correct...it was just demo for what I am really asking...

Why can't there be a numerical scale based on the range and an algorithm in that range ?

A good example is the Dual Anti-resonance scales on some arms. They actually have you figure cart and hardware mass to determine the best setting.

Come on engineering math whizzes...I know you can do this...its a structural thing ...like determining the best spring load

Russellc
08-27-2012, 12:26 PM
Get yourself a test record.

Myself, I always go for the top end of the scale, so in your case I'd go for 1.75. With a test record, start at that and back off until the test tracks begin to show problems.

I would agree with this, I dont remember any cartridge that I have had that didnt perform best on the heavy end of range.

Russellc

nailer
08-27-2012, 12:30 PM
Have test records and the only one I use is the Cardas because it has a large ring that is smooth - great for setting antiskating. For VTA I go with OEM recommended VTF and then may vary a bit due to sound/distortion, moon phase, etc. Over the years I've found once the stylus in properly aligned in the grove (azimuth correct and cantilever parallel to groove) that VTA is more important than VTF, especially for the more exotic stylus profiles. YMMV

Blue Shadow
08-27-2012, 01:08 PM
I posted it before and maybe it needs repeating in this thread, the way Magnepan recommends setting up the anti-skate, a BBs in a bucket contraption.

Magnepans recommends using the 400Hz stereo signal recorded at +18 (some cartridges can not do this so the lower record levels can be used). The CBS Test Record has this frequency recorded at +18, +15, +12, +9 and +6. This test, when played will show a raspy, buzzing sound when mistracked. If the mistracking is only in one channel, adjust anti-skate to eliminate the mistracking.

The first step was to set the tracking force to the recommended 1.7 grams.

Doing Tom's Unitrac the other night, the buzzing was on only one channel without any anti-skate, the bucket sitting on the armboard. Installing the bucket the buzzing decreased but was still there. Adding BBs got the buzzing to stop and putting too many in (I have a few of the weights Magnepan supplied that were equal to 15 BBs so it was easy to go too far) made the buzzing go to the other channel. Backing off to the correct number and trying the test tracks, there was buzzing in both channels on the highest level. I added tracking force to achieve proper tracking and then checked and adjusted as necessary the anti-skate.

Magnepans OM for the Unitrac specifies about 75 BBs (7 bird shot, 350 per ounce) but the number we found that provided the proper anti-skate was well less than half this amount. The BBs are only a final adjustment as the bucket has significant mass for the anti-skate function. This lower amount of anti-skate is something I have found with each Unitrac I have set up.

I believe this method of setting anti-skate is as close to real world as possible. The stylus is in a groove and being pulled on both contact points just as it would be when listening to records. Getting the cartridge to track properly in the test situation will provide a very good starting point for any fine tuning needed during music listening tests.

VinylSoul
08-27-2012, 01:18 PM
Ambient temperature plays a big role in VTF setting, if you live near the equator where it's 85 to 90F you can get by with less than the maximum VTF everyone else should use max. VTF. Just use your ears and listen, every cartridge ive ever owned sounds best at max. VTF. esp where its 65 to 80F.

flavio81
08-27-2012, 01:30 PM
I posted it before and maybe it needs repeating in this thread, the way Magnepan recommends setting up the anti-skate, a BBs in a bucket contraption.

Magnepans recommends using the 400Hz stereo signal recorded at +18 (some cartridges can not do this so the lower record levels can be used).

That's a very loud track.

This means setting antiskate so the AS is high enough to increase tracking ability to clear an extremely high track, not representative of practical recording levels.

What will happen is that for normal program material AS will be too high, and the stylus sides will not be worn evenly on the long run, thus shortening stylus life.

Blue Shadow
08-27-2012, 01:41 PM
That's a very loud track.

This means setting antiskate so the AS is high enough to increase tracking ability to clear an extremely high track, not representative of practical recording levels.

What will happen is that for normal program material AS will be too high, and the stylus sides will not be worn evenly on the long run, thus shortening stylus life.

I plan on checking that now that the local store has an analog guy that has this fancy microscope for viewing styli. I have enough to determine if the wear is not right. I'm hoping for the best.

With the lower levels the buzzing does not happen no matter the extremes of AS. But I usually use one band lower than the top. Still high but...

pfcs49
08-27-2012, 04:21 PM
where is Hakaplan?
Ask Hakaplan what he thinks of the Hi Fi News record?

Is he OK?

markd51
08-27-2012, 07:11 PM
Ambient temperature plays a big role in VTF setting, if you live near the equator where it's 85 to 90F you can get by with less than the maximum VTF everyone else should use max. VTF. Just use your ears and listen, every cartridge ive ever owned sounds best at max. VTF. esp where its 65 to 80F.

I believe your statement here to be absolutely 180 degree about face false, and incorrect.

There are two correct methods that will bring about the best fidelity from any cartridge, whether it's a Stanton, Shure, or a mega thousand dollar Koetsu Coralstone Platinum Cartridge.

There's two approaches to this achievement of best fidelity.

Lloyd Walkers, where you increase VTF until distortion goes away, or set VTF high, and then gradually back off VTF until distortion begins to set in. Then ever so slightly increase VTF until it is gone.

THIS will be the very best setting for any given cartridge, whether it's a freebie included on a $5 thrift find turntable, or a $15,000 Koetsu MC Cartridge.

And no, test record's torture-bias tracks will be the improper way to set such. Those torture tracks are not music you listen to. Adjust to those, and I can promise you, you will be quite far from optimal with any cartridge.

All cartridges will distort at some point with enough db. Because the cheapie Shure M-97 makes it through, and the Coralstone won't now are you going to believe that the Coralstone is flawed, and inferior? Nope, it ain't.

It's just that many of you have not grasped how to properly set up a cartridge.

Don't kill your cartridge's sound with excessive VTF. Staying planted in the groove is fine, it will cause less record wear than too light VTF, but it is NOT optimum, and will never reproduce the best fidelity no matter what.

Break that ideaology, and you might see a new light, into cartridge set up, and to achieving the finest fidelity should be properly done.
Mark

arcorob
08-27-2012, 08:54 PM
There's two approaches to this achievement of best fidelity.

Lloyd Walkers, where you increase VTF until distortion goes away, or set VTF high, and then gradually back off VTF until distortion begins to set in. Then ever so slightly increase VTF until it is gone.

THIS will be the very best setting for any given cartridge, whether it's a freebie included on a $5 thrift find turntable, or a $15,000 Koetsu MC Cartridge.


Mark

And I have to respectfully disagree with a caveat. I don't care who the source is. If you start light and increase till distortion goes away...then you have just entered a zone..on the light side. If you do the same starting from the heavy side and back off, then when distortion disappears you are on the heavy side. That is not OPTIMAL...That is just in tolerance. BIg difference as it does not allow for variation.

Now perhaps (here is the caveat) you did a test and say the low side was 1.25 and the high was 1.35 - then you could set for 1.30 and be closest to optimal allowing for variations in record thickness, track and groeove variants, etc.

These tolerances apply to many things. Old disk readers worked the same way as did cassette deck heads, etc.

The other thing it doesnt address is source material for testing. What is perfect source material ? A piano solo may show one type of distortion where a Michael Jackson album may not.

The methodology you proopse is just as flawed as any other. I still contend that a matrix using given range of a cart with factored headshell/arm/hardware mass should spit out a damn close optimal range. At least it would be based in science and not arbitrary listening skills. Hearing is subjective. The matrix would be based on something akin to a scope finding the most desired signal...

Anyway, in summary..to each his own..Best to you

markd51
08-27-2012, 11:09 PM
And I have to respectfully disagree with a caveat. I don't care who the source is. If you start light and increase till distortion goes away...then you have just entered a zone..on the light side. If you do the same starting from the heavy side and back off, then when distortion disappears you are on the heavy side. That is not OPTIMAL...That is just in tolerance. BIg difference as it does not allow for variation.

Now perhaps (here is the caveat) you did a test and say the low side was 1.25 and the high was 1.35 - then you could set for 1.30 and be closest to optimal allowing for variations in record thickness, track and groeove variants, etc.

These tolerances apply to many things. Old disk readers worked the same way as did cassette deck heads, etc.

The other thing it doesnt address is source material for testing. What is perfect source material ? A piano solo may show one type of distortion where a Michael Jackson album may not.

The methodology you proopse is just as flawed as any other. I still contend that a matrix using given range of a cart with factored headshell/arm/hardware mass should spit out a damn close optimal range. At least it would be based in science and not arbitrary listening skills. Hearing is subjective. The matrix would be based on something akin to a scope finding the most desired signal...

Anyway, in summary..to each his own..Best to you

Nope, with any given cartridge, and with either method, one should arrive at virtually the exact same identical VTF, which will neither be too heavy, nor too light.

Let's take something like a Benz LPS Cartridge. Let's say the manufacturer's suggested VTF range is 1.8g to 2.2g. That optimum tracking force at any given time on any given record "should" lie somewhere between that tracking range.

To say it will positively be on the light side, or the heavy side of that range for optimum playback will not necessarily be correct.

And no, VTF may not be a constant, meaning what VTF setting might work ideally-optimally for one record, that now all records will optimally play, and you'll extract the best sound.

Perhaps I can find Lloyd's methodology for you, and others to read? While you might not feel it worth your time, perhaps others will?

While you personally may not see such methods logical, and sound, trust that there are many who do.

Again, either method I previously mentioned does not pigeonhole any Cartridge into a too light, or too heavy VTF. As I said, technically one should arrive at a very similar, and identical VTF with either method.

There may be exceptions, in that a cartridge that has a good many hours on it, may actually ideally track, and sound its best below those tracking range numbers I provided above. It would not be unusual, nor necessarily wrong to hear of someone tracking at 1.6g, or 1.7g with such a Benz cartridge.

arcorob
08-27-2012, 11:18 PM
Nope, with any given cartridge, and with either method, one should arrive at virtually the exact same identical VTF, which will neither be too heavy, nor too light.

Let's take something like a Benz LPS Cartridge. Let's say the manufacturer's suggested VTF range is 1.8g to 2.2g. That optimum tracking force at any given time on any given record "should" lie somewhere between that tracking range.

To say it will positively be on the light side, or the heavy side of that range for optimum playback will not necessarily be correct.

And no, VTF may not be a constant, meaning what VTF setting might work ideally-optimally for one record, that now all records will optimally play, and you'll extract the best sound.

Perhaps I can find Lloyd's methodology for you, and others to read? While you might not feel it worth your time, perhaps others will?

While you personally may not see such methods logical, and sound, trust that there are many who do.

Again, either method I previously mentioned does not pigeonhole any Cartridge into a too light, or too heavy VTF. As I said, technically one should arrive at a very similar, and identical VTF with either method.

There may be exceptions, in that a cartridge that has a good many hours on it, may actually ideally track, and sound its best below those tracking range numbers I provided above. It would not be unusual, nor necessarily wrong to hear of someone tracking at 1.6g, or 1.7g with such a Benz cartridge.

I would appreciate the material but the case you make has a very narrow range..1.8 to 2.2...Now take my AT150Mlx.... .75 to 1.75...the middle of that is going to be broad. If optimal is say 1.40 you would not really hear a discernable difference at 1.35 or 1.45 or wider...the range of sound is just too broad to be that precise short of electronic assistance

I don;t necessarily agree that it is a method...I only disagree with the accuracy...anyway, appreciate the material you provide...thanks

avole
08-28-2012, 02:45 AM
Somewhere along the line you have to factor in arm characteristics. Not all arms track particularly well, so the heavier end of the range is usually a safe bet. It's amazing what damage too light a tracking force can do over the difficult bits.

I'd also add that some records, and I'm thinking of the legendary Telarc 1812 overture, are hard to track, and you really need to set your VTF bearing these in mind. Again, the heavier end of the spectrum avoids problems.

As to wear, I'm not convinced too heavy a tracking force, unless it is in the order of 7 - 8 gms, is going to have much effect if any. Yes, wear is inevitable, but you have to spin those vinyls a heap of times before you'll notice something, and often that isn't necessarily caused by tracking at 2 gms instead of 1,5. As I suspect is the case with many, my records have deteriorated more because of clumsy cuing or accidental knocks than wear.

I agree that VTF can have an effect on the sound, but I think more at the too light end of things. Usually from the mid to heavier end of the range there's no difference to my ears anyway. At the lighter end there can be a difference, but I attribute that more to tracking errors caused by an arm rather than the cartridge.

Herr Eickhorn
08-28-2012, 04:01 AM
And here I thought VTF was the one adjustment on TT's that was easy to understand and set........

avole
08-28-2012, 04:36 AM
It is. I always set at the heavier end and forget.

markd51
08-28-2012, 10:39 AM
Somewhere along the line you have to factor in arm characteristics. Not all arms track particularly well, so the heavier end of the range is usually a safe bet. It's amazing what damage too light a tracking force can do over the difficult bits.

I'd also add that some records, and I'm thinking of the legendary Telarc 1812 overture, are hard to track, and you really need to set your VTF bearing these in mind. Again, the heavier end of the spectrum avoids problems.

As to wear, I'm not convinced too heavy a tracking force, unless it is in the order of 7 - 8 gms, is going to have much effect if any. Yes, wear is inevitable, but you have to spin those vinyls a heap of times before you'll notice something, and often that isn't necessarily caused by tracking at 2 gms instead of 1,5. As I suspect is the case with many, my records have deteriorated more because of clumsy cuing or accidental knocks than wear.

I agree that VTF can have an effect on the sound, but I think more at the too light end of things. Usually from the mid to heavier end of the range there's no difference to my ears anyway. At the lighter end there can be a difference, but I attribute that more to tracking errors caused by an arm rather than the cartridge.

I do not disagree with what you've said here.

The internet, and access to this group late last night was not too good.

I did search for Lloyd Walker's methodology to Cartridge set-up last night, and found not too much in regards of his once listed methods.


But, some archived audiogon posts remain, and commonly posters such as Doug Deacon, Neil Golden (Nsgarch), and Oilmanmojo are voices of good technical common sense in regards to cartridge set up.

I agree about the quality of Arms, the different types of designs of Arms, Compliance, all being factors to acquiring a proper balance, and achieving good set-up with any given cartridge.

As some would say, they'd most likely run into less problems-complications, to have a $300 Cartridge on a $3,000 Arm, rather than a $3,000 Cartridge on a $300 Arm.