relationship between tracking force and sound quality

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by vintage22, Mar 13, 2011.

  1. vintage22

    vintage22 New Member

    Messages:
    22
    I have a cartridge that lists a min, max, and optimal tracking force. Does this mean that you would get the best sound quality if you set the tracking force to the listed optimal tracing force?
     
  2. js1138

    js1138 Super Member

    Messages:
    3,645
    The optimal force will differ from record to record. It has to be enough to prevent mistracking and skipping, but as low as possible to minimize wear. Too much and the cantilever will flex, which is bad.

    If the record is warped, you have to choose between rising the force or not playing the record.
     
  3. vintage22

    vintage22 New Member

    Messages:
    22
    I currently have the tracking force set to the minimum and I have had no problems with mis-tracking or skipping, but it will sometimes glide across the lead in groves. Maybe I need to adjust the anti-skate to fix that or maybe I should increase the tracking force. I originally set the tracking force low to minimize record wear, but have been wondering if increasing it would improve sound quality as there seems to be some distortion.
     
  4. PickyEars81

    PickyEars81 Super Member

    Messages:
    3,860
    Usually the higher end of the tracking force sounds better. Listen and see what you think...
     
  5. MyGeneration

    MyGeneration New Member

    Messages:
    37
    Location:
    VT, USA
    I use the maximum that is recommended for my stylus, which is 1.5g
     
  6. js1138

    js1138 Super Member

    Messages:
    3,645
    Using a tracking force that is too low can cause mistracking, which can mean more record wear. I also tend to use the maximum recommended.
     
  7. boreas

    boreas AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    14,571
    Location:
    Sonoma County, CA
    It sounds like you may not have enough VTF at the moment. The symptom of not "locking into" the lead-in groove is usually an indication of that. I usually start in the middle of the recommended range and experiment, working up and down through the entire range of VTF until I hit a sweet spot that combines good sound with good trackability. I usually end up on the light side of that midpoint.

    John
     
  8. steely

    steely Active Member

    Messages:
    284
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I used to think like you did (lowest possible VTF = least amount of wear) but I've learned over the years that that line of reasoning, at least to a certain point, is incorrect. Now I start at the midpoint of the recommended range and tweak UPward from there until near the max. It usually tracks and sounds better...and causes LESS record wear!
     
  9. DENNYDOG

    DENNYDOG Addicted Member

    Messages:
    7,015
    Location:
    South Central,MN
    Not always. A lot of it depends on how the lead in groove is on the particular record. Have you ever noticed that the beginning of the lead in groove is slanted and then flattens out before the music starts? This helps keep the needle on the record when the needle drops. Not every lead in is made the same.

    Drop the needle a little closer to where the music starts and that should pretty much take care of that problem.
     
  10. markd51

    markd51 Nyuk Nyuk

    Messages:
    4,678
    Location:
    Sheboygan Wisconsin
    I could be wrong about this, but in my own personal experiences I have found many Moving Magnet Cartridges seem to be a little more forgiving as to the small adjustments, and variance of tracking force.

    This is probably partly due to the design of MM Cartridges.

    Moving Coil Cartridges I understand are different.

    Let's take a brand new Benz Mc Cartridge, let's say a Glider. Now, I'm guessing here a bit, but let's say the factory recommends a VTF range of 1.8g-2.2g. One should not automatically assume fresh from its case, that an even 2.0g is going to be an optimal setting. At least it might not be at first.

    Due to lack of any break in of suspension components at this point, one might note sibilance, and mistracking at lighter settings. But that will change over time with break in.

    That MC Cartridges usually aren't a "Ron Popeil" sort of affair, where you "set it and forget it" if you want to achieve the best sound such a cartridge can offer.

    After a period of break in, then one should start to begin experimenting with lighter settings, provided sound appeared to prevoiusly be clean at that point in time.

    The best that any MC Cartridge will sound, is at the lightest VTF it can track, without any distortion in sound being noted. This will be where the cartridge will display its best air, detail. And many of these Cartridges will sound audibly different with a change as little as .1g.

    No two cartridges will behave the same. So, what may work for a Benz Glider I own, may not work for the next person. Age, and sample to sample differences will influence this.

    Keep in mind, that all tests should be done with real music, not some torture tracks on some test record. To adjust any cartridge to such will suck the best sound from any cartridge. Torture tracks are just that, and they were designed to make all cartridges mistrack. The goal is not to get through all the tracks with no mistracking. The goal is to note when mistracking occurs, and if mistracking and distortion are equal in both channels.

    Lloyd Walker suggests one good method, where you set light, and increase till tracking errors vanish. The other, is the exact opposite approach, to set slightly heavy, and back off VTF just until mistracking begins to occur, Then, in this instance, you ever so slighty increase VTF until these anomalies disappear.

    And 3 years down the road, adjustments may again have to be made. In other words, what had worked at the 100 hour mark with the Glider, may again not be optimal 1000 hours later, that again, adjustments (usually lighter VTF) can be again made.

    Stylus Force Gauges-Scales that are accurate are a big help, but it is the ear which is the optimum criterion always. Trust your ears. Mark
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2011
  11. boreas

    boreas AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    14,571
    Location:
    Sonoma County, CA
    Absolutely true. I know that trick and am always careful to cue the record inside of the little ridge or to set up my full autos to drop inside of it. That being said, I suppose I'm prone to assuming that others account for this too when that may not always be the case.

    John
     
  12. DENNYDOG

    DENNYDOG Addicted Member

    Messages:
    7,015
    Location:
    South Central,MN
    I never realized it either until I read it here.
     
  13. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Addicted Member

    Messages:
    7,972
    Location:
    Dallas, Texas
    For the manufacturer's taste, assuming the optimum stylus rake angle...yes.

    For your own taste, you might find you like a little different tracking force. More force can often tame distortion from mistracking, but there's a price to be paid in the highs. Less force than optimum might open up the highs but then accentuate sibilance. The optimum force also assumes the optimum stylus rake angle, which often assumes the tonearm is dead level. If the tonearm is angled up or down, there are sonic characteristics much like when the tracking force is more than optimum or less.
     
  14. Ohighway

    Ohighway Wannabe Minimalist Subscriber

    Same here .... :music:
     
  15. vintage22

    vintage22 New Member

    Messages:
    22
    Thank you everyone for all the advice, I will definitely be playing around with the tracking force.
     
  16. guiller

    guiller Toscaninichus Australis

    Messages:
    20,359
    Location:
    Buenos Aires (Argentina)
    Wear is a long term effect. However, if the tracking force is too low, a rise in the background noise becomes apparent, at least in my own experience with several carts (both MM and MC). I mean, noise floor level raises and sometimes this can happen even before mistracking occurs.
     
  17. Karma16

    Karma16 Super Member

    Messages:
    1,439
    Location:
    White Rock, New Mexico
    HI All,
    Many moons ago, prior to 1970, when I used MM carts (usually Shure V15's), it was a mark of quality for a cartridge to track very lightly. Manufacturers touted being able to to track at, say, .75 gms. I found that the V15's could do a very good job at 1 gm. and seldom mistrack. But I felt uneasy about the light tracking force and found myself using the suggested max of 1.25 gms.

    When I switched to MC's, about 1972, the tracking forces went up a lot, say 2 gms typically, sometimes higher. Eventually, I settled for a value that is about 3/4 of the suggested max. By then I was using linear tracking arms. This seemed to work well. Of course, skating force was not an issue.

    Over the years, I have continued to use the 3/4 value with excellent results. Understand that I have a Sota Nova vacuum turntable which flattens all but the most severe edge warps. My system never mistracks.

    So, I think that between 3/4 and the suggested max is about right for record longevity and proper tracking. I still use linear arms so I never worry about skating force.

    Sparky
     
  18. synclavier82

    synclavier82 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    818
    Location:
    Akron, Ohio
    This is a great tip. I figured this out myself after getting fed up with seeing my stylus go crashing into the first groove. Makes me cringe every time. Not because of the loud "pop" but because of what I imagine it's doing to my cantilever. By aiming more toward the start of the music, I can usually avoid this. It still happens from time to time if I'm in a hurry or not paying attention.
     
  19. iLUVanalog

    iLUVanalog AK Subscriber Subscriber

     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2011
  20. iLUVanalog

    iLUVanalog AK Subscriber Subscriber





    If you're hearing distortion, that's NEVER a good thing. That means your tracking force is too low, or your stylus or groove is showing some wear. A good rule of thumb is to track your cartridge right at the mid-point of the range, and then adjust from there. As long as you don't go over the recommended maximum, you're okay. But DEFINITELY NEVER go below the recommended minimum....that will invariably accelerate wear and cause distortion. Personally, I generally track a cartridge at the upper end of the range, unless the manufacturer recommends a specific tracking force (example: Denon specifically recommends 2.5gm for the DL-103). I also have a DL-110 with a range of 1.5-2.1gm, and I track it right at 2.0gm, which is still within the range...just at the high end of the range...but still safe.
     

Share This Page