Cartridge settings

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THROWBACK

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Cartridge settings
« on: 16 Dec 2012, 12:28 am »
Setting up a phono cartridge is an important but maddening process because the settings are so darned interactive. Change VTA and VTF is likely to change as well. Change azimuth and anti-skating might be affected. Cartridge manufacturers are generally not very helpful: "set the top of the tonearm level."

There is lots of information on the internet about setup from a number of sources, but I would love to compile a single table of likely sonic effects from changing parameters so that I don't end up wasting time making corrections in the wrong direction.

I assume that the geometry is correct: overhang, Berwald or Lofgren points set perfectly. But even these must be rechecked after messing with VTF and VTA.

Here are the parameters (I hope I haven't missed some). What I'm looking for are answers to the items in the list below. E.g., for No. 3, I would expect something like: "VTA too high, highs are edgy and bass lacks depth and firmness."

Picture the cartridge in an arm viewed with the cartridge to the left, arm base to the right.
1. VTF too high
2. VTF too low
3. VTA (or SRA) too high (arm base too high)
4. VTA (or SRA) too low

Picture the cartridge in the arm viewed head on.
5. Azimuth rotated too much counterclockwise
6. Azimuth rotated too much clockwise
7. Anti-skate too much pull toward center spindle
8. Anti-skate too much pull toward outside of record

Cartridge loading (Moving Iron/Magnet)
9. Resistance too high
10. Resistance too low
11. Capacitance too high
12. Capacitance too low 

Cartridge loading (Moving Coil)
13. Resistance too high
14. Resistance too low
15. Capacitance too high
16. Capacitance too low

I can imagine a single table that lays this out such that once one has roughed in a vinyl setup, if careful listening reveals "brightness" in the highs, the table might lead you to make adjustments in several parameters that would lead to correction and even optimization. 

Any takers?

neobop

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #1 on: 16 Dec 2012, 05:09 am »
By the information in your post, I think you know most of this already, but here goes.
A small change in VTA will have no measurable affect on VTF.  Remember always set/check VTF with anti-skate off, as it will reduce VTF. A large change in VTA/SRA will affect overhang. Think of the arm pillar, arm tube and record surface as 3 sides of a right triangle. If you increase one side, you reduce the other. The arm tube is the hypotenuse.

1&2 - It depends on compliance and trackability, but too much VTF tends to reduce bass due to limiting of horizontal excursions. Too little tends to fuzz up the highs.  Like most of these generalizations, it could do just the opposite, depending mostly on where you are in relation to optimal.

3&4 - This you know, but listen for harmonics rather than too bright or not.  Sometimes lowering can make it seem brighter.  You'll lose very HF content but upper mid tones can sound harsh/brighter with lowering. Acoustic bass is revealing for this, upper vs low bass content.  Cymbals are good up top.

5&6 - Azimuth rotated toward the inner (left) groove will give you more HF content in left channel, and the same for the outer (right) ch.

7&8 - Similar, too little AS tends to make left channel louder.  View the cart head on to ballpark AS. Remember AS is applied to the arm, not cart.

9&10 - R to high = bright, lacking bass and opposite for R too low.

11&12 - Capacitance combines with cart's inductance and lowers the HF resonance. Sometimes specific amount of pF (wire + pre) will be used to tune the freq response of a cart. Too much will make it brighter and roll off the extreme high end. Too little and it might sound distant. Use mfg recommendation.

13-16 - FR mostly unaffected by resistance. Raising the value opens the stage and dynamics. Lowering brings in focus and detail. Generally immune to capacitance because inductance is so low. 

I don't know how much a table will help. Once you understand these principles, you just need experience. Trust your ears.
neo 

THROWBACK

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #2 on: 16 Dec 2012, 08:40 pm »
Nice job, Neo. Let's see if I have it.

Tuning Your Vinyl Setup by Ear

First, set up turntable/arm/cartridge basic parameters:
1. Turntable absolutely level
2. VTF (Vertical Tracking Force) in middle of MFG’s recommended range
3. VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle): top of cartridge level with record surface
4. Azimuth: place stylus on flat mirror and adjust until stylus  cantilever appears vertical as viewed from front
5. Overhang and Baerwald points set
6. Anti-skate adjusted such that arm travels slowly toward center of blank record (or slick turntable platter)

Then start listening. The table below might help you to optimize what you are hearing. Since the adjustments are interactive, expect to spend an hour or more making initial corrections. Also, it is unlikely that you will achieve total optimization on the first try. Expect several iterations.

Picture the cartridge in an arm viewed with the cartridge to the left, arm base to the right.

1.   VTF too high            Reduced bass (limit horizontal excursions)
2.   VTF too low            Fuzzy highs (cymbals, violins, triangles)
3.   VTA too high (i.e., base of                                Highs edgy (listen for harmonics)
               arm too high)
4.   VTA too low            Highs dull

Picture the cartridge head-on

1. Azimuth rotated too much                   More HF content in left channel (image
counterclockwise         shifted left); HF edgy
2. Azimuth rotated too much                   More HF content in right channel (image
clockwise            right); HF edgy
3. Anti-skate too much (pull      More HF content in left channel (image
toward center spindle)      shifted left); HF edgy
4. Anti-skate too little (pull      More HF content in right channel (image
toward record edge)                     shifted right); HF edgy

Cartridge loading (Moving Iron/Magnet)

1. Resistance too high      Bright, lacking bass
2. Resistance too low      Dull, too much bass
3. Capacitance too high      Bright, lacking bass
4. Capacitance too low      Dull, too much bass, distant sounding

Cartridge loading (Moving Coil)

1. Resistance too high      Opens stage and increases dynamics
2. Resistance too low      Increases focus and detail
3. Capacitance too high      Generally immune
4. Capacitance too low      Generally immune

Anyone else wish to chime in?

MaxCast

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #3 on: 16 Dec 2012, 10:40 pm »
don't have much to contribute but will read and learn thankfully.   :bowdown:

TheChairGuy

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #4 on: 16 Dec 2012, 11:49 pm »
I'll chime in THROWBACK.....thanks for time spent culling this information together!

So worthwhile it's been made a sticky reference topic  :thumb:

Regards, John / Facilitator

THROWBACK

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #5 on: 17 Dec 2012, 12:02 am »
Heck, Neo did all the real work. I just hope someone out there can correct/refine it.

jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #6 on: 17 Dec 2012, 02:17 am »
3. VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle): top of cartridge level with record surface.  Sounds like a good place to start but you may get some arguments around here that what is of more importance is the stylus rake angle to the record groove.  Having said that, my headshell and arm are very much level to the record surface and that gives me a right angle of the stylus to the record groove of 90 degrees.  Which, by the way, gives me the best balance of all things to my ears.  There are some who would argue that it should be 92 degrees.  With the best magnificaion I can muster, mine isn't.  Now this may be cartridge dependent.  Some styli may have exotic cutting which I don't believe my cartridge has.

jazdoc

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #7 on: 17 Dec 2012, 04:08 am »

jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #8 on: 17 Dec 2012, 04:15 am »

neobop

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #9 on: 17 Dec 2012, 04:24 am »
SRA is determined by arm height. Whether you prefer terms of SRA or VTA or SRA/VTA, you're talking about different aspects of the same adjustment, which is arm height. This only pertains to adjusting by ear. I was going to say that acoustic music is more revealing of timbrel and harmonic differences, but start out with your normal fare, records you're familiar with.

Skating is caused by a force vector due to offset angle. Skating increases as the tip nears the center of record and the angle increases. Skating also increases with stylus velocity (loudness). There is no one perfect AS setting, but you can find a setting where the image is centered almost all the time. Relying entirely on ear (dial calibrations are not to be trusted) can be tedious. BTW overall loudness/balance is affected, not just HF. Sorry if I wrote it otherwise. Sometimes the channel not getting enough lateral force can actually sound louder, which can be tricky.  I'm not sure why this is, probably has something to do with additional velocity of the stylus bouncing off a groove wall.  If you can sight the cart from the front, while playing, it's usually easy to see the cantilever in relation to the cart body, and get an adjustment very close to optimal.
neo 


jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #10 on: 17 Dec 2012, 04:31 am »
BTW, Jazdoc, the links for "The Dead Kenny G's" at the link you provided does not produce.  You still hav'ta love their name.

TheChairGuy

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #11 on: 17 Dec 2012, 05:55 am »
Heck, Neo did all the real work. I just hope someone out there can correct/refine it.

Yes, and neobop's contribution noted as well....sorry to have missed that - I wrote the earlier on the fly between a trip to the Vet and Sunday afternoon activities outside the house.

John

jazdoc

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #12 on: 17 Dec 2012, 06:06 pm »
Another good guide...http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/setting-up-a-phono-cartridge/

I can personally vouch for Andre and his methodology.

Jim, Dead Kenny G's link works OK for me...

jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #13 on: 17 Dec 2012, 07:47 pm »
Man, that sure looks like a more than 92 degree angle to me!  And that cantilever is different from the two carts that I use which are straightened out at the ends.

jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #14 on: 17 Dec 2012, 08:58 pm »
Another good guide...http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/setting-up-a-phono-cartridge/

I can personally vouch for Andre and his methodology.

Jim, Dead Kenny G's link works OK for me...
Well, I can see the video, but when I follow the instructions in the text it says no longer available or words to that effect.  Anyway, these guys are merciless.  They are fantastic!

THROWBACK

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #15 on: 24 Dec 2012, 06:31 pm »
I bought the Feikert Adjust + tool a couple of years ago, and I am playing with it again. It has two features of interest to me.
1. Azimuth setting. Setting the stylus on a mirror to ensure physical verticality is not enough. In the equal crosstalk method used by Feikert, to get electrical verticality, the cartridge might have to be rotated up to a couple of degrees. Each cartridge is different, even different samples of the same cartridge.

From my last Adjust + session yesterday, I learned that my cartridge must be rotated counterclockwise (looking at the front) by about a degree and a half. I say "about" because the Feikert requires use of a fairly heavy calibrated longitudinal level to be placed atop the arm. This gives me two problems.: a) my tonearm (a Graham Phantom Supreme) does not have a large enough horizontal surface upon which to place it. I am going to have to jury rig something;

b) the level is fairly heavy. Feikert recommends that the level be placed on the arm and the arm rotated to the next angle while the arm is in the armrest. Then the level should be removed while the next measurement is made. This is smart, because if the level falls off, it could damage the record. Also,  the cantilever can't take the weight of the cartridge and level together without compensating for the extra weight, and it may be difficult to do this by adjusting the counterweight alone. In addition (I am only speculating), the arm's increased effective mass might screw up the measurements. So, removal between measurements is a good idea. To be consistent, however, the level must be placed in exactly the same position on the arm every time. This is difficult because the base of the level has no markings whatever. I am hoping to solve this problem in my jury rig.

But even then, there is a problem of interpretation. Theoretically, at the optimum azimuth point, the ideal results would be maximum channel separation, zero crosstalk, and 90 degrees phase angle (whatever that means!). My cartridge is specced at 30dB of channel separation (at 1000Hz); the best I can get is 21dB. Measured phase angle is 174 degrees, not 90. Perhaps the data are accurate and it's my cartridge that is at fault. On the Feikert website there are indeed cartridges that measure 30dB and 90 degrees. Since I have not compared any of these to mine, I do not know if sonically they are any better.

One blogger says that he adjusts VTA to get 90 degrees first, then proceeds to do the rest of the measurements. I tried that, but found that the phase angle varied little from 174--certainly nowhere close to 90. I am beginning to believe that it is pretty much built into the design of the cartridge. How important is it? I have no idea.

2. Arm-cartridge resonance. For years I have used the method  in which a tone on a CBS test record is swept down from 100Hz almost to DC at a determined rate. At some point the needle begins a fairly violent dance. If you have timed this tone-sweep with a stopwatch, you can determine this resonance point. It will usually be between 7Hz and 20Hz? For many years, the ideal has been said to be about 11Hz--above the warp frequency (about 4Hz) and the threshhold of hearing (about 20). If it is close to 7Hz, there is little you can do about it except get a lighter cartridge or tonearm. If it is close to 20Hz, you may be able to  reduce the resonance point by adding a little mass to the arm or cartridge (Blu-Tak anyone?).

I am pretty happy with the sound of my system and I listen to a lot of great (mostly classical) music, but a lot of the enjoyment for me is trying to make it sound even better. This afternoon, I will be playing with a USB digital microscope to see if I can get close to the magical 92-degree SRA, and to find out if I hear any difference. I'll probably will check that with a couple of audio pals because my ears (too many years on the flight line) ain't what they useter be. Am I wrestling with problems of cosmic import? Certainly not. Am I having fun? You bet!

Merry Christmas to all.


neobop

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #16 on: 22 Feb 2013, 06:21 pm »
I bought the Feikert Adjust + tool a couple of years ago, and I am playing with it again. It has two features of interest to me.
1. Azimuth setting. Setting the stylus on a mirror to ensure physical verticality is not enough. In the equal crosstalk method used by Feikert, to get electrical verticality, the cartridge might have to be rotated up to a couple of degrees. Each cartridge is different, even different samples of the same cartridge.

From my last Adjust + session yesterday, I learned that my cartridge must be rotated counterclockwise (looking at the front) by about a degree and a half. I say "about" because the Feikert requires use of a fairly heavy calibrated longitudinal level to be placed atop the arm. This gives me two problems.: a) my tonearm (a Graham Phantom Supreme) does not have a large enough horizontal surface upon which to place it. I am going to have to jury rig something;

b) the level is fairly heavy. Feikert recommends that the level be placed on the arm and the arm rotated to the next angle while the arm is in the armrest. Then the level should be removed while the next measurement is made. This is smart, because if the level falls off, it could damage the record. Also,  the cantilever can't take the weight of the cartridge and level together without compensating for the extra weight, and it may be difficult to do this by adjusting the counterweight alone. In addition (I am only speculating), the arm's increased effective mass might screw up the measurements. So, removal between measurements is a good idea. To be consistent, however, the level must be placed in exactly the same position on the arm every time. This is difficult because the base of the level has no markings whatever. I am hoping to solve this problem in my jury rig.

But even then, there is a problem of interpretation. Theoretically, at the optimum azimuth point, the ideal results would be maximum channel separation, zero crosstalk, and 90 degrees phase angle (whatever that means!). My cartridge is specced at 30dB of channel separation (at 1000Hz); the best I can get is 21dB. Measured phase angle is 174 degrees, not 90. Perhaps the data are accurate and it's my cartridge that is at fault. On the Feikert website there are indeed cartridges that measure 30dB and 90 degrees. Since I have not compared any of these to mine, I do not know if sonically they are any better.

One blogger says that he adjusts VTA to get 90 degrees first, then proceeds to do the rest of the measurements. I tried that, but found that the phase angle varied little from 174--certainly nowhere close to 90. I am beginning to believe that it is pretty much built into the design of the cartridge. How important is it? I have no idea.

2. Arm-cartridge resonance. For years I have used the method  in which a tone on a CBS test record is swept down from 100Hz almost to DC at a determined rate. At some point the needle begins a fairly violent dance. If you have timed this tone-sweep with a stopwatch, you can determine this resonance point. It will usually be between 7Hz and 20Hz? For many years, the ideal has been said to be about 11Hz--above the warp frequency (about 4Hz) and the threshhold of hearing (about 20). If it is close to 7Hz, there is little you can do about it except get a lighter cartridge or tonearm. If it is close to 20Hz, you may be able to  reduce the resonance point by adding a little mass to the arm or cartridge (Blu-Tak anyone?).

I am pretty happy with the sound of my system and I listen to a lot of great (mostly classical) music, but a lot of the enjoyment for me is trying to make it sound even better. This afternoon, I will be playing with a USB digital microscope to see if I can get close to the magical 92-degree SRA, and to find out if I hear any difference. I'll probably will check that with a couple of audio pals because my ears (too many years on the flight line) ain't what they useter be. Am I wrestling with problems of cosmic import? Certainly not. Am I having fun? You bet!

Merry Christmas to all.

When I first read your post, nearly 2 months ago, the prospect of using the level while on a record, with the additional weight of the level, seemed like a very bad idea. Using the level while the arm is in the rest, is less risky, but an accurate reading is more problematic.  Maybe not all, but many unipivots will not give you a repeatable reading while on the arm rest, even if you could place the level exactly in the center of the headshell.  The level is obviously used as a point of reference, like making a mark on your arm pillar to designate a VTA/SRA setting.  If you could actually locate the level exactly in the center, above the cart and secure it there, you could recalibrate VTF and almost duplicate playing conditions while on the record.

All azimuth settings are a calibration of equal crosstalk, not equal output. Adjusting for equal output will not necessarily give you accurate results. Output for the 2 channels is sometimes different. Using a mirror with the naked eye might not be perfect, but you could use magnification. "Perfect" azimuth is achieved when the tip is physically vertical in the groove (verticality).
Anyone can buy a test record for $40 that will give you an accurate azimuth calibration and quite a few other settings. Test tracks for azimuth are a 1KHz tone in 1 channel only, and output is measured in opposite channel (crosstalk). This is repeated on the other channel and adjustments are made for equal crosstalk output. You could make this measurement a number of different ways, measuring voltage or output even on a cassette deck display, or by ear. Play the first track so opposite channel output is at a low volume and keep that setting on the other channel test, then compare.

I've never used the Feikert software, so I don't know exactly how phase is factored in. The absolute phase of your cart, with respect to the record, is something you can't do much about. Any cure would be worse than the disease, and many people think it's not a problem at all. Phase linearity with respect to itself, amplitude vs phase, is another story. Absolute phase angle is built into the design. This could be used to align vertically as in SRA? I think it might be more indicative of alignment. "Correct" SRA will vary somewhat from record to record and 92o represents a median or average, or a mostly correct setting, so will setting SRA with Feikert record get you perfect SRA on all other records?  BTW, most test records have at least one track miscalibrated.

Arm/cart resonance is not the all-important factor in match-ups on which many people rely. With quite a few carts, optimum results are with resonance outside of the 8 to 12 Hz range. Although you don't want to approach the audible frequencies using a very stiff cart on a light arm, many get great results going below 8 Hz, and 7 HZ should be no problem at all.  If you're having problems with warps or acoustic or mechanical feedback, look first to other solutions - placement and support, that's where the real problem probably is.

I would think that a USB scope would be a good idea if you're unsure about SRA. You could note your 92o setting with average thickness records and use that as a reference point.  It's good to understand what these measurements are and what they mean, but obsessing on "perfect" settings might be an exercise in futility, to a certain extent. I was reading a post about azimuth and someone measured different pressings and came up with large variations. I'm not saying that it's not a good idea to get everything right, and I don't think anyone is going to do on-the-fly azimuth adjustments like VTA (I'm prob wrong about that), but at some point you can just listen, and based on your experiences hearing these settings, know when something isn't quite right. When you let go of analysis and relax with the music, any problem becomes obvious. That's easy for me to say, I've been playing records over 50 years, but even for newbies it just takes a little education and a lot of familiarity.
neo 

Throwback,
I know you didn't talk about azimuth being equal output.  That's there to dispel a common misconception.



jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #17 on: 22 Feb 2013, 08:05 pm »
Very good info, Neo, as usual.  With a few tonearms, you can adjust VTA/SRA on the fly.  That could be useful for records of varying thickness but would require one to put in a lot of practice to note the settings.  And, for the record, no pun intended, my preferred angle of 90 degrees is for my arm and the phono cartridge I routinely use, and my ole head and heart.  That is not a recommendation.  I would say experiment using what is being discussed here and elsewhere about the subject.  I have another cart, a first generation Koetsu Black MC, that I may put into play soon.  I wouldn't be taking anything for granted when I do.  I will start at 92 degrees and see what happens.  Enjoy the music.

neobop

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Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #18 on: 23 Feb 2013, 10:23 pm »
Thanks Jim. You're living proof that one size does not fit all, when setting VTA/SRA. The recommendation, prior to Mikey Fremer, was 91o. When tracing a record groove, being over optimal SRA angle (arm too high),  results in increased third order distortion and generally strident sound. Results of being at a lesser SRA angle are generally subtractive in the treble region and benign (not strident) harmonically.

Many arms with on-the-fly VTA have a calibrated adjuster and you learn where most records or records of similar pressings or thickness, sound right with a particular cart. That makes it easy to return to your usually preferred setting. Once this preferred setting is determined, alignment should be rechecked. Any more than a small change in arm height will affect overhang.
neo

jimdgoulding

Re: Cartridge settings
« Reply #19 on: 26 Mar 2013, 02:35 am »
Neo-  When you measure a tonearm's length, do you measure from end to end to include the headshell?  Or, pivot to end to include the headshell?  Or, what?  Thanks.