I'm Confused About Anti-Skate

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Quartz_Lock10729
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I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 31 May 2017 23:05

First, we all have heard the recommendation to "match anti-skate value to your tracking force value," which always seemed so arbitrary-esque to me; how can a spring-loaded dial (if your turntable has one, not a string-based example) be simply "matched" by rotating it to "2" or whatever it is to equal the tracking force of two grams?

That being said, because I have fooled around and around and around with this setting to no avail in terms of sound quality (trying to get rid of IGD), I've always just left it set to as close as possible to my tracking force number (so, because I'm tracking an AT95e at 2.35 grams on an Audio-Technica AT-LP120, I leave the AS dial set somewhere around that same mark). But now, it's gotten me thinking...

The anti-skate-match-to-tracking-force suggestion that's so popular assumes that people are using the stock counterweight of the turntable and dialing in tracking force that way, correct? If so, "2" on the counterweight markings would indicate "two grams" of tracking force, for example, so you'd then turn the AS dial to "2" as well. However, what about those of us who dial in tracking force with a digital gauge and don't rely on the weight markings? How could AS possibly be "matched" in terms of a number then?

In other words, let's take my situation once more: I am running an AT95e at 2.35 grams tracking force, confirmed with a digital scale. How would my turntable's anti-skate dial "know," so to speak, that around 2.3 on the dial markings is "matching" the tracking force? Does this question make sense?
_______________________________________________________________________

On another topic of anti-skating: If one is experiencing severe inner groove distortion on all vinyl, would decreasing or increasing anti-skating be best for trying to reduce this...or does AS have nothing to do with it?

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Mikeybc » 31 May 2017 23:41

Think the antiskate dial is just to ballpark it. My Rega antiskate slide markings are about as vague as it gets. I also get best results running near 0 antiskate. Each tonearm is different...My Marantz table seems to like to be run with antiskate matched close to tracking
Last edited by Mikeybc on 31 May 2017 23:44, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by analogaudio » 31 May 2017 23:42

To answer the second question first, AS has nothing to do with IGD. Some causes of IGD are poor alignment, and use of a conical stylus.

Now the first question. Taking the example of using a digital scales to adjust downforce, in order to adjust the downforce the counterweight position is changed, the scales tells the truth, the downforce new value is shown. When the counterweight was adjusted the number indicated on the counterweight dial also changed.

Some explanation of AS.

The convention to set a value equal to the downforce achieves two things, it equalizes the downforce on the opposite faces of the stylus which means stylus wear takes place equally on both faces. Secondly, now that the downforce on both faces of the stylus are equal the stylus is able to follow the groove modulation better, especially when the music is very loud. Without AS compensation the downforces on the two faces of the stylus are unequal, the right channel has less downforce than left. This means that when a very loud section of music occurs it is the right channel which mistracks first before the left channel, mistracking sounds horrible, it is a sudden burst of unmusical distortion. With the recommended downforce applied and the recommended AS applied the cartridge is able to deliver optimum performance.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by strangebudgie » 31 May 2017 23:48

If you have severe IGD then adjustments to anti-skate are unlikely to solve the problem. IGD is more likely due to incorrect tracking force (VTF), poor cartridge alignment, incorrect azimuth or a worn stylus. I would check VTF, azimuth, and alignment first. For alignment there are protractors available on this website and it can be adjusted by moving the cartridge back or forwards in the headshell slots.

More generally, applying anti-skate is an imprecise science as the forces that tend to pull the stylus towards the centre of the record will vary according to the stylus profile (eg: elliptical/spherical), the tracking force and the record in question. Setting by ear is for me the best way and I normally set it considerably lower than VTF.

Hope that helps

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 31 May 2017 23:50

Thank you all, thus far, for your replies; I will get back to each of you individually just as soon as I can!

Thanks again. :D

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 01 Jun 2017 00:20

Mikeybc wrote:Think the antiskate dial is just to ballpark it. My Rega antiskate slide markings are about as vague as it gets. I also get best results running near 0 antiskate. Each tonearm is different...My Marantz table seems to like to be run with antiskate matched close to tracking
Thanks Mikey!

I understand that they're just there to ballpark it; I just don't understand how these markings can correspond to anything meaningful once a digital gauge is used to measure the tracking force...

With regard to your Rega, what do you mean by "best results" when using almost no anti-skating...do you mean your stylus doesn't jump or skip anywhere on the piece of vinyl, or especially in the lead-in ramp? The interesting thing about no anti-skating is that I have read that only folks using their turntables for DJ purposes should use zero anti-skating, especially if they're scratching, as the constant back-cueing calls for no pull in this way...

In keeping with my above query, why does your Marantz "like" anti-skating matched to tracking force...is there a sound difference?

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 01 Jun 2017 00:26

Thanks Very Much, Analog!

I will reply to your comments individually:
analogaudio wrote:To answer the second question first, AS has nothing to do with IGD. Some causes of IGD are poor alignment, and use of a conical stylus.
Thanks for confirming this, or at least making me feel a little better about the situation; I've read all over the Internet that anti-skating is the one aspect of setup that would affect those tightly-packed grooves at the end of a side, and many have suggested cranking the anti-skating way up to improve IGD, while others have mentioned turning it down...

Does it REALLY make no SOUND difference with regard to distortion?

As for your comments about alignment and stylus -- I'm not using a conical, but instead a slightly-more fine-tipped elliptical with the 95E; but from what I've read, so-called "fat ellipticals" have a problem playing those end grooves, as well...
Now the first question. Taking the example of using a digital scales to adjust downforce, in order to adjust the downforce the counterweight position is changed, the scales tells the truth, the downforce new value is shown. When the counterweight was adjusted the number indicated on the counterweight dial also changed.
Indeed -- but what I wanted to know was how the anti-skate dial, which isn't connected "digitally" or anything to read the changes made to a tracking force dial, now "knows" that the "2 grams" on the weight means two grams tracking force, so the user should now PUT the AS dial on "2"...

It's difficult to describe what I'm trying to get at via words in an Internet forum... :(
Some explanation of AS.

The convention to set a value equal to the downforce achieves two things, it equalizes the downforce on the opposite faces of the stylus which means stylus wear takes place equally on both faces. Secondly, now that the downforce on both faces of the stylus are equal the stylus is able to follow the groove modulation better, especially when the music is very loud. Without AS compensation the downforces on the two faces of the stylus are unequal, the right channel has less downforce than left. This means that when a very loud section of music occurs it is the right channel which mistracks first before the left channel, mistracking sounds horrible, it is a sudden burst of unmusical distortion. With the recommended downforce applied and the recommended AS applied the cartridge is able to deliver optimum performance.
Thank you; but because many call these "dial" types of adjustment for anti-skate (such as on the Audio-Technica and Technics turntables) too vague and arbitrary, how does the number "2" on the AS dial EQUATE TO or MIMIC "two grams" of tracking force? That's where I'm confused...

As an aside: I am not experiencing any particular distortion on either the LEFT or RIGHT channel, nor is my arm/cart/stylus exhibiting any strange inward skating problems (the only thing I'm experiencing is messy sibilance and tracing distortion on the last tracks); the arm SLOWLY moves towards the spindle in the runout area when an LP is over, so I always assumed my AS was close enough.

Is this incorrect?

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by nat » 01 Jun 2017 00:33

Tracking force is just a force, and its value isn't affected by how it's measured, unless the measurement technique is wrong. And there seems to be an allure to the digital idea that somehow makes people think that the 70's standard slip ring on a threaded counterweight is somehow unreliable whereas any digital scale is utterly precise. Leaving aside the fact that the ideal tracking force depends on temperature (flexibility of the damper), the record you are playing (groove modulation), and, if you have a dust cover, the humidity (static often makes the cover attract the tonearm), so that tracking force is really a wild ass guess, so precision is beside the point, the notion that any cheap 5 dollar digital scale is necessarily better than the system the maker of the arm (which was often a very significant portion of the price of the table, since it was the most precisely made part) designed is ludicrous. (Is that a complicated enough sentence for you?)

I don't recall ever finding a properly used counterweight tracking force setting being very far off, and every review in the 60s through 80s checked this, generally with exactly the same results.
On the other hand, almost every scale I've used gave a different result depending on what height it was used at. Unless you can get the scale at exactly the height of the record, you will get misleading results on most arms. Underslung arms (I think that is the term for arms where the counterweight is lowered to platter level) may be less prone to error, but if you think about the geometry of the regular arm design with the counterweight at the same height as the arm, not the stylus, you'll see that as the arm lifts (as it does when you put your digital scale on the platter, the counterweight functionally moves inward since it travels an arc downward. So your scale, even if it is accurate to begin with (not necessarily the case) is reading the wrong value to some impressive number of decimals.
Shure designed its scales to read something like an eighth of an inch above the platter mat. This is probably about the thickness of a record, so I would trust the results from it, mechanical scale though it may be. There are digital scales with side platforms that are lowered, and they may also be reliable. But the standard digital scale, with the platform above the body, needs to be used next to the platter, on some sort of platform that gets it to the same height as a record, before it will read correctly.
I'm sure that cartridges with unusually high or low bodies gave less accurate results with the counterweight scales, but. by and large, they were accurate enough for the imprecision that is the nature of ideal tracking force. The best advice, I believe, is always to set the force nearer the upper recommended level, and then listen to see if there is reason to change.

Antiskating force is even less precise, utterly dependent on groove modulation, stylus shape and wear, and alignment. Presumably the makers of decent equipment were smart enough to get within the ball park, and I've never had any reason to do anything other than set it where they suggest, and listen.
I will admit that I thought the Rega markings on the RB 300 were too high, but otherwise, I've been fairly happy just using the manufacturer's settings.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Mikeybc » 01 Jun 2017 00:47

Quartz_Lock10729 wrote:
Mikeybc wrote:Think the antiskate dial is just to ballpark it. My Rega antiskate slide markings are about as vague as it gets. I also get best results running near 0 antiskate. Each tonearm is different...My Marantz table seems to like to be run with antiskate matched close to tracking
Thanks Mikey!

I understand that they're just there to ballpark it; I just don't understand how these markings can correspond to anything meaningful once a digital gauge is used to measure the tracking force...

With regard to your Rega, what do you mean by "best results" when using almost no anti-skating...do you mean your stylus doesn't jump or skip anywhere on the piece of vinyl, or especially in the lead-in ramp? The interesting thing about no anti-skating is that I have read that only folks using their turntables for DJ purposes should use zero anti-skating, especially if they're scratching, as the constant back-cueing calls for no pull in this way...

In keeping with my above query, why does your Marantz "like" anti-skating matched to tracking force...is there a sound difference?
"Best results" - I set my antiskate visually so the stylus does not deflect left or right in relation to the cartridge body as its lowered it onto the record. I get no deflection at roughly .25 - .5 on my slider...I'm kinda guessing on that as I said the Rega antiskate slider is quite vague . Never had a skip yet and channel balance is spot on.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 01 Jun 2017 00:54

Thanks Budgie,

I'll respond to your comments individually...
strangebudgie wrote:If you have severe IGD then adjustments to anti-skate are unlikely to solve the problem. IGD is more likely due to incorrect tracking force (VTF), poor cartridge alignment, incorrect azimuth or a worn stylus. I would check VTF, azimuth, and alignment first. For alignment there are protractors available on this website and it can be adjusted by moving the cartridge back or forwards in the headshell slots.
Okay; here's the thing: To combat sibilance issues I had out of the gate with the AT95e (which came pre-aligned and connected to the headshell when I bought my turntable), I experimented with tracking force increases from the recommended two (2) grams for this cart (I was told increasing tracking force would decrease sibilant highs) and ended up running the 95e at 2.35 grams (confirmed with a digital scale that's working properly as far as I can tell). So I don't think tracking force is causing the issue; well, in this case, it wouldn't be "too light" of a tracking force, because I'm almost at the max recommended force for this cartridge (2.5 grams).

Now, here's the thing about my cartridge: I was thinking that perhaps this is all coming down to the elliptical tip of my AT95e (which isn't worn, to address your concern about that, as far as I can tell because records sound the way they should pretty much until the arm reaches the last bands) because I've read a myriad of things from owners of this cart who just couldn't get rid of IGD no matter how hard they tried realignment schemes or additional tracking weight -- the gist of the consensus seemed to be that the elliptical of this cart just can't track those very tightly-packed grooves at the end of a side. From here, it's usually recommended that a fine-line stylus be used, such as the AT440, and that's why I have been considering upgrading to that cart.

All of that being said, here's the deal with regard to azimuth, height and alignment: This turntable I'm using came with a felt slipmat (because it's marketed as a Technics SL1200 "clone" for DJ purposes...or at least it was upon launch; many are using it as a home/hi fi deck now) which, when a record is placed on the platter, forces users to keep the arm in the stock "very low" height position in order to get ANY trackability at all from it. In fact, the stock arm height is the LOWEST the arm will go; if I raise the arm height, it will put the arm much more TAIL-DOWN, which wouldn't be ideal, at all. Until I get a thicker rubber platter mat, I am kind of stuck with leaving it at this height.

Moving on from that, I have not fooled with azimuth (rotation of the cart in the shell) nor did I tweak the alignment very much (experimented, but did not make a sound difference on those end tracks), based on conversations with Audio-Technica's people who assured me the cart was very, very close to ideal alignment out of the box. Regardless, all of this is leading me to believe it's the STYLUS SHAPE that's causing my IGD...but I thought perhaps fooling around with anti-skate could maybe improve things, which is why I started the thread in the first place.
More generally, applying anti-skate is an imprecise science as the forces that tend to pull the stylus towards the centre of the record will vary according to the stylus profile (eg: elliptical/spherical), the tracking force and the record in question. Setting by ear is for me the best way and I normally set it considerably lower than VTF.

Hope that helps
Thanks for your sincere input here; indeed, you're not the only person who has told me they run their AS significantly lower than the tracking force -- in fact, some people say it SHOULD be lower, no matter what. The thing is, with MY particular turntable, which has an infamous reputation for boasting erratic or even non-functioning AS dials, it has been reported that users SHOULD be running the AS AT LEAST ONE GRAM HIGHER than the tracking force on the AS dial...

The whole thing has my head spinning because I don't know where the stupid dial should be set; as it stands, it seems the only problem I'm experiencing is the IGD (unless a record was mastered poorly, which I've run into too many times already, especially with new 180-gram releases)... :roll:

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 01 Jun 2017 00:58

Mikeybc wrote:
Quartz_Lock10729 wrote:
Mikeybc wrote:Think the antiskate dial is just to ballpark it. My Rega antiskate slide markings are about as vague as it gets. I also get best results running near 0 antiskate. Each tonearm is different...My Marantz table seems to like to be run with antiskate matched close to tracking
Thanks Mikey!

I understand that they're just there to ballpark it; I just don't understand how these markings can correspond to anything meaningful once a digital gauge is used to measure the tracking force...

With regard to your Rega, what do you mean by "best results" when using almost no anti-skating...do you mean your stylus doesn't jump or skip anywhere on the piece of vinyl, or especially in the lead-in ramp? The interesting thing about no anti-skating is that I have read that only folks using their turntables for DJ purposes should use zero anti-skating, especially if they're scratching, as the constant back-cueing calls for no pull in this way...

In keeping with my above query, why does your Marantz "like" anti-skating matched to tracking force...is there a sound difference?
"Best results" - I set my antiskate visually so the stylus does not deflect left or right in relation to the cartridge body as its lowered it onto the record. I get no deflection at roughly .25 - .5 on my slider...I'm kinda guessing on that as I said the Rega antiskate slider is quite vague . Never had a skip yet and channel balance is spot on.
I see; thanks.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Quartz_Lock10729 » 01 Jun 2017 00:59

nat wrote:Tracking force is just a force, and its value isn't affected by how it's measured, unless the measurement technique is wrong. And there seems to be an allure to the digital idea that somehow makes people think that the 70's standard slip ring on a threaded counterweight is somehow unreliable whereas any digital scale is utterly precise. Leaving aside the fact that the ideal tracking force depends on temperature (flexibility of the damper), the record you are playing (groove modulation), and, if you have a dust cover, the humidity (static often makes the cover attract the tonearm), so that tracking force is really a wild ass guess, so precision is beside the point, the notion that any cheap 5 dollar digital scale is necessarily better than the system the maker of the arm (which was often a very significant portion of the price of the table, since it was the most precisely made part) designed is ludicrous. (Is that a complicated enough sentence for you?)

I don't recall ever finding a properly used counterweight tracking force setting being very far off, and every review in the 60s through 80s checked this, generally with exactly the same results.
On the other hand, almost every scale I've used gave a different result depending on what height it was used at. Unless you can get the scale at exactly the height of the record, you will get misleading results on most arms. Underslung arms (I think that is the term for arms where the counterweight is lowered to platter level) may be less prone to error, but if you think about the geometry of the regular arm design with the counterweight at the same height as the arm, not the stylus, you'll see that as the arm lifts (as it does when you put your digital scale on the platter, the counterweight functionally moves inward since it travels an arc downward. So your scale, even if it is accurate to begin with (not necessarily the case) is reading the wrong value to some impressive number of decimals.
Shure designed its scales to read something like an eighth of an inch above the platter mat. This is probably about the thickness of a record, so I would trust the results from it, mechanical scale though it may be. There are digital scales with side platforms that are lowered, and they may also be reliable. But the standard digital scale, with the platform above the body, needs to be used next to the platter, on some sort of platform that gets it to the same height as a record, before it will read correctly.
I'm sure that cartridges with unusually high or low bodies gave less accurate results with the counterweight scales, but. by and large, they were accurate enough for the imprecision that is the nature of ideal tracking force. The best advice, I believe, is always to set the force nearer the upper recommended level, and then listen to see if there is reason to change.

Antiskating force is even less precise, utterly dependent on groove modulation, stylus shape and wear, and alignment. Presumably the makers of decent equipment were smart enough to get within the ball park, and I've never had any reason to do anything other than set it where they suggest, and listen.
I will admit that I thought the Rega markings on the RB 300 were too high, but otherwise, I've been fairly happy just using the manufacturer's settings.
Interestingly enough, I found -- once I bought the digital scale -- that my counterweight's markings were quite off; where I thought I was running two grams of force after doing the arm balancing routine, it was actually shown that "2" on the counterweight dial was wrong.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Melos Antropon » 01 Jun 2017 01:12

QuartzLock:

For what it may be worth, I am using the same turntable as you, and an AT 440MLb cartridge. I have found (in MY circumstance), the optimum tracking force for the cartridge to be 1.75 grams, and I set the A/S to about half of that value. My ear says "everything is A-OK here", and I let it go at that. As I said, for what it may be worth. Someone mentioned above that A/S is, at best, a "ballpark" thing, and I agree with that.

Tony

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by Spinner45 » 01 Jun 2017 02:31

Melos Antropon wrote: Someone mentioned above that A/S is, at best, a "ballpark" thing, and I agree with that.

Tony
"Someone"?
With due respect:
People all over the internet comment on all sorts of ideas, opinions, and conclusions, leading others to believe that it's the thing to do.
I'm pretty sure that the manufacturers put enough research into designing their products to insure proper operation - as long as the said equipment is in proper working order in the first place, and properly set up as well.
This "ballpark" idea may work too, but I strongly think the manufacturer knew better in the design lab.
And while "factory calibration" might vary within tolerances, I'd sooner trust the dial instead of hearsay.

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Re: I'm Confused About Anti-Skate...

Post by strangebudgie » 01 Jun 2017 09:12

You say that the cartridge has been factory aligned. However, tracking alignment with a pivoted arm is always a trade off, particualrly with the relatively short arm used on the AT. I am not sure, but it is possible that the manufacturer has chosen an alignment that minimises tracking error across the majority of the record, but with the trade off of some added distortion on the inner grooves. Incidentally, record companies often placed tracks where the type of music meant that sibillance etc was less of an issue in these inner tracks. You could try experimenting with adjusting you cartridge so that it optimises alignment for the innermost grooves and see if you still get the IGD. I also agree with the poster that suggested using the AT440 cartridge. That microline stylus is a real 'IGD killer', and incidentally needs next to zero anti-skate.

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