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VTA for a NOOB

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VTA for a NOOB

Postby Jdog1958 » 12 May 2018 08:02

I admit it, I'm a Noob! I have a simple Technics SL-Q2 to spin my stuff. I carefully set the overhang and alignment with a protractor on the cartrdge. Recently I upgraded from my budget cartilage, an AT95E, to an AT120E. I am happy with the results so far.

I see posts about vertical tracking angles - I wouldn't know how to measure this, and even if I did, my TT has no adjustment. Is this really that critical for someone like me? I just want to enjoy my vinyls now that I have returned from the CD rabbit hole. As long as they sound good to me, and the AT120E has not disappointed me. Sounds better every night I play it.

Is this a concern or not?

Thanks to all you guys so far for answering my questions, no matter how dumb. I have learned a lot.
AT120E (4).JPG
AT120E
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby analogaudio » 12 May 2018 19:21

The conventional wisdom is to have the arm tube parallel with the disc surface when the stylus is playing. If that has been achieved (and small discrepancies don't matter much) then you are in good shape. It happens that carts having different heights cause the arm tube to be not parallel to the disc. When the arm is fixed height some adjustment is sometimes possible by the use of spacers above the cart and/or mat thickness changes.

I am old enough to remember the time VTA was the least of our concerns. The things we were concerned about were getting the tracking force down to minimize wear, the evils of warped and off-center discs and keeping the discs and the stylus clean. Given a half decent player in good condition (and your SL-Q2 was more than half-decent when new) the limiting factor in quality was mostly the loudspeakers not the arm VTA.

VTA has become a frequent subject of discussion in the past five years. Nothing has changed to make it more important today than thirty years ago however the revival of interest in LPs seems to have triggered exaggeration of the normal mild obsessions with tinkering that besets some LP users. In my opinion this is misguided for several reasons. The most crucial is that the concept of "correct" or "normal" has changed over the history of LP production, the angle of the cutting stylus at one time it was about 15 degrees, then changed to about 20 degrees. Setting the arm to be "correct" for 15 degrees is going to be incorrect for discs cut at 20 degrees. The second is that discs are not identified as being 15 degree or 20 degree types so how do you know what setting to use? Make a test playing by listening while adjusting the VTA on the fly? To do this is possible however few arms allow it and they are very expensive. Third the cart suspension deflects when the stylus is playing. Adjustment of vertical tracking force changes the deflection and this changes the VTA, so now the VTA has to be adjusted once more.

The LP is not sufficiently stable and precise to support this kind of obsessional tinkering in pursuit of very small changes in performance, it seems to me this appeals to some people who like tinkering more than they like listening to music.

LP was the medium of choice between 1955 and 1985, it became obsolete with the introduction of compact disc which eliminated many of the unsolvable technical problems affecting LP playback. Having said that, LP sound quality can be very good :-)
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby JDJX » 12 May 2018 20:27

When you are setting the VTA, what you are really setting is the SRA .... the "Stylus Rake Angle"

The stylus should "rake" forward from the top about 1-2 degrees .

This is to match the average stylus rake angle of the cutting stylus that cuts the master This angle can vary slightly but about 1- 2 degree rake is considered a good compromise.

A VTA given just refers to the angle of the stylus cantilever when resting on an LP at a proper TF for it .
Some are made for 15 degree VTA but others a have a 20 degree VTA .
With either one, when you have the proper VTA set for a given cartridge it should also give the proper SRA.

It's just easier to judge the angle of the stylus on an LP.. with a bit of magnification of course.... no matter what the VTA figure may be :)

groove_v1x.jpg


SRA-Actu.jpg
SRA-Actu.jpg (126.96 KiB) Viewed 412 times
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby rocky01 » 12 May 2018 21:04

analogaudio wrote:The conventional wisdom is to have the arm tube parallel with the disc surface when the stylus is playing. If that has been achieved (and small discrepancies don't matter much) then you are in good shape. It happens that carts having different heights cause the arm tube to be not parallel to the disc. When the arm is fixed height some adjustment is sometimes possible by the use of spacers above the cart and/or mat thickness changes.

I am old enough to remember the time VTA was the least of our concerns. The things we were concerned about were getting the tracking force down to minimize wear, the evils of warped and off-center discs and keeping the discs and the stylus clean. Given a half decent player in good condition (and your SL-Q2 was more than half-decent when new) the limiting factor in quality was mostly the loudspeakers not the arm VTA.

VTA has become a frequent subject of discussion in the past five years. Nothing has changed to make it more important today than thirty years ago however the revival of interest in LPs seems to have triggered exaggeration of the normal mild obsessions with tinkering that besets some LP users. In my opinion this is misguided for several reasons. The most crucial is that the concept of "correct" or "normal" has changed over the history of LP production, the angle of the cutting stylus at one time it was about 15 degrees, then changed to about 20 degrees. Setting the arm to be "correct" for 15 degrees is going to be incorrect for discs cut at 20 degrees. The second is that discs are not identified as being 15 degree or 20 degree types so how do you know what setting to use? Make a test playing by listening while adjusting the VTA on the fly? To do this is possible however few arms allow it and they are very expensive. Third the cart suspension deflects when the stylus is playing. Adjustment of vertical tracking force changes the deflection and this changes the VTA, so now the VTA has to be adjusted once more.

The LP is not sufficiently stable and precise to support this kind of obsessional tinkering in pursuit of very small changes in performance, it seems to me this appeals to some people who like tinkering more than they like listening to music.

LP was the medium of choice between 1955 and 1985, it became obsolete with the introduction of compact disc which eliminated many of the unsolvable technical problems affecting LP playback. Having said that, LP sound quality can be very good :-)
Agreed
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby denvertrakker » 12 May 2018 21:14

VTA/SRA is seemingly less important - or at least less audible - with an elliptical than with more advanced stylus types. Many folks without the ability to adjust VTA on the arm itself experiment with shims or different mat thicknesses.

You know you're at least in the ballpark if the grooves in between songs are almost dead quiet (at least with a good record). With a MicroLine, Shibata, Fine Line or similar, getting it right is very apparent.

Bottom line: If it sounds good, you're probably correct. Don't overthink it.
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby Jdog1958 » 14 May 2018 00:53

I appreciate all your replies, some of which are very in depth.

I looked at my cartridge on a record, as best I could with my 60 year old eyes and the stylus does appear to tilt forward just a tiny bit, very similar to the photo provided by JDJX!

I do read as one of you said that the VTA/SRA seems less important with an elliptical, and I have read that a hyper-elliptical (.3x.7) such as mine are even less prone to distortion than that of a standard elliptical. In any case, I sought to have a set-up that sounded good to me and easy to listen to. I chose the AT120E/T because I wanted a nude elliptical and this cartridge seemed to have a lot of good things said about.

The SL-Q2 had been in semi-retirement for sometime as the receivers I had did not provide for phono inputs and CD's were so simple to use. With the purchase of the Onkyo receiver to replace a failing Pioneer unit, I had to fire up the TT since I now had phono inputs. What was mounted on it was an AT92EP with an adapter and I was concerned about tracking angles because the combination looked so much taller than a standard 1/2" mount. The tone arm looked almost pitched up like a plane on take-off. That's when I went with the AT95E. It was good for what it is, but I wanted just a little bit better - I think I found "my" cartridge in the AT120E/T. My only concern at this point is the fact that it is no longer in production, and it has been suggested that a spare stylus or two should be obtained. I plan to do that soon, when finances permit.

denvertrakker said, "Bottom line: If it sounds good, you're probably correct. Don't overthink it." I think things sound good to me. I'm done thinking about it! I don't want to tinker with it, I want to listen to my LP's!

Thanks all! This is a great forum!
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby Spinner45 » 14 May 2018 02:19

Oh all this repeated discussions of that bloody VTA crap!
Again and again!..... tons of threads making people paranoid.
Give it a rest already!
I'll once again say it.... "it's NOT a big deal!"
Re-read analogaudio's post a couple of times and let it sink IN!
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby Jdog1958 » 14 May 2018 02:57

:roll:
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby Sunwire » 14 May 2018 03:58

If the bottom of the tonearm headshell is parallel to the record surface, your VTA/SRA is probably close enough to quit worrying about it.
Based on your photo, it looks fine. :)

You don't really need to worry about stylus replacements for your AT120E.
The ATN120E stylus is out of production, but Audio Technica makes a number of newer cartridges that have needles that will fit the AT120 cartridge body.

All of the cartridges with model numbers starting with "VM" have compatible needles.

That being said: if you can find an ATN120E stylus at a good price, you should grab it fast.
As they become more rare, the prices will go up.
There are many other needles that will fit, too.
Here's a thread that covers the subject:
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=103725
I think you made a GREAT cartridge choice!
Last edited by Sunwire on 14 May 2018 04:33, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby jdjohn » 14 May 2018 04:18

Sunwire wrote:If the bottom of the tonearm headshell is parallel to the record surface, your VTA/SRA is probably close enough to quit worrying about it.

+1 Generally, this also means that the tonearm is visually parallel (with the naked eye) to the record playing. Any exceptions to this rule are few and far between.

Gross differences to parallel should be corrected, and those corrections make audible differences. You don't know til you know, and hear, the difference.
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby JDJX » 14 May 2018 05:47

Spinner45 wrote:Oh all this repeated discussions of that bloody VTA crap!
Again and again!..... tons of threads making people paranoid.
Give it a rest already!
I'll once again say it.... "it's NOT a big deal!"
Re-read analogaudio's post a couple of times and let it sink IN!



So, you are saying the the stylus can enter the grooves at any angle you wish?
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby rewfew » 14 May 2018 17:19

I use a homemade VTA gauge. I think it helps to have the cartridge sitting with the arm parallel to the record. You don't have to be anal about it. But it's impossible to gauge it properly just by eyeballing the tonearm. Since Jdog can't adjust the tonearm, it's probably not worth any fuss. It sounds o.k. he says. My Technics has a very easy to use VTA adjustment and I use the top of the headshell as reference. It takes literally a minute or two to set it and forget it.

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VTA is an important adjustment

Postby EdAInWestOC » 14 May 2018 18:21

But, as someone has already pointed out, it is more critical with advanced styli profiles. If you have a hyper elliptical, line contact, Shibata or any of the more exotic shaped styli, VTA and the resulting SRA is more of a concern.

Years ago, when a lot of the information you will hear around here was common, the advanced styli that I mentioned were not being used and almost all tonearms did not have the ability to make VTA/SRA adjustments easily. Fast forward to today and many cartridges have some sort of line contact type styli and many tonearms include the ability to make easy VTA adjustments.

The easiest tonearms have what is called "VTA on the fly" and this sort of thing allows the owner to make adjustments to the VTA while the LP is being played. All of this stuff allows the user to extract the best possible sound quality from the LP.

Since the shape of the stylus mimics the shape of the stylus used in the cutting head, when the lacquer was mastered, the easily adjustable VTA allows the user to fine tune the stylus so it more precisely matches the way the LP was mastered. It short, you extract the best quality from the LP and decrease the distortion to the lowest possible level.

The many points of view about VTA come from the years of changes of VTA adjust-ability and the different types of styli that was found on cartridges. Add to that we now have differing thicknesses of LPs being produced on a very common basis.

The adjustment of VTA re-emerges as a topic and it is now found on modern tonearms. My last two tonearms have had VTA on the fly, and after living with it, I would not consider another tonearm unless it has that feature. If you have VTA on the fly and a cartridge with an advanced profile you can hear it for yourself.

Ed
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby analogaudio » 14 May 2018 18:49

Ed, please, I would be interested to read what you are hearing.
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Re: VTA for a NOOB

Postby Spinner45 » 14 May 2018 23:40

JDJX wrote:
Spinner45 wrote:Oh all this repeated discussions of that bloody VTA crap!
Again and again!..... tons of threads making people paranoid.
Give it a rest already!
I'll once again say it.... "it's NOT a big deal!"
Re-read analogaudio's post a couple of times and let it sink IN!



So, you are saying the the stylus can enter the grooves at any angle you wish?


No.
I am saying that obsessing over a lousy 1 or 2 degrees of angle is rediculous to even worry about.
Considering stylus cantilever angle changes and actually varies as it rides the groove...
Considering that not all records were "cut" at 20 degrees or 15 degrees...
Creating threads of endless discussions pertaining to "rake angle" and making others nuts and paranoid over it..
Come on now!
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