Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

the thin end of the wedge
Ricketts223
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Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Ricketts223 » 27 Jul 2019 01:34

Hi everyone;

I decided to start looking into other cartridges to add to the collection. Research led me to the VM540ML. I already have a M97XE. I thought the M97 seemed pretty accurate, but maybe lacking a bit in the highs, as others have mentioned, so I decided to try the VM540.

My system: Technics SL1200mk2, Onkyo TX-NR808 (built in phono stage)

So mounting the cartridge to a chinese knock-off Technics headshell, setting the overhang and alignment. I set the tracking to 1.8g (to start with - not a fan of high tracking forces but will move to 2g if needed as indicated in the manual)

The 540 tracks wonderfully - even on the inner tracks - I hear no sibilance as compared to the M97.

But it is a lot brighter than the M97 on my system, almost nasal at times. Bass is more pronounced, but the mids seem withdrawn, and the highs almost too bright.

So - in everyone's experience, what will happen after it breaks in for 20 hours or so? Its possible that the Shure just likes the loading of the preamp in the Onkyo better than the VM, so I might experiment with DIY loading - something I have never done before, I have always ran Shures and never felt the need to before.

Any ideas or websites I can look at for DIY loading? Lastly, will moving to the recommended 2g tracking alter the frequency response? I have read some users indicating it tightened up the bass, but no mention of high frequencies.

Thanks for your help :)

gullkeoby
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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by gullkeoby » 27 Jul 2019 10:03

I don't have experience with VM540ML but with Audio technica 120e it need more then 20 hours...in fact it was around 70 hours....and it was not a "slow" change to better (some will say your brain will adapt)...it sound like crap first 70 hours and then... just great - very transparent in highs and middle zone with slightly recessed bass...So there was not a "brain adapt" at all -it just sound awful first 70 hours and then great...but that was 120 e and i don't know VM540ML so it may behave in diff.manner.

Ricketts223
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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Ricketts223 » 27 Jul 2019 13:36

Part of me was wondering if it is a cartridge break in period or a brain break in period, lol. I'll give it some time for starters, set my baseline, then experiment. I was always impressed with the phono stage in the Onkyo, for a current product (well, 7 years old), maybe it just plays well with the M97.

Anyone try resistive loading? http://daveyw.edsstuff.org/vinyl/loading/

I might give that a go later on, but I'll give it some time

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Solist » 27 Jul 2019 15:07

You better become a fan of "high" tracking forces. Use the recommended VTF. Too low VTF will cause the needle to jump around in the grooves causing damage.

In regard to the highs, you probably got that feeling because you were used to the sound of the 97. AT in generals have good highs, it could also be that the SRA is incorrect.

Ricketts223
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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Ricketts223 » 27 Jul 2019 15:49

Interesting thoughts on SRA, I do have to set my tonearm height as I noticed this is off a bit last night. I am probably nowhere near 92 degrees, probably more like 96 or 98 by my eyeball. I will check.

Thanks!

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by BMRR » 27 Jul 2019 16:04

Don't be afraid of tracking at 2g with this cartridge. The MicroLine diamond causes significantly less record wear than an elliptical diamond because the tracking force is spread out over a much wider area of the groove (whereas an elliptical diamond concentrates all of the tracking force into a very small area). A MicroLine diamond at 2g will cause less wear than a 2x7 elliptical at 1.25g.

If you've been listening to an M97xE for a long time, most cartridges will sound too bright at first because the M97xE has so much treble roll-off. Cartridge break-in (or more accurately, stylus break-in) is definitely a real thing, but you also need to allow some time for your ears to adjust.

My AT440MLb only needed about 10-20 hours of break-in time. I would expect the VM540ML to be similar.

It will always sound more treble-y than the M97xE because the M97xE has a lot less treble than most cartridges. Eventually you'll come to appreciate all the air and detail that you weren't hearing before. :)

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by macster » 27 Jul 2019 19:48

I set my tonearm level (and after trying various angles, I went back to it), tracking force was 1.995gm. The total capacitance from my turntable to and including my phonoamp is about 186pf.

M~

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by johnnywalker » 27 Jul 2019 20:42

You might have a capacitance mismatch with the VM540ML. According to KAB, the capacitance of your turntable and tonearm wiring is about 100 pF. AT recommends 100-200 pF loading for their carts. So if the capacitance of the phono circuit of the Onkyo is more than 100 pF, you have a mismatch - and the higher the capacitance above 100 pF, the greater the mismatch. This could have an effect on your perception of the 540 as bright. I run the 540 in my SL-1200M3D through a Pro-Ject Phono Box S with the capacitance set as low as it will go, 100 pF. Sounds wonderful, excellent highs, plenty of "air" and harmonics, but not bright to my ears. (And, BTW, the 540 sounded pretty darned good right out of the box, and only gets better with use.)

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Ricketts223 » 27 Jul 2019 21:09

Thanks for the replies and advice so far - I am going to set my tracking for 2g as recommended and set my tonearm height tonight, then so a 20 hr or so break in period and see wow things progress

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by gullkeoby » 28 Jul 2019 08:56

ah yes... a johnnywalker made a important point about capacitance ...this 120e change sound a lot regard this...at that time i also have project tubebox and lowering capacitance have significant effect...but also when i change cable between tubebox and amp to low-capacitance cable. But problem was also cable that is between tonearm and tubebox...and that i couldn't change ( it was a music hall 5.1)...But sound was good ...a bit more on a bright side but not irritating anymore...very pleasant in fact.

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by smee4 » 29 Jul 2019 07:08

Ricketts223 wrote:
27 Jul 2019 21:09
Thanks for the replies and advice so far - I am going to set my tracking for 2g as recommended and set my tonearm height tonight, then so a 20 hr or so break in period and see wow things progress
As others have assured you, 2g is not heavy. The ultra light tracking is a hangover from early hifi when everybody tried to track lighter than everyone else.

Ricketts223
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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Ricketts223 » 29 Jul 2019 12:25

Thanks - I have set up the turntable and the tracking at 2g but haven't had a chance to listen yet. Worked by flashlight last night as a thunderstorm knocked out our power for the evening. Still better than -30 in the winter though :)

It is hard to wrap my head around 2g, It is heavier than I have ever tracked before - you're right though, it was everything that we were taught in the 70's/80's - lighter = better

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by BMRR » 29 Jul 2019 14:25

The radio stations you listened to in the '70s and '80s were tracking their cartridges at 3g to 5g. 2g is nothing to fear at all. :)

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by wojtekf » 29 Jul 2019 15:01

Ricketts223 wrote:
29 Jul 2019 12:25
It is hard to wrap my head around 2g, It is heavier than I have ever tracked before - you're right though, it was everything that we were taught in the 70's/80's - lighter = better
Have a look at the suggested tracking force ranges at the Ortofon cartridges (please note I haven't listed any SPU here):
Cadenza Black - 2.0-2.5 g
MC Quintet Black S - 2.1-2.5 g
MC Anna Diamond - 2.4 g

2g is nothing unusual :)

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Re: Audio Technica VM540ML Break in period

Post by Solist » 29 Jul 2019 15:37

If I remember correctly there is a 3k€ cartridge ortofon makes, that tracks at 4g?

At the end of the day you are still putting a diamond in between 2 vinyl walls. If you really want to preserve your records use higher stylus options, microline etc. Those have more contact area with the vinyl record, meaning that the pressure is spread on a bigger surface = reduced wear. They also tend to last a couple of times longer because of that.

If the manufacturer suggests to use 2g, and you have a good match between the cartridge and tonearm, then use 2g. The suspension is meant to do its job at that tracking force. The worst you can do is track light, you will destroy your records quicker compared to tracking at the correct tracking force or a bit heavier.

PS: Did not know that the vm540ml comes with a micro line. I guess that is what the ml at the end stands for? :D #-o

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