Cartridge setup--guidance requested

I’m having great fun futzing with my cartridge set-up. It’s MC, low output and I’ve been experimenting today with vertical tracking force.
Assuming you have everything else dialed in, VTA, azimuth, overhang, skating, I find that VTF has the biggest impact on sound of all adjustments.
The cart mfr gives a range of tracking force and I’ve found that on the lightest edge of that recommendation, the sound gets bright, thin, detailed. On the heavier edge of the recommended range, the sound gets thicker, bass fuller but less defined. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot and it’s very pronounced and for me, very desirable.
Any tips beyond this?

The recommended tracking force defines the more or less ideal spot where the coils are centered perfectly in the magnetic field and therefore imaging/3D is best. Tonality then also is as normal for that cartridge. You shouldn’t deviate from an optimal imaging tracking weight due to tonality considerations. All other parameters should be dialed in by using that recommended weight (or the middle between the range). After all is dialed in, you can vary the weight in very small steps up and down to hear if further fine tuning of imaging capability is possible. A holographic voice or instrument or any very enveloping sounding recording is a good test track, as this kind of focus and 3D rendering will be what improves while optimizing settings (also but not only weight). From all parameters you dial in, the deviation from the recommended weight usually has the lowest impact on this. All other parameters should get more focus. But VTF may have the biggest impact on tonality. In setups or with cartridges not capable of very good 3D rendering or if the other settings are still off, VTF may be the main trigger of variations. Your setup should be capable imo in case the vinyl rig is on the level of the rest.

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My point exactly is that all else dialed in, VTF seems to have the biggest impact on sq.

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Which cartridge and tone arm? IIRC you have the VPI Classic. Do you have the ability to adjust VTA/SRA on the fly. With everything else dialed in you can dial in VTA/SRA and everything snaps into focus. The change is not subtle on my VPI Prime 3D arm and Ortofon Cadenza Black.

My experience with VTF is similar, with tracking on the high side of the central point recommended by the manufacturer. Of course it will vary with cartridge, but IME tracking light yields an unsatisfactory sound and supposedly can result in groove damage.

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I have a Classic with the 3D arm and Kiseki Purpleheart cart. No VTA on the fly. Seems to me, once it’s set, it’s set. No? BtW, I’m using a full set of Wally tools borrowed and going back tomorrow. Expensive but brilliant tools.

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I find that once you have found the sweet spot of VTA/Tracking Force it’s set and forget. I have on thy fly VTA on my Kuzma but never touch it once dialed in

Others are more sensitive to it and make minute adjustments based on record thickness, that’s past my obsessiveness level

I use an Acoustical Systems SmartTractor, awesome device, fast easy and accurate, cant ask for more than that

Best,
-JP

JP
I agree re. VTA. It’s either correct or it isn’t, regardless of the minute thickness variations of records.

The Wally Tools are supposedly fantastic. Had a gut from the Chicago Audio Society help with mine. The 3D arm you can adjust VTA/SRA. For on the fly you will need the adjustment tower. You can adjust it, just not on the fly. Not familiar with the Purple Herat so my comments on VTA/SRA may only lead to frustration. Adjust at your own risk. IME tail up on my Ortofon opens things up, too much and the bottom end falls apart. With the tower the adjustment is obvious things open up and lock right in. A record would sound meh, adjust it and holy scheez Batman!

I should say I do not adjust it for every record, just those that sound as though they may benefit from it. I do hear the difference.

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Best device! German company.

edit: I have the cheaper SMARTstylus tool, which requires a very steady hand and good eye.

Yes it’s the best, I use their whole stuff, too.

Yes, I just wouldn’t say on sound quality, but on tonality.

Which tangential curve do you guys use? Loefgren A? B? UNI DIN?

How do you decide?

Do you keep different cartridge/headshell/tonearm configs for different curves for different records?

UNIDIN, it’s because the manufacturer of my tonearm invented it and it’s optimized for each other. He says the info about UNIDIN on Fremer’s otherwise good comparison sketch is wrong, so difficult to get the right information for the common audiophile.

I don’t use different configurations. More of the same level would be too expensive, an inferior second one not meaningful. I don’t play a lot of different classical original labels, which would be the biggest demand.

I use Lofgren B as it was recommended by the analog set-up tech at my dealers and feel no reason to change. It is easy enough with the SmartTractor that come a rainy day, I may try the Uni-Din curve

Best,
-JP

I was hoping this thread would gain a bit of traction, I find it interesting to learn which curve and why people choose. There’s a lot of experienced analog guys/girls here🙂

Best,
-JP

Personally a lot of air has been expended in the past and various set-up curves. I am speaking cartridge overhang. Understand each curve provides a tangential tracking solution for two radial points on within a record groove. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. I believe there is a reasonably good cartridge set-up guide on the Vinyl Engine.

VinylEngine

Audiophilia Cartridge Set-up Guide

Kathy's Turntable

I’ve been using the Technics gauge as a shortcut and finally pulled the SmartTractor and Fozgometer meter out of storage to retune the table last night.

The ST instructions said to use Lofgren A IEC for records older than 1995, Lofgren B IEC for newer than 1995 and UNI DIN for records with lots of vocals.

I chose Lofgren B, which coincidentally seems to be very close to the Technics gauge placement.

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The white plastic Technics tool? No kidding!?

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As gimmicky as it looks, it works surprisingly well.

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