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AT VM95 ML anti skate issue

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by tAC0, Jan 14, 2022.

  1. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    I have been ‘messing’ around with my relatively new AT VM95 ML stylus (ca. 50 hrs of use). I have used a few SH styli before and wanted to experience ‘the other flavour: more sparkling, less laid back and superior track and trace capabilities… but now I’m experiencing something that I’d never had before running my shibata tip and I’d like some help/advice.

    First my modest set up:

    -Thorens TD 165 with TP11 stock arm fitted with VM95ML
    -Pioneer SA 7300 vintage amp (no phono pre)
    -Wharfedale Diamond 9.1’s

    … nothing special but sounds good to these ears.

    The issue… I’ve set everything by the book, and I know how these VTF-, SRA-, azimuth- things work (my SH tip sounded really lush and IGD/sibilance free), but with this ML… it can do better: I think I have a (anti?) skating issue.

    The table is dead level (so is the platter). VTF at 2.15 (digital scale), SRA is ok, azimuth looking good…

    when I set anti skate (weight/string) on the recommended 2 (at 2.15 VTF) it sounds good.
    When I set AS a little lower (1.0/1.5) then the soundstage and stereo image collapses and the left channel sounds more dull (no distortion though)

    ??? should left channel not be more clear with lower AS setting ???

    Now the most confusing part: when I raise AS to 2.5 or even 3.0 the soundstage opens up, stereo gets wider and it sounds more even and balanced, but I get sibilance on the right channel?!? I am under the impression that with a raise of AS the right channel gets more groove contact so should sound better, not worse, or am I missing something… it’s only with a few difficult to track lp’s, but I figured a line contact should even outperform a shibata, no? I have set AS on 2.5 now, but the sibilance bothers me, on 2.0 it’s getting less, but als I get less of a soundstage/stereo image..

    I have checked balance L R, wiring of cartridge, checked speaker cable… trust me, it’s not that.

    Does a Shibata / ML / MR need to have more or less AS applied? Opinions please…

    I’m reading so many different opinions re. anti skate on ML vs conicals but nowhere any logic to be found for my perculiar issue.

    Hope someboby can tell me something I don’t know… what am I doing wrong?
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2022
  2. paulybauls

    paulybauls Forum Resident

    North Yorkshire
    The cantilever isn't twisted at all is it? Azimuth may look ok, but if the stylus in relation to the body isn't parallel it won't do much good.
    tAC0 likes this.
  3. Angry_Panda

    Angry_Panda Pipe as shown, slippers not pictured

    ^^^ On this same line of thinking, is the stylus mounted square in the cantilever (so the fins on the stylus are at right angles to the cantilever), or is it possibly rotated a bit? A few degrees would make a difference.
    tAC0 likes this.
  4. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    Thanks for your reply, it’s straight as can be. Checked with mirror and magnified… cantilever never looked so good, stylus in the groove, dead straight and also worth a mention: when I drop the stylus in the groove the cantilever stays straight at AS 1.0 untill 3.0… under or above it slightly bends
  5. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Milwaukee, WI
    Any chance the R/L connections are reversed somewhere?
  6. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

  7. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    Opinions please:

    do advanced styli need MORE or LESS than average AS?
    I read somewhere that AT advised that a Shibata needs 1.25 x the recommended AS…
    I also read that advanced styli need less AS…

    I’m puzzled
  8. Angry_Panda

    Angry_Panda Pipe as shown, slippers not pictured

    I run my AT VM540ML at 2.5 for 2g tracking (on a 1200 mk2). I settled on this by watching the stylus touch down over as much of the record surface as my neck would allow and going for no side-to-side deflection as it landed in the groove. I think your setting of 2 with 2.15 tracking is reasonable, particularly if you're not seeing deflection.
    tAC0 likes this.
  9. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    There is no easy answer here. You will need to experiment. Out of curiosity, what is the effective mass of the arm?

    The reason there are no easy answers is because skating force varies across the record.

    AS mechanisms also vary a lot in their approach, and even among similar designs there are differences.

    For example, lots of tonearms use the "dial and spring" method for anti-skate. But one model could have a stronger or weaker spring, and the markings on the dial are not really exact at all. Further, if the arm is vintage, the spring can become stretched through wear and use, throwing things off even more.

    Typically I use the Peter L. method to set AS - look it up on YouTube. FWIW, using this method, I end up with slightly more anti-skate than VTF.

    In any case, distortion on a known good record in either channel could mean too much or too little anti-skate. It could also mean something else, like a tonearm issue, or a stylus that is dirty and needs to be cleaned. You will need to experiment and troubleshoot.

    Now, re: stereo separation, just forget about it. In my experiments with test records + software and this cartridge, anti-skate does not affect separation that much. Same goes for other cartridges I have tested. Not saying it can't affect certain types of cartridges - but it won't make a difference with this one unless something is really wacky on your end.
    Andrea_Bellucci, tAC0 and Lenny99 like this.
  10. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    @patient_ot I’m aware of Soundsmith’s Peter-method, but my unfunded and uneducated opinion is that it works for elliptical/conical styli. I don’t know if it’s the right answe for an advanced stylus. I mostly use my ears: are vocals dead centre when it’s recorded that way, no L R dustortion or imbalance etc… works for me.

    untill with this ML…. I have conflicting results as stated in my OP.

    the mass of the TP 11 stock Thorens arm is 16.5 g

    edit: it uses a thread and weight, no spring
  11. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    Maybe I’m too OCd about this right now… could well be…

    I have expectations coming from the AT VM95SH, but can’t excpect miracles with say Peter Gabriel’s SO or Norah Jones’ close mic vocals… there’s siblilance on the cds as well, baked in the recording I suppose…

    it’s just that I expected the ML to outperform the SH in that regard (‘such a great tracker’ this and ‘no more sibilance/IGd’ that etc)

    to be clear. I love the ML. It ís great, and sounds flat, no IGD etc… but the quest for perfection (within budget) never ends I suppose
  12. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    San Diego
    I haven't seen alignment mentioned yet here. Maybe try a different scheme? Small adjustments in anti skate shouldn't cause sibilance or IGD. Even on my cheap AT turntable, I didn't hear any issues with the 95ml. I use Lofgren B alignment.
    tAC0 likes this.
  13. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    Maybe that’s something I could try, @Boltman92124

    I’ve set my carts using the 2 point Bearwald alignment… but before, with the same cart - different stylus (SH) I never ran into any problems. So this should be alright, no?
  14. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Milwaukee, WI
    Not necessarily. The purpose of anti-skating is to equalize pressure between the l/r walls. When there is less anti-skating, you're applying more pressure to the left wall. Kind of like an increase VTF. Too much VTF and it sounds like garbage.

    Well first of all, a Shibata is just another type of line contact. The advanced shapes are all line contacts. The true benefit of the ML is that the wear of the fins occurs in such a way that performance should remain fairly constant through its life, until the fins are gone. A new ML and a new Shibata should be capable of nearly equal resolution.

    But to your question, increasing A-S further and further does the same thing as your first example above, but now we're applying the pressure to the right wall. Too much, and things start to sound like garbage again. You can apply enough A-S that the stylus actually climbs the wall, that sounds pretty bad.

    In my experience, all the shapes are very close in terms of skating forces per g. of VTF, while playing modulated passages. Cartridges with exceptional tracking ability, playing extraordinarily loud material, may need additional tracking force to correctly play these passages. Applying these larger amounts of anti-skating to lesser styli won't allow them to play those louder passages, they simply can't do it.

    The ungrooved vinyl method has been around forever, Shure used to include sections of ungrooved vinyl on Obstacle Course albums I think going way back. Shure's suggestion was to keep the stylus stationary. With the hanging weight method, there is quite a wide range that will accomplish this. This is your range. You want to listen to music and adjust the weight up/down within the range, until the music tracks properly and sounds its best for 99.9% of your vinyl.

    The extreme vinyl (that .1%) that gives you fits, you can increase the anti-skating weight to the maximum before the stylus will go backwards on ungrooved vinyl. You don't really want the stylus moving backwards as even the slightest vinyl defects skip-repeat (frustrating). If you have vinyl where you think you need even more anti-skating, you likely just need an extreme tracker, or just get a digital version (if you can). The VM95 line are very good trackers, there are exceptional trackers out there but stylus availability is a problem and you just need the stars to align to play some of that vinyl, sometimes it just isn't worth the hassle.
    tAC0 likes this.
  15. Jethro B Good

    Jethro B Good Senior Member


    Not sure if this fits your issue but recently I was swapping some cartridges around because I was dissatisfied. Anyway I setup a VM95E and was getting some fluttery (?) weakness in the R(?) channel. Inconsistent. Tried doing setup again and no change. Visual inspection yielded nothing. Finally I pulled the 95E out and found the green lead was oversize and loose. I think the wire pressure kept it on the pin.

    As these were old and battered leads I changed them out. Voila issue resolved.
    tAC0 likes this.
  16. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Many DJs use this method. There is some risk with it though. Typically too much antiskate,which leads to uneven stylus wear. Might depend on the cartridge. Not a method I personally use.
    tAC0 likes this.
  17. Lenny99

    Lenny99 The truth sets you free.

    Clarksburg WV

    I agree.

    You really cannot depend on the numbers listed on the anti skate dial. I have two TTs and I've noticed this discrepancy while in use.

    First, as you wrote, the nature of the dial spring setup prohibits accuracy.

    Second, when I noticed this issue I began to use the manufacturer's recommended setting as a starting point.

    I choose the setting based on a variety of issues. I alter that setting between vinyls and while in play.

    So, to the question at hand; I believe your instructions were spot on.
    patient_ot and tAC0 like this.
  18. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    Thanks for all your constructive thoughts!

    @Lenny99 I have no dial for setting AS, my TT is equipped with string/weight mechanism

    @Jethro B Good thanks for this! My headshell wiring is still stock, and thus from ‘73 ánd very very thin…
    Good idea to check those and replace ‘em anyway. Might not solve the problem, but it’s a relatively cheap way to improve things; who knows, I might even hear a sonic inprovement?
  19. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    Tonight I’ll check my headshell wiring and get me some new ones on the www… I will also doublecheck AS using the blank disc method.
    Can this also be done with a cd or laserdisc, or is that unreliable… it’s not vinyl ofcourse…
  20. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    @Lenny99 (and others) …got me thinking… since it’s a stock arm, from ‘73, could the tonearm wiring inside cause any of these issues?
  21. dconsmack

    dconsmack Forum Resident

    Las Vegas, NV USA
    Peter Ledermann, the man who builds the high end Soundsmith cartridges and retips all sorts of carts, recommends lowering the stylus into the dead wax, in between the runout grooves, and adjusting anti-skate so the cartridge slowly glides towards the lockout groove. Slowly - as in applying any more anti skate would keep the cartridge stationary in the dead wax. There’s two videos on the Soundsmith website detailing the reasons for this method.
    I’ve been doing this for a few years now with excellent results. He implies that the stylus profile doesn’t matter. This is a guy who has a successful retipping service for many years and has probably seen it all. If a stylus has worn evenly on both sides for its entire life, it probably means the anti skate was properly applied. I doubt he would suggest a method that would result in uneven wear. And his method of setting anti skate works for any cartridge at any VTF, with the added benefit of having a smooth and gentle motion of the stylus slowly falling into the next groove anywhere on a side, particularly the lead in groove (I always use the cue lever).
    If you have problems with tracking applying that method, I believe something else is the culprit.
    patient_ot likes this.
  22. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    @dconsmack this has been discussed extensively in previous posts, but thanks for the tip
    patient_ot likes this.
  23. dconsmack

    dconsmack Forum Resident

    Las Vegas, NV USA
    Then it’s obvious I skimmed the thread. Sorry I missed it.
    tAC0 likes this.
  24. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    It doesn't really matter what type of antiskate mechanism the arm has. No such thing as an exact antiskate setting on any arm or turntable, because the skating force varies across the record. Any AS setting is going to be a compromise.
    Lenny99 and tAC0 like this.
  25. tAC0

    tAC0 ...for the record, I’m a vinylist Thread Starter

    That description regarding the AS range on a blank record (Shure method) sounds like something I’d like to try. I don’t have a blank lp side lying around, only a laserdisc/cd… is that usable for this?

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