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Let's Talk About VTF (Vertical Tracking Force)

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by raye_penber, Apr 8, 2021.

  1. raye_penber

    raye_penber Writer Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK/USA
    So I just installed a new stylus as the last one was reaching the end of its usable life, and have found myself constantly fiddling with the VTF - set several years ago and left to do its thing - forever trying to find the sweet spot between a wide open sound stage with a soaring top end, and the point where the music becomes a little more cohesive and focused with less top end, and fewer dynamics.

    In reality this is a minor adjustment. I'm going from 1.77 - 1.85 (and several increments between).
    To my ears, it makes a significant change to the sound, and - I'm finding - alters with regards to sweet spot per record.

    Maybe the new stylus just needs to break in a little more.
    Think I'm at the 20 hour mark.

    Hoping to find my back to 'set and forget', but I'd be lying if I said that it didn't bug me right now.

    So, and with this in mind, who finds themselves fiddling with VTF? Do you set and forget? Constantly tweak? Find that the sweet spot changes depending upon the record? If so, how would you describe the differences in sound between light and heavy VTF? I imagine it's system dependent to a certain extent?
     
  2. Technocentral

    Technocentral Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, Ireland
    If it says for example max tracking force between say 1.75 and 2g, I tend to go to upper end and a bit more around 2.04 and leave it there for good, that's what my vm95ml is on at the moment and sounds great, probably helps tracking too.
     
    Danilo likes this.
  3. normanr

    normanr Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London, UK
    I've seen this so often, people saying use the highest recommended tracking force specified by the manufacturer (or even higher), the obvious question is why do the manufacturers always state the optimum force is lower than the maximum? Are there situations where the "optimum" sounds better than the maximum?
     
    Sterling1 likes this.
  4. Technocentral

    Technocentral Forum Resident

    Location:
    Dublin, Ireland
    I don't know, but the above works for me in terms of the best sound to my ears anyway.
     
  5. raye_penber

    raye_penber Writer Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK/USA
    For me personally, with my setup (see profile), I always ended up on the light side - around 1.77 - sometimes slightly under the recommended VTF, purely for the open sound imaging and dynamic top end.
    However, this week I'm leaning towards 1.85, which sounds great on some records, but a touch muddy and undefined in comparison to a lighter VTF on others.
    Still trying to find that sweet spot.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
  6. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Virginia
    I set and forget...too many records of different thicknesses that change VTA anyway. I think I’d lose it if I tried to tweak for each record.
     
    Nakamichi likes this.
  7. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Stockholm
    I set VTF looking at the rake angle, I don´t really care about VTF just as long as the rake angle seems fine. I never measure VTF.
     
  8. mkane

    mkane Strictly Analog

    Location:
    Cloverdale,CA
    Tweaker here. Start in the middle and listen. And listen for a while. Then tweek. Listen deep. Focus to the rear of the soundstage. Keep on listening. tweek some more, and then some more. I will become more open left & right, deeper, greater seperation Your finally there. Sit back and enjoy
     
  9. Phil Thien

    Phil Thien Forum Resident

    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I typically find the recommended VTF provides a nice balance to the sound, while still tracking adequately.
     
  10. Otlset

    Otlset under western skies

    Location:
    Temecula, CA
    Very interesting method there.
     
  11. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I don't automatically go with the maximum. I take into account the capabilities of the tonearm. If I am using my Garrard Lab 80, I don't go below 1.25 grams. I start with the low side of the tracking force range. I increase it(still within the manufacturers specified range) until the needle tracks at least 4 of the 5 bass drum tests on the Shure Audio Obstacle Course Era III test record. Tracking force needed also depends on how hot a record is cut. If you only play mildly recorded albums, you can use less tracking force than if you play 12" dance singles or albums with heavy loud bass.
     
    McLover and raye_penber like this.
  12. Pushpaw

    Pushpaw Forum Resident

    Hopefully you at least know if it’s too high as the stylus could damage your records and/or stylus.

    I recently got an inexpensive VTF gauge
    and discovered my VTF was waaaaay too high. Like a couple grams too high. The reason is I was using the dial on the tone arm weight to judge VTF, but I also added blu tac and other weights to the weight and headshell for better cart/arm matching. This did improve sound significantly but apparently it completely threw off the VTF gauge on the tonearm weight.

    I gasped to find out I’d been playing with such high force for about a month.

    I luckily have had no ill effects that I’m aware of and am very glad to have the gauge.

    This is the gauge but not the listing I purchased from.
    Ortofon Stylus Gauge to suit all Turntables | eBay

    As for fine tuning the adjustments, I find that as it gets lighter there is more high frequency response and what might be called “sparkle” to the sound, and as it gets heavier there is more bass.
     
    raye_penber and PhxJohn like this.
  13. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    Yea, interesting......I'd like to hear more on this method!
     
  14. In dealing with both new and old records, on the new records, I don't usually have to vary the VTF. On the older records, it sometimes takes different settings to play correctly. Unknown until I play them, some records skip forward. Reducing the VFT usually works as well as adjusting the ant-skate helps and the records will pay through.

    As far as break-in, what I notice is no matter how clean the record is, a new stylus will collect dust. After it stops collecting dust, it's broken in. As to the life of a stylus, I have never worn one out, even after 100's of hours of usage. I usually physically damage a stylus accidentally, long before any signs of wear show up. An easy way to check the condition is to re-record a record which you had previously recorded digitally to computer and compare on a graph. I use multiple cartridges to get the best results from what I am playing. One of my go-to standby cartridges is a Shure V-15, which is around 40 years old. I bought it new and have never changed the stylus, with 100's of hours on it and using it on several different TT's, it still plays great.
     
    Sterling1 likes this.
  15. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    **
    "As for fine tuning the adjustments, I find that as it gets lighter there is more high frequency response and what might be called “sparkle” to the sound, and as it gets heavier there is more bass."

    Probably because you are changing the SRA.
     
  16. Cliff

    Cliff Magic Carpet Man

    Location:
    Northern CA
    When I owned a Kiseki Blue N.S cartridge, Herman - the designer and CEO recommended a tracking force of 2.8g. That's what his 'setup guy' always aims for. So what is strange about that figure? The range given on their spec sheet is 1.8g - 2.6g max. Their optimum tracking force is listed at 2.4g. Harry at VPI tells his customers to go .1g heavier than the maximum listed rating for his turntables. I don't worry too much about optimum and maximum figures when I dial in VTF. As long as you don't go crazy heavy for a given cartridge spec, you should be just fine.

    Very few carts have sounded best at their rated 'optimum' weight. But my current Ortofon Cadenza Blue is one that does.
     
  17. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Location:
    Toronto
    Basically, it's changing the VTA until you hit the so-called magical 92-degree sweet spot. I tried it on two Dynavector carts and the result was the absolute worst sound I've ever heard. Collapsed soundstage, smeared stereo imaging bordering on mono, closed in boxy sound, etc. Put the tail-end of the tonearm back up and the sound opened up and sounded beautiful again.

    That lesson is what reinforced once and for all that your ears should be the ultimate judge, measurements be damned.
     
    McLover and Nakamichi like this.
  18. If your VTF gets too light, it will cause distortion. Heavier VTF can help to remove contamination from the grooves. It is recommended that you adjust your VTF to the cartridge manufacturer's specifications.
     
    Sterling1 likes this.
  19. fried

    fried Forum Resident

    Location:
    Paris
    I set it in the range recommended by the the manufacturer then I listen to records.
     
  20. Pushpaw

    Pushpaw Forum Resident

    How much does rake angle change with minor VTF adjustments? (Say a tenth of a gram).

    I recently got a thinner platter mat (from 3.5 mm down to 1mm) and I’m thinking that changed SRA.
     
    PhxJohn likes this.
  21. raye_penber

    raye_penber Writer Thread Starter

    Location:
    UK/USA
    Outstanding contribution!!
    You win!!!
    :righton::righton::righton:
     
  22. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix, AZ
    I can't answer that because I would not able to hear a difference with a 1/10th gram change. The mat change of 2.5mm would make a big difference.
     
    McLover likes this.
  23. fried

    fried Forum Resident

    Location:
    Paris
    Win what? I just answered the question you asked.
     
    Jimi Floyd and Sterling1 like this.
  24. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    That makes sense.....but what missan mentioned was not measuring VTF at all rather setting it by looking at SRA???
     
  25. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Location:
    Toronto
    To change the SRA, one needs to change one's VTA. SRA has nothing to do with VTF. What he seems to be stating is that the resulting VTF after having set SRA isn't something that matters to him.
     

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