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10-21-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 1
Post ID: 20175
Reply to: 20175
USB microscope for setting VTA
fiogf49gjkf0d
I suspect Mr. Fremer is not all that well respected here, but I found his article on using a USB microscope to adjust VTA/SRA very helpful.  I was never able to set VTA by ear. 

http://www.analogplanet.com/content/how-use-usb-digital-microscope-set-92-degree-stylus-rake-angle-sra

I found a Dino-lite AD 413ZTA on ebay for $180.  Then bought a stand and modified it to clamp to the base of my Versa Dynamics.  It really did make a huge improvement in the sound quality.  Difficult to describe, but lower distortion is part of it.
10-21-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,540
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 2
Post ID: 20176
Reply to: 20175
Hm, I do not think so.
fiogf49gjkf0d
Hmmm. I need to admit that I did not read the article above and I did not familiar myself with the author’s reasons as I stubbornly consider Fremer to be an idiot. However, purely hypothetically thinking on the subject I wonder why the presence of microscope would make the setting of VTA easier. I personally do not think so.

VTA is not some kind of definitively-fixed angle that needs to be set. It is rather a very delicate balance between the angle, specific cartridge, type of tip, wearing of needle, VTF, room temperature in some cases, cartridge loading, the thickness of record and a few other parameters. The bigger question I would ask: why you have difficulty to set up VTA by ears but feel that do it by eyes is easier?

Do you hear the sonic difference of different VTA? If you do not then you have other then wrong VTA problems. If you do then how you differentiate less say the tubby bass from too low VTA from the tubby bass from too low loading. They are of cause different but no microscope would help you to recognize this difference, of course it is in my view. I think microscope is fine to observe a long impact from wrong antiscatting but serve no purpose in VTA battle.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
10-22-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 3
Post ID: 20177
Reply to: 20176
Usb microscope
fiogf49gjkf0d

Well the idea doesn't actually come from Fremer.  He credits Wally Malewicz for it.  Not sure how you feel about him.

In any case for me it was helpful because I just don't have the patience to play a track over and over trying to find the best setting for VTA.  I think I was so far off or the window is so small that I kept missing it (or both).  I just love listening to music and to play a track over and over is like pulling teeth for me.  Now that I have it set to the 92 degrees that at least a few people will tell you is the "correct" setting I may play around again to try to find a better setting "by ear".  At least now I know I am close.  Also it really does sound dramatically better at this "92 degree" setting than it did before. Also now that I have a VTA setting that sounds better than the previous setting I can leave it alone and see what difference the cartridge loading makes. 

Here is the picture I took with the microscope after I finished adjusting:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2ceYgRGBXdbdWdUS0FRUVZfNzg/edit?usp=sharing

Eventually I will take another to see if it has changed due to suspension wear.
10-22-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Stitch


Behind The Sun
Posts 226
Joined on 01-15-2009

Post #: 4
Post ID: 20178
Reply to: 20177
VTA done right
fiogf49gjkf0d
I think it is quite helpful to have some information about VTA in general.In the 50's there was no cutting standard, that means, every Label did cut their records the way they wanted ( the angle for Mercury, RCA LS, Decca etc. are all different). At that time it was more or less unimportant because the cartridges had more or less round diamond tips. Later there was a cutting standard made. But anyway, no matter what kind of VTA is used, when you run a thicker or thinner record, it has to be adjusted again. This VTA discussion became dominant with the modern - sharp - cuts of the diamonds. BUT, and this is important and forgotten in ALL those discussions, the quality of the diamond from information transfer is in the polishing of its side walls. That's the real thing to think about.
The result will be the following, even when you use the perfect Fremer VTA with YOUR cartridge, it is no guarantee that it will sound superior compared to rear low, lower or maybe a bit higher, because there is no information available (normally) for customers what kind of diamond is used and what kind of side walls it has. It is an endless story .... but to make it short: The ONLY real way to get the best out of YOUR Cartridge is to use an Arm which can be adjusted in its height. But then there is more again, when you have done that, you have to align your cartridge again, because it is no more 100% identical to the first set up. This procedure has to be done a few times to get everything spot on.The Fremer "recommendation" is totally useless when a cartridge designer uses a diamond which is perfect with 90.6°, what is "his" recommendation worth then? Not much.

Is it also the holy grail for top performance? Well, not really because the next chapter is the Tonearm Geometry, how good it is calculated, how well it is in its ability for signal transfer, is the geometry good enough that the inner 3 tracks can be tracked without distortions... and so on...
Next is the height difference from Platter to Armboard, when this would be done right from any manufacturer, then all Arms needed a size which guarantees a level Arm tube with a fixed cartridge. But carts also have different heights and sometimes also different cantilever angles. So, that means in theory, when all was done right according to Framer, it can be possible that the Arm has a tracking position which is simply far away from its real abilities...

Some have multiple Arms on their Turntable for whatever reasons (one for Mono, the other for Stereo, the next made of this material, the other one of that material).... one of my Arms is correctly calibrated for my Decca SXL collection and the other Arm is for normal cut Records from the 70''s+
Romys additional ideas are right, when you want to be on the safe side go for an adjustable Arm. You can try and you can hear it easily when you found the right position (wider soundstage for example...). And you learned. All audiophiles are able to hear differences in cables, or cones below a Turntable, so getting the sweet spot by ear should't be impossible :-)


Kind Regards
Stitch
10-22-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,540
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 5
Post ID: 20179
Reply to: 20178
Amused to Death: Doctor Doctor what is wrong with me....
fiogf49gjkf0d
 Stitch wrote:
The Fremer "recommendation" is totally useless when a cartridge designer uses a diamond which is perfect with 90.6°, what is "his" recommendation worth then? Not much.
The unfortunate irony is that “cartridge designer” is kind of spacious definition as we do not have any practical cartridge designers.  There are mass produced cartridges (most of them) that unfortunately have very low standards and that have very frequently diamond not mounted properly on cantilever. This is not a bogus accusation. I spent at my time a LOT of time to observe needle under microscope and I can testify that a perfectly mounted diamond is rather rarity then norm. Then there are hand-made cartridge when a person doe each cartridge individuality. The quality control in there much higher – but any cartridge does sound conspicuously different. So I do not think that it might be any universal rules. The only one rule that I know is to “talk” to your own cartridge and to train own ears to find best setting for it. I am not against what Fremer wrote even I do not know what it was. I however do play analog and I have no intellectual interest to read this writing about the analog playing. So, I think something is wrong ether with writing or with me…. 


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
10-22-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 6
Post ID: 20180
Reply to: 20178
Not everything that goes...
fiogf49gjkf0d
... through an asshole is shit.

For a total of $250 and a couple of days work I was able to get much better sound out of a cartridge I paid $5K for.  I understand Fremer is a jerk but in this case his article was certainly worth the time I spent reading it.  To be able to actually see the angle of the diamond stylus itself makes with the record surface instead of this ridiculous method of eyeballing the cartridge body that most people use made a huge difference.  Now that I know what that angle actually is I can make fine adjustments by ear.  But of course since Fremer is an asshole feel free to use some other method.  Wink

Mark
10-22-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,540
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 7
Post ID: 20181
Reply to: 20180
Ok, let look into this.
fiogf49gjkf0d
Mark, 

you certainly have a point – if you used the techniques above did get sonic benefit then that all that shall count. Well, sort of. You see VTA is no more than the angle under which the needle hit the record and for all intended purpose it is nothing more than the elevation of the tonearm base. It is not some kind of complicated 3 dimensional setting that requires extrasensory perception and exoreic calibration.  So, before your needle was at the angle A. Now after the application the best of the Fremer’s methodology your needle is at the angle B. The difference between the angle A and the angle B is let say 4.6 mm of tonearm elevation and in the angle B position you report the “huge improvement in the sound quality”.

I do not question your finding but I do invite you to go deeper then my hate of Fremer and look for the empirical reasons. You said that you “never able to set VTA by ear” and then in 4.5mm of arm base elevation you report the “huge improvement in the sound quality”. My point is that this 4.5mm did always sexist in your playback and if you slide your arm base up and down then you shall be able to hear that “huge improvement in the sound quality”. I do not knock the Fremer’s methodology – I did not read it and do not know what he said. But I do question why you need the Fremer’s methodology to hear the improvement that you reportedly were not able to hear before.

I hope you understand that I do not ridicule you. I just voice what I hear in your comment.

Rgs,
Romy the Cat

PS: I am sorry that I edited the title of your post, I have my reasons to do it this week. I hope you do not mind.


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
10-22-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 8
Post ID: 20183
Reply to: 20181
More fun with VTA
fiogf49gjkf0d
Romy,

It's ok, I was just being a smart-ass about Fremer. 

Yes I understand that VTA is the angle that the needle hits the record and that the elevation of the tonearm base is how it is adjusted.

Here is a picture of my turntable and arm:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B2ceYgRGBXdbdlUzRHp3Z1RzdVk/edit?usp=sharing

You can see that there is a big knob on the top of the arm post.  That post is threaded for raising and lowering the arm.

Here is how it went for me before I had the USB microscope.  You have to start somewhere with a new cartridge, right?  Since the usual advice is to start with the cartridge body parallel to the record surface (the top flat part of the cartridge, that is)  I used one of Wally's handy tools to accomplish this.  Not sure if you have seen it but it looks like an ice skate and it bolts on where the cartridge is.  First you measure the height of your cartridge and then bolt this "skate" on in place of the cartridge (along with some shims to make the height the same).  Adjust the arm up or down until the skate "blade" is perfectly flat on the record and you know you have your cartridge body parallel with the record surface.  Now I had a place to start.  Then what?  Adjust up or down until you hear a difference - either better or worse.  Etc etc.  Well this method had me setting the VTA so far off of the optimum that I would never adjust enough in the right direction to get anywhere near the right spot!  (I now know, based on finally getting some large obvious improvement in the sound that I am getting out of my table that I am at least very close to the right VTA).  So previously I would always give up because no matter which direction I went off of that "body is parallel to the record" baseline I couldn't hear much of a difference.  I think I went one full turn of that knob in both directions and I was two full turns too low or something like that.

So I hope this explains my experience and why using Fremer's method helped me. Really it's Wally's method though - Fremer is just publicizing it on his website.  For sure if I had had the patience to keep fiddling with my VTA adjustment I would have found the spot eventually where it started sounding better.  But I didn't. 

Mark
10-23-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,540
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 9
Post ID: 20185
Reply to: 20183
What I am trying to say…
fiogf49gjkf0d
Mark, here is the the point that I make.  You said that no matter which direction I went off of the baseline you couldn't hear much of a difference. Then use other methods (microscope or not) you did found the direction and distance from that baseline that did deliver the improvement. All that I am asking is why while you were trying to hit the same “VTA sweatspot” you were not able to do it.

I do admit that Wally's method might be much easier, particularly if an arm has no calibrated VTA adjustment. Wally is very intelligent guy and I have a lot of respect to him. Still, I do not think any objective and measurable approach to VTA makes sense, at least to me. I do not write a verdict on the subject, I just do not feel that any universal roles might be made in this. It did work in your case and this is great. I would ask why you suddenly begin to hear it but it is kind of irrelevant.  Set VTF for .2g more or load the cartridge with half of the impedance that you are currently loading and see if the Wally’s measurement principles still hold. I do not think it will, however I did not read the thing to say anything more.

The Cat


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
10-23-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,145
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 10
Post ID: 20186
Reply to: 20185
Using Visual Aids to Get Started
fiogf49gjkf0d

In another thread here, I discussed how I developed an "empirical" VTA system for my very "sharp" stylus. With it I can adjust the tonearm height relative to measured record thickness, which I found varies close to 3X, from the thinnest to the thickest records in my collection.  Although this system is a big time saver for me, the bases for it were relative points of adjustment that I originally determined and confirmed by ear, and I know of no other satisfactory way to make these original determinations, upon which the relative "mechanical" settings are based.  While an enlarged view of the stylus might well have helped with adjustments in the early going, it could only be truly helpful with ears as confirmation.  Also, like Romy says, there are plenty of other relevant non-visual issues to take care of during initial cartridge set-up, and all these are also ultimately dependent on one's hearing.

Likewise, a Wally Tractor or similar set-up tool can save a lot of time and frustration, to help get things "close enough" to finalize settings by ear.


The main thing I would want from an enlarged view of my stylus is to gauge cleanliness and wear.


Best regards,
Paul S

10-23-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 11
Post ID: 20187
Reply to: 20185
Theories
fiogf49gjkf0d
Hi Romy,

I have a couple of theories as to why I wasn't able to get to the "VTA sweatspot" before I tried the microscope method. 

The first is that my "baseline"  (using the ice skate tool that wally sold me) was so far off that the range I was working in just didn't make much difference on the record I was playing.  What I noticed back then was that some records sounded great, others had some distortion that I was not sure about.  Was it VTA? Was it VTF? Was it a bad pressing?  Naturally I set VTF first (2.0g).  But nothing I did around this "baseline" setting for VTA made much difference.  So I gave up.  By the way now these same records sound fine after using the microscope to set to 92 degrees.  I do also adjust for thickness of the record.  It is about 1/2 turn between a "thin" record and a "thick" record.

Another theory is that changing amplifiers (I now am using VTL Wotans with my Soundlabs) and then also changing the output tubes (to vintage Tung Sols) has allowed me to hear the changes that VTA makes.  Whereas the previous attempt (without the microscope) these changes were buried in the higher noise floor of my system back then.

I can do some simple tests now to see if my first theory is correct or not.  For example I can take my VTA back "way out of whack" and see if I hear a half-turn difference in either direction from that "bad baseline" now.

As for changing VTF now:  If I add 0.2g to the VTF I would also have to set up the microscope again and see what it did to the VTA. Say it changed to 90 deg due to the added weight on the cartridge then I could re-adjust VTA to get back to 92deg.  Then I could listen to it both ways and decide which sounds better.  Perhaps 2.2g VTF requires a different VTA to sound best?  I don't know.


There is a third theory of course:  This is all in my head and having the microscope and adjusting to 92 degrees makes me feel better so I think it sounds
better.  I don't like this theory at all.  Wink

Mark



10-24-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 12
Post ID: 20188
Reply to: 20186
Vta
fiogf49gjkf0d
Hi Paul,

Soon I will start fine tuning based on listening tests.  Right now I'm too busy with other projects, and the sound I'm getting from the settings I came up with using this method is very satisfying.

Yes having the microscope is very useful for inspecting the stylus and the internals (coils, suspension and so forth) for wear. 

By the way I see you are also in San Diego.  Do you know of any listening groups in town?  I am interested in hearing other systems and possibly hosting the occasional "music night".  I sent email to SDMAG and never heard anything back.

Best Regards,

Mark
10-24-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,145
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 13
Post ID: 20189
Reply to: 20188
Listen; Evaluate; Repeat
fiogf49gjkf0d
Hi, Mark
Of course the idea is to catalog audible differences vs. settings for repeatable results.

Best to continue personal matters via pm. I will contact you, or vice-versa is fine.



Best,
Paul S
10-24-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 14
Post ID: 20190
Reply to: 20189
Off board
fiogf49gjkf0d
OK.  I guess there is no PM within this forum so I will email you to the address in your profile.

B/R

Mark
10-26-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Stitch


Behind The Sun
Posts 226
Joined on 01-15-2009

Post #: 15
Post ID: 20197
Reply to: 20190
Ortofon VTA
fiogf49gjkf0d
I shot a Pic from a Turntable, the owner bought a brand-new Ortofon cartridge this week. When I looked at the pic I saw that the angle is not the angle Framer recommends. It is not a super sharp picture, because the focus adjustments were on a different place, but I think it is good enough to see that Ortofon uses a total different angle.
Ortofon  1.jpg


Probably they should have asked Fremer first??????


Kind Regards
Stitch
10-26-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Paul S
San Diego, California, USA
Posts 2,145
Joined on 10-12-2006

Post #: 16
Post ID: 20198
Reply to: 20197
VTA vs VTF, tracing, etc.
fiogf49gjkf0d
Stitch, do you think this is a design element, or do you think it is a "variation" from the typical cartridge of this brand and model?  Do you think any variation from any supposed norm was/is intentional, or might it be an error? Whether intended or not, it does seem like anyone might make a cartridge with any imaginable native stylus angle, when the stylus was viewed like this.  However, it is harder to accept a lot of variation in the ultimate working relationship between the tracing angle and a nominal (typical) cutter angle. Did you check the angle again when the cartridge was loaded with VTF?  If yes, was the resultant (VTF loaded) tracing angle then within a typical range of adjustment for a more "normal" tracing angle?  Hard to say from this picture how the "tracing edges" would relate to the disc surfaces when VTF loaded.

Another thing rarely mentioned is that the front and/or rear angles of the facets of the stylus vary from one marque or model to another, not to mention the "trailing" angles (or radii), which ostensibly mimic and/or relate to the "burnishing facets" of a typical lacquer cutter stylus. All of these things must also affect the way the stylus engages the vinyl and, so, the sound.

Best regards,
Paul S
10-26-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 17
Post ID: 20199
Reply to: 20197
Dangling in air
fiogf49gjkf0d
Actually this picture doesn't say much with the cantilever and stylus unloaded.   Can you take another picture with it on a record surface, with the VTF set in the range Ortofon suggests.  And take it edge on from the outside of the platter?  You know, something like the picture I posted?
10-26-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Stitch


Behind The Sun
Posts 226
Joined on 01-15-2009

Post #: 18
Post ID: 20200
Reply to: 20199
The living Dead ones
fiogf49gjkf0d
 mem916 wrote:
Actually this picture doesn't say much with the cantilever and stylus unloaded.   Can you take another picture with it on a record surface, with the VTF set in the range Ortofon suggests.  And take it edge on from the outside of the platter?  You know, something like the picture I posted?


This pic says all.
I adjusted the cartridge in the upper range of VTF. The cantilever never bends so much that the needle will change its angle to 92°.When you would be able to understand what I did write above you wouldn't write such a moronic question.



Kind Regards
Stitch
10-26-2013 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
mem916
San Diego, CA
Posts 52
Joined on 10-14-2011

Post #: 19
Post ID: 20201
Reply to: 20200
Okaaay
fiogf49gjkf0d

So I guess you don't understand what "adjust the VTA" actually means?   Here, let me help you out with that:

ad·justəˈjəst/verbverb: adjust; 3rd person present: adjusts; past tense: adjusted; past participle: adjusted; gerund or present participle: adjusting1. alter or move (something) slightly in order to achieve the desired fit, appearance, or result."he smoothed his hair and adjusted his tie"


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