Does removing anti-skating really improve sound?

I know this topic has been discussed here before, but wanted to see if others have the same experience as me. After removing the fishing line dangling weight from my tonearm I’m convinced my bass and soundstage has opened up. I doing very careful listening with headphones and don’t hear any distortion or treble harshness. So why use anti-skating at all? Even during deep bass/ loud passages no skipping of tracks. Any thoughts from all the analog gurus out there?
What tonearm?
what cartridge?
All tonearms that are mounted such that the stylus overhangs the spindle will generate a skating force. It’s the law. Whether you choose to counteract the skating force, or not, is quite another matter.
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I've never cared for the thread-and-weight. On tonearms with magnetic antiskate (like my Denon 307) I will set it by dial to correspond with the VTF. Though I doubt I can hear a difference with it on or off!
On the two Fidelity Research tonearms I own (FR29 and FR54) neither has any provision for antiskate. So Ikeda-san didn't consider it important for these two models! They are both heavy arms well-suited for low-compliance MC's.
I have a mmf 2.2 nothing very fancy. It has the stock tonearm. So don’t know if that’s why I’m getting better sound without the skating.
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The FR64S, 66S, and 64fx all do have an anti-skate device built in. So maybe Ikeda was pinching pennies when he designed the lesser models you mention.

 I kind of disagree that the tonearm and the cartridge make a “big” difference with respect to the skating force. The skating force is generated by the friction of the stylus in the groove. So I would say the stylus tip shape may make a difference to the amount of skating force. However, if the bearIng  is very low in friction, and if the headshell offset angle is designed for any one of the three popular alignment algorithms, then the tonearm really shouldn’t make that much difference. The reason it could make a difference is if the friction at the bearing is on the high side. Thus some of the VPI tonearms that lack an anti-skate device generate an anti-skating force by virtue of the drag caused by the tonearm wires where they exit near the pivot point of the tonearm. I suppose that is true for some other tonearms that just happened to have a lot of bearing friction. I guess I agree then that if you have one of those tonearms which has friction at the pivot due either to bearings or wire drag, either of those factors could lessen the need for a separate anti-skate device. I suppose also VTF can make a difference. 

Maybe we’ll find out that the OP is using one of those VPI tonearms, and then we won’t wonder why he does not seem to need a separate anti-skate device. Or maybe we’ll never find out what tonearm and cartridge he uses.

What you have discovered is one of the more important facts about turntables- each and every one is its own unique animal. Even two of the exact same model can sound different simply due to where they are sited- rack, table or wall stand for example. It can be frustrating, because there are no simple answers. Or it can be exciting, because it opens up endless opportunities for getting exceptional performance from simple tweaks like you just did.

In all cases the correct way of going about it is what you just did: try it and listen. So congrats on that.

Now as far as anti-skating goes, here's what to listen for: breakup and/or sibilance. Both are, or can be, due to mistracking. Sibilance more often than not is in the pressing and when that is the case will be heard equally in both channels. What you want to listen for is a pattern of mistracking coming more from one channel than the other. 

Anti-skating pulls the arm away from the center. If it pulls too much then you're more likely going to get mistracking and breakup of the inner groove side. If it pulls not enough then it'll be the outer side of the groove. 

Now the right channel is on the right (away from the center) so too much anti-skate will tend to give left channel breakup. And vice versa.

So listen for breakup and if you don't hear any- or if its equally left and right- then relax and enjoy your newfound performance!
Thank you millercarbon for the detailed explanation. Does anti skating affect loudness of a channel also? I believe after removing the weight my right channel sounds equal to the left whereas before it was slightly louder.
I have a Technics SL-1200G with Ortofon Quintet Black cartridge. I calibrated the arm using a Feickert protractor.  At this point, I can't say that not using anti-skating improves SQ, but I can unequivocally say it stops tonearm skating at cartridge set down.
I have always kept anti skating on my Vector 4 on the light side, just below mid level.  I think it best for several cartridges I have owned.  I think Millercarbon’s advice is sound.
it depends on the stylus tip profile, it's better to use antiskating if you don't want to destroy one side of the vinyl groove wall 
With my 12" Jelco and two 12" Groove Master tonearms used with Denon 103R, Audio-Technica Art9, Audio-Technica 33Sa, Benz Ace, and Soundsmith Zephyr cartridges little or no anti-skating sounds the best.  My two 12" Schick tonearms have no anti-skating.

When I used a 9" Jelco I again found very little to no anti-skating sounded the best. 

My opinion is what sounds the best is the best for my cartridges.
It’s difficult to reason that not setting the anti-skating will produce better sound reproduction. Reducing side loading on the  stylus cantilever should result in minimal side loading and damping of the mechanical function of the system, hence allowing for maximum possible accurate reproduction and channel balance, but I don’t discount  empirical data either . 
My two 12" Schick tonearms have no anti-skating.

I've owned one, nice looking, but relatively cheap tonearm from a DIYer, designed for SPU and Denon 103 (both with conical tip). All new versions of the Schick toneams now have anti-skating! 

If you want to save your records and stylus tip you have to use anti-skating. 

Actually Schick arm is the only one without anti-skating out of at least 10 very nice tonearms (vintage and new) i have tried. 

I think that statement that the sound is "better" without anti-skating is an urban legend. 

... The skating force is generated by the friction of the stylus in the groove ...
This is mistaken. While stylus shape can influence skating force, the actual cause of the force is the pickup arm offset. That's why true linear tracking arms have no skating force. There are also a few pivoted arms that have no offset; they also have no skating force.
Cleeds, with no friction of the stylus in the groove, there is no skating force. Head shell offset angle is one cause of lack of tangency to the groove that from a vector force point of view gives rise to the force that pulls the stylus tip toward the spindle. However without friction headshell offset wouldn’t make one single bit of difference, and there would be no skating force. That is the genesis of my remark. And by the way, headshell offset angle is not the only cause of the skating force as far as the geometry goes. Skating force is further augmented by lack of tangency to the groove wall at any point on the LP surface that is not on the two null points of a typical alignment algorithm. Only at those two null points is headshell offset angle the only cause of the skating force. Everywhere else on the LP surface the two geometrical errors that result in lack of tangency are combined.

In addition, you are so so wrong about tone arms that have no head shell offset angle.

 There is a lot of wrong information and subjective opinion in the above comments. I hope the OP can sort it out. I would advise the OP to talk to a person that knows this subject, or to do some Internet research looking for the comments of knowledgeable people. 
@tubelvr1, my experience dovetails yours. No AS results in a more open sound. By contrast, AS brings greater focus and more stable L to R image. It also enhances the bass somewhat. Pick your poison. The thread in your arm will also dampen its movement and resonances. Over the years I have run my tonearms (VPI, Sumiko The Arm, Grace 840FB, Lustre GST 801) without AS, without harm to my styli or records. Note that these tonearms have different AS mechanism, yet the result was the same. YMMV.
This is mistaken. While stylus shape can influence skating force, the actual cause of the force is the pickup arm offset. That's why true linear tracking arms have no skating force. There are also a few pivoted arms that have no offset; they also have no skating force.

As a matter of fact cleeds this is mistaken. Tangential tracking arms have no skating force because they are tangential. They have zero overhang.

Your true linear tracking arm will skate the minute you set it up with overhang. 
I use Peter Ledermann's method for setting antiskating and don't worry about it. Seems to work just fine.

Thank you millercarbon for the detailed explanation. Does anti skating affect loudness of a channel also? I believe after removing the weight my right channel sounds equal to the left whereas before it was slightly louder.

Read back through my first post and recall the right channel is to your right as you look at the record, and this is the direction anti-skate is pulling the arm, putting more pressure on the right. 

Now at this point it helps to think about exactly how this whole thing works. 

Down at the business end the groove is pushing the stylus left and right and up and down, which makes the other end of the cantilever move just the opposite. At the end of the cantilever is either a magnet (in moving magnet cartridges) or a coil (in moving coils) either way it doesn't matter. What does matter is that the coil (or magnet) be centered where the cartridge designer wants it to be. Too much one way or the other and the resulting output will not be in balance.

This by the way is the real reason behind setting tracking force. Its not wear. Its because too much (or too little) VTF will put the magnet or coil outside its optimal zone. 

Hardly anyone understands this. That's how fast you can learn and leapfrog in audiophileland. 

So anyway volume isn't normally the big reason for anti-skate, but now you can understand why you could be hearing it.
How do you set up a tangential tracker with overhang?  I would call that condition a "bad job" in setting it up, not an optional method. (I'm sure you would too.) Actually, that's one of the dirty little secrets of tangential trackers; you do have to set it up exactly correctly to get the full benefit.  Off-center LPs are impossible to get right.

My only thoughts on reading some of the comments to the effect that this or that tonearm sounded "better" with no added anti-skate is that in every case there was some other force that was approximately cancelling the skating force, either bearing friction or wire drag most likely.  And this is fine.  Since the skating force is varying in magnitude at every point across the surface of the LP, and since anti-skate devices are relatively primitive, whether magnetic or string and weight type, there is no one single setting of any anti-skate device that works perfectly to cancel the skating force.  And most users tend to over-compensate.  This is why some report that their SQ got better when they disengaged AS. But the core fact is that every tonearm except a perfectly set-up tangential tonearm with a fixed pivot point will generate a skating force.  As others mentioned, Peter Ledermann, who makes a living repairing cartridges, testifies that he sees the negative effects of prolonged exposure to the skating force on cartridges he repairs.  My own solution is to set AS very low and not to think much about it after that.
No AS results in a more open sound. By contrast, AS brings greater focus and more stable L to R image. It also enhances the bass somewhat.

brilliant ears, lol

The thread in your arm will also dampen its movement and resonances. Over the years I have run my tonearms (VPI, Sumiko The Arm, Grace 840FB, Lustre GST 801) without AS, without harm to my styli or records.

How can you inspect your stylus, do you have powerful microscope? The professional retippers opinion is opposite to yours. I also have Lustre GST-801 and the sound is just fine with its magnetic anti-skating.

This thread has me keen to try mine without tonight. Origin Live Conqueror, uses the fishing line weight method, easy to disconnect, will have to give it a try tonight.
Hard to believe, but sounds virtually the same. Maybe a tiny bit more open and present without. Maybe. Nowhere near enough to be worth even a tiny risk of faster/uneven wear. Oh well. No surprise really. Origin Live Conqueror. Not like they were ever likely to have left that stone unturned.

I used to work for the BSR turntable company back in the 70's as a line repairman.  We had a smooth disc that looked like a groove less record. When placing the tone arm on the spinning disc the arm would quickly swing inward if the anti-skate was too low.  And,  would swing outwardly if set too high.  The centrifugal force created by the spinning record does the same thing.  If set too low, the inner groove will be getting most of the pressure from the stylus, and if too high the outward inner groove will will get the most contact.
I had the job to adjust a Benz LP S (or was it a Gullwing?) on a SME 345 arm in a high class system. I fine-tuned and two colleagues (and me) were listening carefully while optimizing VTF (& VTA) and anti-skating. - I was open to the idea, that no offset might sound better, but we agreed that setting antiskating to a considerable non-zero position sounded best, with fine adjustments being audible in center focus, but also natural timbre. The sound was somewhat more coherent, nuanced and stable with AS. This was a small surprise as I am skeptical to the mechanical compromises of AS devices. But the SME 345 seems to have "a good one".
- amazing was also how minimal changes in *VTF* of 0.05 gram were audible, with a clear optimum. (at that temperature.. :-) this had more sonic effect BTW.
- the weight / string somehow "does the job" too, but there is a certain non-zero friction that hampers (more) on stable centeredness of the cantilever.
- AS tries to center the cantilever, balancing left/right forces on the suspension. This results, as said above, in an optimal position of coils/magnets vs. the magnetic circuit.

- the principal problem with arms with offset angle/overhang is that the friction on the stylus (and the  cantilever that holds the stylus) works in a considerable angle relative to the tonearm center. This friction changes dynamically, with every scratch, every variation of modulation, every difference in vinyl properties or surface debris, even within one rotation.
- longer arms have less offset angle and improve this geometrical aspect.
- AS can’t neutralize the dynamic variations, only the static ones.Strong horizontal damping would optimize that aspect together with AS, but has it’s own set of compromises.
- the Thales arms have much less overhang, though they still have a (lesser) varying absolute offset of the cantilever vs. the stylus/tonearm center line.

- You’d have to go a long way in dis-adjustment on a linear tracking arm to create the normal geometrically generated problems of one of the normal arms. (Even if they can work very, very well :-).
- I’d say from my experience that it is no problem to adjust a linear tracking arm within 0.5mm error in overhang. The offset pull on the cantilever will be very small under these circumstances.

The Ledermann (of SoudSmith) video's mentioned above have a pretty good discussion of skating and how to do the adjustment.  The bottom line is that ANY method employed, and ANY mechanism will, at best, provide only roughly correct compensation, and that compensation will be, at times, too little and at other times too much.  BUT, absent some compensation, you will be subjecting records and the stylus to more uneven wear than is the case if you apply approximately correct compensation.   

This issue has been raised with a number of cartridge manufacturers and I don't know of any who endorse not using anti-skating.  
Genez, Many others have noted, and I agree, that using a groove-less LP may be a good way to demonstrate skating but it is not useful for setting AS, because in real life the cause of the skating force is friction in the groove. Friction on smooth vinyl is different in magnitude. So one should not set anti-skating to oppose skating that is observed on smooth vinyl.
Also centrifugal force, if there were such a thing, has nothing to do with the skating force.
... in real life the cause of the skating force is friction in the groove ...
We have been down this road before and you are mistaken. Clearly, you are confusing cause and effect.

Consider a properly aligned true, tangential, straight-line tracking pickup arm. Its stylus has friction in the groove, just as a pivoted arm. But the straight-line tracker is not subject to skating force. The reason for that is that the real cause of skating force is the offset of a conventional overhung pivoted arm. A consequence of that offset is indeed friction created by the stylus in the groove. But again, that’s an effect - and not the cause - of skating force.

Consider also that the same exact cartridge will have different skating forces if installed in two substantially different pickup arms. That’s because the greatest factor in generating skating force is the arm, not the stylus - although different stylus shapes will result in different skating forces.
This issue has been raised with a number of cartridge manufacturers and I don't know of any who endorse not using anti-skating.
VPI is not an advocate for the use of anti-skating.
lewm and especially pegasus, right on. This is another one of those things that looks simple enough in theory but gets complicated fast in practice, mainly because in theory everything is static when in reality everything is dynamic and constantly moving. The blank record demonstrates skating but can't be used to set skating force because its blank. These forces are constantly changing depending on groove modulation. Then they change even more when the whole record is going back and forth, which it always does, because the spindle hole is never perfectly in the center, on and on. Good call pegasus catching what no one ever mentions, damping. Even Fremer never mentioned that, and he never misses anything! Good one!

I'm a little surprised at not hearing any difference with my arm. Well not that surprised. It was a real quick and dirty test. The Conqueror uses the fishing line with weight method. I simply moved it so the line wasn't going through the hoop and sat the weight down. The loop the wire goes over, the adjusting rod, all of which for sure is vibrating and messing things up when a record is playing, all that was left in place. The way I see it, if I hear a big improvement like tubelvr1 heard then the rest comes off. But it better be worth the extra stylus wear too. And it wasn't even close.

So pretty much like I thought- there's so much difference in design and implementation that you just can't get away with blanket conclusions. Does removing anti-skating really improve the sound? It depends.
Cleeds, The fact that you cannot see the forest for the trees does not make me wrong. Of course headshell offset angle and other reasons for lack of tangency of the cantilever to the groove are what results in the skating force but there would be no FORCE, with a capital F, without the need to oppose the force of friction between stylus tip and groove. Can you get that?

Have you ever studied Newtonian mechanics? Sit down with a piece of paper and draw some vectors depicting the pull of the stylus that is due to friction in the groove and the need for the tonearm, cartridge, cantilever, and stylus to oppose that force, which is ultimately expressed as the skating force, pulling the cartridge toward the spindle.  This happens because the tonearm is stiff and the connection between it and the cartridge is solid. Otherwise the actual force that counteracts friction is toward the rear and inside the arm wand, but the cartridge can’t move that way because of the stiffness of the structure, so another vector is generated which ends up in the skating force. 

 As I think you have understood, in a straight line tonearm the force of friction is in a straight line with the pivot, if the tonearm is ideal which doesn’t really happen. But in that ideal case there is no skating force because there is no angle between the force of friction in the groove and the force needed to counteract that friction to prevent the cartridge from flying off into space. 
Obviously, your TT was not set up properly, and\or the anti skate is miscalibrated or out of spec. Grace recommended setting the antiskate by looking at the stylus as an LP plays, then adjusting it until the stylus remains the straightest.
... Of course headshell offset angle and other reasons for lack of tangency of the cantilever to the groove are what results in the skating force ...
Exactly, and that's been my point. We're much more in agreement here than not.

but there would be no FORCE, with a capital F, without the need to oppose the force of friction between stylus tip and groove
Yes, friction is a factor with LP playback and, for that matter, everything else that has moving parts. That doesn't mean friction is the cause of skating force, and you do seem to understand that. So there's no reason to continue this little debate.

This is going to be cartridge dependent. No brand, not even model. Each will be different. I would think models will be similar, though. I've had cartridges that perform best with no bias, very little bias, and bias set much closer to the VTF setting. So why use it? Because I don't own your cartridge.
Cleeds, with all due respect, can you consider the condition where there is no friction between the stylus and the groove? Can you tell me where the skating force would come from if that were the case? Are you capable of thinking this through to its logical conclusion? I really don’t care whether you see the point or not, but I do not like to see incorrect information put forward on the Internet where people read it and believe it. 

As I recall, you also claimed that a tonearm without headshell offset would generate no skating force. Anyone who could say that does not understand what’s going on.
 As others have pointed out, there are many different combinations of factors that contribute to the skating effect in each set up. I have a VPI Scoutmaster Signature, which included an antiskate device. I have tried it with and without a number of times in the past decade, trying different combinations of adjustments (VTA, VTF, etc), and I’ve always preferred the sound without the *device*. I believe that the wire to the lemo connector on this tonearm, when the right amount of tension is applied (with a wire twist), produces just the right amount of antiskate. I, too, use the Peter Ledermann method of lowering the stylus down between the grooves at the end of the LP. I can get the requisite “slow” inward movement of the stylus toward the spindle that he suggests, with just the wire twist. The music seems to sound a bit more “dull” with the antiskate device attached. Keep in mind that the wire tension (I believe) is providing some antiskate, so I’m NOT saying antiskate isn’t necessary, I’m only saying the antiskate *device*, in my set up, isn’t necessary. Btw, my son has an Avid ‘table with a Rega 330, and that setup definitely requires some antiskate, but if it’s adjusted as described in the manual, it’s too much. It needs to be dialed back to be correct according to the Ledermann/Schröder method. This is only my experience, so YMMV. 
Krell, Over the years there does seem to be general agreement that the "recommended" amount of AS is usually too much for best SQ and even for lowest wear on the cartridge.  So, your son's experience is typical. In the good old days, the AS mechanism was sometimes marked with values starting at 0.5 or 1.0.  These often were to indicate that if you were tracking at 1.0g, you should use the 1.0 setting on the AS device.  Almost always, that is too much AS.
Thinking about the varying levels, ie. average and peak levels being quite different, the best *sounding* antiskating will rather compensate levels with average modulation.
This will need less compensation than trying to minimize and center distortion artefacts on high level modulations, like eg. 70u.
This latter method is what I used in earlier times, but my feeling was that I usually ended with too high antiskating settings.
I tend to agree, that (one of the better methods of) "traditional" adjustment results in too high antiskating for optimal music replay (with musics low to moderate average levels - and relative friction).
My first 17d2 started sounding a bit lop sided after a few years, all right a few too many years even for a micro ridge stylus. The arm was a Rega RB300 and I’d believed the instruction to just set the magnetic anti-skate to the same value as the VTF. The result was not only an unevenly worn stylus but the cantilever was squed to one side and slightly twisted, I eventually got it checked under a high powered stereo microscope which confirmed the stylus wear. I set up the anti-skate on its replacement using the blank track on a test disc and that one was still straight when it was replaced. With that arm I could never hear much difference. When I replaced it with a Naim Aro with its thread and weight there was one of the possible settings that sounded livelier than the others (using solo piano music) so I used that. With my current Schöder I set it initially with the test disc and then fine tune for best dynamics, as far as I can determine by ear, which is a bit less than the test disc setting.
Millercarbon....or increase vtf slightly to eliminate mistracking.  Very many high end audiophiles don't use a/s
I am not at the engineering level of most of the contributors of this thread but let me pose a  solution that I think is quite simple and then you all can make fun of me.
The stylus travels in almost  a straight line toward the center.
The skating force is along the same line .
If you tilt)level the entire turntable in the opposite direction of the skating force, won't gravity compensate to keep the stylus at a neutral skate?

Jack, it is my understanding that the skating force is not equal across the entire stylus path from lead in to lead out... plus, even if one were to consider doing what you suggest, any sprung table, or any unipivot arm, would use the same forces of gravity to try to “correct” the tilt you intentionally created. I could be wrong, but..
Lewm, I know the numbered value dials you refer to (I’m kinda *from* the good old days ;) ). The Rega arm has a few detents in the antiskate lever which represent 0.5,1.0,1.5,2.0 (iirc), and the manual suggests choosing the value that represents your cartridge’s downforce. I fiddled with the lever on his arm until it behaved as I described in my post. It ended up being between the lowest and second lowest values on that lever for a cartridge with a 2.1 g downforce. 
Jack, The stylus travels in an arc with the pivot point of the tonearm at its center (not a straight line).  Tilting the turntable is about the same as hanging an anti-skate weight on a string, to pull the tonearm toward the spindle (as is done with many tonearms), but it raises other issues of wear and distortion, so I wouldn't advise doing it.  (You'd have to tilt the TT very precisely toward the spindle, and you'd be guessing at the resulting anti-skate force.)