Recommendations for setting VTA

All of the other cartridge alignments are possible for me to set with some level of confidence, but then there is VTA. Yes, I am confident when making parallel, the tonearm with the platter, but then there is the sighting of the stylus position in respect to the groove. Is there a microscope made especially for this task? FWIW, I own a Schiit SOL, and yes, it has adjustable VTA on the fly, but trust me, it is the coarsest adjustment that you can imagine, and in my case, broken to start with! TT came that way when I bought it second hand. 


You will receive reams of advice on this topic.  You can even search in these archives for even more blah-blah.  Simplest approach is to set the top of the headshell parallel to the LP surface.  Many/most cartridge makers manufacture the cartridge so that this setting gives at least close to the ideal Stylus Rake Angle (SRA).  SRA is just another way of talking about VTA, really, if you don't get too technical.  After listening for many hours in the base setting, you might then, and only then, try raising or lowering the tonearm in tiny increments, just to see if your perception of the sound quality improves or not.  If your VTA adjuster is broken, I would set it once and forget it; changing VTA without an adjuster built into the tonearm is nerve-wracking and imprecise as well.

+1 lewm! That's what I do - headshell parallel to the record surface. The FR29 arm lacks VTA adjustment so I leave it alone.

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Really you want to avoid ’wrong’ i.e. you don’t need perfect, but you can refine by listening IF you have the ears for it.

I bought one of these transparent adjustable protractors,

you can see the cantilever i.e. shure V15 = 15% VTA. Find your cartridge’s recommended VTA.

Then, SRA, look it up,

I settled on 91% (while ’down’ on lp surface (no need to play, just with the tracking force applied).

you need to pretend you can see the stylus tip while viewing thru it, or holding it behind. this helps find 90 or a speck more or less than 90, also for front view setting azimuth

You can see enough to know no damage will occur, essentially correct, play on.


Elliot, I personally have always used the "start with headshell level" technique. I have never ever, nor will I ever, take the trouble to directly measure SRA.  Not the least of the reasons for my choice is the fact that I am not trained to measure SRA correctly.  There is no reason to burden a newbie with the idea he has to measure SRA or needs special equipment to do so, IMO.

VTA can only be set by ear, sort of the way lewm describes. Only it doesn't need to take hours. Simply listen a while, a song or two, just enough to get a handle on the overall balance of the sound. Then carefully adjust very slightly up or down. Up if you think the sound could use a bit more air, down if you think a bit too bright and could use more body. Then whichever way you go the sound will either get better or worse. If worse then go the other way. If better then keep going that way until, guess what? It gets worse. Then stop and backtrack a bit.

The trick is very small adjustments. 1mm is not small. 1mm is monster. 0.1mm is big. Small is micro. Small is you will never even see it, not even with a microscope. Small is like a tiny fraction of a turn on most VTA adjusters. Think 1/20 to 1/50 of a turn. Real small. By eyeball small. By ear, different story. That's why, don't look, listen.


Wow, thanks everyone, this IS valuable information for me to consider. I know it’s all physics in the end, or is it geometry? Anyway, I am the kind of guy who might just a make another way of adjusting on the fly with this uni-pivot arm. You see, on the bottom of the pillar that supports the arm, there is access to raise or lower the pillar. It will take some ingenuity, but perhaps a very small hydraulic jack or screw jack of sorts is the answer. Once adjusted and the pillar tightened in place the jack would be removed. The device that the SOL has to adjust VTA with does not hold the arm in place >(it is aplastic gear that is now stripped or something. Came that way)<, and I am not in the mood to pack it up and send it off for a long repair time.


I would like to add the following: Just the other day, I switched from a cork mat to an acrylic mat. Yes, it is thinner. The unexpected change in sound occurred. Actually, for the better. Gives me an idea of where to go from here.