VTA setting for 'parabolic' and 'elliptical' styli

please let's have some expert opinions based on experience regarding this subject.
One cart manual specifically recommends negative VTA (arm down from level at pivot) for parabolic styli, as compared to some elliptical styli prefering positive VTA (arm up from level at pivot), see Townshend IEE 500 manual:
as seen on Vinylengine: http://www.vinylengine.com/library/townshend/eei-500.shtml

To further confuse the issue, in a manual for the Garrott P77, also using a parabolic stylus (Micro Tracer), it states the complete opposite, moving the arm UP by 4-5mm for best VTA...! That's one hell of a lot positive VTA, close to imposible to even realise with mu SME-V. (The arm begins to bottom out on the lowered arm-lift)

Could anyone shed some light on these contradictions for us?

The 'EEI 500' does work best with negative VTA, and so does my A&R P77, also sporting a parabolic stylus.
In terms of ALL line-stylus type carts (all my MCs) it was ALWAY understood that UP from level gives more treble and DOWN less treble etc. etc. (..in VERY simple terms, as we know the whole spiel).

It needs to be mentioned, that the MM carts noted above **appeared** to need more arm UP to sound correct, according to my then current experience --- indeed they seem to work the other way around! Hm...
OK, some confirmation on a Shure V15 III VN35MR stylus that needs negative VTA, quote: "... this one needs neg. tracking angle, it was engineered for recordings when the angle of the cutter was frequently at 17-20 degr., not the contemporary 22-24, agreed upon sometime in the early 70's, if I remember correctly. Old recordings sound "tinny"? VTA. Let me know if I'm wrong."

Well, I think -Timeltel- is right --- and the VN35MR (Micro Line) is also 'parabolic' essentially what became a Shi(a)bata (Fine-Line --- Line-Contact?) type stylus, correct me if I'm wrong.

It is the lack of quoting a 'tracking angle' on these styli, as some do and most some don't, that makes it more difficult to get a correct answer. I have seen sofar anything from 20, to 22, to 25deg. when it is mentioned.
Interesting. Of course, the oft quoted 21-25d usually means parallel or slightly positive vta. I don't think there is a rule: mostly a combo of urban legend and different specs/ manufacturer.
I'm not being helpful, but the problem usually lies not only in how the record was cut (about which one can only speculate, or generalise), but also on how the stylus was cut (as you note) & attached to the cantilever -- i.e. at what angle is the stylus expected to reach optimum tracking? It is a lovely example of hi-end imprecision: manufacturers raise the point and conveniently let it "float" without a solution...
I remember a V15 & Pickering 5k I had both "allowed" for negative vta. OTOH, IIRC, a VdH mc20 (OK it was mc) recommended slightly positive vta... "particularly for older records".
Other than the legends that parabolic was more tolerant of vta (hence negative) but shiabata allowed better info retrieval & longer life, I have never seen actual steadfast rule about this.
Dear Axel, the needed VTA is a result of the record and the angle of the cutting head used to engrave the groove. It changes with various LPs made with various angle cutting heads. Try - to name the extremes - OPUS3 vs. Mercury SR LPs and you will notice that the VTA (i.e. heights of tonearm base) needs to be changed by almost 8 mm in a 9" tonearm. The size and form of the polished contact area may again vary these results, but to a MUCH smaller degree compared to the requirements set by the various cutting angles.
This was common knowledge by all seasoned audiophile collectors of vintage stereo-LPs back in the late 1980ies.
Dear All,
thank you for those details shedding some light on all of this. I say SOME because now I'm in some turmoil about VTA, even accepting a fair degree of compromise I start to see why some arm manufactures come out with what others consider ridiculous, the VTA micrometer screw...
The range is now from -1.5mm to +5 or even 6mm up from level tone arm depending on the record plus stylus! That prospect seems plain awful :-(

Also, it becomes clear (to me) that the better the stylus' retrieval rate/mechanism the more in need of CONSTANT fiddling in order to maintain this now achieved high level of play-back standard!?

Put in an late 70s EMI, go up, put an early 60s London go down, put a re-issue RCA Plum-Dog go where?
Rainer's Chicago violins often are some sort of an 'ear-flossing' so go down? etc. etc.

In the 70s and 80s we had next to no such an issue ---- who ever talked about VTA then?
Nobody I know, including my hi-fi dealer...

I can start to see that this is becoming like the tyre changing rituals of Formula 1, each track in need of a different 'optimum' tyre? And never mind the weather, eish.

So now we can only pick some records we know, of sorts, and then find out if a cart, or the arm/cart sounds right.

I'm thrown, time I get back to some old elliptical cart and kiss all this hi-end thing good bye if every batch of different records needs a VTA change to maintain some hi-end standard.

OK, I'll enjoy the music, never mind if it shines out the last corner, or what ever... This could be a relieve like at Myth Busters.

PS: Maybe next is, we need an electronically VTA adjusted arm including level detection :-)
Dear Axel: The " pain " on all this is that even records ( on the same manufacturer ) on the same " times " come with differences because the whole cutting process is not perfect.

I know at least to persons ( perfecionist ones in this regard. ) that change the VTA on almost every single record and I see them that some times in different same record tracks, my friend Doug is one of them and I undertand him ( and Paul ) because they like to achieve the best of what they are hearing.

I don't have the patience ( maybe I'm wrong because I like too to obtain the best on it. ) for this so I focus and give more time to the music.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Raul, see - once again - I totally agree with you on this matter. I do alter my VTA several times during each session - depending on the record playing and the cutting angle used to engrave its groove. I started doing this in 1987 after my first visit to Sid Marks in Brooklyn/NY.
I think its vital.
Many sonic judgements regarding cartridges or tonearms may well be just a matter of a momentary "VTA sweet spot" on one combo and missing it again on the next.
You are always concerned about the circumstances of a given test/comparism - and right so.
This here is the maybe most important point in the cartridge/tonearm evaluation. Missing the correct VTA for the given record is dangerous in a serious test set-up.
Hi :-)
I think Raul is seeing the light, bless you man! >>> ... I focus and give more time to the music <<<

Maybe something to re-learn for a lot of us 'perfectionists' and count me in also.

Not so sure about DerTonarm's approach any more: >>> I do alter my VTA several times during each session <<<

Man oh man, is this it?

I do get my own exercises that way, oh yes, and it's becomes like a 'bad habit' it think.
Next I'd hop up in a concert and try do the same :-)

>>> Many sonic judgements regarding cartridges or tonearms may well be just a matter of a momentary "VTA sweet spot" on one combo and missing it again on the next. <<<

Yes Sir, I feel more and more this holds some powerful truth Mein Herr!

And >>> Missing the correct VTA for the given record is dangerous in a serious test set-up. <<< YES!!!!

That's what's been hitting me like a ton of bricks, actually. You sort of know it, but somehow not synthesise what it can actually result in.

Like I'm listening to some of my classic older vinyl, fiddled the VTA to some point of general 'consensus' (with my self), in comes my Audio friend and insists on hearing 'Tin Pan Alley' for the 1 000 time, and tells me that cartridge sux! Ha!

Don't know if want to cry or laugh?

PS: Hyper resolving carts (ALL MCs...) are now being considered the HEROIN of hi-end. You get addicted, have to pay the price, and pain of the withdrawal syndromes...
Dear Axel,
after a while you have settings for each label. These can be marked.
Changing VTA becomes a matter of 15 seconds.
Time well spend.
About the same effort as getting the LP out of the cover, placed on the platter and clamped.
After all these years its kind of automatic procedure and something I don't think about anymore.
We are putting so much effort, time and money into many other fields of the audio-chain.
Compared to this - the change of VTA-setting is a very cost-effective "tweak" - to say the least.......
Raul's memory of how Paul and I play is correct. This craziness is not mandatory, unless your name is Doug or Dertonarm or you have Paul's ears.

We write each LP's optimal arm height on a sticky note on the record jacket or sleeve. Setting height for replays takes no playing time - I do it while the platter is spinning up.

Records that we've played for years develop a long list of height settings as we change cartridges (5 or 6 so far) and tables (3). This history makes finding the setting for a record we haven't played in a while easy: I just add up the known changes due to equipment swaps since we last played it. This always gets us very close.

We also get close to optimal VTA very quickly on many records that we've never played. Find an LP on the same label that weighs about the same (we record the weight of every LP as a proxy for thickness). Whatever height setting is right for that is usually close to being right for the new one. It varies widely by label and era, as Dertonearm said, but within those limits the settings are very consistent.

Also worth noting is that the window for optimum VTA (SRA actually) for any given LP is extremely small, especially with a modern stylus profile. Our recorded settings are to the nearest 1/200th of a turn on a TriPlanar's height dial. Small movements away from that spot are quite audible. Larger movements do not make much more difference, if any.

Madness? Perhaps. But no interested visitor has ever failed to hear the difference when I've demonstrated. Whether the difference is worth the trouble is up to each of us, naturally.
Dear D: +++++ " This here is the maybe most important point in the cartridge/tonearm evaluation. Missing the correct VTA for the given record is dangerous in a serious test set-up. " +++++

absolutely right, unfortunately there is no other way, vital as you say.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Doug: " Madness? ", I don't think so because if like Paul and you that are organized and discipline this kind of attitude on the subject makes that that " madness " be really easy and not time consuming.

The issue here is to start doing and through the time this kind/vital routine will appear very " friendly " and of curse that it will be worth the effort.

Regards and enjoy the music,
I have an SME V, you'd recall and I use hardwood spacers, my shelf would start to look like a 'Baukloetzchenkasten' :-)

>>> Changing VTA becomes a matter of 15 seconds. <<< maybe with a Micrometer VTA arm, yes.

:-).... >>> Records that we've played for years develop a long list of height settings as we change cartridges (5 or 6 so far) and tables (3). <<<
Like I'm so behind the curve people, shame on me, what can I say :-)

>>> for any given LP is extremely small, especially with a modern stylus profile <<<
Hey, keep it coming Doug! I's afraid to hear all of that. I start looking for my CD player from underneath the table (where I've taken cover).

No joke, how on earth can you practice that with a more 'normal' arm I ask?
I'd be up to my eyeballs in wooden spacers and not talking in microns of up/down...

In terms of this gambit a hell of a lot of tone-arms would just not quality, or? Makes me think of all these old ones... you know.

Big thanks you for sharing some of your 'inner circle' stuff, I truly appreciate that. So much more food for though, oh my!

Bless all your dedication, now I gotta go and try sleep this off...

Just kidding about "madness". You're right about organization and discipline. The longer you do this the easier it gets. Record keeping makes it quick and practice makes your ears better. Like Dertonarm we usually adjust without even thinking.

Still, if we listened mostly to rock, R&B or other amplified music I doubt we'd bother. The nano-timing cues that VTA affects matter most for acoustic instruments and very skilled vocalists. Getting a harpsichord or mandolin right is impossible if VTA is off. Getting an electric guitar right, or at least close enough to boogie, is much easier. Alot of rock listeners just rock on, and that's probably best.

Axel wrote:

No joke, how on earth can you practice that with a more 'normal' arm I ask?
I'd be up to my eyeballs in wooden spacers and not talking in microns of up/down...
Good question and a true observation.

We first heard the effects of VTA fine tuning while using an OL Silver (Rega clone) with an aftermarket height adjuster. That was worse than SME, since we had to loosen the locking nut underneath the armboard for every adjustment. Micrometer precision was almost impossible, since there was no dial with finely spaced and numbered marks.

Yet we heard the difference when VTA happened to be just right and it began to annoy us when it was off. Thus we discovered one "non-negotiable" requirement for our next tonearm: on-the-fly height adjustment with easy and precise repeatability.

That eliminated pretty much everything but Graham, VPI, TriPlanar plus a few very costly linear trackers. We couldn't afford those, so at least the shopping was easy!

Good night!
Hi All,
Doug says:
>>> ... Yet we heard the difference when VTA happened to be just right and it began to annoy us when it was off. <<<

That is also exactly my experience, no argument at all, including the annoying thing when it is off.

There are some records were I would not know at this stage, if they are just too bright (Mercury, Electra..) or some just too dull.

I agree that after some time one gets a feeling for how much up/down would get you close, but in those cases it would be so much, 4-5mm, that the next record would have to be re-adjusted again by a similar margin.

What have our experts in store for tone arms other then: Graham, VPI, TriPlanar ? --- Go get one :-)...

And how about these so much discussed and so highly rated oldies like: Fidelity Research FR-66S, Audiocraft AC-4400, SAEC 506/30, Micro Seiki MAX-282, etc.
That makes $6 500 arm even more a 'collectors item' with VTA adjustments at least as 'wanting' as an SME...

Or is it, in getting back to the subject, that using 'parabolic' and/or 'elliptical' styli will take care of some of these VTA variations?

I think they aught to be more 'forgiving' as they are less resolving?

Raul takes up MMs, now we are getting back to elliptical? (I did NOT say spherical yet :-)

Dear Axel, given its ever increasing diameter armpipe (in conjunction with its "upper floor" cartridge mounting headshell) the SME V is most troublesome - to say the least... - to adjust to VTA settings required for older (read: most pre-1972 cut records) LPs. The SME V is a most modern "child of the early 80ies" which took all technical aspects of its day in consideration and assumed perfect angle styli, high body and slender cartridge body (Ortofon...) and modern (DMM cut) records to be played (only.....).
Sorry - the SME V is in fact the one prominent non-compliant tonearm when it comes to meet different cutting angles and the resulting demand to different VTA settings.

Hi D.
thunder and lightning, there we have it, and I guess all works just the way you put it.

Like buying a new car and then wanting to fit old (white wall?) tyres.

Thank you for clarifing this matter.
PS: and then some time, if you try, you get what you need...
Regards, Alelwahl, greetings all: Gregm (I think) has the handle on this concern. To my simple understanding, lines in space can be either parallel or divergent. The angle of the cutter head varies from one producer to another, from one standard to the next and as Gregm says, styli too. What a mess!
Axel, it seems to me that the narrower the profile of the stylus in contact with the groove walls, (some) divergence becomes less critical and the less apparent (slight) VTA error becomes. The signal is not "smeared" to the same degree across the associated surfaces because of this diminished area of contact. Could one think of this as a time/space consideration? I don't want to even consider how this might apply to a conical stylus.
Such is my perception. I tend to optimise VTA and utilize the finest profile stylus available, adjusting VTA when recording or when the reproduction is unlistenable. This is not to say correct VTA is unimportant, or "one bullet for all game" (perfectionists, please leave me some wiggle room. If I try to fix it often enough, I'll break something).
Rual, consequently I share your philosophy of setup to an acceptable standard and then "enjoy the music": the standards of most A'gon contributors seem pretty high.
Hi Timeltel
you say:
>>> ... it seems to me that the narrower the profile of the stylus in contact with the groove walls, (some) divergence becomes less critical and the less apparent (slight) VTA error becomes <<<

If I read you correctly it would contradict my understanding diametrically, as you then say that: a conical, next a hemi-spherical, followed by elliptical, then parabolic and micro-ride would become less and less critical in terms of VTA error...?
Are we sure that's your position?

Well, wow, ok, hm... Right, let's see were we are in agreement... I'm thinking...

That would not even be with the 'smearing' part...
Huston we have a problem!

All those styli going back down the line (also in time) from a VERY narrow fine-line contact stylus to a conical stylus would be more and more unable to produce micro detail i.e. 'swallow' it if you wish, since they can NOT completely trace the last bit of groove detail.

So maybe we find some common ground with this. Since it is blatantly obvious when listening to a conical stylus and then a fine-line type stylus, there is less information detail.

So what does that mean? Less and lesser detail = less **perceivable** time smear = less noticeable VTA error, would you follow me on this one at all?

Some expert put it this way: If you change VTA (and most noticeable with micro/fine-line contact styli) you are changing the treble to mid/bass information retrieval IN TIME i.e. lift the arm (more positive SRA/VTA) and you start to 'advance' the higher frequencies or retard them by going down (all relative from the 'best' / most correct retrieval position or SRA).

If you are still with we, then this means that the higher the resolution, the more **noticeable** a VTA/SRA deviation from 'spot on'. And in turn, the less resolution, simply the more 'forgiving'.

So far may understanding --- but as always the facts never tell the hole truth, since there are so many of them :-)

>>> ..I share [Raul's] philosophy of setup to an acceptable standard and then "enjoy the music" <<<

I'm trying to work this out for myself, and still searching as it were. While sheer cost helps somewhat, to find it :-)

Hi all, it seems to me that most audiophiles should make up their mind first, about how deep they want to go into the topic......
It makes not too much sense to me if we first discuss set-up aspects but once they go into core issues and demand some individual work, many move out again claiming "set-up to an acceptable standard and then "enjoy the music"..." - isn't this a bit odd?
Is this still in compliance with the big buck spend, the time and effort of putting a system together and time spend in forums like this ?
Am I missing something ?
To me this is plain inconsistency.

Or am I just too obsessed with details and my quest of ?

Well, Herr Tonarm :-)

so what's the solution?

Get a VTA-tower of some sort, or spend ~ 5min plus extra with every LP played to re-set VTA?
And then wear the hole mechanism with all this up/down, it was NOT actually designed for in the first place?

I share your goal for best possible play-back --- the enquiry is about where this 'best possible' starts & ends for the individual enthusiast, including money AND time spend.

Not every one driving a car requires a Bentley or a Bugatti, I think.

Not every one driving a car requires a Bentley or a Bugatti, I think.
sure, for some is walking the better way :)
Well Axel,

its max. 1 minute we are talking - not 5 min plus - that is required to getting the VTA adapted to the specific LP laying on the platter.
That 1 minute is vital.
Seems as if each of us spends much more time online in forums lately than the total ad-d up time for VTA adjustment for many hundreds of LPs played.......

You see - there is simply no point in NOT doing this - for any reason.
If you not doing it, you are putting the performance level of your whole front-end to chance and risk.
And teh odds will be against you - by a huge margin.

so no compromise solutions on VTA, is where it's at.
I had it coming I guess, hm.
"Ask questions, get answers" :-)

I've already increased my stock of VTA shims by over 100% in between listening and blogging. And now I guess I better shut up.

PS: I've just not yet come around to mess with my beautifully restored record covers, relying on my memory +/-, eish.
Regards, Axelwahl: Always glad to know if I have the Shure on the wrong foot, your opinion is respected. I should have clarified: 90% of my listening is casual, frequently from another room or while reading. Music is constantly present but is not always an event. There may be others who do the same. I hold the highest regard for those who adjust VTA to within "1/200th turn" for every selection. When listening to music critically, VTA becomes much more my concern, correct adjustment takes only a moment and is well worth the small effort, but is not a thing I obsess about, nor would I suggest it of anyone. Knowing the difference is the key, how it is applied seems relative to the environment. My 350Z can achieve 159 mph, but I don't choose to always drive it that way.
Dertonarm, if you think I put the cart. before the course, so be it, but let's return to Axel's post, he asks an interesting question. I'm sure you can respond professionally to the technical aspects concerning stylus profiles and their relation to VTA, whereas the only reference in my "audiophile resume" is 40 yrs. of undocumented interest. Accordingly I will continue to adjust VTA when I think it necessary.
Hi Timeltel and All,

it is actually very nice to have all these different takes, what makes life interesting - variation :-)

Thank you also for pulling the thread back onto the subject.
Since I got more curious about the V15's VTA preference. So, parabolic vs. elliptical and all, I put in a AT-140LC.

I had listened to it before (the negative VTA finding) and it sounded 'papery' and a bit 'plasticy'. I'd mentioned it to Raul in the context of a stylus insert replacement, a ATN440MLa in that case.

Recall, LC stands for Line-Contact and I should guess one more synonym for 'parabolic'?

Back in that AT-140LC went -- and this time with negative VTA, actually the same ~ -1.5mm as the V15. Now it plays VERY nice in deed. (Are we giving away some secret formula?)

I can tell, that e.g. the Empire S1000 ZE/X has an elliptical stylus, and sure enough it needs to go up, about +1mm from level arm, maybe even some more.

These are obviously very few samples, of only a few carts, but so far they seem to stick to what Pete Townshend had to say about his then EEI (Elite Electronic Industries, Victoria AU) carts.

Maybe we can find some more confirmation, and this is not just some more odd-ball thing.