Who tweaks VTF too?

I can't say why it took many years for me to suddenly arrive at this point -- although I can identify the precipitating occurance as actually being mistake I made (as I suppose is often the case with many discoveries, large and small) -- but I've recently opened my ears to the practice of tweaking VTF for each record played, to very worthwhile effect. Generally within a range of up to about +.15 above the upper limit of the cartridge manufacturer's recommended setting of 1.35g-1.5g for my medium-compliance, line-contact MC cart -- i.e., up to 1.65g or anywhere in between, depending on the record being played, in about .025g increments.

Tracking a bit heavier accentuates the lower frequencies and tames the higher ones, for records that could use more weight or solidity and/or a reduction in gleam or glare or airy-fairyness, while tracking lighter does the opposite for records that sound overly thick or could use some opening-up (within the bounds of maintaining good groovewall contact, of course -- I never even run in the bottom half of the recommended range, much less below it). This minor revelation has helped significantly to increase my listening satisfaction with records I formerly would've just chalked-up as being slightly but irretrievably problematic, whether that problem might have been a subtly annoying touch of glassiness or peakiness or lightness in the loafers.

Each recording seems to have its own sweet spot balancing control, tonality, timbre and texture (within my system context), and after doing this individual fine-tuning procedure for a few weeks I've now started to intuit appropriate setting adjustments as needed, based on a record's initial sound and my growing experience with the outcomes. So I've definitely crossed over the proverbial Rubicon regarding tracking force and no longer regard the recommended range as inviolable, or VTF generally as a set-and-forget, one-size-fits-all proposition whose 'correct' value is predetermined, to be temporarily increased only in the event that dynamic-trackability difficulties are encountered. It's another thing to be tweaked! But also one of the easiest and quickest to do (at least with my tonearm -- I guess with some others maybe not so much). Anybody out there with me on this?
Hi Jonathan, thanks for injecting some authoritative input into the meanderings on this thread. What you say all makes sense to me, however I would still expect some session-to-session variation in optimal (or preferred) geometry to be probable with any cartridge, based on differences in prevailing environmental conditions affecting the suspension, as well as differences among the way records are cut (or from my perspective and ability to tell, simply in the way they sound). Do you disagree with my take that in all likelihood, there's no reason one should go really wrong as a listener by using the best tool we have available, namely our ears, to tweak these parameters, including VTF within reasonable limits, on a record-by-record basis?

BTW, I do realize (even though you chose for whatever reason not to say so as a disclaimer) that you are involved in the design and marketing of a cartridge line that is claimed to take into account the effect of tracking force on optimal coil alignment within the magnetic gap. This would of course seem to make obviously good sense -- in fact, so much so, that I actually have a bit of a hard time believing either that other manufacturers have never taken this factor into account themselves (whether they said so or not), or else that they didn't determine that it's in reality a relatively unimportant consideration as regards sonic performance. (One can't help but note that by implication, your cartridges too did not previously take this factor into account, or else that you knew about it but considered it to be fairly trivial.) Still, even if it's as much marketing as science, the concept does strike me as being a really good idea for a cartridge maker to tout, so bravo. Please feel free to comment!

FWIW: Yesterday I went ahead and made a bunch of VTF measurements using my digital gauge (the kind commonly selling for $80 from many outlets), for both the lowest and highest VTA adjustment settings possible with my tonearm, which amounts about an 8mm differential in height of the pivot point -- quite a bit broader an angular range than anybody would actually utilize for setup or tweaking of any individual cartridge.

First I confirmed the precision of the gauge (to within whatever limits are imposed by the quality of my tonearm bearings) by making many measurements without changing anything. As I have found before, despite the fact that these gauges have a readout to three decimal places, it's only to the second decimal place that readings are close to repeatable, to within an accuracy of about plus or minus two (i.e., a margin of error of about 4 hundreths).

I was pleasantly surprised but hardly shocked to find that, as I predicted, the variation in VTF (from a baseline setting of 1.5g) which accompanied the widest possible change in VTA, only amounted (on average, over about 30 or so repetitions of the readings for each VTA extreme) to approximately .02g (i.e., about plus or minus one hundredth from the force reading that could be expected at the middle of the arm's VTA range), which is of course within the gauge's margin of error. Despite there being some overlap in the force readings at each arm-height extreme, I do think this small average force differential is nonetheless real, due to the overall trends I observed over the course of the measurements, but that it is probably too small to account for any sonic differences, especially given that in practical use the actual VTA range will be quite a bit less than what I was experimenting with.

So my conclusion is that it's unlikely that adjusting VTA represents, consequentially speaking, a secondary adjustment of VTF as well. But I would welcome what any other posters' findings might be on this issue, if anyone cares to make the kind of measurements I did, perhaps using better tools and a more premium tonearm. Still, at the end of the day I didn't start this thread to get into such technical considerations -- I started it because of what I heard, and to see if anyone else had also heard and was doing the same thing in tweaking VTF to suit their listening of the moment. Continues to seem like not so much...

PS - All the adjusting and measuring I performed yesterday, along with subsequent listening, did have the beneficial effect of prompting to me to slightly raise my tonearm's baseline VTA setting in order to increase the SRA a bit, so as to offset the effect on the rake-angle of the somewhat heavier (on average) VTF I'm commonly running these days. My thanks to those posters who pushed me not to forget such interrelated considerations!
There are a lot of us who hear what small VTF changes do. But as you say, it is only one parameter of several in a dynamic situation. I don't think making absolute statements as to whether it is this or that is helpful because these parameters must be taken in consideration together at all times. Maybe Wally would be interested in that debate. Yes, a few tenths of a gram can make a difference in some circumstances, IME, YMMV.
Update: 800 page views now, but still no affirmative responses that anyone else tweaks VTF to suit individual records.
Hello Zaikesman,
After following this post I will give it a try. If it can make an improvement I'm all for it.
Do you find that it is by individual albums or by the lable, such as all EMI's are set one way and RCA's another?
I assume you keep a list of the settings. Sorry I have not read all the post's yet, so if you have already answered the question I apologize.
I'm glad that you have taken the time to get the most out of your record play back system. Thanks for sharing this tweak, it never occured to me.
I usally set the VTF on the HI side of the recommended setting and I will adjust the VTA as required.
I'm trying to listen to nothing but albums lately, so this would be the time to do some tweaking.
Joe Nies
Gosh no Joe, I'm nowhere near organized enough for that, I just go by ear for any particular record on any particular day. But since I assume some of this has to do with room temperature, which varies (and presumably little to do with such potentially label-specific attributes as vinyl thickness), I think that's the way it's probably gotta be. Please let us know what you find...