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Setting the VTA/SRA

(vertical tracking angle / stylus rake angle)

General Principles

  • The more extreme the shape of your stylus, the more demanding this setup parameter can be.  A conical stylus is the least demanding, and a line contact stylus profile is the most demanding.
  • Adjusting this parameter has more to do than just eliminating sibilance from a singer’s voice.
  • With elliptical and line contact stylus profiles, changing the VTA can affect the phase response.
  • Starting with a level headshell (the underside of the headshell that mates with the top of the cartridge) is a good rule of thumb.Note that because of manufacturing tolerances, it’s very difficult to correlate headshell angle to what’s occurring at the stylus.  If you have a USB microscope with good associated software, try to achieve a 91.5 degree stylus rake angle (the stylus’s point angling slightly toward the record – the direction it would point of you raised the VTA tower). Look at the photos in the “Andre’s Setup Method” link in this section.In many (most?) instances, achieving this 91.5 degree angle (a good starting point) means that the rear of your tonearm will appear higher than the height which would result in a level headshell.Unfortunately (due to sample to sample variances) we can’t advise you on a better starting point and hence the level headshell recommendation.
  • Irrespective of whether you’re using a microscope, listen to music – first to simple music for general tonality, and then more complex music for coherence and general tone color.  At some point, listen to bowed double bass and cello for the harmonic character.

Note:

  • When beginning a new setup (assuming you have no baseline for the VTA adjustment on your tonearm), set your arm up as mentioned above to a “level headshell” – with the top of the cartridge body (bottom of headshell) being parallel to the platter.
  • Do this after setting the preliminary tracking force.
  • Both the VTA/SRA setting and the tracking force can affect the effective length, so you’re attempting to begin aligning the geometry with settings as close to your final values as possible.
  • Of course, your final VTA/SRA setting may vary dramatically from this starting point, and if it does, it pays to re-check your geometry.

Further Reading

Jon Risch on VTA/SRA (opens in new window)

Interaction With Other Settings

Azimuth:  because changing the stylus rake angle can affect phase response, you may find yourself benefiting from revisiting this setting.  This is a fairly involved topic, and if you’re interested in further reading, we suggest you download the Feickert software’s Adjust + software and read the section on azimuth adjustment (opens in new window).

Loading: Realize that you might  be compensating for either VTA/SRA with loading, of vice-versa.  If you have changed one setting, revisit the other.