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Two Books and a Few Business Cards

A three city setup tour and some tonearm setup tricks of the trade …

Last week, I finished a setup tour, covering Chicago, Bethesda and Dallas. I played with some very fine systems which included two Durand arms (Telos and Kairos), two Schroeder CBs, and an Abis 1.2.

The system shown here is the Dallas system – a Stelvio II with a Durand Kairos and Abis 1.2 tonearms.

4 of the 5 arms (while extraordinary, sonicallly) don’t have a vernier, repeatable VTA setting but are rather of the set screw on a post variety.

Adding adjustability features to a tonearm can increase a tonearm’s cost by multiple thousands of dollars while adding no sonic benefit – if you don’t consider precision of setup a sonic benefit.

OK … precision of setup IS a sonic benefit. As I’ve said time and time again, the arm you set up the best is the best arm for you.

So, how do we maximize the setup of these set screw on a post VTA designs? Create some sort of feeler gauge/spacer which will allow you can incrementally increase or decrease the height at the arm post – returning to a previous setting as desired.

The idea is to find a horizontal surface on the tonearm which will support your feeler gauge to allow you to both measure as well as set the post height – returning to a previous setting as required.

Galibier Design - Using Spacers to Set VTAWhile in Dallas, I realized that I didn’t have my spacer set with me (multiple thicknesses of acrylic), so I had to make due with two paperback Chess books and a dozen or so business cards.  The quick and dirty notes in the photo allowed us to swap back and forth repeatedly between a Benz H2O and a Soundsmith Zephyr cartridge (removable headshell on the Abis arm) – obviously resetting the tracking force as well.

The idea is simple. Use whatever spacers you have on hand. The books allowed for a gross setting and the business cards were the “fine adjust”, being about.015″ thick.

If you’re ambitious (and good at record keeping), pick up an inexpensive dial caliper and measure the thickness of your VTA setting (the spacers) for future reference.  A $20 dial caliper will suffice.

Many will argue that varying VTA height by a buisness card is too crude of a change.  OK, add strips of paper (about .003 thick) to your equipment list.

The key point is that if you use your USB microscope correctly to get a starting SRA in the 92 degree range, than your VTA settings will be much less finicky and the added bonus is that you won’t find yourself stressing out about changes due to record thickness.