VTA – A Few Moments of Experimentation Can Really Pay Off

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically adjust your VTA.

Experimenting with the VTA for this record we found a precise point where it all came together, far beyond whatever expectations we might have had at the time, which revealed a violin floating between the speakers, an effect that as audiophiles we appreciate for the magic trick that it is.

The sound of the wood of the instrument became so clear, the harmonic textures so natural, it was quite a shock to hear a good record somehow become an amazing one. All it took was a few moments of experimentation.

With the right VTA setting we immediately heard more harmonic detail, with no sacrifice in richness. That’s the clearest sign that your setup is right, or very close to it.

What to Listen for (WTLF)

This is an excellent turntable setup disc; when your VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate are correct, this is the record that will make it clear to you that all your effort has paid off.

What to listen for you ask? With the proper adjustment the harmonics of the strings will sound extended and correct, neither hyped up nor dull; the wood body of the instrument will be more audibly “woody”; the fingering at the neck will be noticeable but will not call attention to itself. In other words, as you adjust your setup, the violin will sound more and more real, honest and emotionally powerful.

And you can’t really know how right it can sound until you spend time experimenting with all the forces that affect the way the needle rides in the groove. If you are serious, and thorough, and approach your work scientifically with notepad in hand, two to three hours should do the trick.

There Will Be Problems

Without precise VTA adjustment there is almost no way this superb pressing will be able to do what it is so clearly capable of doing. There will be hardness, smear, sourness, thinness — something will be off somewhere. With total control over arm and cartridge setup, these problems will all but vanish. (Depending on the quality of the equipment of course; we must all work within the limitations of our hardware, room treatments, electrical quality and all the rest.)

Other recordings — popular vocals, heavy rock, classical piano, small combo jazz, big band — are also important for setup and tweaking. Never rely exclusively on one record; it’s too easy to make the mistake of optimizing the sound of a single disc at the expense of most others. When your setup is right, practically all of your best recordings should sound better. (There may be an exception or two, and it’s important to figure out why they are not working with the new settings. Rather than ignore them, it’s best to go back to the drawing board.)

We harp on so many aspects of music reproduction in the home for a reason. When you’ve done the work, records like this often become nothing less than GLORIOUS.

 

 

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