Azimuth, VTA, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight – We Got to Live Together


With a shout out to my man Sly!

In this listing you can find commentary and advice about tonearm azimuth adjustment, Ansermet’s recordings, Speakers Corner 180g pressings, and more.

The Borodin title you see pictured has DEMO QUALITY SOUND OF THE HIGHEST ORDER!

One of the great London records. The performance by Ansermet is definitive, IMHO, and this recording ranks in the Top Ten Decca/ Londons I’ve ever heard.

The powerful lower strings and brass are gorgeous. Ansermet and the Suisse Romande get that sound better than any performers I know. You will see my raves on record after record of theirs produced in this era. No doubt the wonderful hall they record in is the key. One can assume Decca engineers use similar techniques for their recordings regardless of the artists involved. The only real variable should be the hall. Ansermet’s recordings with the Suisse Romande have a richness in the lower registers that is unique in my experience. His Pictures At Exhibition has phenomenally powerful brass, the best I’ve ever heard. The same is true for his Night On Bald Mountain. Neither performance does much for me — they’re both too slow — but the sound is out of this world. Like it is here.

One of the reasons this record is sounding so good today (1/12/05) is that I spent last weekend adjusting my Triplanar tonearm. The sound was bothering me somewhat, so I decided to start experimenting again with the azimuth adjustment. I changed the azimuth in the smallest increments I could manage, which on this turnable are exceedingly small increments, until at some point the bass started to go deeper, dynamics improved, and the overall tonal balance became fuller and richer. Basically the cartridge was becoming perfectly vertical to the record. I don’t think this can be done any other way than by ear, although I don’t know that for a fact.

Azimuth, VTA, anti-skate and tracking weight all work in combination to create the sound you hear. They are like trying to juggle four balls at the same time. They all interact with each other in mysterious ways. This is one of the reasons why I think everyone needs to know how to set up their own front end. Nobody you could ever pay is going to put the time and effort into getting it just right. I have at least 30 or 40 and probably closer to 50 hours of set up time in this arm. [It is in the many hundreds by now.]

This is, of course, over a period of two years. But as I have played around and experimented in different ways with the set up, I have managed to tailor the sound to my taste while maintaining what I consider to be the highest accuracy. Nobody can know what the “right” sound is, but when you play as many records as we do around here, hundreds per week, any imbalances will show up sooner or later, and when they do, we fix them.

Speakers Corner did a heavy vinyl reissue of this title, which is quite good, but like all reissues it lacks the weight found on this original. I remember it being a little flat and bright. I haven’t played it in years so I could easily be wrong. The glorious sound I hear on this pressing is not the kind of thing one hears often on 180 gram Speakers Corner records. They do a good job some of the time, but virtually none of their records can compete with the real thing when it’s mastered and pressed properly, as in this case.

If you’re looking for Demonstration Quality Sound, look no further. This record has it in spades.

The second symphony here is a work that audiophiles should love. It has many qualities shared with Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, which you will recognize. It also has some lovely passages that remind me of the Tale of The Tsar Saltan, another work by the same composer. If you like that exotic and colorfully orchestrated symphonic sound, you will love this album.