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

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With a shout out to my man Sly!

The commentary was written in 2005.

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 turntable are exceedingly small increments, until at some point the following changes became evident:

  1. The bass started to go deeper,
  2. The dynamics improved, and
  3. 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 setup, I have managed to tailor the sound to my taste while maintaining what I consider to be the highest levels of accuracy.

Robert Brook has some advice for those who would like to learn more about analog setup, and you can find it here.

Nobody can know exactly 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 do our best to fix them.

Our Stereo

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