What Is VTA Adjustment On A Turntable? A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of VTA adjustment on turntables. But what exactly is it, and why is it important?

In simple terms, VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle) refers to the angle at which the tonearm and stylus meet the record being played. This angle plays a crucial role in preserving the life of your stylus and ensuring that your vinyl records sound their best.

However, there are differing opinions on the optimal VTA setting, and it can be a bit of a controversial topic in the audiophile community.

In this article, we’ll explore what VTA adjustment is, why it matters, and how to find the best setting for your turntable.

So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of VTA adjustment on turntables.

What Is VTA Adjustment On Turntable

As mentioned earlier, VTA adjustment on turntables refers to the angle at which the tonearm and stylus meet the record being played. This angle is important for two reasons.

Firstly, it helps to reduce wear and tear on your stylus. If the VTA is set incorrectly, there can be direct pressure on the stylus, which can cause damage over time. By adjusting the VTA, you can ensure that your stylus is meeting the record at the optimal angle, reducing wear and tear and prolonging its lifespan.

Secondly, the VTA is important for ensuring that your vinyl records sound their best. Records are cut at a specific angle with the intention of being played back with a stylus set at a certain angle. By adjusting the VTA to match this angle, you can ensure that your stylus is better able to read and reproduce the sounds as they were originally cut into the vinyl.

Understanding VTA Adjustment

Understanding how to adjust VTA on your turntable can be a bit daunting, but with the right tools and knowledge, it can be a straightforward process. The first step is to visually observe the horizontal leveling of the tonearm when viewed from the side. If you have a magnifier or USB microscope, you can observe the actual VTA angle of the cantilever or stylus raking angle.

The generally accepted theory is that the optimal Stylus Raking Angle (SRA) is the angle at which the LPs are cut at, which is 92 degrees in most cases. However, there can be some variability in this angle. Without a microscope, an approximate starting point is to adjust the VTA or horizontal level of the tonearm to about 15 degrees.

Tools such as the Acoustical System SMARTstylus and Uni-Scope Magnifier can help you visually gauge an initial SRA angle. However, it’s important to note that as soon as the platter starts spinning, the dragging force created by the stylus raking on the LP will produce a downward force that can cause the raking angle to change. This means that only an actual measurement performed while the recording is spinning will produce the most accurate results.

The AnalogMagik software has a VTA function that allows you to determine the actual intermodulation distortion number and display it on your laptop screen. Simply fine-tune and adjust the VTA angle until you reach a level that produces the lowest intermodulation distortion percentage (IMD%). During this measurement, you may discover a small nominal difference between the left and right channel. This difference is limited by cartridge quality and is not a programming error.

It’s important to note that an optimal reading is also affected by other parameters such as azimuth, anti-skating, and vertical tracking force (VTF). You may need to go back and forth between these parameters to achieve an optimal setting across all parameters. By understanding VTA adjustment and taking the time to fine-tune it, you can ensure that your turntable produces high-quality sound while also prolonging the lifespan of your stylus.

The Importance Of VTA Adjustment

The importance of VTA adjustment cannot be overstated for turntable owners who want to get the best out of their vinyl records. While it may seem like a small adjustment, it can have a significant impact on the sound quality of your records.

One of the main reasons why VTA adjustment is important is due to the varying thickness and warping of vinyl records. If you own any 180 gram vinyl pressings, you will know that they are much thicker than normal pressings. As setting VTA is about adjusting the height of the tonearm, by having a thicker or raised record we are effectively changing VTA by altering the height at which the stylus comes in contact with the record. This can result in the VTA changing every second of playback if you are playing a warped record.

Another reason why VTA adjustment is important is because it helps to optimize the angle at which the stylus is raking the LP at when viewed from the side. The generally accepted theory is that the optimal SRA Angle is the angle at which the LPs are cut at, in most cases, this will be 92 degree. By adjusting the VTA to match this angle, you can ensure that your stylus is better able to read and reproduce the sounds as they were originally cut into the vinyl.

It’s worth noting that VTA adjustment is just one of several parameters that can affect the sound quality of your turntable. Azimuth, anti-skating, and vertical tracking force (VTF) are also important factors that need to be considered when setting up your turntable. Achieving an optimal setting across all parameters can take some trial and error, but it’s well worth it for audiophiles who want to get the best possible sound out of their vinyl records.

Controversies Surrounding VTA Adjustment

Despite the importance of VTA adjustment, there are some controversies surrounding it. One of the main debates is whether changes of 0.1mm in tonearm height are actually necessary. While some argue that even small changes can make a noticeable difference in sound quality, others believe that variations from cartridge to cartridge, temperature fluctuations, and thickness variations in records have a much bigger impact on the VTA/SRA angle than a tenth of a millimeter change in tonearm height.

Another controversy surrounding VTA adjustment is the degree of fine adjustment necessary. Some argue that mechanical stability, when a more stable thread of the VTA adjuster is hit, accounts for most of the difference in sound for these tiny adjustments. However, others believe that fine adjustments are necessary to set a more reasonable VTA accurately and reproducibly.

Lastly, there is controversy over whether obsessing over VTA adjustment is necessary. While it is important to ensure that your turntable is set up correctly, some argue that a level of common sense and judgement is needed. It may be best to leave the VTA where it is if you enjoy the sound, rather than obsessing over achieving the “correct” angle.

Finding The Best VTA Setting For Your Turntable

When it comes to finding the best VTA setting for your turntable, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, it’s important to check your stylus manufacturer’s specifications for any recommended VTA settings. This can give you a good starting point for your adjustments.

In the past, the standard VTA was 15 degrees, but this changed in the 1970s to 20 degrees. With modern turntables, the standard can be around 20 degrees, varying plus or minus 5, which will produce the best quality sound for most records. However, it’s important to note that VTA adjustment is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Vinyl records can vary in thickness and even warp, which can affect the VTA during playback.

To find the best VTA setting for your turntable, it’s recommended to choose a record that is average in thickness for your collection. If you have a mix of 180 gram vinyl and thinner vinyl, try to find a medium thickness record. If your collection is primarily one type of vinyl, select that type of record to set your VTA with.

Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) refers to the angle of the tonearm when viewed from the side, which in turn determines the Stylus Raking Angle (SRA). An excellent place to start adjusting your VTA is by visually observing the SRA angle. The generally accepted theory is that the optimal SRA angle is the angle at which LPs are cut at, usually around 92 degrees.

However, visual methods alone may not produce the most accurate results as dragging force created by the stylus raking on the LP can cause a downward force and change the raking angle while spinning. Actual measurements performed while recording is spinning will produce more accurate results.

AnalogMagik software has a VTA function that allows you to determine actual intermodulation distortion number and fine-tune adjust your VTA angle until you reach a level that produces the lowest intermodulation distortion percentage (IMD%). Keep in mind that an optimal reading is also affected by Azimuth, Anti-skating, as well as Vertical Tracking Force (VTF). You may need to go back and forth between parameters to achieve an optimal setting across all parameters.

Tools And Techniques For Adjusting VTA

Adjusting VTA can be a tricky process, but there are several tools and techniques that can help you achieve the optimal angle for your turntable.

One of the easiest ways to start adjusting VTA is by visually observing the stylus raking angle. The generally accepted theory is that the optimal stylus raking angle (SRA) is the angle at which the LPs are cut at, which is typically around 92 degrees. However, there can be some variability, so it’s important to find the right angle for your specific record.

To help with this process, you can use tools such as the Acoustical System SMARTstylus or the Uni-Scope Magnifier, which allows you to visually magnify the stylus up to 200x on your computer screen. These tools can help you gauge an initial SRA and get a good starting point for adjusting VTA.

However, it’s important to note that visual methods may not provide the most accurate results once the platter starts spinning. The dragging force created by the stylus raking on the LP can cause a downward force that changes the raking angle. To get more precise measurements, it’s recommended to use software such as AnalogMagik, which has a VTA function that allows you to determine the actual intermodulation distortion number and display it on your laptop screen.

When fine-tuning VTA, it’s important to consider other parameters such as azimuth and anti-skating, as well as vertical tracking force (VTF). You may need to go back and forth between these parameters to achieve an optimal setting across all parameters.

Tips For Maintaining Proper VTA Over Time

Maintaining proper VTA over time is crucial for ensuring that your turntable and stylus are working at their best. Here are some tips to help you maintain the correct VTA:

1. Check your VTA regularly: It’s important to check your VTA periodically to ensure that it is still set correctly. Over time, vibrations and other factors can cause the VTA to shift slightly, which can affect the sound quality and cause damage to your stylus.

2. Use a VTA gauge: A VTA gauge is a tool that allows you to measure the angle of your tonearm and adjust it accordingly. Using a VTA gauge can help you ensure that your VTA is set correctly and reduce the risk of damage to your stylus.

3. Be gentle when adjusting the VTA: When adjusting the VTA, be sure to do so gently and carefully. Avoid applying too much pressure or force, as this can cause damage to your turntable or stylus.

4. Keep your turntable clean: Regular cleaning of your turntable can help reduce vibrations and other factors that can affect the VTA over time. Be sure to keep your turntable clean and free of dust and debris.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your turntable and stylus are working at their best and producing high-quality sound for years to come.