Tracking force: Is lower better?

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by McBru6177, May 3, 2014.

  1. McBru6177

    McBru6177 One Way or Another Subscriber

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    I have a entry-level Audio-Technica CN-5625AL on one of my secondary TTs. The specs state a tracking force in the range of 1.5-3.0 grams. This seems like such a wide range. My other cartridges state a single recommended weight. Should I aim for the lowest weight. How do I tell if it is too light or heavy?
     

     

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  2. enderwiggin

    enderwiggin Member

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    Hi,
    keeping your VTF into the range of the cart, you should choose the setting that pleases you the most. A more heavy VTF enhances bass freq, for example... Make some experiment... ;)
    Bye

    Luca
     
  3. Bob_in_OKC

    Bob_in_OKC Addicted Member

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    Lower isn't better. If anything, higher is better. Tracking is often better in the upper half of the tracking force range. I would suggest starting at 2.25 and see what you think after several records. Then try a higher setting below 3.0 and compare. As noted above - what pleases you most.
     
  4. awise1961

    awise1961 Super Member

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    Higher is indeed better.
    I learned quite some time ago to run VTF right at the top end of the spec. for a given cartridge.
    The stylus rides the groove better and pulls more detail.

    Al. Wise
     
  5. JohnMichael

    JohnMichael Super Member

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    To join in higher is better because it keeps the stylus in the groove even during heavy modulated recordings. A stylus too light can bounce around the groove and damage the record.
     
  6. charles 1973

    charles 1973 Super Member

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    This is good advice IMO. I believe the range in tracking force is to allow for the variation in tonearm's. In some instances it may be best to track at the lower end of the range, in other cases the upper range.

    With a range of 1.5 - 3.0 grams, I would try it between 1.9 and 2.7 range and see which sounds best. I track mine at the middle of it's narrow 1.8 - 2.2 gram range. Wear shouldn't be much of a factor in the range I suggested. Tracking too light can be at least as harmful as over tracking.
     

     

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  7. iLUVanalog

    iLUVanalog Super Member

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    You have been provided a specific range to use for tracking. Do not track lower than 1.5 grams and do not track higher than 3 grams. Best place to start is right in the middle (about 2.25 grams) and then fine tune in either direction from there depending on your taste. Aiming for the lowest tracking weight is not the point. That's the old way of thinking. Very low tracking forces were used in the past because low-mass tonearms were all the rage and required light weight high compliance cartridges to work and sound their best. Cartridge and tonearm masses are now all over the map and you have to match the right cartridge with your tonearm. How to tell if it's too light or too heavy is by listening....but stay within the specified tracking range. Again, best place to start is right in the middle of the range.
     
  8. 62caddy

    62caddy Trust but verify Subscriber

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    Agreed - far better to err on the on the plus side under.

    Too little VTF (below mfgr's spec) will result in mistracking as well as excessive wear to the stylus and vinyl.
     
  9. WaynerN

    WaynerN Addicted Member

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    Just remember that the higher weight you track at, the more "skating" effect there will be. While staying on the top side of the middle is probably good advice, it does have its own consequences, requiring more anti-skate.

    My rule is as low as possible without tracking mis-ques. As an example, I have several AT 440MLa cartridges that are spec'd at tracking from 1.4 to 1.8 grams. I have found that 1.6 to 1.65 grams is ideal, not 1.8. While bass may increase at higher tracking weights, the high end usually suffers from being "less responsive" IMO, and for the most part, I do not think it can be a general rule applied to all cartridges.

    The correct answer also depends on your tonearm and its mass and responsiveness. As one poster stated, play with the VTF until it seems like it tracks OK on all of your LPs. mis-tracking is the cause of record wear........
     
  10. sKiZo

    sKiZo Hates received: 8642 Subscriber

    Seems to me, common sense dictates the middle of the range as a good starting point. Mfgs have that calibrated as the best spot to keep the cart from riding too low and impeding stylus movement, and preventing bounce at the other end of the range. Between, high and low, what works for you is best. It's all about tracking the groove the best way it can ...
     
  11. McBru6177

    McBru6177 One Way or Another Subscriber

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    Great advice. Thanks guys. I set the weight to the mid-point at 2.25. It was previously set at 1.7, still in the range so no harm to the records....I hope. I'll try experimenting later on.

    The specs on my better cartridge (Ortofon Mojo) recommend 1.5 BUT I just noticed they also provide a range of 1.25-1.75. Looks like the mid-point seems to be the first logical starting point.

    Again, thanks for the help. This is making a lot more sense now.
     

     

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  12. sKiZo

    sKiZo Hates received: 8642 Subscriber

    Rule of thumb - adjust your anti-skate to the same setting as the tracking force. Maybe a minor tweak if the balance sounds off or you have tracking issues at different parts of the vinyl.

    Last step in the process is sitting back for a good listen. Pick a favorite track and see if there's anything that doesn't sound quite right, try a tweak, listen again, or just leave it the hell alone and enjoy ... Careful ... it's like tube rolling or speaker placement ... there's ALWAYS yet another tweak ... <G>

    Oh. If you haven't already done so, DO get a protractor and make sure your cartridge is aligned properly. That can make or break the results.
     
  13. iLUVanalog

    iLUVanalog Super Member

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    I'll use my own personal examples:...

    I have a Denon DL-110. The tracking range is 1.5-2.1 grams, with 1.8 grams recommended as optimum. For me and in my system, I find this cartridge sounds best at 2.0 grams....slightly above the recommended but still below the maximum of 2.1 grams.

    I also have a Audio Technica AT95E. The tracking range is 1.5-2.5 grams, with 2.0 grams recommended as optimum. For me and in my system, I find this cartridge sounds best at 2.2 grams...again, slightly above the recommended but still below the maximum of 2.5 grams.
     
  14. malden

    malden Addicted Member

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    I usually track at the upper range of the recommended tracking force as well, never giving it much thought.

    But, as I'm reading these posts, I'm wondering if the tracking force range is there to accommodate differences in tonearm mass, bearing friction, etc....:scratch2:

    so, if you have a low mass tonearm that has super-smooth bearings, then maybe you track at the lower range...

    just a thought
     
  15. beej

    beej Proud BaPa of G, A and AJ Subscriber

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    For me it truly depends on the arm. On my PL-9 (ultra low mass arm) I tend to set the VTF on the higher end of the range and on my SL-1200 mk II (low-med mass) in the mid range or lower.
     
  16. lini

    lini just me...

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    A point to consider with individual recommendations is that tracking force also influences VTA/SRA, so depending on the individual setup the ideal tracking force for a certain cartridge may certainly vary to a certain degree.

    And of course it also depends on the tracking ability of the cart/needle to begin with - 'cause a cart/needle that already manages 80 µm at or even below the tf range median will certainly offer more leeway for fine-tuning than one that only manages 50 or 60 µm.

    Greetings from Munich!

    Manfred / lini
     

     

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  17. fredj

    fredj Active Member

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    The single greatest cause of permanent groove damage is by far tracking too light, the stylus loses traction and proceeds to ricochet from side to side trying to re-establish traction everywhere the stylus impacts it digs a divot, these divots are PERMANENT !

    When it comes to VTF higher is ALWAYS better !
     
  18. sKiZo

    sKiZo Hates received: 8642 Subscriber

    Problem with blanket statements, is there's always an exception to the rule ...

    [​IMG]

    This one's good for maybe half a dozen plays before you have to vacuum the record out of the carpet ... I think it's got maybe three pounds of VTF ... <G>
     
  19. iLUVanalog

    iLUVanalog Super Member

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    Uhh, yeah....and that contraption was in use when pretty much all turntables used 10 grams of tracking force.

    Bad analogy.
     
  20. malden

    malden Addicted Member

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    I suspect that for any given tonearm and stylus combination there is a tracking force sweet spot.

    Since stylus manufacturers have to take into account hundreds, if not thousands of tonearm designs, they give a range and it's up to the consumer to figure out the best tracking force for their individual tonearm.

    If the heaviest is always the best, wouldn't the stylus manufacturers say just that?
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2014

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