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What VTF Would You Use for Hi-Fi Play?

  • 2
    0 (0%)
  • 3
    2 (25%)
  • 3.5
    1 (12.5%)
  • 3.75
    0 (0%)
  • 4
    0 (0%)
  • 4.25
    0 (0%)
  • 4.5
    1 (12.5%)
  • 4.75
    1 (12.5%)
  • 5
    3 (37.5%)
  • Other
    0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 19

Topic: Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge? (Read 34893 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Supposing I've got a brand new Stanton T.92 USB turntable and I'm getting ready to produce some samples.

It comes with a pre-mounted (and presumably pre-aligned) Stanton 500.v3 cartridge. As a DJ cartridge, it has a wide range- 2 to 5 grams- and no specific recommendation within.

The tonearm is balanced and the counterweight dial zeroed. What tracking force do you think I should set?

Normally the consensus is to set the tracking force near the top of the range and I'm inclined to use 4.5 grams.

However, as a DJ cartridge, the top of the range is designed to ensure stability amidst violent scratching motions, which I won't be doing. Maybe 4.5 is overkill for trackability.

So, I'm throwing the question open to HA to see if we can't come to an agreement before I began sampling.




Balanced and Awaiting a Tracking Force Figure
  • Last Edit: 08 July, 2010, 02:09:47 AM by Knowzy

  • Axon
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #1
Would it be too snarky of an answer to say that the preferrable tracking force of a Stanton 500 is preferrably 2-4 kilograms? 

Sorry, I bought one as a backup once upon a time, and it managed to achieve a ~40hz tonearm resonance on my SL-1200. If low compliance is how DJ cartridges achieve "slammin' bass" then I am kinda scared. Not as scared as using a ceramic cart though.

If you wanted a serious answer, IIRC, I'd probably track it at 3g by default, unless it started jumping grooves.

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #2
Before I say too much more, I should disclose that Stanton sent me this turntable free so that I could review it. I paid for the previous four turntables I reviewed out of my pocket.

I don't plan on that fact to affect my opinion of it and I expect you all call me on it if you believe that to be the case.

I bought one as a backup once upon a time, and it managed to achieve a ~40hz tonearm resonance on my SL-1200. If low compliance is how DJ cartridges achieve "slammin' bass" then I am kinda scared. Not as scared as using a ceramic cart though.

The proof will be in the listening/analysis.

The turntable is clearly better constructed than the $100 turntables I've been testing. But, as I advise readers in my guide, it is a DJ turntable, which is a musical instrument first and foremost.


If you wanted a serious answer, IIRC, I'd probably track it at 3g by default, unless it started jumping grooves.

Thanks, that's two votes for 3g and one for 5g.

Since you replied, do you mind showing your work a bit?

In particular, is your general tracking force philosophy to use as little as you can get away with or, like I hear most often, to set the tracking for at or near the top of the range to avoid mistracking at all costs?

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #3
I posed this question to Stanton's tech support as well. The first answer I got was "2 - 5 grams."

After reiterating that I'm asking for a specific VTF recommendation suitable for simple vinyl archiving, he said they don't have a standard answer. He then went on to say I could probably get away with 1.5 grams if I'm worried about "possible hard s's," which I assume means "scratches."

The cultural divide between Hi-Fi and DJ is alive and well.

  • ExUser
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #4
The cultural divide between Hi-Fi and DJ is alive and well.
Speaking as a DJ, most of them wouldn't know audio quality if it jumped up and bit them in the arse.

Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #5
The real answer is to experiment and find out for yourself.

I've got hi-fi cartridges on mine now but when I had Stantons I seem to remember leaving them on the minimum for playing LPs but dialling it up if I was mixing. Depending on how drunk/nervous I was at the time.

Quote
Speaking as a DJ, most of them wouldn't know audio quality if it jumped up and bit them in the arse.


Poor DJs. Even lower in the musical hierarchy than drummers.

Mr. C spent some of the money he made with Shamen on a night club called The End. Finest sound system I ever heard.

So it's not all of them.

  • botface
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #6
Don't you have a test record? If not I'd set it at around 3 grams and play something with sudden loud peaks. That should make it easier to spot any mistracking. Then increase if necessary. Being a spherical stylus I wouldn't go below 3 grams. I'm not saying that out of any special knowledge just that the Shure cartridge in the M75 series that had a spherical stylus had a recommended tracking weight of 3 grams so I doubt that the Stanton would be able to do any better

Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #7
Don't you have a test record? If not I'd set it at around 3 grams and play something with sudden loud peaks.


Good basic advice - try some demaning tracks from a test record, and then maybe add a half a gram for some safety margin.

Quote
Being a spherical stylus I wouldn't go below 3 grams.


I don't know about that. Back in the day when sperical styli were all we had, tracking under 2 grams was pretty common. Trackability is about the dynamics of the cartrdige which are dominated by other parts of the stylus assembly than the diamond tip. Elliptical stylii tend to have smaller contact areas and so they need lighter tracking for equal levels of record wear.

Quote
I'm not saying that out of any special knowledge just that the Shure cartridge in the M75 series that had a spherical stylus had a recommended tracking weight of 3 grams so I doubt that the Stanton would be able to do any better


IME Shure has been the king of tracking in any part of the cartrdige market.

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #8
Don't you have a test record? If not I'd set it at around 3 grams and play something with sudden loud peaks.


Good basic advice - try some demaning tracks from a test record, and then maybe add a half a gram for some safety margin.

Yes, I like this idea.

I use HFN002 and The Ultimate Analogue Test LP in testing each turntable. I bought new copies for this round of testing.

HFN002 has a set of four tracks with a 300Hz test tone at increasing levels: +12dB, +14dB, +16dB and +18dB. The latter is referred to as the "Torture Track."

What do you think of this plan:
  • Use the +16dB track
  • Start with 2.5 grams
  • Each time I detect a mistrack, I'll add .25 grams
  • Once it tracks succesfully, I'll add .5 grams, as Arnold suggests

  • botface
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #9
Aren't those tracks for setting bias? I have HFN001 and the tracking tests are all on side 2 and are at +15dB. Still, I don't see why you couldn't use the test tracks you're referring to for ascertaining a suitable tracking weight. I'd start with the lowest level cut and with a weight at the high end, say 4 grams. Reason being that once you've caused mistracking you've damaged the record so it's best to start with something that should be safe and go from there. My approach would be :
1) Use the +12dB track at 4 grams
2). If that's OK try the +14dB track at 4 grams.
3) If that's OK try the +16dB track at 4 grams
4) If that's OK repeat the tests at 3.5 grams
and so on. If at any stage you get mistracking add .5 grams and start again from that point. Once I was happy I'd double check by using the tracks on side 2 (assuming HFN002 is the same as HFN001)

I actually still use HFS75 for this purpose. You might be interested to know that it's sleeve notes say that +14dB "represents a typical hi-fi standard, achieved within the range of most high quality cartridges". So, I wouldn't worry too much if +16dB proved unachievable
  • Last Edit: 20 September, 2011, 04:35:54 PM by db1989

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #10
Aren't those tracks for setting bias? I have HFN001 and the tracking tests are all on side 2 and are at +15dB.

Gee, using the tracks designed for the task at hand makes a little too much sense.

I'd start with...a weight at the high end, say 4 grams. Reason being that once you've caused mistracking you've damaged the record so it's best to start with something that should be safe and go from there.

More sound advice.

Here's my revised plan:
  • Use the middle "tracking ability" cut on side 2
  • Start at 4 grams of VTF
  • Work my way down .25 grams at a time until I get a mistrack, then...
  • Bump it up .5 grams and commence sampling

Sound good?

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #11
Using the +15dB track, I tested down to 2.25g and didn't encounter mistracking at all.

The 18dB "Torture track" wouldn't play even at 5g but the 16dB played fine at 3 and 4g.


VTF Affects Volume in Right Channel
I did notice something that makes me uneasy, though.

The left channel was consistently about .5 in the waveform view of Audacity. The right channel got lower and lower as I reduced force.

At 4g, the right channel was at .44. At 2.25g, it was at .37.

Any ideas on why this is happening?

   

VTF Samples
Here are select samples from my tests. If you're interested, you can download all 14 in one 32MB zip file.

HFN002 Tracking ability 2 track, 300Hz tone @ 15dB (Side B, track 4)



Bad Copy of HFN002?
Also, I think I found a defect in my new copy of HFN002.

The left channel was a nearly perfect sine wave. The right channel had trouble forming the top peaks of the wave. This was true at any tracking force.

I tried the same track out on my original copy of HFN002- both channels had nice looking sine waves.


Defective HFN002? (Click to Zoom In)

  • botface
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #12
I can hear mistracking in the right channel of the 4gram sample and both channels of 2.5 gram sample. It could well be that the right channel has been damaged by the mistracking and hence the difference in the waveform. It could also be why right channel output is lower.

I'd suggest you double-check that the cartridge is central in the headshell and then double-check the bias setting as either of these could be causing the right channel mistracking.

Edit : An afterthought. Maybe the test record was already damaged before you ran these tests. In which case you'll never get a proper result. Although if it was new that seems unlikely. Can you try again with one of the other tracks?
  • Last Edit: 12 July, 2010, 05:09:33 AM by botface

  • 2Bdecided
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #13
Yes, it's important to remember that once the record has mistracked once, that part is potentially damaged and useless.

Cheers,
David.

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #14
I can hear mistracking in the right channel of the 4gram sample and both channels of 2.5 gram sample.

If you can hear mistracking then clearly I don't know how to identify the phenomena.

Axon defined mistracking as "the record leaving contact with one of the groove walls." If this were happening, I would expect to see this distinctly in the waveform. I don't.

I scrolled through the waveforms in their entirety at the zoom level shown below. The sine wave is unbroken the entire time. There are no gaps and no malformed sine waves*.

Is this an unreliable technique for identifying mistracking?


2.25g Sample. It Looks Like This Throughout


Maybe the test record was already damaged before you ran these tests. In which case you'll never get a proper result.

* I do believe this copy of HFN002 is defective on the right channel of this track. You can see the right channel has the rough edges at the top of the wave.

I tried the same track on my original copy of HFN002 at 4g (listen). The right channel is well rounded.

Maybe this is a good time to test out Acoustic Sound's return policy.


Same Track as Above on Older Copy of HFN002 @ 4g

  • botface
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #15
Quote
If you can hear mistracking then clearly I don't know how to identify the phenomena.

If you isolate the left channel and play it back you will hear a nice clear tone. If you isolate the right channel you will hear a sound at the same pitch as the left channel but instead of a pure tone it's accompanied by a sort of "buzz". That's the mistracking.

Out of curiosity I recorded the "torture track" from my copy of HFS75 as I know it's been damaged by mistracking in the past. The waveform looks very similar to your sample (sorry I haven't found out how to post images otherwise I'd attach a screenshot). I suspect that the angled tops of the wave on the right channel, compared to the nicely rounded tops on the left channel are the signs of mistracking as that's what my HFS75 track looks like. Hopefully someone with specific knowledge here can confirm that. Then again it may be that the record is simply faulty as you say.

You're absolutely right that the sample from the older copy of HFN002 is not showing any audible signs of mistracking. Also you can see that the shape of the waveform is identical in both channels.

  • 2Bdecided
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  • Developer
Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #16
Axon defined mistracking as "the record leaving contact with one of the groove walls." If this were happening, I would expect to see this distinctly in the waveform. I don't.
You do! Every flat top sine wave you've shown is the needle leaving the groove wall. If it was still touching it, you'd get a proper smooth sine wave.

Cheers,
David.
  • Last Edit: 13 July, 2010, 09:05:17 AM by 2Bdecided

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #17
If you isolate the left channel and play it back you will hear a nice clear tone. If you isolate the right channel you will hear a sound at the same pitch as the left channel but instead of a pure tone it's accompanied by a sort of "buzz". That's the mistracking.

Yes, now that I'm listening to the old copy and new copy side-by-side, I do hear the difference.

I am going to try exchanging the new copy. I wouldn't be surprised if the entire batch is like this, though. I'll report back.


You're absolutely right that the sample from the older copy of HFN002 is not showing any audible signs of mistracking. Also you can see that the shape of the waveform is identical in both channels.

I think I'll just use my old copy to determine the proper VTF then. A couple lousy ceramic cartridges may have passed through its grooves before but it seems to be holding up.


I would expect to see this distinctly in the waveform. I don't.

You do! Every flat top sine wave you've shown is the needle leaving the groove wall. If it was still touching it, you'd get a proper smooth sine wave.

Although I do believe we're seeing a defect in the LP, it appears that you're saying that this is a good way of identifying mistracking.

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #18
The Short Version
  • I found my tracking force: 4 grams
  • The new copy of HFN002 is not defective.
  • I'm not sure why I was getting the flat-top results the first time.



The Waveforms
 
Left: 3 grams. Right: 3.5 grams



4 grams


The Samples
HFN002, New Copy, Take 2, Trackability Test (Side B, Track 4)


The Long Version
Assuming my new copy of HFN002 was defective, I began looking for the right tracking force using my original copy of HFN002.

Before I did this, I re-balanced the tone arm. It was still floating but was riding a bit above the arm rest. I adjusted it no more than 1/10 gram and it was now floating just below the rest.

I commenced sampling at 4 grams. Nice and smooth, just as it was two days earlier.

When I got down to 3 grams, I noticed bumpy flat-tops on top of the sine wave in the right channel. They looked almost identical to the ones I saw on my second copy of HFN002.

At this point I'm wondering if the original HFN was cut a bit hotter. Maybe I just needed more force on the new HFN.

I tried new new HFN at 5 grams. Nice and smooth.

I tried it at 4.5 grams. Nice and smooth.

Then I tried it at 4 grams. Two days ago, this was causing the flat-tops shown in the previous posts. Today, nice and smooth.

I'm baffled. The re-balancing is the only thing I can think of that would remotely have an effect. But remember, I got the nice and smooth wave from my original HFN two days ago, before the re-balancing.

I tried 3.5 grams. Still nice as smooth, as it was on the original HFN.

I tried 3 grams. Back to flat-tops.

3.25 grams- somewhere in between.

Following Arnold's advice, I took the last good sample, 3.5 and added .5 to arrive at 4 grams.

I still don't know why I got such different results today. Delicate mechanical equipment can be so unpredictable!


The Right Question
Final note in an already long post: I realized I shouldn't have asked, "What tracking force should I use?" The right question was, "How do I find the right tracking force?"

I really learned a lot from your advice and this experience.

Thanks.

  • cliveb
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  • Developer
Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #19
Then I tried it at 4 grams. Two days ago, this was causing the flat-tops shown in the previous posts. Today, nice and smooth.

I'm baffled. The re-balancing is the only thing I can think of that would remotely have an effect. But remember, I got the nice and smooth wave from my original HFN two days ago, before the re-balancing.

This is a long thread that I'm not really able to properly contribute to, but I will make the point that environmental factors such as temperature and humidity can affect the trackability of pickup cartridges. If the day when the tracking was better was a warmer day, that could explain the difference.

  • Knowzy
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Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #20
environmental factors such as temperature and humidity can affect the trackability of pickup cartridges.

Thanks. I'll keep that in mind.

One thing is for certain: I'm going to run the trackability test once more before I begin sampling.

  • Knowzy
  • [*][*][*]
Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #21
I'm now using 5 grams of tracking force (the top end of the manufacturer's range) and it's still not enough.

Here's how I got there.

After rebalancing, I tried the outermost trackability track. Even at 5 grams, there were a few points of audible mistracking.

The innermost track was much worse- constant audible mistracking throughout.

Hear for yourself: The start of the FLAC is the outermost track and the end is the innermost track.

At +15dB, these tracks seem to be louder than you would typically encounter playing music records.

Quote
I actually still use HFS75 for this purpose. You might be interested to know that its sleeve notes say that +14dB "represents a typical hi-fi standard, achieved within the range of most high quality cartridges". So, I wouldn't worry too much if +16dB proved unachievable.


Side A has a +14dB version of this track near the end of the record that plays without audible mistracking.

At the center of the record, the Stanton could handle +15db at 4 grams.

Nonetheless, I'm a bit let down that I couldn't get a smooth play on the inside and the outside of the record no matter how much tracking force I used.

  • botface
  • [*][*][*][*]
Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #22
What you're describing can often be the result of incorrect bias. Is the mistracking always in both channels or just one? If it's just one channel or sometimes both and sometimes just one it points to a bias problem - especially as you don't seem to have any trouble tracking the test in the centre of the record.

  • Knowzy
  • [*][*][*]
Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #23
What you're describing can often be the result of incorrect bias.

Funny you should mention that. I was playing with anti-skate adjustment last night and found that the component responsible for it (a spring?) may be sticky.

I was playing the innermost track and adjusting the bias wildly to see if it had any effect. From 7 to 0 and back to 7. The mistracking continued unabated.

Then, out of the blue, the mistracking stopped. I can now play all three tracks without hearing mistracking and it doesn't matter where I set the anti-skate.

I think you might be on to something!

The +16dB track still mistracks, though.

In other news, I broke out the tracking force scale and found the counterweight to be unreliable.

Here are the readings I got:
  • Counterweight dial: .5 grams, scale: .43 grams (underweight)
  • Counterweight dial: 2 grams, scale: 2.12 grams (overweight)
  • Counterweight dial: 5 grams, scale: 5.35 grams (overweight)


Assuming I can get bias working correctly, perhaps I should set it to the figure on the scale rather than the dial.







  • Snackcakes
  • [*]
Tracking Force Suggestions for Stanton 500.v3 Cartridge?
Reply #24
I have the same table. this is some great info.
  • Last Edit: 20 September, 2011, 04:36:35 PM by db1989