Replacing your old turntable mat with a new Collaro Precision Cloth Turntable Mat
should result in an immediate and noticeable improvement in sound quality, but replacing a much thicker mat will slightly alter the cartridge’s Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) or more correctly the Stylus Rake Angle. The two terms are often used to describe the relative angle of the stylus to the groove, and indeed it’s the stylus angle that is important here. This is normally adjusted by raising or lowering the back of the tonearm by whatever means is provided by your tonearm manufacturer… or occasionally there’s no adjustment, so if your tonearm VTA is fixed stop reading now!
Correct VTA/SRA is achieved when the angle of the playback stylus matches that of the cutting stylus used to make the original master lacquer. Because the angle of the record lathe cutter head (normally 20º +/- 5º) varies slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, VTA should be adjusted to achieve optimum playback results across as wide a range of records as possible, so when trying the following procedure, start by selecting a standard record pressing to gauge adjustment rather than a ‘premium’ cut on heavy vinyl.
Many listeners feel the "correct" setting for VTA should be determined through listening tests, and we’d recommend that approach. One should start with the arm parallel to the record surface when the stylus is in the playing position, raising and lowering the tonearm in small increments until the best setting is achieved. In looking for the "sweet-spot," there are several things to listen for. Listen for the point at which the soundstage comes into best focus, providing maximum width and depth simultaneously; surface noise is at a minimum, and harmonics are well balanced. You will also find a variation in tonality. Usually a positive VTA (rear of tonearm raised) results in an emphasized top-end, while lowering the setting towards the negative (headshell end of tonearm raised) will soften the high-end and increase the bass.
As always in audio systems, there are as many people who believe that the VTA settings of your cartridge are so infinitesimal, they’re not worth the time to bother with, but we feel if you have the time and confidence to experiment, or you’re a seasoned pro, it’s a worthwhile operation. Of course, the naysayers are partially right, because as touched upon earlier, records vary in thickness, so playing a heavy 180g cut will result in a bias towards negative VTA, whereas a thin Dynaflex pressing will result in a natural positive bias!
It is important to note that vertical tracking force (VTF) is related to VTA. As tracking force is increased cantilever deflection increases, changing the relationship of stylus to groove. So always recheck your stylus tracking force before and after any VTA adjustment.
If in doubt get your specialist dealer to make these adjustments for you.