Anti Skating?

DLS

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Retired and Covid-bound, I am spending more time listening to vinyl. Years ago, my beloved, original Transfiguration Temper somehow lost its tip and was replaced with a wonderful Lyra Skala cartridge. This recent deep dive into my record collection led me to revisit the Transfiguration situation and I sent it off to Peter Ledermann at Soundsmith to be retipped. I also ordered a new VPI-10 3D Reference tone arm with the intent of easily switching between the two for a new exploration of the wonders if each cartridge/arm combination, and that is when I re-entered the deep waters of cartridge alignment (I use a VPI TNT turntable with tri-pully system and an SDS controller). And now I get to the point/question for you all: the pros and cons of applying anti-skating force.

We know that a stylus sitting within a groove of a spinning record is “pulled” toward the inner wall, toward the spindle. Yet from our childhoods spent on merry-go-rounds we know about the effect of sitting on a spinning platter: a force seems to push us outward, in the opposite direction.

What does the truth lie then in aligning a cartridge and applying anti-skating force for the greatest extraction of music and the least amount of distortion? Peter Ledermann and Michael Fremer, two exceedingly intelligent, insightful and well respected people with a wealth of experience, argue forcefully that skating force is real and requires a counter force to extract the last measure from our records. Harry Weisfeld, a man who dedicated his adult life to design of extraordinarily good turntables and tonearms is firm in his opinion that mechanical anti-skating methods only introduce another, and therefore unacceptable, potential for poor alignment. Interestingly, Peter Ledermann has commented that he has often seen the wear/damage to diamond stylus from the application of too much anti-skate force from hundreds of hours of record playing, yet insists that skating force is real and bad.

So I turn to you all here for opinions. Where do you come down on this subject?
 

analogsa

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We know that a stylus sitting within a groove of a spinning record is “pulled” toward the inner wall, toward the spindle. Yet from our childhoods spent on merry-go-rounds we know about the effect of sitting on a spinning platter: a force seems to push us outward, in the opposite direction.
Sorry, no analogy with your childhood experiences as the stylus does not rotate with the platter and experiences no centrifugal force. The skatIng force is just the result of friction.

If you use a pivoted arm and care about distortion and uneven groove and stylus wear, then yes, you should use an antiskate.
 
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tima

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Peter Ledermann and Michael Fremer ... argue forcefully that skating force is real and requires a counter force to extract the last measure from our records.... Harry Weisfeld ... is firm in his opinion that mechanical anti-skating methods only introduce another, and therefore unacceptable, potential for poor alignment.

With a radial tracking arm, when there is no skating force compensation, the vertical tracking force is distributed unevenly on the groove wall - more on the left (inner) groove wall, less on the right groove wall. (I'd say this is a fact, but talking about facts on WBF can be dicey.)

I believe Weisfeld agrees that skating force is real. However, iirc, he claims one cannot entirely compensate for the skating force of a tonearm with an offset angle headshell because the force is not constant across the record surface. Yet, as you know, VPI tonearms do include anti-skate mechanisms, partly because of market expectation.

I draw an analogy between setting anti-skate and cartridge alignment:

On non-tangential tonearms setting stylus overhang finds the stylus exactly tangent to the groove only at two points. While not exact, we still align cartridges for "best effort" within the limits of the tonearm's geometry.

Anti-skate force compensation is exactly correct at only a few (one or two?) places on the groove, so there will be over-compensation and under-compensation. While not perfect, compensation nonetheless yields improved tracking and reduces right channel (outer groove wall) distortion.
 

Shuggie

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Both Peter Ledermann and Harry Weisfeld are correct. The force pulling the cartridge towards the center of the record exists only at the tip, but anti-skate compensation pulls the whole tonearm in the opposite direction to cancel that force out. All good so far, in theory, but that compensation force always results (to some extent) in the cartridge cantilever being skewed unnaturally to one side, which results in some degree of uneven compression of the cartridge suspension and therefore the tip alignment in the groove is altered, which is not particularly desirable; also the original force at the tip does vary across the record and depends on a range of other factors too, so it's not a static 'target'. I suspect this is what's behind Harry Weisfeld's comments, but he's not alone - Mr Hamada of Glanz recommends removing the bias lever mechanism in the instructions for Glanz arms, in the interests of best musical reproduction.

My own experience, confirmed by ear and Analog Magik, is that a small degree of anti-skate compensation is beneficial, but it's usually at a much lower setting than many folks assume; and I'm sure that Peter Ledermann's comments about uneven tip wear due to excessive anti-skate force are true. Tonearm makers' anti-skate dial calibrations may not be accurate, nor helpful, so my general guidance is to apply 'just a touch' of anti-skate then tweak by ear. Where a rotary dial has numbered markings, I'd set it at no more than half the VTF before tweaking by ear, or even better set it using Analog Magik which does really help to zoom in on the best compromise. Yes, it is a compromise.

The internet erupted with indignant condemnation of Yamaha for the straight tube, nil offset, design of the arm on their GT-5000 turntable, which does not require any anti-skate force. But, in spite of the measurement obsessives, all those who actually heard it reported no audible tracing distortions, even though they must surely exist. As in all things relating to vinyl reproduction, everything is a bundle of compromises and that's simply one that works very well, in spite of accepted wisdom.
 

Nemal1

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Ive always applied this by ear, following initial cartridge recommendations and on my particular set up (Triplanar se and koetsu wajima) the anti skate force is approximately 50% of the tracking weight which may be a good place to start. you can generally hear if insufficient force has been applied with end of side distortion/mis tracking on one channel
 

Phoenix Engineering

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Both Peter Ledermann and Harry Weisfeld are correct. The force pulling the cartridge towards the center of the record exists only at the tip, but anti-skate compensation pulls the whole tonearm in the opposite direction to cancel that force out.

This is not entirely accurate. The skating force is created at the tip of the stylus but the force created is a torque that will move the entire tonearm clockwise in rotation. Antiskate is applied at the tonearm pivot, is also a torque force and rotates the entire tonearm CCW in rotation.

I personally wouldn't believe anything HW says; he has made numerous patently false statements in the past including statements about tonearm geometry, so I don't think he really understands much about the subject. He maintains that their 14" tonearm with no headshell offset has two null points on the record and exhibits no skating force at all; both statements are incorrect. With no headshell offset angle, there is only one null point and the tonearm will experience both CW skating torque (past the null) and CCW skating torque (before the null).

A tonearm with no headshell offset will have much higher tracking angle error (and therefore tracking distortion) than a properly offset tonearm. There are SET amps that have higher distortion than Push-Pull amps but people seem to prefer the sound of SE amps better. Maybe the distortion adds some euphonic effect?
 

mtemur

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This is not entirely accurate. The skating force is created at the tip of the stylus but the force created is a torque that will move the entire tonearm clockwise in rotation. Antiskate is applied at the tonearm pivot, is also a torque force and rotates the entire tonearm CCW in rotation.

I personally wouldn't believe anything HW says; he has made numerous patently false statements in the past including statements about tonearm geometry, so I don't think he really understands much about the subject. He maintains that their 14" tonearm with no headshell offset has two null points on the record and exhibits no skating force at all; both statements are incorrect. With no headshell offset angle, there is only one null point and the tonearm will experience both CW skating torque (past the null) and CCW skating torque (before the null).

A tonearm with no headshell offset will have much higher tracking angle error (and therefore tracking distortion) than a properly offset tonearm. There are SET amps that have higher distortion than Push-Pull amps but people seem to prefer the sound of SE amps better. Maybe the distortion adds some euphonic effect?
+1
 

mtemur

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The internet erupted with indignant condemnation of Yamaha for the straight tube, nil offset, design of the arm on their GT-5000 turntable, which does not require any anti-skate force. But, in spite of the measurement obsessives, all those who actually heard it reported no audible tracing distortions, even though they must surely exist. As in all things relating to vinyl reproduction, everything is a bundle of compromises and that's simply one that works very well, in spite of accepted wisdom.
That’s not totally right. skating is a function of overhang or underhang not offset. All pivoted tonearms either have overhang or underhang which cause skating force and requires anti-skating. That Yamaha tonearm does require anti-skating too. Building a pivoted tonearm without offset and anti-skating mechanism is pure ignorance.
 

Shuggie

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That’s not totally right. skating is a function of overhang or underhang not offset. All pivoted tonearms either have overhang or underhang which cause skating force and requires anti-skating. That Yamaha tonearm does require anti-skating too. Building a pivoted tonearm without offset and anti-skating mechanism is pure ignorance.
I didn't say that, but pretty much all arms made nowadays are offset, overhung designs, so I feel the implied generalization is valid. I am perfectly aware that the Yamaha arm is designed to deliberately omit any form of bias compensation, as are the Viv Labs arms which similarly defy accepted wisdom yet apparently still sound excellent, even with 7" effective length. Accusing Yamaha of ignorance is perhaps being somewhat ignorant too - sometimes we need alternative views and approaches that challenge accepted thinking: this is supposed to be how 'science' evolves, and the same should apply to audio.
 
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Shuggie

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This is not entirely accurate. The skating force is created at the tip of the stylus but the force created is a torque that will move the entire tonearm clockwise in rotation. Antiskate is applied at the tonearm pivot, is also a torque force and rotates the entire tonearm CCW in rotation.

I personally wouldn't believe anything HW says; he has made numerous patently false statements in the past including statements about tonearm geometry, so I don't think he really understands much about the subject. He maintains that their 14" tonearm with no headshell offset has two null points on the record and exhibits no skating force at all; both statements are incorrect. With no headshell offset angle, there is only one null point and the tonearm will experience both CW skating torque (past the null) and CCW skating torque (before the null).

A tonearm with no headshell offset will have much higher tracking angle error (and therefore tracking distortion) than a properly offset tonearm. There are SET amps that have higher distortion than Push-Pull amps but people seem to prefer the sound of SE amps better. Maybe the distortion adds some euphonic effect?
Have you never seen a cartridge with permanently deflected cantilever resulting from excess bias compensation force? I have, and I bow to Peter Ledermann's expertise regarding asymmetric tip wear similarly caused.

I did state very clearly that a straight, zero offset arm must have higher tracing distortion compared to one with a competently designed offset headshell, but whether those distortions are audible or troublesome is quite another question. There's more to a great sounding tonearm than just geometry, and sometimes a designer pulls all the best thinking together to produce an outstanding arm that does not need anti-skate force, and does not have any significant tracing errors either - for evidence of that, I present the Reed 5A.
 

Phoenix Engineering

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Have you never seen a cartridge with permanently deflected cantilever resulting from excess bias compensation force? I have, and I bow to Peter Ledermann's expertise regarding asymmetric tip wear similarly caused.
Not sure what this has to do with anything I posted? You made an incorrect assertion regarding the physics of skating force. I corrected you. You're welcome.


I did state very clearly that a straight, zero offset arm must have higher tracing distortion compared to one with a competently designed offset headshell, but whether those distortions are audible or troublesome is quite another question. There's more to a great sounding tonearm than just geometry, and sometimes a designer pulls all the best thinking together to produce an outstanding arm that does not need anti-skate force, and does not have any significant tracing errors either - for evidence of that, I present the Reed 5A.
Sound quality is a separate issue; it is subjective and therefore debatable. Making claims about geometry or physics that are just plain wrong are a totally different kettle of fish. If you are going to use a source in an appeal to authority, you might consider a source who at least understands the technology and can make a coherent argument for what they are doing. When someone cannot even get the facts straight, I don't think I would put much faith in their subjective opinions; to do so would be flirting with credulity.

Sometimes a designer has no idea what they are doing and just phafs around until they find a particular sound they like and it has nothing to do with science, math or technology. It is still a valid approach, until they try to sell it using sham engineering jargon.

There might be a case for a straight tonearm with no headshell offset. The arm will still exhibit skating force, but it will be lower than a comparable tonearm with offset headshell. It should also be symmetrical about the null point and may be easier to compensate, but it takes an understanding of the geometry and physics involved to do this correctly.

HW posted that he demonstrated his concept by taking an overhung 12" arm with cartridge offset and rotating the cartridge so the stylus was either in-line or at least parallel to the straight tonearm. A straight tonearm with no headshell offset needs to be underhung to have at least one null point; an overhung arm without cartridge offset will never have a null point and the tracking error and distortion will be off the charts. He maintains that this sounded jaw-dropping good. Maybe he likes listening to distortion? I can only imagine how much damage this was doing to the record and stylus (especially a line contact stylus).
 
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audiobomber

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I have a couple of versions of the HFN test record and consider it an absolute necessity for setting anti-skate. When VTF and A-S are set correctly, a decent phono cartridge will sail through the tracking tests at the beginning, middle and end of side. I agree that less anti-skate is almost always required than the general rule of thumb states (1g/g of VTF), and too much is as bad for stylus and record wear as too little.
 

J.R. Boisclair

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When the left/right channel contact edges of the stylus are not perfectly collinear with the radial line of the record when viewed from above, you have what is called Tracing Error. When the cartridge has been properly setup, tracing error at the null points SHOULD be zero. Unfortunately, even the most expensive stylus/cantilever assemblies have up to +-5 degree tolerance on the zenith. See HERE. (Zenith error is the difference between perfect perpendicularity to the cantilever and the ACTUAL line formed between the left/right contact edges of the stylus when viewed from above or below).

Tracing Error results in tracing distortion but tracing distortion does NOT sound like euphonic additives or obvious intermodulation distortion, etc. In other words, I think you'd have a tough time HEARING tracing distortion. Why? Because it is a distortion that is subjectively experienced mostly as a subtraction of information, not an addition. When you add tracing distortion, you LOSE information that helps better define the soundstage and images and reduces the output at some frequencies. This is a mechanical certainty. The three mechanical conditions that tracing error causes are:
1. Phase shift between channels - one channel reads the groove earlier in time than the other. This will cause some slight cancellation effects at high frequencies
2. Pinch effect - to transit an otherwise horizontally modulated groove, a fine-line contact stylus is forced to travel vertically (and vice versa on an otherwise perfectly vertically modulated groove)
3. Basin Miss - (this is our term since it hasn't been given one as far as we can tell) Tracing error results in the contact edge of the stylus not being able to reach down into the basins of all of the groove undulations, effectively reducing the electrical output of those frequencies. This isn't a big problem on single sine waves (other than at the high frequencies) but as the groove content becomes more complex, the basins draw closer to each other, regardless of content frequency. As they draw closer together, the stylus in error will not reach down all the way into the basins.

In the first of these three mechanical conditions, the stylus is reading the groove content with left/right channel timing errors. In the second of these conditions, it is adding content that is INdirectly related to the groove content and doing so with the two channels being out of phase with each other (would be fine for mono, but not stereo!). In the last condition, it is missing groove content altogether. By the way, the addition of rake angle error exacerbates the last two tracing error conditions.

But this thread is about anti-skate, isn't it? I thought I'd add these last comments as the conversation seemed to swing toward tracing error. To get back on track:

PLEASE do not use the test records as you will cause yourself to WAY overdo your anti-skating force. Coefficient of friction tests have been done (one most recently in Russia and we are about to conduct our own) and the science is very clear: skating force is on average approximately 10% of your tracking force.

If you use the test record, you'll be using unrealistic, highly modulated groove content to find your setting. You do not have music with that amplitude - and therefore the same coefficient of friction - equaling what you will find on those test tracks. If your anti-skating is way off, it can affect your azimuth and your tracing error (zenith) in addition to ensuring an early death of your stylus and perhaps your grooves.
 
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Solypsa

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Is the Russian Test public knowledge? Iow is there a link ;)
 

DLS

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Just to follow-up: I enlisted Michael Trei, a real professional and guy who does this for a living, come to revisit my VPI TNT 3 set-up, which has been in constant service for well over two decades. I thought I knew what I was doing but he spent over 90 minutes carefully adjusting VTA, tracking force and azimuth after verifying that the platter was perfectly level. At each step he showed me where I’d had things set and what the correction was. Mind you, these were very small adjustments, but they made a dramatic impact on the soundstage and image stability. Then we got to anti-skating, he first tested the movement of the JMW 10.5i with a Lyra Skala cartridge on a blank record and seemed genuinely surprised at the very slow movement of the arm toward the inner part of the record surface. During this time we discussed the application of anti-skating force and he stated that he subscribed to Peter Ledermann’s take on it, that a very small amount was crucial to getting the best balance of stylus wear and accurate tracking. Another 20 minutes of adjusting the VPI anti-skating device and going back and forth with it and without, he turned to me and said that on this particular table with this particular arm and cartridge he thought I could/should live without it. I’ve now been listening to a wide variety of records and could not be happier with the results of his work. For me, at least at this point in time, I’ll continue without applying any anti-skating force. This may change when I finally get my second arm, a JMW-10 3D with a Transfiguration Temper set up in the next couple of weeks. I’ll report back on those results.
 

audiobomber

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PLEASE do not use the test records as you will cause yourself to WAY overdo your anti-skating force. Coefficient of friction tests have been done (one most recently in Russia and we are about to conduct our own) and the science is very clear: skating force is on average approximately 10% of your tracking force.

If you use the test record, you'll be using unrealistic, highly modulated groove content to find your setting. You do not have music with that amplitude - and therefore the same coefficient of friction - equaling what you will find on those test tracks. If your anti-skating is way off, it can affect your azimuth and your tracing error (zenith) in addition to ensuring an early death of your stylus and perhaps your grooves.
I used the HFN test record for decades. I have a couple of records I've played well over a thousand times, and can hear no sign of uneven wear. Used records I've purchased show obvious damage due to improper anti-skate, i.e distortion in one channel.
 
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J.R. Boisclair

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I used the HFN test record for decades. I have a couple of records I've played well over a thousand times, and can hear no sign of uneven wear. Used records I've purchased show obvious damage due to improper anti-skate, i.e distortion in one channel.
Uneven stylus wear doesn’t result in “a sound” that is easily identifiable. It changes the profile such that it begins transiting the groove differently (see my post above) and is unable to read the entirety of the groove contents. This uneven wear would happen so gradually that the sonic impact would easily pass unnoticed. If one suspects this situation it is best to inspect using compound lens microscope. USB scopes generally won’t do well for this.

I’ve heard some people claim that uneven wear will cause IM-like distortion sounds. Unless the cartridge has been first worn out and then realigned, I can’t see a mechanical reason why such IM distortion would be high enough to be audible. If that is what some people have experienced then I would suggest the problem causing such distortion is found elsewhere.

Changing the zenith angle on a stylus which has worn out unevenly over time would give you the best chance of hearing any obvious distortion but not only would it be a very unreliable and unlikely method, it would be tedious as well since you’d have to revolute both directions and listen to both ways to give it its best opportunity to present itself.
 
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microstrip

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(...) If you use the test record, you'll be using unrealistic, highly modulated groove content to find your setting. You do not have music with that amplitude - and therefore the same coefficient of friction - equaling what you will find on those test tracks. If your anti-skating is way off, it can affect your azimuth and your tracing error (zenith) in addition to ensuring an early death of your stylus and perhaps your grooves.

What is the level you advice us to use to set the bias using a measuring tool? As far as I remember the HifiNews test record had three levels.
 

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