HELIUS DESIGNS: VTA – “As a starting point, when people refer to Vertical Tracking Angle, VTA -they usually mean Stylus Rake Angle, SRA – in other words, the perpendicularity of the stylus with respect to the groove”

Geoffrey Owen:

Somewhat like Terry Wogan and his listener, I feel my first article secured one noble reader. My hope now is to double that number in this follow-up.

In my last piece, I suggested the audio industry was populated by three distinct stereotypes, these being gods, gurus and mystics; the first two I’ve covered adequately but omitted a definition of those I call the gurus. These are a class of enthusiasts who are blessed with golden ears – as a professional audio engineer I regard myself as having fairly well-tuned hearing but confess I could never match the aural sensitivities of these ( largely self-appointed) god-like creatures.

My first encounter with the species occurred shortly after launching Helius when I was invited to visit a dealer and demonstrate Helius tonearms.

I turned up at the appointed hour and was greeted by the shop manager who introduced me, with considerable reverence, to his key salesman – whereafter, he disappeared with disconcerting alacrity.

The rather surly individual I’d been left with glared at me in a manner worthy of someone who had spent too long in the services of one of those three-lettered American agencies – he came with no known sense of humour.

“I have a cod id by brain so I’b 6dB down in my left hand channel,” he announced with a degree of emphasis intended to stamp his authority on the meeting.

Though sympathetic to the circumstances of his nasal congestion, my head filled with the image of large fish up this bloke’s nose. Simultaneously the most pathetic play on words sprung into mind; had this head-cold rendered my opponent sinus-oidally challenged rather than sinusoidally?

“Sorry to hear it,” I replied, struggling to suppress any sign of a smirk having decided he was, indeed, the sort of person who would have actually measured his own hearing.

Clearly not a chatty chap, he raised a solitary eyebrow that would have done justice to Roger Moore at the height of his acting career...I was being brow-beaten into accepting that he was the final arbiter of my products here.

Still hoping that I was misreading the situation, I asked, half in humour, half with full blown sarcasm.

“Is that a broadband spectral issue, or is your one-eared attenuation frequency specific?”

The stand-off ( I admit largely self-inflicted ) was rapidly descending into an audio equivalent of a spaghetti Western - I raised him a matching eyebrow as an act of defiance. However, no sooner had I uttered the words, than I remembered my Confucius, ‘Before you embark on a journey of revenge – dig two graves.’

“I’b 6dB down at 6KHz, 9dB down at 10K and I roll off 24dB per octave after 15KHz” came the gruff response.

With Henry Mancini’s theme to ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ running through my head, I came to my senses and re-evaluated the situation. I was ultimately there to try and sell him something, so there was no other solution - I immediately raised both eyebrows in a gesture of unconditional surrender and prayed we could move on before that tenuously suppressed smirk erupted finally onto my face.

Apart from sucking all the fun out of hi-fi, such people often maintain their reputations by hearing things that aren’t actually there or by misinterpreting the differences they can.

A good example is tonearm VTA – Vertical Tracking Angle.

Some say, ( to use the famous Top Gear phrase ) that small misalignments of your stylus will result in audible distortion or mistracking. Whether generated from incorrect tonearm height adjustment or inaccurate cartridge angle, the gurus believe that angular errors can be heard.

Personally, I question the audibility of modest inexactitudes. This is not to say inaccuracies can’t be heard, it’s just that I attribute them to the other factors.

As a starting point, when people refer to Vertical Tracking Angle, VTA -they usually mean Stylus Rake Angle, SRA – in other words, the perpendicularity of the stylus with respect to the groove.

Download the entire article and study some fascinating diagrams and images at Helius HFA #2

Until next time…..

Meanwhile, the entire Geoffrey Owen / Helius archive can be views @ https://www.hifianswers.com/tag/helius/