Features + additional Drop custom modifications
The Drop team have added a few little pieces of somethin’ somethin’ to the Carbon VTA to set it apart from its Audio Technica donor model and make it a more compelling value and performance contender for prospective customers. Firstly, and hence the acronym in the turntable’s name, the Carbon VTA has Vertical Tracking Angle adjustment built into its tonearm base, allowing for users to set the angle at which the stylus hits the record. This is a handy feature for owners who will be interested in trying out different tonearm and cartridge assemblies down the track, and it’s a feature that’s only available in higher trim models in the Audio Technica lineup. Also borrowed from more expensive models at Audio Technica is the all-metal tonearm base components. Will and Thomas explained that they were keen to make sure that the most tactile elements of the turntable – the ones you interact with when you use it – are as premium and ‘nice’-feeling as possible.
The most tactile and obvious part of the turntable is the, erm, table itself – the ‘plinth’ in vinyl parlance. The Carbon VTA features a fairly sturdy and nice-looking Medium-Density Fibreboard (MDF) base, with a simulated wood-grain adorned with the ‘Drop + Audio Technica’ logo on the front. It’s ‘stained’ a darker colour that the standard Audio Technica model, and I have to say that it’s actually rather nice looking in the flesh. It wouldn’t look out of place atop a nice piece of wooden furniture and has a nice mix of purposefulness and minimal premium-ness.
The final feature of the Carbon VTA is its removable dust cover, a hinged plastic affair that simply slots in and out. To attach. If you’re planning on a longer listening session you might prefer to keep it off, but if you’re a cat owner (me, x2) or simply want to avoid dust you’ll probably just keep it on. Thankfully, it ‘stays’ in the open position, rather than slamming shut…which is what my current turntable does.
I mustn’t forget to mention there was a nice ‘Easter Egg’ included with the Carbon VTA – a carbon fibre record brush. This is both a thoughtful and enormously handy inclusion and one that owners will use All The Time. I brush each side of a record before playback to remove superficial dust, and they genuinely work.
Set-up and installation
Admission: I’ve never set-up a turntable from scratch before. I had the good fortune to find my old Rega from an enthusiast second-hand dealer who installed a new-old-stock Shure cartridge and set-up the tonearm counter-weight for me. So I was a genuine guinea pig for you guys with regards to getting the Carbon VTA up and running. A visual quickstart guide is supplied, which will be familiar to anyone who’s assembled IKEA furniture before: it’s pretty basic stuff.
Once you’ve taken the parts out of the (thoroughly substantial) cardboard packaging, your first task is to attach the belt and the platter. The platter is made from die-cast aluminium, but it reassuringly hefty and solid. Loop the belt around the pulley, drop on the rubber slipmat, and you’re done with that part.
Next, the cartridge headshell requires connecting to the tonearm. It’s a simple case of pushing it in and screwing a plastic sheath to fasten it tight. Easy.
The next part took a little more dexterity and patience: adjusting the weight and tracking force of the tonearm. It’s important to have the tracking force – the weight with which your stylus rests against the record – just right. Too much, and it can wear out your records too quickly; too light, and you won’t get proper sound from them, and it will be likely to skip. The instruction guide outlines how to set-up the tracking force for the weight of the supplied cartridge, advising to have the tonearm balancing horizontally by itself, before setting it to the increment marked as ‘2’ on the counterweight. Users who will be looking to replace or upgrade their cartridge will need to use the gross and fine adjustments to find a perfect balance.
The final manual adjustment required is the anti-skate function. When a record is played, the decreasing diameter of the grooves causes the stylus and tonearm to move inwards, which can cause two things to happen. Firstly, this can cause channel imbalance – on a stereo record, the left and right channel signals are determined by the left and right side of the record grooves. Too much force on one side, and you’ll get one side louder correspondingly. The other problem you can encounter is that as you encounter the end of a record, the tonearm can tend to want to ‘skate’ and skip towards the centre of the record – the aptly-named anti-skate prevents this, and the Carbon VTA’s manual advises a preset setting to correspond with the tracking force setting for the supplied cartridge.
Head over to Page Three for our final thoughts and conclusions, just CLICK HERE.