Turntable distortion/tracking problem

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by audiodrome, Jun 16, 2006.

  1. audiodrome

    audiodrome Well-Known Member

    Location:
    North Of Boston
    I have a decent "run of the mill" 20+ year old turntable (Pioneer PL-518) with a "nothing special" cartridge (Denon DL-160), but it has always provided me with very acceptable, enjoyable sound.

    Recently, I've noticed that on certain records the needle doesn't seem to be tracking the groove properly and the sound is very weak and distorted. I usually need to place the needle down a couple of times to "catch" the groove correctly and even then, it doen't sound as good as it should. What's worse, if I'm copying an album to digital I have to reset the needle after EVERY song to get it track correctly because it drifts off and sounds thin and "ghosty."

    I've had this needle for about 15 years, but it hasn't had that much use in the last ten - could the needle just be shot? I used to change cartridges on my turntables every couple of years (back before CDs) so I never really let one wear out and therefore never came across this problem before. Sorry for asking a stupid question... :)
     
  2. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    I think I have noticed similar problems when I last played my Philips 867 turntable with a Stanton 887S cartridge. Both were at least 20 years old. I have since put the turntable back in the box. Somehow, it looks like an electrical transducer like a phono cartridge can degrade over time. Perhaps some electrical engineer can better answer this question.
     
  3. Lord Hawthorne

    Lord Hawthorne Currently Untitled

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    First thing I would check for is a dirty needle.
     
  4. dogpile

    dogpile Well-Known Member

    Location:
    YYZ - Canada
    Are your records clean? Is the VTF properly set? Perhaps there's not enough down force. I agree with Lord, check the tip for dirt and clean it asap. Could be that your cartridge is on it's last legs. A worn out stylus is NOT good for your records and will produce distortion and sound very bland or thin as mentioned.
     
  5. Uncle Ants

    Uncle Ants New Member

    Actually the DL-160 is quite special - for the money its a very good cart indeed I ran one on a £1500 NAS for a while and it didn't put it to shame. and assuming setup one of the best trackers you'll find.

    Could be worn out? Yes and the symptoms are consistent with that but as mentioned check its clean and then check every other parameter - Tracking Force especially - before chucking it. They don't last forever though and if you've got 15 years on it - it doesn't owe you anything and worn out is fairly likely.
     
  6. audiodrome

    audiodrome Well-Known Member

    Location:
    North Of Boston
    I clean my records and needle for every play and I just had the turntable set up about two years ago, so I guess it's just time for a new cartridge - any suggestions? Like I said before, I don't use it that often, so I'm not looking to spend alot. Thanks
     
  7. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    The problem did not appear to be a case of dirty needle. I think it may have something to do with the age of the cartridge.
     
  8. quadjoe

    quadjoe Forum Resident

    Are replacement styli available for your Denon cart? If so, you could try that. The symptoms you describe are signs of a worn stylus. If it is a usual moving magnet design, the stylus assembly has all the moving parts, so even if the stylus is still good, the other parts may be showing signs of age. Replace the stylus, and you may solve your problem. As for replacement cartridges, lots of folks here like the Shure M97, and I like the Audio Technica AT-440ML (the new version is the 440MLa), both around $100. Other members will have other recommendations, and if they hold true to this forum, all will be good (although I've found that our more well-to-do members often don't get the notion that for some of us the jump in price from $100 to $400 is huge and often not doable.)
     
  9. audiodrome

    audiodrome Well-Known Member

    Location:
    North Of Boston
    I'll look into that. :righton:
     
  10. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    No; you have to replace it. First, try cleaning the stylus tip with a drop of alcohol and a small wad of tissue paper, etc. Be careful but it should be able to scrape whatever is bonded to the stylus off. If there is no crud stuck to the stylus, then the suspension is probably shot after so many years and you will have to replace the cartridge.
    -Bill
     
  11. Actually, the Denon DL-160 is a very good cartridge!

    See http://www.needledoctor.com/s.nl/it.A/id.235/.f?sc=2&category=-109 for Jerry Raskin's comment:

    "Best diamond stylus in its price range! This is a terrific stylus, under a microscope It looks like a 100% nude square shank diamond stylus with a very fine cut similar to cartridges costing twice the price. I love it". -Jerry Raskin
     
  12. I believe replacement styli are available for the DL-160 for $120. I also believe that the Needledoctor has them.
     
  13. OcdMan

    OcdMan Active Member

    Location:
    Maryland
    No replacement styli for the DL-160. It's a High Output Moving Coil cartridge. However, Denon can retip or replace it for less than the cost of a new one. Probably worth it too. The DL-160 is a real bargain that is supposed to sound great when setup correctly. Wide soundstage, great tracking, fairly neutral frequency response, etc. Hmm, I might have to buy one myself...

    I'd try cleaning the stylus and resetting the tracking force first...although 15 years is a long time regardless of whether it's been used much in recent years.
     
  14. audiodrome

    audiodrome Well-Known Member

    Location:
    North Of Boston
    I always thought it sounded great - I just felt that it was "nothing special" compared to what alot of folks around here have. :p

    Looks like I'll be going for a new Denon - I can't remember exactly what I paid for it back then (my friend at Tweeter got it for me "wholesale"), but $180 doesn't sound too bad.
     
  15. Sounds like maybe the stuff that should be springy in your cart have lost their spring.
     

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