Audible distortion on several brand new records

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Mike Pinkerton, Apr 16, 2018.

  1. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    I bought a bunch of classical albums (brand new) from Amazon. Mostly DG, but not entirely. However I have an issue where on many of them, when the dynamics go from quiet to loud, there is a very audible distortion (beyond crackling, like overdriving a preamp) that lasts for several seconds. It's repeatable, but only happens on some records. For instance, it doesn't happen on any of the new jazz albums I've purchased at the same time, nor on the rock ones I've owned for a while.

    One example is at the send of S1 of Anne-Sophie Mutter's "Live at the Yellow Lounge" album. When the audience erupts into applause, the output gets severely distorted. Happens a few other times at various places on S2 as well.

    My setup:
    - Rega P3 (2016 model)
    - Parasound JC3+, but also repros with another more inexpensive parasound phono stage.
    - Ortofon Blue
    - Marantz 8801 pre/pro; input hooked up to line inputs, not phono.

    I have verified (as many threads here on the subject indicate) that:
    - My turntable is level, front to back and side to side
    - My tracking weight is correct (1.8g)
    - My anti-skate is in the ballpark of 1.8 (as much as one can tell with an RP3)
    - Volume is not the issue, even when I turn down the pre-amp, it still happens, just more quietly.
    - I have previously done an alignment (Stevenson, I recall) but have not double-checked it recently because I had to go on a trip.
    - Tone arm is parallel to record (no VTA adjustments on RP3).

    This seems to have come out of nowhere in my system. I've had it over a year (with the less expensive phono stage) and never once heard this. Now I hear it with 3 or 4 records all at once. I could just send them all back and try again, but that seems too big of a coincidence to ignore. I also -- maybe -- get brief hints of it on other classical albums that I've listened to critically, but nothing like the new ones. I wonder if maybe now I'm just more attuned to it and it's always been there in small amounts.

    It's really made me not want to listen to records, or when I do, I spend all my time listening for distortion instead of to the music. Ugh!

    It feels like it could be IGD, but it happens at various locations of the record, not just at the end. I thought it might be the phono stage overdriving, but it happens with two different ones even at low volumes, and this behavior seems to have come out of nowhere.

    Sorry for the ramble, I'd appreciate any advice.
  2. PhxJohn

    PhxJohn Forum Resident

    Phoenix, AZ
    Two shots in the dark: Verify your VTF with a separate gauge. Reduce the antiskate to half of VTF value or zero and retry playing your records.
    Leonthepro likes this.
  3. wmspence

    wmspence Forum Resident

    Lexington, MA
    Do you replicate the same issue while listening with headphones? Just a thought as you did not list the remainder of your equipment on your profile page.

  4. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    SF Bay Area, USA
    Sounds like mistracking, though the "lasts for a few seconds" part makes it sound like something else, how many hours do you think you have on the cartridge? Anyway you could borrow another stylus to try? I'd bump up the tracking force some, 1.8 is just the recommended force, not the maximum. Also agree about trying other anti-skate settings. As above, it would be good if you had a way to verify tracking force with a scale too, provided you aren't doing that already. Are the bad records centered OK and not warped? Maybe try balancing the tonearm so it is floating and verify it moves freely across the record when gently nudged with anti-skate off, and then see that the anti-skate pulls the arm back toward the start to make sure there is no binding anywhere.
  5. Morbius

    Morbius Forum Resident

    Brookline, MA
    Dirty stylus?
    John Moschella likes this.
  6. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Christiansburg, VA
    That is what I think.

    If it comes from only one channel then I would guess anti-skate.
  7. Thorensman

    Thorensman Forum Resident

    First thing is to confirm where the problem lies ,
    Try the new troublesome records
    On another turntable or system
    (Friend ?)
    Ok? Then we need to sort your turntable.
    If distortion persists on different turntable,the the records are faulty.
    Using Hi-Fi News test record
    Check out bias test 1 & 2
    Up the vtf if necessary .
    It is important to clear bands1 & 2
    lerkst and Fishoutofwater like this.
  8. Ctiger2

    Ctiger2 Forum Resident

    Play around with increasing tracking force. Needles jumping out of groove during peaks.
  9. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the replies so far.

    Ok, i'll try increasing the tracking force. I have measured it with a scale so I know it's accurate.

    The Blue has about 50-75 hours on it, not very much.

    I cleaned the stylus and that didn't change anything, so I don't think it's dirt. Also I imagine would be happening on more records than just the newer ones.
  10. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Are the newer records thicker than the ones you typically play?
  11. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    The new ones are mostly (maybe all?) 180g, but I have other 180g ones that don't exhibit the problem.
  12. The 2M Blue stylus is not a particularly advanced shape. It may just not be able to track those records like a micro line, Micro Ridge, Fritz Gyger, Van Den Hul, etc stylus will track (those all have a smaller minor radius that will fit the groove better, and more closely resembles the cutter head). I previously had a 2M Bronze that had issues in the inner grooves of some records.
    Heckto35 likes this.
  13. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    I was having a similiar issue and someone suggested that and mine looked clean as a whistle. A forum member asked if I used a liquid cleaner. I did and the problem was instantly solved! I really doubt it's your records.
    John Moschella and Strat-Mangler like this.
  14. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    Not necessarily, though you would think so. Most of mine were playing fine, and then suddenly I was playing brand new albums by Sara McLaughlin, Ed Sheeran and one other...all bad and almost always in the same place. Amazon shipped new ones....same exact problem. All my other albums were fine. Don't dismiss any possibility...just keep trying everyone's suggestions and you'll figure it out, though it can be very frustrating.
    Mike Pinkerton likes this.
  15. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    Ok, I'm out of town until Thursday, but I will try the ideas suggested here and report back. Thanks for the info. I'm really anxious about this development as I was just starting to really enjoy listening on this system. I'm glad I'm not alone here :)

  16. vwestlife

    vwestlife Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    Thanks to the "loudness war" it is not uncommon for modern albums to have audible distortion regardless of which format you listen to them. The person mastering the vinyl release should have access to the master recording so they can specifically tailor it to the characteristics of vinyl records, but sometimes all they have to work with is the CD master which has already been heavily clipped and has the distortion "baked in", and at that point there is only so much damage control they can do to improve the sound.
    Heckto35 and Leonthepro like this.
  17. lerkst

    lerkst Well-Known Member

    Knotty Ash
    Logic says the only thing that is different is the new LPs. Do they have extra length playing times? ie too many tracks and not enough room. Do you hear the same thing with the same record on another system? It is very coincidental that 4 are the same though. I just can't believe that it is your turntable.
  18. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Uppsala Sweden
    My guesses are mistracking of some kind, maybe clipping from the amp, or could it be that the records are just badly cut like @vwestlife suggests.

    And 1.8 anti skate Im pretty sure is way too high for a Blue on an RB330. My Nagaoka, also elliptical at 1.75 grams tracks best at around 0.9 anti skate on an RB101.
    I suggest trying the blank disc method where the arm swings in very slowly and then adjusting little by ear if needed.
  19. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    I had many challenges after I got my VPI Prime last year. Everyone here helped me and eventually all the issues were resolved. I assure you, it was alarming and frustrating worth it. Just know if you try everything you will absolutely figure it out, and you will learn a lot going through it. Just look at it as a learning experience but remember you will solve it! If you don't it will indeed get discouraging.
  20. Jrr

    Jrr Forum Resident

    Yikes. I bought the Steve Miller Collected on vinyl. You are describing that album exactly. It was just terrible. I rarely do this but I returned it. To me it was utterly unlistenable. But he's running into this with a few albums. I buy an awful lot of new albums and it is rare I run into this. I think the labels do realize people who buy vinyl appreciate good sound these days and overall I have to say I've seen an mastering improvement for things I listen to. But, never rule anything out!
  21. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    I'm home from my trip, I'll try a few things mentioned here and will report back.
  22. enfield

    enfield Forum Resident

    Essex UK
    The loudness war normally results in loud low-dynamic recordings with maybe deliberate clipping or compression,rather than unintended distortion occurring.CD/digital is not the problem Modern mastering techniques that abuse the high limits of digital technology are.As such you can get away with ramping up levels more for CD.But Vinyl mastering engineers are not necessarily any more competent. Just that the limitations in cutting vinyl doesn't allow them to muck up the sound quite as much.
    Heckto35 likes this.
  23. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    Here's what I did this evening:

    1) Checked my setup with the Stevenson protractor for Rega, perfect alignment.
    2) Set the anti-skate to 0, still happens; at 0.9, still happens; at 1.8, still happens. Appears totally unaffected by anti-skate setting, so i put it back at about 1.8(ish).

    At this point I noticed the distortion is predominantly in the left channel. The right channel appears mostly unaffected (again, regardless of antiskate setting).

    3) Cleaned the stylus with both a brush and a ZeroDust gel-thing: still happens.
    4) Tried setting the tracking force to 2.0 (Ortofon states range is 1.6 to 2.0; measured with digital gauge, calibrated): still happens.
    5) At this point i reset the tracking force back to 1.8, antiskate remains about there.

    I'm starting to think it's the records, except one is from Decca and another is from DG. That seems really strange and coincidental.
  24. Mike Pinkerton

    Mike Pinkerton Member Thread Starter

    After doing some more listening, the Decca album (Holst, The Planets) has the distortion in the right channel.

    I also gave a listen to another record I was concerned about (Mutter/karajan, Beethoven Violin Concerto) and it has less distortion than I recall, but orchestral swells seem a bit muddy and slightly distorted but nothing like on the more modern Yellow Lounge album. I think it's the recording used for this album. I'll check it again later against a digital recording I have of the same performance.
  25. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Christiansburg, VA
    Left channel only = anti-skate is too low. Raise it and see what happens. Don't change the tracking force when you do this.

Share This Page