need help - another cartridge vs phono preamp question

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by PGdrumming, Apr 3, 2024.

  1. PGdrumming

    PGdrumming Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berlin
    hello,
    I've been going crazy reading contradicting reviews about every preamp.

    I've just upgraded my TT to a Pro-Ject Pro S which comes with a Pick-it S2 c. I also tried a VM95ML shortly, but didn't find my difference actually (I did a needle drop which i am happy to share so can you judge).

    I am using the preamp of the CA AXR100 receiver.

    I find the sound very dynamic, the bass and mids very good, but the highs are too harsh, I listen to 95% jazz from the 60s with very pronounced cymbals.

    I don't know what makes the most sense: stylus or preamp upgrade? (or none at all)
    -> upgrade the stylus to a OM 30 which will cost 250 euros
    -> buy a separate preamp. I was initially going for the Graham Slee 2 or Musical Fidelity LX2 LPS ; but now after speaking to a friend and reading, it seems maybe a preamp with adjustable capacitance would be better which then gives me really 3 options: Pro-ject Phono S2, S2 Ultra or DS2. Somehow it seems the S2 Ultra would be the best BUT it only has 2 adjustments for capacitance (100 or 220) when the other models have more options.

    Am I delusional? and also to say, I've listened with different headphones and also compared to CD source using the rec out into a good soundcard. I definitely find the TT setup to be too bright (before someone says my speakers are bright, which they are but that's not the point).
     
  2. drmoss_ca

    drmoss_ca Vinyl Cleaning Fiend

    Location:
    NS, Canada
    I've read that your cartridge has a reputation for brightness, and I'm not sure that a change of stylus will change that. You certainly could find a warm phono stage to try to correct that, but maybe it would be a more direct fix to change the cartridge?
     
  3. PGdrumming

    PGdrumming Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berlin
    can you recommend a "warm" phono preamp? I do not want to have a tube amp -
    i will do more tests with the VM95ML -
     
  4. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Location:
    USA
    Jazz from the 60s, especially RVG recordings, are often notoriously distorted in the cymbal area. There isn't much you can do about it really, though some folks will try to mask it by using a cart with a ton of roll off, speakers that sound like they have burlaps sacks and army blankets over them, etc.

    Your headphones might be "bright" too, especially if they follow the Harman curve or anything like that. Many headphones have a huge treble boost that peaks around 10K and starts well before that. Only way to get rid of it is EQ, either analog or digital. If your amp has tone controls, try them first before buying an EQ.

    One of the reasons I prefer headphones with digital music only is because I can very effectively EQ my headphones to flat using software.

    Re: your proposed upgrades, I'm going to suggest NOT doing any of them.

    Get new speakers or use EQ instead to fix your problem. A new phono preamp or cartridge is NOT going to fix your issue.
     
  5. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Diamond Tone Junkie

    Location:
    Missouri
    Who did the setup/alignment of the cartridge? What tracking force are you running it at? Can you post a picture from the side while it is playing an LP so we can see the alignment and from the front straight on?

    Microline styli are considerably more finicky with setup and tracking force. Are you sure you aren’t running it with the tail up? Just need to narrow things down before you start spending money, but feel free to do that as we are all guilty.
     
  6. PGdrumming

    PGdrumming Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berlin
    I know i listen to a lot of CDs too, but i don't find it as aggressive as the vinyl.
    I have only tested with two headphones DT880 and DT770, you are very right, all headphones have a boost somewhere in the highs. But i also did a needledrop and then i can apply Sonarworks to make the EQ curve flat.

    My speakers sound amazing with recent mastering played through CDs (example Julian Lage). I think it's a combination of bright RVG + bright vinyl + bright cartridge + bright speakers.

    I would rather not buy anything indeed. Somehow frustrated by having spent money on a new TT and not getting where i want it to be.
     
  7. PGdrumming

    PGdrumming Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berlin
    I tried the S2 C at 2, 2.3 and now about 2.5 - recommended is 2.3 out of the box, though on the website they say 2.0 to 5.0 (!). In theory everything is already aligned out of the box (it came with the Debut Pro S)
    I tried the VM95ML at 1.8, 2.0 and 2.2. But i didn't adjust the VTA.

    I cannot say i hear any difference on any of the tracking forces. I'll take a photo later - it might well be that. thanks a lot
     
  8. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    Location:
    USA
    The 95ML is not bright when loaded correctly. We have measurements to objectively prove that. In fact it does have some rolloff above 15K when loaded at 47K + 200pf. Your CA built-in preamp is supposed to have quite low capacitance and unless you are using some POS high capacitance phono cable, it should not be bright at all.

    The speakers and headphones have a huge effect on the final sound we get, like it or not. I have heard popular speakers that sounded like icepick ear murder out of the tweeters and measurements show they are not good in that area either. If I plugged those speakers into my system here, they would likely sound even worse with LPs than they did in the store with streaming digital.

    Again the answer for you is EQ. If you're not getting good results with the digital EQ, then perhaps analog EQ would be more suitable as you can tweak it more easily with realtime vinyl playback. The audiphool world doesn't like EQ in any form in certain circles but the reality is that some folks need it.

    Long term I would get different speakers and headphones. Don't buy anything with huge peaks in the cymbal frequency area.
     
    Lenny99, Mitsuman and PGdrumming like this.
  9. KT88

    KT88 Senior Member

    The VM95ML is a good cartridge but it needs to see low capacitance at its output to sound best. The Rega Fono MM is a very nice sounding phono stage with only 100pf capacitance, which is perfect for the AT carts.
    - Bill
     
  10. vinylkid58

    vinylkid58 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Victoria, B.C.
    Some of us have spent decades finding the right turntable, phono, cartridge etc. ;)

    jeff
     
    Lenny99 and KT88 like this.
  11. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Diamond Tone Junkie

    Location:
    Missouri
    Who set up the VM95ML for you?
     
  12. PGdrumming

    PGdrumming Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Berlin
    I did and maybe poorly. I just aligned the needles on the length as it’s premounted sme then the weight but the angle should be slightly changed - I haven’t done that before 23 vs 20 degrees
     
  13. Mitsuman

    Mitsuman Diamond Tone Junkie

    Location:
    Missouri
    Again, you may just not like the sound of either cartridge with the rest of your setup……..it happens. But we’re just trying to help rule out any other setup related possibility. :cheers:
     

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