Please help me upgrade (or fix?) a frustrating system

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by izgoblin, May 24, 2019.

  1. Slimwhit33

    Slimwhit33 Forum Resident

    Orange County NY
    This will sound silly, but comes from personal experience.

    Is your VTF guage calibrated correctly? Mine went out of calibration without me knowing and as a result my VTF was way lower than it should have been, causing your exact issue.
    izgoblin likes this.
  2. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for that. I did the calibration on my VTF gauge just before I checked it this time, but I'm going to have to do that all over again after I add the anti-skate device, so I will make sure I don't skip that step.
    patient_ot and Slimwhit33 like this.
  3. Slimwhit33

    Slimwhit33 Forum Resident

    Orange County NY
    Good luck.. I hope you get it figured out in short order.. hang in there!
    izgoblin likes this.
  4. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    It works great. I occasionally see a sizable dark spot where the tip went. It's cheap, too!

    Was mulling over your problem today and am just thinking outside the box, here. It is a seemingly random idea. (assuming it isn't related to anti-skate) Is it at all possible the tonearm could be descending a little too abruptly, therefore causing the cantilever to eventually be bent over time?
    izgoblin likes this.
  5. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I had a bunch of theories on the bent cantilever thing, but I really can't say what it was causing it. At one point I thought perhaps it happened when I foolishly played through a bad Classic Records pressing that visibly had a small chunk of vinyl missing from it.

    Right NOW, the cantilever is not bent. However, a couple posters theorize that this will occur again as a result of the constant skating issue.

    Could I be too rough lowering the tonearm? Well, usually I'm about as careful with that as I can be, but I've certainly had exceptions where it lowers more abruptly than I intend. After killing one cart after less than a year though, I've learned to wear kid gloves with this thing. So if this problem continues after I get the anti-skate worked out and I clean the stylus only when necessary with the Onzow, I'm going to start looking for another TT/arm/cart configuration altogether.
    patient_ot and Strat-Mangler like this.
  6. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Keep us in the loop! Hope it'll resolve the problem.

    If your VPI is like my Prime, the lowering should be controlled by the lifting/cueing device. Since this is controller by that device and manually like some other turntable, I doubt there's anything you ever did that would've contributed to the stylus being affected so I'm wondering if perhaps the (forget the terminology right now) cylinder with the fluid inside which allows for the slow descent of the tonearm is missing some of that fluid? I've on the VPI forum about some members who needed to replenish it to slow down the descent of their tonearm.

    Is it as slow and delicate as this VPI Scout? At 0:23, we can clearly see the speed at which the tonearm goes down which is quite helpful.

    Yeah, I'd be pretty fed up too, to be honest. Hopefully, it doesn't have to come to that.

    Out of curiosity, have you navigated to the VPI forum to ask around for help? Wondering if perhaps someone with the same TT/arm/cart configuration encountered a similar problem and could help.
    izgoblin likes this.
  7. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    That video IS helpful, thanks! That guy just lets that cueing lever drop whereas I gently control (or so I thought) its descent with my fingers. Interesting that you point this out, because only sometimes does the tonearm descend that slowly. Most times, no, it is certainly noticeably more abrupt. In fact, I've scratched my head wondering why it descends so slowly only sometimes! I will have to look into how I can replace the fluid you mention. I did buy this table used, and I'm surprised I didn't notice this change over time, unless somehow it was already an issue when I got it years ago.

    I hadn't even thought of the VPI forum. Yes, it seems that I should bring this issue up there as well if I'm not seeing a clear improvement after I make the changes discussed.
    Strat-Mangler likes this.
  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    No idea how old the turntable is but it's possible you have the old lifter design which was made abroad and always problematic, according to many. This thread talks about the new design which appeared in 2016 and is made in the USA. • View topic - New VPI Tonearm Lift

    The 6th post has a member describe in detail how he cleaned everything and replenished the piston (*that's* the word I was looking for!) with the proper silicone grease as it had very little left and now, things are good. He explains a couple of posts later how to do everything but I personally find it sounds like a lot of work. Up to you to decide but in case you don't feel like going through that, another option is just to buy the new design for $100. It's supposedly quite easy to install.

    VPI - Lifter/Cueing Device | Shop Music Direct

    Of course, I don't know whether this is the root cause of the problem you're encountering but a more abrupt descent certainly wouldn't be kind to the cantilever and its delicate suspension. There's also the possibility the problem you've experienced is a culmination of a few factors (anti-skating issue, more abrupt drop from a defective lifter mechanism, etc).

    It may or may not help but it's free so it wouldn't hurt to give it a go. :)
    izgoblin likes this.
  9. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I thought my turntable was completely level, but it turns out it was just a little off. I've now adjusted that.

    I received the new lifter/cueing device as well as the anti-skate mechanism and will install them tomorrow.

    I saw that I should be checking anti-skate by ear and by looking straight on at the cantilever, but I also like the idea of using a laserdisc to insure that there no excess force in either direction. Would doing that be apt to damage my stylus?
    Strat-Mangler likes this.
  10. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    No, it wouldn't do so but the disc you use will be damaged by the stylus. I've used CDs for that purpose.

    Looks like you're covering all the bases. Really rooting for you to find the solution with all of this! Keep us in the loop. :)
    izgoblin likes this.
  11. Eigenvector

    Eigenvector Forum Resident

    Southeast PA
    I'm a bit late to this as I have just seen this thread for the first time but what the OP is experiencing is exactly the same thing that happened to me about 20 years ago.

    I had just bought what was to me a very expensive cartridge (Benz Micro MO9) and I let the dealer talk me into LAST stylus cleaner and StyLAST treatment. I also followed the recommendation of cleaning the stylus after each record and using StyLAST after 10 or so sides. My new cartridge sounded awesome for a few months but the sound quality slowly degraded until it sounded like it was mistracking and buzzing on every record. It just sounded like a worn out stylus but I had less than 500 hours on it.

    I replaced the cartridge with another MO9 and I was back in business with awesome sound again. For another 500 hours. The next one ended up sounding like complete crap again. I took this opportunity to upgrade to a Benz Ref2, which sounded even more awesome...... for about 500 hours before it sounded like complete crap.

    I knew I couldn't be wearing out expensive styli that quickly and I only played records which were either new or cleaned on VPI RCM. I decided to do a bit of reading on the StyLAST products and found that some people reported that the liquid would migrate up the cantilever and foul the internals of the cartridge.

    I threw out the StyLAST and the LAST cleaner and bought yet another Benz. This time I got about 1500 hours out of it. I only used a stylus brush or a Magic Eraser to clean it and it lasted a whole lot longer.

    Expensive lesson learned.

    Not sure if this is what is happening to the OP as well but I thought I'd relay my experience just in case.
    izgoblin, Optimize and Strat-Mangler like this.
  12. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Drat. I was thinking earlier today that from everything I'm reading about anti-skate, that alone wouldn't cause the issues I'm having. It would cause premature wear on one side of the stylus though. Given that and what you're telling me, my fear is that it's too late - I've already screwed up my cart due to both of these issues and will need to replace it. Not great.

    I guess I'll give it a go with the replacement parts I've got, and if I have no luck, expensive lesson learned indeed.
  13. Eigenvector

    Eigenvector Forum Resident

    Southeast PA
    Obviously, I can’t be certain that this is what happened to your cartridge but your original post is almost my exact story word-for-word! I just felt I should offer my experience to hopefully save you a lot of unnecessary troubleshooting and frustration.

    My pain was only slightly lessened by the fact that my dealer gave me great trade-in prices on the replacement cartridges. Maybe you can do the same?
    chipcalzada and izgoblin like this.
  14. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Well, I won't have the definitive conclusion for about another year - as that's about how long as it has taken for me to destroy my last two cartridges - but with the help of everyone above, there seems to be a solid explanation for what's been going on.

    For one thing, my cart is toast. I made some changes over the weekend and played both new and old records, including some new ones that were cleaned using different methods. The best case had me hearing sibilence throughout whereas the worst had me experiencing sibilence and other distortion (sounding like a worn record) on the new-ish pressing of Neil Young's Time Fades Away. It's really gotten to the point where I can't even enjoy listening. After some thought, I decided that instead of upgrading at this point, it was smartest to replace my cart with the same thing - another AT33PTG/II, because darnit, I was REALLY happy with this cart for a good 6 months or more. At $450 for a (hopefully and supposedly) brand new replacement, it seemed to be the smartest choice.

    This thread pointed out that I have multiple problems - I certainly needed the anti-skate add-on and the new lifting/cueing device, but after checking it, I'm not dealing with a bent cantilever this time, and the skating doesn't even seem to be a big issue. I concede - it seems that excessive use of the LAST stylus cleaner is likely what has done me this damage.

    I own a cat, and cat hairs get everywhere all the time, so I've gotta find better ways to keep the stylus clean when my new cart gets here. I definitely can't go without cleaning the stylus at least once per record because stuff does accumulate on there - I can hear it and see it. For this, I'm thinking I should be even more diligent about replacing the pads on my MOFI cleaning brushes and the velvet lips on my RCM (i.e. maybe I'm still leaving some gunk in the grooves after cleaning). I've also ordered an Audioquest carbon fiber brush which I can use to pick up any stray hairs/dust from the records after a spin. This was a step I was previously skipping. Maybe vacuuming the room a little more often might help too. ;-) Whatever the case, I'll have to work on keeping things cleaner somehow.

    What a drag.
    bever70 likes this.
  15. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    For those interested in this issue, the turntable is currently in the shop, and while I couldn't see it even with some magnification, the guy who went to install my new cart confirmed that the cantilever is bent again. Not as bad as last time, but still bent. So something's definitely amiss here, and as I said before, I'll see what happens now that I'll have the new level and anti-skate and won't be using the LAST anymore or cleaning the stylus as often.
    Leonthepro likes this.
  16. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Sorry to hear you're still experiencing issues. Growing up, we had carpet and owning cats would definitely make it stuffy. As silly as it sounds, brushing them daily made a world of a difference! It's a hassle and not something anybody looks forward to but it really was the best solution for the problem.
    izgoblin likes this.
  17. chipcalzada

    chipcalzada Forum Resident

    Hi, I too have an AT33 PTGii and 2 cats (Persian and Himalayan) but they're rarely allowed in my listening room due to the hair issue. I would suggest investing in an air purifier, I bought a cheap one from Amazon years ago and turn it on once in a while especially when I'm vacuuming the carpet and floor as stuff flies around: Best Air Purifier for Pets, Dander, Hair and Odors

    My VTF is set at 1.8g primarily because it sounded better to me compared to 2.0g which I tried, but this is of course system dependent. I believe 2.0g is the maximum suggested VTF for the PTGii so the 2.1g VTF setting you're using could be accelerating the wear and tear along with the anti-skating and other issues you mentioned earlier. I would compromise and try setting it at 1.9g and test it out if you're not happy then adjust to the maximum 2.0g.

    The fact that this is your 3rd PTGii really speaks volumes as to how great this cart is and its a shame that you had it die on you twice just after a year of use. Hope all your issues get sorted so that you can enjoy the music again. Good luck!
    izgoblin likes this.
  18. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Perfection Through "Crystal Clear" Digital

    Obviously something is very wrong. A stylus clean after ever record is a bit much, but then I have done that before as well, but I'm unreal careful. The Scout is a nice turntable, the same one I had and VPI sends you the jig to set your cartridge up, so if you take the time, it's going to be set correctly, and obviously you have. You could be playing old records that are past help, but knowing your knowledge on the subject, I dont' really think that is happening. The 2.1 grams is a bit more than I ever used with my Shure V15 Type 5-MR cartridge, but it's not excessive. Unless your arm is defective on your turntable, which you will never know, unless you send it back to VPI for close inspection, I'm not sure you will ever find out what is happening. I think you have damaged the alignment or some part of the cartridge, or maybe you have just been terribly unlucky and bought not one but two AT 33PTG cartridges that have been defective.

    If you are 99.6% sure you have not accidentally bent anything on your turntable arm, concentrate on your cartridge, as you are playing old records and you never know what has caused damage that you can't see to any part of your stylus/cartridge. Dump the AT cartridge and try one of the cartridges VPI recommends for your table.
    1. Ortofon 2M Black
    2. Ortofon Quintet Blue
    3. Ortofon Quintet Black
    4. Ortofon Cadenza Red

    After you have made this cartridge change and aligned the new cartridge, if you hear any abnormal activity, pack that table up and send it back to VPI for a complete inspection. I believe you will solve the problem with one of those new cartridges.

    Good luck to you, I know you are very frustrated, I would be as well. :waiting:

    I have to believe it is not the turntable, although I would check, check and recheck the cartridge alignment. In regard to the cartridge, two strikes and your out, get rid of the cartridge and TRY something else. The Cadenza red tracks at about what your AT tracks at 2.5 g. Optimize might be right on target with the anti-skate. If you speak to VPI, they are not real concerned about anti-skate, unless you have too much, and that could absolutely mess you up. When I spoke to VPI about setting that, they will tell you to set it where there is a very, very slight pull back, they are not really concerned about getting it 100% correct, but stress, if you will set where the arm barely pulls backwards, BARELY, you are good to go, straight from the owner's son, got to believe him. I found the anti-skate on my Scout extremely easy to set too high, to the point it pulled backwards when the stylus tracked out of the record, and it's so darn easy to fix.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2019
    izgoblin likes this.
  19. Optimize

    Optimize Forum Resident

    Sorry to hear this.
    I hope the anti-skate add-on works for you.

    In the link below Peter L talks about how to release stress in the tone arm wires. And how he needs to "add small brass washers".. and a lot of patience.. (wow amazing that a rather easy adjustment is made hard to accomplish on such nice TT is a shame in my opinion.)

    The TT manufacturer that sells and construct a TT without a antiscating mechanism is so wrong I can't comprehend that misbelief.

    I am in the opposite camp then the previous poster that suggest to try out even more cartridges.

    That it is the TT tone arm poor design.
    (Do not destroy any other cartridge with that badly designed tone arm it is enough that it has proven to bending 3 cartridges. And if it do not bend other cartridges that do not mean that the issue is gone or not present. It just means that that cartridge model has a firmer held/mounted cantaliver that withstand the antiscating force. The antiscating force do not magically disappear..
    But all it is doing is it holding the dimond in place so one side of the dimond will act on one side and wear that side of the record groove and one side of the dimond. So unfortunately we will have a uneven wear. So it is good in a way that your cantalivers rotating on that cartridge model so it shows us how wrong VPI is to not believe that there is something like a antiscating force to reckon with. Otherwise you would wear your records and diamonds in one channel/side for many years. So the AT cartridge is only the messenger, that something is wrong.)

    Good that you get the antiscating mechanism installed!
    (It is almost that VPI should be accounted for selling a product that are under engineered. And scrapped your cartridges.)

    Here is a good instructions with a specific section for the specific issues that VPI has made for them self:
    How Do I Adjust Anti-skating On My Cartridge? | Soundsmith

    For future reference. And it is from one of the best in the industry.

    Regarding the cat I think it is a good idea to pick up the hair from it.
    There is specific robot vacuum cleaners that are for pet owners (specific issues with pet hair that get stuck in brunches).
    And they can be programmed to make a sweep every day when you are out of the room.
    izgoblin likes this.
  20. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Here's a frustrating update.

    I had the dealer install a new AT33PTG/II along with the anti-skate device and a new tonearm lifter. Quite unfortunately, they lost the plastic piece from the tonearm that rests on the lifter, so I have had to raise and lower the tonearm manually before replacing that part. Which means I was about as slow, gentle and as careful as a human could be in raising and lowering the tonearm (though clearly not as slow or gentle as the lifter might be). The cart performed just as amazingly as I remembered. I took notes so I wouldn't forget: absolutely no inner groove distortion, no sibilance, no other distortion, minimal surface noise. Most records played were used/vintage. I had the air purifier/pet hair filter running on high, so there was no hair or dander falling onto my records while playing, so there was almost no reason to clean the stylus. I only dipped the stylus in the Zerodust twice in the two days after seeing what looked like a little bit of buildup. No brushing or liquid stylus cleaners came anywhere near this thing.

    And then I came home Monday night, put on a record and started noticing periodic distortion. I had played that LP with the old cart, so I thought maybe it had groove damage. But then I put on Neil Young's Tuscaloosa which was freshly cleaned but never played before. I heard a few blips of distortion and more surface noise than I expected throughout the first side, then distortion only in the drums, but once "Alabama" came on, the piano was severely distorted. I played a record that I played right after bringing the turntable home, and now I'm hearing minor distortion throughout that I did not hear in the first six hours of using the cart. So I decided to check the VTF, which is the only thing I really know how to do on my own (there's a good reason I bring my TT to a dealer for setup, heh). For this, I use the Riverstone Audio Precision Tracking Force Pressure Gauge. I tested it both the "right" and "wrong" ways (i.e. first next to the platter at a height closely matching that of an LP and then on top of the platter just outta curiosity) and found that the measurements were not terribly far off. However, I was measuring near 2.6 grams both ways, which is - for whatever reason - what the dealer set it up for. Ugh. So I lowered it to just over 1.9 grams, played "Alabama" again and still heard the same distortion. There was no noticeable improvement, and possibly even more surface noise. After getting halfway through another record with distortion, I stopped listening altogether because this is just so upsetting and frustrating.

    My first PTG lasted only a year. The second only 6 months. But 6 hours has got to be a new world record.

    At this point, I have absolutely no idea what is the cause or the fix. I'm out of ideas. Could 2.6 grams have been too heavy for the suspension of this cart to hold up for even more than 6 hours? I dunno, but somehow I doubt it. Could it be so fragile that raising and lowering the tonearm myself caused damage so quick? Geez, I sure hope not.

    A guy on the VPI forum tells me this cart should be absolutely compatible with my tonearm, so I am totally at a loss on what to do. If this cart is already toast, I'm out $500 plus the $350 the dealer charged me for all the other work. And still I can't enjoy my records.
    punkmusick likes this.
  21. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    How do you know the record doesn't have groove damage or a pressing defect?

    Time to find a new dealer. Wouldn't be surprised if that messed up a delicate cart either.

    That's a lot of money for someone to charge and then lose a part to your turntable. Did you inquire about them compensating you for the lost part?
    punkmusick likes this.
  22. VinylSoul

    VinylSoul Forum Resident

    Lake Erie
    First of all your using the Last improperly. Stylast the preservative is to be applied every time the contact between stylus and vinyl is broken, after every side if you play the entire side. Last stylus cleaner is sufficient after 10 sides.
    You have a dust problem if you get a dust ball or cat hair on the stylus after each side. Also is the cantilever bent or skewed to one side? A skewed cantilever is indicative of improper antiskating. Best regards.
  23. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    From my former experience with this problem, I can tell that the problem is not my records. If there was a round of Tuscaloosa records out there that had this problem, I would have read it on this forum. The other record I used as a test sounded near perfect just a day before. The difference in performance over the two days wasn't my imagination.

    And believe me, regarding "time to find a new dealer" -- I'm one step ahead of ya.

    I only WISH the issue was as simple as me getting some bum records.
  24. SirMarc

    SirMarc Forum Resident

    Damn, sorry man.
  25. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Thanks for the update. It didn't feel right to "Like" that post. :(

    At this point, the only way to really know what's going on would be to lend it all to a knowledgeable person to use for a week or two to see if he can replicate the problem.

    Considering the amount of time, effort, and money you've put into this, I completely understand and share your frustration. The whole thing just plain sucks and I totally get the need to vent. I've been there too many times to count!

    This is one long thread with loads of info but I'm wondering if you ever tried another cart (different brand/model) and if so, did you run into the same issue or is that problem unique to the AT33PTG/II? That'd help troubleshoot the problem somewhat. If all carts eventually develop this problem, there's something going on with the turntable. How slow/fast does the arm descend onto the record?

    Hopefully, we can pool our efforts and find out what is going on.
    Optimize and izgoblin like this.

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