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

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

  1. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I haven't. I thought I'd like to do that, but of course I don't have one that's good enough handy (i.e. the cheaper AT cart that I first upgraded would give me sibilance and IGD when it was operating normally). Making a purchase for this reason only would be a real drag, but I'm kinda with you here -- I don't want to end up buying a totally different cart that's more expensive (because let's face it, nothing cheaper is going to perform like the PTG does at its best) and end up destroying that one too. I'm going to head to another dealer on Saturday, though he's not a VPI guy, and see whether he wants to take on this challenge with me.
     
  2. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin
    Couple things, since you've gotten some good advice here and it is hard to diagnose things remotely.
    How do you effectively neutralize the effect of the VPI tone arm wire (that is normally used for setting anti-skate forces) if you are using their mechanical anti-skate?
    You've managed to eliminate some potential causes, but somewhere in the process, it sounds like the cantilever is getting torqued, whether by excessive anti-skating or something else. If the dealer you plan to take it to next is unfamiliar with VPI, he may not know the ins and outs of that arm (not saying its a bad idea, just that familiarity with the arm may be critical).
    At a minimum, this next dealer should be able to mount your current cartridge on another turntable and tell you whether it was damaged by excessive tracking force. (Probably not a bad idea to double check the calibration on your gauge too- I had one of those, and it wouldn't stay in calibration- the manufacturer kindly replaced it- but using different gauges I could get different readings-- the only one I trust at this point is an Ortofon DS-3, which is a little pricey).
    Also wonder if a relatively inexpensive (under $100) Grado cartridge would work on your turntable. I seem to remember they could hum on some turntables, but I used them decades ago as reliable, inexpensive cartridges.
    I know it's frustrating to deal with this, especially when you've paid attention to the basics and something is off. Happens to the best of us- I broke down and reassembled my main turntable about 30 times trying to get it to balance with a second tone arm pod and crashed a very expensive cartridge in the process. (I got it rebuilt by the factory and it's back, but the only lesson I can offer from that is don't work on these things when you are tired-- I had been working on the table for about 6 hours and was thoroughly fried when it happened).
    I keep my cats off the second floor when the main system is, but they are on the main floor where the second system is-- though not 'allowed' in that room. (They'd wreak havoc in that room in about a minute--I'd have a cat spinning on the turntable while the other one was pulling at wires). Almost all records are upstairs, where they are cleaned and stored. When I listen to the downstairs system, I will bring a handful down and use a very bright light to inspect them while on the turntable- so far, and I've only been running a turntable downstairs for a few weeks, no issues. (One of my concerns was whether the arm set up downstairs was zeroed in, so I played some of the records that had been on the downstairs system on the main system- which is a linear tracker- no issues).
    I haven't used a pivoted arm in more than decade, so I had to go through anti-skate set up for the first time in that long. I used the Peter L/F. Schroeder method of watching how quickly the arm tracks in the run out area and also look for cantilever deflection at different points along the playing surface of an album. The anti-skate is set to less that what the corresponding tracking force would suggest, but it is playing very cleanly even with a new cartridge that isn't fully broken in.
    Not sure I have any answers for you other than moral support. You will get it solved.
    Question for @TheFringe-- you are always spot on with your advice but your post #7 here seemed to describe anti-skate the opposite of my understanding-- perhaps I misread what you wrote.
    PS: probably worth buying an inexpensive jeweler's loupe from Amazon to better see your stylus. It won't tell you about wear but it will definitely help you see if the stylus is clean. The best ones have 'triplet' lens- I've actually been reduced to wearing illuminated magnifying glasses when i clean the stylus on my main system-- I may look crazy but it helps me see what i'm doing...
    Apologies for the length of this post.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2019
  3. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Is the cantilever bent, though? Curious about that one.

    An AT95e doesn't cost much and tracks well enough to test. Or a used 2M Blue. The idea is just to see whether the problem would occur wihh other carts. If so, the turntable is at fault. Otherwise, that cart you like just doesn't work on that turntable for some reason.
     
  4. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Wishing You A Crystal Clear Digital Christmas!

    I did look up your cartridge and he set it up outside the normal guidelines for tracking force at 2.6g. That is probably not the problem, however they do say it should be set up at 1.8 to max of 2.2g

    AT33PTG/II Moving Coil Cartridge. Advanced nude tapered boron and weight reduction, Coil impedance refined from 17W to 10W. High performance and ...
    Vertical Tracking Force Range‎: ‎1.8 - 2.2g (2.0g ...
    Coil Impedance‎: ‎10Ω (1kHz)
    Vertical Tracking Angle‎: ‎23°
    Coil Inductance‎: ‎22µH (1kHz)

    Is your tonearm lifter fixed now, where it lifts and drops the stylus on the record? If not, what does the dealer propose in regard to fixing this problem? I would be interested in knowing what dealer would charge $350.00 to do what this dealer did?
    the dealers cost on that cartridge was probably about $219.00, possibly less. I know we would all like to see some good pics of your turntable and cartridge setup, and show us what this dealer did for $350.00, and who in the heck is this dealer, and do you plan to go back in and tell him get this right, period! :rant:
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  5. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Yep. They're outright criminals if all they did is install a cart and set the VTF way outside the recommended range.
     
  6. druboogie

    druboogie Maverick Stacker

    Location:
    New Jersey
    Ok I have a couple suggestions.
    Since you use an RCM, the constant vacuuming might be generating static on the record, attracting more dust and cat hair.
    I think your best bet is to move the turntable to a place where you can put the dust cover on it while you play so your records have some protection, and you wont have to clean them as often.
    Im not sure if an anti static gun is the best thing to use on a consistent basis to combat static, but Im not certain as Ive never used one.

    What do you do about cleaning cat hair from the entire room that the turntable is in? If theres that much hair around, does your cat shed that much?
     
  7. Litejazz53

    Litejazz53 Wishing You A Crystal Clear Digital Christmas!

    Another suggestion I would throw out there, talk to someone at VPI, possibly Matt. I had PS Audio problems, and I did two things, got on the ole Iphone and set up a Facetime session with their engineer, where they could see what my units were doing in real time. When I did not do that, I would send short videos, approximately 1.5 minute videos for the engineers at PS to look at, a picture is worth 1000 words, a video 5000 words. I did not read every post on this thread, and did not know you had a cat, oh heck, cats tear everything up. They jump all over every component, lay on components, and did I understand you do NOT have a dust cover that will prevent the cat from laying all over your tonearm? We had a cat and our cat was so nuts, she would rub on the dust cover and we would find it all jacked up and pushed against the VPI table, seems she could jump about 8 feet high, and would always do whatever damage at night, when we were asleep. Next thing you are going to tell us is you have a Main Coon cat! (Small Lion):hide:
     
  8. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks, guys. There's a lot to respond to here.

    The cantilever is not visibly bent, or skewed is a better term, at the moment. If it is, I can't see it with my naked eye. I am going to do more tests with anti-skate though just to make sure that's set properly. I'm getting a magnifier as well that should help me identify any skewing to one side or the other.

    I DO have a dust cover, but it cannot be placed on the TT while the tonearm isn't at rest without causing the tonearm to jump wickedly. I learned that the hard way when I first got this table. If anyone with the same table/arm is more successful at using one than me, so be it. I feel that trying to use the dustcover while playing is just asking for trouble.

    The cat hair issue isn't THAT bad now that I have the air filter and am vacuuming the room more regularly. Still may be an issue, but I'm not needing to clean the stylus much now.

    As for the dealer, I don't want to call them out by name because they are nice guys that I see get some respect online for other reasons. For me, they just don't live up to the standards that I'd like to see. Additionally, I made this more difficult for myself by buying a cart that is not sold in the US. So they didn't sell it to me -- I bought it online from Japan and they installed it. So if they damaged it, they can't really refund me or return it to the manufacturer. Why on earth Audio Technica doesn't sell this cart in the US, I have no idea!! But that has made this whole thing far more difficult as there is no real warranty on the cart.

    And no, my $100 lifter was installed but because they lost the plastic bumper on the bottom of the tonearm, the arm sits too low for the lifter to work. Someone on the VPI forum suggest I do a homemade fix, but that's going to take a lot of time and I probably still won't get it right. This frustrates me to no end.
     
  9. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    It's sold in the US. For instance, here's the link to the Amazon page.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00475S0BU
     
  10. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    There is a good video online for setting up a Prime Scout which covers setting the anti-skate correctly. I always find videos better than manuals and always watch it when installing a different cartridge on my table. If you have not watched it, it is worth doing so IMO.
     
  11. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    Here's the link to the set-up video.
     
  12. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    UGH!!! It is now apparently. But I swear, it was not when I bought my first two, and it was certainly not available on Amazon when I bought my third. This must be a recent thing. Go figure.
     
  13. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Believe it or not, it's nothing new. The date when Amazon first listed it was 2011. In any case, I'm more worried about your current situation.

    What would be interesting is if you could bring the cart over to someone with a good USB microscope so they could take pics of what the stylus looks like, now. That might give us some idea of what's going on with it. *If* it's not bent, maybe it just has lots of gunk on it which is creating this problem.

    The AT95E cart I mentioned before is $50 and tracks well enough that it would be a cheap way to test out some theories as opposed to buying new AT33PTG/IIs.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004NRVUMI

    Found a video of someone with a VPI Scout displaying the speed at which the tonearm goes down. Can you confirm whether yours acts in a similar fashion or does the tonearm go down *much* faster? Fast-forward to 0:22.

     
  14. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Location:
    Iowa, USA
    Seems pretty normal behavior so is quite mysterious.

    I would suggest:

    1. Looking at your stylus under magnification to see what it looks like.
    2. Getting a second look at your TT setup.

    Your experience is definitely not normal, and something is definitely amiss in your TT setup, cleaning routine, or ????

    If you cannot figure it out I'd surely go to a cheaper cart to cut down your losses. AT carts are long lasting in my experience (using them for past 10 years)

    Good luck to you.
     
    izgoblin likes this.
  15. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    It was indeed much faster. Good news - I had the dealer install a new tonearm lifter for me. Bad news - in the process, they lost the plastic piece on the bottom of my tonearm that raises it enough to make that lifter worthwhile. And since VPI seems to not sell that part separately or know what it is, I'm left to do a homemade fix which I am working on.

    I took some pics myself of my previous two carts and the current one with my phone which isn't great, but I think reveals what my real issue is, although the anti-skate and lifter issues were certainly things I needed to deal with. For one thing, I am seriously disappointed that the dealer didn't catch all of this during setup. But outside of blame, now I need to fix the issue and seemingly going to need to do much of the cart setup all over again as a result.

    The pics reveal that the cantilevers on my first two carts were permanently skewed towards the inner groove like "/". The current cart is not suffering from this problem yet, but it does skew inward during play, so this will cause the issue over time.

    And whereas the second cart is an embarrassing example of my cat hair issue (I'm not sure how neither I or the dealer noted that much gunk on there), this is not the problem with the new one.

    Given that I had no anti-skate device on the TT before and this skewing was already occurring, that told me that something else is the cause here. I'm getting some strong suggestions on the VPI forums now, but I'd be curious to hear what you think based on what you can now see.

    [​IMG]Imgur
    [​IMG]Imgur
    [​IMG]Imgur
    [​IMG]Imgur

    EDIT: Geez, I can't even figure out how to use the "embed image" function on this forum. I'm gonna need a lot of luck to manage to set up my cart properly...
     
  16. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Yeah, that dealer is incompetent. They should at least have compensated you or at least contact VPI to get an extra one sent their way. Contact VPI to see if they can take care of that. They likely don't sell that part by itself online but there can be exceptions when they're contacted ; info@vpiindustries.com

    To post the pics into the thread, right-click on the pic, select Copy, and then paste it in the reply box. Currently, links are what is showing.

    Yes, I agree the styli are tilted and that would create some issues. Are you positive that the tonearm is straight? If it is, anti-skating might be contributing to the problem. Or perhaps both of these issues are simultaneously happening.
     
  17. Bill Hart

    Bill Hart Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin
    I think you are to be commended for not trying to 'name and shame' the dealer publicly, but I also think this dealer did you a disservice, at least with respect to losing a part. The setting of VTF at 2.6g also seems unconscionable, but perhaps the dealer has an answer for that. My suggestion, which doesn't solve the ultimate problem, is to have a non-confrontational phone discussion with the dealer- if they are VPI dealers, they should be able to replace the tone arm lift for you at their expense (or get the necessary 'lost part' from VPI). You shouldn't have to suffer from their negligence in this respect. As to the excessive VTF, I'd ask them why this was set at such a heavy setting and see what their answer is.
    I think you were going to take the table to yet another dealer- did you do so? Were they able to verify that no cartridge damage had occurred due to excessive stylus pressure? (That's not something that you can rule out simply by eyeball if the internals got damaged). At a minimum, they'd have to play it on another arm and give it a little time.
    I did take a look at your postings on the VPI forum. It appears that even with the earlier AT cartridges, you were only getting a few hundred hours before you replaced? That seems far too soon-- in fact, we've been discussing stylus life on another thread here and the most conservative estimates put the beginning of critical wear at around 500 hours- and that's not end of life, simply a marker. I'm not familiar with your cartridge, but AT has a very good rep-- I had one of the first Shibata cartridges back in 1973-4 from them- it was terrific. I contacted the company recently about something else and they were fabulous on the customer service side.
    I'd also reach out to VPI if the dealer who lost the part and apparently applied too much tracking force is a VPI dealer. (Not clear from my memory of this thread- I know you said you were going to take the set up to another dealer who wasn't a VPI dealer).
    The photos can be deceptive if at an angle.
    Is there anyone in your area that can do a home visit and play with the set up in situ? I know a fair number of people rely on dealer set ups at a shop that involve them traveling with the table to get it home, but ideally, your best set up will be at home, where the set up person can see exactly how the thing is operating. I don't know enough about VPI's tone arm lifter to know whether you can adjust the rate of cueing 'drop'- that is an adjustment on some cueing devices.
    It's really hard to diagnose this stuff remotely. Perhaps, while you are talking to VPI, they could recommend a good set up person who is able to come to you.
    Sorry no answers, but you will get this sorted.
     
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  18. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Location:
    Iowa, USA
    Regarding tracking force on AT carts, I set mine by ear, typically within AT specs. When I do this, on every cart, 3 MC's so far, it's nearly always landing near or at the minimum. Besides sounding best to my ears, I am wearing slowest, and requiring less anti skate force. Nary a tracking problem either. Going heavy, outside of spec would definitely not sound nearly as good imo.
     
  19. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    May I make a contrarian suggestion? Consider a less finicky tonearm and turntable setup. This may work better for your needs. I am not putting down VPI in any way either, their turntables and tonearms really aren't for everyone. I'd have worse problems with one than yours. Nothing wrong with what works for your records, your environment, and your use case.
     
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  20. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    So, you've had multiple cartridges on your table that all exhibit these similar bad qualities - and two with skewed cantilevers? IMO, this is not an issue with your cartridges or your turntable - it's an issue with your set-up. As others (and myself) have previously stated, you've got an issue with your anti-skate, perhaps your tracking force and maybe even your cartridge alignment.

    With the video I posted earlier, I do not find the VPI tables and tonearms to be difficult to set-up at all. I've had three different cartridges on mine: AT33PTG/II, AT33EV and Nagaoka MP500 (for a total of five cartridge swaps) and I have never had any of the issues you are encountering. I assume your table came with a VPI alignment jig? If so, I would just pretend that you were just getting your table and set the thing up yourself. Honestly, it is NOT hard to do. You'll need a stylus tracking force gauge, but other than that the video walks you thru the entire process. Certain aspects won't be applicable because your table is not the one they are using. However, the process for alignment, tracking force and anti-skate should be just the same.

    I wish I lived close to you, I'd offer to come over and help you myself!
     
    izgoblin likes this.
  21. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Careful now, the fan club may be bringing out the pitchforks.

    Agreed that OP should, at a minimum, check out some alternatives. After all the frustration, I'd cut bait and move on to something else.
     
    McLover likes this.
  22. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    Sure...just make sure the same dealer doesn't set the other brand turntable/cartridge up either or we'll all be right here again! :help:
     
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  23. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Haven't seen anything like that in this thread.
     
  24. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You clearly have more faith in my abilities than I do!!! :)

    I have definitely come to the conclusion that my setup SHOULD work, and the problems I'm having are likely due to the guy who set my carts up not bothering to be accurate enough. Frankly, I should have known better when I watched him install the 2nd cart in literally under 5 minutes. I kinda took his word for it that he does so many that he's just that good at it. Everything I'm being told points to not enough care being spent on that process, however -- i.e. all things he should have done differently.

    Thanks to someone who pointed me to VPI directly, I realized they are actually within driving distance of my house. And I had absolutely no clue that they perform turntable setups on site. So my next step - and I think what is the smartest one at this point - is to take it to them on their earliest available date. If I can't trust the manufacturer to set it up properly, who can I trust?? They'll certainly be better at it than I am. They may try to sell me an upgrade, sure, but hopefully whatever happens, I'll come home with things sounding exactly like they should.
     
  25. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Agree with all of this. The dealer screwed up something fierce, even with the fundamentals. He definitely doesn't deserve any more of your time or money.

    With that out of the way, VPI should be able to provide as perfect a setup for their product as can be but I would ask if it'd be possible to test things out with the playback of a trade or two that are currently giving you grief before driving back home.

    I'm starting to wonder if your latest cart could possibly be saved by having it properly installed. Who knows? Maybe they might discover additional issues that they could fix. They should also be able to provide you with that missing plastic piece!

    Crossing my fingers for a happy ending on this one.
     

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