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

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

  1. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    I would say it all starts here. Even the video I posted is like 15+ minutes...and I am sure that was edited down heavily. Hell, it takes me 5 minutes just to initially mount the damn cartridge in the head shell, let alone everything else that needs to be done!
     
    izgoblin likes this.
  2. p.analogowy

    p.analogowy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Warsaw PL
    Sorry to hear about your problems, this does sound frustrating. This is probably not the culprit of the most recent incident, but just as a comment, my understanding is that you have recently switched to using the onzow zerodust. If used improperly it can actually damage the cart - the correct way is to set it on either the platter, but then one should immobilize the platter, or on a sturdy pedestal of appropriate height next to the (turned off) platter, and then lower the cart into the zerodust gently, by the same method as onto the record, using the cueing mechanism or manually. What some people do however is bring the zerodust up to the stylus, and in that situation one very likely induces too much pressure on the cantilever compared to the standard 2g or so. Also, any kind of instability of one’s grip can also damage the cantilever, similarly as any movement of an non-immobilized platter if one sets the zerodust on the platter. In any case, I hope you do solve your problem, I would agree with other posters that learning to do the whole alignment yourself with a cheaper practice cart is the way to go. Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
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  3. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Here's a totally perplexing update for everyone.

    I brought the turntable and almost-new cartridge to VPI headquarters. As luck would have it, the owner Harry dropped in and volunteered to look at my issue. He checked the alignment and agreed that it was noticeably off. So he remounted the cartridge, replaced the washers used to mount it and replaced the counterweight with a newer version. He did all of this in front of me, and let me not understate how happy I am with VPI's customer service. I realize this was an exceptional situation, but he even machine cut another piece so that I could use the lifter (I mentioned earlier that this piece was lost by the dealer, and VPI no longer had the exact piece available). I could go on, but really, I came away thrilled and feeling like VPI really takes care of their customers. Incidentally, I walked in with an old VPI Scout and no one tried to upsell me on a new turntable.

    I came home and the sound was definitely improved. However, sibilance and distortion are not at all gone. I am still hearing it on LPs that I know played totally clean before. It's noticeable and annoying, but at least not as unlistenable as it was. Still, it's not right.

    At this point, I am unsure where exactly to turn. I have written to Audio Technica in hopes that they'll give me a huge credit on my three carts towards a new one just in case somehow this cart is bad (maybe it wasn't good when I got it, maybe the 2.6 grams of pressure did it in, I dunno, I'm grasping at straws now). The one thing I can say is that at least my other two carts lasted months before going south. This one was a matter of two days. Hmmm....

    Frankly, if it's not just a matter of getting a new cart and having it remounted by VPI, the only other thing I can think to do at this point is throw the whole turntable away and start from scratch with something completely different. However, I don't have the money to do that, so I hope another solution will reveal itself soon.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  4. John and Brian Garrott (The Garrott Brothers, RIP) both firmly recommended to stay away from usage of fluids for stylus cleaning. Wicking of cleaning fluid allows damage to the cartridge's suspension, as well as the possibility of loosening any glue holding the stylus to the cantilever. I'd suggest using Zerodust instead, or pick up an old SC2 Discwasher brush and use it dry. The comments about anti-skate - use the VPI manufactured add-on and maybe try using a test record for correct anti-skate setting - don't set it to compensate for the extreme loudest test tracks, however. Maybe use the Soundsmith suggestions for setting anti-skate.
     
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  5. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Several cart manufacturers recommend the same thing - among them Ortofon and Goldring. If the ones that do recommend a fluid will usually say occasional use only and care must be take not to foul the suspension.

    You don't have to "throw it away" so I hope that's not what you meant. You can sell it to someone that is okay with the quirks and fussiness of a VPI TT and the fine tuning/setup that goes along with it. You can then use the money to get something more straightforward to use.
     
    John Buchanan likes this.
  6. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    That's exactly what I would do. There are threads about sibilance with VPI and other unipivot arms on various places online if you dig for them. Could be a quirk of the arm with difficult to track records with narrow inner grooves and no anti-skate device.
     
  7. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    All I'd recommend at this point is buying a cheap AT95E to test for a week or two before even looking at buying a new AT33PTG/II.
     
  8. Lucca90

    Lucca90 Forum Resident

    Location:
    SouthAmerica
    This
     
  9. I have a VPI TNT 3 with the JMW Memorial 12" arm. For anti-skating I simply twist the wire to the arm. The way I test it is on a test record without any grooves. If the stylus moves inward, I add another twist. One thing I have a fairly strong opinion about is cleaning your stylus with Last. I used to use a Grado Reference cartridge (MM) and it got bent by my housekeeper. I sent it to Grado and they straightened it out. They told me not to use Last on the stylus. Whoever straightened it said, "Don't put anymore of that junk on the stylus. I had to clean it all off." Now I simply clean my stylus with a brush that came with my Clearaudio cartridge.

    Basically, I think you could drive yourself crazy with how records sound. My big problem is that the new 180 gram records start to skip and pop after several plays. My older records are fine, so I don't think it's anything I'm doing. I talked to a high-end dealer and he said he thinks the vinyl they use now is soft. So, to clean my records I use a combination of three brushes. I used to have a VPI record cleaner with a vacuum, but I don't have room for it anymore. Besides, I never really heard a big difference. New records sounded good cleaned or not cleaned. Old records made noise before and after I put them in the VPI machine. Anyway, I have found with the new 180 gram records that start to get ticks and pops, if I clean them with a Crosley brush with some distilled water and a touch of alcohol I can get out whatever junk is in the grooves making them tick and pop. Now, this is going to make some audiophiles cringe, but I actually scrub the record crosswise, against the grain of the grooves. I know it sounds harsh, but for me, this is the way to clean those new records that are picking up dirt off my turntable, which I do keep clean and covered with an old record I don't care about. After I scrub the record, it is still a bit wet, so I turn on the turntable and use a LP Gear X3 brush to kind of dry the record. Then I give a spin or two with my Audioquest anti-static brush that I use on all of my records. For most records, I just use the Audioquest to get the dust out and give them an anti-static spin.

    By the way, I live in a hot desert area. When the air is really dry, I get a lot of static and that can cause my needle to jump. I picked up a Zerostat anti-static gun, but on bad days my turntable is really affected. Of course, the TNT 3 is all metal and constantly gives me shocks. Trust me, I've tried grounding it every possible way. I've gotten the hum out of it. (I have an Audio Research tubed preamp.) Being an audiophile is a blessing and a curse. Mostly, though, after many years of chasing perfect sound, I try to simply enjoy the damn system. It'll never be perfect, I know. Even if I had enough money to throw hundreds of thousands at it.
     
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  10. izgoblin

    izgoblin Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I know you've said that, and I'm not trying to ignore a suggestion, but I'm not sure how that would help unless that cart is also known for little to no distortion or sibilance. My problem has improved somewhat after the cart was remounted, but it still isn't right. If I put a cart that isn't reasonably high end on there, how will I know if the problems I'll surely hear are inherent to the cart or if they're a result of something else in my setup?

    Audio Technica got back to me and basically said that they'd accept and test the cart, but they doubt that's what the problem is. Sounds like a way of gently saying "You're either doing something wrong or you've got a real challenge with your table/tonearm there, Buddy."

    As patient_ot said, yes, I suppose I could sell the VPI and get something else, and maybe that's what's going to happen, but that's a real bummer after I've already put this much money out. That's essentially throwing it all away in my eyes.

    I think the next thing I'm gonna do is take the table/cart in to another place near me. This guy absolutely hates VPI, but I'll let my ears decide what's going on. He agreed to mount the cart on another table. If I can play it on whatever he thinks beats the VPI and I get better results on a few records that I know cause me a problem at home, then I guess I have my answer.
     
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  11. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Whatever you end up testing, make sure you test those problem LPs with it. Look at stuff that's the polar opposite of VPI. Then if you can, get that cart mounted on another table to see if it is the issue. If you can hear the other table with both their nice cart and your current cart that would be ideal. LP playback can be a huge PITA but it shouldn't be as frustrating as what you are dealing with.
     
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  12. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    You won't but the price difference sure means that if you eliminate that possibility, you'd save a lot. For instance, if the problem develops with that cheaper cart, you'd save $500.

    The other thing that bothers me is the constant marrying of the same cart to the same arm & turntable. If the mix is somehow not working out, it might be time to explore other cart models if you want to continue with the testing phase, hence my suggestion for the AT95E. It's a really good-sounding cart. In fact, some of the multi-hundred dollar carts from ClearAudio are based on that design.

    Aside from continuing to figuratively hitting your head on a wall repeatedly, the only other possibility is to change the turntable entirely. Theoretically, you could change the tonearm if that is the issue but it'd just be best and easier to sell it off and buy something else like a Marantz TT15S1 which is a simpler easier table with fewer potential pitfalls in its setup.

    If your Scout is in great condition, you could probably get between 1000-1200 selling it. The aforementioned Marantz (merely a suggestion based on my experience and many others') costs about $1200 new from Amazon (check the deals for open box) with full warranty and comes with a cart that sounds pretty darn good. Setup is dead simple and super easy. If you take your time, you're up and running in 20 min with a dead-on accurate setup. It looks killer and is pretty far removed from the VPI way of doing things so it pretty much checks all the boxes for you. Just a thought.

    It's one way to get more info. Not a waste of time and might give you some answers.

    Appreciate the constant updates. Really a breath of fresh air. :)
     
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