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dlcleveland
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Analog Advice

Hi Everyone,

Based on the posts in this forum and the reviews in Stereophile, I put together a system consisting of the Pro-ject Debut III, Onkyo A-9555, and Paradigm Atom Monitors. I am also using a subwoofer from a home theater system. This was designed so I could dip my toe into vinyl playback. I've really enjoyed the experience and I've now amassed quite a few new and used LPs. The question is where to go from here. I want to stick with the basic components I have. Explaining to my wife that I need a new $1,000 turntable when I just bought one for $300 a few months ago is not a conversation I am prepared to have right now. However, I think there are some improvements I can make with my basic setup. I have been thinking about upgrading the stock Ortofon OM5 cartridge on the Debut III to something like the Denon DL-110 or the Ortofon 2M Red. My understanding is that with the Denon I would also have to replace the steel platter with an acrylic one because the steel platter causes problems for a MC cartridge. Another thought is adding an external phone stage such as a Cambridge 640P or the Bellari. I think the Onkyo phone stage is decent, but I really have nothing to compare it to. Or I could do the cartridge and the phono stage together if that makes sense.

In total, I'd like to keep my costs around $500-600. Do you think I can improve this system for that amount? What would you do? All thoughts and comments are welcome.

Thanks,

DL

jackfish
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Re: Analog Advice

An Ortofon OM20 ($100), OM30 ($140) or OM40 ($210) stylus will achieve a very cost effective upgrade to the sound of your turntable. No need for a whole new cartridge. Just keep the old stylus as a backup.

Of course you will get the most improvement from the OM40 stylus. This specially chosen stylus is an improvement on the original van den Hul shape. In addition to providing excellent tracking ability, the new shape is more robust and places far less critical demands on the cartridge/headshell mounting. Its slim, highly polished profile allows a wide contact area to the groove.

http://www.stereoneedles.com/Ortofon.html

A new phono stage could also provide an improvement and the Bellari VP 130, Creek OBH-18 and Pro-Ject Phono Box SE II are good choices.

The OM40 stylus and Bellari VP130 would come in at $460.

You might also get an improvement by finetuning the setup of your subwoofer. What make and model subwoofer is it?

dcstep
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Re: Analog Advice

I agree with what jackfish says about upgrading your stylus rather than the whole cartridge. Also, doesn't the system sound better without the subwoofer. Most low end HT subwoofers suck big time and are unlikely to integrate well with the excellent little speakers you have.

Have you considered the Pro-ject Speedbox for your Debut? I'd put that in front of a platter replacement. The Speedbox SE was a significant upgrade for my Pro-ject RM10, adding bass dynamic and stability on piano music.

Oh, BTW, welcome to Stereophile Forums.

Dave

judicata
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Re: Analog Advice

X2 on the comments so far.

As a reference, you may want to compare your CD setup to your vinyl setup. How does the analog setup compare in terms of robustness, tonality, etc.? If it is lacking at all, it could very well be the phono stage. That was the first thing I did when I got a system in an almost identical price range and it made an enormous difference.

dlcleveland
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Re: Analog Advice

Thanks for the great advice everyone. I think the stylus change may be the way to go. I was concerned about setting up a new cartridge as I have never done it before. Do you think the OM40 is overkill on my system or do you think I would be able to hear the difference over say the OM30?

I think the added phono stage is a good idea too. I'll definitely check out the Bellari. judicata, what phono stage did you use that made such an improvement?

With respect to the subwoofer, I am aware it's not the greatest solution. The particular model is the Cambridge Soundworks Basscube 8s. At first I listened to the Atoms by themselves, and they sounded very good. But I mainly listen to rock and it just doesn't sound right if the floor isn't shaking a little bit! I have played around with speaker and sub placement quite a bit and to my ears I have reached the best possible arrangement given the limitations of the equipment. If anyone has any suggestions on this topic, though, I'd be glad to hear them.

Regarding the Speed Box, I forget to mention that I do have one already and I agree that it made a substantial improvement.

Right now I'm using a Toshiba DVD player for the rare occasions when I play CDs anymore. The sound is actually not that bad, but it has the harsh digital edge that can be unnerving. The turntable is easier to listen too, but I feel like it lacks that more three-dimensional quality you hear in better systems where you forget there is a record spinning and you just get lost in the music. I am hoping my upgrades will get me at least a little closer.

judicata
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Re: Analog Advice


Quote:
judicata, what phono stage did you use that made such an improvement?

The Bellari. Well, I got the VP530 because I wanted to USB out, but it is identical in every other respect to the VP-129/130 (except the VP-129/130 is a pretty red rather than a utilitarian gray). Before, I was using the phono pre in the Marantz PM7001 (same category as your Onkyo). Actually, you can find my fairly thorough (but novice) review of the experience: in this thread.

At the time of the review, I was really in the same boat; a sub-$100 cart, a Rega P2 TT, and a similar integrated amp in your price range. All the details are in the thread.

Since that review, I upgraded to a Rega Exact 2 on my rather modest Rega P2 TT because I found a good deal on one. It may be a little "overkill" depending on how you mean, but it definitely improved the sound - quite dramatically in fact. Although, I must admit it wasn't quite as dramatic as the upgraded phono pre (almost though). I also grabbed a Woo Audio 2 (headphone amp/pre amp) but that is neither here nor there for your purposes...

jackfish
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Re: Analog Advice


Quote:
I have played around with speaker and sub placement quite a bit and to my ears I have reached the best possible arrangement given the limitations of the equipment. If anyone has any suggestions on this topic, though, I'd be glad to hear them.

I'd also try different low pass frequency settings and wouldn't be afraid to try it at its lowest setting. Are you using the line or speaker level inputs?

dlcleveland
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Re: Analog Advice

I'm using the speaker level inputs with the speaker cables running from the amp to the sub then from the sub out to the speakers. Is that the right way to do it? I set the crossover around 90, although it goes down to 80. I can set it lower and see how that sounds.

jackfish
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Re: Analog Advice

Due to limitations of the Onkyo's tape facility you have it hooked up correctly. I'd try the sub at the lowest frequency setting and see if that sounds better.

dlcleveland
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Re: Analog Advice

Well, after considering everyone's advice, I scrapped the sub altogether. Until you brought it to my attention, I didn't realize what a horrible unfocused, boomy sound it had. I moved the Atoms back closer to the wall to compensate a little and the bass is actually not bad. It doesn't go as low of course, but it's very tight and overall the music sounds much more clear without the sub. Still, my next upgrade might be to get something like a Hsu sub that has a more musical sound. I've also taken your advice and ordered the Bellari VP130. I'm going to wait to get that in my system then see about doing the stylus upgrade. Thanks again for all the help!

dcstep
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Re: Analog Advice


Quote:
Well, after considering everyone's advice, I scrapped the sub altogether. Until you brought it to my attention, I didn't realize what a horrible unfocused, boomy sound it had. I moved the Atoms back closer to the wall to compensate a little and the bass is actually not bad.

Two great moves, taking out the less than stellar sub and moving the speakers back toward the wall. Getting the optimal position can be tough, but you've moved closer to the goal.

Dave

JohnMichael
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Re: Analog Advice

I agree completely with upgrading the stylus and keeping the existing cartridge body. I am using the Ortofon OM 20 in my highly modified Rega Planar 2 and I am pleased. As far as phono preamps I also own the Onkyo A-9555 and have compared it to my Rotel RQ970 BX and my Cambridge Audio 640P. I have been happiest with the sound from the built-in phono preamp of the Onkyo. Using the built-in phono preamp you will not need a pair of IC's from preamp to int. amp. In my experience I think you would have to spend much more for a phono preamp to better it. I think you will hear more improvement with the better stylus than you would with a new but budget phono preamp. Once you have the better stylus all you will have to do is lighten the tracking force by turning the dial back to the new tracking force.

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