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mcweber
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Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

I recently upgraded my entire stereo - except the turntable. I have a Sytemdeck TT with Profile arm and AN IQ1 cartridge. Mechanically everything is in really good shape, but the sound is - hate to say it - not as good as what's coming out of my cd player. The cd player provides more detail, broader frequency response and better dynamics.

Where to go from here? A new cartridge and phono stage? (the dealer threw in a Simaudio LP3 with the new amp.)

Or perhaps a complete new TT?

The amp and CD player are solid state stuff from Simaudio.

Thanks

tom collins
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

i am not familiar with your brand, but in an effort to illustrate the differences, i will tell you about my similar experience.
last year, i auditioned a rega p2($600)(very handsome with glass platter)(a real value in a starter table) and a nottingham horizon se($1500)(looks like some kind of transformer). interestingly, they both use the same tonearm, the rega rb250, a very well thought of piece. the rega had their bias2 cart. ($90) and the nott had a benz silver ($350). listening on the dealer system, the difference was very obvious. at that time, i bought the rega. in my home system, very good records (new, 180-200 gram) sounded a little more lifelike than good cds. ok records sounded about the same or a little flatter than ok cds and worse than good cds and older or bad records sounded worse. generally, the bass was not as tight or deep as the cd except on a few records. i started to feel the same way you do now and went and traded for the nott., my dealer sold my rega for me.
the nott plinth and table are massive, the motor is not mounted to the frame as in the rega. my dealer has always maintained that all the difference comes from the quality of the platter, mounting and plinth first, arm second and cart. last.
on the nott. most of my old pre 80s lps sound good. i now understand the term soundstage. the new 180-200 gram records sound awesome, so much more alive than digital. and this setup is only a peek into the real highend turntable world.
or, if your brand is pretty new and very high quality too, you could have a problem with any of the parts.
good luck, hope this was informative.

tom

dcstep
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

I agree with Tom; however, before you replace the whole rig you might try another cartridge. You've got a good phono preamp.

I spent $2880 on my Pro-ject RM10/Sumiko Blackbird combination and the result is spellbinding. I know that's a lot of budget for some, but the payoff is huge. There's about three or four price points below $5k, each of which is a fairly dramatic step, IMHO. Of course, not all TTs in each price point are equal, but, in general, you'll notice significant improvement each step up the ladder.

Also, you need to get at least one reference LP so that you know the potential of your TT. There are a number of options, but I've been blown away lately by Huge Mesekela's "Hope", from Analogue Productions on 180 gram, 45 rpm vinyl. The surfaces are immaculate, the music is hugely dynamic and the timbres are spot on. It blows the excellent CD into the weeds. If this record doesn't grab you by the throat, then there's something lacking in your system.

Dave

tom collins
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

another thing is cartridge alignment. everything could be just the smallest bit off until alignment is achieved and then it all clicks into place. if you have a local dealer that knows turntables, you could have him look it over and hook it up. if you are his customer, he may do it for free.

tom

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

I have several identical cd's and lp's, and all of the cd's sound better than the lp's. What I want to avoid is putting a really good cartridge on a average TT - my dealer mentioned that my TT is a suspended model very similar to a Rega.

My cartridge is mm type - is a mc superior? I'm leaning towards a new TT, and my budget would be in the $2-3000 range. But perhaps the best would be to trial a cartridge first - dealer permitting. Is the Sumiko Blackbird a good value? Or perhaps a better question is - how to decide which cartridge to buy or trial?

Thanks

dcstep
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

My Pro-ject RM10/Blackbird combination was $2880, which I consider a very good value. The online price is listed as several hundred more, but a local dealer should be able to get very close to the price I paid. (I know an excellent dealer in Colorado, if you're in that part of the country).

MM vs. MC is subject to a lot of debate. At the lower price points there tend to be more MMs than MCs but there are some very good MM cartridges. In general, on average, most consider MC more revealing and transparent. There's exceptions to every rule.

If you go MC, then the quetion of High Output vs. Low Output comes up. The Blackbird is HO and I prefer that because it doesn't require a step-up transformer and is much less sensitive to noise. There are some excellent phono pre-amps that handle LOMCs very well, but those tend to be considerably more expensive. With LOMC you must be very aware of noise issues and deal with them carefully. HOMCs are much more forgiving, while still being very revealing and musically satisfying, IMHO.

With a $2-3000 budget I'd be amazed if you didn't think that vinyl blows away CDs.

Dave

Jan Vigne
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

What does your dealer suggest?

tom collins
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

i agree with dc and jan. you'll get a lot for $2-3000, but spend most of that on the table, you can upgrade the cart. later. and, your dealer should be able to suggest several combinations that might work. cd playback has nearly taken the dealer out of the equation because they basically need no service. if its broke, you can't fix it. turntables are a different story. with your problem, i would definitely take the whole rig in and let the dealer hook it up and see if anything is wrong, or an adjustment would be in order, if you want to move up, he may help you sell it.

tom

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

Thanks guys,

My dealer also carries Sumiko brands and have a few Pro-ject models on hand, also Rega. I haven't discussed my TT with any dealer yet, but well, tax time is a-comin and I expect a refund. MC sound like the way to go, and I'll see what my dealer will allow for demo-ing at home. He's been very accommodating: I tried every component at home before purchasing. (although I think he bought a new Mercedes just after I took delivery of my gear)

DCStep - what TT did you have before the Pro-ject and Blackbird? Was this a significant upgrade?

What other models should I be considering in that price range?

I'm looking forward to this!!

dcstep
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled


Quote:
DCStep - what TT did you have before the Pro-ject and Blackbird? Was this a significant upgrade?

What other models should I be considering in that price range?

I'm looking forward to this!!

I had a Luxman, bought new in the 1970s, with a Grado cartridge. Yes, it was a big upgrade. That's not really a relevant comparison to your current table.

I think that some of the comparables in the $2-3,000 range are the VPI Scout and/or Scoutmaster and the top of the line Rega.

Hopefully your dealer will have a Pro-ject RM10, or at least a 9.1. If you can hear the 9.1 then you'll know that the 10 is a major step up, thanks to the high mass platter with magnetic repulsion of the bearing. You gain a longer, high quality tone arm and almost as important is the isolation base that the 10 includes. It's an incredible bargain.

Ideally you'll be able to compare, but unfortunately that's seldom the case. I've heard the VPIs and Pro-jects in two or three price ranges. I can say that as you spend more money you get more with those two brands.

Dave

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

Thanks,

Jan V and Tom C - Can you also recommend any makes? My budget is $2-3000. Is there a point of diminishing returns with TT's and cartridges, and is my budget anywhere near that point?

Merci boucoup!

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

DCStep - I just had a look at the VPI website - and I can see that choosing a TT/cartridge is going to be interesting. Did I mention something about diminishing returns? - lots to choose from at VPI.

tom collins
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

as i mentioned, you might try listening to one of the nottinghams if they are available to listen to. their products are driven more by engineering than esthetics, but sound great. an example is that my tt does not have an on/off switch, the motor idles when not in use. you start it by giving the platter a gentle spin. their logic is that when you have a switch to turn it on, there is a big power spike and the drive motor has to have higher torque available to spin up the platter. without the switch and in idle mode, they can use a lower torque motor as they believe low torque motors run smoother and are more consistent in speed. i don't know if i buy all that, but it sounds great.

tom

dcstep
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled


Quote:
DCStep - I just had a look at the VPI website - and I can see that choosing a TT/cartridge is going to be interesting. Did I mention something about diminishing returns? - lots to choose from at VPI.

Yes, I was leaning toward the Scoutmaster when I found the Pro-ject RM10. It had a BIG advantage in that the dealer one-block from my house carried it and he made me a package deal that blew away the online prices. In that price VPI didn't have a 10" carbon fiber arm, an included isolation platform nor a high-mass platter with magnetic repulsion bearing. At once it seemed both more refined and simpler. I DID later add the Speed Box II, but I would have probably done the equivalent with a VPI.

I think you will be very happy with either a VPI or Pro-ject at this price point. There are other choices, but you can go crazy trying to compare.

There are some people here that will argue with me, but I think that the convexity of the diminishing returns curve steepens sharply above this point. The gains are almost linear as you move from $500 to $1500 to $2500, but they begin to seriously flatten from this price point up, IMHO.

Dave

tom collins
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

i agree with DC that your proximity to your dealer may have a very great influence on what you get. i would have loved to hear VPI, but the nearest dealer is 110 miles away. sadly, i live in this vast cultural wasteland. and as i stated earlier, having a good relationship with a dealer is much more important in the world of turntables (and probably tube amps as well).

tom

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

Thanks again everyone - I'll have to start doing some auditioning in the $2-3000 range, and maybe one in the 5-6000 just to hear the difference.

I'll let you know what happens...

dbowker
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

There are so many variables here, but I can lend a few thoughts. It COULD be your phono preamp is not giving your amp enough signal to work with. Or another way of looking at it would be your amp can't take the signal and boost it enough before it runs out of steam.

I had a very serviceable Creek integrated paired up with a Grado phono amp, Grado cartridge and a Well-Tempered turntable. For the most part it all sounded really good- and better than the Rega Apollo CD player I have, but it often strained to keep up it seemed. Some records sounded pretty bad actually- veiled, undynamic and sort of flat. I blamed the LPs usually. But then I upgraded to Krell KAV400 xi 150 watt integrated with class A circuitry and Wow! did that do the trick! All those "poor" sounding records sounded great because no matter how high I needed to turn the dial up it never strained with anything.

Sorry for the long explanation but MAYBE, just maybe it might help. Of course I could have gotten some of the same result with a phono preamp with more boost- or a cartridge with more sensitivity so it could be any of those things. Hope that helps.

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

Ugh - I hope the problem is not with my amp - I just purchased a Simaudio i7 with 150wpc, and the sound from my CD player is beautiful. The dealer supplied a Simaudio LP3 phono preamp (not the LP5.3)with the i7, which may not be the best match for my cartridge and amp. I'll go back to the dealer as he'll probably let me try another phono preamp.

How should I match the preamp and IQ1 cartridge to my i7?

Thanks

dbowker
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

OK- so it's probably not your amp, but it could be the cartridge to phono pre-amp matching, which I think your dealer should work with you on. Try a couple, if he'll let you, and see what happens.

KBK
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled


Quote:
I recently upgraded my entire stereo - except the turntable. I have a Sytemdeck TT with Profile arm and AN IQ1 cartridge. Mechanically everything is in really good shape, but the sound is - hate to say it - not as good as what's coming out of my cd player. The cd player provides more detail, broader frequency response and better dynamics.

Where to go from here? A new cartridge and phono stage? (the dealer threw in a Simaudio LP3 with the new amp.)

Or perhaps a complete new TT?

The amp and CD player are solid state stuff from Simaudio.

Thanks

Mechanical resonance matching between the TT, the TT's plater, the TT's mat,the TT's cartridge and the TT's arm are all critical to getting the best.

Those are the starting points.

THEN comes the issues of mechanical loading, as combined with arm/cartridge/record alignment. All resonant issues and mechanical energy addition and 'bleeding mechanical energy away' issues that all pile up together to describe the dynamics, coloration and energy levels of a given TT/cartridge/arm situation.

then again, after all that, comes the issues of the Amplifier's given RIAA active EQ input section..if that matches the whole 'transcriptor' device that the TT can be described as.

Firstly, I'd be going after the TT arm/cartridge combo long before the preamp situation.

It could be the height and mass settings of the arm, the arm could have rusty or loose bearings, or the cartridge suspension's resonance issues could be fighting that of the arm, etc, etc, etc.

I'd go after the best cartridge alignment first, let it run in a bit, futz with that by pulling my hair out for about a month, then turning to alternate cartridges for that arm/TT combo.

Only after I'd tried more than one cartridge on the TT, would I even begin to consider a new TT, arm, or preamp.

If subtle alignment and mass changes on the TT don't affect the sonics much, then I'd go after the electronics and mechanics of the situation, which means then going after the TT or the preamp as the culprit.

TT's are incredibly futzy beasts, but when properly handled, they do definitely bring home the goods. Far more than any other available media device.

All it takes is ONE tiny mechanical attribute to be a hair off to destroy the sonics that the TT SHOULD be bringing to the situation.

And there's plenty of differing places in that 'electro/mehcanical' chain, that this situation can be arising from.

Try different mats. The TT MUST be perfectly level. The suspension MUST be perfectly tuned and aligned. The bearing MUST be perfectly oiled. The Arm MUST have perfect bearings. The cartridge MUST me in perfect shape (suspension). The cartridge internal resonance issues MUST be complementary to the TT/arm combo. The belt MUST be in perfect shape. The motor MUST have good bearings, the motor MUST function perfectly. The belt MUST be perfectly aligned for proper low flutter motion of the platter...etc..etc..etc..

mcweber
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

Thanks KBK, really good advise - I'll take your systematic approach.

I think I'll start with futzing and pulling my hair out...LOL

KBK
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Re: Need help with turntable - sound is flat or veiled

Hopefully your Systemdek has the proper original felt mat,and glass platter.

If the glass mat has anything other than the felt mat, as in sorbothane and the like, that may be a large part of what you are hearing.The glass and sorbothane is an awfully flat and dead sounding combination.

Such a combination goes a long way toward illustrating to the average audiophile that damping can suck as much as it can help, if improperly applied. Not all damping is good.

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