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Scooter123
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Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

I am currently shopping for a new turntable and have yet to see any review address the area that concerns me most. That is WEAR. I have LP's in my collection that just cannot be replaced and wear is a major concern.

So, would it be possible to include a wear test in your reviews of record players? How about taking a brand new LP and just playing it until the wear becomes audible?

It would also be helpful to see an aritcle describing what we can do to extend the lifespan of out LP's. How important is alignment. What stylus shapes do the least damage? What is the "ideal" tracking force for a particular cartridge? What cleaning method works best, canned air, brushing, or one of those cleaning machines? You get the drift, what steps should we be taking to make our Vinyl last as long as possible.

Buddha
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Hola, Scooter!

Lots of great questions.

Many are answered in the past issues of Stereophile.

They have addressed tracking angle, offset, antiskating, vertical tracking angle, and all sorts of set-up questions in past columns.

If you mine the archives, I bet 80% of your questions will be answered.

I've also tried looking around at Michael Fremer's great site...Music Angle, but can't find any hardware features. That may be my oversight, his site is a good vinyl resource, over-all.

Mr. Fremer also has a great set-up DVD that addresses many of your questions.

If you recall, there have also been several articles about how to use set-up tools like the Wally Tools. I'm not sure if his stuff is still around, but the articles themselves have been helpful to me in the past.

There are also lots of references about LP cleaning. This has been extensively written about by Mr. Fremer, as well.

I haven't tried to look them all up yet, I'll try and post some internal links later.

As to wear, my own belief is that a properly cared for LP will last longer than your lifetime. There is much (and heated) debate about what "rest interval" an LP requires to "recover" from being played in order to minimize wear.

I'll leave that debate for others, other than to say that any test of "playing an LP until it showed wear" would probably entail mistreatment of the LP and/or cartridge that would make any conclusion useless to your own system.

With regard to tracking force, each cartridge review usually includes information about optimal tracking force.

Hopefully, I didn't just toss a bunch of uselss platitudes at you. I'd be happy to help you mine the archives!

ohfourohnine
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

I'm curious to see what John and others might say in response to your post, but I do have an initial reaction relative to the overall question and to a couple of the specifics. I have some records that are 40+ years old - quite a few of them. I've had to transfer some of them to CD and spent hours cleaning up clicks and pops - not because they were "worn out" by excessive playing, but because they had been abused. Their lives had overlapped period where children had access to them and when I believed I could hold my liquor better than I could. I can't think of one that reached the point where "wear becomes audible" unless abuse was the culprit.

It seems intuitive that wear would be directly proportional to tracking force. My first hi-fi cartridge was the original top of the line Shure, and I've stayed with that cartridge through its many refinements. It was and is, a superior tracker, tracks ideally at less than 1.5 grams, and always has had replaceable styli. I've always been willing to replace the stylus when it seemed appropriate. Whether the stylus shapes over the years have been the best to avoid wear, I don't know. I suspect someone else will have strong opinions there.

I've stuck with manual turntables over the years, Empire, AR, Music Hall. No auto set down or arm lift, and, when sober (or even after a little wine) I'm pretty good at handling the arm.

I think alignment is absolutely critical. Until you get the hang of cartridge set up, you should find a good pro to do it for you - one who'll let you watch and learn.

As for cleaning, the vacuum/liquid approach is the only way to go - that and a good brush just before playing. My cleaning machine is a cheap one. It's loud and unsightly so I keep it in the cellar. Trips up and down to clean records turn out to be good exercise.

I envy you your search for a new turntable. There are so many great ones around today at almost every price point. Keep us posted on what you wind up with.

Cheers,

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Cheapskate and Buddha offer great advise.

As far as tracking force goes, if tracking at 2 grams WAS a major problem Mr. Fremer would have told us long ago. Less of course is better if the cart can track all velocities at that force. Many cannot. Shure's singular ability to track most recorded velocities at 1 gram is not to be taken lightly. I would bet that their current best, the M97HE at about $90 would track as well if not better than most at any price. Whether you prefer the Shure sound is another matter.

Stylus shape is more problematic in the smaller the contact surface there is more force, think of a woman's staletto high-heal shoe and compare that force with a flat shoe. At the gram forces this is less of an issue. The narrower contact area does give better detail if the geometry is set up right. Cart allignment tools are not to be overlooked.

Do not think this is all to difficult. You can do it and most dealers are there to help. If you buy a Music Hall Model the install is done for you and the set is great bang for the buck at any pricepoint.

Take Cheapskate's advise and get even a $229 vacuum record cleaner. It is a great investment.

Even entry level vinyl playback is great fun. Enjoy.

Yiangos
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Scooter,the only turntable that will not damage lps is that digital one (forgot the brand).
There are 2 things you need to know if you want to preserve
your precious lps.One is try to avoid changing cartridges something we,audiophiles,allways do in our quest for the perfect sound.Whether we like it or not,whenever we play a record there is some percentage of damage done to the lp,be it 0.00001% or whatever,the exact figure doeasn't matter
here.A conical stylus "digs" the grooves in a certain way.
When you upgrade to a cartridge that uses say a VDH stylus which is of a different type,then the stylus "digs" the grooves in a different manner,doing damage to the grooves in areas where your old stylus (the conical one) didn't.
The second is the tracking weight.When a manufacturer says that his/her cartridge plays at 1.4 to 1.9 gr usualy it plays and tracks batter,as well as wears the grooves less at the 1.9 gr or closer to that number than the 1.4 gr.

ohfourohnine
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Yiangos makes an important point in his discussion of the perils of changing cartridges and stylus shapes. There are, however two sides to that coin, Scooter. Your concern about record wear probably stems from your having noted wear or damage to your records done by the analog rig you have been using. If, when you upgrade, your new stylus is of a different shape, you'll, very likely, be playing a segment of the grooves that hasn't been touched in the past. Odds are that your old friends will sound better for a number of reasons perhaps including that one.

Yiangos
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

And one more thing.Keep your records and stylus CLEAN !!!

Michael Fremer
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson


Quote:
I am currently shopping for a new turntable and have yet to see any review address the area that concerns me most. That is WEAR. I have LP's in my collection that just cannot be replaced and wear is a major concern.

So, would it be possible to include a wear test in your reviews of record players? How about taking a brand new LP and just playing it until the wear becomes audible? (etc.)/

Um, record wear is one of the most overrated problems regarding vinyl playback. The biggest cause of record wear is playing dirty records using uncleaned styli and tracking too light. There isn't a turntable or cartridge I have reviewed that has given me a minute's pause about playing back my irreplaceable records. That's because I keep them clean, keep the stylus clean and track heavily enough so the stylus can effectively negotiate the grooves, and I very carefully align the cartridge in the first place. I can play you my original UK pressing of "Tommy" against the new Classic reissue and there's very little difference and I've been playing my original since 1969!!!!! It's quiet and has virtually all of the high frequencies intact ( I cannot promise there's zero wear, but none that's audible). So: clean records (vacuum cleaned), clean stylus, proper alignment and adequate tracking force are the keys. Also, I can recommend LAST preservative but only on a clean record. I have records LASTed in the 1970's that are as quiet and clean and unworn today as they were back then..... when I reviewed the $300 Pro-Ject Debut I didn't have any fear playing irreplaceable records on it ...

A vacuum cleaning machine is essential. Midway in the recommended tracking force is recommended. "Line contact" type styli will track better but if not properly aligned, particularly regarding zenith angle, they can do damage.....hope that helps...

Scooter123
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Hey guy's, thanks for all the replies. Pertaining to my concern about wear, a little history is in order. Back in the 70's, while a poor college student, I had a cheap Technics turntable that was equipped with a Stanton cartridge. That rig would most properly been labeled as the record "Jackhammer" because it would only take about 5 play's before a record started to exhibit some crackle. Since then I have moved on/up to a Dual 522 which does seem better in terms of wear to my LP's. However, transfering some of my LP's to CD-R's has revealed that it has a bit of rumble. Plus, I have had it so long that I have no idea of the condition of the stylus. So my plan is to buy a Rega Planar 5. Partly because of the reviews and partly because Rega tonearms are used by so many other turntable manufacturers. In sum, it's my belief that Rega must have a pretty darn good package simply because of the good reviews and the fact that so many other manufacturers trust their products. I have found a local dealer and plan on letting the dealer set up the tonearm.

Now, since my concerns about wear are probably based on a poor choice back in the 70's, my next questions concern cartridge choice and record prep.

I can budget up to about 500 dollars for a cartridge. So, what should I look for in regard to stylus shape so that the cartridge will be as gentle as possible? As for type, I have always used moving magnet cartridges in the past but my phono stage can also use a moving coil so either option is viable. However, I would like to get a cartridge that has a somewhat "high" output profile. My current Audio Technica MM cartridge is about 12 db down in comparison to the output level from my CD players. Which means that I have to really pump up the volume control when listening to an LP. The result is if I switch from the turntable to a CD I get blasted. It's also a problem when recording to the computer because the audio card doesn't have enough gain to record at full volume from the turntable. Which means that I have to increase volume during post processing of the sound file and this does create a noise issue. Summing it up, 500 dollar top limit on cost, higher output than average, needle profile that is "gentle", and a "mellow" sound profile. As for tracking force, I am most comfortable in the 1.25 to 2 gram range.

BTW, the amp is the NAD C372 and the phono stage is the NAD PP-2.

NOw for the record cleaner. I can tolerate a bit of noise. So who makes that 229 dollar machine and where can I buy one? Looking at Needle Doctor reveals that automatic record cleaning machines are a bit more expensive than I planned for. Would it be a good idea to take some of my cartridge budget and apply it to a more expensive record cleaner? I'm thinking along the lines of using the Rega Elys 2 cartridge but am concerned about stylus replacement.

Final question, how often should a stylus be replaced? In the past I have always replaced the stylus or cartridge as soon as I thought I heard any mistracking. Which is probably not the best policy. A bit of guidance here would be appreciated.

Buddha
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Hi again, Scooter!

I'll go a bit into my own prejudices for the cartridge answer:

I'd look for the finest line (as in fine line, like small profile) cartridge I could if I were going to be resurrecting "lost" treasures. Something like a Van Den Hul or other "needle" shape (like the old Shibata) would probably allow you to track LP's like Yiangos mentioned, where old needles didn't go and there is little current "damage."

I'll go look and see what's out in the marketplace at that approximate price point.

___________________________
___________________________

Depending on what you end up with, you may find you need even more gain from your phono-pre than you do now. It's not that you need to match the CD's output level, but you'll want something that can get you to where you wanna be, electronically.

Your MM cartridge is likely to have higher output than most MC cartridges, so we can see what's up as you make decisions.

Any idea on the output voltage of your current cartridge? (Not too crucial to know, so no worries if you don't.)

See you in a bit...

ohfourohnine
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Good Show on the Rega decision. Buddha is better to follow the cartridge path than I, so I'll take on the cleaning machine. Go to Audio Advisor (www.audioadvisor.com) and order the Nitty Gritty Record Doctor III (NGRD#). It is a manual operation, but it is just what you need, and the price is the best around. They even provide free shipping. You're on the road to some fun.

Buddha
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Hola,

I'm out looking about...

Say your current AT cartridge is in the 4-5 mV range for output.

I'd say looking at at least 2.5 mV output would be necessary to please your output desires.

As such, in your price range:

The Clearaudio line, with the Aurum Beta and Aurum Wood models, at 3.3 mV, could be right up your alley.

They are sweet sounding, with good treble - delicate.

The Dynavector 10x5 is also great sounding.

A cartridge I've always liked the sound of is the Goldring 1042, with 6.5 mV output. It may be the best electronic match for your system. It has a great stylus! It reminds me a little of the old Ortofon high output cartridges, only in a good way!

The Grado Reference Sonata is also a sweet unit, with 4 mV output. It's quite musical. I don't think it's that great a tracker, but that may be just me.

The Rega Exact, Mk II, has about 7 mV output. But be sure to get a listen to it first. I've heard it sound good and bad.

The Sumiko Blue Point Special EVO-III is a classic, and at 2.5 mV output, may be acceptable.

I think that's a good starting list. I bet you couldn't go wrong with any of them, especially with the arm you'll be using. They should all be very compatible.

Cheers!

Monty
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

I'm nowhere near an experienced vinyl guy and am just tossing out some things I've read that make sense.

Since every album has its own ideal VTA due to the way they are cut and the weight and thickness of the disc, agonizing over minutia with regard to record wear would seem futile. It would seem to make sense that both tracking force and VTA would change from record to record depending on whether or not you would address each for every record.

I guess what I'm saying is that too little force and you get groove bounce and too much will get you friction and wear. Both would be harmful to a record and is going to happen if you don't take into account the ideal compromise for each album.

Then you have the stylus type that will extract the best level of modulation from the grooves. This would seem to be very dependent on the way the record was cut as well and highly dependent upon resetting that damned VTA again.

In short, if record wear is a primary concern, the effort to minimize it would be a freakin hassle and a half. If I had to do that for every record, I'd never wear out a record. Hell, it would take me an hour just to prepare to listen to an album.

Yiangos
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

Scooter123,here are two cheap cartridges i respect.Shure M97
and Grado signature gold or silver(their sonic differences are miniman if non-existent).Save your money and get a good record cleaning machine.It doeasn't have to be automatic !

Scooter123
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Re: Question/Suggestion for John Atkinson

I would have to dismount the cartridge to be absolutely sure of the model number but what is visible indicates that it's the 112. Probably the current equivalent is the AT 120. Looking at the specs for the 120 it's a 5mv output. So I think your guress of 4 to 5 mv is probably dead on.

I have thought about your suggestion pertaining to my phono stage. I have a hunch that it's entirely passive for the MM stage, which may explain why the output level is so much lower than my other line level sources. So, yeah at some point I may end up looking for a phono stage with a bit of amplification. Even with a higher output cartridge I expect that I'll still find that the output level is low. However, I have always wanted a DBX 3BX dynamic range expander and they are pretty common on ebay. My first CD player incorporated an expander and gentle use of this feature really did make recordings that are heavily compresed sound much more "live". So I'll hold off for a bit on a new phono stage. What I have is workable and sounds quite good. I just have to remember to turn the volume down before changing sources instead of after.

Right now I am leaning towards the Rega Elys 2, simply because the price leaves some room in the budget for a better record cleaner and it should be a perfect "fit" on the Rega turntable. However, I am also interested in that Goldring that you mentioned so I'll see if a listen is possible. I take a look at your other suggestions and see how they look. Unfortunatley, audio dealers are now so "specialized" that it's difficult to find a wide variety in one location. So far I have located dealers for Ortofon, Grado, AT, and Rega. I expect to spend the next month finalizing my choice.

Anyhow, thanks for the input. Now I have to get back to work, a seal blew out on a press cylinder and I have to figure out some way to get it working tonight. Chrysler wants their parts and they don't care what it takes to make them.

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