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dangribbin
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Tracking down a vinyl problem

 

Hey folks. I'm having issues with distortion in the high frequencies on most of my records. It's mostly (as usual) towards the end of the side, and 'S's and 'T's send a moderately noticeable distortion to my headphones. Now, I realize what causes distortion can be a number of things like tracking force, misaligned cartridge, the shape of the stylus, etc. 

 

Here is what I'm working with, then we can get down to my questions: 

-Older(10 years?) Sherwood receiver with a phono stage 

-Technics SL-BD20 TT- (factory-set anti-skate, has adjustable tracking force only) 

-Grado Prestige Black cartridge (P-mount) 

 

My main questions are: 

a) Could the cause be the anti-skate, even though it was pre-set at the factory? 

b) Could the cause more likely be tracking force? (I don't have a tracking force gauge) 

c) Could the cause be the cartridge? 

d) Am I damaging my records by playing them under any of these conditions? Should I hold off on listening until this problem is fully corrected? 

 

Please also note that this problem does NOT occur from digital or other sources with the same headphones, this is the only source where the problem presents itself. It happens on new records as well as old (though the old records are much worse).

 

Thanks for your time!

jackfish
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Having had one of those turntables I know

that changing cartridges from the stock one can lead to problems. Any time a unit presents the lack of adjustments there will be problems when changing things. The stylus pressure should be preset at 1.25 grams with corresponding anti skate. There is an adjustment for "stylus-to-disc clearance" you can change. It may be the the Grado is shorter or longer in this respect and its recommended tracking force is 1.5 grams and it may have different compliance. Join the Vinyl Engine forum and find the turntable manual in the Library. Ask questions there for the best advice.

hcsunshine
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thought...

1.75 grams was optimal

jackfish
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Optimal for what?
hcsunshine wrote:

1.75 grams was optimal

Depends on the cartridge. The Technics SL-BD20 comes from the factory set at a fixed 1.25 grams for its EPS-34CS cartridge. The Grado Prestige Black P-Mount has a manufacturers recommended tracking force of 1.5 grams. My Audio Technica AT440MLa has a recommended range of 1.0 to 1.8 grams with 1.4 grams considered optimal for that specific cartridge. Many cartridges will be perfectly fine within a range of stylus pressures, while others may have an optimal setting specified by the manufacturer it is still a possible variable situation which may require experimentation to find an optimal setting for a particular cartridge and tonearm.

commsysman
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Tracking force

The tracking force is too light; what you describe is the classic symptoms of mistracking.

The Grado should be set at 2.5 grams to track properly with that setup; it is not going to track any lighter with that arm. I have many years of experience setting up turntables, and I know that is heavier than the spec sheet on the cartridge says, but you will need that much. You MIGHT get by with 2.2, but I doubt it.

Turn the tracking force ring at the back of the arm to the point where the arm and cartridge "float"....zero tracking force....and then with the arm floating calibrate it so it reads 0. You hold the Weight assembly so it can't turn/move and make the outer ring turn to 0. Make sure it is still "floating" with the setting at 0.

YOU MUST ZERO IT BEFORE YOU CAN SET IT!

Then dial it to 2.5

You also should set the anti-skate for 2.5 if possible; don't know if that is adjustable there.

If the turntable does NOT have the standard type of tracking force adjustment I am talking about (seldom seen one without it...that would be a total piece of crap), the only way to set it will be to get a stylus tracking force gauge and move the weight by loosening a set screw on the weight.

Tracking at 3 grams, if necessary, WILL NOT hurt anything; tracking too light WILL damage your records. As a turntable gets older, slight amounts of play or stiffness in the arm bearings can require more tracking force to get it to track properly.

If all else fails, and you cannot find any other way to adjust the tracking force, the last resort would be to add weight by taking a piece of bare solid copper wire, about #22 or #24 gauge, and wrap a bit of it tightly around the arm near the cartridge. Keep adding weight until the tracking problem is gone. Do not exceed 3 grams.

 

If you want your records to sound better, I also recommend that you buy the Musical Fidelity phono stage, which will sound a lot better than the one built in to your current unit; it is $99 and sounds better than some costing hundreds more.

A new turntable would be a great idea. Yours was never very good, and is almost certainly not doing your records much good in its present condition.

jgossman
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Grado

I have a Grado woodbody that recommends 1 - 1.5.  On my Rega arm I run ot nearer 1.75.  Some records have a pretty nasty siblance, especially at the inner grooves.  Your Grado will probably start to sound a little muddy after 6-7 years.  Mine also hums a little at the inner groves.  Don't think there is a known answer for that.  I have only heard Grado and Rega in my system but AudioTechnica are also pretty good for lower end carts.  For a P-Mount try AT or Shure.

Have fun!

hcsunshine
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optimal for...

being light enough weight so as not to thrash your records and have the gooves wear out faster  than they normally do. and heavy enough so that the stylus doesn't slightly bounce up and crash down repeatedly on the record causing harm that way. i've heard dj's will set theyres at 2.0 grams. my rega says 1.75 for the ortofon om5e cartridge. but i suppose the weight could differ a lil with each turntable and /or cartridge (i guess)? (i'm willing to bet the average or best scenario would be a weight of 1.5 - 2.0 grams for a new turntable and cartridge. and 1.75 just happens to be in the middle of that)

jackfish
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Please don't guess.
hcsunshine wrote:

i guess

Yes, you do.

hcsunshine wrote:

i'm willing to bet the average or best scenario would be a weight of 1.5 - 2.0 grams for a new turntable and cartridge. and 1.75 just happens to be in the middle of that

And you'ld lose. Cartridges and tonearms are more variable than that.

hcsunshine
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ok i stand corrected...

jackfish, thanx for the info.

dangribbin
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Thank you!
commsysman wrote:

The tracking force is too light; what you describe is the classic symptoms of mistracking.

The Grado should be set at 2.5 grams to track properly with that setup; it is not going to track any lighter with that arm. I have many years of experience setting up turntables, and I know that is heavier than the spec sheet on the cartridge says, but you will need that much. You MIGHT get by with 2.2, but I doubt it.

Turn the tracking force ring at the back of the arm to the point where the arm and cartridge "float"....zero tracking force....and then with the arm floating calibrate it so it reads 0. You hold the Weight assembly so it can't turn/move and make the outer ring turn to 0. Make sure it is still "floating" with the setting at 0.

YOU MUST ZERO IT BEFORE YOU CAN SET IT!

Then dial it to 2.5

You also should set the anti-skate for 2.5 if possible; don't know if that is adjustable there.

If the turntable does NOT have the standard type of tracking force adjustment I am talking about (seldom seen one without it...that would be a total piece of crap), the only way to set it will be to get a stylus tracking force gauge and move the weight by loosening a set screw on the weight.

Tracking at 3 grams, if necessary, WILL NOT hurt anything; tracking too light WILL damage your records. As a turntable gets older, slight amounts of play or stiffness in the arm bearings can require more tracking force to get it to track properly.

If all else fails, and you cannot find any other way to adjust the tracking force, the last resort would be to add weight by taking a piece of bare solid copper wire, about #22 or #24 gauge, and wrap a bit of it tightly around the arm near the cartridge. Keep adding weight until the tracking problem is gone. Do not exceed 3 grams.

 

If you want your records to sound better, I also recommend that you buy the Musical Fidelity phono stage, which will sound a lot better than the one built in to your current unit; it is $99 and sounds better than some costing hundreds more.

A new turntable would be a great idea. Yours was never very good, and is almost certainly not doing your records much good in its present condition.

 

What a guy. Thanks for the help! I got a tracking force gauge, and am now tracking at 2.5 grams. I defintely was tracking much too lightly before, and just from adjusting the TF, my records sound 20 times better. More bass and warmth all over the place. Perfect.

Additionally, I'm aware my TT isn't the greatest. An upgrade is planned, but for the moment I'll enjoy working with what I've got. Thanks again!

absolutepitch
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setting force by ear

I would listen to someone who has lots of experience setting up turntables. commsysman said he has the experience.

In my limited experience, with a handful of TT's, the tracking force range from the cartridge manufacturer has been appropriate. Beyond that, the actual best force in that range is arrived at by ear. Changing tracking force also changes the vertical tracking angle.

Adjusting the force in small increments and listening to the effects, I went from one side of "best" to the other to reach what causes the sound to suddenly 'focus' at the best setting of force. You may try this technique around the 2.5g that commsysman recommended.

I also did this for a friend, with him changing the force in 1/8 g increments and I listening in a single-blind condition to reach an optimum force.  Then he listened to the results. He said a few words...

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