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shirefife's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 15 2007 - 2:54pm
Vinyl Treble Distortion

Hi everyone,

My first post, thanks in advance for reading:

I've inherited a turntable which is aimed at DJ's, but I'd like to use it for semi-critical listening of my LP's. (My system is surely light-years away from achieving a quality listen).

The table is a Numark TTX1 and the cartridge is a Stanton 890 FS MP4 Cartridge (Spherical).

This setup plugs into the phono inputs located on my Sony STR-DE897 (that link points to the 898, couldn't find anything on my model) which then go to my speakers, Sony SSM-F750H 3-Way 200-Watt Floorstanding Tower Speakers. I also have tried listening to my headphones, Grado SR-80s, and experience the same issues.

The Stanton cartridge is 5 years old. However, it came with no less than three (3!) replacements which as far as I could tell, had never been used. I am experiencing distortion on high frequencies on all 4 cartridges. I have read a few turntable setup guides online, I've literally spent hours and hours adjusting the turntable, the VSM, tonearm, anti-skate, etc., and for the life of me, I can't get rid of the high-end distortion. I can minimize it, but I can't get rid of it. I'm using 4 different LP's for testing, all 180G, 2 of them brand new.

I'm on a budget and really can't throw more than $300 towards this problem right now. But, I'm wondering:

Is it the cartridge that is causing the high-end distortion? Should I consider upgrading to something like a Audio Technica - AT95E for $50?

Should I get rid of the Receiver (I personally despise it and plan to dump it eventually) and replace it with something like a Harmon Kardon HK3480 for about $220? I've heard the sound stage on this model is good for the price. Not amazing, but good, and at this point, I can handle good.

Would something like a MMF Phono Pack help? Pointless?

I'm really a bit lost, and would love to hear what you guys suggest. I want to work with what I've got, which I know, isn't much, but can you guys point me in the right direction?


Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Vinyl Treble Distortion

Try and go to a Shure M97 at least from the Needle Doctor. A new phono stage would be good like the entry level, Pro-Ject, Music Hall, The NAD, or the little Parasound unit. All should be an improvement. Your current cart must go.
The spherical stylus could be the distortion problem.

Buying the Harman Kardon could also be a good way to go as JM liked the receiver. The fact that they put a phono stage in it is pretty nice in 2006/07. The 3380 is just as excellent at under $200 from J and R in NYC. This in lieu of a phono stage purchase makes sense.

At some point you will want to change the speakers, but spend some time listening to models in the Sterephile Recommended Components list in your budget. There are also many they have not reviewed. Take a lot of time auditioning speakers as this can make the most difference. If with the HK and the new CART you like what you hear...stop. If you can avoid the trade-up merry go round you will be ahead of the game.

shirefife's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 15 2007 - 2:54pm
Re: Vinyl Treble Distortion


Thanks for taking the time to respond so quickly.

Great advice. I should have mentioned that most of the time, I listen to my music through the Grado SR80 headphones, and with little kids running around here all the time, I unfortunately don't find the time to enjoy speaker listening.

So to review, from what you said, I could either:

Option(A) - Get the Shure M97 ($90) + HK3380 ($200) - for about $290 total


Option(B) - Get the Shure M97 ($90) + an entry-level PreAmp (NADPP2=$120) for about $210 total

From what I gather, you don't think it's my Sony Receiver giving me grief but it's likely the cartridge. In this case, option (B) above, would likely give an improvement in sound at a cheaper cost than option (A).

My question to you: I wonder which would ultimately have better sound? (B) is the cheapest option (not by much), but will it have better sound than (A)?

cyclebrain's picture
Last seen: 1 year 3 months ago
Joined: Jun 16 2006 - 11:40pm
Re: Vinyl Treble Distortion

Is your VTF to low? Many get too carried away with using light tracking forces and end up damaging the record because of mistracking.
To check if the problem lies somewhere else in the system try using a different source like a CD player and see if you have the same problem.

tcdn97he's picture
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Jun 25 2007 - 10:08pm
Re: Vinyl Treble Distortion

Came across your post whilst browsing, and I just wanted to say that I had the same problem with a Stanton set-up. I bought a Stanton STR8-30, and heard what I'm guessing is that same treble distortion as you. Cymbals, "s's" and other high-frequency content had a lispy, well, distorted aspect. I took it back to the dealer, a DJ house and they were kind of dismissive. Granted, this was nearly a year and a half after I bought it. (In the interim, I had worked every day for eight months and solving the turntable problem took a back seat.) So, they weren't going to take it back. They did talk me into upgrading the cart, so I bought the 890 FS MP4. My kit had both spherical and elliptical, but no matter. Still lots of treble distortion either way. Of course, the cart was non-returnable.

So, I decided to pay a visit to a local audiophile dealer. Into the Stanton for over 300.00. Traded it in and got a Music Hall MMF-5, which I'm very happy with. (I had some issues with scratches in the lacquer finish. You can read, if you haven't already, the details of my adventure in The Entry Level.) Thanks to the kind and knowledgeable folks on this forum and input from Roy Hall himself, everything turned out fine.

Anyway, wished I'd read your post before I upgraded the cart. As one of the DJ guys offered when I complained about the distortion, "Maybe you just don't like the sound of the cart." Indeed.

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