Analog playback is full of compromises. Even assuming proper set up, different cartridges and stylus have strengths and limitations and the ability to track a highly modulated groove is one of them, and perhaps the most common. Some of the best sounding cartridges don't track worth a crap (so to speak) and some of the ones that can track everything sound like crap. And, as in the case of the Pollini disc its hard to tell when its your cartridge or the recording itself. Those DG's were not SOTA recordings and Pollini is not noted for a warm enveloping sound.
Set your cartridge up to sound its best for the 99% and accept its limitations.
Oh, I forgot to mention, that the VTA (SRA) can also effect the sound and give the impression of distortion. If you have set the arm/cartridge to optomize for thick audiophile recordings and then play thinner disc's such as the DG you may bechanging the angle of the stylus in the groove just enuf to exacerbate a tiny distortion in the recording, one that you would not have heard but for the inappropriate VTA. Many folks completely overlook the importance of properly set VTA for each recording, or at least for the thickness of each disc.
The JMW-9 is not a particularly good tonearm so it is not unusual for occasional mistracking.
Newbee may be right, but my rig is not that much different than yours (Aries with JMW 10) and I haven't had a tracking problem with 3 different carts and a wide range of settings and adjustments. Also any of the three carts I've used lose dynamic range and sound boring when run at max. weight, and I've never tried any max. weight above 2.3 gm. Since you've already triple checked all set up parameters, I wonder if you were unlucky and bought a lemon blackbird or scale? Also,if you had a microscope or maybe just a magnifying glass and could get a real close look at the tip of the bird, there may be something going on. I have had tracking problems when a very fine thread got wrapped around the stylus on a different table, sounds obvious but I couldn't see the durn thing till I took off the arm and got it in some real good light.
If you track higher than the manufacturers recommended force, you will certainly have the coil out of the linear region of the magnetic field, the suspension may be compromised and record wear may be increased. This is not the answer to the problem. Keep that penny in your pocket and off of your tonearm!
Fair enough. I have reversed back to 2.2 g VTF.
But the JMW 9 is not that good OK, I know its not a $2-3k ARM. Is that what it takes? I thought the JMW 9 was designed for the VPI tables. And it does track 99% of what I listen to fine, as far as I can see. Maybe when the cart breaks in all the way the suspension will loosen up and it will track just a tad better. Or maybe on to the JMW 9 signature!
What are the best tracking carts out there?
The Shure V15Xmr (if you can still find one) tracks anything and is reasonably priced. Sounds good too.
I've followed your posts and I feel bad for you. I have almost exactly the same setup, including MuFi A308 but use a Dynavector cart, and I listen to exactly the same type of music on the same labels. As I mentioned in my last response, I tapped up the tracking force a little bit and increased the anti-skate one twist, and have not had any problems. I have the Pollini you talked about and it tracks fine, no glassy echo whatsoever.
I must tell you that my cart has about 70 hours on it at least; you might want to just take a breath and relax and enjoy the 99.99% of records that the tonearm tracks correctly while you wait for the cart to break in. Amusingly, the JMW arm tracks the Telarc 1812 cannon-shots perfectly.
Setting a tracking arm heavy will not hurt your records - it may wear out your cart slightly faster. I have tried this on mine and a friend's decks:
Set to twice the recommended weight. 5g, man, really? Yes. Really. Now do it. And btw, are you sure you are using the Shure stylus gauge you bought off needledoctor (you did right? You aren't using a postal scale or something?) and reading it right? Queue and wait to see if it mistracks. If it does, is there something visually off at this point? Noticeable wobble, etc? If so, figure out what's up with the wobble. Is the sound clear or harsh or really just funky or a little dull (the most probable outcome if everything is going well). If it still jumps but looks fine try a different difficult track. I like The Kills 45 EP "Rooster", you probably will not. Does it track ok, and the other one not? Sound a little dull but basically ok? You are in luck at this point or: if not, call Harry and Sheila and chew their ear off until they help you. If there's no wobble you may actually have a problem. There is one classic VPI scenario that has to do with the motor being bad and generating too much torque but I have only heard of this happening to two people, which is not many when you consider how popular the Scout is, and for good reason. Of course, you could keep increasing the force, or it may be those two pressings. If you don't have a wobble I recommend calling VPI anyway and saying: Hey, was that really a good idea the no counterweight thing? Not that it is actually ever a real issue - I basically believe the VPI press on this although I do hear the occasional story here on 'gon, but it always gets worked out ok.
This will probably fix it, so start dialing the force down to normal afterwards, in half g increments or rotations or however your setup works. On my spacearm a half turn of the allen wrench is about half a gram as well. You would be surprised, but often a cart works fine after that, on all the bad jumpy tracks in the collection, so it can't be because the record got ruined or "dug out". And most people who have been around a while will tell you a little heavy is better than a little light, because setting it light means it bangs around if it jumps out, but more importantly it bangs around in the grooves making dents in the groove wall and therefore distortion. I actually think the cantilever support and the tonearm just never quite get into alignment and "dance right" if they don't push on each other a little first - this is doubly important in a good unipivot like your VPI.
Your second question: the VPI tonearm is quite good - it is not by dial-a-number system, which I think is good b/c you know, you actually have to listen to what's going on. Is it long enough really to give low distortion? No. Is it pretty well made and relatively stiff? Yes. Does it have a good head system? Reasonably good. Not as good as Graham or SME or something, but as good as the Nottingham Spacearm I own. Nevermind that the British press actually seems to prefer the sound of the Nott arm to SME these days.. Does your arm work well in the setup you have e.g. the Scout? Yes. Exceptionally well, and it's voiced for it. I almost saved the extra money on my Spacedeck and bought a Scout. The sound is sexy, it's well made and well supported. I happened to get the Spacedeck for about the same price with the tonearm, although I almost caved and paid much more for the Space. Most people will not be so lucky or patient - I bought the tonearm for $650 8 months before I found a Spacedeck with the arm mount for $850. I stil haven't bought a good cart, but obviously I won't scrimp. Still, I hear good things about the Blackbird/VPI combo but neither one are particularly good trackers, the Blackbird is legendarily difficult to find a good weight for. Keep experimenting and don't listen to people who tell you to upgrade, or don't have good deck, which you do. It's pointlessly stupid when you haven't really even gotten to listen to music yet.
Does your TT have an anti skating control? If you have high end distortion from just ONE channel then its not dailed in.
Get a three sided record (2nd Winter, Ryco remastered Bowie) and put the blank record on your platter. The arm should stay in one spot when placed down on rotating disc in the middle of the record. More often then not it is the pressing.
Qdrone...Antiskating force is caused by drag of the stylus and the geometry of the arm. The drag varies with groove modulation, and is always more than what occurs with a blank disc. A test record with a heavily modulated pure tone (so that you can hear any mistracking) and an arm that allows you to vary VTF and antiskating force while playing is the best method. Actually, I long ago gave up on pivoting arms because of all the critical adjustments, and use a linear tracker.
If I read one more post suggesting that antiskate can be adjusted by scaping a blank surface with the point of a stylus I'll..., I'll...
... I'll start believing that Saddam really did have WMD's!
Where do these ideas come from? Why are they propagated despite the clear evidence against them?
There must be a hidden agenda. I think there's a secret cabal of people who own vinyl record pressing equipment but no cutting lathes. They're trying to build up a market for ungrooved LP's and make their fortunes. Of course now that we've outed them, they'll have to kill us!
Dougdeacon...Just to be fair, a blank disc is good for demonstrating that a significant skating force exists. It is no good for setting accurate antiskating compensation.
Actually I've heard the blank surface thing - and I think as a rough guesstimate of where your antiskate is set, it should work, if you have it set way too high or about right, but tone disks are always best. Most of my post concerns not having one, but in the original post he sites high frequency wobble or tizzyness, which is usually symptomatic of not having enough weight set on the cart, however I think the blackbid exhibits some of this anyway, and the rest of the set up may just be that good, that it's getting picked up overall.
i have a scoutmaster/jmw9 combo. i've used a sumiko celebration and benz glider with it previously, and now im using a dynavector 20 x-l. i've had no problems tracking anything. my normal vtf is in the upper range per the suggestion of vpi, so the dyna i'm at 2.2 . the comment that the jmw9 is not a good tonearm is rubbish. it's very good, and is not the reason that you're mistracking. and you should not have to set vtf as high as you are. i would make certain that you're set up is spot on, particulary if somebody else did the initial set up for you. if you've never done this before, it isn't hard. i assume you have the vpi jig that comes with the table? there's loads of information on proper alignment here and on the vinyl area of audioasylum.com . also, make certain that your table is absolutely level. and make sure that azimuth is on as well, although this shouldn't have that big of influence on tracking. the bottom line is if all these things are checked and double checked and are perfect, then it's a cart issue and you may need to think about trying something else, although i too have heard that the blackbird is a good match for the jmw9.
A blank record is what is used by Brooks Berdan and he is the one who told me to do it that way. Since he knows more about this turntable than God I'll take his advice.
Qdrone...God has more important things to worry about than antiskating force.
That's two votes for dialing down, and I agree about a bubble level - no reason to get the $99. Clear Audio; just pick one up at Home Depot like I did for $3.99. which incidentally will be smaller aka less forgiving of a slant, plus it will sit on top of your tonearm head.