Audio Technica ART9 sounds awful

I have a new ART9, maybe 2 hours on it.  I used to run a Dynavector 10x5.  With the ART9 the bass is very tubby or exaggerated.  The soundstage is shifted to the left.  I never heard either situation from the 10x5...nor is it consistent with cd of same albums.  It really sounds terrible. 

I've checked the cartridge out and nothing looks out of the ordinary.  The vtf is set at 1.8...experimented with 1.7, 1.9 and 2.0 just to see.  No luck.  VTA has the arm visually level...I've experimented with different angles.  No luck.

Turntable:  Basis Audio 2001
Tonearm:   Basis Audio Vector III
Rogue Ares:  Phono stage (set at 100 ohms)

The system has not changed other than the cartridge.

Any suggestions or ideas about how to correct the problem?


Your DV had an output of 2.5, and your ew cart puts out .5. You need to make sure you have the gain on your phono stage set properly.

Assuming your setup is correct, the AT needs to be broken in before it sounds right. You're probably thinking its more than just break in because it sounds so bad. Phono carts are different than other components in that break in changes are huge. A brand new phono cart can literally, sound defective. For the first 10 to 20 hours, you'll hear a change from record to record. 

I trust you have sent your ART9 back as its definately faulty.
Someone tried to sell it to me as a good one. I like AT, but they have some build problems. Not always, but sometimes.
^^ Yes, it must be faulty, mine sounded good from very start.
Are you sure the arm and cartridge are compatible with each other? What is the mass of the tonearm?
The soundstage is shifted to the left. I never heard either situation from the 10x5...
Well it would seem that there is something wrong here, either with the cartridge itself or installation/setup.
+ yogiboy.

I searched to find the effective mass of your tonearm and cannot find it.  The problem with the ART9 is that it has a very high compliance rating of 32 @ 10Hz.  That would mean it should be matched with ultra low mass tonearms to avoid unwanted and very low resonances.  That could explain the tubbiness in the bass.  Your arm does not look to be ultra low mass and could simply be a mismatch.

The compliance rating of a cartridge does matter and cartridge manufacturers seem to take it more seriously than tonearm manufacturers as both specs must be known.

In addition to the tubby bass and the shifted soundstage, is imaging vague and diffuse?  If so, it would be suggestive that + and - may be reversed on one channel, either within the cartridge or in your connections to it. 

A means of checking for that possibility that may be more convenient than changing cartridge connections would be to swap + and - at one end of one speaker cable.

Also, I'm wondering about anti-skating, which might be more critical than with your previous cartridge as a result of the ART9's higher compliance.  When you view the cartridge from the front while it is in the groove of a rotating record does the cantilever appear to be deflected significantly to the left or the right, relative to the nominally straight ahead position it should have when the stylus is lifted off of the record?  If so, you may want to readjust anti-skating per the procedure described in my two posts dated 4-11-2016 in this thread.

-- Al
What tools/process did you use to align the phono cartridge?
My money is on Almarg's hypothesis that the two channels are 180 degrees out of phase with each other.  Even if you cannot prove that by visual inspection, you might try switching leads on one channel just for the heck of it.

I am no authority on the ART9, but I found on the AT website the following: Compliance = 18 @ 100Hz; Static compliance = 35.  Wally Malewicz's web page says that the compliance at 10 Hz (which is the value to use in the resonant frequency equation) is related to the compliance at 100Hz by a factor of 1.5-2.  So one would predict a compliance of 27 to 36 at 10Hz, not out of the range of the above quoted number.  However, Wally also says that the static compliance is related to the compliance at 10Hz by a factor of 0.5, which would lead us to think that the compliance at 10Hz is about 17-18.
This topic is quite messy.  As a person who likes to boil things down, I note that the resonant frequency is inversely proportional to the square root of the product of M X C, which actually leads to the finding that there is quite a lot of tolerance in the relationships that allow one to end up with a tolerable resonant frequency. (Try plugging in a range of real world values for M and C and take the square root of the product, to see what I mean.)
+1 on almarg's idea. I don't think break-in is the issue here. the cart should sound great from the get-go, and get better.  
In my post above about the plasticity of the relationship between effective mass and compliance, I might better have written that one should make the calculation of Fr for a variety of values of M and C, in order to see that you can get away with some fairly unlikely combinations and still be within an "acceptable" range.  In part, this depends also upon what one considers acceptable.

Anyway, I still think Almarg nailed this particular problem. Which has nothing to do with M and C.
" I don't think break-in is the issue here. the cart should sound great from the get-go, and get better."

Did you ever have a brand new cart? If you get one that sounds good out of the box, its probably not new. Or, if you had a dealer install it for you, they usually let it play for a while to get through those huge changes that occur when new.
Thank you all for your suggestions and ideas...well, maybe not lewm, what!?  I'll check the out of phase connections with speakers and with the cartridge.  Checked it once already, but worth the extra work.

sfall:  the Phono stage is set up right.  Also, I've had several new cartridges and each had sounded fine right out of the box but improved over time.

Thanks again.  I'll report back with the results.

Consistent with comments by some of the others, my ART9 sounded good right out of the box, and never sounded awful/terrible/bad/defective (to use some of the adjectives that have been stated above) at any time during its breakin period.

Also, I had purchased it new, from a dealer, and installed it myself. So it was not subjected to any prior breakin.

Safebelayer, keep in mind that as I alluded to earlier it is conceivable that the cartridge might be miswired internally, such that there is a polarity reversal in one channel.  Especially, as I said, if imaging is vague and diffuse.

-- Al

My point was that your symptoms are probably not due to tonearm/cartridge mismatch.

I take you at your word that your ART9 sounded great out of the box. Maybe there's something about the cart that doesn't make break in such a factor. I also agree 100% phase is worth checking, as that can also be the problem.

Going back to break in, I find the norm is that new carts break in a lot. Way more than any other component. Here's a clip from an interview with Brooks Berdan (2003).

"Brooks, do you have any caveats for readers who want to set up their own turntable?" 

Yes, there are some points that I would like to stress before we begin. First, it is essential that a turntable be absolutely level during set up and operation. If the turntable is even slightly tilted, in any direction, all adjustments will be compromised and performance will be negatively impacted. Second, cartridges require 12-15 hours of mechanical break-in to allow the suspension to settle. (Sound will continue to change over a longer period.) A good dealer will break-in a phono cartridge before final adjustments are performed. Readers who set up their own turntables should readjust stylus pressure and VTA / SRA and recheck tonearm geometry after 12-15 hours of play. Third, some critical adjustments are best done by ear and when I talk about adjusting for focus, et cetera, I’m assuming the reader has a properly functioning audio system that allows differences to be heard. Don’t try to adjust the turntable to compensate for other flaws in system performance. Fix the flaws instead.

I didn't include this quote to suggest I'm right and you're wrong. Its just to show some solid evidence for break in. Brooks was very well respected with regards to TT setup, and his above quote mirrors my own personal experiance.
@sfall  there's no disagreement here. there's a good discussion of the break in issue as regards the ART9 cartridge in the Agon thread devoted to that cartridge (link below). Ironically I was one of the people arguing for the validity of break in with carts and I promised to give my impressions of the ART9 in comparison to my Zyx after 100 hours of breakin! (soon to come). My point above was that even in its brand new state the ART9 sounds like a high quality cartridge, and nothing at all like the description given of it by the OP.  

As per many others, my Art9 sounded right from new; then got better. Clearly something is amiss with the OP's Art9 which is unfortunate; but hopefully it can be resolved without issue. It is worth checking the stylus with a strong magnifying glass to ensure it looks correct and that the diamond is clean and clear, no glue etc.. This is critical to top performance, so I check mine every LP as my headshell is removeable.

Safebelayer, Just to be sure you got the right idea from Almarg, me, and a few others, what we suggest is that one channel is 180 degrees out of phase with the other.  That condition can cause most of the symptoms you report. 

So, to check that problem, just reverse the speaker leads on ONE of the two channels, either one, leaving the other channel as is.  Perhaps you know this and have already tried it with no success, but it did occur to me that perhaps it wasn't clear.

For sure, no cartridge sounds its absolute best on day one, but not to the extent and with the peculiar symptoms that you report.

If its a new cartridge as you state, send it back for exchange.  If you bought it used, send it to Soundsmith for an inspection. 
I purchased a "very low hour" used Art 9 from an individual, it showed the same symptoms as the OP cartridge, only it was heavy on the right channel.

I quadruple checked Azimuth and all settings, still the same results. It was a defect or misaligned stylus.

I contacted the seller immediately and retuned it that day.

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mreeter, I think your situation very much matched mine.  It's not a phase issue unless AT miss marked the posts.  I'll be sending mine back if the seller will accept it.

Thank you to all have offered help.
Hi Safebelayer, with all due respect, why not reverse one speaker lead as one poster suggested just to find out? The tubbiness and sound shift can very much be caused by that very thing and it would take a minute to find out for sure. If it is worse, by all means return the cartridge. Most non-return policies do not apply to defective units. Be sure to post your result, one way or the other! Good luck. - Andy

I did some work on the azimuth and the vta.  Seems to have taken care of the problem.

Thanks to everyone for their 2 cents...most helpful and supportive
Safebelayer; was either far out?
safebelayer ...

Now that the cartridge is working properly, what are your impressions??

Just a last gasp:  The source of a phase issue (one channel out of phase with the other), if there is a phase issue, need not be limited to the connections of the color-coded leads at the cartridge; it could be downstream at any junction.  It could even be at the distal end of the very short leads between the cartridge and the headshell, if someone misconnected the leads to the pins on the headshell, for one channel.  (This also assumes you use a tonearm with a removable headshell.) I realize you are now satisfied, but just sayin'...

It's not even out of the question that the defect in your cartridge, if there is one, is simply that connections to the external pins for one channel are reversed internally, although that would be hard to imagine for a company like AT.

I offer this only because I find it unlikely that maladjustment of azimuth or of VTA could have the particular effect you describe, unless azimuth was WAYYYY off, maybe.
I forgot to add that I disconnected the anti skating.  Between this and the azimuth the soundstage returned.

Oregonpapa, I don't have an answer for you yet.  It sounds alright at this point but I wouldn't be fair to say anything more.  As an aside, no offense to pani, I prefer Dynavector's sound right out of the box.  That's the beauty of this hobby, I can shape the sound as I like it, because previous few of us have heard the music As it was originally recorded to state what it should sound like.  Yes?
@safebelayer , 
What ended up happening and did you keep the ART9 or go back to the Dynavector? 

My ART9 sounded great out of the box.  It was a bit restrained and had some surface noise, which went away in no time. 
It ended up working out just fine.  Great resolution.  Maybe a bit too bottom heavy, but who knows, maybe my speakers (Nola contenders). This will be my final entry.  Thx to you all.

Apologies for weighing in so late.

I would have suggested zeroing-out anti-skate as an experiment to see how it affected the cart. The reason is that there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that excessive anti-skate can trigger induced resonance in high compliance carts where they are mated to “borderline compatible” tonearms (and possibly even in genuinely compatible ones depending on the nature of the application – spring bias or weighted). Some users claim to have lessened or cured induced resonance by substantially reducing AS.

Interestingly one of the side-effects of induced resonance - and I've experienced this myself - is “phase-ey” behaviour in the cartridge (not that the OP was reporting this effect but may have been unaware).

Safebelayer, try increasing the AS back to a higher level then eyeballing the cart to see if it exhibits any such behaviour - especially on pinchwarps. To fully check your rig, rather than trying the math when you have no data, the most practical way is to use the test bands on e.g. HFN&RR.

Another possible cause (in the general sense) is fluid tonearm damping. Again, anecdotally, some claim damping helps while others warn against its use with high compliance carts. Flip a coin ;^)

Just another 2 things to worry about…. ;^)

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...this is so much nonsense.   If the thing isn't working send it back.