Clearaudio Reference Mistracking

After owning a Linn LP12/Ittok for almost 19 years, I thought it was time to make one last effort for a phono upgrade. I was prepared to take delivery of a great condition Versa Dynamics 1.2 only to be told by the seller his friend's child damaged the arm. Oh well....back on the hunt. Finally I came across a great deal on a Clearaudio Reference table/arm.

The arm installation manual suggests setting the height so that the bottom of the rail is an inch above the platter. I did this, and leveled the arm assembly, adjusted the arm so the cartridge parallels the platter as it moves from the outer to the inner platter. And I set the tracking force to 1.7g on my Benz Glider cartridge with a Shure stylus force gauge.

The sound is magnificent...resolution, bass extension and 3D all in a whole new league...another story. However, there appears to be a lot more sensitivity to dirt or dust on the LP than ever before with the Linn. The stylus tends to stick a lot more in various places on LPS and in particular, more frequently as the arm is near the inner platter. Cleaning records helps a lot but still this is a typical problem.

Do any other Clearaudio users have this problem? And with the arm assmbly 1 inch above the platter, the top of the cartridge is not at all parallel to the platter, i.e., the front of the cartridge is tipped way down relative to the back. Would lowering the arm assembly down, and thus making the cartridge more parallel to the platter improve the tracking? Or perhaps tilting the arm assembly down just a wee bit toward the spindle be of any value? Or is the Benz Glider known to be not a very good tracker? On some LPs, this is not a problem. On others, even with serious vacuuming (VPI 16 cleaner) this problem happens a lot on the last track or so of some LPs. I have also increased the tracking force but this has not made much of a difference.

One side note here: I do not have a ground lead from the turntable to my phono stage (ARC PH2) any more and now the little bit of hum before in my system is gone.

Any help here would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

jafox: is your clearaudio reference one of the earlier produced? if so, what you're experiencing with the "souther" arm is, unfortunately, reported fairly frequently. you may wish to contact musical surroundings with your questions. ( they are now the exclusive usa distributor for clearaudio (also for benz). -kelly
Hi John,

I am also a new owner to a set of reference + souther TQ1.

I have tried two cartridges on it, Benz MC gold and Vdh the Frog, and have the following findings:

With frog, (VTF 1.35-1.5g, antiskating 0.35g optimal), the souther arm is set at a high angle inclined towards the centre of the platter. I tried set the arm parallel to the platter, the result is the frog mistrack quite frequently and the cartridge seems to have difficulties to move along the arm, and sometimes even stucked in the midway. After setting the arm at an abnormal way (steep towards the centre), the sound is quite good and smooth, however VTF varies from outter loop to inner loop by about 0.1g (heavier inner). I also used Telarc Omnidisc to test the antiskating distortion and found the result quite good at this setting.

with MC Gold, the arm is set more or less level with the platter, and slightly inclined towards the centre (slight only), and the cartridge is running okay along the bar. I talked to the local agent and they told me the arm has to be set slightly inclined, even for Clearaudio cartridges.

I also agree that the tracking is now very sensitive to dust on the vinyl discs. I believe this shows the high fidelity and senstivity of the design along the signal path.

BTW, I also find the position of the tonearm wire will seriously affect the VTF. Be patient to try the best position, but very annoying...
Lowering the arm to bring the stylus to a ~15 degrees angle and checking that the cantilever is 90 deg vertical to the arm's tracking line, helped -- i.e. there were FEWER occasions of sticking. Although this was with a clearaudio cartridge (can't remember which), it might help you a bit -- until musicalsurroundings give you the solution.

As Kelly notes, you're not alone in this!

You have an arm installation manual? Lucky you. I'm doing it with no instructions. I have a Clearaudio Accurate cartridge and have had a lot of trouble. Not helping is a seismic sink which leaks air and causes the table to go out of level. I would appreciate any advice, because I find myself not listening to LP's anymore.
I'd thank to thank everyone here for their experiences and comments. I will try to address each of these now.

Concerning the MusicalSurroundings website, yes, I checked it out. And I will send a copy of my posting to them this weekend. I will share with this group any new bits of advice that might come my way. Thanks Kelly for this info.

I think twinstick's comments pretty much tell us that the process to set arm parameters is very cartridge dependent. So I will not bother to share the specific adjustments I have made to the Benz Glider installation other than the bottom of the rails are still one inch above the platter. I plan to experiment with this adjustment in time to see if tracking improves. Keep in mind that many LPs play all the way across with no problems....others tend to cause the stylus to stick and I assume it's record wear or dust. But I think the comment that the sensitivity here is an indication of the delicate nature of this system is a valid one. One note here is that I put on an LP this evening I bought this weekend used, I did not clean it, and it played all the way through with no problem.

One other bit of advice concerns position of the arm when it is lowered on the LP. I think there is a little too much play in the arm/railing interface....but maybe necessary for minimal friction. So when you set the arm down, you may need to jiggle the back of the arm to make the arm more perpendicular to the rails. This affects tracking in a major way! You can't just lower the arm and go.

I have no idea how to set an antiskating force. Is there a knob or screw on the arm assembly to do this? I too have the Telarc disk to play with such an adjustment.

Concerning Greg's comments, the angle seems to be between 10 and 15 degrees based on drawing a freehand angle and measuring with protractor. Based on my many years with the Linn, this angle was never so sharp. In fact I made an effort to keep the cartridge body parallel to the platter. But here it works fine. On ething for sure is that I have far more information coming from my LPs than I ever did with the Linn.

Yes, I have an owner's manual on the Ref turntable and 10 or so pages on the arm. This was clearly translated from german, but is in good english. However there is so much that I think they could have done a better job to condense this all in half the paper. If you email me, I'd be happy to share with you specifics as stated in this. Or send me your address and hopefully a photocopy will come out nice enough for me to mail to you.

One last adjustment to be made. The manual stresses that one adjustment is a MUST for optimum performance. Lower the arm almost all the way down on the platter. Move the arm from outer to inner. The stylus needs to be at the same distance from the platter all the way across. If not, the rail height needs to be adjusted for this. Remove the clear cover atop the arm assembly. There is a hex screw on each end of the rail that can be adjusted to make the rail parallel to the platter. You need to use the cardboard Linear Gauge for this adjustment.

Email me if you have specific questions. Thanks again.