Compliance & Efffective Mass Question


Hi Folks:
I've a ZYX Universe S-SB cartridge that I'm running on a budget Airtech tonearm (http://airtech.atspace.com/), and a Teres 255 turntable. Phono Stage is my Supratek Syrah full function preamp.

I've never paid much attention to anything about 'compliance' or 'effective mass', and am not sure how to even calculate such things. Is there some guidance that someone could offer me on how to measure the above, what an appropriate relationship/ratio should be, and if my setup is 'off', what steps I might take to better optimize my setup?

Thanks in advance for any advice or tips! I'm keen to get the best out of what should be a great vinyl rig - I do like the sound a lot, but there is the odd track or passage that seems to produce some sibilance or distortion, and I've always wonderered whether there is something awry with my setup that might be remedied by some alteration.
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&policy=eyjlehbpcnkioje0otu4mzcymzisimnhbgwiolsicmvhzcisimnvbnzlcnqixx0%3d&rotate=exif&signature=fa20f15e3f73974c46912fd1d16588e69d5e0465241bbedc2c3cdae6998d8a85&w=128outlier
Go to the "Phono FAQ" at the van den Hul website here:

http://www.vandenhul.nl/

for everything you need to know including a cartridge/arm resonance chart near the end of the section.

It's a ton of reading but a great resource as well. It's the most comprehensive site I've seen.
Have fun.
Another good resource is:

The Analog Dept.

Resonance Calculator

Also, you can measure the resonance frequency using the Hifi News and Records test record.

Enjoy!
Your UNI is a med to med-low compliance (15) cartridge and would be happiest in a tonearm of med to high effective mass (Graham, SME V, TriPlanar), which I think your MG Airtech is not. You've added the silver ZYX plate but that may not be enough. I see you can get a damping trough for that tonearm, and that might help, but I'm always suspicious of what they can do to the sonics of some cartridges.

If you're happy with your tonearm, then you should ask Lin what the effective mass of his tonearm is and plug the numbers into the interactive compliance matching chart at:
www.cartridgedb.com

I suppose he could make you an armwand with higher mass if necessary.
.
My ZYX has a measured compliance of 5. My tonearm has an effective mass of 18gms. and the resonant vertical & horizontal frequencys are 14 Hz each. This indicate a 5 rating. I need to increase the mass of my tonearm by over 10 gms.
Try this:

http://www.cartridgedb.com/

I've found this to be "plug and play" so to speak.
I've used, but I cannot, however, verify its accuracy.
Outlier,

I'm not familiar with your arm so I'll mostly defer to the good posts others have made on that subject. Just one suggestion, get a copy of the HFNRR record and measure your resonance frequencies. If they're somewhere around 8-12Hz then you have no problems and can stop worrying about it, except for purely technical interest.

I'll also offer a possibly unwelcome insight, with apologies for any unintentional upset. Your preamp is a serious roadblock to getting the best from a cartridge at the level of the UNIverse. This cartridge is capable of much more than a Syrah can reproduce. A stronger preamp should be near the top of your wish list.

Doug
I am checking over time if the compliance changes. I also find some cartridges compliance to not be to specification. I would suggest the airtech might be too light an arm for a cartridge with a compliance of 15 or less, especially the ZYX. It seems to prefer Gimballed arms and high mass. On the other hand other cartridges with medium compliance prefer some linear tracking arms, and some medium - low compliance cartridges work better in Unipivots. The rules are general guides with many caveats.
Dear outlier: +++++ " I do like the sound a lot, but there is the odd track or passage that seems to produce some sibilance or distortion, and I've always wonderered whether there is something awry with my setup that might be remedied by some alteration. "+++++

Well, not only the efective mass/compliance subject is important, for what you are experienced you have to check the whole tonearm/cartridge set-up: especially the VTF. Btw, how many hours are on the Universe?. Usually at the first 100-150 hours ( with any cartridge ) I set the VTF at the higher recomended value waiting that the suspension settle and from there I adjust for a lower VTF till is on target.

Now, you have a nice audio system but in the whole analog rig I can see that it is not very well balanced. I don't have any experience with your tonearm but my first impression is that it is not the best match for the Universe and it is not up to the task.
The other analog link that bother me is your Phonolinepreamp that, like Doug post, again it is not up to the task with a cartridge with this high performance level. Remember that the signal that comes from the cartridge has to pass for a heavy process through the PLP, it is here where the quality sound reproduction belongs: if the inverse RIAA eq. is not accurated you will have severe degradation to the signal, if the PLP has no very low noise and very low distortion then the signal suffer additional degradation, if the PLP is not a balanced design then the signal again suffer on degradation, etc, etc, etc.
As you can see the PLP is critical in the quality sound reproduction of the cartridges and especially in cartridges like the Universe where you do a high investment and you are not having the quality sound reproduction of what the Universe is capable of.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul.
Hi Folks:
Thanks so much for all the thoughtful responses so far. A lot to consider. I'll see can I spend some time over the weekend doing some calculations and get a better read on if my compliance is far off.

Actually I do have the HFNRR test record. I have been getting distortion on some of the test tracks - even tracks as early as track 4 out of the 7 track series of tests, so am guessing I could do better.

I hadn't thought of the Syrah as a week link, as it replaced my old Sonic Frontiers Line 3, and was far better to my ears. I will definitely consider an upgrade though, as funds allow.

thanks so much for all the useful advice so far. I'll post updates if I make changes and hear improvements.
Outlier,

Tracks 6-9 on side 1 of the HFNRR record are not "tests" that need to be "passed". Neither are the three "tracking test" bands on side 2. Adjusting your rig in an attempt to play these tracks cleanly will invariably lead to an inferior setup. It would require very excessive VTF and also excessive antiskating (on a pivoting arm).

My UNIverse/TriPlanar combo, which is nearly ideal for this cartridge, will not play tracks 8-9 cleanly. Nor will a UNIverse on any other arm that I've heard of. This bears little relation to tracking on real LP's. The frequency mix and amplitudes on the HFNRR tracks are nothing like real music. Using them to fine tune your setup is futile or worse.

Doug
Doug,

I moved my ZYX Universe from my Schroder SQ to my Ikeda tonearm. Basically adding about 15 gms effective mass to the arm. It now has a resonant frequency of 10 Hz lateral & vertical as expected. What is even more amazing is the increase in bass, image density & smoothness of the treble. I am still dealing w. some more little things, like ideal VTF which I find 2.25 to sound better than 2.00. It is amazing how having the wrong effective mass arm can completely change the sound. You need to truly know your cartridge compliance. As many cartridges vary compliance in production even with the same model this will be more difficult to do unless you purchase your tonearm after testing your cartridge.
Dgad,

So your Ikeda has an effective mass of ~33 grams? If so, it seems you have a very anomalous example of a UNIverse. Everything you heard is what we'd expect from a low compliance cartridge, as you probably know better than I do!

I am still dealing w. some more little things, like ideal VTF which I find 2.25 to sound better than 2.00.
That could be a function of an stiff suspension, no? Your compliance seems so far outside of norms that the usual guidelines may not apply.

OTOH, differing sonic preferences also play a role here. Extra VTF gives greater macrodynamics, bass and heft, but at a cost in detail, harmonics, tonality, imaging and soundstaging. One other listener I know who prefers 2.2-2.3g has a system that smothers fine details but is very good at big dynamics and fullness. HIgher VTF's exploit the strengths of that system and the losses can't easily be heard. Definitely a YMMV situation...

You need to truly know your cartridge compliance. As many cartridges vary compliance in production even with the same model this will be more difficult to do unless you purchase your tonearm after testing your cartridge.
There's a chicken/egg dilemma! How does one test a cartridge without a tonearm? ;-)