I have a problem I've been unable to diagnose yet, so I thought I'd gather some ideas. This is for a 2nd vinyl system in my girlfriend's home, not my main system. I've never had any issue like this in the main rig.
We're all used to annoyingly loud isolated "pops" from surface defects or perhaps static discharge during vinyl playback, but usually these are only truly annoying during quiet passages and tend to become relatively "outgunned" during heavy loud music. However, very occasionally (once every several records) I will get a POP so loud it is concerningly startling, even during loud playback of rock music. I don't like the tweeters being subjected to that, though they're fine so far. And it hasn't tripped the VAC 200iQ's protection circuitry yet, so there's that. Still, I don't like this. It's happened on the left and on the right speakers, so it's not isolated to one channel. Once it occurs, it is more likely to occur again within several seconds (and again), until I take the record off and start over. It seems to occur only starting at a certain high volume level on my ARC Reference 6 preamp (40 and above). The records and stylus are clean, and it's now occurred on multiple different records that I KNOW aren't the problem. So my suspicions are down to:
Static discharge (I have a record brush with conductive fibers and use anti-static sleeves)
Really bad overload reaction in phono and/or preamp, possibly prompted by static discharges and possibly because the gain is set too high in phono stages (I have the Hagerman set to 60dB for 0.8mV which I thought would be OK)
Power line noise issue of some kind / EMI / RFI
Tubes in the ARC Ref 6 going bad. Maybe PSU tubes? But it really seems to be instigated by a volume level on the Ref 6 going above 40.
This rig is kind of like my playground, so I have lots of gear at my disposal, much from the main rig. I've already swapped out many different components and had the problem reoccur on each of:
Different Speakers (Tannoy TD10, Tannoy Glenair 10)
Speaker cables (AQ Rocket 88, AQ KE-4/CV-8 biwire)
The consistent gear I haven't swapped out yet has been:
Clearaudio Innovation Compact turntable, Universal arm
Benz Wood SM cartridge 0.8mV
Audio Research Reference 6 preamp
What do you think is most likely the cause, and how to fix it? I'm not real eager to "try" to reproduce the issue, for obvious reasons. But other than this issue, the rig sounds great - really enjoyable.
tanking circuit being created, might have been there… low humidity may feed it. every ARC pre owner should have the spare power supply 6550 and 6H30 ( i do TRY to follow own advice ).i would at minimum get the 6550 changed ( to an old USA Tung Sol Blackplate )…. @atmasphereRalph might have a reasoned input based on both engineering skill and expertise…. ? i don’t think its your Herron, Keith very fluent in not creating a tank….
Poor quality record pressings. Lack of vinyl fill in certain spots on the LPs. Like a road pothole. Find better pressings.
It’s not the pressings; some of these same records have been played many times on the main rig with no such issue. The problem here is not the presence of pops or surface defects, but the fact that they’re (once in a while) being amplified so prominently above the music, even when the music is very loud. I’ve been playing vinyl for many years, good vinyl and bad, and this is not normal.
every ARC pre owner should have the spare power supply 6550 and 6H30 ( i do TRY to follow own advice ).i would at minimum get the 6550 changed ( to an old USA Tung Sol Blackplate )
@tomic601 You know what, that’s a great thought, thanks!! I DO in fact have spares. I think in the basement lol. Sovteks, nothing special, but unused and from Upscale. The current 6550 is a "NOS" GE that I guess could be suspect. All the other 6H30 have 380 hours, but might as well replace both power tubes as a precaution.
Yeah, when it happened with the Herron - I'm pretty certain the Herron is not doing anything that would cause or exacerbate the fault.
One more note: the power strip here is a cheap ~$120 Furman strip. Nothing like the AQ Niagara 7000 in the main rig :(
Caps in lower end power conditioning or even power strips, even decent PC like PF-15i can sometimes do squirrel tricks…. recent bad experiences w same on a direct drive motor speed stability, worth isolating if ya can. I have an isotech w star ground that i now use to help isolate faults….. my Degritte works better on it, but only with a Cardas power cord…
Grounding seems OK (the Universal arm has a hardwired cable w/ ground), and there's absolutely no hum/buzz in the noise floor. There's no streamer anywhere, and in fact no digital source in the room. I do have 2 Philips Hue bluetooth lights, and can try unhooking those (though they're really cool).
For now, the short term plan is:
Replace 6550 and 6H30 power tubes in the Ref 6. I can also replace the 6 audio circuit tubes if necessary.
Bring over a spare AQ Niagara 1000 from my loft, to use in place of the cheap Furman "Sound 8" conditioner. The Furman was acquired when my plans for this room were much more "simple".
And I guess I'll start trolling classifieds for a Niagara 3000 or PS Audio P12, which is more appropriate for this system.
Doubt it’s the power tubes but worth looking into. Unless the pop happens consistently on the same track in the same place, it isn’t the pressing.
I think it’s a static build up though. Cheap way to test it is add a humidifier to the room. Get a Hudson HiFi anti-static brush from amazon. Try it and see if the issue goes away. https://a.co/d/1bHC59r
Superb suggestions - thanks guys! A humidifier is cheap enough to buy & try. And yes I think there is a bearing ground wire in the Clearaudio’s box which I forgot all about. I never needed it with Innovation Wood or Master, but maybe it’s needed on the Compact in this room for whatever reason. What did you attach it to?
Tubes in the ARC Ref 6 going bad. Maybe PSU tubes? But it really seems to be instigated by a volume level on the Ref 6 going above 40.
@mulvelingIf this only happens when the volume is turned up then the turntable and phono section are off the hook. Since it seems to occur with different amplifiers, suspicion is case upon the line stage.
If a ground wire from the phono isn't connected all bets are off. Connect it to the chassis of the phono preamp.
I recently diagnosed a persistent hum issue on a Clearaudio Performance DC and it was related to the armtube grounding being faulty. Anyway +1 on looking at various electrical aspects like appliances, etc.
I am suspecting static electricity but not on the record rather in yourself that is being discharged through the arm and the cartridge. two questions: (1) is the volume of the "pop" constant regardless of the volume setting of the system? (2) are you in very close proximity of the turntable when this happens?
.....additionally look at grounding the turntable itself if you have not done so already. I don't mean connecting the ground wire of the tonearm. With my Clearaudio Performance there is a ground wire which I have not bothered to connect since I get no hum nor any clicks or pops but that may resolve your issue.
Also in winter having a humidifier in the room is generally a good idea.
being that the rest of your equipment is megabuck, perhaps a good investment aside from a pro-grade record cleaning machine, would be a CEDAR declicker which in my experience is unexcelled at filtering out loud clicks. the loudest pops get reduced to dull thuds 99% of the time. or if you’d rather stay totally analog, you could pick up a good used specimen of Packburn 323A phonographic noise suppressor which also has a usefully good declicker, that was given an ace review in Stereophile magazine.
I will tell you Exactly what it is.....I had the same issue. You have the GAIN set too high on your phono preamp and it’s overloading the circuit on the preamp. I had to get a new pre that could handle the input load. First though...try lowering the output gain from phono preamp into your preamp..good luck......
I had a similar problem when I first purchased my JLTi phono pre with outboard PS; the cause was the PS proximity to the (Garrard 401) TT, and was resolved with a longer umbilical between the pre and PS, moving the PS well away from th TT.
There is no recording standard for the maximum allowable value common for cutting LPs. An owners’ setting which is fine on one LP may clip when playing another.
Set up a Goldring 1042 (6.5mv output) for my sons’ Denon DP-60L into a Kyosera A-710 integrated amp. On loud passages there would be a startlingly loud "pop". Checked grounding, added an additional ground from the Denons’ chassis directly to the receptacle, no luck. Swapped cartridges to a Signet TK-5ea (5.0mv) and all was good.
Replaced the 2 regulator tubes in Ref 6. Greatly enjoyed my music yesterday with no incident, though I didn't budge the Ref 6's volume past 40 max (if I'm in the mood I might like to go up to ~ 42 :)). Other than this issue the small room system has really exceeded my expectations; so nice.
I did order an AQ Niagara 3000 from TMR; the gear in here deserves it, even if this isn't a power issue.
Also have the Hudson Hifi brush/wand thing on the way - these devices never really appealed to me, but it's cheap enough to buy & try. Got a humidifier too; just need to hook it up.
I hooked up the "optional" bearing ground wire to my Clearaudio, but it's not clear to me where the other end (small spade) goes. I've put it on the phono stage for now (along with tonearm ground) BUT being a Hagerman Trumpet, it takes DC from a SMPS wall wart that's 2 prongs. So there's no connection to earth ground. So I guess that's kind of a bummer if the intention of this bearing ground is to earth it? Any ideas what else I can do with this ground wire, or whether it might actually help at all? The Herron has a linear PSU with 3-prong cord, but quite frankly the Hagerman is the better sonic match here so I want to use that.
Any ideas if clamp and mat can affect the static issue? I have a Synergistic Research UEF mat I can retrieve from the loft. When I've had the POP issue I'd been using the bare delrin platter with a Stillpoints LPI weight that fits loosely over the spindle. I've started using a Clearaudio Twister clamp that gives a tight grip on the spindle and should be conductively connected to the metal tightening knob.
I've put it on the phono stage for now (along with tonearm ground) BUT being a Hagerman Trumpet, it takes DC from a SMPS wall wart that's 2 prongs. So there's no connection to earth ground. So I guess that's kind of a bummer if the intention of this bearing ground is to earth it? Any ideas what else I can do with this ground wire, or whether it might actually help at all? The Herron has a linear PSU with 3-prong cord, but quite frankly the Hagerman is the better sonic match here so I want to use that.
Its OK that the phono section isn't grounded to the wall. What is important is that the ground of the 'table is the same as that of the phono section.
IME the platter pad can have a big effect on static. I've never used a delrin platter though.
Its OK that the phono section isn’t grounded to the wall. What is important is that the ground of the ’table is the same as that of the phono section.
IME the platter pad can have a big effect on static. I’ve never used a delrin platter though.
Thanks for the info, @atmasphere - I went ahead and connected it that way.
So certainly, this case appears to be a complex problem with a lot of variables. I got the Hudson Hifi arm brush for static dissipation - easy to use, and a nice product for cheap. I’ve been very careful to eliminate any sources of static - and yet the problem still persists (on average once every several records or so). So I think we can eliminate static discharge itself being the primary factor. The common point here is the preamp (as Ralph surmised earlier).
So I dug up my Rogue Athena preamp and subbed it in. This is a more traditional design with analog attenuator up front (motorized stepped attenuator), and it also uses Jensen line transformers for I/O conversions (SE to balanced). I swear the surface noise & pops/ticks seem a bit quieter, and no "mega POP" has occurred yet. If this holds, then perhaps it points to the Ref 6’s digital attenuation not fully blocking the circuitry from overload conditions in all cases (I’m no circuits engineer, just stretching here)? I didn’t face the issue with this same Ref preamp in my main rig - but yeah there are a lot of variables at play - for one, the main rig speakers are 6dB more efficient. Thinking back I’ve certainly noticed that the Ref preamps in general (I’ve had two now) do seem to "enhance" the record surface noise a bit versus traditional attenuator-based designs like VAC. Other than that, they sound absolutely specular with vinyl...but I just can’t keep subjecting my tweeters to this when Tannoy doesn’t supply the parts anymore...catch 22 :-/
** Again thinking back a few years, I remember a humble little system I put together with NAD C368 integrated used as the preamp (digital volume control) that also faced the mega POPs issue with vinyl. Is this a general issue of using digital volume controls with vinyl for loud playback?
So I’ll enjoy the Athena preamp for a while, hopefully get used to its sound (some pros, some cons versus the Ref 6), hopefully not experience a mega-POP again, and report back :)
If the preamp seems to enhance surface noise, the volume control likely has nothing to do with it. This problem is usually caused by high frequency (in the case of LOMC cartridge, Radio Frequency energy) overloading the input of the phono section.
Sounds for all the world like a noisy LP surface. But swap in a different phono section and its gone or noticeably reduced.
I've written about this a lot in the context of 'cartridge loading'.
Its one thing to read about it though; quite another when you encounter it.
Welp I’m now 100% certain this case has a very simple explanation: power amp clipping. The 2 amps I’d been using were very similar in power: 100 Watts/ch tubes and 120 Watts / ch SS. Swapping in the 250 Watts/ch Rogue Apollo Dark, and it sails through everything. IIRC the Rogue also has much more dynamic/transient power reserves than usual (Rogue has previously mentioned 800 - 900 Watts?!), which applies here
I’d started to notice the issue was happening on certain spots of certain tracks. And yes, it was related to volume - it would always play clean at lower volumes. I just didn’t expect amp clipping to manifest a singular POP at so much of a higher level than any music the tweeter was playing. No grungy, hazy distortion or harshness or any other warning signs - just a hugely loud single POP occurring within otherwise perfectly CLEAN music playback.
So my educated guess is there’s an awful lot of subsonic low frequency energy getting into the system, even with good rack & isolation platform. From record warps (etc) and feedback. Yes, the tonearm & cartridge compliance is in "good" range. Unfortunately it’s a small room with a very bouncy suspended floor. So I suspect a huge LF waveform (that I can’t even fully hear) pushes the amp too hard, and boom - now it’s a clipped waveform with both a LF and HF component (the not-so-neat part of clipping a LF waveform). The HF component is very transient, but at a much higher level than all combined HF content from the actual music (because energy content in actual music decreases as you raise frequency), and of course it sounds just awful (edge of a square wave). It really did sound like a mega-loud singular surface POP. Weird that it usually seemed to come from the right side, even once when I had the MONO switch engaged (can’t figure that out). Tannoy’s tweeter is tough, thankfully - all OK there.
Anyways I think it’s best to have more power on tap to keep the LF crap from clipping and splitting into LF & HF crap. Long term I need to experiment with rack position and isolation tweaks to reduce feedback. Maybe even bass traps etc. Yes I’ll keep a lid on the volume, too. I know I play loud, but it really shouldn’t be clipping at these levels for just music without the (suspected) LF crap going on.
Many thanks everyone for your contributions, it helped me think through all possibilities :) The system sounds phenomenal now, btw. Very happy and glad to have an answer.
I went through all possible avenues, and the following definitely had zero effect:
Audioquest Niagara 3000 power conditioner
Different cartridges (tried Benz Wood, Ortofon A90, Shelter Harmony)
What’s interesting is I never reproduced the issue when using my VAC phono stage with EAR SUT (both borrowed from main rig). But the problem occurred with both Hagerman Trumpet MC and Herron VTPH-2A. My guess is the VAC + SUT simply filters out more of that LF energy. The Herron and Hagerman both use a JFET MC stage.
Resistive loading made no difference at all. I was overloading the power amp, not the phono or preamp stages 😭 EMI / RFI was not a factor.
Rolling out tubes made no difference (and I rolled all of them) - this wasn’t a tube going bad.
The Hagerman Trumpet MC, rolled with NOS tubes, is really the ideal sonic match for this system. I think, even better than the 10x as expensive VAC from the main system 😐
A subsonic filter would probably be a smart move here. Unfortunately I bought KAB’s a while ago, and it’s a total dud - just pure distorted garbage, no matter how I tried to hook it up. Anyone know of a good non-KAB one? I’m paranoid about giving up any transparency in the bargain. The VAC phono & SUT may not need any additional subsonic filtering.
I can move the rack down a meter or 2 (at the most) further away from the speakers; past that my 5m XLR cables run out. It might help with the energy management, but I’ll lose remote control visibility on the bottom component from the couch :(
The CMS Black Platinum shelf and now Stillpoints SS feet seem to really clean up the audible spectrum, it’s spectacular, but I don’t think they’re helping much down in LF / subsonic area.
The Ortofon A90 is a really, really nice cartridge. I need to keep it in use. But the Benz Wood SM was really sweet too. The Clearaudio Universal arm is a terrible sonic match for Koetsus or anything too much on the warm side.