Crackling distortion

I have a used (new to me) VPI Scout with a new Dynavector 20x2L with a bunch of new vinyl to go along with it. I used the VPI rig to set it up and followed all the instructions on se up, with the amount of anti skate be set right not 100% there. I have a Shure force guage and I'm running 2.2g grams + .1g per VPI recommendation. 2.2 is max for DV cart.

I've noticed on some albums I'm getting a crackling distortion in some high transients and on some vocals - especially the emphasized.

I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong or what to do next. I did notice that after 12 hours on the new cart I had just a hair more than the 2.3 g of force, so I adjusted that yesterday, but I'm still hitting the crackling. Could I of already damaged the cart?

I double checked the overhand with the VPI and its right on the dot. My VTA is level.

The record is new and freshly cleaned and dry. The needle was brushed and cleaned as well. Both channels seem equal as well.

Any help would be appreciated.
could be a number of things, but since you seem to have aligned the cartridge properly and the needle is new, I doubt its due to damage to the stylus. Your cartridge may be overloading your preamp on loud transients. If your needle was damaged, you would likely hear a problem all the time. some carts cant track high transients, so it could be a mistracking for that reason. Have you tried a test record to see how the cartridge tracks various levels? what is your phono preamp?
My phono pre is a DV P-75 (actually its my friends). But I have it set for my low output MC. But that's all irrelevant. It ended up i had not cleanrd it very well, the there was a caked on piece of vinyl on the stylus. I tried cleaning it with Last and lo and behold the sound was great smooth as butta' again.

I guess I'm still too new a newb at this vinyl stuff!
The problem is most likely the downforce gauge. It is measuring the force significantly above the level of the playing surface. I experimented with a digital gauge. If I put even a single record under the gauge, it was measuring almost 0.1 more than without the record. It is very important to measure tracking for AT the level of the playing surface.
Last lemming, glad to hear that your problem is cleaned up (pun - LOL). I have a similar rig: VPI Classic and DV 20X2 HO (back-up carty). Just a Q and and 2 "fyi's."

The Q is how did you adjust azimuth?

The fyi's are the Sound Smith Counter-Intuitive counter-weight thingy greatly simplifies the process of setting azimuth and VTF, and its cheap (about $65). You may want to consider buying it.

Also, Peter Ledermann of Sound Smith, a pretty well respected guy in the audio/cartridge/TT segment of our hobby, disagrees with VPI's advice on setting VTF and AS. In short, he told me that setting VTF on the low end of the recommended range is better as long as the carty is tracking ok.

He also thinks AS should be used, but I honestly don't know how to apply his advice and I don't have the patience to learn. So, I just put one of those little rubber donut ring thingys on the business end of the AS device.

I honestly can't say the sound is better, but I am hoping to get more life out of my stylus. When Peter did my last re-tip, he commented that the sylus wear pattern suggested that AS was off. I'll report back later when I do my next retip.

In the meantime, I recommend that you give Peter a call, if for no ther reason than to buy the Counter-Intuitive device. He's a great guy and is always happy to give advice.

FWIW. Cheers, BIF

Thanks for the advice. I set the azimuth by the rod method by using an old drafting lead that you have to sharpen. This gave me a long overhang for a bit more accuracy sharp points at either end to measure against.

I have Fremer's disc and a digital multimeter. I saw the device for the counterweight and I figured I'd use the DMM once I got the counterweight for setting my azimuth more correctly.

What's your thoughts on the VTA. Where have you found the best setting.
Butt end up. Adust by ear.
Agree with Tswisla -- buy a Radio Shack el cheapo digital.
Because of the geometry of the JWM uni-pivot arm, the VTF increases as the cartridge height goes up, everything else being equal. Similarly the VTF goes does as the cartridge height decreases. With the Shure stylus gauge, it works on balance and has a range of motion. Within that range of motion your arm is actually changing VTF. it is very difficult to get an accurate reading with that gauge and the JWM tonearm. Suggest you get a digital gauge which has a non moving platform and then measure your vertical tracking force at exactly the same level as your record.
Well I thought I had everything sorted, but now I think the crackling distortion might just be the record, not the TT. Last night I put on a record (brother where art thou soundtrack) and the first side was fine, but as soon as I flipped to the second side I started getting the distortion at the end of emphasized vocals. So I got out my old middling pioneer TT that I rescued from the garbage and refurbished. It has a green Grado cart that I threw on it when I fixed it. I hooked it up to my Onkyo receiver in my "man cave" and what do you know, same distortions from the same moments in the song were heard.

The only thing that disturbs me is that I heard this similar etched vocal distortion (emphasized vocals not soft vocals) on "tea for the tillerman" lp but that was on the last track on a side which makes me think its end of lp distortion, though it seems more sever than maybe it should. Its a brand new album. How bad does the end of lp distortion usually sound? I can't imagine it would be so bad as to be hearing screechy etched vocals. I played around with TF to no avail, and I triple checked my overhang with the VPI jig so I'm good there. It might be the album, but I'll need to try it on the pioneer TT to be sure.
LL, if you eliminated the electronics it's either the TT set-up, or the speakers which I assume are fine. I have some familiarity with DV and I would be pretty surprised that your low output cartridge is overloading your receiver's phono input section. As stated that leaves the TT.

I would try reducing the VTF to the low side of the recommended range. I think my HO calls for VTF of 1.8 to 2.2 grams. Try 1.8 grams and report back.

From what you've said, azimuth and alignment should be ok. Unless VTA is way, way off I'd be surprised that is the source of the problem.

So try the other TT. Kinda doubt that the VPI is the source of the problem. If everything else checks out after trying your old TT and reducing VTF, I would try another carty in the TT. It's very unlikely but possible that the carty is defective.
I tried from 1.8 to 2.2g. It didn't change anything on the particular album that had the distortion. Interestingly most other albums are fine. No distortion at all. So I'm beginning to think it my just be the album. I'm going to tri it on the pioneer to see if the sound replicates.
Ok. I got my dig force guage in. Now I'm even more confused on how to deal with setting the force and dealing with anti skate. I know your suppose to take off AS when setting force. However no matter where I place the metal pigtail off the TA it changes the AS between .2 and .3 g. I can't find a place to set it when it's unplugged that acts "neutral" to the tone arm. The only place that seems like it would be truly neutral is directly above where it plugs into the tone arm with alll the slack of the wire removed and the pigtail hovering in the air - and the wire can't be pulling up or pushing down on the tone arm bc that would change the force reading. Same is true for setting azimuth. The best I can figure is to twist the wire in such a way as to impart as close to zero AS while its plugged in, make all the other adjustments the put the twist in the wire to set anti skate.

Is there a better way?
The tonearm connector (Lemm) must be inserted into the junction box in order to get a correct VTF reading.  Otherwise the unipivot arm will have external forces on it when you try to measure the VTF.
I suggest the following:
1. Have your turntable in the state like you are ready to play a record.  If you twist the wire, whatever, then put a twist on it.  I personally have no twist on my wire and have the Anti-Skate set to the absolute minimum.  One donut at the top of the vertical bar, with the fishing line on the top, and no donuts on the horizontal bar.
2. Build up a platform on the side of the platter next to the tonearm.  I actually use the box that the digital gauge came in and DVDs under the box to get the platform of the digital gauge EXACTLY the same height as a record on the platter.
3. Put a record on the platter, a flat one, make sure it is flat.  Use the center record weight and put it on the box where the digital gauge is, in case you have to extend the platform out pretty far to the cartridge.  The weight on the box, ensures you are not going to tip everything over.
4. Zero the gauge, line it up.  When you put the cartridge over the platform, since there is a magnet in your cartridge, with the magnetic force you might see a negative weight.  That is why it is important to turn on the gauge and zero it before putting the cartridge over the top of the platform.
5. Lower the cartridge with the stylus exactly in the center of the dot on the digital gauge.  
6. do it more than once, which will kind of give you an average reading.
7.  If your readings are off by a lot, then something is moving, or you don't have the stylus exactly in the center of the dot.  Keep trying.
8. Move the whole setup off to the side when you are adjusting the weight, you don't want your stylus hitting the gauge.
9. Make sure you tonearm is not resting on the armrest when you are doing the weighing.  Make sure it is not even touching the arm wrest.  
10.  Use the Allen wrench, and the back weight, which screws into the arm to fine tune the VTF.
11.  To see the effect of height, after you everything dialed in, add a couple of more dvds under your platform and weigh it again, and you will see the VTF go up, probably by 0.3 grams or so.
Thank you for your advice. I'm dense headed sometimes, so forgive me when I ask what is the purpose of steps 2 and 3. Is this so you don't have to level the tone arm for the the FG and then level it again for the record? And what do you mean by "center th erecor weight"?

But just so I undestand you (btw I don't have the VPI contraption for antiskate, just the wire) tell me if my proceedure will follow yours (assuming leaving out steps 2 and 3 until im more clear on those):

1. Release all twist on wire (I prefer this myself)
2. hook up Lemm fitting
3. set FG on platter and make sure stylus in in center
4. I will adjsut VTA so are is level with platter
5. set tracking force
6. remove guage, put on flat record
7. adjust VTA so level with record (tracking force should be the same.)
8. double check all settings including tracking force adjust if necessary.
Yes, that also works, since like you said you are compensating for the additional height of the Digital Scale with your VTA.  I have also done it that way in the past.  I, however, don't do it that way anymore, because I find it difficult to compensate exactly with the VTA, it is really eye balling it.  The purpose for 2, is you don't have to make the VTA adjustments, because the platform of your digital scale will be exactly the height of the record.  when you look across the record, from the other side, then you should see the stylus resting on the Digital Scale platform, just like it was on the record.  That is when you know it is perfect.  I believe you can be much more accurate that way, then adjusting VTA to compensate, because it is a little more imprecise trying to eyeball that
Your cartridge isn't properly aligned. I had the same symptoms until I figured out how to correct that.
Good advice above..
The first thing I needed to do was set the proper overhang using a protractor or gauge. By definition, the overhang is the distance between the needle and the center of the spindle while the needle is in a straight line through the spindle to the pivot at the rear of the tonearm. So you have to get down and sight it like you're aiming a rifle.
Next, the VTA. The face of my cartridge is 90 degrees to the top, so if I can get the face of the cartridge square to the platter, the arm and cartridge will be level with the platter. I used a block of wood (similar to dice) to check for square as I adjusted the height of the tonearm. My tonearm lacks any way to measure the height, so I used playing cards as shims to gauge the height at the rear as I checked the face of the cartridge with the wooden block. After I got things level, I checked and adjusted the azimuth using the square block against the left and right sides of the cartridge body till they were perpendicular to the platter. Finally, I used a tracking angle gauge to verify the cartridge alignment.
Since any one thing can affect another, after I was done, I rechecked everything until I had everything zeroed in.
Now the cartridge was flying straight and true.
Since tracking force can affect VTA, I did all of these things with the tracking force set to the cartridge's recommended tracking force on a non spinning platter with a normal thickness record on top. To keep the record and stylus from damaging each other, I covered the record with a piece of glossy, photo weight paper. The glossy paper allowed the cartridge to drift back and forth over the surface without damaging either the stylus or record.
The last thing I did was set the antiskate using a test record till the test tones played with the least amount of distortion.
Now finally the tone of the music is correct (VTA and Azimuth affect tone) and the record plays to the end of the loudest tracks without distortion.
The geometry of the dynavector 20X2L looks very similar to my Grado Sonata1. I don't understand how your method square's the thing up to the record surface. Eyeballing the face and sides of the cartridge till they were flush with the square block was rather simple. Adding or removing a playing card shim was a simple way to listen and adjust.
Captain . . . I appreciate that setting AS force will depend on all the other variables mentioned in your post. Just curious how you decided that "[o]ne donut at the top of the vertical bar, with the fishing line on the top, and no donuts on the horizontal bar" was the amount of AS forced needed.

I just guessed on my rig. Two donuts on the verticle bar to hold the looped fishing wire, and one donut on the horizontal bar. I think we're pretty close because the verticle and horizontal bars will offset each other.

I use the Ultimate Analogue test lp Side 2, Track 1 Anti-skating test; 315Hz amplitude sweep to +12dbu (Lateral) the sweep begins clean in both channels. Without anti skate as the sweep increases DB the right channel distorts first. I increase anti skate until both channels distort at the same time. I noticed that this is very cartridge Dependent. My current cartridge requires no donuts on the horizontal bar, my other required 2 donuts. Begin with no donuts and the vertical donut at the highest level. If the right channel distorts first, lower the fishing line and top donut. Keep going all the way to the bottom, if the right channel is still distorting first then add a donut to the horizontal bar, and begin again. BTW, about half way through the sweep you will start hearing the right or left channel distort. If you have too much anti skate the left channel will distort first, then you back off the anti skate. I do everything else first, alignment, VTF, VTA, AZIMUTH, all of it. Then I do the sweep test and adjust the VPI mechanical anti skate until both channels start distorting at the same time. It is very precise, too much and the left channel distorts first. Too little and the right channel distorts first.
I admit this is optimized only for the one part of the record which has the sweep.
I admit this is optimized only for the one part of the record which has the sweep.
Bingo! And that's why it's largely a waste of time.

Little if any real music includes a pure 315Hz sine wave recorded at +12dbu. Real music is a randomized, constantly changing mix of frequencies and amplitudes. These will cause the stylus to act differently than it does to a simplified test track, rendering one's supposedly optimized setup non-optimal when it actually matters.

Better, IME and IMHO of course, is to ignore test LP's and adjust anti-skating by ear. Spend as much time as you can listening ATTENTIVELY to difficult-to-track passages on real records. You'll learn how your rig responds to the music you actually listen to, which will let you adjust anti-skating and other parameters to optimize sonics when it matters.

Test records provide false security and results that have little applicability to real music. I own several. None of them has left its sleeves in years. I've set up dozens of cartridges and made thousands of adjustments without them. So can anyone, I'm convinced, if they'll only play music and adjust with a thoughtful mind.
I used the Hi-FI News Analogue Test Lp which has three 300hz tones L+R +15db on side two. The first test band is the first track on side 2, the second band is in the middle and the third is the last track of the side.
These were the tracks that allowed my ears to zero in and minimize tracking distortion. I don't think I could have done it without them. Everything else was a guess before I realized how to take advantage of the tones and their position on the record.
In addition to the test record, the package also includes an alignment gauge and instructions.
I don't think I've set up "dozens of cartridges"
in my lifetime, but I have probably made thousands of adjustments, usually decreasing distortion in one area only to increase it in another.
I didn't use the record to set up or align my cartridge, I only used it to check my work and fine tune the anti skate and lateral balance weights. It was very helpful having the same tone repeated throughout the side. I don't feel as though the alignment has been optimized for one area at the expense of another.
Some people think Test Records are a waste of money that provide a false sense of security. I disagree. A well designed test record simply provides a reference tone. How it gets used is another matter.
These were the tracks that allowed my ears to zero in and minimize tracking distortion. I don't think I could have done it without them. Everything else was a guess before I realized how to take advantage of the tones and their position on the record.
Now that's a good use of test tracks. You didn't just blindly treat them as some "test" to be "passed". You used them to understand and optimize the behavior of the stylus in the groove, balancing one adjustment against another.

My "test records are useless" posts are indeed strongly worded. Too many vinyl-philes treat test tracks as gospels rather than as diagnostic tools. To improve our setup/adjustment skills we must abandon slavish devotions in favor of listening and thinking, as you have. My hyperbole is meant to inspire that fundamental change in attitude.

You understand this already so you're right to question such blanket statements. You've advanced beyond them.

Now try this: having heard and understood just how your cartridge behaves across those test tracks, try making the same fine adjustments while listening to music. Your results will probably differ from the test record. There's a high probability that (slightly) reducing VTF and anti-skating from what's optimal on the test tracks will result in better sound on most records.

With a little practice you may find yourself listening to music one day and saying, quite willy-nilly but with considerable confidence, "That VTF (or SRA, or anti-skating) needs to go down (or up) a skosh for this record". Then you too can retire the test record and post like some annoying curmudgeon!
"Now try this: having heard and understood just how your cartridge behaves across those test tracks, try making the same fine adjustments while listening to music. Your results will probably differ from the test record. There's a high probability that (slightly) reducing VTF and anti-skating from what's optimal on the test tracks will result in better sound on most records."

Maybe so, but I'm afraid to mess with success. I pretty much did all that (VTF, A/S, alignment) before using the test record to "trim" the distortion in the sound and music out.
If I were to change the VTF, I would most certainly have to change some other parameters as well, and it was such a pain. I haven't heard any problems yet so I'm going to leave things as they are for the time being.

Honestly, I love the way it sounds.
Honestly, I love the way it sounds.
Then you're done!
And now I appreciate why folks mount two tone arms on their tables and don't bother with detachable headshells.