Three things... experiment with different interconnects especially between the GCPH and the Pass amp. Different speaker cables and power cords could make a difference too, so try every possible combination of the 3 types you have available. It's tedious but it can pay off.
Get a high quality tube line stage.
Make sure your AC power is clean and try not to mix analog and digital sources on the same outlets. Good luck.
Thanks Plato for your suggestions.
My AC is taken care of. Dedicated circuit 10AWG cyro'd romex to Furutech or Teslaplex receptacle (depending on setup). Digital and analog front ends to Power Plant Premier, amp to wall. I should rotate my power cords, mostly home brews but excellent wire and connectors.
The phono cable the dealer sold me was a "Blue Heaven". I think that's a Nordost cable? I'm afraid to look it up cause it might not be what I might have wished for. It was one of those "I'll take that turntable and oh, I need a phono preamp and a cable". Kinda dumb I know. I had no expertise so I was at the dealers mercy.
I was actually thinking about a solid state preamp such as the Pass XP20 although the Calypso line looks intriguing as does the Lamm LP2.
I won't do anything preamp wise until I get my new speakers which are in the final stages of being built - about 2 weeks out. I need to get a handle of a dialed in analog system and a broken in pair of speakers before deciding on preamp. Me thinks at this juncture tubes may be the ticket but my amp is a Pass X350.5. May not be a good match for tubes or so I'm told...
I have the same table and cartridge. It is somewhat fiddly to setup and requires significant patience. I ended up with a MintLP protractor, a 3g headshell weight, a Soundsmith Counterintuitive azimuth weight, a good stylus force gauge, and a copy of Michael Fremer's 21st century vinyl DVD. the MintLP is the best way I have found to get the overhang and alignment correct. The headshell weight to get the resonance where I wanted it. I run 1.85 to 1.95g tracking force. The counter intuitive makes tracking force and azimuth adjustment easy and intuitive. The DVD offered a visual approach to the setup process on the VPI table. There is plenty of performance there, but a lot of patience and adjustment in getting there. Especially when using the MintLP good enough never is. There is also plenty of help here in getting things set up. Your system is sufficiently resolving to produce audible changes with small adjustments.
Have fun !
After all adjustments are checked and double checked...and are correct, try using some damping at the arm. Adjust by dropping in the oil, one drop at a time. The sound will get better and then one too many drops, and the sound will deteriorate. Take out that last drop with a Q-tip, and you're good to go.
It's as if all the real turntable experts went along with the elves to the 'undying lands' when Sauron ... oops I mean CD took over the music world. (Lord of the Rings stuff for those wondering wha?)
Where they really went is a mystery. Since it is nearly impossible to find anyone who can really set up a turntable anymore, locally, anywhere....
(except all those turntable mavens who never abandoned the craft. too bad they are not doing it for a business...)
The guys who set up my new TT were a joke by any TT gurus standard.
How many hours of playing time does the GCPH have on it? They take a solid 200hrs to start sounding their best. Dramatic diffs at about 100hrs. Don't ever turn it off(unless there's a storm coming). Also: don't bother changing interconnects, until that's over with. The presentation will change THAT much!
Wow, really good advice. You guys and gal rock. The GCPH sounded so bad I was convinced it was broken. I took it back. LOL! Even the dealer thought it was broken. The second unit of course sounded equally as bad. Then one day the sun rose, the clouds parted and light shined through as the music found some semblance of purity. I've broken in many a piece but yikes this phono pre was brutal.
Oil at the pivot point? Overhang? I got a lot to learn.
Elizabeth - ya, they just as well have faced the arm the other direction. Come to think of it, it might have sounded better...
Oil at the pivot point? Overhang? I got a lot to learn.
Can't help with oil changes...wink, but here's a great read for proper cart setup.
You didn't mention results of different load settings on the PS Audio. Also, because there are two gain stages, you need to tweak them to find the sweet spot. You should be able to make it sing without a pre-amp, if not it's something else in the chain.
I'm trying to determine what arm I have. How do you measure it? Total length or from the actual stem? Going to the VPI web site I still couldn't determine the model. No mechanical anti-skate, it's done with the tonearm wire. It measures 10.5 inches total lenth. The wires feed a JM Memorial box.
Sorry for the dumb question but now I want to know.
The single biggest obstacle by far to analog performance is incompetent set-up - there are very few people who really know what they're doing. Where to start ... the above referenced link to cartridge set-up states:
"One could spend a good portion of their remaining days on earth tweaking their cartridge's VTA. It will, after all, vary depending on the thickness of each record played."
Can anybody play this game? VTA depends upon the angle of the cutter head, which varies from LP to LP, and is not dependent upon the thickness of the LP.
I can't for the life of me honestly say I can decern the difference in sound with different loading. I'm pretending to say that 100 ohms sounds about right, except of course the bit of high frequency harshness and general over the top brightness for lack of better term. It's just not warm of cuddly and I'm a nut about detail so I error towards lean.
I've researched the arm and come up with - nothing. Maybe it's a VPI classic 1? Doesn't say classic on the headshell though. This is a model 2005 Scoutmaster so I must assume that this is the original tonearm.
The VTA as I mentioned earlier was set (or not at all) to the very bottom of the travel. The arm angled upward. Who'd do that? Maybe that's why the table was traded in for a 10X more expensive model.
I've gotten some good advice leading me to the possibility of a known setup guru. Still wish to learn this craft myself.
Have you called VPI ? Maybe they can help with model id (and manual) when you describe it to them over the phone...
You should have the arm higher than level at the back. In spite of all that has been said in this thread it DOES make a difference if you get the VTA close if not exact (for all the reasons mentioned). Read the post of 4/2/11 on "VTA and cartridge loading" I put up for my slant on this subject.
Stops - it sounded pretty good tonight, but I know there's more there. I crank it up a notch tomorrow. I plan on rolling cables as well. It's still interesting though as I had this turtable dialed in by dealer with the VTA bottomed out!
I wonder how it would have sounded with the arm upside down?
I spent my evening creating a cat tree subwoofer enclosure. Don't laugh, it looks cool. I think I'm on to something..
"VTA depends upon the angle of the cutter head, which varies from LP to LP, and is not dependent upon the thickness of the LP."
Point being that if the LP is thicker then the rear of the arm must be raised for the same playback VTA as a thinner LP.
Y'all don't forget that line contact styli are more sensitive to VTA. As that is what I have and my new rig is a bit tricky to set VTA, I may do normal LP's one day then reset VTA and do 180/200's on a different day. Because of the vacuum I cannot alter the mat thickness.
Have fun spinning,
"Point being that if the LP is thicker then the rear of the arm must be raised for the same playback VTA as a thinner LP."
That's your point - it was not mine. It's a myth that arm height should automatically be increased to ensure proper VTA with a thicker LP, as there is no correlation - none - between record thickness and VTA settings. The cutter head angle is what determines VTA and it's set individually for every record side that's cut - it can vary dramatically from record to record (a 130 gram LP can require the pivot end way up, while a 200 gram LP can require a low ride at the pivot). In short, no assumptions can be made about VTA based upon record thickness.
Record thickness and VTA? Here is ANOTHER take on setup: (http://www.psaudio.com/ps/how-to/how-to-adjust-the-vta-of-a-turntable/) Note the differences in presentation, vis-a-vis thickness variations. If that mediocrity is satisfying you: great. My tonearm allows for VTA adjustment, on the fly and is calibrated. I got in the habit of finding the optimum VTA for each of my albums, when purchased, and marking the calibration on the jacket. Dialing in for the album being played is an easy and musically rewarding task. At least, with my arm anyway. The correlation between record thickness and VTA(as with all tonearm/cartridge setup procedures), is simple geometry and inescapable.
Love the humor! Seriously though. When you get the VTA right you will hear much better definition and "3D"-for want of a better description. Use a well recorded acoustic solo piano as a test. If it thins out too much (gets too percussive) and you lose the decay of the notes you have gone too high.
Although there is technical merit to adjusting the VTA on the fly (I have that capability also) you should balance that with the goal of sitting back and enjoying the music-but again that is a personal call.
That PS Audio tutorial on setting VTA is somewhat helpful to the extent it provided an explanation of how records are cut:
"The object is to match, as closely as possible, the same VTA as the original cutting head for the master was set. Typically, there is an easy standardized method - that relates to the degree of angle used by almost all cutting masters. The Vertical Tracking Angle was not always standardized. But since the stereo disc was launched, the angle was defined at 15 º and was changed in the nineteen seventies to 20 º. That is why the Ortofon SL-15 became SL-20."
Where this explanation errs is the assumption that, in practice, there was standardization - there wasn't, and swings of plus or minus 10 degrees from the various standards were common. In fact, I know of a presumably gold standard CBS test disc used for setting up cartridges whose azimuth was off by 15 degrees. I will repeat this - the cutter head is set individually for every side cut. Each individual side thus has its own unique VTA and azimuth. To set VTA correctly for each side, you can either listen or measure distortion - in practice, record thickness has no bearing, none, on the angle that the grooves are sitting in the record.
Incidentally some numbers. For a 9" arm: The arm will need to be raised in the back by about 0.16 " for a 1 degree change in SRA. This will give you some idea of what differences record/mat thicknesses can make to this number.
Industry standard setting for record cutting heads is(presently) 20 degrees +/-5 degrees. If records are cut close to that figure, your catridge's VTA is set accordingly(to a MEDIUM thickness record) and you play records THAT ARE NOT the same thickness; you HAVE CHANGED THE GEOMETRY and therefore the VTA of the stylus in the groove. You CANNOT escape the mathematics. Whether one can hear the differences, or not, is another matter. That would be why I find an optimum setting for every record(various record weights/thicknesses).
Interesting stuff. I took another look at the relationship between the cartridge and the album. I still a ways to go to get the alignment right. So up it went a few turns more.
Now I know what is meant when they say "VTA on the fly".
Great. Nice. That tells me that my tonearm is inferior no? In order for me to adjust and realistically dial in the "sound", I'll need lightening adjustments, remove the coffee table and hope I don't trample Jr on the way to the sweet spot of the couch.
On the other hand, without this forum and the knowledgeable folks within, I'd be listening to a horribly compromised setup as the tonearm rested at the bottom of its travel.
Thanks for all your inputs. Very much appreciated!
If a thin LP and thick LP were both cut at exactly the same angle, the thickness of the LP would affect the tracking angle, but it would be a nominal amount (a degree or so). In contrast, differences in angle resulting from adjustment of the cutting head are significant and can vary a lot from LP to LP - they dwarf the affect on tracking angle of the thickness of the record. In short, setting VTA based upon the thickness of an LP reflects a misunderstanding of the way records are made.
Rodman: Your point is well taken. However the adjustment is VERY small for the record thickness (What is a Medium thickness record?). If you have the patience and the very good system and ears to hear it maybe you should do it.
If my mathematics is correct. A 1 degree change in SRA on a 9" arm would necessitate about a 41mm raising or lowering of the rear of the arm or corresponding record thickness change. We can argue if we can hear that 1 degree and I am not about to go there!!
OOPS!! That should be 4.1 mm not 41 mm. Sorry about that.
Rodman: Since a 4mm change will be a degree in SRA. A difference between a thin LP and a 200mm one will be substantial and more than a degree as I first thought-so you stand vindicated from my end!
Do you have a range that you use in mm?
Hello Stops- The scale on my tonearm post is actually marked in .5mm increments. I've found that most of my albums fall within +/-3mm of my median setting(15mm, on the scale).
Rodmann:That's about a degree if my math is right and it is a 9" tonearm.So the LP thickness is not setting the optimum SRA. Do you agree?
OOPS again to an earlier thread! I meant a 200 gram LP NOT a 200 mm one! I must proof these threads better!
It's a Magnepan Unitrac I, and measures 10" from the pivot point(set back from post) to stylus. Most measure distortion figures, with regards to VTA/SRA setting, but losses of sound stage width, hall ambience cues and such(while easily discernible, given a well recorded disc & good system) are not actually quantifiable.
I agree. That is why in the final analysis you have to trust your ears!
Always start with the cartridge as physically neutral as possible as viewed from the front. It should be as flat as possible. Your best setting is here or not more than 3 degrees from this position, either clockwise or counterclockwise.
To verify the best position, use a test record where one channel is modulated at a time, and LISTEN (or measure properly) the OTHER channel for crosstalk or bleed through. Do the same thing vice-versa with the other channel. When the crosstalk, or bleed through is roughly the same, that is the best azimuth. Many cartridges can be azimuth adjusted in this manner, because the bleed through for each channel will be roughly the same for most cartridges when the azimuth is correct.
There is a caveat with this procedure. Not all cartridges have identical separation or bleed through amounts when comparing channels. For example, one channel may be 6dB worse than the other at the BEST azimuth setting for the channel with poorer crosstalk performance. In other words, one channel may have extremely good crosstalk when compared with the other. These differences do not indicate a defective cartridge, they simply point out how difficult it is to make a cartridge with identical separation performance. So, how does one adjust under this situation??
The trick is to find the critical azimuth point for the WORST channel where it JUST achieves best separation and to stop there. It is likely that you will find that continued adjustment in that direction will NOT result in improvement of separation.
In other words, if one channel is always much better in terms of less crosstalk than the other, tune the azimuth by using the worse of the two channels. Again, the best way to tune the worst channel is to find the point where the crosstalk just becomes minimized and go no farther. Verify that the other channel is still better in that it has less crosstalk. If you NOW FIND that you have NOT gone more than a tiny bit off the neutral position to do this, you have probably hit the best azimuth.
If you find you are way off neutral, that is wrong, and something else is wrong with your setup.
Make sure that the anti-skating is well set; there are many ways to tell, but this is a method suggested by Frank Schroder
When you have it adjusted right, the arm will track on the SURFACE of the record (not in the groove) at the end of the record on the un-pressed flat space where the run-out groove is it should track INWARDS toward the center at a slower rate than IF IT WERE in the end groove. If you do that, then the best average Anti-Skating is set correctly.
This can help - especially with medium or high compliance cartridges - LOOK at the position of the cantilever when it is up in the air, and when it is on the record, both at the beginning, and at the end. Look for a change in position both initially upon set-down, as well as after 1-2 minutes. DO THIS BEFORE adjusting as above - it should not change position - if it does, the A-S is VERY wrong.
ATTENTION VPI OWNERS:
If you have an under-slung counterweight (MOST VPI tables) you will greatly benefit from obtaining the Soundsmith Counter-Intuitive, a device that allows you to independently and easily perform fine adjustments of VTF and Azimuth. If your VPI counter weight is all the way forward already, you will need to offset the small amount of weight added by the Counter Intuitive with a set of EZ-Mount screws. The links are here:
AZIMUTH VPI ISSUES:
Some of us who own VPI tables are aware that in the past, VPIs suggestion was to twist the signal cable one way or the other to affect a proper antiskating force. I have found that this is a fairly gross method, which does not allow for fine adjustment. VPI has wisely come out with an anti-skating device, which is strongly advised. One must appreciate however, that its use does take some time to get right, as one is working against not only the skating force for the cartridge itself, but the side force from the stiffness of the signal cable as well. I have had some luck using the VPI anti-skating device by adding small brass washers (if needed), sometimes between 3 and 5 of them, to the far small arm that does not have the nylon string attached. I positioned them between the rubber o-rings that they supply to hold them in place and at the proper height and it allowed me to adjust the force to exactly what was needed. Patience is often required.
The way to start with the VPI arms is to twist the wire till the stylus tracks INWARDS on the surface near the end lead out groove, THEN add enough Anti-skating to slow it down to the desired rate as described above.
Twist the lead out wire ONLY if needed; if the cartrdige tracks inwards as described above with the wire in its "natural" relaxed state; no change or twisting before plugging in is needed. THEN apply anti-skating as described. The ctylus shoudl treack inwards ont eh surface VERY slowly, or at worst, hold still. Tracking inwards slowly (before it pops into the lead out groove) is the best average setting, for reasons I just described on AA.
Someone asked me to somment about VTA/SRA regarding this thread. VTA refers to the specific design of the cantilever and stylus mount. It can vary from 15 to 28 degrees. What you are concerned with always is SRA, which if all was made correctly, shoudl be "close" when the top of the cart is paralell to the record when viewed from the side. Plus or minus from there will have the ususal effects.
Peter: Many thanks for your very helpful, expert instructions.
So not having a OTF-VTA adjustment, is it wise to think about upgrading to an arm that allows easy adjustment on the VTA?
Absolutely! Not having adjustable VTA is a huge handicap in trying to get the best sound from your LPs. It's hard enough already. Why fight with one hand tied behind your back? Cheers,
I have always found that I can set up a cartridge better than the dealer. YOu can as well...just be patient. Ask questions if you need to - it takes time to do it properly. If you have VPI minifeet on your table - a huge upgrade is to get rid of them and use Bearpaws (Vermontaudio.com). The result is a very major upgrade
Deslavo55: If you have a REGA arm a very good investment is to add the VTA adjustment setup by Pete Riggle (www.vtaf.com).
I have it on my REGA 300 arm and it is superb and allows VTA adjustment on the fly.
I have a VPI arm, not sure what model but it's part of the 2005 Scoutmaster I purchased used. Nothing upgraded from what I see. anti skate is via the tonearm wiring. That's ugly IMO from the start.
I noted some longer arms with VTA OTF for sale used here, like the 12.6 or 12.5, Valhalla wiring on some. What is an appropriate arm for a pretty high level system I seem to have assembled? I don't want to sell Jr. but I still need a preamp!
Doing some research i noted the the clamp is plastic. I have the proprietary ring but not the stainless steel clamp. Is that a big deal? The feet look pretty nice and I'm sure they're stock feet. I'll have to look up minifeet. They don't look "mini" to me :)
Wow, there is some unusual math going on here. If a 4mm rise in the tonearm at its pivot point creates a 1 degree change in the sra, and the difference between the thickness of a 120g record and a 200 gram record is less than 1mm, then the change in sra between a 120g and 200g record is less than 1/4 of a degree. If you can hear that, more power to you. And if a cutter can cut with that accuracy, more power to them.
Manitunc: The math is trivial. The sine of 1 degree is .017 so depending on the distance of the stylus to the arm pivot this is an easy calculation.
For the record (no pun intended) I do not hear or adjust for differences in LP thickness.
Different record thickness change SRA very little.
Perhaps the converse is more significant.
Record companies cut record at different angles . You need to change VTA quite a bit (4-8mm) to compensate for 1-2 degree difference.
SRA is also changed by VTF. When raising VTA to change SRA, VTF is also changed slightly. This compounds on SRA change in addition to simple geometry. For each VTF, there is a different VTA setting to maintain the same optimum SRA.
I suspect when the record goes into motion. The friction exerts at the tip of stylus may also change SRA (dynamic SRA). The friction force is relative to VTF. Another variable at play.
Learn to adjust by ear.
Don't get the minifeet...get Bearpaws (vermontaudio.com). a major upgrade
Many theorize that the differences heard with changing VTA on the fly are due to minute changes in VTF caused by raising and lowering of the pivot point and not due to fractions of a degree changes in the stylus angle. I don't know what is the correct answer and I am not overly sensitive to this so I don't spend a lot of time changing VTA once I find a good spot. I do, however, attempt to find the correct VTA change to make with LPs of different thicknesses but only in a general way. Not for each and every LP. If changing VTA for every LP works for you, go for it. If you try it and don't find it making much difference, don't sweat it. That's my opinion.
Thanks for the responses. I went back to check and raise the VTA on this arm. Boy did I find some trouble.
If VTA is relevant to the cartridge, and "looking" at the cartridge with my laser eyes, I decided to again raise the arm. Upon doing this the arm either got derailed or the adjustment took it off its pivot point. When I set the arm down the needle flattened. I lost it. I was sure I destroyed the cartridge. The needle looked ugly, flattened and off to one side. I told my wife I just destroyed a 2 thousand dollar cartridge. I then realized that the weight of the arm had severely altered. It took some time to figure out what had happened. It seemed that I had raised the arm sufficiently to bottom out the back of the arm to the adjuster. I had to lower the VTA to get things back to where I could adjust the tracking force correctly. The cartridge seems to have survived my ignorance. I haven't tried it yet. What a PIA. There's got to be a better way to adjust VTA on this arm.
There is a good way if you can see across the arm at a 3 X 4 index card that has lines. You need to draw a 4" line on one of the horizontal lines on the card (call it AC). Start at"A" end at "C". Then at the pivot end of the arm (point "C") you need a vertical line of 0.15" to be drawn (call this CD). Then connect point "A" to the top of this small vertical line (point D). You now have a 2 degree slope on the line. If you visually line up the arm (make it parallel), when it is placed on a NON ROTATING record with this line (card is on the record) by raising or lowering the arm you will have an SRA close to 92 degrees (optimum if everything is perfect) you can fine tune from there. Get the line as close to the arm as possible to avoid a viewing error. Take Care!!
Desalvo55: It should be a 3 by 5" card not a 3 by 4" card
Thanks stops, that's an easy look. As it is, I basically "rescued" my needle and took what the VPI would give me in terms of height where it seemed it lacked. I don't think I can go any higher which is odd to me.
Well I must be high anyway.
I've been in this hobby for 45 years. Occasionally you hit on something and want to stop the presses, cease all tweaking and wonder what is was you did right. Usually that is but a fleeting moment as we (or I) march on because, "that other recording is effed up and I gotta fix it too syndrome". I digress.
My sub came back from JL Audio, and in one piece even though the palette was broken.. I won't go there, FedEx sucks IMO.
With default settings on the sub, off I went. Last night it sounded way too good without touching the subs volume control. I had changed the location and created what I call the catroffer. It's my Fathom F113 built into the cat tree. It's cat and baby proof to boot. It sits on two large 4" thick slabs of solid marble. This is a new "sub" location to the room. I was listening through my PS Audio PerfectWave DAC using Bridge, streaming FLAC and oh my was I missing the lower octaves. As I mentioned earlier the MBL's only perform to 50Hz. Changing to vinyl means changing cables and I knew my extremely fragile cables were getting flakey so today I re-terminated the Furutech RCA's on both cables. Back to the room to hear my vinyl rig now armed with a sub. (Last time I used the sub is when I introduced the phono preamp to the sub and the sub said "I'm dead now fix me". So this is a new setup if you will).
I was listening to Shiny Toy Guns "Season of Poison" on the DAC/Bridge, a well recorded and melodic album in a hardcore way with dynamics to die for. You could destroy a lessor set of speakers with this title. It was awesome sounding and the sub wasn't even "dialed in". So I performed the SRO, used my iPhone audio tools, made some minor adjustments after I had a good response curve, I replayed through the DAC. It was a bit more controlled, certainly more tuneful but how will it sound through the vinyl medium? Oh ya, I had found a copy of "Season of Poison" on vinyl. What I expected was diminished dynamics and lost resolution but that's not what I heard. It was bigger, airier and more dynamic, yet easier on the ears. We weren't as tense in some dramatic passages as we were driving digital through the DAC. Nothing was lost. Amazing. Next up was Neil Young "Chrome Dreams II". We played the cut "Ordinary People". We've listened to this tune 5 dozen times and more. It's a great tune on a great album and well recorded in Neil Young fashion. But I gotta tell you it was one of those moments. We were swept away in the music. It was awesome. There's a lot going on in this tune but everything had it's place, every instrument, every note. Neil's voice was placed center, just behind the plane of the speakers and so real. The micro-dynamics, the nuances and the sense of individual instruments were more displayed through the vinyl medium as well. The hard to capture background vocal, just a muffled sentence really, was captured clearly, distinctly and with body and texture that simply doesn't exist on my cutting edge digital setup. It was revelatory. I could only grin ear to ear and at the end of the song, both Dad and I stood up and clapped. It was one of those moments.
So I have to believe that my setup, however crude, isn't that bad after all. I'm pretty fussy overall and generally pay attention to detail. There's just so much to learn in audio, even after all these years I guess that's what keeps me coming back to trying new things. After rebuilding my cables I cleaned them with G5 then add some pretty specialized oil that enhances and protects connections between cables. The cleaning process is something I perform on occasion so I cannot attest to whether this enhanced or helped my cause, I doubt it hurt.
I would like to be certain I'm at least as close as I can get to proper tracking, then as others suggested, leave it alone and enjoy the music.