How many hours have you put on the cartridge. It could be that the cartridge is either still breaking in, or, after break-n, the tonal balance has shifted in a direction that you don't like. The shift in channel balance could be the result of the antiskating now being less than ideal following break-in, but, it still seems a bit hard to account for such a shift.
During and following break-in, a cartridge's tonal balance can change quite substantially. If the bass response takes longer to develope (a common break-in phenomenon), the impression of less "air" (i.e., less high frequency emphasis) could be the effect of a bigger bass response.
After the cartridge has settled in, you can try adjusting the VTA and/or loading of the cartridge. Raising the tonearm pivot (tail up) slightly to increase the VTA can restore some of the "air." You can also get a similar effect by changing the cartridge loading. You should try a higher value loading resistor (meaning LESS loading) to get more "air." For example, if you had loading set at 100 ohms, try 150 or 200, or even wide open (47k ohms).
I lived with the 10.5i for a while and my first suggestion would be to not be afraid to mess around with your setup. If Fremer's DVD helps you feel better with this it's money well spent. Only you can put in the time and experiment to see what works best.
I eventually abandoned the antiskate mechanism entirely and even removed it. I would say some of your problems are a result of too much antiskate. I also think it's important to measure your tracking force at record level and if you don't have a scale that can do that raise the back of the arm so that the arm is level when you're on the scale, otherwise you'll be under tracking when you level your arm at record level. So I would say track at 2.2 with little or no antiskate.
Also, don't be afraid to try some damping fluid. Mess around until you find what works.
That Blu-Tak is silly. You can set the arm up using the supplied VPI protractor, however, I found that the MINT protractor provides more accuracy, therefore better sound. Use the mechanical anti=Skate device making sure that the little arm is horizontal at the beginning of the record, and raises during play until the end of the side. Play around with VTF..every cartridge off of the assembly line needs different VTF (within the manufacturers suggested range) to play the best. There is an allen keyed weight inside of the rear of the arm that you can fiddle with. Make the arm the heaviest, and gradually unscrew that weight which incrementally reduces the vtf, until the sound zeros in. Regarding damping...add only a drop at a time listening to its affect. It will get better, then one drop more and the sound is ruined. Use a Q-tip to remove that last bit of damping fluid.
First, I would disconnect the anti-skating. I find the XV-1s and XV-1t perform better without it in the 5 tonearms used here.
Second, make sure your alignment is accurate. Dump the factory protractor and buy a Mint LP, Wally Tractor, Feickert, etc.
Third, assuming the cartridge has 50 hours of use, try lowering the VTF to the 2.05-2.12 gram range. The XV-1s sounds muddy above 2.15g IMO.
I received the new XV-1s about 10 weeks ago. The friend who set it up had it about 2-3 weeks and 'broke it in.' I think he probably had 50 hours on it. Once I got the table and new cart back in my system, it sounded phenomenal. Rock solid imaging, tons of air. Since that time I really have changed nothing, with the exception that the set-up guy came over to listen and adjusted the VTA slightly (not sure which way). It still sounded incredible. I had about 100 hours total on it by that time. Over the last 2-3 weeks, the imaging has been more blurred and shifted to the right side of the soundstage. Also much less air around instruments and less 'floating' of images.
I've tried listening with no anti-skate and it doesn't seem to change things. I've ordered a Mint Tractor (Series 9 for JMW 10.5i) and it will hopefully arrive next week. Once it arrives and I've had a chance to quickly review the Fremer video, I'll start slowly and carefully trying to tackle this. It's just weird that the sound changed with essentially no changes in set up.
Regarding damping fluid - a silly question:
Where do I put it? Is it on the spindle that the tonearm rests on? No instructions are given in the Aries 3 / JMW manual. Maybe if I put some damping fluid in the correct area, the anti-skate won't be needed, or at least the blu-tak won't.
Thanks for the input and advice. Any more hints will be very appreciated. You don't know what you've got until its gone (regarding sound and a lot of other things!).
Unless your cartridge is taking an inordinate amount of time to break in, it is pretty hard to account for such a significant change in sound for the worse. Since you haven't been fiddling with the adjustments, aside from trying the setup without antiskating, it doesn't seem to be a setup issue.
By the way, I disagree with the statement that your friend's use of blu-tack on the antiskating weight is silly. Your description of his use of a test record and determination that more antiskating force was needed based on higher distortion levels in the right channel IS one of the better ways to set antiskating. Your friend appears, to me, to be a very valuable resource in ferretting out your current problem.
There is a possibility you have a defective cartridge. Perhaps, something in the suspension has gone bad and the coils are no longer aligned properly causing the channel imbalance. I hope that is not the case. I am assuming that the sound has not changed when other sources are used (thus limiting the possible problem area to the phono gear, including the phono stage).
Does your 10.5i tonearm have Nordost wiring (all silver color and kinda limp) or Discovery wiring (red and white twist)? I have both (two armtubes) and find that the Nordost-wired arm requires the outboard antiskating device, if you're going to use any antiskating at all, while the Discovery-wired arm can have anti-skating applied by twisting the wire in the "time honored" VPI JMW way.
I would definitely dump the Blu-Tak in any event and tend to use a minimum of anti-skating. Yes, you might try some damping fluid in the cup where the pivot (pointy thing) is. You're really going to have to, er, play this by ear.
BTW, If it's the one I think it is, I sure wouldn't pay much if any attention to that test record. Good luck, Dave
Yeah, guys, I value my audio vinyl guru friend's help. I just hate to ask him to come by and check things out again. I think he thinks I am having an 'audio nervosa' attack. I know what I'm hearing is real though.
I hope the cart isn't defective. Interestingly, the imaging issue kind of comes and goes, even during the same songs being played. Nonetheless, the 'density' of the images seem less all the time. Another thing I've noticed is a slight hum (very faint coming from the midrange and woofer) in between tracks and when not playing but the preamp set to LP input. This is new. I do use a grounding cable. When I play the CD it is not there.
I've babied the cart from day one and I'm actually scared of it! I have cleaned it carefully with an Onzow only thus far and clean all LP's with a VPI 16.5.
I have the Nordost wiring on the 10.5i. I think he used the Hi Fi News test LP to help set up anti-skate. I have ordered the Analogue Productions one which should arrive tomorrow.
Check your VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle). It is possible that as your suspension loosened up, the VTA, (measuring to the cantilever), may have changed also.
Just a thought.
That's the one I thought it was:-)
You'll get more comfortable with the arm and cart as you gain experience with them and learn to trust your ears more. Your imaging issue suggests to me to presence of too much antiskate.
Your arm offers VTA adjustment on the fly. Sorry to introduce another variable, but this is worth experimenting with. I run my 10.5i just slightly tail-down. And you do have both the thumb screws tightened, I trust.
I agree that antiskating might be an issue, but, Philb7777 reports that sound is unchanged when the antiskating mechanism is completely disabled. My own experience with antiskating adjustments on other arms (Vector and Graham arms) is that much less compensation is needed than what is usually recommended.
The image shifting and changes in the density of the image is a bit hard to understand. Both could be the product of an increasing channel imbalance or if there is a problem with channel separation or poor interchannel phase relationship. All of these could be the product of some kind of misalignment of the generating elements of the cartridge (a defect in the cartridge). It might pay to contact the seller/manufacturer for help as early as possible to preserve any rights you have to getting this corrected on their dime.
The loss of air is easy to explain. The suspension is softening up with increasing hours. Virtually all new cartridges do this, that's what "break-in" means. Those who say they haven't heard a new cartridge do this, haven't been listening. I've gone through it with a dozen cartridges.
So, what to do?
First, reduce anti-skating to a bare minimum. I completely agree with other posters that excessive A/S is not needed with this cartridge. (With all respect to your friend, setting A/S with test records is nonsense, unless all you listen to is test records. Test tracks are nothing like real music tracks. Ignore them and start trusting your ears.)
Second, because the suspension is breaking in you need to start reducing VTF. Choose a dynamic, difficult-to-track passage and reduce VTF in .1g increments until you hear mis-tracking (sharp, static-like bursts at dynamic peaks). Then bump VTF back up by .1g or so. Your air and snap will come back in spades.
Image shifting is a trickier problem, but it can't be dealt with until you've optimized VTF and A/S, so fix them first. There's no magic number anyone can give you for these. You must learn to adjust by listening. There's no other way.
I hope you are right. I too thought it was a break-in issue, but, with the number of hours involved, the change in sound quality should not be that dramatic. I hope that the Dynavector is indeed a difficult to break in cartridge and that a suspension failure is not involved.
I somewhat disagree with you on test tracks. I use test records with musical tracks that are recorded at increasingly higher modulation levels (Shure obstacle course records) to set VTF and antiskating. The music is monophonic, making it easy to compare how the two channels are behaving when mistracking starts to occur. That is, essentially, the same approach you are advocating in setting VTF using difficult to track music. I really don't have any regular records that mistrack in such a usefully progressive manner as with test tracks.
It's possible the OP has only just noticed the change in sound quality. We all know how tricky these things are, and he is new to vinyl playback at this level.
Perhaps our minor difference in technique stems from how closely and often we tweak VTF? In our case we adjust constantly, usually by less than .01g, to optimize sonics for that session. We even adjust for different LP's, and it's a rare day that I don't make some VTF tweak. We recently had a visit from Braab8 and he could attest to the sonic differences from adjustments of just a few thousandths of a gram. No test record would help with that, it often varies from one LP to another.
Obviously this requires more familiarity with a cartridge (and our whole nutty scene) than the OP yet has. I agree a test record such as you described could help find a certain ballpark, like + or - .1g or so. Very useful. The method I described does too, but you're right that finding a useful LP could be tricky. We just adjust using whatever LP we're playing, since that's what we want to hear.
At any rate, do we agree he should try reducing VTF? It's an easy experiment and useful for building listening skills.
I agree it can be a break-in issue. It can also be the listener changing his perspective. Sometimes one gets into a hypercritical mode of listening and will then hear all sorts of things going wrong.
I don't myself fiddle with VTF. My arm (Basis Vector) is extremely difficult to adjust when it comes to VTF. Your use of whatever LP you are playing for adjustment would mean you are listening to something other than mis-tracking, unless you run your cartridges very close to the edge. I don't come close to any kind of obvious mis-tracking on all but a handful of LPs. What you are talking about are very subtle cues being detected by highly trained listeners who must be familiar with all other aspects of the particular system. In short, it is not an approach for a basic setup by someone who is somewhat of a novice. I agree that fine tuning a system is ultimately done by listening to regular records.
Have you used test instruments, like an oscilloscope, or the computer-based systems, like that produced by Feickert? I once had a shop check out my table. They thought my azimuth, which I set by ear, looked a bit off and so they used a test record and an oscilloscope. To their surprise (not mine), I had it dead on the money. I am wondering if test gear can be a fast and reasonable approach to setting something as subtle as azimuth.
My arm (Basis Vector) is extremely difficult to adjust when it comes to VTF.
Easy fix (if you're inclined to bother): buy a few O-rings of a size to fit snugly on your end stub. Sliding them on behind the c/w reduces VTF 2-3 hundredths of a gram per O-ring. Nudging a ring slightly this way or that tweaks VTF by a few thousandths of a gram. Quick, cheap, repeatable and won't mess up your main c/w, which on your arm is indeed even fussier then on my TriPlanar.
Your use of whatever LP you are playing for adjustment would mean you are listening to something other than mis-tracking, unless you run your cartridges very close to the edge.
Good deduction, and right on both counts. We do run VERY close to the edge. Our top cartridge has always performed its best within .01g above the mistracking point on most LP's, one reason we're constantly adjusting.
I've posted before about what we listen for. In brief:
- if VTF is a hair too light, bass response, the weight at the center of each note and MACROdynamic strength fall off just before you reach the point of mistracking
- if VTF is a hair too heavy, HF extension, MICROdynamic "snap", delicate decays and air all suffer (pretty much what Philb7777 is experiencing)
The XV-1S is somewhat less fiddly than our cartridge and has a broader sweet zone, but IME it still likes to be within .02-.04g of mistracking on dynamic LP's.
I don't come close to any kind of obvious mis-tracking on all but a handful of LPs.
Likewise. That's why I advise choosing a "difficult-to-track" passage, especially for those who aren't practiced at fine tuning VTF by ear. Finding the actual mistracking point (and measuring it so you know) provides a cartridge-specific, LP-specific baseline.
Agree this is not for a total novice, but Philb7777 is now sensitized to HF extension and air, and adusting VTF is a skill he must acquire if he wants to advance in this sport. It's also quick and easy to return to the previous setting if he doesn't like the results (by using any decent scale).
We also used to adjust azimuth to minimize crosstalk with mono test tones and a Wally Analog Shop (notch filter + DMM). Like you, after spending hours recording measurements we found we can set azimuth by ear just as accurately, and far quicker. I'm not surprised you do the same. After roughing in by eye it's easy to fine tune when you know what to listen for. If minimizing crosstalk is the goal then what to listen for is self-evident. (That's a quiz, for any who don't know!). ;-)
Apologies to Philb7777 for the semi-threadjack. Hope some of this is useful.
Absolutely no apologies necessary Doug! This one of the many reasons I love Audiogon so much. A great website, but most of what makes it great is the community of audiophiles and enthusiasts. All of you are very insightful and helpful. I will start tweaking away this weekend and let you know of my results. I am definitely a novice, and certainly with the great gear I have and enjoy so much, its about time I start to learn how to manage my vinyl front end.
My buddy came over yesterday and put another dollop of blu-tak that took the distortion out of the right channel on the test record. Then we listened to music and although maybe slightly improved, it still lacked what it once had. Maybe after 150 hours the suspension has changed. I know on thing for sure, its a gob of blu-tak I've got on it for anti-skate.
This weekend I will experiment with anti-skate, damping fluid, and VTA and VTF. I'm going to get a good scale today.
Thanks a ton guys and I will keep everyone posted......
Analogue playback for the novice can be over whelming at first start. You quickly learn nothing about it is convenient with its use. And when things go wrong....
With a bit further involvement and gained knowledge it seams like all your doing is trying to keep ahead of all the little negative things that effects vinyl play back.
However when all is dialed in to the best of your abilities and the power coming into your home is clean for a change you quickly forget all the work involved and you actually don't mind the care and attention vinyl play back demands.
Once you have the issue resolved that you are now experiencing I would recommend learning how to set up your own system.
By doing so you will gain an appreciation along with a much deeper knowledge on how everything works together for the better and sometimes for the worst.
I see you have ordered a Mint protractor, good.
It could be your cables have become intermittent. This can be checked with a meter. L & R should read the same. You might also want to check capacitance to make sure it hasn't jumped.
The other possibility is just the suspension everyone's been talking about. If it's broken in and sounding less quick and open, then you probably have too much downforce now.
Reduce VTF as low as you can while still having low distortion in the left channel with no antiskate an the hifi news record. Then increase the AS again until the right clears up.
I like the hifi news record more than the analogue productions one, which seems to require an intermod distortion analyzer. Even a simple scope or computer based analyzer isn't enough for that one. It's more pro oriented.