goodbye to vinyl. . . . grr ------ longish rant

Ever since i got into hifi (which, admittedly wasn't too terribly long ago), i have been one who appreciates the sound of a good, pristine vinyl pressing played on a nice high-end rig. i love the fullness of the music, the lack of glare and grain, the ritual of putting the big black disc and flipping it after 28 minutes or so. over time, my rig got more and more expensive (and better sounding) and my vinyl collection has only marginally grown.

i'm currently using a teres 265, sme arm and VDH colibri cartridge and i've never heard anything sound as nice. ever.

so, where's the problem?

a few things:

one - the modern music i listen to is not too terribly often released on vinyl. and when it is, i usually have to import it from the UK. imagine what bulk rate shipping across the atlantic does to vinyl. it may have sounded good once, but once the postal service is done with it, i have an oversized frisbee to trow to my dog or an uncanny reproduction of bacon being cooked if i actually put the needle to it. (assuming it will even track with all of the warps in it) now, this would be ONE thing if it only occured with the few albums i order overseas, but i would expect a company like clssic records to have better better QC than a mom and pop shop in liverpool. wrongo. two $39+ records were in lousy condition. not warped, just nasty . . . with a film on them. the vpi did not help at all. i am ending up buying 2 copies of everything i buy - one vinyl and one digital. the vinyl one in hopes of a good pressing and the digital one because i never actually get a good pressing of the former.

two: a good deal of what i like consists of stuff like the velvet underground, david bowie, lou reed, iggy and the stooges, etc. the re-releases of all of these sound way worse than the remastered cd's. so, logically i should get original pressings of the lp's for good sound, right? wrong. keep in mind the bands i'm talking about. 90% of all who listened to them in the 60's and 70's were people like me - ie can't take care of their software. many of them did more drugs than lou, iggy, and david combined. i swear that if you scraped the film off of one of my used lou reed lp's and smoked it, you'd be higher than nick nolte on an LA freeway. nasty. so, after purchasing these, scraping my stylus and sanitizing my room - i end up listening to the cd remasters and loving them. oh, and don't even ask me about the copy of the moody blues' "on the threshold of a dream" i bought once here on the 'gon. i wouldn't let my dog's mouth come near that thing.

3. - why is it that when albums are released on vinyl they are sometimes mastered from the 16/44 source?!? hey, let's mix the worst of BOTH formats! and why do you sometimes have to purchase and open the damn thing to find out?!? and why don't they state on the outside whether or not they'refrom the analog master? when i bought wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on vinyl, i couldn't wait to put it on my table. imagine my surprise when it sounded (gasp) nearly IDENTICAL to the CD, only *not as good!* i checked the liner notes. it didn't say *anywhere* what it was sourced from, but believe you me, the vinyl pressing - whatever the source - was sonically inferior to the cd. another $19 wasted. i wouldn't be so upset if it weren't so common and if i didn't know that it could be any better. my LP pressings of the SMITHS' catalogue not only obliterates the CD counterparts, they're (depending on the album, mind you) some of the better sounding things i have. and my miles davis kind of blue. and my other brilliant pressings which make this all the much more difficult to do.

anyhow, my vinyl collection is no longer growing, due to my fear of lousy pressings. my cd/sacd collection is growing steadily as digital technology keeps getting better and better and i find that i have twice as much money tied up in my analog rig as i do my digital, which leads me to another burning analog question - why do you have to spend twice as much on a vinyl rig to make it sound better than a digital one? don't get me wrong, it can sound better, take this for instance - my brother has a $250 cd/sacd player and about a $600 turntable rig. i'd rather listen to the digital. why? it sounds better. now, my analog set-up sounds beter than my resolution audio opus 21, but not by the margin it should at over twice the price. and sacd?!? holy crap! the difference between the vinyl and sacd is barely audible. this is in NO way meant to be critical of vinyl playback, but an SCD-1 (borrowed) sounds so analog that, aside from the low noise-floor, i would have guessed it was my turntable playing.

so, i've reanalyzed my situation and realized that, given my situation, it doesn't make sense to have my money tied up in an expensive analog rig anymore, when i am more satisfied with digital at the moment.

so, i'm giving up the vinyl ghost and hoping audiogon helps me off my analog rig quickly so i can reinvest all of my source budget into cd, sacd, and dvd-a. i'm hoping sicerely that the meitner dac6 will be the answer to my woes.

to those of you enjoying and loving your turntables - i envy you and wish you the best of luck. those of you who've been touting the virtues of digital - i'm starting to lean more to your side. here's wishing that no such bad luck befalls me on my quest for perfect sound forever.

thanks for reading my rant. have a good one.
Classical music lovers do not have any better luck getting music on vinyl either. Yes, vinyl sounds much better than CD or SACD. I only retain a turntable and a phono stage to listen to the 300 classical records I bought in the early 1980s. Once a while I come across a nice used classical recording a Princeton Record Exchange and I treat it like treasure if it is a sealed copy. The enjoyment from vinyl sound is quickly giving way to lack of availability.

It is not worth it for new comers into the world of vinyl. It is a shame, because the turntables just look so "cool".
I think you should convert to classical music and keep your analog rig. :)

However, I can agree that your points are well thought-out, particularly the rant about the use of 16 bit/44khz masters for vinyl being the worst of both worlds. And while I still prefer vinyl to any digital, there is no question in my mind that a good SACD over a really good SACD player comes very close to giving me the same musical satisfaction I get out of vinyl. Now let's hope that hi-rez can hold on...
Auaarons--with all the Classic/Speakers Corner/Testament/King/Cisco etc. reissues of fine analog classical recordings from the 50s, 60s and 70s, I think there still is plenty to choose from even if you're just starting up (albeit at a stiff price), and there's plenty more for a song available at used record stores, church rummage sales, libraries and the like. New artists and music, on the other hand, is a problem as Lazarus so eloquently states it.
I think your bitch is about value- and you are right. You are not getting the value that you correctly believe you deserve given the cost of your hardware and then whatyou are paying for LP's.
A suggestion to you to consider- If you want to maximize the value issue, first buy a Rega 3 with a Grado cartridge or something similar. Just keep the hardware cost very moderate. Then, if you have the time and inclination, only buy LP's at tag sales and garage sales and try not to spend more than $1. per LP. Since you will see the actual LP before you buy it, you may be able to rule out the obvious clunkers.
Then see if a 50 cent or $1. record played on a modest rig gives you some of the benefits of vinyl. If so, then you can keep your vinyl collection and add to it in a very different way. Then, if this works out well enough, you can then decide whether to keep your primo rig to use on only the best LP's you have and find, or sell it and be done with that part of your experience.

I feel your pain, but... what to do with all those albums you've collected over the years? There are very very few classic rock records that have been re-released on CD that sound even close to acceptable. SACD's probably are good but having perused the selection of SACD's it just doesn't do it for me.

Once you have a nice analog rig, well, you sure you want to get rid of it??? I've pondered that off and on over the years but I know I'd regret selling my Delphi IV. I would suggest finding a reliable second-hand vinyl shop for your music locally; true you won't get the latest releases on vinyl but in the world I live in the classic rock music outweighs the new releases in terms of musical enjoyment by a LARGE margin.
I loved the part about scraping the used records for smokin'. I pulled a copy of the 3-LP YEssongs from a box of records I bought and when I opened the gatefold a handfull of seeds came rolling out! Ha!

I'd stay in the game but, if you're determined to bolt, contact me with regard to buying the 265.
I can relate to the condition of used records, and have experienced many of the things you have. But the grunge and film from a used record, or even a new one, can be easily cleaned off with a record cleaning machine. This is really a mandatory accessory for those purchasing used vinyl.

I'm not going to try to convince you to do one thing or the other. You have to do what you think is best.

Good luck. It won't take you long to move your very fine TT.
I agree with Tedkurtz that a modest cost vinyl playback system can allow enjoyment of the low cost vinyl at library and tag sales, and even commercial used sources. By keeping the average cost in the 50 cents to one dollar range per LP the inevitable variability in record technical and artistic quality is much more tolerable. I, too, have paid mailorder full price for perfectionist reissues only to be defeated by record warp, or noisy surfaces looking visually perfect. The same material on original, vintage vinyl is thrilling to find at low cost which is part of the vinyl hobby for me. There is so much music only available on vinyl that it would be a shame to eliminate all chance to hear it by never listening to any vinyl again. For example, today I listened to the second Elektra recording of the young Judy Collins in mono, no less, and it was an amazing musical and technical triumph. On the other hand, if the joy of a hunt for cheap vintage vinyl is not one's cup of tea then digital is capable of providing great enjoyment, in its own way.

A week or so ago I made a post called "Rediscovering the Joy of Digital?". It was along the same lines as your post, although I was only half serious and it appears that you are quite serious.

All things considered, I can't say I blame you. My main reason for staying with vinyl is that I have a large collection, most of which is in excellent condition (I avoided drugs in the 70s) and buying used vinyl has gotten to be a "sport" of sorts. You can sometimes score some great recordings for up to a few dollars a pop and to me that is better than buying obscure SACD's at $20+ a pop.

For new releases, I buy CDs because as you've noticed, they sound close to vinyl now on a good rig. My LP collection has too much sentimental value and potential for musical involvement for me to ditch it. In fact I just had a custom LP rack constructed that will be able to hold the bulk of my collection.

If your current collection of LPs is not that important to you, then I feel you are justified in selling your analog rig and records. If you can sell the recordings without missing them too much, I'd say do it. If not, you still have choices. You could sell your expensive tt system and buy a more middle-of-the-road model to enjoy your collection. Or you can do what I do -- keep it all for a rainy day and don't let it bother you -- unless you really need the money back from your investment... Even if the commercial digital formats outperform analog in the near future who cares? You know how good your turntable sounds right now and I suspect it is very, very good indeed.
You are now giving me cold sweat: I should get delivery of a new turntable tomorrow or the day after and am still considering which cart to get. What you complain of sounds so much like my complaints of vinyl over the years and here I am having pulled one of my greatest contrarian moves in decades and already feeling the pangs of remorse. Should have ordered the bloody Sony SCD-XA777ES I had priced! Even my own lps treated with TLC over the years are often noisy. And there I was dreaming that the new expensive vinyl was all good. Well, I guess I will have to get the cart and give the new table a spin. At this stage I have my fingers crossed.
I completely agree with you Laz... vinyl is great but it's a moot point if there isn't much good software out there. I too have purchased records only to find, upon much closer inspection of the liner notes, that they are just remasters from the digital. Original issues or even good reissues of 50's and 60's stuff is very tought to find in decent condition. I end up having to return about 30% of the stuff I buy on GEMM as being in worse than advertised condition. Most of the resellers don't actually listen to the record. they just grade visually.
Fortunately I have found that newer digital masters are every bit as good or better than old vinyl (since the improved quality of the original recording in recent years outweighs the quality of vinyl over digital as a reproduction medium)... so my rule now for buying music is ... if it is 50's - 70's jazz, look for good vinyl first but opt for digital if that can't be found. For anything after 70's, go straight for the digital.
I know that acquiring quality used vinyl is a daunting task. But, I also know that it can be done and be very affordable. I do it and many others do too. It is work however.

I find it hard to believe that a high percentage of new pressings are dirty. That is not my experience at all. Even later generic pressings that I buy seem to have a better QC than what I experienced in the 70's. IMHO, all new vinyl needs to be cleaned.

I don't buy much new music because, for the most part, it doesn't appeal to me. I'm always happy with the new stuff I do buy however. I suspect that some artists and their producers don't much care about quality reproduction and the different engineering requirements between CD's and vinyl.

Most of my vinyl was bought new and has been well cared for since day one and I wouldn't part with it unless something horrible happened in my life that required it. It saddens me to read your post but I wonder if you put enough effort into shopping for your software. I only wish that I had your rig to do justice to my vast library. Good luck. And, I sincerely hope you find what it is you're looking for.
I just purchased over 100 classical LP's from my local Record Exchange for $20.I am 24 years old and dont even remimber what vinyl sounds like.I dont even have a turntable yet but i have a vintage Sansui SR313 on the way from ebay that i won for $36.I read a lot about true music lovers and audiophiles who swear by vinyl so i descided to hear for myself.With the table I aquired do you all think i wil enjoy the magic black disc's,or will i run back to my transport and dac?
Sorry your favorite stuff is unavailable on Lp except at very high expense.
I just got back into vinyl because of the fantastically CHEAP and huge selection of yinyl available.
I have gathered about 3,000 LP in four months at an avareage price of $0.40 each. all in good condition.
I sympathize with your plight, but revel in the format.
I spent about $3,000 total incl 2 TT, Pre-pre, cart.
And 3,000 LPs to explore!
I have about the same money invested in my vinyl rig as my cd -- new Ikemi vs used LP-12/Ekos upgraded with new T-Kable and Lyra Argo.

My opinion....

Vinyl is better. I made friends with the vinyl buyer at a large local (Portland Oregon) shop and I buy a lot of stuff in perfect shape for 15-25 bucks and a lot of used stuff in the 4-10 dollar range. There's plenty of non-cruddy albums out there, and sometimes the dried pot smoke makes certain albums sound better...yessongs...heh heh.

I've not heard SACD but I don't even want to. Yet. Soon, probably, but replace/update/add another format...yech. Not until music is cheaper and widely available.

CD is great, no question. Convenient, quiet, dynamic, and much improved over its early days.

But I finally have a really good sounding vinyl rig, and it gives me more pleasure than my cd's. There's a lot of old jazz that hasn't been reissued, plenty of very cheap excellent classical out there, all my old sentimental faves from the days when the alternative to vinyl was reel-to-reel, and a lot of new stuff. I love that you have to hunt for what you want, and the fact that the internet is not the best way to buy used vinyl creates a very cool, very local aspect to the trade that is fast disappearing in most aspects of the US commercial marketplace.

So, I'm still adding to my vinyl collection and you are welcome to send me your list of black discs for sale.

The described analog set-up will outperform any digital.The man missed it,we shall pity him. As for the new music being unavailable on records-you always knew it,didn't you?
Inna, I think you have to go back and reread the original post. Lazarus says that his analog does outperform his digital -- just not by the degree he thinks it should for the dollar difference he has invested. He makes a valid point and sometimes I feel exactly the same way about my own system. I too have a lot of money tied up in my analog and about a third as much in my digital. On a lot of material, the difference just isn't that dramatic. I wish it were.

So I don't think Lazarus needs pity from you, or any of us. He clearly knows the score, and thus, can make an informed decision, based on his own particular priorities. Personally, I commend him for having the guts to put it all on the table in this forum -- for sharing his experience and concerns with us.

For those among us who think analog rules the world and nothing digital could ever come close, fine, great, and dandy. Should I pity you for missing the joy of good digital? I think not.

If you sell your Teres you'll have to change your handle and we'll certainly miss you. Who's ever sold a Teres? But of course you stated your dilemma clearly: why maintain a high end playback system if there's nothing to play back?

Damage from bulk rate overseas shipping? Why choose the cheapest shipping? I don't let sellers ship anything valuable to my house via UPS. They invariably dump boxes in plain view on the porch, usually when it's raining! If you can afford a Teres/SME/VDH you can certainly afford reliable shipping methods. Buy your overseas LPs in groups and ask them to use DHL, Airborne or Fedex.

Vinyl reissues from 16/44.1 "masters"? Blech! Worst of both worlds indeed, you couldn't pay me to spin those on my Teres. Totally agree with you, just buy the CD. Any reissue house that does this without disclosure should be told, very clearly, why you will no longer be a customer. Whether they're doing it out of ignorance or sneakiness is irrelevant to you. Once-burned, twice-shy.

I agree with Twl that noise and grunge are fixable, but I don't know if a RCM will always do it. I do know that hand washing can. Have you tried the famed 4yanx Vinyl Cleaning Method #1? A GroovMaster and the little stiff-bristled brush that comes with it are indispensable. That plus a squirt of Dawn, some filtered water and a little elbow grease can perform miracles. Last night I played a pretty rare used record that I just bought. At first I was heartbroken, it was so noisy I was sure the vinyl was badly damaged. Shocking to think a valuable record had been so mistreated. Off to the kitchen sink for some HARD scrubbing with that little brush. Result? Exceptional silence. The transformation was miraculous. Don't give up on noisy records until you've tried cleaning them by hand, vigorously. A RCM may be too gentle for these desperate cases. It's outrageous when we have to do this on a new record, I agree, but we all know that no amount of work or money can make a digital copy sound as good as a clean LP on a system as nice as yours.

Enjoy the music whatever you do. If you do sell your rig, I imagine 4yanx has enough lovingly cared for records that he would be a pleased and loving owner. (OTOH, I innocently assumed the thingies that fell out of the records he just sent me were only sesame seeds! Who knew?) Go for it David.

Did you get that copy of YESSONGS at the Princeton Record Exchange? If so, it could've been mine at one time.

Doug, if you think mine would be a fitting home, maybe you can persuade Laz to let it go to me cheap! Might be a few more sesame seeds in it for 'ya (in truth all that I have). Ha! :-) I'd like to try my Illustrious on that table.

Easy, you could have at least left a few buds along with the seeds. My "connections" have been lost for some number of years now and it would have been my only "source". Plus, the seeds were too dried up to grow. ;-)

You can try your Illustrious on a 265 any time you like. Do you still have my address? :)

Hmmm, you want one Teres 265 owner to convince another to dilute the market by selling his cheap. Now where did I put that Eco 101 text? Oh what the hell, you deserve it. "Lazarus, that TT is a useless, old-school POS. Get the ugly thang off your rack and ship it to David. Don't expect much, but if you push him hard he might throw a few SACD's your way and maybe even pay the freight."

Actually you guys might be able to barter. Laz still wants some kind of rig and maybe David has one he could spare. How about a TT for TT + cash deal?
Pbb bought a TT?!?!?!

What has this site come to?.......
KT, I always had one (it's now listed for sale). I got a current Rega P9. I am waiting for the cart, which is pretty well ordered as things now stand: an Ortofon Kontrapunkt B. I went to price a better phono section today and my local dealer is cutting me a pretty fair deal on either trading in my Audio Research LS 8 Mk 2 for an SP 16 or else keeping the LS and getting a PH 3. Maybe someone can tell me if either would give me enough gain with the Kontra. Marakanetz opined that the PH 3 didn't (same gain figure given for the phono section of the SP16), but the AR site indicates the following: "Used with typical line preamplifiers having 12 to 18 dB of gain, the PH3 is suitable for phono cartridges having .25 mV output or higher.". The Kontrapunkt is rated at .47 mV @ 1000 hz. I believe. I bought two new albums last night (felt like old times, maybe this is just a sign of my advancing age): I listened to Art Farmer "Something to Live For", great album. Also got Miles Davis "My Funny Valentine" on 180 gram vinyl, not listened to it yet. I tell you if all vinyl had been pressed as thickly and as flat as this sucker more people would have stayed in vinyl. I don't think I can trust used vinyl, my patience has its limits. So don't think this is some sort of epiphany. I am still the same pain-in-the-ass I've always been. Hope the surface noise doesn't get to me. Another possibility would be a used BAT VK p5. I have no idea what it sounds like and there may not even be a dealer up here if it ever needs servicing, so the AR looks like a safer bet to me. Thanks.
Maybe Pbb wants to experiment. I say good for him if that is the case.

I prefer LP, but that does not keep me from listening to CD’s nor does it keep me from testing every CD player I can get my hands on.
Pbb, we're all still in shock. If you've always had a TT shame on us for not noticing. :)

Obviously one way to find out if you have enough gain is just to hook it all up and listen. Theoretically a .47mv cartridge will need at least 80dB of gain to avoid pushing your tubes above the noise threshold. (I'm assuming an ARC PH3 and LS 8 MkII have tubes.) I have a .5mv cartridge and 86dB of gain, which is more than enough. I could easily get away with a bit less.

I'm sure you know this but surface noise is a function of:

1. the quality and condition of the LP
You've already decided to control this by buying only new. A new record shouldn't be scratched or damaged, but don't assume it will be clean. It ain't necessarily so. They ought to wash them before they go in the sleeve but they don't. Be prepared to deal with it.

2. the cleanliness of the LP
Controlling this is simplicity itself, all you need is patience and a scrub brush. I always play a clean record while I scrub, just to remind myself why I'm doing this stupid task.

3. the turntable
The better the TT the quieter the record. Since you've just upgraded you should expect an improvement. Enjoy!
I agree with Doug's statements.
I can empathize with you. I invested about $3000 recently to get back into vinyl with a Michell Gyro, OL Silver arm, Shelter 501 cartridge and Sonic Frontiers signature phono stage. (I think the PH3 is better but I got a great steal on the SF). Anyhow, there was a great deal of self doubt and anxiety in the process as I had been away from vinyl for over 20 years and only had about 50 jazz LP's from my college days. I thought I must be nuts to invest in the past instead of moving forward with a new SACD player. My biggest concern was, would I be able to find enough software to justify the investment in hardware. The first thing I did was buy every new LP I could find that I liked. This set me back $1500 from 2 massive orders from Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct (they love me now and give me great discounts). Then i started searching GEMM for good used stuff. I have found a fair amount but it hasn't been cheap.
Last weekend, however, I scored a real coup. My local vintage jazz record store emailed me to say some old jazz collector had just sold off his 1000 LP collection of mint stuff to them. Needless to say, I got to the store as it openned and I'm now set for life! I still listen to CD's for new recordings. But LP's have a special niche - classic 50's and 60's jazz (like that great Art Farmer album you mentioned!) These are just so much better on LP.
Bottom line ... no regrets here. I'm already thinking about my first upgrade.
Well I'm going to add my $.02. The gospel among analog fans seems to be that you couldn't touch even a moderate analog set up without spending 2-3X as much on digital. Well I bought a SOTA Star Sapphire, rebuilt Benz Micro L2, New OL Silver MK1 and Lehman Black cube/PWX (all on the Gon, total cost a litle over $2K). Had the arm and cart mounted by SOTA. Dropped it in and have been underwhelmed so far. My digital front end was, first a CAL CL-10/Monarchy DIP/Classe' DAC combo that used cost me less than $2K. Now my EMC-1UPSE blows the analog away for less than $1k more. Not having a problem yet with noise or warps, or anything else. What am I doing wrong? Any suggestions? I'm not very good w/delicate little parts and the naked cantilever/stylus of the Benz scares the %$#&* out of me, if you are going to suggest monkeying with it. The sound is flat, less detailed less involving than the CDP. No excitement. Is it a break-in issue on the Benz? If not, then I will probably do what was posted above, go back to a much more modest analog rig for the old vinyl I have, smoke the residue on the 60s/70s rock LPs, and enjoy the redbook system I have put together until the format wars are over.
Swampwalker, it's hard to say what the problem is from your description. My first guess would be that the phono stage may be set to a gain setting that is not high enough. If you need to turn the TT volume up higher than when you use the CD, then you might try the next higher gain setting on the Black Cube. Also, try loading the impedance for the Benz at 22k instead of the usually recommended 47k.

Another thought would be that maybe the VTA needs dialing-in. That can make a noticeable difference, and Sota couldn't really do that for you. They might have got it close, but you may need to tweak it in. Also, you might try tweaking the tracking force a little, up or down, to get the sound the way you like. This analog stuff is a bit tweaky, and you pretty much need to play around with the settings, in a minor way, until you get it where you want it.
Twl- I can try the higher gain on the Black Cube and a different loading, but the Benz phono stage I have been told is pre-set to be optimized for Benz carts. I did not get a manual, but the seller said there were no adjustments. Anyone out there know if that is true? As to the VTA, I had SOTA drill the armboard and mount the arm, so hopefully that is correct. Maybe I will give them a call. They have been pretty helpful, so far.
Swamp man TWL is right; I believe your Blackcube is not set for your cartridge. Your VTA and VTF should be close enough to sound way better than it does. Once you get the cube set for the Benz you will hear a marked improvement.
Then you should get one of those Shure stylus force gauges to check your VTF, also something to check to see how your arm sets in relation to the record surface, to see how close your VTA is before you try to dial it in by ear. GOOD LUCK.

I just got two imports of
Andrus Vollenweiders "Down To the Moon" this week
One a Holland press and the other a Japanese press.
My original press is a Canadian Record club press that is very good, much better than the USA press.
When I was listening to the Imports I thought to myself how much better the Imports sounded, for so little money they had transformed the sound of my system. I never really noticed a difference between Japanese/UK CD's and the USA ones I have. That's why we are "Record Hounds" the difference between issues, and pressings is significant most times.

You have to clean your LP’s.
I haven’t tried the simplegreen trick yet but I am getting ready to deep clean a couple of LP’s I bought on eBay this week.

You still need to clean new lp’s to remove the release agent. After you clean your lp’s it’s a good idea to put them in a Quality inner sleeve. Red Trumpet is getting some of those old style mofi ones in for a really good price.
These Types of sleeves are anti- static and will keep your LP’s clean.
Swampwalker, I'm confused. Are you running 2 phono stages?

If you have the Benz-Lukaschek phono stage, then yes, it is optimized for Benz cartridges.

If you have the Black Cube, then you have to make the settings that are appropriate.

Of course, only one of these items is supposed to be used, because they have duplicate function, and would lead to very bad sound if both were used at the same time.

Please advise what you are using.

Also, the VTA will need to be adjusted, at least for fine tuning. It has to be done "on location" with the tracking force settings that you use. When mounting an arm, generally they just "eyeball it" and leave the rest to the owner. I wouldn't count on them having it gotten it right. This is something that you have to know how to do yourself, along with setting tracking force and anti skate. This is the minimum that you should do yourself. Mounting a cartridge and arm can come later, if you can rely on a dealer. But VTA, VTF, and anti-skate are user adjustments that have to be done in your living room.
Jyprez, nice coup! Who's your dealer? I'm also in central CT. (Don't worry, I won't compete with you. We do classical.)
You will have to let the Benz Micro L2 break in for about 40-50 hours before it starts to come alive. I had a new Benz Glider II and it took about 70 hours. Also is the Benz the right cartridge for the tonearm? I'm talking about compliance. Once your cartridge is broken in and VTA and other adjustments are fine tuned it should sound very nice. I have a Rotel RCD-971 that I upgraded/modified and it really sounds good now but my Teres 255/ET2/Shelter 901/Electrocompaniet ECP-1 Upgraded/Modified still kills it.

Talk to Ed at Integrity in Music on the Silas Deane Highway in Weathersfield. (Route 99) They got a 100 classical albums in not long ago that are selling for $1 each. They just put up a new website at
and they have an email list you can subscribe to for monthly updates on collections they have purchased etc.
Thanks, Jyprez. I've been meaning to drop in or give them a call.