help me remove noise from my vinyl setup

hi all,

i have a low-output vinyl setup, and the noise hovers around -60 dB. i would like it to be lower. can you let me know where the problem might lie and suggest solutions?

i have a Technics SL-1200 (M3D) that i got from KAB, with most of the upgrades... fluid damped tonearm, Cardas tonearm wires, strobe light disabled, and the external power supply/conditioner. i have the low-output Grado Sonata1 (statement series) and Cardas headshell wires. i have Grado's prestige interconnect cables between the turntable and a Grado PH-1 phono stage. finally, i have a Blue Jeans MSA-1 cable between the PH-1 and an ASUS Xonar DX sound card in my computer.

here's a recording of the noise:

there is also a slight popping/crackling noise, can you hear it?

i borrowed a Furman PL-8 Series II power conditioner from a friend, and tried plugging the PH-1 into that. i also tried plugging the turntable power supply into it. didn't help any.

many thanks.
What happens when you pull the connections from the sound card? Does the noise go away?
The only way I have been able to reduce surface noise, other than playing clean records, is to make sure all set up parameters are as good as can be. The more perfect the set up, the lower the surface noise floor. It requires the right tools, and lots of time and patience (and practice), to optimize all these parameters. If you don't do your own set up, you have no way of knowing if it's really right or not. Many here (including me) have found the Mint LP Arc Protractor to give very accurate overhang and tracking angle set up. There are other products favored by those on this forum, perhaps others can recommend some of their favorites.

Best of luck, regards,
Not sure I understand. Why are you sending the phono stage output to your sound card and what happens after that? Where is your pre-amp, amp and speakers in this array? If you are playing back thru your computer there are lots of ways noise can be introduced.

Also you should note that the PH-1 output labeling may be counter-intuitive:
However, the instructions must be read carefully, as “H” means that the preamp output is high (56 dB for 0.4 to 1.5 mV LOW output cartridges) – and “L” means a lower preamp output of 40 dB boost for 1.5 to 4.5 mV HIGH output cartridges).
IOW, you use the high setting w a low output cart.
hi again. sorry i wasn't clear. the recording i provided a link to *isn't* surface noise. the turntable is turned off, and the arm is at rest. rather, it is is electrical noise. i just mentioned the sound card because that is what i used to make the recording. it perhaps wasn't even worth mentioning.

the amp in my setup is a headphone amp, and the speakers are headphones. (Grado all the way ;) RA1 (battery version) + RS1i)

if i bypass the sound card/computer, the noise is still there.. i just used the computer to record the noise for you all to hear.

since the computer is recording the noise, and i can hear it even without the computer in the chain, i believe the noise is introduced *beforehand*. i.e. in the turntable or the pre-amp or the cables.

the PH-1 is set to the correct, "H"igh-gain setting.

thanks all for your help.
It sounds like the noise is coming from the preamp itself.

so you can:

Get a higher output cartridge
Get a step-up transformer to go between the cartridge and the preamp
get another preamp.
thanks. i've talked this through with grado, and i've even had the pre-amp examined and refurbished by them, so it is operating correctly.

a higher output cartridge (like a reference sonata) would not be as detailed as the current statement sonata, and would not extract low level information as well, so i am not too willing to go back to a high-output...

i also asked grado about using a step-up transformer, this was their response:

"defeats the purpose of the low output Grado, The low output grado uses less wire in its coils to get the signal out faster and cleaner, why put more wire back into the path of the signal."

i am willing to try a step-up transformer, however, if someone can recommend a good one that will be as transparent as possible.

also willing to consider a different pre-amp if someone thinks that would be a better course, and has recommendations.

"defeats the purpose of the low output Grado, The low output grado uses less wire in its coils to get the signal out faster and cleaner, why put more wire back into the path of the signal."

Hello Scar,
In my opinion the quote from Grado merely strengthens my opinion of "why would I want to buy a Grado?" I have a Denon DL-103R going through a moving coil phono stage and it didn't put out enough signal to play loud without overdriving my power amp. I brought the amp in for repair because I thought something was wrong with it since the thermal protection kept shuting down. Nothing wrong with the amp. I placed a SUT in front of a good mm phono stage and WOW!! What improved sound. Rather breathtaking actualy. PUNCH, VITALITY, High AND Low level definition. I had to try it since even the late G. Gordon Holt used SUTs at times. I've read MANY a reviewer comment on using them.


can anyone recommend a SUT for my setup? i honestly don't have any experience with them. i'm sure i can pick up a few things by reading various threads around here, but i always appreciate some first-hand recommendation based on my current equipment. i'll need a pair of cables too, probably not longer than 3 feet.

the output of the sonata is 0.5 mV and the Low-gain setting of the PH-1 is 40 dB, suitable for a 1.5-5 mV input (according to the specs).
i am looking through some SUT's around here. i need some clarification on specifications. like load impedance or something.

my cartridge says it has "Imput Load 47K" and "Resistance 2".

i see some SUT's have selection switches, also. "bypass"? "passive"? what are those?

what am i looking for in a SUT that will work in my system?

Scar, the SUT is recommended for its noise-filtering properties -- no?
OTOH, if cartridge & pre are OK, it's either a cable problem, or a grounding problem, -- or simply the area there is very noisy... Strange!
i have heard from someone else that "The Sonata has an output of 47k ohms and any SUT will also add reflected impedance. The Sonata can only be used with a Head Amp. No SUT will work with it."

what should i buy?
Scar, the Sonata has an impedance much lower than that.

The Jensen JT-44K-DX will likely do the job quite well. see
yeah the impedance is 2 ohms right? thanks for the link i'll check them out.
i heard back from Grado that the cartridge "has .4 mv output and an output impedance of 47K."

from the very limited knowledge i've so far picked up, it seems that a SUT wouldn't work with that impedance....
The Grados have a pretty sketchy reputation of excess noise or hum with many tone arms and setups in general. If you can get it right they are suppose to be really good for the money, but if your getting noise from a grado its supposedly very hard to go the other direction from my understanding. I own that table, with KAB everything as well, its dead silent.

I have owned grado, had them in the past and they were noisier, however never heard them on this table. I would borrow another cart first and see what it does electrically being hooked up into the signal first, you don't even have to set it up, just mount another cart to a new headshell and mount it to the arm connect the headshell wires. See if the noise is gone then its the grado having an issue, load, acoustic arm resonance whatever.

By the way I currently have a .4 mV moving coil myself on that table combo, works silent, so its nothting to do with low output specifically, but possibly that cart. directly.

Good luck
thanks for your insight. trying another low-output cartridge is not really an option i have, unless i buy one. i have some high-output Grado's and there is less noise.

so you think it is the cartridge and not the phono pre-amp? both are grados ;) i'm pretty sure the pre-amp is definitely picking up some interference. if you listen carefully in my sample above you can hear some crackling noise, which i did not hear when i put the pre-amp into someone else's setup...

it could be a combination of both :\
Well there are some electrical shield devices and sticky sheets made, one comes from Percy audio I think, its fairly expensive, its a metal sheet that can be formed to fit around transformers, and the chassis panels etc...

This could knock out the rf noise, also cables and placement, I would move the phono amp away from everything possible temporary and see, also the ground plug or electrical ground in your socket could be creating noise. Its hard to pin down, because there are so many factors that you could be getting noise. Also if the outlet your hooked up to in the house is out of phase(hot swapped with the Neutral etc...) could cause issue, this could be reversed using a ground cheater and flipping your plug on the phono amp over to just check, then fix the outlet itself if this is a cause of noise.

If you have a Ground pin on your preamp, or phono amp try to lift it and see, also try connecting your tone arm wire with and without the ground wire and see. I have also taken an extra piece of wire and attached it to the phono amp ground and then touched other screws on the amp, preamp, cd player whatever to see if a better common ground could be found to eliminate more background noise, I have heard changes.
I use mu-metal sheeting to protect my MC step up amp from hum/noise induced from external EM fields emitted from amplifiers or other nearby transformers.

I roll the mu metal sheeting into a oval tube large enough to insert my step up device into and it works like a charm. Hum/noise otherwise audible is gone.

The mu metal sheet needed cost around $35 in my case.
thanks, all. i just cannot get the noise down to a satisfiable level. i looked into SUT but i have heard from some experts that they require cartridges with low impedance, and the 47K of the grado is way too high. so it would mean buying a new low-output cartridge. i browsed needledoctor and didn't see anything i liked within my price range, which is kind of low for a low-output cartridge considering i am going to spend at least a few hundred on a SUT. i need a high compliance cartridge also, to match my tonearm, and didn't see many of those.

for now, i am going to try a high-output sonata. it may not have the same detail as the low-output, but i will hear when i get it.
How did the high output Sonata work for you? I have a Grado PH-1 and a Reference Platinum 1 running on an older Thorens TD 150 MKII turntable, and even with the high output Platinum I notice the preamp hums (a lot) if placed too close to my integrated amplifier. The further away, the better.

Also, certain turntables are not ideal for use with unshielded Grado cartridges because the motors are too close to the path of the headshell. I have not experienced this problem with Grado cartridges on my current TT, but if it was going to happen at all, it would likely be accentuated with low output Grados.

For me, for now, the combination of the Reference Platinum 1 and PH-1 sound pretty good together.