Just to cover all the bases, you do have the optional phono card in the preamp, right? And was it working fine at the start, but then started to sound like this?
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If you took the turntable back to the dealer and they played it and it worked fine, then the problem is likely your preamp. Do you have the ability to borrow a phono preamp to connect to your aux input. That would help isolate if it is the phono card or the whole preamp that is a problem. Did you actually hear the turntable playing well at the dealer when you took it back?
I know this might sound very basic but it kind of sounds like you have a gain issue. Quite often, people will make a mistake and buy a moving coil phono preamp and mate it with a high output moving coil cart. The result is too much gain and will have a muddy distorted sound. Even though the cart is a mc, it should go with a moving magnet phono pre instead because of the high cart output. I'm not saying that is definitely your problem, but just something to consider.
Something else to consider is that all Rowland gear that I know if is balanced. I believe most, if not all, Rega is not balanced. You may have to do something to the Rowland to accept a SE input. (button, dip switch, pin change, etc). Given that your system seemed to be working for a while, you may have accidentally tripped a switch you did not know was there.
The only other thing I can think of is cart. alignment and/or setup. If you have a Rega arm and Rega cart, it should have 3 screws, as opposed to the standard 2. The 3rd screw aligns the cart to Regas own, proprietary alignment specs. Mabye the screw is missing or you have a different brand of cart. If that is the case, you will have to align everything by hand.
That's all I can think of. I didn't want to repeat what was already stated in the other posts. Good advice, as well. I haven't been there in a long time but I do know In Living Stereo pretty well. They are very reputable. Its hard to trust people in NY, but I do trust them. I do not know if he still works there, but if you can, ask for Jonathan. He knows vinyl very well and I can't imagine that he, or anyone else who works there for that matter, can't fix this for you.
Thanks. I did indeed hear the turntable, and it sounded fine at the dealer. I didn't actually hear the preamp when that dealer tested it, but he claims that it sounded fine. I don't think it's a gain issue, as the sound is not distorted or overly loud, simply wooly and thick and muddy, as if it's all bass frequencies.
Given the info in your last post, I think we can get this working for you very quickly. You herd the TT working at the dealer confirms the preamp is OK. Assuming you werent lied to by the person that checked your Rowland, you have equipment that is verified to be working. At this point it is highly unlikely that your problem is something other than a setup issue. I should have been more clear when I mentioned a gain problem. Gain can be a problem in more than one way and the way it sounds dosen't have to be too loud or broken up if you do have too much gain.
I quickly checked the Rowland web site and downloaded the manual for your preamp. There are several different settings for gain and impedance that can be adjusted by simply moving some jumpers inside the unit. The only tool you will need is an allen key and possibly a small pair of needle nose pliers if you have big fingers. If you post what model TT you have and the brand and model phono of your phono cart, I can even confirm what the settings should be.
Nothings ever 100% but I estimate the chance your problem lies in the settings on the phono preamp and/or cart align/setup to be at least 90%. Should take about 15 min going slowly. If you have to realign the cart., about an hour.
I'm pretty sure I found your problem. The default setting on your phono preamp is for a moving coil cart. That's way too much gain. Follow the instructions on P.24 of your owners manual and remove the phono cards. You actually have 2 small phono cards; 1 for each channel. Take them both out and look at P.25. You should see 4 box shaped diagrams. The first is the default pin setting. You need to change it to the 3rd diagram. That will set it up for the cart that you have. Its all pretty simple so it shouldn't any problems. Also, assume for now that your cart. is aligned properly. If they listened to it in the store and said it was OK, you should be find. Post back and let us know how everything went or is you have any more questions.