Integrating a new turntable into existing system and having sound quality problems...

Hi, I just a purchased a brand new turntable a Project Carbon debut and a Project Phono Box and integrated them into my existing stereo system and have run into some sound quality issues.


1. The first album I played was a brand new Diana Krall Wallflower album.  Her voice seemed very thin and crackly (not the traditional cracks and pops of vinyl) which was surprising given her voice is so smooth when listening to her CDs.  I brought the album back to the store and they played it on their cheap system and it seemed to work fine.

2. None of the other albums had the same level of thinness and tininess as the diana Krall album but they all seemed light on bass compared to listening to CDs on the same system.

3. One odd thing i noticed on the Diana Krall album was that my tonearm kept wanting to come off the album at the start rather than grab a groove and work inwards.  not a problem i have experienced with the other 6 albums I have been playing.

My Setup

Rotel RCD 991 as a transport

Bryston Dac

Mastersound compact 845 integrated - Single end triode with 2x30 watts

Pioneer speakers S-03EX - their TAD  trickle down speakers - not the usual Pioneer speaker

I added the Project Carbon Debut, plugged into the Project Phono Box, plugged into the AUX input of the integrated amp (therefore I am using both the pre and power functions of the integrated)

Any help on troubleshooting the poor sound quality issue would be appreciated.  I wasn't sure if it was related to

1. vinyl sounds like crap compared to CD (not likely) but it does in the Diana krall situation

2. is it just the wrong synergy of the system?

3. is the turntable not good enough to match the quality of the amp and speakers?

4. are there adjustments that I should be making to the tonearm to have more down ward force to pick up more bass??? I need a higher quality phono stage?

6. should I get a higher quality phono pre amp and skip the pre amp stage in my integrated - although I assume given the build quality of my integrated, I would need to pay a pretty penny to get a comparable or better stand alone phono preamp.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.


I don’t know why you’re experiencing problems only with the Diana Krall album, but it sounds as if you have not set the proper Vertical Tracking Force (VTF). I'm assuming you installed the tonearm counterweight which is packaged separately in the carton. If you did, you still need to adjust VTF. This is done with the counterweight.

Check your instruction manual for the procedure.
None of the other albums had the same level of thinness and tininess as the diana Krall album but they all seemed light on bass compared to listening to CDs on the same system.
In addition to the possibility that Minkwelder suggested, these symptoms could be caused by a polarity reversal on one (and only one) channel. In other words, if the white and blue cartridge connections are interchanged, OR if the red and green connections are interchanged.

One odd thing i noticed on the Diana Krall album was that my tonearm kept wanting to come off the album at the start rather than grab a groove and work inwards. not a problem i have experienced with the other 6 albums I have been playing.
Try reducing the anti-skating force, especially if when you view the cartridge from the front while the stylus is in the groove of a ROTATING record the cantilever is visibly deflected to the left, relative to the approximately straight-ahead position it probably assumes when the stylus is lifted off of the record. Try to set the anti-skating force such that there is no visible left or right deflection of the cantilever when the stylus is in the groove of a rotating record, relative to its position when the stylus is lifted off of the record. I think that your turntable may only provide 3 choices for the anti-skating setting; if so choose whichever setting minimizes that deflection of the cantilever. If the resulting setting conflicts with the one recommended in the turntable manual for the tracking force that is being used, ignore the manual’s recommendation.

-- Al

I would take the table and the LP into the store, play the album on your table and the store's "cheap system" for a comparison, and ask the staff to look for the problem (part of the price you paid for the table is for service). I'm assuming the store you referred to is where you purchased the Project.
The Project Debut Carbon comes with an Ortofon Red cartridge.  I am not sure which model Project phono box you purchased.  If it is the Phono Box DC, is there any chance that you have the MC/ MM switch set to MC, should be MM?  


Thank you for all you helpful suggestions.

I have tried to reset the counterweight and VTF per the instruction manual.  I haven't tried going outside of those recommendations to see if that makes a difference.

I'll try taking a look at the wiring but that may be beyond my level of expertise with the equipment.

Unfortunately, I purchased the turntable in the nearest large city and the album was purchased from the local drug store that has a couple set ups (so you can imagine how cheap they are)

I did check the phono box and it is switched to MM.

One other thing i noticed  is that when I am not playing any music but my integrated is set to the AUX input where the phono is attached, i do hear a humming coming from the left speaker which is also the most distorted speaker  when listening to the Diana krall album.

The issue is most noticeable on the diana krall vocals, and some tracks much more than others, but there seems to be an overall distortion in the highs on the other albums as well.  not sure if that is just a weakness of vinyl or not.  I was wondering if my phono may not be amplifying the level enough before feeding into the integrated and that playing the integrated on 10:00 is starting to clip or distort at the high ends.  I play the CD player between 9-10:00 and never have this issue.  I was wondering if a phono preamp with gain on may help the situation.

Thank again for all your advice

Sounds like it would be worth the money to have someone come out to the house (bring a scope and test records) and set the table up properly.

also they could check out a possible polarity flip / headshell clip (or cable to amp flip) problem

don’t let this bother you

you have plenty of wonderful inexpensive records awaiting you
Do you have the CD player plugged into the CD or Direct input? If it’s running into the CD input and sounds OK, try temporarily plugging the phono preamp into the CD input. If it still sounds bad, you’ve eliminated the amp as the source of the problem.

Then try reversing the interconnects at the amp (L to R and R to L) and see if the noise moves to the right channel. If it does, first suspect a bad interconnect or bad connection in the side making noise. It could be anywhere along the signal path all the way back to the cartridge.

Do you know for certain that the Phono Box is OK?

You will find the problem if you logically run through a process of elimination.

EDIT: After posting, I decided to look for some customer reviews on the Debut Carbon. That's when I discovered that there are numerous complaints about noise and hum, particularly LEFT channel problems! It appears that you may be experiencing a problem that is due to a defect in the manufacture of the table. you live in Arizona?

Thank you again for all of your suggestions.

Stingreen - Unfortunately I don't live close to Arizona, I'm up in Vancouver.

Minkwelder - I will start to review some of those threads on the Debut Carbon buzzing.

Here is a list of what I have done to date:

1. hum comes from speakers even when power to turntable is turned off (but still plugged in)

2. I removed the grounding cable and it make a much louder hum.

3. I reconnected the ground cable to my power conditioner instead of phono amp.

4. I tried different interconnects

5. I switched the L and R and the hum started to come through the R speaker instead of the L

6. I switched the input of the TT to CD on my integrated amp and the hum was still there

7. I fiddled around with the interconnects to the TT and it seemed very sensitive causing additional humming or reducing humming if I kept my finger on it with a certain amount of pressure.

Clarification - when I say hum, it is a combination of hum and crackle that comes through the left speaker even when TT is not playing or turned on.  It really expresses itself with certain vocal ranges (i.e. Diana Krall and Michael Buble duet), where it sounds awful.  On some other jazz albums without vocals the effect isn't as noticeable.

I guess I am off to the dealer next week.  Any suggestions on whether I should be sticking with a new Debut Carbon of if there is something else I should get (including an upgrade) for up to $1k.  The Rega RP3 with Elyse are on sale for less than $1k in Canada.


Clearly it’s defective. There is the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC model which has a better power supply and speed control.

The Rega RP3 is a very reliable budget TT with decent build quality and an excellent tonearm. I’ve auditioned it, my only problem was with the Elys 2 cart. It has good dynamics, but the highs can be sibilant. The proper phonostage setting can help compensate for this.

IMO, Rega is the better table, audition it.

Seems to me that you've isolated the problem to the left channel and w your #7 above, it's most likely a bad connection, but it could be an interconnect or a jack.  When you say you switched interconnects (#5) are you talking about those between the phono box and the TT or between the phono box and the Mastersound, or both?  In #7, were you applying pressure to the phono box input or output connections?  If the Carbon has captive ICs, you may want to check that the interface between the cart leads and the IC is secure, but only if it's easily accessible.  Regardless of the outcome of that test, I'd bring it back and let the dealer deal with it (pun intended).  It's defective out of the box, you've done a considerable amount of trouble shooting and that's what you are paying him a mark-up for. 

swampwalker - I only switched the interconnects between the TT and phono box.  Maybe i should have tried between phono box and amp as well.  For #7, I was applying pressure at the TT outs.  They seemed quite "temperamental"

Next stop is the dealer


It "sounds" to me like either the L RCA jack out from the table or the L interconnect is bad.  However, one final thing you could try is to ground the phono box to the integrated, so that there is a continuous ground from the table to the integrated amp.  Maybe you have done that, it was not clear to me.  Good luck. 
You may have 2 problems, but one symptom might be alleviated by reducing your anti-skate.

I visited the store where i purchased the turntable for the owner to take a look at it.  the crackling in the right channel was present on his system as well.  He thought that the poor sound quality was related to poor tracking since the cartridge was brand new.  He tested it on a tracking album and tweaked the counter weight to be much heavier than the manual called for.  he suggested i play it like that for 100-200 hours and then slowly back off the counter weight by .5 at a time. Also adjusted the anti skate accordingly to new counter weight position.

Solved the problem of the crackling speaker which was present even without an album playing and took care of the horrible sounding vocals on the Diana Krall album.

thank you everyone for your help!

I'm really glad that it's all good, but hard to see how poor tracking could result in noise with no album playing.
A new cartridge will not require a "much heavier" setting to break in. It sounds to me that either the cartridge is defective, or something may be interfering with the smooth vertical movement of the tonearm. Tight bearings?
Seems like the cart is jacked up if it doesn't track right at the correct VTF, try another one.  
If I were you, I'd ask for a new cart. If you are using a defective cart (is it the cantilever, stylus, magnets?)  you might be ruining your LPs- defective stylus.
 Since you purchased the set up as brand new, the dealer ought to sell you a cartridge that meets manufacturer parameters, and he should not track the cart "much heavier". If it is indeed a defective stylus ( chipped or cracked could cause distortion through one channel), the heavily weighted chipped diamond pounding on a rotating record will actually cut the sides of the grooves and make microscopic cuts. This is why albums that look pristine, can sound horrible- hiss and noise.


vwman111, something isn’t right. As others have said, you shouldn’t have to run much higher VTF on a new cartridge. You could have the dealer install another cartridge to see if you ended up with a bad one..

And if the problem isn't with the cartridge, minkwelder may be on to something regarding the tonearm free-play. I’ll add that it could be bad wiring inhibiting the travel of the tonearm. That might explain the intermittent crackling you hear. One way you can check free-play is to “float” the tonearm and observe how it responds to small amounts of weight or force. I won't go into the details of how to do that with this post but if you're interested I can provide detailed instructions or you can do a web search and find many such instructions.