Is this the best analog has to offer?

As I have mentioned in these forums, I recently made a serious return to vinyl with a Michell Gyro, OL Silver arm, Shelter 501 cartridge and Sonic Frontiers SFP Signature phono stage and the purchase of every new jazz records from the 50's- 60's that I could still find around ( a few hundred)

I've been listening to this setup for a couple of months now with around 50 hours of burn -in on the components and while direct A/B comparisions of the same material on CD to LP lead me to the conclusion that LP is better, it is not as significant a difference as I had expected.

I'm wondering whether I still have some things to further adjust or whether there is a weak point in my system. I purchased the HIFI NEWS test record and have tweaked the cartridge adjustments as much as I think is humanly possible. The biggest complaint I have about the sound of the LP's is that they are rather "dry" "zippy" and "buzzy". Brass instruments sound more "plastic" than metal (Maybe this is the sound of the vinyl?) I know I'm not using the best audiophile terms to describe sound but it is how it sounds to me. This is not true on all records. Some are far beter than others.

On the other hand I can definitely say the LP's do have more detail and sound stage than the identical material on CD. The LP's are so much more detailed that I hear flaws in the master tapes that I never realized were there from the CD. I suspect that my disatisfactions with LP sound are really the inadequacies of recordings from this period that are masked by CD's and not flaws in the LP. The fact that some LP's are far better than others also suggests to me that the difference in original recording quality is more important final recording than medium but I'm not sure.

I would also comment that in my opinion a well recorded jazz CD made in 2003 sounds far better than an average LP recorded in the 50's or 60's. Of course, I suspect a well recorded LP from 2003 would sound the best of all but since hardly any exist it is a moot point.

Any suggestions on what to try would be appreciated!
Just a thought. What kind of cleaning gear you have to clean your records? I believe it plays a big role in vinyl sound.

I used to have a Michell Gyro SE MKII and just recently sold it to upgrade to a Teres 255. The Michell I have never sound like what you are describing on my 50's and 60's recorded vinyls. It has to be others like cleaning, cartridge alignment, phono pre, amp and preamp. I also use an OL Silver so to that, I have no doubts. Also, 50 hours on the OL Silver is nothing. Maybe given more time, it will show its true colors.

Dry, Zippy, and buzzy? Maybe the VTA is to high?

my 2 cents....
You did not mention what you are using as an interconnect between the arm / phono stage and whether or not you have adjusted the loading on the phono stage to best suit your cartridge. Phono systems are very sensitive to the cabling used and the electrical characteristics of the phono stage. Since Twl is familiar with your cartridge, he may be able to help you out with some good "ballpark" settings in terms of impedance and capacitance for your Shelter. Don't forget that you have to include the capacitance of the cable going from the table to the phono stage when adjusting the loading. If you don't take this into account and / or use a cable that is high in capacitance, you could end up with a combo that you can't dial in as well as it should. Sean
Another case of HUGE improvements actually being SUBTLE ones, I fear. This is where the hobby part comes in: numerous adjustments, upgrades, tweaks and record handling procedures will be suggested. At the end of the day you will probably realize that it all has to do with the quality of the recording itself and not the medium, and all the extra theoretical baggage folks here want it to carry. It should be all about enjoying music, once the equipment starts being more a problem than a solution you are clearly into dysfunctional audio high-ender territory.

Our experience is very different from yours. On our system the best (classical) CD's, like JVC XRCD or Reference Recordings, while very good, cannot touch their LP counterparts. It's not even close, even though our analog rig has < 50 hours while the CDP has 500+. Something is wrong somewhere. If true this is good news of course, since it means you can fix it once you identify it.

"Dry, zippy, buzzy" sounds like some combination of:
- VTF set too low (this will also damage your vinyl)
- VTA set too high, as Amandarae suggested
- loading is too high, as Sean suggested

I'm no expert. Why not post your entire system so the real experts can get a better idea of what to suggest?
Well, the Shelter 501 is not "zippy or buzzy" so I don't think that is your problem, although you may want to check that the VTA is just a hair lower at the pivot end of the arm, and the loading is set at about 100 ohms. The OL arm is remarkably uncolored, so that shouldn't be a problem either. The Michell table is a good one, not the very best, but certainly capable. You should be getting good results, and it seems that you are, considering that you feel it is better than CD sound in general. I think you may be able to tweak it in better than you have it now.

Also, regarding Pbb's statement, it is naturally an incremental difference and you can only expect differences in certain areas, and these will vary based on the quality of the recording, as you noticed.

Give it some time, and see what you think in the long run.
I've been through 8 different phono stages in my two systems and 3 of them with same TT setup in my reference system. In deed they sound quite different. The amplification stage is quite important. From what I was told the SFP is not very transparent and crisp and plus a bit grain. The cable also make some noticeable difference.
All of the previous comments are great!

My experience is that anytime I or any friends have done an A/B comparison between an LP and CD, the LP is superior. The vinyl always shows better soundstaging, more natural sound, much more detail and better highs (always check the cymbals!).

I have to say I myself have been surprised that there are not some instances where the CD outshines the LP, as not all LP's are good quality. Also this has been done with varying quality TT's from $700-28000 and CDP's from $150-9000.

With all the limitations of vinyl (and as so many CD lovers like to point out, there are many), I am always amazed that LP's sound as alive and dynamic as they do.
Try some Galaxy jazz recordings from the late 70's/early 80's (Johnny Griffin, Art Pepper, Hank Jones). Johnny Griffin's "Return of the Griffin" sounds like the band is in the room and they are wailing. If these sound dry and zippy then there is definitely an equipment or setup issue. The way you describe the sound of your system is nowhere near the full bodied sound I associate with vinyl.

Tubes in the phono stage OK? Some tubes do sound zippy.
Do you have a decent gauge to set tracking force?

Keep at it. Once you finally get it resolved you will be very happy.
Pbowne makes some good points. I find piano is a good thing to compare, as few CD playback systems get close to analogue, tending to sound clangy and even metallic and lacking natural warmth and air. Low level detail and microdynamics can be so much better with analogue.
Or possibly the answer is yes, you're experiencing the best you're going to get out of that setup.
I belong to the "adjust the VTA school" of thought. You mentioned that the "dry, zippy, buzzy" sounds did not occur on all LP's. Perhaps the difference is caused by the thickness of the records and the good sound is coming from one particular thickness and the bad sound from the rest. In a perfect world, to get the best out of your LP's you should adjust the VTA for each record thickness. It really does make a substantial difference with most modern stylus.
Adjusting the VTA for different records? Get real. Like Pbb said,

once the equipment starts being more a problem than a solution you are clearly into dysfunctional audio high-ender territory.
jyprez, if you don't mind mentioning where you live maybe someone could help you with your set-up. This is not to imply that you are dumb. Proper set-up is a very difficult process. There are times when even the veterans feel like they could use some help.
The emperor has no clothes.
Thanks for all you responses. Let me provide some additional info in response to some questions.
First: My interconnects are 1.5M audioquest Ruby - same as I use with the CD player which is a California Audiolabs Icon MK2 with HDCD.
Second, I must confess,I don't know how to adjust for or account for capacitance or load. I have a general idea of what some of you are talking about but if you could suggest something more specific, this would help.
Third: Tubes in the SFP phono pre are NOS Mullards and in the CJ linestage are RCA NOS. I purchased them from Vintage Tube services a few years back and they always sounded great with the CD player - (way better than the stock CJ crap).
Fourth - several people suggested cartride tracking force and VTA adjustments. I have a good Shure tracking force gauge and set force per the Shelter specs to the best sound in the range (towards the 2g max sounds best to me). I do not have any VTA adjustment. The arm seems pretty level to me as is. If I add a vta adjuster, it will increase the base height and I think it might need to be lower. Also, virtually all records seem to have warp at least equal to the thickness of the thin VTA shim so I don't see how this adjustment can be so critical.
Fifth,I live in central CT and would welcome the a visit fromor to a fellow audiophile who might help me tweak my system. (I also get around the country on business - Chicago,Dallas etc)
Finally, I didn't say that CD's of the same recording sounded better than LP's. In fact, despite this slight "dryness" to the sound, the LP's sound better - but still not as good as I would have hoped or as good as a new, well recorded, audiophile cd of current jazz - a fact which simply suggests to me that audiophiles should pay more attention to the quality of the original recording than the medium it is reproduced on.
Again - thanks for the help!
I'd say your lack of VTA adjustment is likely the problem. This cartridge likes to be "dialed in", and getting it right with just "luck" with no adjustment is probably so unlikely as to be impossible. I never installed a Michell armboard, but it may be possible to make it a little lower. I'd highly recommend trying to get the armboard lower, and adding the threaded Adjustable VTA collar that OL sells. It makes more of a difference than you might suspect. You have a very good system there, and it should be adjusted properly to get the best results.
Jyprez, I did a Google check and found a brief article about turntable set up which might peak your interest and add some to your knowledge of basic turntable set up. If you are interested, its an Audio & Music Bulletin. The web site is I also found some comments on other sites about the Shelter 501. Hope you can figure out how to make your system work for you.
your audioquest Ruby is definitely totally outclassed by your turntable setup IMO
OK I guess I will be getting a threaded VTA adjuster. For the price of a threaded piece of metal, what the heck - it's worth a try. I'lllet you know what it does.

On the subject of interconnects. Can anyone suggest what would be a reasonable appropriate stepup for my quality of system from the Audioquest Ruby? Given that the cost of the whole system is around 10K, it would not seem appropriate to spend more than 2K on all the interconnects, including speaker cables. This would mean about $300 per set.
XLO signature is excellent for about $300 or less usually here used
It has been my experience with the 501 that it needs to have the VTA set as TWL states, but more critical is the VTF. (Vertical tracking force) 1.8 grams not 1.85 or 1.75 it is really fussy for correct VTF. You need the threaded Adjustable VTA collar that OL sells and a good VTF scale to max. your setup.
Jyprez, you will be rewarded when you get it right.

Have you checked you VTA now? Where are you sitting, loaded at 100 ohms? What’s the VTF?
2nd to XLO phono cables. I have the original reference and the current signature and both are great. The Newer signature has bigger sound stage and the older cable sounds sweeter.