Issue with Phono Playback.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a complete newbie to the world of high quality audio equipment. I've started my quite humble collection with a project debut 3, vintage sony receiver, and grado RS2's. Now that I've prostrated myself to the audiophile gods that frequent this forum I'll get to my issue.

First issue is that with the volume at a moderate level without the needle touching the record I can hear a bit of snow through the headphones.

Second, on certain vocals when the singer hits a high note I can hear what sounds like a "plosive". Sort of the sound that the player makes when the needle is lingering in the middle of the record.

Where in my set up could these problems be?

Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. Please be gentle.
By 'snow', I take it you mean you hear a slight hissing or white-noise sound. This is the noise level of the headphone amplifier in the Sony receiver. A better quality headphone amplifier would have less or none of this noise. But it is not terribly offensive if you don't notice it while music is playing. Since it doesn't distort the music signal you can "listen through it". Of course a small amount of low-level detail is being obscured by this noise. When you have complete silence between notes, rather than some amount of noise, it brings the music into sharper focus and in my opinion makes it more dynamic and lifelike.

The high note sound may be distortion - I thought a "plosive" was the sound made when air is forcibly expelled from the mouth, like saying the letter 'P'. This is a normal sound if it doesn't overload the microphone. Your sound that only occurs on high notes may be a distortion of the signal and could be caused my a number of things, maybe related to the phono cartridge alignment or stylus wear, or maybe an electronic problem in the receiver, like an aging capacitor or transistor. You could try a CD of the same recording and see if it distorts in the same place. If not it is probably something with the turntable setup rather than the receiver although it could still be in the receiver phono section.

That's about all I can think of, hope it is helpful.
I'm glad you listen to headphones. Actually you can get the very best state of the art sound for a few thousand dollars with headphones as opposed to many thousands of dollars for big and good amps and speakers. Check out for great headphone information. They have wonderful guidance toward audio Nervana. I agree with KH6idf regarding the hiss. The Sony uses an op amp for the headphone output and is not "audiophile" quality.
Good advice from Kh6idf.
The "plosive" sound on high notes could easily be a flaw or limitation in the receiver, as suggested above, but it's about equally likely to be due to stylus mistracking. If that's the case and it's your stylus that's mistracking, you may be damaging your records.

Clean the stylus and play a suspect passage. If the "plosives" go away, you've found the culprit. Keep the stylus clean. Search for "magic eraser" on this and other vinyl forums for a cheap and effective method.

If the "plosives" remain after stylus cleaning, increase tracking force slightly (by .1 or .2g) and play the suspect passages again. If the "plosive" go away or are reduced, you've found the culprit. Fiddle tracking force until they go away altogether.

Mistracking is a major cause of vinyl damage and it's usually caused by playing with tracking force set too low, which can let the stylus lose contact at higher velocities or amplitudes. If the stylus breaks loose even a little bit, well, the results of a diamond chisel rattling around inside a plastic groove are easy to imagine. That kind of damage can never be repaired, so prevent it for the health of your vinyl.

Note: if these are old records, plays on previous rigs could have damaged them in exactly this way. On replays, the resulting damage sounds virtually identical to actual mistracking. There's an easy way to check, but the above steps should be be done first. It's critical to make sure your rig isn't mistracking.
This is amazing. You all are great! Thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to attack it from all of the suggested angles.

Do you think it would be wise to invest in a Grado RA1 amplifier to lessen the white noise?

Thanks again!
Check for information on headphones and headphone amplifiers. There are dozens of choices ranging from $80 to well over $1000. You will often find heapdhone amps for sale by members there who are looking to upgrade.

In the interest of disclosure, I use a HeadRoom Micro headphone amp at work ( and a Mapletree Audio tube headphone amp at home (

I also suggest you use a small mirror at least 4" x 4" (I use a mirror from a cosmetic compact) to set your bias or antiskate adjustment. (Left to Right movement). Place an old thick record on the platter then the mirror. Make sure the mirror is flat and smooth. Do not use one with a frame or anthing around the edges. It will not register properly. Just Place the stylus in the center of the mirror. Zero the antiskate. If it drifts right turn the antiskate left and vice versa. Continue this until the stylus has stopped drifting in either direction.
Before you begin this use a very good protractor to setup up or cartridge and arm. Make sure your VTA is set up correctly too. I like the Dennison Soundtractor. There are many others on the market that achieve the same thing.
This will help in getting rid of some of the noises you mentioned. It will not remedy groove damage that pre-exist. But your background will be much more quieter and your antiskate will be proper. Enjoy
A couple of years ago my 14 year old niece showed a strong interest in vinyl play back.

I donated 1962 vintage Fisher 400 receiver with head phone jack and built in phono stage.
This old receiver is what I used through out most of the 1970's, 1971 to 1979 to be exact.

Her father picked up a used Rega P3 and had a new Ortofon cartridge mounted, a pair of vintage Dynaco A40 speakers were purchased there after.

Over all the sound is surprisingly good for very little money.

A large used record store is not far away from them and everyone is happy.

Have someone set up your table if you are not comfortable doing it yourself.

I think you probably would be happier with a differant brand of electronics other then the Sony.
Ponnie, I realize that many folks think the method you described for setting AS is a good one. However, many of us have found that it always results in way too much AS.