Killing sibilance distortion - VPI & Jubilee


Along with what others have posted in the recent past, I also have a long running case of nasty distortion on sibilants with my vinyl playback. It is worse in the inner grooves.

To build on some other recent threads about this topic, I ordered a MFSL that is supposed to be a good test for mistracking. I have made a recording clip of my playback playing some of the last track on Side 2.

I have the recording on this link:

Playback Recording

If you take a look at that, we can all be on the same page with what exactly is going on.

The setup is a VPI Scoutmaster table, JMW9 sig arm, Ortofon Jubilee cartridge. The table is leveled on a Salamander Archetype rack. VTA is set with the arm parallel. VTF is set to 2.4g. Alignment is setup with the MINT arc protractor, 10x magnification. The VPI mechanical Anti-Skate is being used, with the lighter rubber washers. Azimuth is level by means of the "VPI straw trick" (a straw in a groove on the headshell).

Is there anyone that can point me in the right direction to fix that sibilance distortion you're hearing on the recording?

I've tried quite a few things, including different cartridges, and VTF, VTA and antiskate settings, but the sibilance is always there.

Here are some photos of my setup:

Cartridge Closeup

Aligning with the MINT

Thanks for reading
by Goatwuss
The MintLP has an excellent reputation. In my experience you have an alignment issue. If you are confident that you have aligned it properly it may be that the geometry of the protractor is simply wrong.
Hello Goatwuss,
my man you get 10 out of 10 for your error report!!!!

My broad-band sux, but I know that track like the back of my hand ---- and I share your problem.
A bit of a repeat story, (must have waited for your animated picture story :-)

First thing I note is the over-hang. That Jubilee is 'hanging out of the bus' like crazy! Jubilees as Windfelds and other carts of that construction have a 3 point base on top, your front point must be hanging in their by one Micron, or less!
That just can NOT be right at all!

You are using a MINT protractor, and as I recall it is using some rather different geometry than the original VPI likes to use --- that to me explains that overhang issue.

To bring it more back in line with what I'd expect, is the VPI original idea. I guess this will not change your sibilant issue but it would be my point of departure, YMMV. That cart is mounted wrong, period.

Also as Narrod says:
>>> If you are confident that you have aligned it properly it may be that the geometry of the protractor is simply wrong. <<<

I fully underwrite that statement. So back to basics, that protector is not for THAT arm, can't be if you done all else to spec. as also the stylus to mounting hole distance is pretty close to 'IEC spec.' on those Ortofon carts, i.e. 9.5mm.

Hi guys, thanks for the notes so far!!

The one thing I realized is that the photo may have been taken before the alignment was finalized! I will take another tonight and add it to the thread.
Hi Goatwuss.
one more thing for you to know here: That track in one of Dougdeacon's **specials** (there are of course some even more critical ones in his arsenal. I have one, SXL 2248).

He says it took him years and $$$$ to get it COMPLETELY sorted,so take courage!
If you get that one right, you'll have climbed one 'analogue mountain' :-)
Hi, I only have one comment that may, or may not, be helpful. I have found through personal experience, that a critical factor in getting things right with the MintLP, is to ensure the end of the cartridge body is aligned perfectly perpendicular to the headshell. In other words, like crossing a "tee". You can get some parameters right with this off by a bit, but you can never get it good enough.

I will add that it sounds wonderful, other than the sibilance. I think, though, that the track in question should be trackable, the sibilance doesn't seem as extreme as some that gives me trouble yet. As Axel said, take heart, but I think this is what makes analog fun, you don't just push a button and have perfect sound forever, you have to work at it, with persistance, (and $$$$), to get where you want to be!

Good luck, and keep up the good work,
I've tried quite a few things, including different cartridges, and VTF, VTA and antiskate settings, but the sibilance is always there.
Sounds like a clue to me. Let's apply Occam's razor...

With all you've tried, why are you still assuming the problem's with your vinyl rig? You've changed virtually everything possible yet the problem persists. Time for a new approach.

What phono stage are you using? Have you considered the very real possiblity that it's unable to resolve the challenges presented by tracks like this?

I've personally only heard three phono stages that handle tracks like this with real clarity (I expect there are others, I just haven't heard them.) OTOH, I've heard dozens that can't avoid distortions when the source material gets really challenging, no matter how much time, money and effort you expend on the front end.
One more thought: try increasing the space between the wires coming from the cartridge clips as much as possible. Spread them as far apart as you can without dragging on the record surface.

Probably won't help with the sibilance problem, but may lower the noise floor a bit.
Here is a fresh picture of where the cartridge is mounted in the headshell (post alignment):

cartridge pic

Does this still look to be too far forward in the headshell?

Islandman - Thanks for the comment. As far as I can tell by eye, the cartridge looks to be perpendicular to the headshell as you describe.

I agree that the sound is pretty decent aside from the sibilance!
Hi Doug - Just saw your comment before I posted!

I had been running with the built in phono stage in my Supratek Syrah preamp, and I actually bought another phono stage specifically to further this cause and make sure that it's not a phono stage problem that I'm running into.

My 2nd phono stage now is a PS Audio GCPH. Changing the phono stage unfortunately doesn't impact the sibilance. It's the same with both.
Do you get the siblance from using the plain old VPI one point jig?

You need to ensure that the front VTA riser in the middle front of the jubille is under the VPI arm and parallel to the bottom of the headshell.
In order of appearance:

a) verify that you've set the correct VTF

b) try using absolute minimum anti-skate. On my JMW 12.5, I don't use the 'mechanical' anti-skate: I simply set it so that when balanced, the arm *slowly* drifts to the outside. I mean *slowly*.

c) try aligning with the stock VPI jig

d) re-check your spindle to pivot measurement, and print out a conrad hoffman protractor (if you've not used his site, be sure to actually 'read' the 'read me'). Though not as accurate in absolute terms as the Mint, it is easily good enough to verify that the dimensions of your Mint protractor are correct.

e) try another cart. It's always good to have a Denon DL-103 around for an emergency backup, for situations such as you're experiencing, and as a PDG cartridge in it's own right.

f) follow any directives given you by DD. And no, that's not a joke.
Right you are, JohnBrown!

Hi Goatwuss
>>> Does this still look to be too far forward in the head shell? <<<


I'm pretty certain it will be further in with the original VPI alignment.

Some of these type Ortofon’s have a propensity for the cantilever going out of centre (slightly) and to the left when viewed from the front.
It means (if the case) that the cart body can actually not be used for your Zenith alignment!
Try to turn the cart if straight = 6:00 to ~ 6:03 i.e. very slightly to the left from the point where the protractor would suggest it to be.
(That's where a Graham and it's alignment jig has far less of a problem, as you can see if the cantilever is slightly off)

Hello all,

First of all - thank you for spending your time and thoughts on this! I will try each recommendation that is posted on here within the next couple of days, and I will update the thread as I go along with more photos.
I'm pretty certain it will be further in with the original VPI alignment.
Good prediction. If VPI's alignment is a single null point, as I think Downunder implied, or if its two null points are more closely spaced than Baerwald, that's guaranteed.

Unfortunately, a single point alignment or an alignment to two more narrowly spaced null points will put the stylus farther out of alignment on inner grooves.

I've not heard the GCPH, but the Syrah falls short of the performance levels needed to play challenging tracks like this with real clarity. I'm familiar with it and its costlier brothers, the Cortese and Grange, including the final mods to the Grange before it was dropped. They were all prone to microphonic feedback which resisted every attempt at isolation or damping. The tightly packed upper-midrange harmonics and their echoes in that AK recording would be muddied by any Supratek, IMO/IME.

Throw in an unstabilized unipivot and a cartridge which is not the last word in clarity and you may have a recipe for problems which no adjustments can fix.

Which other cartridges have you tried? The Jubilee was, in my system, somewhat muddy and undynamic. I don't remember it having sibilance isssues but I didn't try it on the most challenging material, since to our ears it couldn't pass muster on easier stuff.

What a depressing post. Sorry. :-(

Do try the suggestions of Axel, JohnBrown, Downunder and everyone else. I'm afraid my ideas involve spending lots of money.
Axelwhahl-the Mint protractor requires you to align zenith via the canteliver-not the cart body. Of course, one should always follow that model, no matter the protractor that's being used.
Hi Johnbrown,
you say...
>>> ... requires you to align zenith via the cantilever-not the cart body <<<

Well, yes I guess by only using the mirror from below, right?
It still can be tricky (that Jubilee's cantilever is tugged in-between two side-cheeks) and ever so often the cart body just happens to 'guide' ones (mis)judgment, YMMV.

Axelwhahl-All true. I was just reiterating what I'm sure you know (probably better than I) that one should never use the body of the cart for alignment, no matter which plane you're aligning. For instance, I often see VTA/SRA tutors telling people to 'level the tonearm'. While that may be useful as a baseline for further adjustment, it really has only a cursory relationship to the alignment one must pay attention to-that of the stylus in the groove.
Hi Guys,

I am definitely on board with aligning the cantilever, and not the cartridge body. I'm going to take a picture of the cantilever sitting on the MINT's null point.

Here is what Yip at MINT has told me about the 'tractor:

1. Mounting Distance, ie pivot to spindle distance is 223mm
2. Effective Length is 240mm
3. It is Barewald Algorithm.

I checked the mounting distance with a ruler. I don't have the skills or tools to get a super accurate measurement, but it looks like it's right on at 223mm.

My first step is going to be getting some photos of setup on the MINT, and confirming the VTF.
Hi Goatwuss,

1. Mounting Distance, ie pivot to spindle distance is 223mm
2. Effective Length is 240mm

So overhang => 240 - 223 = 17mm.
That looks ABSOLUTLY normal.
My SME-V e.g. has 17.8mm (Ja, ja, DerTonarm will love sat to se 1/10 of se mm :-)

This should suggest to me, that this Jubilee be most all underneath your head-shell ---- and it ain't!
So wei not is se qwesion, ja?

Hi Guys, I have some updates! ;)

a) verify that you've set the correct VTF

Looks good to me: VTF

b) try using absolute minimum anti-skate.

I've actually fiddled around quite a bit with anti skate. Mike at VPI told me that the Nordost wire on the Jmw9sig shouldn't be twisted... so the 2 options are either no anti skate, or using the mechanical piece. I've tried disabling it, and also tried several placements for the rubber washers on the mechanical piece. Things seem to be better with the piece in place, but either way I am getting the sibilance.

d) re-check your spindle to pivot measurement

I went ahead and printed off that hoffman protractor. The arc matches up perfectly with the arc on the MINT, which leads me to believe that overhang is good. Axel - I measured out 17mm from the spindle, and it looks like that is right where the stylus is falling ( : So, I don't know why it looks like the cartridge is too far out... but as far as I can measure, it looks right at 17mm overhang. Maybe the headshell on the VPI arm doesn't extend very far?

Setting overhang with the MINT

Setting zenith with the MINT

It looks to me like the zenith angle looks good... aligning to the cantilever of course.

Doug - thanks for your notes re: the phono stages. Currently I am using the PS audio stage which I hope would be able to handle things! Loading at 100ohms btw.

Still on my list is to try the VPI jig again (granted, I bought the MINT because I was getting sibilance with it at the start), and to also try another cartridge (I have a Benz L2 and a Shelter 901 in house). I'd like to make sure I've nailed setup with the Jubilee before I change carts though.

Anyway, I hope I am making at least a little bit of progress!

I can make another recording at any time, but as of now, I haven't made any changes to the setup.
>>> Maybe the headshell on the VPI arm doesn't extend very far? <<<
Must be the case then, not that I like it any much better though :-) sorry. But if that's it, I'll store that in my database.

"Setting zenith with the MINT" --- that is Azimuth what I see, and it is pretty out in the picture. (Zenith is turning that cart like a dial on a penny)
It looks like the head-shell is closer to the cart on the right?, AND your head-shell/arm is tilted also (bitch to set with that arm, I've seen it). Next thing you play a record, (with or without AS) and it's skew again.
Your call, I say.

>>>It looks to me like the zenith angle looks good... aligning to the cantilever of course<<<
I can see squat, in fact what I can see, that cantilever is off-set to the right. I mentioned that very thing earlier on, of course the picture may look different than real life...
Take that cart OUT, and look at it straight from the top, maybe make a picture, and be SURE that cantilever is straight down the middle, please. (seen it all before, that's why it's imperative to have the information)

>>> Loading at 100ohms for Jubilee <<<
That's 100% with GCPH, can't do better then that.
(I had both your cart and your phono-pre, plus I had your problem - but not with your VPI rig)


Great information. As others said, you get A+ for diagnostic thorough-osity.

The zenith photo does appear to have been taken from an off angle relative to the null point, so we can't really assess your zenith angle. As Axel said it looks like azimuth is way off, but that could be due to the angle of the photo.

With all your efforts I really doubt alignment is the problem. The track you're having problems with is challenging and all gear has its limits.

I would not expect a Shelter 901 to play inner groove sibilants better than a Jubilee. From my own experience and also from theory I'd expect it to be worse.

IGD was the reason I stopped using my 901. It wouldn't play tough inner grooves clearly on 3 of the 4 tonearms I tried. The exception was a Schroeder Reference, but I'd hardly recommend buying a $6K tonearm just to get a Shelter to behave.

The Jubilee has a better stylus profile. On my TriPlanar it was no worse on inner grooves than any other part of the LP, though as I said before, it never performed at a level that encouraged me to feed it difficult stuff like that Allison Kraus track.

Try the Benz, just for kicks.

Regarding equipment and its limits...

Last night we played Mahler 8, "Symphony of a Thousand", on an excellent German Teldec pressing. Eight operatic soloists, two full choruses, boys choir, big pipe organ and large orchestra - all going full tilt in tutti or fugal counterpoint for four sides. That's more challenging than fifty over-miked Allison Krauss tracks.

My ZYX UNIverse may be the clearest, least congested cartridge on the planet. It plays that AK track without blinking, but it only just kept the Mahler under control. For the first time since I got my Mint the sound occasionally reminded me I was listening to a phono cartridge. It was by no means bad. Darn good actually. But it lacked the last bit of effortless clarity that I'm used to.

I redid my entire rig last weekend and adjusted VTA and VTF specifically for this recording, so it wasn't setup.

We played a lot of music last night and everything else sounded ravishing (a Bach cantata on authentic instruments, Ella singing Cole Porter, a Beethoven Piano Concerto that literally brought me to tears, then the Mahler, then Louis Armstrong's 'St. James Infirmary' and 'I ain't got nobody' on the Classic 45rpm reissue as a nightcap). The Mahler just pushed my system close to its limits. It would have pushed a 901 or Jubilee well past theirs.
Also, VTF can't be optimized by using a scale. It can only be optimized by using your ears.

I doubt that's the cause of your problem, but you should experiment to learn how your cartridge behaves with varying amounts of downforce. Whatever you learn will change as the cartridge ages and perhaps even with the weather. The most a scale can do is get you in the ballpark.
Are you getting sibilance on a "real" lp??? Most test records are designed to make ALL arm/cartridge combinations distort. I would use a test record to minimize and even out left-right sibilance, but wouldn't worry about it further unless I were experience trouble with real music.
Axel, Doug - Thanks again for your time and thoughts.

Axel and I discussed his comments over email, and it looks like I have a little bit of tweaking to do. From the picture, azimuth does look to be a little bit off... but I think the reason for this is more than likely the angle of the photo. I do own a camera, but I am no photographer! In person, the zenith angle actually does look better than it's reflected in the picture... Just for kicks, I'll plan on re-aligning and re-testing, but based on past efforts, I don't think it will get me anywhere with regards to this issue.

Which brings me to your comments Doug - Really, my #1 priority for vinyl playback at this time, even above any audiophile goals like tonality, coherence, etc, is to get rid of the sibilance and IGD. So aside from setup, which we seem to be getting fairly close to exhausting (but I still plan on testing with the VPI jig, and also the Benz cart), I am wondering if you know of any surefire path to nail sibilance, IGD and tracking without spending a massive amount of money. I am flexible with my gear, and though it's never fun to take a loss, I am pretty detached in the sense that I just need to get this taken care of.

Obviously changing a cart is the easiest, so first off I would wonder other than the Universe, if you know of any carts that will totally kill this one thing. It's OK if it's not perfect in every other way. Granted, I bought both the Benz and the Jubilee based on some recommendations for carts that would be better trackers and matches for the Jmw9sig than the 901...

If a cart change alone isn't a surefire path to beating this, I am wondering what the next step would be. Even if I have to spend some money (might have to wait a little while) I am committed to getting there, as most of my music is on vinyl. I think I'm rambling a bit, but that's where I'm at right now.

Dcstep - This is a "real" lp, it's an Alison Kraus record ( :

Actually, I get sibilance distortion in the inner grooves on pretty much every record that I have with vocals, some worse than others, but it's usually there. I only bought this MFSL Kraus record because it's one that people are familiar with, and making a recording of that track is a good, objective way to show exactly what I'm hearing.
one curious thing to note, and it might tie in with that cart question also.

The best this far I got this track playing was with carts that had a much higher compliance i.e. softer ones, and quoted as around 23cu. The Jubilee as we know is 16cu.

In a similar vain, I had issues with the 'La Boheme' SXL when my Dorian came back from a J.Allaerts re-tip. He decided to make it softer also ~ 24cu as I recall, and it improved (but never perfect, note Doug’s mention :-) It got an FGS (Fritz Gyger Special) on boron...

Don't know if that ZYX is of higher cu the 16, if yes, it might help together of course with the stylus profile.

I had a thread a short while ago on "stylus profiles and related distortion" it was pretty much ignored, as there seems this idea: THIS GOT NOTHING TO DO WITH IT... with everyone piling into the last microns of pivot-to-spindle distance until Herr Schroeder added some sanity.
Now I here that Doug found his arm can pass the IGD trick.
Must be Doug's alignment skill, yes :-)

Well, we learn as we go.
Have you listened to that same cut on CD? Alison sings with lots of sibilance. It's simply better recorded and clearer on your LP, IMHO.

Going with Dcstep's suggestion:
what about listening to the Eagles Album: "hell freezes over", side 2, 1st cut, 'tequila sunrise' on Simply Vinyl, S180 VINYL LP.

Might just be we then can talk about OGI (outer groove distortion)also?
I get definitely more sibilants with analogue, when compared to the CD.
(At least you'll get a break from listening to A. Krauss :-)
I am wondering if you know of any surefire path to nail sibilance, IGD and tracking without spending a massive amount of money.
Now I here that Doug found his arm can pass the IGD trick.
Must be Doug's alignment skill, yes :-)
Nope. FWIW, here's my experience...

My Shelter 901 suffered unacceptable IGD and nothing I did helped. Not multiple alignments. Not even changing from an $800 OL Silver to a $4K TriPlanar.

My first change that profoundly reduced IGD was switching to a ZYX Airy 2. The Airy 3 was better, and two higher models (Atmos and UNIverse) produce no IGD that I can hear on nearly any record (assuming the rest of the system is up to snuff).

ZYX's former US distributor, Sorasound, is selling off their remaining stock at deep discounts. An Airy 3 is now just $1895 (I paid $800 more for mine). The Atmos is just $2495, a huge bargain for a cartridge that comes close to the top class. An Airy 3 or (especially) Atmos would address your IGD and sibilance problems (to the extent any cartridge can). They'd also provide a major performance boost vs. your existing cartridges. An Atmos would be a stupendous upgrade, too much cartridge for your rig at the normal price. I only recommend it because of the sale. (A UNIverse would be overkill in your system and irresponsible of me to recommend, even at a discounted price.)

Lest anyone think I'm pandering to ZYX, I'll add that Dynavector XV-1S, Lyra Titan i and Transfiguration Orpheus also have no IGD problems in my system, and they all rival the Atmos in playback quality. But I don't think they're available at Sorasound's fire sale prices. I'm pandering to value.

Upgrading the drive of your TT should also help with HF distortion and will reduce distortion generally. Short wavelengths (high frequencies) are very vulnerable to distortions in the time domain, which is what TT speed control is about. Consider the SDS or some controller if you don't already have.
Hi Doug,
what is interesting here, that those ZYX carts have 15cu quoted, and Micro-ridge styli.
Correct me if this is wrong.

All these carts (Japanese) quote the cu at 100Hz and that means at least x 1.5 for the 10Hz value, to compare it to the rest.
So the ZYX compliance is then: ~ 22.5 at 10Hz. This would make sense as far as my own findings go with sibilants related to compliance.

The Needledoctor quotes the Jubilee spec:
"Compliance, dynamic, lateral 12 µm/mN" ------
My own old manual states 16 µm/mN!
So take your pick, but it aught to be at 10Hz and therefore a big difference to the ZYX's.
Just to clarify an earlier post.

The Universe is not the clearest and least congested cartridge on the planet.

I have 2 MM and 13 MC cartridges (Universe among them) here used with 4 different tonearms and there are at least 2 cartridges which easily surpass it.

Interested readers please send me a private email for more details.

Just to clarify Audiofeil's post about my post:

A. He's a dealer with a financial interest. Nothing wrong with that, but he should include a disclaimer when posting opinions about the superiority of his products vs. those of competitors.

B. There may be 2 (or 1, or 50, or 0) clearer and less congested cartridges. I can only speak about the ones I've heard, obviously. If the UNIverse is only #3, maybe I should move up. Are #1 or #2 available for < $4K?


ZYX does use a micro-ridge stylus, and its ridges have the smallest contact radii of any stylus I know. (Audiofeil, please correct me if I'm wrong!) IMO this is a direct reason for its ability to trace smaller groove modulations.

If a stylus is physically larger than the curve it's trying to follow, it will contact only the two tops and never reach the bottom - producing a sort of clipping distortion. The finer the stylus, the higher the frequency it can trace accurately.

The finest styli of all are the cutting styli that make records in the first place. In theory we should be using them for playback too, though I wouldn't bet much on the lifespan of our records if we tried. ;-)

ZYX quotes seperate figures for lateral (15cu) and vertical (12cu) compliance. Whether those are at 100Hz or 10Hz I've never seen in any literature, but I understand what you're saying. (Of course for tracking sibilants, the compliance at 10kHz would be even more interesting!)
Just to clarify Doug Deacon's post.

I never claimed the other cartridges mentioned were in my line. I don't sell the Universe either.

I know that, relatively speaking, Doug has much less analog experience than many of us, hence some of the resentment in the posts. This is understandable and easily chalked up to youthful enthusiasm.

Dealer disclaimer
You guys are killing me with YOUR non-distorted sibilants --- like Daffy Duck :-)

If those other carts aren't in your line then why not share your experience for the OP's benefit? Surely you must have learned something useful in all those centuries...

Thanks for the youth compliment by the way.
Boomer disclaimer
Hey guys,

I just wanted to give a quick update... as is visible from my "zenith" picture above, azimuth was off a bit. I fixed that last night, but I haven't listened yet. I'm going to recheck alignment also one more time on the MINT and then check to see if the sibilance distortion has improved at all. The cartridge is a hair too far to the right from being parallel in the headshell. If no improvements are made with this, the next step is to try the VPI jig, and following that, the benz cart. I'll keep the thread updated as I go.

I'll pull another recording with the benz cart, so at a minimum we'll all have an objective comparison between the 2 carts.

Dcstep - Yes, I have listened to this song in a digital format. There is no sibilance distortion on the digital recording. I will post a clip from the digital recording for comparison sake, and it does not take golden ears to hear the difference. Thanks for the contribution, however it is definitely not my vinyl setup being "clearer" with this, it is a problem that needs to somehow be fixed.

Bill - LOL love the humor. thanks for chiming in, and for the ideas exchanged via email some time ago. As you can see, I'm still trying to nail this one down. ;)
Hi Todd,
keep it up man! It will be one of the more interesting things to see how it all will end :-)

So I had a chance to play with things a bit more last night.

First of all, here is a link to the same song coming from a digital source:

Digital Sound Clip

With this, you can hear the hard "s" sounds as they are recorded, but there is none of that scratchy distortion that I get with my vinyl playback. This is the goal!!!

I went ahead and switched to the VPI jig to setup the alignment. It's pretty tricky to get good, accurate setup pictures... but here's my best attempt:


Notice that the cartridge is quite a bit further back in the headshell with the VPI jig.

Zenith / Azimuth

Looks pretty good to me...

So after making these setup changes, I went ahead and listened to the vinyl track again... and there was unfortunately no change to the sibilance distortion.

Here is a new recording of my vinyl playback setup now with the VPI jig:

Analog still has sibilance

So... given that I have changed alignments, and changed azimuth, yet the situation remains unchanged, is it fair to conclude that this is not setup related?
Hi Todd,
very good pictures! Very good set-up! (I hope others will concur).

I guess you have to eliminate the cart as the source of the problem next i.e. put in another one, eish!

Let ME say no more at this point.
PS: let me know sometime how to paste pics into to this 'post responses', I might have something interesting...
I went to a local audio dealer in Cambridge, MA yesterday to try out the Krauss record.

They are a Rega dealer, and I was kind of hoping they would have a P9 or a P7 setup, but all they had in working state was a P1 with an entry level Ortofon cartridge.

We tried the record.... it was a huge mess! Actually, quite a bit worse than my setup. The dealer went through the standard questions, "Is this your only record that does this?" "groove damage?" "maybe that's the way it was recorded?," etc. It surprises me that the two dealers I've discussed this with are not more familliar with it. Being around different turntables all day long, I would expect them to be intimately familliar with sibilance, what causes it, and ways to fix it.

I'm not sure what conclusions to draw, but assuming that the table was setup well, there was a clear difference in tracking ability between this setup and my setup. Which leads me to believe - maybe there is a table/arm/cartridge setup out there that can track this cleanly??? I hope so, and I want to find it!
Brother, Goatwuss,
>>> maybe there is a table/arm/cartridge setup out there that can track this cleanly??? I hope so, and I want to find it!<<<

YES, YES, YES, talk to Doug! Then after a gap talk to Axel,
I got it tracking with a V15 III xMR and it can't be much worse then CD (I guess) actually quite OK, but not 100% perfect., Doug's the man I say.

Also in the meantime, try an MM with at least 22.5cu and a decent stylus/cantilever (Raul mentioned some, yes?)
Good luck,
PS: Just shows you were some dealers are these days --- pushing AV boxes, and clueless (to survive I guess)
Just off the top of my head, and listening on the speakers on my computer monitor(what? You mean these aren't state of the art?), and not being familiar with the recording, I'de say that your VTA is too high(i.e., your tonearm is too high). If that is the case, remember that all the parameters are related, so you might need to adjust VTF, etc. I would suggest, on all the parameters, that you try very tiny adjustments(assuming you are close to the correct setting)until you hear what the adjustment does. Once you find what the adjustment of one parameter does, you will be less likely to use that adjustment for other things. An example would be to use anti-skate for a channel balance problem.
As far as a general rule for anti-skate(for gimbaled arms-so it may not apply to uni-pivots)is that if the record sounds better at the end than the beginning, you have too much anti-skate(Your problem is the opposite, i.e., you need more anti-skate).
My first response(VTA) was after listening to the first sample. The second sample was very good, so it looks like you are getting good cartridge alignment from the Internet. I would double check history of Ortofon cartridges, as far as VTA(arm heighth). The second sample didn't have obvious VTA problems. I thought Dcstep had a good argument about the cd having sibilance. How can you be sure something wasn't done to the cd to create less sibilance. Do other albums still mess up in the inner grooves? I would caution against using cartridge alignment factors to eliminate things like sibilance. You should get close to the correct parameters, then pick one aspect and slightly change it, until you find out(by ear)what that alignment does. Then use that alignment factor only for that.

I agree with your last two sentences. Unfortunately, your other points have been already addressed by Goatwuss.

I'd be astonished if any Rega TT played these difficult tracks with real clarity. A P1 certainly won't, so that trip was a waste of time. I expect you know that. :-(

Sadly, there are few dealers left willing to support a commitment to high end analog reproduction. There's too little market for it. People want convenience in their music, not quality. If I listened to singers who can't hit a note (like AK for example) I'd opt for convenience too. There's something to be said for the ability to change tracks quickly! ;-)

The more causes you eliminate, the more likely it becomes that TT speed instability is contributing to the problem. A cartridge change may help. So might a tonearm or phono stage change. But you're becoming so sensitized that I doubt you'll lick this to a degree you'll find satisfactory without improvements in that critical area.
Hi Doug,

Yeah. I called ahead of time and explained my situation, and I kind of assumed that he would have a better table hooked up to try this out. I guess I should have clarified that up front. Either way though, we can now cross a P1/cheap ortofon cart off the list. :-)

"I'd be astonished if any Rega TT played these difficult tracks with real clarity."

Can any P5/P7/P9 owners prove Doug wrong?

"The more causes you eliminate, the more likely it becomes that TT speed instability is contributing to the problem."

I guess the way to test this out would be to pickup an SDS. I have no doubt that you are on to something, but at this point I'm a bit hesitant to put more money into the VPI before confirming that the JMW arm can step up to the plate.
New update -

I have installed the Benz L2 cartridge, and checked all setup parameters twice. VTF is set to 2.0g which is the maximum recommended VTF. I am using the Mint tractor for alignment.

Here is a recording of the Benz cart playing the same track:


As you can hear, the sibilance distortion is clearly there with the Benz cartridge.

A tougher question - other than the sibilance issues, which cartridge sounds better?
I continue to believe your setup is off. I know the Benz cartridge and the arm and they work well together. It is impossible be more precise from a distance. Is there a setup expert anywhere near you? Have you talked with Harry at VPI?

Good luck.

Hi Wendell,

I bought the table new with the Shelter 901 cartridge, and had it professionally setup from my dealer.

There was sibilance distortion, which is why I bought the Benz and the Ortofon carts in the first place.

After I first installed the Benz, I went back to the dealer for them to check setup since I was still getting sibilance distortion. My azimuth was off a bit and they fixed that, but other than that they said setup was spot on.

Did you take a look at the setup pictures above with the Jubilee? I believe they accurately show how I had overhang/zenith/azimuth/VTF setup, but please correct me if it is unclear. The only parameters that I don't have documented by photos are VTA (currently level, but I've tried both tail up and tail down) and anti-skate, which as documented above I've tried various arrangements.

Do you see any glaring setup issues in any of the above photos?

If it is setup related, do you think it is weird that I get the same result with 3 different cartridges, all setup several times over 2 different alignment protractors?

I have actually gone back and forth with Mike, the lead tech at VPI, quite a bit over email. He has graciously recommended that I send him my arm and Jubilee cartridge for him to test. I am going to take him up on this, and see if I can come up with any answers.