matching tt to music

The other day I started a post about bad sounding classic rock lps. It suddenly occured to me, that I had enjoyed them some months ago with a different tt setup.

On my current VPI setup these lps sound lousy. In my previous setup, totally modded Thorens TD 160, Pete Riggle modded Rega RB250 with Incognito wiring, Sumiko Blue Point Special and/or Dynavector 20XL, Cayin Phono-One preamp these sounded relatively musical.

I listened almost exclusively to the very classic rock lps I now complain so much about. I was happy enough with the sound I didn't play digital once in perhaps a month.

I installed the Thorens back in the system yesterday, and voila, these recordings again sound like I recall from the previous listening, I enjoy listening to classic rock recordings again.

I conclude you need the right tool for the job. The VPI is simply too detailed for these albums, it illuminates all the warts (especially with the Valhalla tonearm wire). The Thorens is just veiled enough to hide most of those warts. The Thorens also has a fuller tonal balance, ie. sounds
more musical with these albums.

At this point, I'm planning a dual tt setup, the VPI for the quality recordings, the Thorens for the crappers. The only problem is, I will need a new cartridge for the Thorens/Rega setup. I will need to use a MM cartridge, which will allow both setups to be used together (VPI uses the MC input on Cayin, Thorens will use MM input). At this point I'm looking at purchasing either a Shure V15 III or VHR, AT 150MLX, Grado Gold or Silver, Pickering XVS, or Ortofon 2M Bronze. Any suggestions on which of these (or another) that will work well with this combination? I'm looking for a fuller tonal balance, want something on the warm side, but don't want bloated bass.
Well, you might add a Dynavector 10x5 to your list of cartridge choices. It sounds very much like your description and would fit your Rega fine.
I purchased an AT150MLX to try on a KAB Technics 1200MK 2. While it did many
things very well, it had a tizzy top end that I found annoying. I sold it.

Recently, I replaced a Benz Micro Ace (which I loved) with a Dynavector XX2 MK
II...a considerably more expensive cart.

Which is all to say I'd give Tobais' recommendation of the Dynavector 10X5 some
serious consideration.
This is exactly why I bought a Galibier. My Gavia makes all records sound really good. Even those less-than-spectacular records that were either not taken care of or just not well produced. Sounds like you and I listen to the same or very similar music so I do understand what the issue can be.
I glossed over the section where you said you specifically wanted a MM cart for
the the Dynavector 10X5 would not apply.

Many people love the AT150MLX. You may also. I own a Shure V15 III, and I
believe the AT is much more musical.

What about considering a Cartridge Man Music Maker (version of Grado Gold)?
Yes, I need a MM cartridge, the MC would require constant changing of cables. The Cartridge Man sounds fine, but beyond my budget, I'm looking to spend about $400 (used or new). The tizzy top end on the AT may or may not be a bother, this tt and tonearm cabling rolls the top end a bit, so perhaps it may ameleliorate that tizziness.
Dan ed, interesting to note. At a recent audio show I spoke with perhaps 20 audio dealers/distributors about whether I should purchase a VPI or Nottingham tt. I specifically asked which would be the more musical sounding. About 70% of them (most did not sell either line) favored the Nottinghams.

So, are the VPI's inherently relatively analytical? It seems that at least some people think so. Not having heard a wide variety of tts in my setup I can't answer that. To me, the VPI sounds great with great recordings, not so great with lousy recordings. Some would say this is perfect neutrality.
Coldn't you get away with the high output version of the Dynavector 20X? It has as high an output as most mm carts. That is a pretty good cart and very musical. I might suggest you consider upgrading the cart on your Scout to the next step up in the Dynavector line. Especially if you are thinking of playing the better recordings on it. It is startling how much clarity and detail the 17D cart reveals compared to the 20XL or 20XH.

By the way this is a great idea you have to just have 2 setups. I've thought this was ideal myself but I don't have enough room to deal with it.

Oh and though I have never heard the VPI scout I can attest to the musicality of Nottingham tables. My first table was a Nottingham Horizon with a Dynavector 10x5 on it. I paid 800 used here on Audiogon. I was shocked by how much more I enjoyed the sound than CDs. I've been a convert ever since, though of course I still listen to and highly enjoy digital too.
Tvad, Ejlif, my next upgrade to the VPI will be the XX2.

I don't think hooking up any MC cartridge to the MM inputs on the Cayin would be to my liking, I do know there is enough gain, and the loading would be correct. I'm just not sure I'm looking for the sound of high output MC cartridges on these lps, I think the MM's will give me a warmer, fuller midrange. It is a possibility, however.

Ejlif, nice to hear someone else can enjoy both digital and analog, we seem to be in the minority.
I seem to be getting a number of recommendations, both from here, and another forum for the Dynavector 10x5 over the MM cartridges. Anyone disagree? I can get the Dyna's for a very good price, so this works for me. I just wonder about MC's going through a phono stage minus the transformers (which I can't use since the other tt will be going through here, the MC input), I always thought transformers warmed up the sound to some extent. On the other hand, the Sumiko Blue Point Special sounded ok going through the MM input (no transformers)on Cayin.
The 10x5 sounds warm and full on its own, without any transformers or whatever between it and the first amplification stage. I listened to it on a Roksan Xerxes with a Rega 250 or 300 and IIRC a Kora phonostage.
What I like about the XX2 as compared to the Benz Micro Ace is that the XX2 retains the warmth of the Benz while improving midrange and treble clarity, and overall balance.

From what I have read, the Dynavector line-up retains a house sound, so I would imagine the 10X5 is warm as Tobias says.

I certainly prefer it to a ZYX R100 Yatra I owned earlier this year that sounded cold in comparison (but quite detailed and neutral).
Tobias, I almost pulled the trigger on the same Scheu tt and tonearm you own at an audio show a few months ago. Even had a home demo setup with the dealer, PrimeOne Media out of Canton Mi. Ended up with the VPI setup because I ran into an opportuntiy to purchase the whole VPI line at a substantial discount on a continuing basis.

Tvad, that's what I keep on hearing about the Dynavector line, the 20XL certainly seems to be a well balanced cartridge, lots of strengths, no glaring downsides.

I've also had a number of recommendations for the Shure V15 III and above. I did have a V15 II on this tt when I first purchased it. Sold it before I had a chance to hear it post Thorens mods and Rega arm. When I initially heard it on stock table with stock arm I preferred the Sumiko Blue Point Special. The Shure wasn't as detailed, just kind of boring sounding to me.
If I understand you correctly, you bought the "wrong" turntable. Why not go back to your older setup? I doubt sticking a different cartridge on the VPI will really get you to where you want to be. You're not trying to match the turntable to the music, which is a false assumption to begin with (IMO), but to mask the inherent sound character of the turntable.
I find Onhwy61's observation rather interesting. The last VPI I listened hard to was in the Soundsmith room at the Montreal show in April. Don't know the VPI model, I presumed it was the full Monty since Soundsmith is a dealer, and the TT had a Schroeder Reference and the really remarkable Soundsmith Strain Gauge cart.

That arm, BTW, should sound like no arm at all, given my very limited but joyful experience with the Schroeder Model 2.

Anyway, there was a Beatles reissue playing as I came in, an older number, one of the ones I danced to when I was 13. I remember thinking, Gee, you can hear everything... but I didn't want to dance and on that song, I should have wanted to dance IMVHO.

I don't know what it was in that setup which kept things cool. I would want to listen to other VPIs to see if it wasn't the TT.
Onhwy61,no, you don't understand me correctly. I am perfectly happy with the VPI when synergy is attained. It sounds wonderful with well recorded lps and lousy with lousy recordings, isn't that how it should be. The Thorens, which is a lower resolution tt, sounds better with poor sounding lps, masking the things I don't like with lower quality lps.

It seems irrational to me that a turntable would make lousy sounding recordings sound good, and at the same time make quality recordings sound their best. I thought it was accepted that high resolution was the goal of higher audio. Higher resolution equipment, inherently, will reveal the warts of inferior software or partnering equipment.

Some claim the best of the best audio will ameliorate this conumdrum to some extent by attaining high resolution and maximum musicality at the same time. Therefore, some would determine my setup to be excessively analytical and lacking musicality. Perhaps this is true, however, at what point do you call a turd a turd. Even for the best of the best, there has to be some point where the weak link in the chain will negatively affect the best in the chain.

For me, that weak link in the chain is the lousy sounding software. Perhaps a more musical, and high resolution tt will make certain recordings that sound bad on my setup sound better, but there has to be some point where the bad software overwhelms the highest quality tt.

And then we have perception, perhaps my idea of what sounds bad is different than yours, perhaps my threshold of what sounds bad is excessively low.

Either way, I don't like what I'm hearing with the VPI and lousy software. Perhaps I'm wrong in thinking a lower resolution tt setup will make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but I go back to what I heard when the Thorens was my only tt. Lousy recordings sounded better, better recordings were lacking in resolution.

The VPI makes my good recordings sound like I want them to sound, so it takes care of that deficiency of the Thorens. It also makes lower quality recordings sound worse than the Thorens, thus, I want the Thorens back in for the lower quality recordings.

Neither one of these tt's does everything for me. Again I ask, as in my previous thread. If there is a tt setup that makes quality recordings sound their best, and at the same time, makes low quality recordings sound good, I would like to know about such a beast. That would be a miracle to me, a wanna buy regardless of cost! I also go back to perceptions, someone may claim they have a tt setup that does it all, it may for them, perhaps not for me.

It may be that I have too high standards for lousy recordings, however, it seems I'm not alone. Outlets that trade exclusively in high quality recordings exist, people are spending their hard earned money, in some cases hundreds of dollars for a single album. I dont' think I'm alone.
I have plenty of 70s era LPs that sound like junk (and are mint condition), and
many that sound excellent.

I also have plenty of CDs that sound like junk (SACDs too), and many CD's
that are outstanding.

It's a function of the recording being exacerbated by the uber-high-fidelity
of audiophile gear.

Funny thing...I can remember back in the 70s, 80s or 90s when I owned
mid-fi gear (Pioneer and Philips TT, Kenwood integrated amp, JVC CD player,
Rogersoundlab speakers) that ALL LPs or CDs sounded great!
Tobias, it may have been the tt, the lp, the rest of the setup, your perception. Its hard to tell in a demo room at a show.

I've heard claims the VPI is not musical. If this is true, why are all these people buying VPI, are they fools, inexperienced, or tin ears. Many VPI owners claim they are very satisfied with their sound, perhaps they have attained synergy through careful choices in partering equipment. Or perhaps their perceptions are different than those who don't like VPI. Possibly they are fools, inexperienced and tin ears.

VPI owners should stand up and make their voices heard.
Some comparison and contrast may help us in determining just what the truth is.

As for me, I have no agenda, this is only my second tt setup since over twenty years ago. I'm not particularly bothered that lower quality recordings sound lousy on my VPI. I'm disappointed and bothered by the software, perhaps I'm wrong. For me, lousy software, just like lousy equipment, is replaceable and/or disposable.

I do know there are VPI owners claiming to be ok with their lower quality recordings. I've heard them over the past couple of days, they suppose its the rest of my setup and/or system. It seems they believe their VPI setups to be both highly musical and resolving. Are they wrong, or am I wrong, who knows?

As for my isssues, I think it is me, my perceptions simply don't match my expectations. This is a sociological issue, I'm in a state of anomie with my vinyl setup. Audio nervosa has me by the balls, at least in respect to lower quality lp recordings.
Tvad, almost in complete agreement with you! The only thing I disagree with, is the mid-fi gear thing. I had a nearly full Dynaco setup with Thorens TD160, later Linn Lp12, in the mid to late 70's, wonderful warm sound! Got away from audio, sold it all off. A number of years later, early 80's, got back into audio at a relatively low price point, bought into the solid state and direct drive tt silliness, NAD with cheapo Garrard, later Harman Kardon T60 tts, Dahlquist DQ10's. Thought I was doing good for a moment or two, usually when I was stoned or drunk, or stoned and drunk!
The Shure is not impressive to me. It is dull and lifeless, tracks well, but has a fragile stylus which disentegrates into powder...I have seen this twice. The Ortofon Black and the Audio Technica 150 have good things said about them. Jallen
Jallen, this is my exact experience with a Shure V15 II. I've heard the later models are better. I've also received advice from a couple of other Thorens owners with similar problems, to use a highly colored, ie. plenty of technicolor and warmth, cartridge. Both didn't tell me which cartridge they use, duh... Hoping to get that information.
Here's an invaluable tool (IMO)...the MintLP Best Tractor protractor.

After having set up my XX2 MK2 cart with this protractor, I can say without question my analog system sounds the best it ever has. Completely free of tizz and high end distortion, including inner groove distortion. Heck, I wonder if the AT150MLX I sold would have been free of its high frequency distortion if I had set it up with the Best Tractor? I imagine so.

You might consider ordering one and setting up your existing arm/cart using the Best Tractor and see if the objectionable recordings diminish in number.
Thanks Tvad, I will look into that, it may be the VPI allignment jig is not the best means to proper allignment. In the meantime, I'm trying a thread belt vs. the VPI rubber belt, we shall see.
My comment about you picking the "wrong" turntable is based upon your own statements:

At a recent audio show I spoke with perhaps 20 audio dealers/distributors about whether I should purchase a VPI or Nottingham tt. I specifically asked which would be the more musical sounding. About 70% of them (most did not sell either line) favored the Nottinghams.

I almost pulled the trigger on the same Scheu tt and tonearm you own at an audio show a few months ago. Even had a home demo setup with the dealer, PrimeOne Media out of Canton Mi. Ended up with the VPI setup because I ran into an opportuntiy to purchase the whole VPI line at a substantial discount on a continuing basis.

It sounds to me that based upon the sonics you would have preferred either turntable to the VPI. Did the other turntables also make you 70s rock recordings sound unpleasant?

I am perfectly happy with the VPI when synergy is attained. It sounds wonderful with well recorded lps and lousy with lousy recordings, isn't that how it should be

Why does it have to be that way? The fact that your system makes some recordings sound less than stellar is one thing, but a well sorted out system shouldn't spotlight a recording's imperfections. A top flight recording studio system should spotlight imperfections since the system is being used as a tool. That's not the goal of a home system and one shouldn't have that spotlighting problem.

I thought it was accepted that high resolution was the goal of higher audio.

No! The goal of higher audio is basically the same as lower audio, namely to enjoy listening to music. The methodology and the equipment employed will differ, but it's still the same goal. I don't think anybody would intentionally put together a system that makes their favorite recordings sound unpleasant, but it can happen. It's my opinion that you're more likely to end up unhappy if you focus too much upon resolution, musicality, soundstage, etc. and not enough upon the big picture goal of finding enjoyment through listening to well reproduced music.

It might help if you describe the rest of your system.
Onhwy61,you may be correct, this may be the wrong tt for me, I suspected as much when I first went in this direction. As mentioned previously, the reason I went with the VPI is the discounted prices I was able to secure. I was going to purchase a Nottingham or Scheu prior.

I never did audition either the Nottingham or Scheu within my system, ie. I can't tell you whether they play poorer quality lps better than the VPI setup, I can't make a buying decision based solely on what I hear at a show. As I mentioned previously, my Thorens does make 70's classic rock sound better than the VPI. I think it is likely some other tt's would as well.

As for equipment being a mirror on the software, good lps sound good, bad lps sound bad. I would describe this as neutrality, whether that is good or bad is based on one's perception. I don't know that my system is 'spotlighting' recording's imperfections, perhaps its only exposing what is really imperfect. The mirror may be projecting a perfectly precise image of the object looking into the mirror. Any deviation from the original image is not as truthful.

On the other hand, as I mentioned previously, we may want to pretty up that image looking into the mirror. Perhaps this is what the more musical tt does, it seems reasonable that I want a tt that does that for the more poorly recorded lps. Still, a tt that projects a prettier image than the image looking into it, is a distortion. A beautiful image looking into the mirror may turn ugly with increased prettiness. Therefore, a beautiful sounding lp may end up sounding excessively euphonic going through a more 'musical' player.

I know high resolution is not the only goal of higher audio, it is only one of many sonic parameters we use to judge audio quality. Meeting only one of these goals, or indeed, all of these goals is not a guarantee that one will find musical enjoyment with that system. This is where perception comes in. I don't think there is any perfectly objective means to determine whether any of these sonic goals, has indeed, been met. This is why we have so much equipment to choose from, just think of the gulf between the high powered solid state amplifier and the 2wpc SET amplifier. Both meet at least some of the sonic goals of the designer and the listener, whether that results in sonic bliss is only in the eye of the beholder, that is perception.

I agree with you, the goal of all audio should be musical enjoyment. As I was trying to say above, meeting the goals of various sonic parameters may or may not guarantee this enjoyment. Percption is a huge variable in judging whether those goals have been met. Now, one could argue that goals of meeting sonic parameters are more or less important to achieving listening bliss. One can go overboard in attaching significance to individual sonic parameters, and likely end up with a system that does only some things right. Therefore, the listener attached greater significance to soundstaging vs. tonal balance, ending up with a system that is not musically satisfying. On the other hand, one may attach little or no significance to individual sonic parameters, and end up missing the boat as well. In spite of the fact one may attach little or no significance to individual sonic parameters, they are nevertheless, hearing those individual sonic parameters. These individual sonic parameters necessarily greatly impinge on our musical enjoyment.

I contend we can't get away from using sonic parameters as a means to acheiving musical enjoyment, no matter how much we may want it all to go away. This is an inherent quality of the audiophile, he or she uses various sonic parameters to ascertain sound. If enjoyable music listening is their only goal, they are simply not an audiophile. This is the bane and/or curse of the audiophile, and at the same time, the spur to achieve sonic greatness, which in turn is supposed to lead to greater musical enjoyment.

While I believe musical enjoyment should be the highest goal of audio, the road to that enjoyment is a very rough one for the audiophile. His very nature requires him to judge individual sonic parameters on his way to audio heaven, not an easy way to find musical enjoyment. Non-audiophiles, on the other hand, likely find it easier to find musical bliss, sonic parameters don't much matter, ipods and such are sufficient to bring musical enjoyment.

As for my circumstances. At this point I am planning on riding this VPI wave out. I will eventually try all the upgrades available for the Scoutmaster, do a lot of tweaking, and see where I end up. If that end place is not where I want to be, disposing and replacing will ensue.

My setup:
Dedicated 20amp AC lines
Oyaide R1 and Porter Port AC receptacles
VH Audio AirSine, Black Sand Silver Ref.IV, Shunyata Python Helix VX, Shunyata Cobra PCs
BPT 3.5 Sig. power conditioner, modded with all PorterPort AC receptacles, feeds all front end components
Joule Electra LA-100MkIII, GE black plate, RCA NOS tubes
Art Audio Carissa Signature, Brimar, Amperex input,drivers, TJ Fullmusic 845's
Merlin VSM-MM, Superbam with upgrades batteries, leadfree upgrades
Cardas Golden Ref. IC's and speaker cables-the gold standard for Merlin setups
Mark Levinson No. 37 transport
PAD Dominus digital cable
Perpetual Tech. P1A,P3A, Monolithic PS, all Dan Wright Ref. mods, plus numerous DIY mods,point to point wiring, AC jacks, chassis out of cases, and on and on, Revelation cabling
various isolation and racks for all equipment
Fully dedicated audio room, fully treated with tube traps, diffusion, absorption

All the i's are dotted and t's crossed in this system. Beautiful synergy has been reached. I happily listen to digital and good analog.