Artist please. The MoFi recent stuff is not the same as the 70s-80s MoFi pressings, IMHO.
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Miner42: It's Alison Krauss and Union Station.
Emil_f: Not just normal sibilance. Sibilance plus the sensation that the entire track was too hot--like clipping or some other wild distortion. In the string instruments, too. Also: nothing like it in the CD version of the tracks. I know she's sometimes kind of breath-y.
Mpriola - I know exactly what you are talking about.
These 2 tracks are notoriously hard to track cleanly.
MoFi is right - the records are fine. The problem is your setup. By setup, I don't mean your alignment, VTA, VTF or anti-skate. I mean your equipment.
I too had trouble tracking these cuts cleanly. I'm really sensitive to sibilance distortion, and I could hear it on many of my records. I toiled over setup over and over again, had two separate shops setup my deck, and then had VPI themselves set things up.
It never changed.
To track these tracks, and other challenging tracks cleanly, you need an arm/cartridge combination that is up to the task.
In your case, the Exact II is not up to the task of tracking this record cleanly.
You need to ask yourself 2 questions:
1. Is this the only record that you hear sibilance distortion?
2. How much do you care about this?
Based on the answers to the above, should dictate your path going forward. If these is the only record where you hear sibilance distortion, it's probably best just to not worry about it.
Otherwise - You are going to need to spend some money.
The RB700 is a pretty good arm, and I think it can handle the job. If you want to keep the arm, then it's time to start looking into other cartridges.
The tricky thing, is that more $$$ does not equal better tracking. In fact, it's often the complete opposite. I had an Ortofon Jubilee ($2200) and a Benz L2 ($1500) both track like crap. Granted, that was with the VPI JMW9sig arm, which in my experience is prone to sibilance distortion. Maybe in another arm they would have done better?
The best tracking cartridge that I have found so far is the Audio Technica AT33PTG. It tracks the best out of about 10 cartridges that I tried. It is no longer available, but the mark II version is. It's about $550 from Amazon:
Switching to this cartridge, and to the Michell Technoarm + Orbe table from the VPI ScoutMaster w/ jmwsig arm improved the sibilance distortion on those tracks by about 85% for me. It's still not perfect, but the vast majority of all sibilance that I was hearing on my other records is gone.
The tricky thing is that it's hard to know what's going to work without going and actually trying it. Dynavectors are great sounding cartridges. The original 20X2 is a good sounding cart, but not up there with the very best in tracking in my experience. It may have been improved in the rev 2 version though.
Goatwuss, Stingreen and Tricon_dave are correct. This LP plays fine in my system too but I have two friends with (less capable) systems which distort it just as you described, especially the inner tracks.
We've played the same copy in all three systems. Only in mine is it listenable (assuming one applies such a term to Allison Krauss). ;-)
It's a challenge not only for a cartridge/tonearm, it's a major challenge for a phono stage. The recording was miked closely, fundamentals and harmonics are quite close together and amplitudes are high. These factors challenge each component's ability to avoid sibilance (due to intermodulation between powerful, closely related waveforms) and crackling (due to physical mistracking, phono stage overload or both). The more tightly packed modulations of an inner groove just compound these challenges.
This record's a pretty good demo for a good system, or a pretty stiff challenge for one that's still developing.
I had a friend bring his Mission775sm Table with a 774sm tonearm and a Dorian cartridge. Every record that I have sibilance on was gone on his table. Same setup other than different table and tonearm. Has everything to do with the table and arm IMO. I wonder if gimbal arms are less prone to this type of distortion. maybe better unipivots would track better
Perhaps this discussion should be limited to one LP, but I just bought the Mo-Fi re-issue of "Only the Lonely" (Frank Sinatra). As I listened to it, I was thinking that I have a life-long experience with this album, and I can sing every ballad on it. I bought a copy when it originally came out by taking the bus to THE record store in New Haven, CT, because I was too young to drive. I have owned a couple of Japanese re-issues since. Anyway, I am not going to say the Mo-Fi re-issue is "bad", but it is nothing special; I was hoping for a revelation. I was recently listening to one of my "old" Mo-Fi's (Dave Brubeck quartet with Gerry Mulligan in concert). There is no comparison; the Brubeck/Mulligan LP is far far superior to the Sinatra and conveys the illusion of reality that is uncanny at times. Granted, the difference between the two is at least partly due to a difference in the quality of the original sources. I would still buy a Mo-Fi, but my expectations are lowered.
Yeah, my copy of that Sinatra Mofi is a bit dead in the sonics, too. Not bad but not great, like you say. Milt Jackson's Invitation, on the other hand, is great sonically. My Michael Brecker's Pilgrimage is sonically so-so but my Little Feat's Sailin' Shoes is great.
On the other hand, I have a Grateful Dead Mars Hotel from the mid-80s that's disappointing, too, so I'm not so sure the old Mofi was always that more consistent.
I've purchased several mofi pressings and have found they are not nearly as good sounding as the HQ-180 pressings from Warner bros. Also, anything by analog productions sounds very good. I am not planning to buy any more mofi pressings until I hear they have improved. I love that they exist but their quality needs to get better.