Music Hall MMF-5: laid back sound?

I just got my first "real" turntable, a Music Hall MMF-5. The image stability, channel separation, soundstaging and lack of noise are leagues beyond anything I've encountered in my experiences with older direct-drive tables and lesser belt driven designs. I'm feeling, however, that the dynamics are a little reigned in with the MMF-5, and the bass is a bit mushy. The cart is the stock Goldring 1012 and it was set up by a local analog guru who's done right by me in setting up other tables. I replaced the rubber feet with BDR cones (3 of 'em) and have the table leveled on a granite platform which is spiked to the floor, so I don't think isolation is (exclusively) the issue. I also replaced the stock felt mat with a Herbie's Way Excellent mat. I considered rolling the Amperex orange globe 6922s in my phono stage (modified Moscode Super It, pretty sweet!) for something a little livelier, like maybe new tubes from Electro Harmonix, but that's getting into the whole tone-control trip. I already have very transparent cables in the chain (Audio Art IC3, see my review), and my current setup of an ATI 1502, passive pre and Dynaudio 50s should let all the good stuff through, so maybe this is just the character of the table. Is there something else I can do here, or should I look at a Rega for more snap and tighter bass?
Hi Jfacker,

I owned a MMF-7 for a while and it sounds to me like you have covered all of the tweaks known to help the Music Halls. I'm not familiar with the goldring as I used a Shure V15VxMR, but I would think that trying a different cartridge should help many of the things you describe. I have heard of folks changing to the 1022 stylus and they report improvements. With that Project arm you'll need to stay with a high compliant cartridge. The Music Halls do have a bit of a darker sound but you be able to get tight bass. Whether or not you want to spend the time and money to improve things with the MMF-5 or change tables is up to you, but unless you're willing to spend at least $1.5K I don't think you will significantly improve on the table you have.
I have a Music Hall MMF -5. It's a good starter turntable, but limited in upgradability. I upgraded to a Scheu premier table and there is no comparison . Like Dan ed said though if you want next level analogue the price increase is significant. You could spend a G and a half on just a phono stage. I had the Goldring set-up too . The MMF 5 is like an intro to decent analogue. Once you got the taste I think a better table will be in your future.
I wouldn't get too bent out of shape here Jfacker. After all we're talking about a turntable/tonearm/cartridge that sells for $500 used. This isn't a Brinkman you know. :-)
here's what I had to say about it just in case you missed reading this review here on Audiogon:

>>and have the table leveled on a granite platform which is spiked to the floor
is the floor carpet over concrete or wood over concrete? or is it a sprung floor, say, on the 2nd floor of your house/apt. Having a springy floor will deaden the dynamics. A friend of mine solved this issue by using the Promethean base from Machina Dynamics. He uses a Nott Spacedeck just BTW.

I used replaced the stock feet w/ Golden Sound ceramic cones.
I replaced the stock felt mat w/ a DIY cork mat to no detrimental effect.
I was & still am using the CAT phono stage. I never felt that the bass was mushy. Reigned-in dynamics - yes. I paid under $500 for that TT back then so what more could I expect! It jaded my appetite for vinyl so I ended up owning it for less than 1 year. For $500 it had superb sound as stated in my review.
I sold it an Audiogon member, who still has it & loves its sound! I was in communications w/ him off & on for about 1 year after he bought my MMF-5 & that's how I know.

Recently I was tube rolling & I got to listen to Amperex 6922, white label, made in USA tubes. These tubes are warm & they have OK bass. I found the Amperex 7308, orange label, made in USA to be far superior & that's what I bought. Tubes are preamp specific - that's one of the biggest lessons I learnt from this tube rolling. I don't know which tubes will work in your preamp but if you have another tube or ss phono pre or can borrow one from a friend, try the MMF-5 thru that to give you another idea of the sound.

even tho the MMF-5 is a cheap TT it is just possible that it is good enough to show the weaknesses of the other components in your system:- your phono preamp might not be as transparent as you imagined it being & the same case w/ your cables. So, don't simply dismiss this thought.
I am using an MMF-7. But have my eye on a SOTA Cosmos. Try the Goldring 1042; it improved by bass. Dismiss the clamp or buy a better one, I find much better prat with out it on most records. Also since it is a Pro-Ject, Pro-Ject does make a speed controller that I am going to try as well untill funds are available for the SOTA.
Bombaywalla said it all...the mmf-5, in my experience, is very system dependent and with the right combo is a great-sounding unit capable of much music. Since I've had the Bombaywalla unit I've used it with many different power amp-solid state and tube pre combos with 5 different sets of speakers and the music it delivers seems to reflect those strenths/weaknesses. Bass is suprisingly good and it does everything I want it to do. I look all the time for upgrades or improvemnts but it seems that $1500 is about where I would have to go and there might not be much improvement then unless I reworked my amp, speakers, and cart. I learned that clean vinyl culled for the best sound combined with tubes will deliver great sound with the mmf-5 and I'm sticking with tweaks and changes to those parts instead of a risky, limited results of another $1000 invested in a "better" turntable. Another great thing is that the mmf-5 is so durable and easy to set up and move. Bombaywalla shipped it to me a distance of 2000 miles I used it for 3 years and I've moved another 1,500 miles, set it up, and it's still going strong...
Studying the cartridges that Project uses for their tables it is obvious that they are refurbished Grado's from the Prestige series line.I would try something from about a Grado Red upwards for a cartridge upgrade that won't break the bank and could be much better than the Goldring cartridge you are currently using.If you can spend more money the wood-bodied Grado's are even better.Here is a link
Thanks everybody for your input. Let me be clear, I by no means feel that the table sounds BAD, I'm just trying to squeeze everything I can out of it. My floors are concrete so I don't think resonance is an issue although I've never been crazy about the BDR cones, they were just all that I had. Ideally I'd put some Mapleshade cones or something similarly beefy under the table. I was warned about the clamp also, but after some experimentation I found I liked the sound better with the clamp in place (a little more bite is what I heard).

The point about the phono stage is well taken; I'll try running the MMF-5 into something else. I already hooked it up to the phono stage in a Creek pre I just sold (equivalent to their OBH 8 or 8SE, I think), and the sound was not awful in absolute terms but it was a major step down from the Moscode unit. I'm going to look at tube rolling first, but I suspect the best results will come from having a new cart installed. I have checked into just replacing the stylus but the upgrades aren't cheap. My feeling is that I might be better off just buying a new cart altogether. Anyone wanna venture feedback on the Sumiko BPS? Should I expect a "hyped" or tipped-up treble out of that cart? Thanks again--Jeff.
Do not look at Rega for anything. They are fine tables for the price, as are MMF tables. Dan_ed is right when he says you need to purchase a 1.5K or more (retail) table to get into the next notch. A Rega will only disappoint.

Also, do not get too bogged down with purchasing other carts and expensive tweaks on the MMF5. You are running into the area diminishing marginal returns at the moment. Rather look at getting that table.

The Sumiko BPS does not really have a "hyped" up treble so much as one with a correct frequency response out to 35KHz.This is what the majority of records properly mastered in analogue require.It would be problematic therefore for your speakers if your tweeters don't have at least a frequency response out to this,so you would look elsewhere.I think it is time for you to do a cartridge upgrade from the stock model the table came with and there are many choices.Don't listen to these other members that are rushing to your wallet saying you have nirvana at this price point.You like your table and want to improve it further.If you have patience get a Denon 103 and break it in for 50 hours.
Unfortunately the Denon 103 will not even come close to reaching its' potential with the MMF-5 tonearm. Bad investment.
Why do you say that?Is it the cartridge resonance factor?I estimate around 16Hz which is fine.I suppose you don't think it's any good on a dreaded Rega arm also.
Not a resonance issue only the trackability of the MMF-5 tonearm. Don't believe me if you wish; ask around.
BTW 16Hz is high not fine.
It would be serviceable in the Rega 900 but the 250 and 300 are entry level tonearms; the 103 is not an entry level cartridge. Again ask around if you need more info.
From the only serious study of cartridge resonance by Paol Ladegaard."The first thing to do is to raise the(cartridge resonance) frequency to 15-18Hz and then ideally damp the system to a Q of 0.5...In pursuit of this goal one should not make trade-offs with respect to rigidity of the tonearm tube and fixture..."Both Rega and Project arms are suitable especially with the Denon 103.They actually get close to Ladegaard's requirements.
All belt drive turntables are shit ask around!This forum has a long thread on the issue.I know you don't like Rega arms you have made that clear a number of times,but if you ask around a lot of people think they are fine.Origin Live's Mark Baker has made a living off of them.You are making broad statements and offering consensus opinion as truth,but perhaps the issues you found with the Rega's were system specific-all audio is a compromise in some way,from experience you learn,sure.Raul Regas thinks the Denon 103 is crap and he has about the best system on this forum-to each his own.But there were scientific reasons given,that relied on emperical evidence for Paol Ladegaard stating what he did.I don't think he is wrong.
Judy, Judy, Judy! ( my best Cary Grant. ) You're right on, IMHO. I don't think a 103 would be a good fit. I do think a Dynovector 10x5 or the like might, but it seems we've already priced ourselves out of Jfacker's market. But there is no real assurance that the problem is with the cartridge.

If the real problem is mushy bass, then all things considered I suggest Jfacker look at the VTA and VTF settings. Sorry dude, it's time to quit depending on your local TT setup guy and learn to DIY. Buying a lesser cartridge, even a new one, is not probably not going to solve this.
In the Lenco thread Jean has already dissed the Dynavector 10x5 as compared to a Denon 103.One of these modern pieces of junk that get a high rating.One of his favourite combos is the Lenco idler wheel with a Rega RB300 and Denon 103.Killed a VPI TNT and Dynavector 10x5.
Having the best system and having a good ear are 2 different issues. He doesn't like Zyx cartridges either. I disagree with him.
The fact of the matter is that Rega arms, the 900 nothwithstanding, have very poor bearing design and consequently will not track medium-high end cartridges to their optimum level. Let's not get emotional about this; facts are facts.
Regarding Mark Baker making a living off of Origin. Good for him. General Motors makes a lot of money selling Chevrolets every year but is it the best car you can buy? Hardly.
You're fighting an uphill battle here my young friend.
Thank you.
Stefanl, we're talking about a Project arm here that just is not that outstanding. It is adequate, but nothing more. I know and love the 103 (mine is a 103R mounted on a Basis Vector) and I agree that it is an awesome cartridge for the money. If we were talking about a Rega arm on this Music Hall I would be in complete agreement with your 103 recommendation. I really believe that this arm needs a more compliant cartridge.

Judy, have you tried a Rega 250 with the HiFi mod? Really does wonders for the performance of that arm.
No, only the bone stock 250 and 300. I have not heard any of the modded versions. Thanks.
I wasn't sure about the Denon's compatibility, but I'd given it some thought. A friend has a Michell Technodec with a 103 on it. Not sure what arm he's using, I should ask him. Sounds superb. The Michell tables are something I'd look at if I could afford to make a move up.

The more I listen, the more I feel like I may have overstated my concerns with the bass. It sounds OK actually, but in absolute terms the mid-to-upper bass seems "fat," and a little too prominent, as if the midrange is recessed in comparison. I have to crank it up to hear the vocals sometimes.

I've begun to wonder if part of the problem with the dynamics isn't due to my passive pre. It's hella transparent, but I know for a fact that the Dynaudios are power-hungry and I think some of the ATI amp's punch is getting lost due to the anemic signal arriving from the preamp. It's a homemade design built around a DACT stepped attenuator and you have to crank it to within just a few notches of "wide open" to get really cracking sound from the Dynaudios. At lower levels the dynamic contrasts suffer. Not as noticeable with digital, but then, love it or don't, digital has that digital "bite."

So many variables, it's enough to drive you mad. Which, truth be told, may be what I love most about this hobby :)

I would like to try a MC at some point, though...considered the Dyna but thought it might compound the laid-back character that other reviews have led me to suspect is somewhat endemic to this table's character.
I've used a Dynavector 10X5 with the MMF5. Very nice combination, and it is a big improvement over the stock cartridge. It's output is a little lower than the stock Goldring cartridge- may need adjustable gain in your phono pre to get the best dynamics.
Origin Live now produce an arm called the "Conquerer" that is better than an SME V.Based on that original RB250 Rega arm tube.Here is a link are beside the point right up the Rega line especially to the RB 900 as the modded RB250(Origin counterweight,Incognito rewire)matches it.The facts could be stated this way,cartridge resonance is the most fundamental and important issue.To quote Ladegaard again "...traditional specifications like rumble,wow and flutter and required tracking force are both unreliable and inadequate.Furthermore,they are strongly influenced by the actual combination of motor,arm and cartridge and record,all left to random decisions by the Hi-Fi consumer."The Well-Tempered Classic turntable was a direct result of this paper.I am not being emotional here.Koetsu cartridges were designed on Garrard idler-wheel turtables.I repeat,the Dynavector does not match the Denon.You are wrong about the table needing a more compliant cartridge the Project arm has the same effective mass(11gms) as the Rega.You made the mistake of telling the guy to get a new table,which was probably a slap in the face to him.Anyway idler-wheel turnatables prove that only backward steps have been taken in audio for quite a while.The uphill battle is all yours.
Sorry! But the link doesn't work in my prevous post the Origin Live website is easy to find though.I was referring to "bearings" just after the failed link.One final point that seems obvious is that speed stability and not running at 33 1/3 RPM is crucially important on any table.It effects everything.
Funny stuff stefan LOL!!!!!
I apologise for another error.The counterweight on the Origin Live "Conquerer" tonearm appears to modelled after the Rega design but the arm-tube is a different "staggered" type getting thinner towards the headshell as the Rega.Here is a comprehensive summary of most Rega type arms at Vinyl Engine library.