Please help diagnose sudden turntable problem

Hi everyone,

I just encountered a very sudden problem with my turntable. I have a fairly new Marantz TT15s1 that was sounding great until yesterday afternoon. I noticed an unusual amount of static, but I chalked that up to the dry air from running the A/C for a couple of days. I used a zero stat gun, and that seemed to help a bit.

Today, however, the problem got significantly worse within the span of a couple of albums. Now, I have significant static and distortion, sometimes completely obscuring the music. It sounds like an amp being overdriven. I have tried two different phono amps and two different preamps, but in every case I get the same sound.

The Marantz has a captive tonearm cable, so I can even swap that out. It's a Clearaudio Virtuoso cartridge that looks to be in excellent shape. The stylus is not bent or damaged. All the leads are plugged in securely. I'm at a loss.

Any ideas would be welcomed. Thanks!
Any new, large machinery in or around your house? New refrigerator?
Neighbor get a vintage car (or CB radio)?
Have you repositioned your equipment lately?
I moved my amp relative to my phono-preamp and got all kinds of hum.
Good luck...
Is your stylus clean ?

Good listening

Scott, its summer electricity and there's nothing we can do about it. I get the same thing happening in my systems during the summer month. You hear grunge, noise and bass becomes very rough, like a dinosaur growl. Digital gets affected too but not quite as bad.

I agree with Pbaudio and make sure the stylus is clean. If so, how many hours on the stylus? Also, is the noise and static on one channel or both? Your cartridge may be telling you it could be time for a new one or a retip.
I've been having a problem for a long time on my VPI Super Scoutmaster. I recently bought a Jake's Turntable mat, which is made out of deer hide. It claimed, among its description, and numerous positive reviews, to reduce or eliminate static, as well as improve sound. It really works in greatly reducing static and sounds and looks great. Beautifully made, costs only $25. Check it out thru!!
Smrex13 - take a look at your tone arm and make sure it isn't out of kilter (look at the pivot point in the rear-make sure youre LEVEL!). what youre stating is what my JMW arm does every once in a while when its not sttting on the pivot perfectly. if any part of the rear of the arm is dragging anywhere, thats what you will hear.
Yes, when a phono suddenly goes bad teh stylus is the most likely culprit. It is the most delicate part of teh chain and can be easily damaged. Also accumulates dirt deposits over time that degregates sound. Could be dirty or damaged. Keep a spare cart around and try that. Then you'll know. Sounds most likely in this case especially if other components in the chain have checked out clean.
I agree, most likely the stylus. Why don't you buy a spare stylus and upgrade your Virtuoso? This is a win/win solution. Even if something else is the problem (unlikely), you'll improve the cart.

The easy way is to go to Lp Gear or Turntable Needles and order an AT95 shibata replacement stylus, about $130. You'll find it at Lp Gear listed under their own brand name. Remove the old stylus by prying up the edge and pulling straight down. Use a wire cutter and carefully trim off the plastic on the new stylus so it looks like the Clearaudio.

If you have questions or want illustrations, go to Audio Circle - AT95/Clearaudio and beyond thread.
Thanks for all the suggestions. The day after I posted the original question, things got so bad that I thought I had blown my amp. Just crazy distortion and interference/static. I shut everything down, used stylus cleaning fluid (I normally just use Zero Dust before each play), sprayed the table and belt with anti-static spray, washed the record, and used my Zero Stat gun on the record before playing. This made the record listenable, but there was still a lot of background static. I unplugged everything and left it over the weekend while I was traveling. Upon hooking everything back up this morning, it sounds quite good.

Keeping my fingers crossedÂ…

Have you ever Flux busted your cartridge? You ever DE mag it.
Well, the static never went completely away and is still causing pretty significant interference with music listening. The turntable and cartridge are only a couple of months old, so it's not a question of the stylus wearing out. And everything sounded great until a few days ago. There is no static with the volume turned down. I have tried the system with and without power conditioning and in two different outlets. There are no new appliances in our apartment, although it's an apartment complex so who knows what my various neighbors are up to.

I'm relatively new to vinyl, and I can certainly see why people shy away from it. I do prefer the sound to digital, but I'm at a loss right now.

Any other ideas would be helpful.

Scott, are you certain that when you tried the second phono stage and the second preamp that the symptoms were identical to what you have been experiencing with the system in its normal configuration?

And when you tried the second phono stage, are you certain that it was set up to be able to handle a high output cartridge such as your Clearaudio Virtuoso, without overloading?

In my experience as an EE, when a problem is unusually hard to diagnose, and experiments seem to point in different directions, or seem to exonerate everything, it is often the case that either two problems are present which happen to cause similar symptoms, or one of the experiments was flawed in some manner. And given what has been said to this point, I wouldn't rule out the phono stage as being responsible.

Best regards,
-- Al

Thanks for the response. I actually tried it with three different phono stages: an Audion pre w/phono (tube), a Vincent (SS), and a Jolida (tube), and the result was identical. Perhaps the SS phono stage did a slightly better job of reducing the static, but it was very much present on every record. All three phono stages were set for MM, and they have all worked with my TT in the past.

Yesterday, I took the turntable back to stage 1 - realigned the cartridge, reinstalled the tonearm, measured the tracking force, cleaned the stylus, and added a Herbie's turntable mat. I wiped everything down with anti-static spray, and then hooked it all back up. The static came right back.

Very frustrated,
I'm still betting its a damaged stylus. That's not teh same as stylus wear which happens over time. Its usually teh result of sudden unintentional stress to the stylus. Something as simple as lowering onto a record too fast for example.

Examination with a magnifying glass by a trained eye might determine something if present but the only real way to know is to try a different stylus which assuming stylus is not easily replaced/removed a different cart with stylus for comparison. A spare cart to use when needed is standard equipment if one wants to be able to assure continued listening when a cart and or stylus related problem occurs.

Styly are very fragile devices. Over the years, and having worked with many tables and carts over teh years, I'd estimate that vast majority of issues relating to distorted phono sound tend to be stylus related, either sudden damage, wear over time, or both.

It seems like a damaged stylus is the only possibility left, no? Unfortunately, the cartridge costs almost as much as I paid for the table, so I'm not quite ready to spend that much shortly after purchasing it. I suppose I could buy a cheap cartridge to see if the static is still there and then get the more expensive one if it solves the problem.

I've been on a terrible run of bad luck with new gear my last five purchases - turntable, amp, integrated amp, phono amp, and stylus gauge - all were either defective out of the package or broke down within a week. I've spent a fair amount shipping brand new gear to be fixed. This turntable has lasted a couple of months, so that's progress...

just saying... possible interconnect issue. Have you tried alternating these or changing them out? Do you have any tube gear?
Gruv Glide will completely eliminate the static issues. There are some people who are vehemently against putting anything on a record, but many people use it with no problems. Just use as directed and your static issues will be over. Of course, it may be something else altogether.
My experience with Gruv Glide:

(1) In order to hear an improvement, you have to have a very revealing system
(2) This improvement isn't of a nature that over-rides the following negative aspects
(3) The application method (a fabric pad)+(this inherently is a source of static energy)
(4) If you can't find a way of putting but a few drops on the applicator pad, you will have put TOO much on your precious vinyl. Your stylus will pick this up and show it to you as a black blob on it's next visit to a Zerodust cleaner.
(5) The slight sonic benefit, to me, isn't worth the trouble or the cost.
(6) Bad investment... other more important issues await.
(7) I vehemently disagree with Chayro here!
Slaw - I've tried both tubed and SS gear, and I get the same problem. The only interconnect I haven't changes is the captive tonearm cable, and if that's the problem then I'll have to have the tonearm rewired.

The static seems somewhat less problematic when I use SS gear rather than tubes. Other than that, I don't notice any difference regardless of what I do.

I may have the chance to swap in an older cartridge later today, so I'll keep y'all posted.

Thanks, Scott
If the stylus is nude mounted ( pierces the cantilever for mounting) I doubt it's the cartridge as most failures with nude mounted stylus are catastrophic, it won't work, or looses volume. If its solder mounted the stylus can break free but usually playing with the lump of solder left causes worse symptoms than static.
I'd suspect interference in tonearm travel; try using an air can source to blow out dust/lint in the tonearm bearing area and if you have one of those fishline anti-skating arrangements make sure it's correctly run, not catching.
Oh.. I forgot the very obvious 1st check... make sure your stylus pressure is correct. If the pressure is too light, it will cause static. If the turntable was moved or jostled its always possible the tonearm counterbalance is no longer right
Smrex13: Don't give up on analog dude! It sounds as though some of your purchases were used, therefore makes it harder to diagnose a particular issue. This may be chalked up to a "lesson learned" in the end. In the mean-time I feel your pain and hope it is resolved quickly.
...ny earier post was in reference to "Groove Lube". Sorry if there is any substantial difference.
Slaw - there is a huge difference between the two. Groove Lube is, IMO, a horrible, sticky mess. Gruv Glide, when used as directed, is good at removing the static charge. I make no other sonic claims for the product. It does collect on the stylus for a play or two, but nothing too bad after that. I generally do not use it unless a record is particularly problematic static-wise.
Thanks to everyone for your insight and suggestions. I was able to install a friend's cartridge as a test, and it cleared the problem right up. My stylus was apparently bent (not totally obvious until I had taken it off) and was not tracking well.

Problem solved!

Thanks again,