Poor sound from Rega Planar 3

I have just got hold of a second hand Rega Planar 3. It seems to work ok but all my records have significant HF loss and sound 'worn' or 'abrasive'. There is also very little soundstage. The whole thing sounds flat.

The cart is Rega's own (not sure which model no.)

Do I need a new cartridge, or is it something else?
It could be the cartridge(worn out), or it could be the VTA adjustment. If you don't know how old or how much wear is on the cartridge, you need to have someone with experience evaluate it. Do this before playing any more records, since a damaged cartridge could ruin records.

Unless the turntable or arm is damaged, it is the cartridge. If you are using Rega's stock felt mat on the platter and a Rega cartridge, the VTA is pre-set and perfect -- you can't adjust VTA anyway with the stock RB-300 arm.

Sounds like the cartridge is dead. Twl is correct -- DO NOT play records or you could damage them. If you replace the cartridge with another Rega cartridge, buy a "Super Bias" or better.

Good luck.
Sold and serviced Rega 3's some years back - I'd agree that it could be a really worn cartidge. Especially as it's used - any chance that there could be a blob of something on the stylus tip? Microscopic inspection should show this.
What are you running the Rega into ? Cables - pre-amp - does the pre-amp have selectible resistance or capacitance ?
Once had a customer extend his tonearm wires by around 30 feet - he returned three differnt tuntables B&O ,Linn Axis and a Rega 2) 'cause they just didn't sound the way they did in the store - this did in fact sound a bit like what you are describing. Any chance somebody improved the RB-300 by modifieng the tonearm wiring or grafting on "better" phono jacks via a really lousy soldering job?
A trully epically worn out stylis tip could be the source of the problem and I sure agree with everyone else - don't play records that you care about untill you're sure this is working right.
I really hope this isn't the case - but how do your records sound on other turntables? I had more than a few customer's over the years who upgraded their system only to realize thier entire LP collection was worn out.
This may be the "magic bullet" you are looking for.

One of my friends has had a Plannar 3 now for about 10 years. It was never a "used" turntable, but in the first 4 years of owning it, he had moved so many times (college to home to California and then back), each time removing the plattter for transport, it was not in the cleanest of shapes. Around this time he had it set up at his folks house in NY and he complained to me over the phone all his records sounded noisy. He knew I was a more neurotic audiophile than him and therefore might have some ideas.

I drove down to visit from MA, mainly because we were forming a band with some other people, but while I was there he played me some records. Zappa's lumpy gravy sounded particularly awful, way too much crackle and distortion. I made a guess, based on nothing but intuition, that perhaps the heavily traveled glass platter was making a poor physical connection with the spindle because of the built up dust and grime. Boy did I hit the nail on the head! After restoring the connection distortion vanished, instruments had a specific space in the soundstage (like the CD version), and surface noise greatly diminished. He was extatic.

This is what we did, using cotton cloths:
1) removed and cleaned glass platter with rubbing alchohol
2) wiped the plastic spindle underneath the platter, as well as the belt and belt spindle, with a damp cloth, then again with a dry cloth, then reassembled the unit.

The most important part of it seemed to be the area where the glass platter touches the plastic spinde. In fact we went so far as to have one of us hold the plastic piece while the other person turned the glass platter slightly (at the end of the cleaning, just to sort of "grind" it in place).

There are of course other possible reasons a table can sound bad but your complaints sound uncannily similar.

Other reasons include (you probably thought of these already):

table not perfectly level

worn cartridge/poorly aligned cartridge

turntable not isolated from vibration- need spiked wall shelf or floor stand

poor phono preamp

PS he still uses the turntable to this day and is very happy with it. He has a vintage Target wall shelf (closest today is probably the Apollo wall shelf for $125) and believe it or not an Audio Technica 120e cartridge that just happens to mate very well with the P3 (get it from Garage-A-Records online for around $55!!!)

best of luck,

Thanks for the responses. I have quite a bit to go on there. The sound is best described as:

flat (no depth or body)
scruffy, messy treble (what little of it there is)The sound isn't harsh though.

There is no real problem with crackles or pops, surface noise is quite low.

I am no expert in TT's but I'd bet large money that the cart is worn to bits. I looked through a magnifying glass (it's all I have)and the tips looked blackened a bit but it doesn't 'look' damaged. Can you 'see' wear?

My pre-amp is a the phono section of a Rotel Amp, rather naff I suppose but what I have noticed is that my friends linear tracking Kenwood TT off a midi hifi system sounds no worse (in fact maybe a bit better) than my Rega.

So something is wrong
Yes, I'd guess something is wrong.

One thing I forgot to mention is that at the time my friend was using a Sumiko Blue Point Special and now has an Audio-Technica 120E cartridge. Both are good matches with the rega arm. The AT120E is a suprisingly good match, very clean and musical sounding, although not as "warm" as the blu point.

Another killer match with the Plannar 3 (I used to own a P3) is the Goldring Eroica (hi or lo output both work great).

I'm not a salesman, these are my actual opinions.
Oh, one more thing that could be causing the problem you describe:

The cartridge you have may be a low output moving coil (you said you weren't sure which model it is). If you try to play a moving coil into a standard phono preamp you will have very little HF response. Do you need to turn the volume up a bit more than usual? If so then it may be a moving coil cartridge. If you have a spare moving magnet cartridge (most are) you can test this by mounting it on the Rega and playing it, or even just hooking up any random turntable that has a MM cartridge to your system.
I'd second the recommendation of a new Audio technica at-95e if you want a low cost high performance cartridge. It does sound like your cartridge is worn. the black stuff you see on the tip could be vinyl. If you do get an AT95 get and like it get a couple of spare styli now as I think they're being discontinued. When installing the cartridge pay particular attention to overhang and alignment as failure to do so will destroy imaging (as I have learned myself).

Personally I'd chuck the cartridge since LPs are hard to replace, but you could try giving it a little swab with a cotton bud (Q-tip) soaked in isopropyl alcohol. I've always found it to work ok with no negative effects.

Also clean the belt in hot soapy water so it feels sticky and clean the motor shaft and the sub-platter with iso-alcohol so that there's no grease to allow the belt to slip. Finally a little trick I use on my rega is to use double sided tape to hold the felt mat to the glass platter to prevent slippage. Speed stability is not the rega's strongest point but if everything is clean and the mat taped down then it helps a lot.
If you are still following this thread I should also mention that when we used the AT120e the original Rega felt mat worked well with it (it's a plain black thick felt mat), but when we tried a Linn mat for whatever reason it sounded thin. Our overall experience with turntable experiments was that the compatibility between the various parts (cart, arm, mat, etc.) is just as important than the parts themselves. Some trial and error may be neccesary.