Pop heard when stylus dropped into lead-in groove

I'm not sure whether I recently developed this problem or if I just didn't pay it any mind before. However, now that it has entered my consciousness, it has become a constant source of angst. I have checked anti-skate, added damping fluid to the well (Aries II), cleaned the stylus. I'm at a loss. I have an Aesthetix Rhea and admittedly it is a high gain phono stage which has a tendency to accentuate pops and clicks. Is this phenomenon normal? Is it a possibly a sign of stylus wear? Once the music starts to play, there are no problems with tracking, distortion,etc. Could it be the blunting of the stylus is magnifying the impact of the stylus as it navigates the transition from the lead-in groove to the recorded portion of the record? Assurances welcome.
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I usually mute the phono stage or preamp until the stylus is in the groove. But the damping fluid could have dried up or leaked from your arms cueing device allowing the arm to drop fast.
I'm not sure whether this is the same thing you're experiencing, but with just about every LP I've played in the last 40 or so years, there is a pop as the stylus glides from the uncut record surface into the groove. No way to avoid that, I don't think.
It would seem counter-intuitive for there to NOT be a pop when the stylus hits the record, and when it drops into the lead-in groove. I always keep the volume control at a low setting until I hear the pop(s), and then I turn it up.

-- Al
Ditto. In fact I keep my phono stage on mute because I don't want the transient pop/thump to be amplified in the phono stage circuitry.

BTW, I also notice that on some records, the first couple of rows of groves sound like the stylus is dragging its butt or something like that. But even in such cases, everything smooths out after the stylus tracks a couple of rows of grooves. I also double checked VTA, azimuth, alignment and VTF. Everything seems ok. Something to get used to I suppose??
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Ah. To mute or not to mute, that is the question...

I, too, am an unmuter. I like to know where my tips going.
I have friends that mute like there's no tomorrow. I just dont see the need.
Now if several are cueing during the same listening session,
It could be wise to mute for various unbeknownst volume settings.
The loud pop comes from the high forces deflecting the cantilever when the stylus is dropped into the groove. It is exacerbated by a number of factors. First, one must cue the down the arm slowly to minimize this force. The pop can become more of a problem if the cuing rate has changed (most cuing devices use viscous dampening and the tendency is for the drop rate to increase as the mechanism ages). If your arm does not allow for an adjustment to the drop rate, you will have to lower the rate yourself by slowly moving the lever each time you cue.

Sometimes the rubberize bar that holds the arm in place becomes less tacky which allows the arm to drift out of line when it cues down. If your arm provides antiskating, this causes the arm to drift outward toward the edge. If the arm cues too far out toward the edge of the record, the stylus will land on the high edge bead. The arm/stylus will then fall downward to the lowspot inside of the bead; this fall and abrupt stop is often the cause of a loud pop. Try cuing the stylus further into the record to avoid hitting the outer bead.

Slower cuing and cuing far enough into the record to avoid the outer bead is usually enough to minimize any sort of loud pop.
I discovered the culprit. I had the gain set on my phono stage (Aesthetix Rhea) to the highest setting (75). I don't remember going there, but perhaps I was experimenting and forgot to return it to where I normally have it set (62). I also had my VTF tracking at the high end of the recommended range, so I scaled that back slightly as well. The combination worked to amplify what we all hear as normal to the point where it sounded like a static charged particle. I still hear it, but it no longer draws attention to itself. Its nice to "fix" things for free.
Hi Stew. glad that everything worked out. FWIW, that's why I mute my phon stage.

My gear includes an ARC Ref3 line stage and an ARC PH-7 phono stage. The PH-7 does not have a gain control -- instead, it's gain output is set to full throttle. By contrast, gain control is handled exclusively through the Ref 3. Ergo why I mute the PH-7.

Hence, if my stylus "pops," I don't want full throttle gain going through the amplification circuits of my PH-7. I have no idea what if anything could happen if there was a transient overload (pop) -- and I don't want to find out. Similalry, I don't want that type of transient surge amplified through the rest of my rig and ultimately into the speakers. It may (??) do no harm, but I can't see how it can help anything -- unless I want to scare the sh*t out of the roaches and rats. So, for all these reasons, that's why I mute my phono stage everytime I play a new record. FWIW.
If you have your volume set for "normal" listening on your
Ref3, what sort of damaging blast do you think will occur?

If the volume pot was turned way up, say for another source
with much less gain than the phono , then I could understand
your concern.
Chashas, as I said in my post above, my phono stage does not have a gain control. Instead, it runs full throttle output of 58db gain straight into the line stage. As I also said, "I have no idea what if anything could happen [to my PH-7 phono stage] if there was a transient overload (pop) -- and I don't want to find out." So my first concerrn goes to the phono stage. That is, why would I want to surge maximum gain through the phono amplification circuits when I can play it safe and mute the phono inputs when I lower the stylus onto the record, thus eliminating any risk of a transient surge.

In your last comment, you say that "[i]f the volume pot was turned way up, say [from] another source with much less gain than the phono , then I could understand your concern." I believe that your comment might have missed my point, or perhaps I don't understand what you're saying. All I am trying to get across is that by putting my phono pre on mute when I change out records and lower the stylus onto the record, is that not only may I be protecting the phono pre, but unless I also mute the Ref3, I might also damage the rest of my rig downstream, including the Ref3.

In summary, as is the case with most of us, I have a lot of money, time and energy invested in my sound system. I would rather be safe than sorry. That's my only point here.
Hi Bif,
understood about safety. and much safer than sorry. I do know the ph7, and there's nothing that's going to hurt the ph7 if you have a pop go through your system from your record. Now if the gain is set very high from the preamp or line stage, then of course there's always a chance you could take out a tweeter.
now, if you don't want to hear that pop go through your system, like many of my friends, then of course mute till you know the stylus is in the correct groove. but this fear you have of things blowing up is ill-founded.

now, fears i do have are static electricity--sometimes in the winter it can be so severe that if you touch a piece you could take it out. and of course some cable being pulled out while a unit is on.

but yes, better safe than sorry. it surely doesn't cost anything to flip or switch a mute button.
take care
I know it's hard to break habits, but since I was young, I always turned the volume down to a low level before cuing up, or down. It can save your speakers or something else down the road.