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I'll give it a try.
Also, do you think this 'upgrade' is worth it?
Pro-Ject: Acryl-It Platter Upgrade
In my opinion when people compare analog to digital they are often missing frequency extension and clarity, this is clearly cartridge responsibility and stylus profile is the most important along with the cantilever. It is more complicated, but in general a high compliance and light moving mass is a benefit. You can upgrade everything, but cartridge is first and only component that actually touch your record, it depends how you can extract music from the grooves and this is all about cartridge and stylus.
A close friend of mine replaced his Ortofon M2 Red on similar turntable with Stanton 881s mk2 and he was shocked. It was $350 cartridge with Stereohedron stylus, it’s equal to Pickering XSV-3000 model. These are the best for the money. Interesting that Pickering even made a version of the same cartridge with slightly lower compliance for mid mass tonearms, the model number was XSV-3000SP.
To keep the price low, but not to miss exotic cantilevers and best ever diamonds, you’d be better with vintage MM or MI. Seriously, you can’t get anything like that today at the same price. Another cartridge withing your budget can be AT-ML150 OCC with Beryllium cantilever and MicroLine stylus tip, modern Audio-Technica cartridges does not have beryllium cantilevers anymore.
P.S. You can’t improve the sound of the cheap Ortofon M2 Red cartridge playin’ with settings, the stylus of this cartridge is less sensitive to settings, It’s conventional Elliptical profile. Also this cartridge is pre-installed by Pro-Ject and everything must be already "perfect" since the manufacturer decided to use this cartridge on their tonearm. Do not waste your time. Different settings will give you almost nothing, but a better cartridge will be huge improvement for sure.
I think you should learn to set up your turntable, as is, first, as best as possible .....then decide if you want to drop more money on it, or trade for another. This takes 5 minutes tops.
What is the VTF and Anti Skate set at ?
When you say -
Does the record sound better at the start to the middle, and worse from the middle to the end of the record ?
What stud groove is the anti skate mono filament line sitting in. Is it in the 2nd groove - the middle one ?
From the user manual
See picture on page 4.
Try the line in the first stud groove. Less Anti Skate.
Also what happened when you removed the mat. Did you notice any change ?
Go from there.
Don't worry about the cartridge for the moment. What’s the table standing on? Try standing it on a sheet of granite, paving slab or thick glass. Is there a dust cover on it? Remove it. Is it in the firing line of the speakers? Stuck in a corner? Acoustic feedback can give muddy bass.
The Denon amp is old and most likely has a crap phono stage. Buy a Schiit Mani from Amazon and plug into an aux input.
Just to remind you guys that Ortofon 2M is pre-installed by Pro-Ject on nearly all their turntables/tonearms, so if their arm does not have VTA then a cartridge chosen by manufacturer must be perfect match even without VTA adjustment. User can only adjust Tracking Force and Anti-Skating (they must be the same for this cartridge), that's all. Tonearm is already parallel to the record surface.
An entry level turntable and cartridge can't surpass proper digital setup, especially if the user get used to digital, not to analog.
-It must be MM or MI cartridge, because you don’t have an appropriate MC phono stage or SUT or Headamp for use with LOMC (Low Output MC).
-It must be a cartridge with the most advanced stylus profile if you want deep bass and extended highs that you can compare to your digital rig. Advanced stylus life span is 1200 hrs (MicroLine), your conventional stylus life span is only 500 hrs (Elliptical) or 300 hrs (Conical).
-It must be a cartridge with the best possible cantilever, something comparable to very expensive Boron, it is very rare Beryllium!
-And it must be a cartridge with MID compliance to match your tonearm properly.
Ok, you asked for the links:
In my opinion this is the best you can get, read more about it.
Another mid compliance monster is here.
Higher compliance cartridges:
And alternative choice from my collection of Grace is this one.
If you want something very special try this.
google it and you will easily find what other people think about those cartridges, nothing can beat them at this price, none of the modern MM/MI cartridges can be even close to those 4
Any mid compliance cartridge is compatible if the weight of the cartridge itself is not exceeded (you can check the manual of your arm for cartridge weight range).
New cartridge is not better than those (New Old Stock) vintage cartridges from the golden age of analog. The best MM/MI cartridges designed in the 70/80's. I tried more than 30 cartridges up to $5K and my preference is vintage high-end cartridges (often cheaper and better).
It it were me, before spending $500 on a $400 turntable/arm/cartridge piece, I would follow the (other) recommendations by some experienced members. You first need to identify the weakest link and then take the next step. As mentioned earlier, your weakest link could be the built in phono preamp and a $129 Schiit Mani could be a noticeable upgrade. They have a 15 day return policy. You may also need to give the table/cartridge time to settle in before going down the rabbit hole....
Some tracks sound good and others not so much.This makes me think that the issue is the source material itself unless as was stated the bad tracks are always at the beginning or the end or in the middle of the record which would then indicate a setup issue.
The Bass is prominent and not ’tight’This could be your cartridge picking up secondary vibrations from the bass being transmitted into your room from your speakers with those vibrations being picked up by your stand, turntable and tonearm and then being picked up by the cartridge and resent through your system.
This was an issue I had about a year ago. I was able to mitigate it quite a bit by purchasing some ant-vibration pads. The pads I bought were about a 1/2" thick piece of cork sandwiched between two pieces of rubber. They were somewhere between $10 to $20 for a package of four off of Amazon. Ultimately I ended up with a Townshend Audio Seismic platform. Substantially more than $20 off of eBay but it did eliminate any acoustical issue I was having with my turntable rig.
I’m thinking if it was a problem with the Project TT then the muddy bass would be prominent on ALL recordings which is not the case.
The other question I have is whether it’s better to buy a ProJect Debut Carbon DC and significantly upgrade the cartridge ($800 for example) and other tweeks or buy the Technics SL-1210GR (and buy a cheaper cartridge ($200)
Finally, will upgrading the pre amp/amp solve the muddy bass problem.
Again, thanks everyone for your help you’ve been very helpful!
That table certainly does have a VTA adjustment. Also, I recently bought an Ortofon Quintet Red MC (cheapest of those 4) for my Linn Basik/Akito table and it sounds great. Highly recommended. I'd been using the excellent but underrated Sumiko Pearl MM for years and THAT sounded great also, but wanted to try a MC cart...after some break-in it just sounds fabulous.
It will be very hard to find any good cartridge at $200, even those great cartridges from the past dramatically increased in price on the market over the years. And i have no idea what you can buy at $200 today (new) ?
It is an expensive hobby for each of us, but for Technics turntable you definitely need a great cartridge, the quality of your vinyl playback 90% is a cartridge. Buying a great Direct Drive turntable to save on cartridge is bad idea, sooner or later you will need a decent cartridge anyway if vinyl is important for you. Technics SL1210GR have all the adjustment you need (VTA on the fly) for any cartridge.
Phono stage ? Yes, very important too.
I'm using Australian made JLTi for MM and MC, the mk5 is about $1000 USD with shipping, the price on their site is in AUD
@klimt This is going sideways. Back up. You are all over the place. That's okay.
Your original problem was muddy sound. You didn't apparently address suggestions about acoustic feedback. You assumed you needed a better cartridge. That won't necessarily fix things. Then, in another thread, you said you got rid of the table. Now you want to get a phono with moving coil settings while you've not landed yet.
Chakster means well and he's right. But you do not need to go nuts spending at this point.
Assuming you sent the Pro-Ject back, and the support you are using isn't a tea chest or an ironing board, consider getting the Technics GR and a cheaper cartridge like the Nagaoka MP110.
Get the Schiit Mani from Amazon. Connect it to the aux input on the Denon.
Ensure all is in order with set up. Read up on VTA, SRA, etc. Don't be afraid to adjust and listen and adjust. All set in an hour.
Now, your Denon is probaby not great, and in due course can be updated. The 630 speakers are big and may be overloading your space if playing too loudly. And we are back to acoustic feedback. Set tone controls flat and loudness off. See how you get on. Then and only then, can you move forward.