Weird - maybe an exorcism - actually are the tubes in the phono preamp good or set in properly?
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Sounds like , and I can't be sure without hearing it, a bad capacitor, or at least a short in the capacitor, I am not familiar enough with the table. If there is another table available to you, and it would not have to be much of one, I would hook it up and see if I still have the problem, if I had another pre amp close by I would insert it into the system and see if I still had the problem. Not always easy I know,but at leat you could narrow it down as to which it is. but If your close to Nashville your welcome to borrow one of mine. I kinda in a way doubt it has anything to do with the actual revolution of the platter as it is not a dd table, just appears that way. Double check yout ground, also run tt direct into the pre amp without the phono stage, wont be much gain, but should be able to hear enough to detect popping. Also check cartridge and check your grounding, bad ground could do that. Probably telling you all you have tried already, but maybe you have missed something in your frustration as I do sometimes.
Thanks for the suggestions, folks, and the humor. In this hobby, you have to smile sometimes when things go from bad to weird. I have tried a few different things, including inserting an old JVC turntable and Audio Technica cartridge into the system just to see if the popping would continue. It did. Now I am convinced the problem is in the phono stage. There is a kit included with the PH3 which, when installed, will lower the gain for higher output cartridges. I'll also call Audio Research for advice.
Of course, if anyone around here as any other ideas, I'll try most anything at this point, including an exorcism.
I believe you are on the right track. The problem is definitely with the Phono stage. Since you verified all your connections and the popping stops when the preamp is muted, I would lean towards a defective component in your phono stage.
This is where I would start unit you discover further evidence that points to another source.