bought the Audio Technica AT33PTG/II cartridge for my Rega RP3 (with an RB-303
arm), and I've been having some problems with inner groove distortion, mostly
on the two Guns N' Roses' "Use your Illusion" albums.
included sound clips at the end of this post. I have recorded most of the
changes that I've tried.
used the cart much yet, so I've only managed to find a few more albums with
inner groove distortion, one of which I've included as a sound clip (although
it might just sound muffled as opposed to distorted).
Before I go
into details I will state the objective of this thread:
seller has said that they could send me another unit to see if that would fix
the problem, but if I can figure out a fix on my own (if the cart is not the
problem), then I might as well save both me and the seller the hassle (and the
question is: Can any of you suggest a fix that I haven't already tried yet
(outlined below)? Maybe there's something I just didn't think of.
going crazy over this for a couple of weeks now - as you can see there
are a lot of details to report!
What is a
bit odd about all this is that I downloaded Pbthal's rips of the two Guns N'
Roses albums, and despite different equipment, the beginning of the album,
"Right Next Door to Hell", sounds identical (as you will hear in the
sound clips), but especially the last song on side 1 of "Illusion I",
"Perfect Crime", is heavily distorted on my setup. On Pbthal's rip,
there's only a slight bit of distortion. It's a loud, aggressive song, so
distortion should be expected. I also downloaded a different rip done with a
Zyx cartridge on a Pioneer, and that also only has very slight inner groove
distortion is most noticeable in the part of "Perfect crime" that
starts after 48 seconds.
the song "My world" on "Illusion II", which is also a loud
and aggressive song at the end of the side, my recording sounds the same as on
Pbthal's. "So fine", also at the end of a side, also sounds
identical, but that is a more mellow song. And then "Breakdown", also
at the end of the side, sounds a bit more distorted, or at least muffled, on my
setup. These are included in the sound clips as well.
instinct tells me that the problem would be one of the following things:
* The cart
alignment is off.
records, although looking to be in practically perfect condition, have been
played with a bad cartridge, and therefore it's simply just the records that
are at fault, and I can't fix it. I did try to clean the record though, with no
* My tonearm
(RB-303) simply can't track the inner grooves properly.
azimuth is off.
Before I go into
further details, I should probably mention that I'm the sceptic type. I've
considered buying the Mint Protractor, but despite all the glowing reviews I
still haven't seen a single before/after sound clip being posted, and then the
stories are essentially no different than the glowing reviews of a $5000 power
cord. I have, however, found that alignment does indeed matter, and I've passed
blind tests between different alignments, also blind tests of different VTA
settings, on two different cartridges. On some cartridges alignment makes more
difference than on others in my experience. So this is why I'm still
considering buying the Mint Protractor. But I would like to see/hear more proof
than just stories :-).
what I have tried to adjust so far:
I have used a magnifying glass and light to get this right, and I also bought a
jeweler's loupe. I have used the printable protractors from Vinyl Engine by Seb
and the Conrad Hoffman printable protractors as well. I've tried Baerwald and
Stevenson by Seb and Loefgren A and B by Conrad Hoffman. One thing I found out
is that Stevenson by Seb actually corresponds to Loefgren A by Conrad Hoffman,
and Baerwald by Seb corresponds to Loefgren B! I also found that the angle of
the cartridge/cantilever on the two different protractors were markedly
different. All this was quite surprising. After printing I checked both with
two different rulers. But it's possible that something has gone horribly wrong
I have also
tried pushing the cart all the way forward, pull it much further back, angling
it a little towards the label, angling it a little more, angling it a little
less, putting it completely straight in the tonearm, angling it to match the
protractors, angling it a bit more or a bit less than the protractors. And
lastly, I found a close-up picture of someone with an RP-8 who used the same
cart, so I tried aligning the cart the same way as in that picture.
None of this
seemed to change anything.
Anti-skating: I've tried pulling it all the way out, pushing it all the way in,
and many positions in-between. No effect.
force: The recommended tracking force is 1,8 to 2,2 grams. I've tried going
from around 1,3 to around 2,6 grams. No change.
When looking at the cantilever it seems straight, but it's difficult to tell
(I've seen bent cantilevers before). I did, however, notice that the cantilever
bends a little to one side when it touches down on the record. The only way I
could get it not to bend was to put a lot of paper washers on top of the
cartridge on one side or under one of the screws that attaches the arm to the
plinth. But it looked completely crazy. So, I think this makes it more likely
that the cart is the culprit rather than the azimuth. I increased the numbers
of paper washers gradually and then listened. I tried this on both sides of the
cart. I also tried putting the paper washers under each of the three screws
between the arm and the plinth. I also used a bubble level on top of the
headshell as well as on the plinth and platter, and the level was completely
picture that I took while playing that actual GN'R record:
* VTA: I've
tried raising the arm with thin metal washers and bolts (around 1, 2, 3 and 6
mm), and I've "lowered" the arm by putting another record or two
under the record mat. My experience tells me that VTA gives more more or less
treble, so it wouldn't affect distortion, and not surprisingly it didn't get
rid of the distortion.
* As for my
tonearm, this could be a possibility, although the arm has a great reputation.
It should be noted that Pbthal uses a linear arm, which should lower IGD. However,
the rip with the Zyx cartridge was done on a Pioneer PL-7L, which also has a
Last year I
tried out a different cart, which didn't sound like I expected (lack of
treble), and I then put it on an acquaintance's old Thorens TD-321 with a Mørch
DP-6 arm. It sounded more or less identical on that one, but slightly better on
my setup (I made a recording). Also, this cart was actually an older model, and
the shop let me do recordings of the new model on their setup (and they set it
up), and I liked the newer model even less (even greater lack of treble). They
said that the new model sounded exactly like it was supposed to.
So I think
my tonearm is okay :-).
here's a link to the sound clips:
suggestions are welcome :-)!