Save a vinyl newbie, please

I've been stocking up on LP's for the past month and a half, and I finally got a turntable yesterday (a new Music Hall MMF-5). When I picked it up, the guy had it playing and it sounded great! He showed me how to set the tracking force, vertical tracking angle, the cartridge angle (or something like that), and the anti-skating force. He also gave me some suggestions of how to clean the records and the stylus before use. OK, perfect.

I brought it home and tried some of my records on it. It sounded horrible! I get loud pops every second or two. The pops drown out the music. The music sounds muffled, and sometimes it sounds like the ocean from the tweeters (particularly in the right channel). The situation only gets worse with the volume turned up.

I tried it with several of my best-looking LP's last night and still couldn't find one that was even listenable. I have a couple sealed records, so this morning I tried them with the same results. I called the place where I bought it and he said that only about 10% of records that I'll find actually sound good. That sounds like a good incentive to go back to CD's.

I'm using the MMF-5 with a Musical Fidelity A3cr preamp, Audio Valve ppp45 amps, and Audio Physic Tempo speakers. (You can click on my system for more details.)

Please let me know if you have any suggestions!

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I'd say follow those instructions he gave you about cleaning the records. Especially if you got used ones. If you have noise "like the ocean" coming out of one tweeter, there is likely some wear on one channel of the record groove. When you buy used records, you have no way of knowing what kind of horrible player it was played on before you got it. Sometimes damage is done. It should not sound muffled. There is something wrong if it is sounding muffled. Make sure it is plugged in to the MM input, and there is no MC loading selected.
did the mmf-5 come with a cartridge that was auditioned at 'the place' that it came from, or did you mount a cartridge?
might be the placement in conjunction with the other electronics. i'd take it back to 'the place' and start over with it hooked up with his stuff.
i might pick up on five hun to a thous lp a year with maybe 5% that have wear or undiscovered flaws that surface when played.
10% sounding good is an accurate statement but sounding good and playing nicely are two different things.
sound like the stylus is worn or damaged!! kurt
Thanks for the suggestions so far. The MC/MM switch on my preamp is set to MM (popped out the farthest). And yes, I am using the original cartridge, which hasn't changed since I demoed the unit yesterday. I seriously don't think anything is wrong with it, since it is a brand new unit.

Is there anything simple that I'm overlooking?

if your getting pops...that means your stylus is mistracking....set the arm and counter wait to zero again and also the azimuth to o...and now set up tuntable again as the guy showed you at the store...also check the make sure all the connections on the cartridge are not loose....the muffled sound is called wow/flutter...that means your cart is mistracking and most likely needs proper alignment with arm,azimuth ,height. dont give up on lp's just yet....ones you get your tt just will never want to listen to cd's again.
check to make sure your turntable is dead level.
can't believe that the guy you bought the table from said only 10% of records you'll buy will sound good. god, what a jerk! ok, so here everything everyone else here has already suggested. clean them records good...find out how. either here or audio asylum...means either buying a good cleaning maching(my recommendation) or using the disc doctor system. anything less than these suggestions and you've got challenges. also, make sure that your stylus is clean. get a good cleaner for that. either extremephono stylus cleaner, disc doctor, or last. all kinds of junk can get on it, even after you clean the records reallyh well. make sure everyting is level. get a bubble level from any hardware store. and yeah, make sure that the cart is in right, aligned, tracking force and tracking angle are good. again, check in at, go the vinyl area, do some searches, and you'll learn a lot. you have a very good table. assuming the cart is good, it is capable of great things. i own the mmf-7, the next one up, and love it madly. if you want to put up with the inital roadwork, you'll be rewarded. if not, there's always the digital solution.
good luck!
Until you get it right, lay off playing your best lps. No use having to replace them due to permanent damage.
Something is terribly wrong. Most records, used or otherwise sound fine. First thing is to do some tests. Reverse the leads on the phono input at the back of the MF. You said that the right channel was worse, if the left channel is now worse it is a table setup matter, if the right channel is still worse, your phono preamp has a problem. Check to make sure that the ground wire is solidly attached to the grounding screw. If it is the table, and you have verified correct tracking force, anti-skate and overhang then the next thing to do is screw with arm height. Lower the arm a very small amount at the pivot point and report your results. Finally, you might consider posting what city you live in and one of the sorry asses that spends too much time on this forum might be glad to help. Hell, if you live in Portland, OR I'll be over this evening. You buy the beer; I'll bring the records.
If the exact same turntable sounded great at the dealers then the problem is not with the records, it's got to be some sort of setup issue. Unless you changed any of the anti-skate, tracking force, etc. since he had it playing you can rule those out too. Look for things that changed when you moved the table.

1) you might be using a preamp with a different mm/mc loading than the one at the dealers - see if it's adjustable to a more precise degree

2) the table might not be as level as it was at the dealers

3) it might be placed on a different surface that at the dealers - actually my first thought. the way the support stand resonates or doesn't resonate is one of the biggest determining factors of vinyl playack. Describe to us how you have your system configured. Some of the "big" mail order places (needle doctor / audio advisor etc..) will have advise and equipment for such isolation.

dont give up...even records with wear can be quite enjoyable. 10% was not an accurate figure :^)
I had a very similar problem before, and it turns out the needle was loose. I still haven't bought a new cartridge...
you have a great system!! Your lp's should be free of almost any noise and not muffed at all. It should sound "better" that it did when you first heard it.

Best fastest soulution is to bring it back where you bought it,
and see how it sounds on that system, this will answer a lot of questions. If everything is ok there, maybe the guy will help you set it up at home. If he is a dealer, I think he will be glad to help you to discouver the problem.

As far as buying used lp's and how they sound. I buy and sell many LP's and rarely do I get lp's that are misgraded and when I do I get a refund. The vast majority sound fantistic, most with no pops or clicks, no noise at all. Some with maybe 1 or 2 pops this is usually dirt. I assume you are buying lp's without scratches because many of these scratches will sound on quiet passages.

Let us know what you find out.

Here is a follow-up on my situation:

Last Saturday I took the turntable, preamp, and some of my records to the dealer where I bought it. We hooked the turntable and preamp to one of his amp and speakers. My records didn't sound very good, but it was a little better than my system. (I think my gear is very revealing of everything upstream.) I thought the records I played looked pretty clean, but he said they were scratched from having shifted around in the sleeve. (That includes a sealed record that we opened on the spot.) Then he put on one of his records and it sounded fine! That would seem to vindicate the turntable and preamp.

I took the turntable and preamp home and tried some other records that I had. I tried a couple records for which I couldn't find any noticeable scratches or defects and they sounded miserable. We're back to the right channel sounding really bad, and loud clicks and pops. There are very noticeable high-amplitude ripples on the rubber surround of the speakers' bass drivers. This happens with virtually all LP's I've played but never happens with CD's, no matter what the volume.

So it seems as though I need to make a decision. Option #1 is to sell the Music Hall turntable and the many classical LP's I've accumulated over the past couple of months (anyone out there interested?). Option #2 is to hold onto the turntable and records until I might be able to build a system that will have better "vinyl synergy".

Any suggestions/comments?


You are familiar with the system here. If you are willing to experiment further, you are welcome to come over with your turntable and some of your LPs and we can work together to diagnose the possible problems by trying your LPs on my turntable, then plugging your turntable in and trying it with the same LPs. We can also do some record cleaning to clear up that variable. If our findings are positive, I'm willing to follow that up with a trip to your place to check things out with you there, if you're willing.

Contact me directly if you'd like to pursue doing this. This coming weekend would not work for me, but I'm sure we can find a time.

Best regards,
Well, one thing is for sure, you have a low frequency problem that is feeding back into your turntable, causing the woofers to modulate excessively. Try re-locating the position of the TT into another area of the room which is not in a bass heavy node. Try a different dedicated TT stand. One or both of those should cure the woofer bouncing problem.

Second, on the record noise problem, if it will sound fine on another system with good records, then it is likely not your turntable or system causing it. However, I will say that MM type cartridges, like the one included on the MMF5, are generally more noisy on clicks and pops than MC types.

And remember that when you make the switch from CD to vinyl, it is unrealistic to think that no noise will be present. There will be the unavoidable few clicks and pops no matter what you do. Some people who have been raised on CD cannot seem to overcome this, and prefer no clicks at all. If this is the case, then you are saddled with lower sound quality of CD, simply because of a little noise on vinyl.

Your vinyl rig is not high-end enough to expect totally noise free performance, and that would also require a VPI record cleaning machine, and very good care of new records from the start.

As far as your system being too revealing of this noise, I doubt your system could be any more revealing than some high efficiency horn type systems, which are over 100db/1watt, and use vinyl all the time. I don't think that is the problem.

I would recommend that you select imported or premium records that are pressed on virgin vinyl for the least possible noise performance. This is more expensive, but will give you the least noise possible from the record. Then keep them very clean, and cared for.
Twl you are going a little overboard on the lp rant, not that what you say is not true. Just that mike is a newbie. TWL you hit the nail on the head with the low frequency problem. This must be the source of your problem. you have a lot of low frequency information being introduced into your turntable, this will cause multiple problems for you. Its hard to belive you took a sealed lp and it sounded bad. I have lp's with obvious damage and do not hear any pops clicks. This lp the dealer played was it a MFSL or audiophile recording ,it must have been. while these are generally better, a regular domestic pressing should sound great also. This "vinyl synergy" thing, you have a good system for LP's. You need some vibration isolation. I do not think your turntable has any.
Don't give up so easy, we will resolve this problem yet.

Anyone else figured this one out yet? I have never had this kind of problem.
If you are in a situation where you can drill holes in the wall, get an Apollo wall shelf from Needle Doctor (theyv'e got a website). It's got adjustable steel spikes so you can perfectly level the table, and the minimal contact point of the spikes will supress the subsonic feedback loop.
Also, the rigitity of the structure will increase detail and transient response. It SHOULD "make the difference" but then again I dont know what you currently use.