Dirty or defective records? Dirty or damaged stylus? Incorrect settings for cartridge/tonearm? Platter scraping & transmitting noise through record to stylus?
Just work through the list one at a time until you locate the culprit.
I would suggest checking for adequate lubricating grease at the top of the inverted bearing. I believe that the process is specified in the owner's manual. Otherwise a quick call to VPI could prove to be helpful.
Is the back of the tonearm scrapping the edge of the record perhaps?
I have a Zephyr and was concerned about how low it seemed to be riding on the records. I called Peter Ledermann (Soundsmith, maker of the Zephyr) who suggested raising the rear end of the tonearm (VPI JMW 10.5i) and reducing the vertical tracking force (VTF) to 1.4 grams. It says 1.8 to 2.2 grams in the Zephyr's data sheet, but the changes did the trick.
I don't know whether the back-end of your Zephyr is actually touching the record but if so, this will probably fix the problem.
If you take Bill_k's advice, be careful. You have no idea how sharp that thing is. Unfortunately, I do. It will be out the other side of your finger before you even realize it went in.
I just spoke with Peter Ledermann today about my Lyra Delos which seems to be presenting the same issue as described by the OP. Not sure this helps, but Peter strongly suggested that I stop using the Delos until the ultimate cause is diagnosed. He said it could as simple as a gunk caked around the stylus to a worn out stylus. I guess my beloved Delos is going to Peter to be with its little brother -- my SS Zephyr for an inspection and a fix if necessary.
The back end has to be a bit tail up
String.... I thought the VTA for the Delos should be parallel (90 degrees) to the record.
Bif... Delos? I read this as he had a Zephyr???
Zd542, my advise was to check the main platter bearing for grease, not the tonearm's unipivot spike bearing. The later has no grease.
String... Both the OP and I own the Zephyr. The OP's concern related to his Zephyr. My post is about my Delos, which seems to also produce a groove scrapping sound.
Your comment suggested that I lift the back-end of the Delos. I asked whether this is the optimal way to mount the Delos because I recall reading that the Delos should be mounted parallel to platter.
So to sum it up, both the OP and I are talking about similar problems, but different cartridges. I did, However, mention that my Zephyr is on its way to SS for an inspection and re-tip of necessary.
Follow up Q: my Delos does not produce a scrapping sound on all records -- just some. If the stylus was worn or schoozted-up, would the scrapping sound always be present? It might seem that it would??? In any case, as soon as my Zephyr comes back from SS, the next "patient" will be the Delos for an inspection.
After I typed out my response, I looked at your reply again and thought I may have read your post wrong. I don't see how the platter bearing could cause a scraping noise like the OP describes. (I'm not saying you are wrong. I may be overlooking something.) On my VPI's, there's no grease but they do have a light coating of oil. I find that if I don't clean it, things like dust and lint stick to it. The design of the arm is so sensitive, I thought a little dust may knock the cart out of alignment.
The back of the cartridge is scraping the record.
The arm is a VPI JMW 9t.
Any suggestions about the best way to remedy this?
I raised the tonearm height & the cartridge just clears the record.
How long have you had the cartridge? The suspension may have collapsed. If so you will need to send it back to Soundsmith.
Or you may just need to raise the arm up further if the suspension is ok. Is the tonearm level when playing a record? If not is the back of the tonearm higher or lower than the front?
The best starting point is a cartridge that is parallel to the record surface. The suspension on the cantilever should hold the stylus at the proper angle if VTF is within design parameters. From that point, you can adjust the back of the tonearm up or down a degree or two to fine tune the VTA for best tracking and groove noise. If, however, the tonearm is dragging on the record surface, then you may need to add a shim to your cartridge in order to raise the back of the tonearm without changing VTA. Shims with varying masses can be found for sale on the web and possibly even one design dedicated to the phono cartridge that you are using. You might also find that you can raise the back of the tonearm up quite a bit and not cause the VTA of the cartridge to go too far in the other direction. I think that is because of how the stylus fits into the groove as it rotates. So the front of the cartridge will rise up as you lift up the back- if the stylus was lying down so to speak in the groove to start with. Don't forget to reset your Horizontal Tracking Angle (Tangent Point) It will change as you adjust your tonearm up and down. So you have to move your tonearm out as you raise the back of the tonearm.
I think the suspension has collapsed.
The arm/stylus is almost invisible when the arm is lowered to the record.
Maxh, as noted above, this happened to my Zephyr. Peter Ledermann told me that it will track well at 1.4g, or even 1.2g, but if that doesn't solve the problem, contact Peter.
The suspension is collapsing under load. That much is clear. The question remains, why?
There are two possibilities:
1. The tonearm may be applying excessive vertical tracking force (VTF). This could cause the collapsing you described. It could also damage the cartridge, so DON'T cue the cartridge down again before checking.
To be safe, rebalance the tonearm to zero downforce (arm floating horizontal, neither rising nor falling. Then adjust the counterweight(s) so that downforce is within the Zephyr's recommended limits.
Use at least two VTF scales, to confirm that your reading is accurate and you don't have a faulty scale.
Now cue the cartridge down onto a record. The cartridge should ride normally. Fine tune VTF by listening to confirm clean tracking and optimum sonics.
2. If the cartridge continues to ride low at a confirmed, correct VTF,then the suspension is worn out or broken. An inspection would be in order.
Waiting for a new gauge.
All the tone arms that I have had have a means for setting VTF. Eg, one turn of the counterweight screw equals one gram. So why couldn't you set the VTF that way and then use the scale for checking or fine tuning? I don't see the need for two scales really.
I don't know about the VPI arm, but mine needs a scale to set VTF. I have a weight so I can check the calibration.
That's not how the counterweight works on VPI arms. It's not threaded, you just slide it in or out. How much this effects VTF depends on the weight of the cartridge, and there are no marks to go by.
With regards to scales, what if his one and only scale is faulty? What if it's indicating 2g when in fact he has 3g, for example?
It's critical to identify the cause of the low-riding. I'm not saying he has to BUY two scales. He can borrow one. I think the OP owuld benefit from clearly knowing what's going on.
Thank you for eradicating my ignorance. I hadn't seen a tonearm that requires a scale as the only means to set VTF. I guess I don't get out enough. I have seen and heard VPI tables and arms before; but didn't get into the details of their set-up. I agree then, it might be good to have a back up scale for verification if you do not have a means to calibrate your primary scale.
There are a few, but not many I think, that require a scale. You are correct, and I agree, that most tonearms I have seen have a built-in scale of some sort for adjusting VTF