Your phono stage might be wrong. What are you using, and what settings are you using for gain and loading?
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The FT-4 has an adjustable VTA base. If you are running the arm parallel to the platter, try raising or lowering the back of the arm a few degrees & see if there are positive results.
ALSO, be sure that the tracking force of the cartridge is set at or near the MAXIMUM recommended downforce -- probably about 2 grams.
Dear Route30: For a starting analog source person you need not only advise from other people but some one that ( locally ) could help to " interpret " in the right way all the advise you can get on this and other forums.
IMHO a best " road " could be that you start/use a MM/MI cartridge where at least you don't have to worry about step up transformer because your phono stage has enough gain ( this help to the cartridge quality performance because the cartridge signal has not pass to additional stages: transformer, cables, connectors, etc. that makes a signal degradation always. ) and in the other side the quality performance of the MM/MI alternative is very good ( with your tonearm. ) and even better than the performance on the 103R and certainly over your CD.
This is a good choice:
Regards and enjoy the music,
Thank you Raul. You are probably correct. I am new to this, and didn't want to become an audiophile nut. I sell vintage Porsches, and know how deeply you can get involved. That is NOT what I want for my sound system. I just want to enjoy it. I love the Vintage components, and they are affordable. I have a McIntosh 6500, Meridian 608.24, Infinity RS ll. I bought the Sota Sapphire, and thought the 103R was the right cartridge improvement. I guess I have created new issues I wasn't aware of. What is the Cartridge you advise? Previous owner loved the 103 MM. I really appreciate your input, as its getting discouraging. I want to get through this asap.
I used a 103R on an FT3 for a few years and it worked well. The Denon benefits from a body change (to wood) and a higher mass arm than your FT4 but if it's sounding crappy compared to your CD player, there is something definitely wrong.
Could be improper setup on the cartridge. The remark about tracking the Denon at 2 grams above is totally off base; tracking range given by Denon is 2.2 to 2.8 and I wouldn't consider tracking a stock 103R below 2.5 and think that 2.6 is definitely THE tracking force for the cartridge.
You need very close to 60 db of gain in your phono stage with a load preferably in the 40 ohm to 100 ohm range. It's quite possible, as another poster above mentioned, that you do not have an appropriate phono stage for the cartridge.
In any event, something is wrong and it's not likely to be the Denon or your FT4.
At this point, it sounds like you want to keep it simple -- yet you have a rather tweaky analog front end with step-ups, a low-output MC cartridge, etc.
You also said the sound from your analog rig is not even close to the sound of CD. Perhaps you just like the sound of digital better, and no turntable will ever satisfy you, at least nothing that costs a reasonable amount and does not require more tweaking than rebuilding one of your Porsche's flax sixes. S
I think you have two options here:
(1) As others have said, find a local analog expert and pay him to come to your home do a professional setup and/or offer some advice. This could be expensive, and it could lead to additional expense. It may or may not be worth it. There's no way to tell until it's done.
(2) Get rid of the Sota, Sumiko, Denon and Cinemag. Get a simple analog package (with MM or high output MC cartridge) instead for occasional enjoyment of stuff you can't find on CD. My top recommendations are the Rega P3 and Technics SL-1200Mk2. Get it professionally setup by the dealer and buy a record cleaning machine.
If the sound is REALLY bad, cartridge break in, VTA adjustment, etc will have little effect.
But before you do any of that, tell us about the rest of your system. What are you running the Cinemag into? Speakers?
I just bought a Bobs Device Cinemag SUT on E Bay. it has great feedback, with 103R. Over all a huge improvement from where I was, but the CD still has brighter, crisper top end. Going from one to the other leaves the TT sounding a bit dull compared to the CD. Still lost, and getting tired of throwing money at this thing. I have 10 - 15 hours on the 103R. Looking for experience to give some "sound" advise.
Very pleased with Bob's Devices, SUT that I bought on E Bay. Big improvement from what I had. I am confident the impedance match is excellent. With the new SUT, a bit more down force on cart., and leveling, it is much improved. However I am still not blown away with Sota, Denon 103R combination. I was hoping I would never want to hear CD again, but that isn't the case. I am burnt out on spending & frustration. This will all have to due for now, but I know there is more to experience. I will re attack the issue down the road. Thanks for input. Buy Bobs SUT with confidence.