Troubleshoot tracking issue

I have an SME V arm on a Michell Orbe SE. I've been trying this new cartridge for a little bit. Previously, I've been using a Shelter 901 which weighs in at 9.1g. The new cartridge weighs in at 10.0g, and the diamond is slightly more forward.

When I installed this new cartridge, I rebalanced the arm to account for the weight difference, and also readjusted pretty much everything else to make sure that it is set up correctly.

Several friends have been trying the same cart and they all told me that this cartridge is a tracking champ. But I've been having some tracking issue. Most noticeably at the outer rim. When I first put the cart down, it would just skip the first minute worth of the first track, but then it would play through the rest of the LP side just fine. The recommended tracking force is 1.5-2.0g. I'm trakcing at 2.5g with slightly higher antiskate and it is still doing that. I checked the lift beneath, and it is clear of the arm tube when the cartridge meets the vinyl.

The arm is about 8 years old. Is the anti-skate spring loosing tension? the damping fluid needs to be replaced? Something else I'm doing wrong to cause this problem????

Any problems with the previous cart?
First make sure everything is level.
Did you set the anti skate visually or did you just set it to correspond to the tracking weight. It sounds like there is too much pull towards the center so you could try backing off the anti skate. This might allow you to back the tracking force down a bit also. Get a shitty record and play around with the TF

Its nice to have a blank record/side to set anti skate visually (so the cant is dead plumb as opposed to a slight angle forward or back)
What is your "new" cartridge for God's sake!? You should have mentioned that first I think ;-)

You should level your platter first (yes with the record and record clamp, if any, in place). Then level the arm by placing a tiny spirit level laterally across the headshell (just in front of the cartridge mounting bolts.) You may need to shim the main arm base because there is no azimuth adjustment on an SME V armwand.

Remove all anti skate compensation and withdraw the fluid damping paddle/bolt. Adjust the VTF for no more than 2g.

Visually check (from the front of the cartridge) that the stylus is roughly vertical (precise azimuth measurments have to be made using in/out of phase test recordings.) And with an SME, if your stylus ain't vertical, you can't fix it by messing with the tonearm base (which you already levelled to match the platter anyway. You have to shim the cartridge/headshell interface.

There might be other issues but without knowing the cartridge, I can't address them.

BTW, you cannot set ANTI-skating force using a blank record, since skating force only develops with the stylus in a modulating groove. Most MC carts that track a around 2g shouldn't require more than .5 to .75 gm of anti-skating.

Lateral (silicone) damping of (almost all) MC cartridges in an SME V is unnecessary due the (usually) low compliance of MC cartridges. A tiny bit, with the bottom of the paddle/bolt just touching the surface of the silicone is usually more than enough.
Thanks guys for brainstorming. I purposely left out the name of the cartridge because it's from an unknown cartridge maker (an 86-year old gentleman who has been making MC carts for 30+ years) from Taiwan. The story of the cartridge itself and how I ended up with it are very intriguing. I'll post the story some other time. To say the least, the cartridge is good and it can take on most of sub US$2000 cartridges. Best part, it's darn cheap! But unless you have friends in Taiwan, you can't buy one.

I took down the cartridge last night, and reinstalled it step by step incorporating all your suggestions. What I found out was that at the time the stylus touches the vinyl, the lift underneath the arm tube had not gone down completely, and that's the cause of the problem. I was able to just use my fingers to lower the cartridge without any issues. But this makes me nervous. This did not happened when I was using the Shelter 901.

So my conclusion was either:
1/ this cartridge may have a shorter height than most other cartridges, so it is hitting the vinyl earlier (before the lift is completely down)
2/ The lift is sticking, not lowering fast enough to "get out of the way" before the stylus hits the vinyl.

Will continue to investigate and check with SME. Again, thanks all for help brainstorming!

Agree with everything Nsgarch said.

Zenblaster's guidance on antiskate is backwards. Reducing antiskate will cause the arm to move more toward the center, not less. Using a blank side is certainly not meaningful, unless you play a lot of blank sides of course. I doubt your problem has anything to do with antiskating anyway. As Nsgarch said, you're probably using too much as it is already.

You say you checked "everything", but did you specifically adjust overhang and cantilever angle with an alignment protractor, either SME or otherwise? If the new cartridge is even slightly different in length than the old one (from the stylus to the plane of the mounting screws), your symptoms could happen.

Also, check the dressing of your tonearm wires. They could have become twisted or be brushing on something.
Frank: Interesting about the cartridge ;--) I've been using the same SME V for about 18 years, so there's probably nothing I don't know about its quirks ;-) OK, the tonearm wires are completely internal in an SME V and terminate in a DIN plug -- so no torque can be produced from that part of the system.

However, you seem to be unaware (as many people are, apparantly) that the (rubber covered) sector arc of the SME V's tonearm lift mechanism is height adjustable! Yup! And for the very reason/problem you are encountering. It involves using a tiny, TINY, Allen wrench (think about 1/64th inch) that you plunge through a (seemingly invisible) hole in the center of the rubber covering (right above the lift post) and you have to feel for the Allen socket underneath. When the wrench is locked into the socket, you can turn it cw/ccw to adjust the height of the platform so that it can drop fully away from the tonearm. This is covered in the Owner's Manual and if you need either the manual or the wrench, you should contact Sumiko USA.

Another different but related problem with the SME V has to do with the fat armtube cross-section at the rear of the tube. If your cartridge is too short -- i.e. the height from the stylus to the top of the cartridge body surface (where it rests against the headshell) then it is quite possible, once you've adjusted the armpost height for proper SRA, for the rear/bottom of the armtube to hit the edge of the record when the stylus reaches the inner groove(s). I've had this problem with (most recently) van den Hul and Transfiguration cartridges. SME is aware of this (and has been for years!) and offers a "headshell spacer" a 1/8" thick aluminum blank that you insert between the top of the cartridge and the headshell to build up the cartridge body's height. Also available from Sumiko.

Neil, thanks for the info!

Yes, I am aware that the lift mechanism can be adusted. I took a closer look at how it was lowered when I turn the lever. The lift will eventually dropped completely clear of the arm tube. That's why after the initial issue, the cartridge would play through the entire side without any issue.

So my take is that the lift is not lowering down fast enough at the beginning, so that by the time the stylus hits the groove, the lift is still somewhat supporting the armtube, thus temporarily decreasing the VTF. And that cause the cartridge to glide through the surface until the lift is completely lowered, and allowed the full VTF to be applied to the stylus. That's my theory.

I tried shifting the lift up and down a few times to "warm" it up, and the problem would go away. But that's not something I want to do every time I play a side of an LP.

Thanks eveyrone for all your great input!

Frank, if the arm is about 8 years old, there is a good chance the 'dashpot' (the spring/silicon/piston mechanism) needs cleaning and fresh silicon - there is a DIY procedure which you can get (along with fresh silicon) from SME directly or from Sumiko. This never happened to mine, luckily and about 4 years ago (when my arm was about 14 years old) I sent the whole shebang back to England for better internal wiring and a complete overhaul, so they took care of the dashpot. You could however, just remove the dashpot by itself and return it to SME. It's not that hard to do.

Oh yes, one possible simple remedy (similar to your shifting the lift lever up and down) is (with the arm in its rest) to fully drop the lever while gently-but-firmly pushing down on the rubber platform with your finger. Doing this a few times can redistribute the silicon and you might get a few more years out of it ;-)