Perhaps your expectations regarding vinyl are too high. "Disappointment" is exactly what I try to forestall by my comments to which some guys take great offence. (Hi Albert :-))Its good points are not the same as digital, and take a lot more money and effort to realize. Good luck.
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Power55, the Blackbird's electrical characteristics should match up fine with your preamp (2.5mv output and 47K ohm loading), so I don't think that's your problem. What I would wonder about for you is the set-up/alignment of the cartridge. Is this your first experience with setting up a turntable? If so, are you confident you've got the cartridge alignment (azimuth, overhang, etc) adjusted correctly? If alignment is correct, how about vertical tracking force and VTA, and have you experimented changing these (keeping in mind that these two parameters are interactive)?
If I'm not making sense to you, just say so and we can help you by stepping back a stage or two in the discussion and then helping you move forward. If you can describe what you're hearing or not hearing, that might also help us help you focus in on what to try.
Excellent responses so far.
More than most components, cartridges do need some hours on them to play their best. Performance usually changes as the suspension loosens up. This in turn may require adjustments to your setup. Everything in vinyl playback is very interactive.
As Rushton said, can you describe more specifically what's wrong with the sound quality? Compare it to your CDP if that will help you describe it. We won't bite.
Power55 I owned a Project Perspective turntable with Benz Mc20E cartridge for many years, this was my first step into serious vinyl. The Perspective is a great sounding table when set up properly, and once set-up you can pretty much forget about it. I think Rushton is one the right track, its the set-up. I had mine professionally set-up, its the best $60 I could spend. I started using a Parasound Phono preamp but it sounded dull, I also tried the phono sections is my McIntosh C-28 & MX 113 preamps. These sounded better but fell way short to my EAR 834P which I am currently using. So check the set up, try a different phono stage, get a VPI 16.5 RCM and enjoy!!!!!
Some of the comments written so far are useful, Eldartford on the other hand remains who he is!
The biggest issue with analog sounding good is a matter of set up.
Great gear will not sound great if it's not set up right. Set up is not terribly difficult, but it is time consuming. There are a number of places to find good information about set up. One of the best basic primers is Laura Deerborn's book "Good Sound."
Don't give up on what is a superior medium without giving it time to break in and be properly set up.
I agree with the above regarding proper setup of the table and cartridge. There is one way to rule out a faulty setup--spin a few CD's. How does your system sound when you are using the digital playback? If there is a marked difference for the worse then you have isolated the table and cartridge as the source of the problem. If both sound bad the problem is elsewhere. If you are getting really bad sound my first suspect would be the room and setup of the loudspeakers. Have you tried moving things around? If the sound is simply not as good as you heard in the showroom with the same equipment then I would concentrate on the room/speaker interaction. If the sound is just a little lackluster then I think the problem may be your amp and speaker interface. I extensively auditioned the Aerial 7B's twice. The first time with a 60wpc Macintosh tube amp. The sound was warm but really slow and lacking in dynamic energy. In fact, I was ready to walk out of the demo after a few discs. We then hooked up a 200wpc solid state amp and holy cow did those speakers come to life. The Aerials are warm anyway so they don't really need tubes--they need POWER. If the sound you are getting is overripe, sluggish and lacking toe tapping excitement, try a different set of electronics. The Aerials are nice but they really need some juice--I don't think your Mac is doing them justice.
First of all thanks to everyone who has responded to my distress call. Actually I'm a vinyl junkie from the late 60s thru most of the 70s. That's when you could go to practically any stereo shop and pick up a very rewarding system for not near the prices of today. Rushton your answers are spot on especially the alignment of the cartridge. I have aligned several cartridges in the past and I am very confident that the Blackbird is aligned properly via alignment and balance tools. The Burn in time on the cartridge is approximetly 20 Lps. The sound quality of the Lps seems to have not near the bass I enjoy with cds, the upper end seems to be a little thin and bright for my taste as well. A friend of mine suggests getting a better phono preamp but I am hesitant in doing so for fear of getting the wrong one, there are so many phono preamps to choose from. Also I was wondering why I have to crank the volume knob much more when I play Lps compared to when I play cds?
If you have not used the phono preamp for many years the components in the RIAA equalization network may have changed so that the frequency response is as you describe.
Cranking up the volume control is no problem. All it means is that the phono preamp line level output is less than your CDP. When you crank up the volume control you really don't increase the gain of the circuits...you just attenuate their gain less. Probably better.
You have to crank the volume because you're running a MC cartridge into a MM phono input and you don't have enough gain! Get a MC phono stage, borrow one if you have to, and see how much better it sounds. Beyond that it's likely that cd's will sound a bit louder even with a proper phono stage because the output is typically higher than vinyl. So go get that phono pre, until you do you won't have anything approaching good sound.
Dear Powers: I agree with your friend: your C37 preamp is not up to the task. You need a better phonopreamp.
Your Blackbird is really a very fine cartridge that outperform easily your CD sound, but needs a lot better phonopreamp.
Btw, I don't know nothing about your Project TT/tonearm performance that " count " for the quality sound reproduction.
Regards and enjoy the music.
In my experience, bass is one of cd's strengths compared to LP, so if that's your focus you're possibly in trouble. Lp's--even done cheaply (I have a very old Thorens table and a $50 cartridge)--have a quality of 'aliveness' that I don't find in cd's. Are you getting any of that? Good luck, and since you know what lp's sound like from way back, you should be able to achieve good results. I wonder sometimes about newbies who read the descriptions of analogue playback but have never heard it and what they must think the first time the needle runs over a scratch in the record.
Jond, as Rushton mentioned the Blackbird is a 2.5mV MC so I wouldn't think Powers needs a phono stage. However, you did make me stop and think that this could also be the first time that the phono circuit in his McIntosh has been used. If that is the cast we could be talking a few hundred hours for everything to settle in.
All good additional suggestions. I absolutely agree about the break-in time for the cartridge of 50 hours or so, and the possible need to break-in the phono stage on the preamp (as much as 100-200 hours).
Power55, don't worry about where you have to set your volume control to get the same volume as with your CDP. Its simply a matter of the amount of gain coming from the phono stage/cartridge combination. You're in good shape as long as the background noise from the electronic circuitry is not causing you a problem, with one caveat. If you're having to turn your volume control past about 3 o'clock, you may not have enough overall headroom (gain); the indicator for this will be somewhat limited dynamics. Overall, with 2.5mv output, I would not expect this to be an issue for you. (In your setup, a cartridge with 4.5mv output would have you setting your volume control at about the same position as with your CDP or lower.)
Bass response should come as your cartridge breaks in and as you readjust your tracking force and VTA with that break-in. Slightly higher VTF will also increase the bass output, as does slightly lower VTA. But in practice, to get the right setup, as you increase VTF you will also need to increase VTA to keep everything properly aligned and the sound properly balanced. These two adjustments are interactive. But I'd wait until you get that 50+ hours playing time on the cartridge before working to much on this. Then, read Lloyd Walker's recommendations for fine tuning your turntable and go at it by ear:
You may never get as much bass response from your Project turntable and your current phono stage as you get from your CDP. But depending on the music you enjoy, with break-in and continuing fine-tuning of your set-up, you may find yourself very pleased with the improvements elsewhere in the sonic fabric as compared to your CDP.
I have a Blackbird (with MMF-7 TT and PH-3 phonostage) and it took a really long time to break in. Also the Blackbird will reveal any problems you have with other components.
The Blackbird comes with a really good booklet that you should follow. It recommends about 1 degree negative VTA (front of arm higher than back). Of course your experience may vary.
It also recommends readjusting after at least 50 hours becuase the "suspension" of the cartridge will soften up as it is broken in. So really there are two break-ins going on, electronically and mechanically. Of course if your phono stage is being used for the first time you have three breakin periods. Even more if your cables are new too.
BTW, if you are using the cables that came with the TT I am assuming it is the same stuff that is used with the Music Hall TT and that cable is cr-p so you may want to try a new one. Hang in there and readjust VTA and VTF after about 50-60 full LPs. Reassess your options after that.
I was experiencing the same disappointment you describe, until Albert Porter properly set-up my Basis Debut/Graham 1.5/ZYX Airy 2 combo.
It turned out neither the arm nor cartridge was sufficiently tightened down, thereby killing the bass and dynamics. The cart was also mis-aligned, even though a good friend who knows what he's doing did the original set-up. There's no substitute for perfect set-up. I'm now as happy as can be with my vinyl rig.
Good luck with yours.
Larkyparka, the only reason I am asking for help in this forum is to find solutions that will produce the best possible sound from my existing equiptment and to purchase if necessary, the only things that will allow me to reach that goal. It's a lot cheaper to get good advice from the knowledgable people in this forum then simply buy what I think will work. After all I have been away from vinyl for more than 20 years now and with 600+ Lps that haven't seen a turntable in that time span, things have changed. In the past I would audition stereo components before I purchased them, unfourtionetly there are no high end audio stores in my location.
Powers55...I hadn't tumbled to the fact that you have a MC pickup plugged into a MM input. You do need a different phono preamp, but perhaps not the multi-kilobuck kind. Why not try a MC transformer, inserted between the pickup and your existing preamp, which I'm told can be had for about $100. Some people actually prefer a transformer to an active MC preamp. I used a transformer (which cost significantly more than $100) for quite a while, and it worked every bit as well as the active MC preamp that I used later.
What am I missing here? Powers55 has a Sumiko Blackbird, which is a high output MC with 2.5mv output. The KAB gain calculator returns 40dB as the required gain for a 2.5mv cartridge. The McIntosh C37 phono section has a rated sensitivity of 2.5mv (exactly the output of the Blackbird) and a rated gain of 40dB (exactly the gain needed calculated by KAB). Why would he need a step-up or outboard phono preamp? I'm puzzled by some of the responses here.
If you can spring for about $250 - $300 the K&K Audio MC step up is a great deal. It uses Lundahl transformers, can be configured for a boost of 14, 20 or 26db of gain (factory preset, but if you're good at soldering you can change it yourself), and allows you to plug in different resistor values to set the loading without soldering. I am using one with a Hagerman Trumpet and so far the results have been great. I plugged in Audio Note 47k resistors and combined with the 47k at the MM phono stage gives me 940k ohms loading on my Benz M2.
It needs about 100 hours of burn-in and you could accomplish this easily by hooking up the output cables of the K&K to the outputs of a CDP and play a disc on repeat for a few days. Give Kevin Carter a call if this is in your budget.
Powers55, sorry if this has been covered, I am in a hurry and did not read all of the above posts, If this highs are a bit thin and you are lacking bass I am wondering about your VTA, perhaps try lowering the tone arm a bit, if this is mentioned already sorry, I got to go start my christmas shopping now, David
Rauliruegas...Some people think that a transformer is a "purer" way to get gain than an active circuit. Six of one and half a dozen the other. All I know is that the Signet transformer which I used performed very well indeed, which was contrary to my expectation at the time.
Although the specs on the pickup and the electronics (as reported above) suggest that it ought to work, I still have my doubts. In fact, I guess it does "work", but not in a way that Powers55 likes.
It seems to me that trying a reasonably-priced trasformer is a practical course of action, and, as a side benefit, prepares the way for a low output MC pickup, which is where the real virtues of MC are (IMHO) to be found.
FWIW thought I would throw in my 2 cents.
I have never posted in the analog forum because as you have already found out there are some very knowledgeable people in here.
I have a Project RM4 with a Sumiko Bluepoint. A modest setup in comparrison to yours. After our remodel I set the system back up in our family room. Every thing sounded fine from my digital front end. For the analog it sounded like a bad CD player where as before it sounded fine.
What had changed the room yes from carpet to hardwood. I set up the system on the long wall instead of the short wall as before. We also setup a new oak entertainment center which provides a much sturdier base for the TT.
Either by being moved or not having the proper tracking force to begin with, turned out to be my problem. My tracking force was set a 1.25 once I set to 1.6 my vinyl mellowed out considerbly. I used a gague to set the tracking force this time.
As far as the bass goes due to the limitations of vinyl the bass is always compressed so you may not hear the bass you are accoustomed to on CD.
If the PERSPECTIVE uses the same arm as the RM4 and I think it does to adjust the VTA take a deck of cards and shim the cartridge. Not the optimom but it works since the arm can't be adjusted up or down.
Good luck and let us know how it turns out.