Look for a used vpi classic table. The vpi will be a good leap ahead of the mmf-7. And you have enough cash left over for more vinyl. That's a no brainer good luck.
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You say you have no compaints. So what do you feel is missing sound wise. I do not know how good the phono stage in your integrated is but a separate outboard phono stage might improve things. Yes you good buy a Pricier VPI or Clear audio turntable and upgrade the cartridge but you are correct that you will have to spend some serious money. Do you primarily listen to vinyl or are you basically a digital guy?
Some tweaks might help, but in the end you're right that your vinyl rig is weak compared to your digital setup.
I've found that to do vinyl as well as good digital requires a larger investment. My universal disc player retails for $6K and it's quite good. OTOH, my TT, tonearm, cartridge and phono stage would retail for a combined $25K+. Now they're well beyond "quite good", but even to match the $6K digital player would probably cost at least twice as much.
Should you do that or buy more LPs? Only you can decide that. If there's music on LP you're dying to hear, buy it. OTOH, if you really wouldn't enjoy it on your present rig, upgrade that and add LPs as you can. It's a personal decision no one but you can make. :-)
I had an MM7 and once I changed out the stock Goldring for a Lyra Delos, this TT came alive. The MM7 is good enough that it will respond to and take advantage of an upgrade of cartridge. Recently, I bought an Ortofon 2M Black MM cart and this is a stunner for much less $ than the Lyra. I'm simply saying that I would not be too quick to judge that it is the MM7 that is the limiting element; it is a solid and very quiet table.
Thanks for the responses. I don't know that I feel there is anything missing. Maybe blacker backgrounds and a bit more resolution. The musicality of the table is very good. The phono stage is built into the KW. I love vinyl but also listen to digital. I love my digital front end. I would feel ok spending 5-6k, but more than that seems too much to me for now.
Thanks again for all the good ideas. I did borrow my father's old scoutmaster. It hasn't been used for most of 4 years. It was professionally set up. I put it in my system and put on a record that I know well, and it sounded very distorted. Since I don't think the setup has been changed, I am assuming this is a problem with the cartridge (grado reference master). Both channels play but with severe distortion. I don't remember if this was a problem before in my Dad's system; it could have been and he never got it fixed. Should I get a new cartridge? Seems I can't catch a break here! Also, I think the KW500 phono stage should work for this cartridge. It was fine with the Eroica.
So I gave the scoutmaster a once-over, and, when viewed with magnification, it appears that the tip on the stylus must have come off at some point. That must be the cause of the distortion! So, now does anyone have recommendations for a good cartridge for the scoutmaster? just stick with a replacement Grado, or something different? Thanks.
If you are considering tweaks, one I made on my tt was adding the
Audiomods Classic arm - with the beadblast finish and gold counterweight
and the micrometer VTA (which you only really need if you change carts a
A friend has an Audiomods Series 5 on a technics TT and is using it with a
Van den Hul Colibri cartridge and it sounds amazing
At the other end of the spectrum - I use it with the Dennon dl103 - it makes
that cartridge sound amazing also, but not quite as good as the Colibri :-)
It's primarily for Rega tt's but Jeff at Audiomods is able to customize to
some extent. He makes a mounting plate for the technics 1200/1200 direct
drive tt's, so he might have one for the mmf7
Drop him an email (with TT/cartridge details) asking if it is possible -
He's very responsive and will answer any questions.
His work is very high quality and his arms bring out details often left behind
He also offer Eichman Silver Bullet RCA's if you go with the one piece
harness (highly recommended) which improve dynamics, fidelity and
sound stage - well worth it.
Agree with Stringreen.
Also, if you haven't lubed the main platter bearing and motor bearing, that's a simple tweak. Be sure to use the right lubricants. A center clamp and periphery ring clamp are also reasonably priced tweaks and will help a lot. You can pick up preowned clamps on eBay or A'gon for a fair price. And for goodness sake, don't puncture a finger on the spindle needle.
As far as cartridges are concerned, I've tried the Dynavector 20X2 (HO), Soundsmith VPI Zephyr and the Ortofon 2M Black. Yes they do sound different from each other. In the end I settled on the Lyra Kleos. IMO, I like the Lyra the best. Here again, look for preowned. New MSRP will put your wallet on oxygen. No comment about the Benz. Never owned one.
Btw, I used to own the Lyra Delos. It's a very nice cartridge too, but I ultimately settled on its bigger brother, the Kleos.
Couple of points about the Ortofon 2M Black. I seem to recall that it's a high compliance cartridge -- having a 22 compliance factor. I think the VPI JMW arm does better with medium or low compliance cartridges. I suspect the 2M may have had tracking issues and/or the 2M's output voltage may (??) have been a little "hot" for my phono pre. In any case, I returned it. I just couldn't get it to work well.
Similar comments about the Clearaudio Virtuoso and Maestro. They are high compliance cartridges. I had bass ringing issues that Mike (VPI Service) and I couldn't quite get our arms around.
Last point about output voltage. Be sure that whatever cartridge you settle on, its output voltage meshes with your phono pre. My phono pre's does 58 db of gain and the linestage does 12 db of gain. The bottom line is that the Kleos is the lowest output cartidge (.5 mV) my system can handle, unless I start talking a SUT which I am not inclined to do. Just another artifact.
Just sharing. Let us know how you make out.
If you keep the VPI or decide to find one of your own, they really like a solid platform to sit on. I thought my Scoutmaster was solidly supported on its own VPI 4" tube-steel and steel bar stand loaded up with 100# of lead shot and kitty litter. The stand, spikes and fill and components on the two shelves came to > 250#. The whole thing set up on brass spikes sounded very good, but did not really take off until I put a maple block isolation platform under it. I got a great deal on a Titanic maple cutting board from dawnsplatforms and some Mapleshade blocks. The 27"x21"x4" monster adds another 65# to the setup, and the sound went from excellent to glorious. It also looks fantastic.
Arsh: you asked, "I have a couple of questions about the Zephyr:
1) how long does it take to break in ..."
Not long. Maybe 50+ hours.
"2) do you have any suggestions on setting the arm height on the scoutmaster with the Zephyr?"
Follow the instruction. I would set VTA so the arm is horizontal with the platter. Then adjust by ear. Set VTF within the recommended range. Harry Weisfeld does not believe in using anti-skating (AS). Peter does. Frankly, making adjustments to the JMW arm is a PITA. I use just a little AS and only to minimize uneven wear. Send the Zephyr to Peter for a check up after 1500 or so hours of use. Not only will Peter clean the cartridge, but he can check on wear patterns. That's how I settled on the AS adjustment for my arm.
I haven't personally tried it, but there is a much cheaper alternative to Onzow Zerodust that appears to be very similar in design. I have seen it recommended by some other users who have used it with their very high end analog setups and they enthusiastically recommend it. It is Extreme Phono's Solid-State Stylus Cleaner.
+1 Bill_k. I have been using the EP cleaner for about a year and a half. My records love it. It took quite a few uses before my nerves broke in and my comfort factor while using it increased to the point where it became pretty natural. I now am so absolutely fearless when cleaning my stylus, that I no longer use the safest method - to align it under the cartridge and lower the cueing arm. For the last several hundred plays I gently raise the open cleaner case to the stylus from below while the arm is locked down. Looking back to how I used to brush the needle several times per cleaning, as I did for decades before, I realize that I never lost my fear of destroying a cartridge with every cleaning.
Not sure how similar the kW500's built in phono stage is compared to the stand-alone kW phono stage. I have the stand-alone and it is a fabulous phono stage. A real keeper in my book, preferred it claerly over the SimAudio 5.3LP with optional external power supply and the Avid Pulsus (which I also preferred over the SimAudio). Like many pieces of audio gear, think the kW really sonically benefits from its burly power supply.
At the price of the VPI Classic, you have a number of nice turntable options. Are you anywhere that you would be able to audition tables? Rega, Well Tempered Amadeus, Townshend Rock (my current table, and a bit pricier) are all great options. Avid and Basis also have tables in this range.
Separates tend to have some advantages, like isolation and dedicated power supplies. But if the circuit in your kW intergrated is similar to the stand alone then you may already have a very good phono stage on your hands. Best to try to audition another quality phono stage and see how the kW stands up to it. A number of online retailers with good return policies if there isn't a dealer nearby with something that interests you. Music Direct has the Avid line. It was Chris there who put me onto what a great phono stage that Pulsus is. And he has heard a lot.
I have an MF kW500 integrated: I do not think that you will reap the benefit of a vinyl front end upgrade unless you use a superior external phono stage. The internal phono stage (switchable MM/MC by an internal switch accessed by removing the top plate...and not mentioned in the manual!) is a circuit broadly equivalent to the MF X-LP phono stage. It is very respectable, but is ultimately the one aspect of this integrated which is less than superb. The member of the MF design team I discussed this with agreed with my impressions that the internal 'stage is musically surpassed by external 'stages (I can vouch for the Lehmann Black Box SE, the Sugden Masterclass and the Sonneteer Sedley. The EAR 834p also worked well into the kW500, offering its own thermionic flavour).
I have settled on the solid state Sugden: the kW500 possesses a valve/tube preamp stage and the Sugden carries the advantage of 3 inputs (2MC and 1MM)...but even the Lehmann was a creditable improvement upon the kW500 internal 'stage giving a notably fuller, more 'fleshed out' sound.
A consequence of using an external 'stage with the kW500 is that you 'lose' a line input: one could, of course, still use the internal stage for an additional vinyl source.
I understand the separate kW phonostage to be a much superior unit (if you seek one out, look for the revised version with dip switches for cartridge matching: I believe that the earliest examples did not have such a wide range of adjustment).(I have not heard this unit)
The current MF ViNL phonostage is said to use the circuitry of this kW phonostage in a more modest chassis with 'on the fly' adjustment of cartridge matching. It is well regarded by Michael Fremer (Stereophile).
You will hear more quality from your existing
vinyl front end by adding an external phonostage: you may indeed decide that further changes beyond this are then less desired.
Hope this helps.
IMHO, there are 5 areas of attention to get the most out of an analog setup:
1. Physical Setup (table geometry, equipment isolation, speaker placement, etc.)
2. Room Acoustics
3. Source cleanliness
5. Power (as in, from the wall) Considerations
...maybe even in that order...maybe. I thought I had tackled #3 - I had started the w/ Disc Doctor process, then moved to MoFi Enzyme+ w/ DIY vacuum. I recently bought the Klaudio Ultrasonic Record Cleaner. Wow. The biggest single "upgrade" I've ever done.
No, 4 of the 5 aren't sexy. But if you're looking to upgrade your experience, all must be considered.