Vinyl and slurring S'es

I have been listening to a lot of vinyl for the past for months and have been considering a new turntable. But I have a question. I have noticed that when listening to my vinyl the s'es sound "slurred". I'm not really sure how to put it any other way. This is with new and/or older records. My question is; is it the recording? Do I have something set wrong on my turntable (anit-skating, ect)? Or is it my electronics. I don't notice this when listening to CDs. I have several on CD and vinyl and the CDs are crisp and clear. I have had two tables in my system in the past two weeks and both do it; a Denon 47F and a Basis 1400 w/300 arm. On both tables was a Grado Sonata cartridge. I am using a Black Cube running into a Classe CP60. The amp is a McIntosh MC300 and Thiel 3.6 speakers. I really prefer the sound the vinyl gives but those s'es can really make it fatiguing sometimes. Any insight someone can give on this matter would be appreciated.

I can't tell you exactly what it is on your system, but it is usually a result of a too hot high-end somewhere along the way. Or it could be the VTA on your arm. If it does not do it on your CDP, it is not likely that is in your electronics, but somewhere in the phono chain. I would try to raise the VTA some, and see if that helps.
If it was the same cartridge I would check for stylus wear. It could also possibly be VTA.
How old is your cartridge?
Some of the aging cartridges after half-life start to be too bright. I have in reserve Benz M.09 that is arround 4 years-old with original non-retipped stylus. Everything is OK when you look through microscope but the sound is "s-ing"
Thanks for the resonses so far. I used two different cartridges, one was a high output the other low. The low was on the Denon and the high was on the Basis. Both were bought around the same time and are 2 or 3 yrs old (I think). Since I have two I have considered getting one retipped or just biting the bullet and getting a new cartridge; maybe go for a different brand. I thought about adjusting the VTA on the Basis (cant do it on the Denon) but wanted to put this thread out first to get some thoughts on it all.

I appreciate all the input so far and any that follows.

Thanks guys!

Not sure what you mean by slurring, but if you mean instead of ssss you get thh or stch or anything like a lisp, the vta may be too low or the records were damaged by tracking too light. If you get a zzzz sizzle, the vta is probably too high. Mistracking in the 5-8 khz range can also be caused by an incorrectly aligned cartridge, incorrect overhang and azimuth. You have to get everything right to make a cartridge work right.
just a tip for the cartridge:
benz cartridges i believe are the champions in longetivity and reliability. with proper handling they could play upto 15000 hours.
Paulwp has said it all in my opinion. I would have told you exactly the same. Cheers,
The sound that you are hearing is formally known as "sibilance".
A number of good possibilities are mentioned above; may or may not be the issue here, so you'll have to experiment.
The cause may also be dirty/un-conditioned AC power, the wrong interconnects, high-level overloading of the phono input stage lineup, the wrong AC cord.
Paulwp hit it on the head. The more precisely that you set up a cartridge / arm / phono stage, the better the sonics and less wear & tear on the vinyl and stylus.

Also keep in mind that cartridge loading can drastically affect tonal balance and apparent sibilance. The cartridge loading is determined by EVERYTHING between it and the phono stage. This means your internal tonearm wiring, the interconnects and specific values inside the phono stage should all be taken into account when trying to calculate total loading values. Sean
I agree that it is most likely the VTA. I prefer the arm to be slightly lower at the pivot. This usually increases bass output and smoothes out the highs. The tracking weight can also influence the top end as Paulwp stated. It is not always best to choose the lightest that the manufacturer recommends. Go for the middle range. It will cut down on record wear and mistracking.
Try this; turn the volume all the way up to listen to the background noise of the cd and the analog. If you get a lot of hiss in the analog, it may be an indication that there is something going on with your phono stage or interface between cartridge and phono. It won't give you absolute results, but it may lead to electronics and wiring as oppossed to tracking.
If you do get a considerable amount of hiss, substantailly more than the cd rig, try some different ic's and different connections to see if it changes. Try to eliminate as much as you can in order to isolate the anomoly, no matter how simple it sounds. I would evan unplug my ic's from the back of my cd and plug them into the phono and visa versa, just to see if it is the sound of the ic's I'm hearing or something in the pre-amp that is different. It's hard to tell from here if there is something wrong, there is just a synergistic mismatch of components, or if it's a matter of taste. From there, you might have a better shot at finding out which it is.
I have noticed this with 180g vinyl discs. The slurred and hissing/rough S's are really annoying (e.g., Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited"). In fact, I hadn't played any for some time. Now, I am wondering if these discs require some modified VTA, stylus force, etc.

Anyone else have this problem and a solution? Thanks!
agree that a VTA adjustment would be in order if you are previously optimized for standard thickness LP's. Be sure to note the ajdustment wheel location / measure / or mark your present VTA position on an index card before you change it, so that you can get it back there easily.
You won't believe this! But it's true. The problem is most likely the interconnects between the TT and the phono preamp!


I sell interconnects under my brand name BEAR Labs, so I do have an interest in this issue. Many times, I've demo'd the complete transformation of the "sibilance" from Lp to clear highs by merely switching in one of my interconnects and making no other changes.

The sibilance problem with Lp bothered me for many, many years, and I never found an adequate explanation. Then virtually by accident in the course of routinely changing out my interconnects when I first developed Silver Lightning I was really shocked to hear a lack of sibilance, and the appearance of nice smooth clear highs! I reproduced the improved sound at every audiophile's house I could find and was completely convinced, but surprised.

I still don't know exactly what the cause is, but there it is.



I don't necessarily agree with Bear. There is no "most likely" scenario. Try everything else (VTA, stylus force, cartridge alignment, playing records on someone else's system, etc.) before handing over hard-earned cash.

And if it MIGHT be the cables/interconnects, then ask your friendly audio store (one that you do business with) if you can try some out. In fact, they might even give it a test run for you. With my table, it is a simple matter to change out cables because it is a DIN plug into the tonearm base. Pull out one, stick in the new.

Spending money is the last resort!
Bear, I luve your style of advertizing your wires ha ha ha!!!
I don't have anything special in the way of phono cables, and my highs are crisp and clean as a brand new dollar bill. Not even the slightest hint of sibilance. And I don't think any masking is going on with a quality tube preamp, OTL amp, and 100db efficient Lowthers.
It sounds like a set-up issue. I'm in the process of moving or I would be able to tell you what Robert Harley and/or Laura Dearborn have to say about this. I think it is an alignment or overhang issue, but if you can, go to Barnes and Noble and see if either of the books I mentioned are available. I have found both of them to be very helpful.
Marakenetz, it's not an ad! It's true. Been there and done that too many times now. I agree that it is important and even critical to set up the arm, and the tracking exactly right.

It's also a good idea to take a 10x eye loupe and inspect your stylus. That black stuff caked onto the diamond is vinyl. Remove it. It's amazing how dirty the stylus can look when you can *see it*!

But after that is all done, and everything else checks out - then when I have switched cables to my Silver Lightning, everything cleared up and the slurred sibilance resolved itself into clean clear highs.

You ask how and why? I really do not have a scientific explanation for the obvious result. One factor *might* be the low capacitance of my design, but I do not think that is all there is to it, since other low capacitance cable does not always do the trick. But, you can try it for yourself and decide! Very little to lose.
tend to agree, Bear especially if the connection inside the interconnects is loose:^)
Marakanetz, why so sarcastic? Bear seems quite sincere and who knows, may well be right. Give him a chance or at least the benefit of the doubt. I know people, whose ears I trust, who find that his ICs do just what he says.