Vinyl sounds a bit thin and slightly strident.

The analog side of my system looks like this:
Benz Micro Ebony H Cartridge(Broken in). VTF around 1.9g.
No Headshell weight.
VPI Scout/JMW-9 Signature Arm(Wired w/Nordost Valhalla)
Cardas Neutral Ref Phono Balanced.
Audio Research PH-2 Balanced Phono Pre
Cardas Neutral Reference IC's
Audio Research LS-7 Preamp w/Electro-Harmonix Tubes from ARC
Cardas Hexlink 5C
Mark Levinson No.331
Purist Audio Design Aqueous Bi-wire
B&W Nautilus 803S
I recently purchased a used Sony 9000ES SACD player and noticed I could listen for extended periods of time and I just kept wanting to play music because it is a great sounding player and very engaging and realized that I'm having a hard time getting as involved with my vinyl rig and I've concluded that the big contributing factors are a lack of bass weight, mid-bass bloom and the top end is a bit strident.
Has anyone else had a problem such as this? And what device(s) should I tweak or change in order to alleviate these sonic characteristics? I suspect my overhang may be off and a contributing factor due to just using the stock VPI protractor. I want to get a Wally Tractor soon.
Any thoughts?
Could be that your cartridge loading is too high...and/or setup..possibly VTA too high.
Raise the back of the arm (lowering VTA),until the performers are "rock-solid" in their imaging.The VTF of 1.9 gm can be adjusted:increase if bottom octave still light/decease if bass holds on too long or upper octaves aren't articulated.
How much have you played around with your cartridge setup?
I don't want to get killed for saying this, but if you're playing SACD's on a sony 9000ES, & you liked the sound of your vinyl rig before, it could be just that the sound of SACD is spoiling you? (9000ES owner & L-T vinyl hobbyist).

The one component you have That I'd replace are the Cardas Hexlink 5C's. I had them too--probably the worst sounding cables I ever had (avoid cheap cardas; but their really expensive stuff is great).

I complained about a lack of dynamics with my Scoutmaster/Dynavector setup some time ago. I've done numerous isolation mods, setup with MintLp (get this vs. the Wally), this has helped, but still not as involving as my digital setup. Im my case I've concluded my analog setup is just not as resolving as the digital, gonna take a better cartridge, perhaps better phono stage to get where I want to go. You many find some tweaks get you where you want to be, (try Cardas Golden Ref vs. the Neutral ref, improve table isolation, MintLp protractor, NOS tubes in Audio Research)on the other hand, you may be in the same boat as I.

You should also mention which lps are causing problems, many lps are poorly recorded.
I concur that you should adjust the loading first, then go on to the other ideas. I bet that's it. Or maybe you just like the digital sound more. Could be. Some folks go that way.
I just did a major tweaking of my TNT Jr. as my cd was bettering my vinyl. Got the Cardas golden reference, new cleaning fluids & brushes, reset the phonostage loading, capacitance & gain, got a digital tracking scale to zero in VTF; spent hours on VTA but found the biggest thing was perfectly leveling the player. The VPI arms really need a perfect level. My TNT Jr. now blows away my Esoteric X03 SE.
I own a Sony 9000es SACD and I've heard many VPI Scout combinations.

The problem lies elsewhere than the Scout, which is capable of much more musical output than the Sony 9000es. 1) Examine your cartridge and tonearm setup. 2) The Benz leans toward the warm side of the scale. You may want to try a denon 103, but I don't think the cartridge is the source of your complaint for the most part. 3) Eliminate those Cardas cables, all of which are veiled. Many folks use those cables to tame strident gear. The golden reference is good, but so is the Speltz anti-cable for a lot less dough. Sell the cardas, buy Speltz, Zu or make your own cables (see Parts Connexion) and buy vinyl with the difference. 4) IMHO the Audio Research gear leans toward the strident side. I've not heard the Levinson, but I prefer tubes, so that tells you my bias.

In any event, the VPI should sound significantly better than the Sony. Good luck, Jeff
The VPI stuff can be pretty bright, you might try a British table such as Rega or Nottingham. Nottinghams in particular are quite dark.
Thanks for all the responses everyone, this is why I love the 'gon. I'm loading the cartridge @ 2.5K each leg of the XLR and I popped out the 220pF caps so it's only the cable capacitance in the circuit, It's been a while so I can't fully remember the justification for this move. So, I got aggressive with raising the VTA today and a lot of good things happened so I'm very hopeful. It dawned on me demagnetizing the cartridge may help because it's an MC but I want to get something passive such as a test record to do that. I have a handful of titles on 180g but I haven't bought a lot of them. I have to keep in mind I play quite a bit of used 120g vinyl mass market stuff because I'm fortunate to have a record convention come to town every 3 months and I can pick up LP's/12" singles of stuff I wouldn't think of paying full price for. Either they're titles unavailable on CD or albums containing only a track or 2 I care for. I may just have to give a different set of cables a try too. Thanks again guys!
One thing to do right away is get rid of those ARC supplied EH tubes. These are almost as horrible as the Sovtek. You will not believe how significant Telefunken, Mullard, Amperex, etc., 6922/6DJ8 tubes would make on the LS7. The midrange textures, decays and smoothness in the mids will be quite a surprise.

I owned the PH2 for many years and loved it. It may be solid state, but this is an outstanding phono stage. And it is balanced which seems kinda strange that you are driving it into the LS7 which only has single-ended inputs. Are you using adaptors to/from the PH2? If so, I highly suggest that you look to change to the PH1 which is essentially a single-ended version of the PH2. Stay away from the PH3 - it might sound "right" at first hearing but a return to the PH2 shows how natural this product is.

The Cardas Nuetral cables are great from a tonal neutrality perspective but they remove so much of the spatial aspects in the music that comes through with other cables. As colored as the Cardas Golden Cross ICs can be, one of these between the LS7 and the amp could also be a major sonic effect that you are after.

What are you listening to though? Columbia or RCA from the mid-'60's to 70's? That would do it! If you have some London/Decca's such as Argenta's Espana, etc. and they sound thin and strident than something is wrong. I have a Scoutmaster/Dyna combo and I'm extremely happy.
I am confused about the fact that you helped matters by raising the VTA. Contrary to Tpsonic's advise what you need to do, if you feel the sound is strident, is LOWER vta, by LOWERING the back of the arm. With all due respect to well meaning posters, I would question some of the advise given so far.

The Cardas Hexlink 5C is a very full bodied sounding cable, that while not the last word as far as detail is concerned, will only help a system that is a little strident. Strident itself the Cardas is not. I would keep it; certainly for now.

Here is where the problem with incorrect use of descriptive audio terminology causes problems: I have read many times how Benz cartridges are on the romantic side of the spectrum. I have tried two Benz cartridges (Ruby 2, and Ruby H), so I can only speak to what I heard with those two cartridges. What I heard in both cases was a sound that, yes, had a dusky, some would say, dark or golden sound, with a lot of detail. But it was not a full bodied sound at all; if anything, it was thin sounding. Worst of all, the highs were not well integrated with the midrange, and tended to call a lot of attention to themselves. Voices were much more silibant than with the Vandenhul, Shelter, and other mc's that I have used. I can definitely see (hear), how someone might characterize sound like that as strident. In both cases the tonearm used was a ET2, a tonearm known for being itself, if anything, a little rolled off in the highs. So, I would look at the cartridge itself, and not just it's setup as the possible culprit. A fuller sounding cartrideg with well integrated highs might be the ticket. Sumiko Celebration, Koetsu, Grado...?

Just one man's opinion.
I have a TNT Jr. with HRX motor, an original JMW-12, and a Ruby 2. You have an excellent table and cartridge, so it should make beautiful music. Maybe I'm biased, but I don't think the problem is with the choice of equipment.

My general approach is: start with the most simple fix and work up from there. So, I would first double check to be sure that the table is perfectly level. If it's not, the whole presentation will be off. Next, I'd try lowering the VTA, which is easily done and the solution may be as simple as that. (To second Frogman, LOWER the VTA). Next, I would try a different cartridge loading. Perhaps try these simple things, in order, and then report back?
A lack of HF clarity and strident midrange & treble in the stock ARC PH-2 is easily cured with a change of coupling caps. Also, how is the Scout sited?
When one has a tonal balance as you described, the first thing to do is run a play back curve with the cart and arm you are using. place the RIAA playback LP on the table, and write down the output voltage of your preamp at each frequency. Doing anything before this step is purely guessing.

Sounds interesting. Could you provide a link to a site that explains your test procedure in more detail?

a) How do you measure the output voltage? By affixing a voltage meter to the rca outs of the preamp?
b) What do you compare the readings to?
c) What test lp do you use and does it provide the necessary benchmarks?
d) Once you have the data, is there a guide on what to do about it?

Thanks, Jeff
I had that problem when I owned a Ruby 2. The line contact stylus Benz uses is a pia to get the VTA right with. Make sure your arm is sloped down in the back a bit and keep the stylus clean as a possible.
Just to expand on my above comment, I bought the ARC PH-2 new together with an ARC VT-130 amp. Afterwards I purchased the factory-sanctioned Infinicap upgrade to replace stock MIT PPMXS coupling caps in the VT-130-- a worthwhile improvement that remediated exactly the problems across FR that you mention. While the PH-2 uses good MIT RTX and Wima film caps in most sections, in four critical coupling positions it has the same MIT PPMXS as the VT-130, and the associated sonic compromise. As by then ARC had replaced PH-2 with PH-3, there was no reason for the factory to revisit selection of piece parts. But trust me on this one, if you pull those four PPMXS output caps and replace with Multicap PPFXS, Mundorf, or equivalent, you will be happy.

PS I still have the PH-2. Subject to its gain limitations, after lite modding it compares favorably with far more expensive phono stages. The PH-3 that followed was a lesser budget piece.
Dgarretson, I like what I'm hearing... My PH-2 has Infinicaps in it now, not sure the model. My LS-7 has Rel-Caps so I suspect they could be upgraded. I spent some time yesterday and rechecked overhang using the VPI supplied protractor and made some adjustments there and subsequently to the VTF and VTA. I had noticed before the changes that the VTF was too low and I don't know how that could be unless either the retaining screw came loose on the counterweight and it moved or my digital scale wasn't calibrated or working properly when I set the arm up. That was a large source of the stridency I was hearing due to mistracking. However, after changing those settings the characteristic that still is lacking is more body/fullness in the midbass. It's not severe but this tends to detract from the emotional richness during playback for me. Do you still think that is a capacitor issue? I haven't experimented with doing any changes to capacitors before although I'm open to suggestions. Can changing the loading affect the midbass? I thought that loading would only change the high frequency rolloff. The cart is loaded at 2.5K Ohm and the capacitance of the Cardas Neutral Reference Phono.
It sounds like the phono stage had a makeover. Over the next week I'll try comparing the PH-2 to a couple of tube phono stages around here. You may just be hearing the leaner tonality of SS. Though not specifically targetting bass response, to generally improve phono you might try something like my spring/sandbox platform, which has been implemented by user Islandman on a Scout. He also likes Mapleshade Nanomounts on VPI JMW arm. An oil coupling cap such Mundorf Silver would also tend to flesh out bass and midrange. I'm sure the PH-2 could be improved significantly with a few hundred dollars of Texas Components TX2575 resistors for loading & in signal path in circuit. This is not too hard to do or to have done by a tech, as ARC freely distributes schematics.
Awesome! Thanks. Any thoughts on the component parts and tubes for the LS-7? Jafox(listed above) had stated this:

One thing to do right away is get rid of those ARC supplied EH tubes. These are almost as horrible as the Sovtek. You will not believe how significant Telefunken, Mullard, Amperex, etc., 6922/6DJ8 tubes would make on the LS7. The midrange textures, decays and smoothness in the mids will be quite a surprise.

I agree because I feel the Sovteks were better than the EH tubes if memory serves me correctly. My question is which one to choose?

Any component upgrades would be easy for me to perform. I don't really want to have to change out gear if I don't have to. I feel I could improve on what I already have.
Where do you trust getting the component parts you mentioned?
Parts Connexion/Canada discounts Mundorf caps. Silver/Gold/Oil is Mundorf's new top model. I've been using Silver/Gold (non-oil)version-- it's a great cap but may not have the midrange and LF bloom that you're seeking. You will find these quality as well in the Mundorf Silver Oil cap. I can't recall the values used in the PH-2, but they may be fairly high-- which can get pricey.

Texas Components TX2575 resistors are available directly from TC on a quotation basis @$9-$11. You might want to first try replacing loading & several resistors at input and after listening, work further into the circuit. These .5W metal film resistors have the rare combination of high resolution, sweetness, & warmth. Too expensive for most hi-end manufacturers! Once you try some, you may just forget all about tube rolling and IC upgrades...
I have owned Benz cartridges and ARC phono stages, I agree with most of the comments so far.
First, Benz cartridges excel in the midrange. Do not expect great bass punch from a Benz cartridge. Treble can become desimbodied from the midrange if the VTA or VTF are not spot on. Benz VTA is tricky, as is VTF, due to the narrow stylus profile.
Second, Sony players in general have outstanding bass quality, it will be tough to find a phono combo that will beat your Sony in bass slam...more natural / organic bass is possible, punchier bass is difficcult.

A few suggestions regarding brightness and lean sound:

-Valhalla wire, the transparency-champ! It sounds very detailed and lean. It may be a great choice in the right system or may ruin the tonal balance, specially because it is the first cable in your system.

-EH tubes - I agree with the previous posts, they sound harsh and forward as compared to good NOS tubes.

-Cardas Hexlink is not as full-bodied as Cardas GR or NR.

Lastly, leave the phono preamp on 24/7, it will sound much smoother after a couple of days of warm up.
Good luck
Dgarretson provides good input on the TX2575 resistors. I just replaced 22 resistors in the audio section of a Counterpoint SA-2 with TX2575 and the clarity was greatly improved. I can relate to all the praise that Michael Elliot gave to these resistors when he compared them back in 2007. However they had little to do with the SA-2's incredible portrayal of space which is inherent in the SA-2's overall design. And I suspect such changes here will not be as beneficial as tube rolling (in the LS7) for the improvements in bringing more life to the mids.

Until you get those EH tubes out of the LS7, all the fiddling with cables is only going to result in one set of strengths/weaknesses for another.

I can not suggest a specific 6922 tube for the LS7 because one tube type might be so incredible in one product but be outperformed by another tube in another product. I have no experience with the LS7....only the LS5. And I did not go through the multitude of tube-rolling efforts with the LS5 like I have with other products since I owned the LS5. But the Amperex quite handily outperformed the stock ARC tubes in both the LS5 and the SP-10 that I had before it. There is so much to gain from the trials and patience of trying many tubes in each component.

The Tele 6DJ8 is the king in the SA-2 but in the Aria WV preamp, the Amperex 6922 works like no other. And in the CAT amps that I use, a number of Valvo, Philips and Amperex all work incredibly well; the Telefunken was not a good fit at all here with the result being a most flat presentation. Without trying these in each product, there is just no way to know.

From a view of the circuit board on the LS7, it looks like 2 of the tubes need to be the same but the other two you could try different brands. Maybe try an Amperex 7308 for a little more detail and dynamics and the Tele or Amperex 6922 for more midrange smoothness and bloom.

Once you get a set of tubes here that take the performance to the next level, the IC from the LS7 to your amp will be CRITICAL to achieve that next level of 3D performance.
The variety & multitude of suggested corrections & mods seems fairly overwhelming; who knows it could be any, or a combination, of the above.
One area I haven't seen addressed nor do you mention, is what AC cables you're using. Since the CDP is satisfactory, you might experiment with upgrade AC cord on the phonostage alone. Or line conditioning. Perhaps even footers or an isolation shelf. All of these can change sonic signature to a lesser/greater extent, especially with tube componentry.
Some here would argue that cabling & cords can't possibly affect the sound of a component. However my own tuning experiences with changing AC cords (and to a lesser extent, line conditioning) have proven that a world of difference can certainly be realized.
Just another mystery to throw into the mix - sorry ;-)
I have a question about effective arm mass and loading at the end but let me start by saying this.

Bob, I'm using stock cables on all my gear. The ARC stuff does not have user removable AC cables and I'm not planning on delving that far into tweaking by removing the stock cables at the moment. The only device I have concerning power is a Furman power strip that everything is plugged into. I am familiar with the benefits of using power devices having borrowed one to try on my system in the past and I'd like to own one in the future.

Jafox/Dgarretson, I like the valuable information you've written. I will have to keep your posts close so when I'm going to plunk down some cash for new tubes I have some sort of reference. Plus I'd like to give the resistors a try. Thanks!

The cartridge is 9.5g and it's looking for a medium to high mass arm according to Benz's spec sheet. However, I'm not particularly sure what the JMW 9 Sig. arm mass is. Also, I've figured out that other than light bass there is a response bump at around 3.5K that gives music a more tense feel. I'm sure it doesn't help that the most sensitive area of hearing lies right around that frequency. My question is will changing the loading resistance help this bump? I'm loading at around 2.5K/60pF(cable capacitance), the cartridge Z is 95ohms, Benz says load >1000ohm but I've heard about a 2.5/1 loading ratio which would put it @ 237.5. What should I expect if I drop loading to that even though Benz suggests 1K minimum?
N803, Bob is absolutely correct, the first thing I would change out is those stock power cords. I had a ARC SP 9 MK. III which had all the sonic limitations you speak of, putting in a IEC receptacle with a good power cord made a large sonic difference. I would absolutely make this the first change to make, all the benefits of other changes mentioned won't be realized until you take out that stock power cord!

Hire a local tech to add the IEC if you're not comfortable doing it, shouldn't cost much at all.
Actually there is a simple method to modify for testing upgrade cords without butchering the back panel, and at nominal cost. If you like the results then that can be done later... If not then you can easily go back to stock. I have previously posted this many times; here it is again:

Start by getting a male-prong IEC (which you may end up installing later - or not) there's many sources for this.
Cut the stock cord within about 6" of the component. Strip the ends and solder on your IEC. Use heat shrink sleeving, or at very least electrical tape, to insulate the bare connections.
Get a loaner upgrade cord from a local audio shop; these are usually used often so they're already broken in. After installation, leave the component energized for awhile (days) so it can settle in properly. Now you're ready to evaluate. Next, try out a different cord for comparison sake. No two cords sound the same on any given component, & what works well on any particular piece may not perform at all on a different piece so you need to experiment.

Some cords are all-purpose; others and intended for source-components only, which applies to most anything except a power amp or the input side of a high current AC line-conditioner.

If you want to return to stock cord, then just strip both the ends and solder-splice together again (or use butt-crimp connectors). Again use heat shrink sleeving for a professional appearance. You can heat the sleeving with the soldering iron, or a hot hair dryer, or even a butane lighter if you're careful.