It sounds like you're getting distortion during high volume passages. I've seen this with damaged used records that were overplayed on a low quality setup. If not that it could be improper setup of your cartridge/arm or overloading of your phono stage.
You may just need to work on your cartridge alignment, VTA, azimuth, and tracking force. Start with VTA as neutral as possible and then adjust up or down. Tracking force should start at the high end of the manufacturer's recommended range.
I've heard good things about the Mint protractor, and I can recommend the tracking force scale that Mapleshade sells. (They just add the shelf to an inexpensive scale, so you could just buy the same scale and make your own shelf.)
On the other hand, while I have no experience with that arm, I haven't found Benz carts to be particularly stellar trackers. The Audio Technica carts I've used seem to do better with highly modulated records.
Your problem is likely 90%+ set up inaccuracy. I had the same problem when I got back into vinyl about three years ago. I was quite ignorant at the time about set up, and so was discouraged and wondered what all the fuss was about re vinyl. After immersing myself in set up techniques, and having acquired some excellent set up equipment, (the MintLP arc protractor is in dispensible), I can now listen to lp's that before I considered unplayable. Groove noise and imperfections become much less a factor when the arm and cartridge are optimally set up. Do some homework on set up, you will be well rewarded for your efforts.
Good listening and observational skills. I've heard exactly what you described.
First, I agree about the Mint. It's about the best $110 you can spend on a vinyl front end. Just be aware that each one is custom made for a specific tonearm. If you change tonearms you'll need a new one.
Also agee with Dan on optimizing every aspect of your setup. VTF, VTA/SRA, azimuth, anti-skating (if you use), levelling of table, isolation of table, etc., etc. Each of these will impact the sound.
Some bad news: every component in your vinyl front end is contributing to that compression: Ace, Scout, JMW and almost certainly your phono stage. Phono stages are extremely vulnerable in this area. I can count on the fingers of one hand the phono stages I've heard that don't compress as you described.
Where to start? After levelling the table and aligning the cartridge, work on fine-tuning VTF next. The music will tell you if you're moving in the right direction - only practice and thought can connect the dots between what you're doing and what you're hearing. Just get in there and mess around.
Classical music provides the severest test of a playback system. I've heard dozens of systems that reproduce rock, blues, singer-songwriter or even jazz acceptably. OTOH, I've heard only three systems that reproduced a wide range of classical music acceptably. Only three, and only one that I could begin to live with (and do). Many systems fail so horribly with classical that my partner and I are driven from the room. You've taken on audio's toughest challenge. To whatever extent you succeed, you'll learn more than other genres can teach you.
BTW, an orchestra of authentic instruments, chorus and vocalists is even tougher than a modern orchestra. That acid test will shame most any system. Our current system has only begun to pass this test of tests. We've never even tried our toughest LP's in other systems, they would sound too wretched.
A difficult realization for many audiophiles is learning that they must wean themselves from any desire for "musicality" in their components. There is no such thing as a "musical" playback component. Musicality comes from musicians. If the recording is good, the job of a playback component must be to reproduce what's on that recording, neither more nor less. If the recording is bad, there's no point trying to compensate in the playback system because there are an infinite number of ways a recording can be bad. There's only one way a recording can be good, so embrace neutrality in your heart as well as your head and you can make real progress. Settle for the artifice of musicality and you never will.
I do have the mint and it did make a huge difference. I posted this thread because to me, it seems that everything I mentioned has a huge impact on the music. Someone mentioned about Benz Cartridge traking being somewhat varied, I totally agree. For me the VTA makes a huge difference. I do not have a 20K turntable, so I do realize the limitations. I do believe that my system does provide, to my ears, a suprisingly believable presentation. I have season tickets to the symphony orchestra so I know what that sounds like. I was just curious to what people think is the biggest culprit of tracking error. I think a lot has to do with the Cartridge alignment, obviously, but also the tonearm and platter I feel have an huge influence on the big picture.
Agree that tonearm and platter both have a huge influence, though not necessarily on tracking error. If you've aligned the cartridge well with a Mint then you've minimized overall tracking error distortion about as much as possible without going to a longer or linear tracking arm. The compression you're still hearing is mostly not caused by tracking error.
What a tonearm and platter do influence is the stray energies coming from the stylus-vinyl interface. These, if allowed to reflect back into the cartridge, muddy the signal and contribute to that compression you described.
Acrylic is not the best performing material in this respect, so you might consider messing around with platter mats. Check the forums for what others have tried with a Scout. I'm not sure what works best, or indeed if any mat is desirable with a Scout. Going the opposite direction, you could try a center clamp and/or VPI's periphery ring clamp. Both improve exactly this area of sonics on my table, but of course every platter reacts differently.
Does your JMW allow for damping fluid in the bearing well? I know some versions do. Unipivots often benefit from this so experimentation may prove enlightening. Be aware that TINY changes in the amount of fluid can have an audible impact. Finding exactly the right amount for any given cartridge requires careful experimentation. (By "tiny" I mean the smallest amount you can add/remove using the point of a pin. Yes, it's nuts...)
Many owners of Scout family tables report good results from the Cloud Nine isolation platform, and/or from replacing the stock spikes with better ones from Star Sound, Mapleshade or Walker. Every reduction you can make in spurious energies reaching the cartridge will help.
Dougdeacon is exactly correct. Regarding the VPI arm... I use a small amount of damping fluid at the pivot. Start this exersize by knowing full well what the sound of your cartridge is with no fluid. As you compare that sound to that of using a single drop of fluid, you will hear a change. With my Benz LP, I heard the sound solidify and open up...after another drop, additional improvements ensued, until with one drop more, the sound suddenly closed down. I took a Q-tip, removed that last drop of oil, and I was in business. ..another point. I also found that by adding VPI's bias compensator, and having it set up that the little articulating arm was horizontal at the beginning of the record, and as the arm traveled across the record, it raised up to almost vertical at the end, I had to decrease slightly the amount of damping fluid at the pivot. I suspect that bias compensation acts like damping, but it also improved tracking slightly. My cartridge is best tracked at a very specific VTF. ...a bit heavier or lighter is detrimental to its sonic potential. I suspect that each cartridge off of the assembly line has its favorite VTF. Sure, they all work from .75 to 1.50 grams, but there is only one perfect force that is optimum...and that changes over time as the suspension changes, so that I find that I have to "tweek" my vinyl system every 6 months or so. I know it's nuts, but the rewards are high.
I was looking at your system, and I certainly would recommend you substituting those Cardas cables. In my system, they produced a congested, tan, muffled sound ...they may be ok in yours, but try Audioquest, Kimber, Anti-Cables and hear if your problem goes away.
Good additional insights by Stringreen.
>> I suspect that bias compensation acts like damping...
Exactly so, as does VTF, and for identical reasons. Both apply a constant force (whether lateral or vertical) which presses the cantilever into the suspension. Pressing a vibrating rod into an elastomer dampens the vibrations. The precise effects will vary by frequency, amplitude and the characteristics of the particular elastomer and rod.
As Stringreen observed, every cartridge's sweet spot for VTF is unique. (The same is true for anti-bias, though the differences are subtler.) The only way to find it is by experimenting. I'd suggested starting with VTF because its effects are the most audible, at least in my setup. I adjust much more frequently than he does, sometimes daily, but for exactly the reasons he described.
just try a good MM or MI and see what happens.
I have had all this nonsense with some pretty good MCs and no amount of fiddling with the set-up would cure it completely.
Lately I put in a MP-50 Nagaoka (MI)(~$500) and voila! Problem solved!
Made me think, now why it should be so is yet another inquiry.
(My system is posted, and nothing much out of the ordinary)
I checked my alignment with the Mint LP. Suprisingly, it was close to perfect if not as perfect as it could be. I did not touch it. It turns out the guy who set up my turntable is the best in my area. It took him over 4 hours to do it. I never knew that. He told me that it is not always what you can see that can cause problems, he said it is what you cannot see inside the cartridge that could cause problems. It does track pretty decent up to those very last grooves and that is where I hear most of the distortion. The Cardas cables are better than the JPS labs that I was using. I do have some Audioquest Opal interconnects I may try just to see what happens. They are old but could tell me something.
He did tell me that I should learn how to do it because he could have a heart attack someday. He told me I shoud get the VPI Classic. He said it is the best sounding table he has had at his shop since he opened it. Has anyone heard the Classic?