Cuz my TT is on special mission to play the music I love whenever I want.
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Audiofiles sure love to ask questions that have no simple answer. I guess that helps perpetuate the breed.
Turntables have been around a long time. There are no unexplored great mysteries here. Do some homework and experiment until done right. Or hire a skilled professional to do it for you. Why spend time debating these things that are well documented over the years and have no simple answer?
I guess if one likes to go on and on about turntables or whatever in general there is no harm but what's the point? The devil is always in teh details. Pick a specific configuration and then maybe there is something to talk about why it sounds the way it does.
Why does a car drive the way it does? Air in tires might be wrong pressure; wheels might be out of alignment; ignition might be malfunctioning and so on. Complex mechanical systems can be out of alignment in many ways. When the Hale telescope on Mt Palomar was built it was slightly out of alignment; this was fixed BY STRETCHING A SPRING LOADED FISHING SCALE over the bottom of the scope. Decades later a new user took it off and it went out of alignment again; putting it back fixed everything. This story is from a history of the telescope; its weight in in the hundreds of tons. When someone asks me a question like this I channel my inner Rogers and Hammerstein 'Who can explain it, who can tell you why, fools give you reasons, wise men never try" LOL
So, fellow Audiogoners, what do you think has the greatest effect on vinyl playback as far as only the turntable itself, and what do you think can be done to ammeliorate those effects.
To answer the first question: a perfectly concocted vodka martini, with good Scotch close second. To answer your second question: another vodka martini, or, in the alternative, more good Scotch.
Since a phono cartridge is designed to turn very tiny undulations in a record groove into very tiny electrical impulses, that interface can be distorted by very small variations from optimal performance. And so a better platter bearing will generate less vibration that is picked up by the cartridge. A low torque drive system may be affected by stylus drag, which can vary with the pitch of the music being played (since low frequency grooves have large variation than high frequency.
If there is a theoretically perfect turntable, it is one with a perfect connection between platter and cartridge, which allows zero vibration other than what is generated by the record grooves. It would generate zero vibration out of the motor, the platter bearing, the arm bearing, the arm and the cartridge (other than that generated by the record grooves). It would hold perfect speed, no matter what.
As far as mats, platter materials, or plinth materials, they affect the perfect ideal to the extent they affect platter vibration, which can be transmitted to the cartridge.
Since there is no perfection in the real world, we have tradeoffs. Low torque belt drives exist not because low torque is better, but because the designer felt he could isolate motor vibration better by minimizing the interaction between the motor and the platter.
Then finally we have colorations, some of which may be quite pleasant. Because different materials resonate at different frequencies, and since you can't avoid all resonance completely, some folks seek out the more pleasant
coloration. For example many people change the bodies of a DL-103 cartridge from plastic to wood or aluminum, each of which imparts a slightly different sound.
I hope I'm not the only person who attempts to answer the original post. It's a reasonable and interesting question.
I guess this forum has devolved into just posting personal opinions on hardware or stating that questions have been answered before. If there is an answer to my question, I havent found it,and it certainly isnt in one place. Perhaps I should have posted this in a DIY section, because my interest in the answer is due to my turntable building interest.
Looks like your the only one capable of actually thinking an issue through. I can understand if people are not interested, but what is left of this forum is sad.
"Because different materials resonate at different frequencies, and since you can't avoid all resonance completely, some folks seek out the more pleasant."
I couldn't agree more. I attempted to damp down my TT as completely as possible, reducing/removing all resonances that I could. The music became lifeless and uninvolving and dynamically constrained. Removing some/most of that dampening gave the music life and it became immensely enjoyable again.
I, for one, would rather enjoy my music and hear it in a way that makes me smile and tap my foot, rather than sit in front of my system and say "well, it is as neutral sounding as I can make it, but I feel uninvolved".
I am definitely of the "tune for liveliness" school as opposed to the "damp all the life out of the music" school. My high-mass non-suspended table may be more susceptible to this than other tables, but if so only in degree. Whatever material the table is positioned on makes a big difference in sound quality, and the more highly damped the material the less music there is, in my experience. I have yet to find any good technical explanations for why one material is better sounding than another. Each manufacturer has his own theory but each one is at best a partial explanation. Ultimately, it is up to each listener to figure out what works best for his own system and tastes.
The same type of latitude exists for different types of drive mechanisms. There are great sounding tables of all types---idler, direct, belt.
I happen to share Manitunc's views on the state of this forum. It is sad to see how much the quality of posts has declined in the past couple years.
If we assume that the sound off the master tape is what the engineer wanted us to hear, and it is the best sound we can get, than why would damping out any extraneous vibrations take the life out of the recording. I do agree that some tables do sound lifeless and over dampened, but I have to believe that is due to some other reason than damping out extraneous vibrations. Maybe they are also damping out what is actually on the record, but I dont know the theory under which that would happen. Again, I assume that a stylus accurately following the groove undulatons without any extra outside interference would provide the best sound, but maybe that assumption is incorrect.
I can't say much about dampening vibrations and effecting the sound of a turntable. Is it livelier or deader? But I can write from experience that I have lived with two turntables in my system, one unsuspended, and one suspended, and the sound improved tremendously when I isolated the turntable system from floor born vibrations by placing a Vibraplane beneath each turntable. The improvement was more dramatic with the unsuspended table, but it was still noticeable with the already well isolated suspended table.
I have found that isolation and mass are critical to good sound. This is a very complex topic and I wonder if we ascribe sonic characteristics to the turntable which may actually be more attributable to the cartridge/arm combination. How energy is handled by the arm tube, the arm bearings and the arm board is also critical IMO.
I'm just a hobbyist and have no technical knowledge about any of this stuff, but I do enjoy reading peoples' opinions and theories about what makes something sound the way it does.
Dear Manitunc: ++++ " I do agree that some tables do sound lifeless and over dampened, but I have to believe that is due to some other reason than damping out extraneous vibrations. " +++++
in theory the best TT is the one that adds nothing and permit to lose nothing to the cartridge signal. This could means: no added noise, distortions, vibrations, resonances, etc. but " dead silence " and all these IMHO could means a very well damped instrument.
From this statement IMHO does not exist an " overdampened " TT. How can be overdampened?. What we are looking for is a " dead silence " TT.
IF in that " dead silence " TT we don't like what we heard that is not a TT problem but an audio system problem in other or others of the links in the audio chain.
We want to reproduce faitful what comes in the LP grooves and this means that the TT must be absolutely " transparent "/non-existence for the LP grooves/cartridge/tonearm.
++++ " due to some other reason than damping out extraneous vibrations. " +++++
absolutely right, I agree. IMHO that some other reason belongs out of the TT thgrough the audio system chain.
Unfortunately till today I never heard a " dead silence " TT not even an " overdampened " ( this does not exist. ), all the TT makes a " contribution " to the sound by adding TT distortions that are not in the recording and that degrade the cartridge signal.
If we are hearing a lifeless sound coming from our analog rig, one very well dampened analog rig, then it is because that recording is lifeless by it self or because out of the analog rig: in some other audio link exist that kind of lifeless quality performance.
Again, a TT must be unexcistent for the cartridge signal. That we like it or not what we heard through this kind of TT is non important what is important is that the cartridge signal stay " untouchable " by any kind of TT distortion/noise/resonance/vibrations/colorations. We don't want that the TT can works as a mechanical equalizer but as an invisible audio link.
Regards and enjoy the music,
I agree with your comments. But putting different tables into an identical system creates a different result, meaning that the difference is in the table. So if we have a dead sound with one TT and not with another, both used in the same system with the same arm and cartridge, are we to assume that the deadest sounding table is the most accurate, and therefore the rest of the system is to blame? Have designers created cartridges and arms that are more lively to circumvent the trend to more massive, deader TTs. And how do we explain the massive plinth idler table movement whose greatest benefit seems to be the liveliness of the sound.
Again, has anyone actually listened to a master tape and compared it to the resulting vinyl on a high end TT?
This might not be the exactly correct place to bring this up, or maybe it is. It has been stated that the Linn method of evaluating audio equipment simplifies things too much, but I disagree. It may not be the only way, but I believe if the intent of the musician to convey something is preserved, that more of the music is coming through.
"Again, has anyone actually listened to a master tape and compared it to the resulting vinyl on a high end TT?"
I have not personally, but I can share an anecdote from a buddy of mine. In the late 80s he was involved with hifi groups that listened only to master tapes. I never understood if these were 2nd generation copies of marketed music or originals from special sessions. These guys had complete disdain for turntables. My buddy had high end turntables, but said nothing approached the musical quality of a master tape. His hifi with vinyl blew me away. I've never had a spare dollar since...
I can answer one question here that has to do with the platter and platter pad:
When the needle tracks the groove, the vinyl can talk back to the stylus and thus affect the sound. Just turn down the volume when you are playing an LP and you will see what I mean.
If the vinyl is properly damped, it will sound more neutral and correct, regardless of the drive system. This is because this is a more important feature than the drive. Sure, you can hear differences in the drive, not contesting that.
Anyway, most platter pads don't damp the LP properly! Acrylic is too hard as are metal platters (which work fine if the right platter pad is in place). Rubber and cork are too soft. Warren Gehl of ARC did a lot of reserach in this topic about 20-25 years ago and over a period of years developed what was and still is the best platter pad I've seen. It has the same hardness as the vinyl, which is paramount as if it is any different, the coupling between the two surfaces will not favor all frequencies. At the same time the pad did not depress as the needle tracked the vinyl (there is a microscopic depression around the needle caused by the tracking pressure), yet the pad was designed to damp not only the LP but also the platter.
Sadly, the last of these platter pads was made a good 15 years ago or more, but what those audiophiles that were lucky enough to find one found out is that it almost didn't matter what table you had if it could support this pad (which weighed a few pounds). They all sounded pretty much the same if the pad was in place, which is also to say considerably better than without!
I think someone needs to make a new version of this pad. Warren says he can no longer make it as some of the materials aren't available.
BTW I've played master tapes against the resulting LP many times. I'm not sure I would use the term 'overdamp' but I know what you are talking about. This is actually a coloration caused by the platter pad. Raul is correct- it is actually impossible to in reality overdamp a turntable (or a tube or a transistor...); if you hear something like that what has happened is a coloration has been introduced.
Please note that I did not say its impossible to overdamp a cartridge. With LOMC all that happens is you loose output, but with a moving magnet you will indeed kill the highs if the cartridge is overdamped (meaning the load impedance is too low for it to drive with full bandwidth).
Atmasphere, that was a most interesting post. I'm going to listen to my stylus/LP interface tonight with no volume and hear how subjectively neutral it sounds. Do you know if this pad you describe was smooth or was it grooved to better connect with the vinyl? My SME platter surface is close to vinyl in hardness and scribed to supposedly make better contact with the LP surface.
I'm also curious if Warren Gehl found different results with clamping and rings or was his pad meant to have the LP simply placed on top of it?
Re: "And how do we explain the massive plinth idler table movement whose greatest benefit seems to be the liveliness of the sound."
It's worth remembering that different approaches to a problem can bring different advantages/disadvantages.
So in the context of idler drives, they can:
- provide more torque through a more direct connection between the motor and platter - and so can provide a more livelier sound than say, belt drives, by better overcoming stylus drag etc;
- but, at the same time, bring potential disadvantages of (a) motor and bearing noise, working through this more direct connection, to the platter and stylus and (b) vibrations from the chassis working its way through the plinth to the arm and stylus.
This is why you'll find a particular focus on both improved bearings for idler drives and massive plinths to damp the vibrations coming from the usually larger motors.
FWIW, I'm also in the camp of you can't overdamp a TT enough (unless this means damping the operation of the cartridge in tracking the groove).
History says the other approaches pretty much replaced idlers becasue they were better.
Where other than high end audio do old technologies that were supposedly replaced by newer superior ones gain favor once more?
Antique collecting which I love is one such area but one does not collect antiques because the technology used was superior, but mainly because someone achieved something unique at the time in some way worth preserving.
GOtta admit though there is nothing like the sound of a properly restored Victrola. Maybe same is true now with idler drives. But better than others? That's certainly debatable which I suppose is why we are here.
I'm a bit confused. What are you listening for exactly? The sound coming off of the stylus directly into the air?
Yes. If the LP is properly damped it will be quieter. The louder it is, the more problems you are dealing with.
Warren's platter pad was smooth, and was used with a record clamp or similar, as it had a recess to allow for the label. But some LPs, like old 'pancake' Deccas, were flat, so he would use the clamp with an o-ring or the like to dish the LP slightly so it would make contact at the edges.
Mapman, What about tubes vs transistors? Is it absurd for some to prefer tubes, an "older technology"? For that matter, are we all absurd for preferring to continue to play records at all, when there are so many modern less fussy digital alternatives available? And the beat goes on.
I don't prefer idler drive uber alles, but I don't reject it based on the age of the idea, either.
Tubes versus transistors is a debate unique to high end audio. There are really no other home applications where the discussion is relevant anymore. That's my point. Audiophiles are quite special and unique in that regard apparently. REcords are a little different. If you have records and want to play them, you need a record player. No alternative really. Once you have one, then its not much of a stretch to go buy more records. That pretty much describes me. I suppose there are some that owned a CD player and no records at one time and decided then to go records only, but I have to think that is an extremely rare breed.
Music is a quite different thing than most sciences, since there is such a strong emotional component, which is different in each person, so pure accuracy isnt necessarily musical. think of a computer playing notes. Might be the right notes, but not the emotion or inflection.
However, in our playback systems, we want to hear what it is the artist was trying to convey, as if we were there, or I assume we do. So accuracy is important.
By the way, I just listened to a prerecorded 7.5ips R2R tape of Beatles Abbey Road over headphones from a Teac X1000r. Sound was excellent, with strong drive and pace. Now need to hook it up to the main system and compare to the vinyl version.
It's a hobby. All of us here love music. Many of us here love the pursuit of perfection. It is the art and science of music reproduction. Key word there is reproduction- not the original. A lot of complex steps and infinite variables from the musician to our living rooms. This hobby is never boring; frustrating yes, but never boring. I also find it interesting that some music sounds better- at least I like it better in my living room than the actual live event. And sometimes it is worse. I have always enjoyed the sound of the lone or dual musicians on the street corner- personal and natural. That is the sound at home that I have strived for.
"But what is it that causes a turntable to sound the way it does"
Spend time studying the parts you can't see. Too many people buy a car and don't lift up the hood to look inside. This is a business like everything else. When money is put into a TT alot goes into making it look good - or it won't sell. Lift up the hood, see if the internal quality matches what is on the outside.
Manitunc - As much as you may have liked the sound of 7.5ips 4 track. 15 IPS 2 track is another world.
Manitunc: Makes no sense to me ask for differences between the analog R2R master tapes to compare with the LP version and makes no sense to me because are two way different sources with almost no relationship in between.
In the R2R the signal is " free " of the de-emphasis RIAA eq and does not have neither the inverse RIAA eq.. Both equalization process makes a huge signal degradation.
IMHO the answer or answers that you are looking for are not on that " land " but on the TT it self.
Now, IMHO if some one could have the " perfect " answer to you I think that that person could have in his hands a gold mine and I don't think he can even think on share with you only because you ask it and want to build a TT.
Regards and enjoy the music,
Raul, Might you not like the strain gauge cartridges, if you believe RIAA is a major culprit in signal degradation? I understand that you did not care for the SoundSmith one, because it was inaccurate as to frequency balance, but I know guys who are listening to some of the vintage strain gauge cartridges and liking them very much, e.g., the Technics and the Euphonics, not to mention Win.
As to this topic, the answer will be different for each and every turntable. Thus I find the question hopeless. Can you re-phrase it? It would be better not to get into yet another debate about the relative merits of belt-, direct-, and idler-drive, but I fear it is inevitable. Next comes plinths or no plinth. There's a whole other thread for that religion. Only Syntax has the key.
Here's my turntable journey.
Dual 1219, LP12 FR 12 arm,Oracle Delphi Fr 12 and EMT 2 arms,Sota Saphire SME V,VPI Scout,Rega P9,SME 10, V arm.
Ihave used the following cartidges, FR 1 Mk 3f,Dynavector Karat Ruby, and several Grado Platinum,Rega Exact2, and Clearaudio Talisman Gold V2.
I've also used several speaker, amp, phono stage electronics over the years, so how can I evaluate the sound of one turntable over the other?
Only if you have kept your original gear, could you ever know for sure what sonic differences one table has over the others.
And of course there's always that synergy thing.
The best I can add is that the tables that require the least amount of fussing, were the ones that I enjoyed the most.
Peace of mind when the table is properly set up once trumps futzing around after each listening session.
One thing I discovered is that my Grado Platinum never sounded as good on the P9 as it did on the SME.
And that an older Supex made my P9 sound better than it ever did when I used the Grado and Rega cartridges on it.
The delicacies of cartridge mounting, audtioning,is a hinderance to really discovering what works the best in what table/arm combo you have.
As such, unless you're lucky, or you have a friend who has done the experimentation for you and has a sound you like, it's hit and miss.
Reviews and forums are a good source of opinions, but nothing beats hands on experience,hearing it in the flesh.
As it turns out I am quite happy with the way my turntable sounds,perhaps the best sound I've had from vinyl in a while, the Steelhead doesn't hurt either.
The only comparison I can make where all the gear remained the same except the vinyl set up, is between my last two rigs, the Rega and SME.
I would say that the SME system has a clearer sound,more balanced at all frequencies than the Rega combo,perhaps it has less mechanical distortions or it's greater mass has something to do with it.
I have to admit that I never knew how much bottom end that Rega table could produce until I heard my old P9 on the system that the new owner played it on.
I never had the slam and dynamic bass he now has.
But he has a different cartridge and uses solid state and cone speakers, compared to my tubes and electrostatic speakers.
But what I may have lost in some areas, I feel the gains in other areas have more than made up for the losses.
And so it is with everything in this hobby, you win some and you lose some.
Trying to figure out the why and wherefore would take all the fun out of it.
It's mostly the journey and not the destination that keeps us in this hobby.
At least that's what I tell myself.
The aim of my post was to wonder out loud whether you have ever played with the vintage strain gauge cartridges, and if so, what you thought of them. I know already that you are not a fan of the SoundSmith one. By the way, I think it's the case that ALL strain gauges require some sort of "pre-preamplifier", not just the SoundSmith. I was talking to Dave Slagle about this at the recent Capital Audiofest. He is among said fans of the vintage strain gauges.
Thanks. Did you like the Panasonic or the Sao Win? Perhaps this is an unfair question, since you may not have heard those cartridges in many years. I have heard that the Euphonics is perhaps the best of the bunch, but this is only one person's opinion (who was talking to me at the Capitol Audiofest).
I'm still thinking about your question: "So, fellow Audiogoners, what do you think has the greatest effect on vinyl playback as far as only the turntable itself, and what do you think can be done to ammeliorate those effects."
I think of the turntable as a system, and in a system everything interacts with everything else to a greater or lesser degree. Maybe Atmasphere's answer is the best, since a mat might be a general solution applicable across many systems, yet there are clearly some turntables that might perform better without a mat, so maybe not?
One of the great things about this hobby is the fine variety of solutions developed over the years which represent totally different systems for playing back vinyl. The fact that outstanding results can be obtained with extremely different solutions leads me to think that your question cannot be answered generically: it will depend upon which system you are using.
I'm currently building a turntable and experimenting with materials and their acoustic properties. There's a lot of misinformation and some good information on the web (check out AudioQualia for an example with lot of both), but the one thing that I've learned is that results of combinations of materials can be non-intuitive in terms of their sonic results. For instance, the base plate that supports my main bearing is a piece of aluminum that is 1"thick. If I hang it on a string and tap it I get a huge "Riiiing." Not such a good thing, since some audio frequencies will resonate with that and it affects the sound signature. But if I sandwich the aluminum with a similar mass of 3/8" steel, I can almost completely cancel these resonant frequencies. But if I use MDF in the sandwich instead, I get some new resonances, and lower the frequency at which it rings. It completely changes the sound signature of the turntable without making any other changes. And that is just the plinth! Consider similar materials considerations for the platter and for the base/feet/platform, etc. And of course the decisions made about these things affect the above results with the plinth as they interact.
And then there's the motor. I've got a nice 3-phase motor with a solid-state 3-module T-amp based regulator, where I can adjust the voltage and frequency to minimize motor noise and maximize stability. The motor controller makes a HUGE impact on the perceived "drive" of the music. But in another design, with a DC motor, or an idler drive, maybe this would not matter so much. And so on, and so on for each component part of the turntable.
So congratulations, I think you've asked an unanswerable question. I think in the context of a specific system, there might be some answers, but mostly I think they cannot be generalized to other systems. And the general answers that can be provided are too non-specific to be helpful to you in making upgrade decisions. They all have caveats based on the system in which they are applied. I'd love to hear some general answers that ARE universal, but I'm pretty certain every one will have situations where they don't work.
Ain't this stuff fun?
If the sole result of my original post is to raise more questions, or direct areas of inquiry, then it has performed its purpose. I dont think there is one answer to the question, but thinking through many options to their logical conclusions is a useful exercise, if only to prove the futlity of doing so. My belief is that the most likely benefit is to be gained from making the platter bearing as silent as possible, so that less emphasis needs to be put on plinth material. From there, just follow the progression to the point where the stylus pick up the squiggle on the vinyl. the more you do upstream from that point, the better you are, IMHO.
The plinth is pretty important! One thing is for sure- the coupling between the platter and the cartridge mounting must not have any slop, nor can there be any difference in motion (for example, vibration in the plinth) that otherwise will allow for coloration. For this reason the plinth must have the most supreme rigidity and coupling without resonance between the platter bearing and the base of the arm.
If not there will be a coloration, on account of the arm is moving in a different plane than the platter, which is interpreted by the cartridge as a signal: coloration.