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Turntable Troubles

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cstpeter

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Hello all. I'm maybe one step beyond novice (if that), so bear with me. Wondering if anyone can offer advice on how to make my Pro-Ject Xpression turntable sound better. See, I got it about three months ago and haven't been as impressed as I anticipated. Fellow member slowGEZER recently described his turntable woes as sounding like there's a blanket over the speakers--I couldn't describe it better. Further, my cheap Pioneer CD player generally sounds better (dynamics, highs, midrange, etc.). I'm working with the Aeon i's (love 'em); here's the rest of my system:

  • Denon 3806 acting as a preamp
  • Rotel RB-991 amp
  • Audioquest Sidewinder interconnects
  • And, of course, a Pro-Ject Xpression TT

My first impression is that it must be the phono stage in the Denon receiver. Any thoughts on this? If I were to invest $100-$200 in a phono preamp, do you think I'd see a big improvement? (Can't spend any more than that, as I'm about to start law school).

Maybe it's the cartridge and setup? I have the Oyster cartridge that came with the rig--not sure if I need to upgrade. I got a stylus gauge meter, and that seems to check out.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Love my Logans and this forum!
 

twich54

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Peter, Good morning, analog woes, eh, bummer ! Lets sort things out, have you verified the basics, VTA, tracking force, etc ?? proper cable hook up incl ground wire. My next concern is the matching of your cartridge with the phono section of your receiver, is a MM or high output MC ? Regardless I'm sure this is an area that can be bettered by an external phono pre-amp. In your price range look to Audiogon, for even the Bellari is now over $200. it would also be good if you could audition some before purchase, tough to do on the used market of course.

FWIW, i can recomend the Musical Fidelity X-LPSv3, it's a great little phono pre that performs well beyond it'd price point ($400 new, probably half on the used market) offering good flexibilty for cartridge matching.

hope this helps somewhat.
 

kach22i

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Two words:
Cartridge Alignment.

This is different than the pressure you measured.

I used the DB-Systems cartridge alignment tool; helps if your cartridge has parallel sides. I still yielded good results with a Grado wood body.



You may also try a Wally Tractor if you can find one.

You can mail order from here:
http://www.needledoctor.com/s.nl/sc.2/category.422/.f

You may find it easier to take it into a high-end shop to align it; they may do computer printout to optimize the frequency response.
 

Jeff Zaret

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Peter,
Needless to say a loaded question and all the suggestions are very good and need to be looked at. Your budget will dictate how much you can change currently and where you will hopefully end up later.

I would do the things that cost nothing like adjustments Kach22i suggests. These can make all the difference and cost nothing or very close to it.

Yes an external phono preamp may help. I opted for the NAD PP-2. It was not that expensive and works nicely. Obviously, there are many others which are bettter, have more adjustments and maybe some that are not better. This can be so subjective here.
BTW, I have a tube preamp so I figured that having a tube phono preamp may be too much, but you never know. :)

I would recommend taking it slow and when possible with introducing any new equipment try it at home and see how it sounds in your set up.

Good Luck :eek:


Jeff :cool:
 

kach22i

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Jeff Zaret said:
Peter,
BTW, I have a tube preamp so I figured that having a tube phono preamp may be too much, but you never know. :)
My tube preamp has a tube phono stage; I'd compare it to two glasses of wine. That is to say all the surface noise, clicks and pops you may normally be distracted by are no longer there. Either that or you are no longer self conscious of them. And there just seems to be more music with fewer non-musical sounds.
 
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Jeff Zaret

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Unfortunately my pre amp does not have a phono stage and I wish it did. This was a compromise for me at the time and so far I am happy with it. I am sure there are better ones out there and would love to try a tube phono preamp but the CC says no more for awhile. :eek:

Jeff :cool:
 

cstpeter

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Thank you everyone for the advice. I will grab a cartridge alingment tool ASAP and will start scouring Audiogon for phono pres, preferably tube (great analogy, kach22!).

Thanks again; I'm sure I'll have more questions soon.
 

risabet

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What is the table sited on?

What is the table sitting on? Before spending any real money determine if the problem is due to the foundation that the TT is sitting on. Is it on a heavy equipment rack, if so, try a light stand, the "Lack" from IKEA maybe. It might make all the difference in the world anfd I believe it retails for $15.00.
 

edwinr

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The Denon's phono pre-amp isn't THAT bad. I think the match with the Project t/t budget-wise is okay. Maybe you could upgrade the phono stage for a better one, but I don't know whether your t/t justifies that expenditure. Now if you decided to upgrade your t/t and cartridge, then maybe you could exploit the qualities of a better phono stage.
 

kach22i

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risabet said:
the "Lack" from IKEA
http://members.shaw.ca/mikesae/supports.htm


You can tune the sound of any piece equipment including a turntable (even more so) by what it sits on.

My rules of thumb based on many "by ear" experiments is pretty simple, the material will transmit it's main character to the music.

Rubber feet: add bounce and life to the music but can sound rubbery

Glass Sheet: Will get a clear transparent sound but sometimes with glare.

Steel Plate: Solid strong sound but may be cold sounding.

Composite grinding wheel: Tough to say, I like it best.
 

kach22i

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cstpeter said:
We could be on to something. My TT sits in one of the glass cabinets of the below TV stand. Could this be causing problems?
I've seen and have had worse, but yes that is not a good situation for a serious listener.

According to my theory you will have a wooden sound (warm and grainy) which is also soft and fiberous like your carpet.

It's my theory, your ears may differ.
 

mondoribo

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Things I did with my Pro-ject Xpression1

I had a Pro-ject Xpression until my recent upgrade to a VPI scout. This is an excellent "entry level" turntable that can sound almost as good as the Scout if its tweaked right. I started with the Sumiko Blue Pt. No.2 cart as a dealer-installed upgrade. Then I moved up to the Dynavector 10x5. Based on feedback on audio asylum (do a search for mondoribo there and you should find the threads), I tried an acrylic mat, and a Pro-ject speed box. I also built a home made stand that is equivalent to the Ginko stands with 5 squash balls and some mdf from Home Depot. My preamp is a Pro-ject Tube Box. This rig sounded great.
I think you will get a big improvement if you upgrade your cartridge, and make sure all your settings are correct. I bought the mirror-type protractor, but any good protractor should do the trick. The Iron Audio acrylic mat made a nice difference too. I guess I am saying don't give up on the Xpression. You will need to do some tweaking and spend money on upgrades elsewhere before it sounds as good as it can. If you spend more money on preamps and carts, you can always use them if you decide to upgrade your table, but you might not want to if it sounds as good as mine did.
Jon
 

risabet

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Aaargh!

cstpeter said:
We could be on to something. My TT sits in one of the glass cabinets of the below TV stand. Could this be causing problems?
Yeah, the first thing I would do is get a "Lack" and try that. I think you'll be stunned by the difference the support makes. Of course that will just open up new avenues of tweaking.
:) :)
 

Jazzplayer

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Your turntable should sound much better than CD!

The way you describe the situation, something has to be seriously wrong. Take it to somebody knowledgeable (shop or friend) and have the 'table checked out and confirmed everything is in working order, aligned etc. Also check that your amp is compatible with the cartridge.

Two set-up tweaks you may try also:
- adjust the tracking force +/- 0.1 gm around the specified set point. The sweet spot may be slightly off spec.
- Adjust the antiskating also in small increments around the set point
- use a levelling gauge on the platter to adjust it so it is 100% level. Adjustable feet on the turntable stand i think is mandatory to achieve this.

Dont forget to check that your system is correctely in phase, and your speakers are properly set up. Get i.e. the Stereophile test CD #1 and run through the test tracks.

All the Best
Svein
 

slowGEEZR

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What cured my turntable sound woes was the interconnect. It was the first time for me that an interconnect affected sound so negatively. Also, some of my records just sound lousy. But put on a good record and sit back. Also, my Bellari was brand new when I first reported the lousy sound I was getting. I'm now very comfortable with the sound quality. I've made sure the cartridge was aligned - it was. Anyway, I've been so happy with the sound, that I ordered a new Scout turntable and a new cartridge (Clearaudio Aurum Beta S) to see how much better it can get. Just last night I had some friends over and I played my 1969 Sweet Baby James album and also played the CD. The punch and realism from the record blew away the CD. This was from an old Akai direct drive turntable (ooh, with "servo lock"), using the Bellari phono amp, a twenty year old Grado cartride, into a Krell 400 integrated amp. I think I gave about $100 for the turntable when new and about $30 - $40 for the cartridge. I've got the turntable sitting on top of a tall, thin wooden cabinet. I am very surprised at how good the old turntable sounds and will end up using it in a secondary system. I can also highly recommend the Bellari as a dedicated headphone amp for LP listening. I think it sounds just as good, if not better, than my XCan V3. - Steve
 

cstpeter

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Bumping this thread to provide an update:

Turntable troubles, no more! I recently got a new audio rack, with the TT sitting on top. I also got a Graham Slee Amp 2 phono preamp. WOW! I've only listened to a few of my albums, but what I've heard so far is butter. Much better than my digital source, whether CD, SACD, or DVD-A. Thanks for all the input.

Now, next upgrade will be the cartridge. Any suggestions in the "budget" price range (under $350)?

--Chris
 
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