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Faulty cartridge/stylus?
Agitator
post Aug 16 2010, 09:21
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I have a 25 year old Harman/Kardon T35C turntable which I've borrowed from my brother. The turntable is fitted with an Ortofon X1-MC cartridge (about 20 years old). The turntable is connected to my NAD 312 amplifier (MM only, but Ortofon X1-MC is supposed to have high enough output to work with MM).

I also have a Denon AVR-2105 at my disposal, but I guess my NAD 312 is just as fine for the purpose of ripping vinyl.

I connect the headphone output of my NAD312 to my M-Audio FireWire Audiophile soundcard's RCA input. The reason I use the headphone output is so that I can amplify the signal, as the FireWire Audiohpile can't amplify.


Now, the problem is that all my vinyls sound distorted. At first, I thought it may be the vinyls themselves, as the two records I tried to rip first were dirty rock'n'roll vinyl-only albums. But this weekend, I tried to rip the new Iron Maiden-album, and I know how that album is supposed to sound, and there should be no distortion.


What's the most likely problem here? Is the cartridge ripe for replacement? As it is not my turntable, I'm not about to invest much money in getting it fixed, so I'm considering a the Audio Technica AT-95 E.


If there's something wrong with the stylus, could it have damaged my vinyls as well?


edit: Here's a link to a track recorded with this setup. The distortion is very apparent in the vocals. http://www.argaste.com/files/sample.mp3

This post has been edited by Agitator: Aug 16 2010, 09:29


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Paul Sanders
post Aug 16 2010, 11:48
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It's hard to tell with material like this. Can you post something a bit more mellow?

But my money would be on feeding an MC cartridge into an MM input. There will be an impedance mismatch for one thing, and boosting the signal after the fact in the way that you are doing will introduce background noise. You would do better to use a phono preamp with a proper MC input or change the cartridge.


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Aug 16 2010, 12:15
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QUOTE (Agitator @ Aug 16 2010, 04:21) *
I have a 25 year old Harman/Kardon T35C turntable which I've borrowed from my brother. The turntable is fitted with an Ortofon X1-MC cartridge (about 20 years old). The turntable is connected to my NAD 312 amplifier (MM only, but Ortofon X1-MC is supposed to have high enough output to work with MM).

I also have a Denon AVR-2105 at my disposal, but I guess my NAD 312 is just as fine for the purpose of ripping vinyl.

I connect the headphone output of my NAD312 to my M-Audio FireWire Audiophile soundcard's RCA input. The reason I use the headphone output is so that I can amplify the signal, as the FireWire Audiohpile can't amplify.


Your record seems to be relatively free of noise, and shows no signs of electrical clipping.

My research suggests that this cartrdige is designed for use with MM preamps and doesn't need MC a highly sensitive MC preamp. Your recording seems to be relatively free of hiss.

QUOTE
Now, the problem is that all my vinyls sound distorted. At first, I thought it may be the vinyls themselves, as the two records I tried to rip first were dirty rock'n'roll vinyl-only albums. But this weekend, I tried to rip the new Iron Maiden-album, and I know how that album is supposed to sound, and there should be no distortion.


Are you telling me that you don't think that Iron Maiden *isn't* heavy metal? ;-)

Yes this music sounds distorted to me, but there's nothing much about it that I can separate from the genre of music. I don't hear a lot of IM. I do hear heavily distorted electric guitars and the voice has some sibillance at times.

What forms of cartridge distortion do you think you hear?

What was your previous cartrdige?

How does this recording perform on test records such as the ones that Knowzy is using?


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Agitator
post Aug 16 2010, 12:27
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Hehe, I have the CD of the new Maiden-album, and I know that there shouldn't be distortion on the vocals, like I hear on the vinyl.

The Ortofon-cartridge is 20 years old (or more). I guess they get worn out with age, and that I should get a new one in any case?


Btw, the sample I posted is NOT from the new Maiden-record, but one of the dirty rock'n'roll-albums I mentioned (I didn't make a recording of the new Maiden-album, and that sample is what I have available right now).

I don't have any test records...I just have a little collection of 20-25 vinyls that I'd like to make digital copies of, once and for all smile.gif


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cliveb
post Aug 16 2010, 18:06
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QUOTE (Agitator @ Aug 16 2010, 12:27) *
Btw, the sample I posted is NOT from the new Maiden-record, but one of the dirty rock'n'roll-albums I mentioned (I didn't make a recording of the new Maiden-album, and that sample is what I have available right now).

I don't have any test records...I just have a little collection of 20-25 vinyls that I'd like to make digital copies of, once and for all smile.gif

As others have pointed out, the sample you posted isn't that conducive to our being able to diagnose anything. On a cursory listen, I'd say this record could easily be supposed to sound like that. There's no really obvious nasty stuff going on, just a general overall "roughness" that could be:
a). the way it was originally recorded (given the genre that's entirely believable), or
b). general wear and tear from previous plays on a mediocre turntable, or
c). poor playback on your current turntable.

A cartridge that is 20 years old might be fine, or it might not. Even if it doesn't have much mileage (and therefore the stylus itself it still in good shape), it's possible that the cantilever suspension might have degraded simply due to age - most suspensions are some sort of rubber, which does tend to dry out and harden.

It could also simply be that the cartridge is not properly aligned in the headshell - a slight error here would increase tracing distortion that might cause the roughness we hear.

Given that you don't have any test records, I think your best approach would be to find a friend who has a turntable known to be working well, and try playing one of your LPs on their system. A more sedate album (eg. with acoustic instruments such as piano or guitar) would be a better one to try. This will tell you whether the record sounds that way in any case. You're not in a position to make any sensible changes until you know the answer to that question. If you don't have a suitably-equipped friend, then perhaps take a few of your LPs to a decent HiFi store that specialises in vinyl on the pretext of auditioning for a new turntable.
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harto69
post Aug 18 2010, 17:07
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QUOTE (Agitator @ Aug 16 2010, 10:21) *
I connect the headphone output of my NAD312 to my M-Audio FireWire Audiophile soundcard's RCA input. The reason I use the headphone output is so that I can amplify the signal, as the FireWire Audiohpile can't amplify.


This is of interest for me. Do the vinyl-transfer-specialists here think this is a valid approach for adjusting the outgoing signal to a soundcard (like a e-mu 0404)? I mean, comparing to the unamplified output of "standard" outputs.

Thanks!
Harald
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DVDdoug
post Aug 18 2010, 20:31
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QUOTE (harto69 @ Aug 18 2010, 09:07) *
QUOTE (Agitator @ Aug 16 2010, 10:21) *
I connect the headphone output of my NAD312 to my M-Audio FireWire Audiophile soundcard's RCA input...


This is of interest for me. Do the vinyl-transfer-specialists here think this is a valid approach for adjusting the outgoing signal to a soundcard...

Thanks!
Harald
I'm not sure what you mean by "unamplified". You always need a phono preamp* and your phono preamp should have a "line level" output to drive your soundcard's line-input. Apparently, Agitator is not getting enough signal out of his cartridge/preamp combination, but this is not the normal situation.

It's generally a bad idea to add "extra" amplification. Every analog gain stage adds some noise. And if I understand correctly, many (most?) soundcards don't have analog attenuators on their inputs, so you can overdrive the ADC and get clipping even with the recording volume turned-down.


* Sometimes the preamp is built-into the turntable or into a special-purpose computer audio interface. (Ceramic phono cartridges don't need a preamp, but they are not used in high-fidelity turntables.)
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Juha
post Aug 19 2010, 04:29
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Try by adding some more needleweight.

BTW, when I took a brand new cartridge bought ~'82-'83 into use few months ago I had distortion issue in the beginning. I got it fixed by letting the arm drop freely on vinyl surface few times so the cartridge got some high levels to output.

Juha
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harto69
post Aug 19 2010, 06:55
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QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Aug 18 2010, 21:31) *
It's generally a bad idea to add "extra" amplification. Every analog gain stage adds some noise. And if I understand correctly, many (most?) soundcards don't have analog attenuators on their inputs, so you can overdrive the ADC and get clipping even with the recording volume turned-down.


Ah, thanks for clarifying!
Greetings
Harald
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Sep 3 2010, 11:33
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QUOTE (Juha @ Aug 18 2010, 23:29) *
Try by adding some more needleweight.

BTW, when I took a brand new cartridge bought ~'82-'83 into use few months ago I had distortion issue in the beginning. I got it fixed by letting the arm drop freely on vinyl surface few times so the cartridge got some high levels to output.

Juha


That is characteristic of corroded wiring, which always comes back to bite you.
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Arnold B. Kruege...
post Sep 3 2010, 11:45
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QUOTE (harto69 @ Aug 18 2010, 12:07) *
QUOTE (Agitator @ Aug 16 2010, 10:21) *
I connect the headphone output of my NAD312 to my M-Audio FireWire Audiophile soundcard's RCA input. The reason I use the headphone output is so that I can amplify the signal, as the FireWire Audiohpile can't amplify.


This is of interest for me. Do the vinyl-transfer-specialists here think this is a valid approach for adjusting the outgoing signal to a soundcard (like a e-mu 0404)? I mean, comparing to the unamplified output of "standard" outputs.


Generally speaking, it is best to digitize signals that are just below the maximum input voltage that the converter can handle. For most converters, the largest signal they can handle via their line input ranges from one to about 8 volts. The NAD 312 is an integrated ampl;fier with tape outputs that can only put out a few tenths of a volt. It could be true that the headphone jack provides a far more suitable signal. Another possibility might be the preamp output/amplifeir input jacks, if they exist.
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