Vinyl Help & Tips
Hopefully some of the below suggestions will help you achieve greater listening pleasure, These tips are designed to save you spending unnecessary money when upgrading your vinyl system.
Which is the most important item in the vinyl system, well I believe it is the tone-arm. Followed by the Phono amp, Cartridge then Turntable. Lastly a Power supply cleaner & regulator.
Many may not agree with this chain, but the arm has to be the most important and best you can afford, to enable the cartridge to do it's work to the best of it's ability. All of the mod's below I have tried myself, they work and most are still in use today.
a) When selecting a phono lead from the arm to the phono amp, make it as short as feasibly possible, no more than 300 mm long. And if you have the ability make it up yourself. A good homemade 300 mm $60 lead can deliver better sound than a $300 shop bought 1 meter long lead.
b) A 12” arm is better than a 9” arm. (Of course I am going to say that, you say). But it is true, as the 12” geometry will give lower distortion across the LP, plus you do not need to use a bias weight system. 9” arms were introduced to the public years ago purely as a convenience factor to keep the total turntable package size within acceptable customer expectations. So if you have the room use a 12” you will not regret it.
c) Virtually without question all arms will sound better with the internal tone arm wire replaced. It is widely recognized that even the SME V is significantly improved by re-fitting an upgrade tone arm wire. One manufacturer I know of, charges an extra $600 to buy their arm with a top of the line improved wire. Whereas if you did it yourself it would cost less than $200 for the same wire!!.
d) Again virtually all turntable will perform better on an isolation table with spiked feet. However some turntables perform even better still with air cushion feet under an isolation plinth. 3 cushion feet are the best option, however commercial air cushion feet are for some reason very expensive ($280 to $500 for three). You can however obtain the same degree of isolation by just using 3 lightly blown up, kid's bike inner tubes. The one draw back with this very cheap but effective system is that when the T/T is handled it can roll around just a little, but when playing a LP I have never found a problem.
e) What cartridge to use is always a big question and maybe the biggest talking point in vinyl discussions. However I would recommend that you look for a cartridge with an upgrade path, like the very underrated Ortofon OM range. Here there are 5 different and improving stylus assemblies, with the OM3 being the lowest & OM40 highest, also not many people realise that these stylus assembly also fits the Ortofon Red and Blue. Many people like to move to a MC for a more natural sound presentation, however with a MC cartridge you also need a very good MC step up transformer, or a phono amp that allows the use of a MC cartridge. A favorite among many is the Denon 103, however not many people know that years ago Denon produced 2 outstanding MM cartridges in the 107 & 109 that sound significantly better than the 103. They do not need a MC input & you can replace the stylus when worn out or broken. Having said that there is no doubt that MC cartridges sound better provided you choose the correct cartridge for your arm. Do not overlook that you can get some amazing deals by buying 2nd hand. My favorite BARGAIN MC cartridge I acquired through an auction site is a Onkyo MC 1000, this cartridge can stand comparison to a Dynavector XX1 and Koetsu Rosewood.
f) What T/T to use?, well like cartridges everyone has a different opinion. There are many to choose from, but for all out exceptional performance & value for money the Lenco 75 cannot be beaten. (I am talking about the T/T not arm, the arm is nothing special & should be quickly replaced). I do not say that lightly as I used to manufacture a range of T/T's as well as arms. However when I heard my first Lenco 75, I knew instantly it was in a different league to what I was producing. In many circles a reconditioned / upgraded Lenco 75 is regarded as the best sounding turntable in the world.
g) Phono stages, many of these work off of a DC power supply. A significant improvement can be achieved by dumping the manufacturers separate SMPS and using a battery supply. The current draw from a phono amp is very small & a SLA battery lasts many weeks before a re-charge is needed. You can also use the now widely available 18VDC NiCad battery backs now supplied with many home power tools. I use one of these to power my belt driven Lenco.
h) Many phono amps do not have adjustable loading settings for MM & MC cartridges, but very, very some cartridges work at the best at different settings to the standard industry settings, of 100 ohms for MC & 47 K ohms for MM. It is easy to work around this however & with optimum loading considerable improvements in sound quality can be achieved. To enable this all you need are 2 quality Y-RCA adapter plugs, a couple of quality RCA plugs and a handful of different value matched resistors, This is actually quite a complicated subject, but there is lot's written about it on the internet, (so happy research, if you want to go that way). Get it correct & it can really makes a significant difference to your performance.
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