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  1. #1
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    Where should I upgrade first?

    I'm running a Marantz 6170 DD turntable with a Grado Black cartridge through a JVC receiver and a set of Marantz floor speakers. I think it's a pretty decent budget setup (the $50 cartridge was my biggest investment - everything else was free), but am looking for ways to improve it. The sound is "warm" and has a good kick, but lacks detail.

    My question is whether it's possible to improve this setup significantly while still on a tight budget. I wouldn't be able to spend more than, say $150 on an upgrade, and even that would be pushing it. For that money, I'd be looking for something that a) offers a noticeable improvement from the get go and b) would not need to be immediately replaced when my budget grows.

    Is this possible? If so, where should I be investing this money? My own research has led me to believe the weakest links in my system are the cartridge and the JVC receiver. Can $150 buy me a decent phono stage or a cartridge that is noticeably better than a Grado Black? Should I be looking somewhere completely different?

    Don't be afraid to tell me that my budget is too small to do anything. The last thing I want is to spend $150, a significant sum for me, and get nothing out of it. If I have to wait a year until I can spend $300 or more, I will.

    Thanks for any advice!

  2. #2
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Upgrade may not be neccesary but may need proper tool to make sure your gear is performing at its peak.

    1. Click on a link below and print up a free cartridge protractor.
    If you installed a cart yourself without any protractor guide, then your cartridge isnt mounted properly. Chances are, you are damaging your LP or Stylus.
    If mounted properly, you are defintely hear much more resolution and balance in music.

    http://www.vacuumstate.com/various/Guru_protractor.pdf
    Free Stuff. No Ipod/promotion related please.

    2. Whip out $25 and get yourself a Shure Force Gauge.
    Without this you never know if you are tracking at 0.5 gram or 5.0 gram. Either way you are, again, damaging your LP and Stylus. With your Grado, you will need to be tracking around 1.5-1.7 gram.

    3. $20 for 3 height adjustable brass cone from a site such as Dayton or other audio accessory store.
    This will help isolate your TT and level your arm-mount/plinth.


    If you havent done any of the 3, espcially 1&2, then this will be the greatest $50 upgrade you will ever have in this hobby. Try playing with speaker placements as well.

    best Wishes

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Upgrade may not be neccesary but may need proper tool to make sure your gear is performing at its peak.

    1. Click on a link below and print up a free cartridge protractor.
    If you installed a cart yourself without any protractor guide, then your cartridge isnt mounted properly. Chances are, you are damaging your LP or Stylus.
    If mounted properly, you are defintely hear much more resolution and balance in music.

    http://www.vacuumstate.com/various/Guru_protractor.pdf
    Free Stuff. No Ipod/promotion related please.

    2. Whip out $25 and get yourself a Shure Force Gauge.
    Without this you never know if you are tracking at 0.5 gram or 5.0 gram. Either way you are, again, damaging your LP and Stylus. With your Grado, you will need to be tracking around 1.5-1.7 gram.

    3. $20 for 3 height adjustable brass cone from a site such as Dayton or other audio accessory store.
    This will help isolate your TT and level your arm-mount/plinth.


    If you havent done any of the 3, espcially 1&2, then this will be the greatest $50 upgrade you will ever have in this hobby. Try playing with speaker placements as well.

    best Wishes
    I was thinking that I might need to do some adjustment. I roughly aligned the cartridge when I first got it using one of the free protractors but think it's time I took some more time to make sure I did it right.

    As far as force gauges go, pardon my ignorance, but doesn't the weight at the end of my tonearm tell me how much force I am using? Is that unreliable?

    The last thing is definitely something I will look into. I can't walk in front of my TT without making it skip, which makes me think more isolation would help.

  4. #4
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Measurement from Counter-weight is never reliable.

    Quote Originally Posted by dav305z
    I was thinking that I might need to do some adjustment. I roughly aligned the cartridge when I first got it using one of the free protractors but think it's time I took some more time to make sure I did it right.

    As far as force gauges go, pardon my ignorance, but doesn't the weight at the end of my tonearm tell me how much force I am using? Is that unreliable?

    The last thing is definitely something I will look into. I can't walk in front of my TT without making it skip, which makes me think more isolation would help.
    Hey Dav,

    1.
    Getting a protractor such as GeoDisc may be the best approach for you.
    http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/schon_e.html
    Take that link as a reference to how you should align your cartridge. Taping a piece of mechanical pencil lead will work great.(JM).

    2.
    Since weight of headshell/leads, bolts,cartridges is not universal, you should NEVER rely on what you read from a counter-weight. You should only use it as a reference to how much to turn. Grado should be tracked around 1.5 grams and Shure Gauge works great to measure from 0.5 to around 2g. Anything beyond 2g, I'm not so sure. Also, it is very important to have our Platter/Plinith/Arm leveled before measuring Vertical Tracking Force (VTF). You arm will track better when armboard is leveled.


    3.
    Placement of TT is very tricky. Try to find a solid/sturdy base for your TT. Placing a TT base in a corner of your room usually works better due to room construction. If not, then wall-mount by Target($129) If not, then you can always place some cinderblocks on top of your base.(Cover it with some fabric for aesthetics purposes). Also, you may want to weigh down your TT, as long as your TT plinith isnt suspended.

    Have Fun,

  5. #5
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    I set my son up with a Grado Black (p-mount version) on an older entry-level Technics table. I recently sent him an Ortofon p-mount (300 series, I think) and he reported back that he was hearing much more detail with the Ortofon.

    In 1/2 in. cartridges (standard mount). Ortofon makes the 2M Red at $99 that is very detailed with deep, articulate bass. I have one on a 1200 series Technics table. If it's detail you want you might give the 2M Red a try. But alignment tools and an isolation platform is a good start too.

  6. #6
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    I'm aligning my cartridge (1.5 hours so far), and might have run into an issue. Going by the instructions at the link provided above, it seems like I need more overhang. Only problem is that the front of the Grado is butting up against the front of the headshell (looks like the one below).

    I have another generic headshell with more room to adjust overhang. Should I switch to that one or am I doing something wrong?

  7. #7
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Dave,

    Try a different universal protractor, but not "Generic"
    http://www.vinylengine.com/cartridge...tractors.shtml

    Did you print properly?

    The only cartridge I've had trouble mounting was Denon DL-110. I've always found Grado to be straight forword, but it all depends on depth of a headshell or a fixed tonearm.
    I've usually had to position a cart as forword as it would allow on most shells and carts.
    Not my Zupreme headshell. I have about additional 1/2" of possible adjustment.

  8. #8
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    Never mind. Turns out I just had to learn to read instructions correctly...

  9. #9
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Sweet.

    Did you use the trick with a mechanical pencil lead?
    It is truly a must.

    http://www.tnt-audio.com/accessories/schon_e.html

    Have fun,

  10. #10
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    Sure did - it was a great help. I'm starting to think that this was the secret to the vaunted "Longhorn" modification...

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