Hello, I need a new vinyl system before I go crazy [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


View Full Version : Hello, I need a new vinyl system before I go crazy

12-17-2011, 01:25 PM
Hello all,

This is my cry for help! I need to get a new vinyl sound system and for a medium-sized dollar.

Always been a nut about music and sound quality. Always bought nice headphones for a more complete sound. Invested in a pair of studio monitors simply for my digital iTunes music. Eventually got hooked on vinyl by a friend.

My vinyl obsession started when I discovered 200 records in my parents' basement that they hadn't played for probably a quarter century. About half were such bad music or in such bad quality that I left them behind. I took the rest with me, asked for a turn table for Christmas, and bought myself a cheap Pioneer home theater system in parallel so that I could plug and play on Christmas Day.

The first several weeks of owning the record player and sound system, I got by with the 100+ records that I had found. Most of them were old and really worn down — some Simon and Garfunkel, a tried-and-true "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs", lots (LOTS) of Bonnie Raitt — but it felt really cool and retro. Some of them sounded great, though. A few crackles and pops, but the music just JUMPED out at me. Made the ladies weak at the knees when my answer to their question, "Where's the music coming from?" was simply to point to the spinning turntable in the corner.

The first record I bought was the Derek Trucks Band's "Already Free" in January 2009. It was labeled with words, "AUDIOPHILE 180G PRESSING." I snatched it up right away, mostly because I love DTB but also because I had never heard of this "180-gram" kind of pressing and thought it would make my first purchase be that much more meaningful. I went home, put the brand new record on (with a very light static/dust cleaning just prior), and got what we all fear:

A really obnoxious hiss on the highs — "s" and "t" and "ch" sounds in lyrics, or any of the cymbals on a drum kits — throughout the entire record. Background noise was pretty much nonexistent; it was really just those high-treble frequencies. I did a more thorough cleaning of the record, but the same thing came up. I freaked out a little and put on this used Robben Ford record (a regular-weight pressing) from the 1980s, and it sounded CRYSTAL clear. No hiss on the highs, not like this brand new 180g pressing. I cranked up that volume and couldn't get it to hiss like the 180g DTB record. A few test records later, I concluded that it wasn't my new receiver or the crappy passive speakers that came with it, it was just the 180g record.

I told myself, "This must be the thing people rave about: the bit of warm overdrive with vinyl that you don't hear on digital music." Which was, of course, NOT what people were talking about. I let this kind of crap vinyl be replayed on my system until very recently; I even bought a few more 180g pressings, some of them with the same result as this one. Namely, "Dark Side of the Moon," whose B-side is unplayable because of the high-end hiss. I wasted $35 on a non-refundable vinyl.

The crappy pressing was its own issue. It simply made more apparent that fact that, well, my system wasn't so good anyways. There were a few simple facts: the cartridge/needle on my turntable wasn't quite the best and could be much better; the sound system — receiver and speakers together — was a cheap $225 all together. I was using a crappy system with a sizable collection of good (and, um, bad) vinyls. I was messing with needle arm weight, different vinyl cleaners, everything, trying to get rid of the high-end hiss that was always there with some of those 180s. Even for the good ones, the system didn't sound fantastic, just good enough to suffice for vinyls.

In my closet were the aforementioned powered, line-level monitors. They hadn't been used in a at least a year and were still in great condition. I said, "Ok, maybe these can help since they are definitely better than the passive speakers that came with the receiver." I bought some RCA-to-1/4" cables to plug a line-out from my receiver to the monitors, plugged one of them in (only the right side), threw on one of the bad 180g pressings, and then…

… the volume control on the receiver couldn't control the volume of going to the monitors and the record came on LOUD. Like, really loud. I shut it down immediately and unplugged everything. The receiver still worked, but…

Since then, the right side of ANY line output on my receiver is totally hosed. There's some cross-talk from the left side, but the right side is totally dead. Occasionally it'll play things on the right side, but most of the time, it's just dead. Even the stereo 1/4" headphone output on the front has no right-side joy.


(Interestingly, though, if the source, like a computer for iPod, is plugged into the 1/8" input on the front, everything sounds fine and the right side plays. But, of course, that's not where the turntable can plug in… and I ain't going to use a receiver that only works with a 1/8" input on the front side.)

I am in this vinyl-less void and it's bugging me to death. :19:

Right. So. Here's my one-sentence requirement: I need a new, dedicated receiver or amp or preamp with a new, dedicated speaker set to hook up to my turntable.

That's it. Snip snap done. I just don't know where to start -- should I get just a preamp with volume control? Do I need to spend $1000 on an amp? What kind of speakers? etc.

A few more need-to-know's:

> I want as few things in the chain from vinyl to ears as possible.
> It would be nice for this system to be able to take the output from a computer or iPod, but it is not required.
> I am not interested in home theater or surround sound systems. This is dedicated system for vinyls so I don't need HDMI, huge amounts of line-out's, etc. I'm all about elegance and efficiency.
> My price limit is a few grand (for now!).
> My turntable: Audio Technica AT-PL120 (everything stock). Outputs Phono or Line level signal.
> I am an engineer and can speak techie, but I am by no means of the electrical type, nor am I a real audio guru. I know what a decibel is and what it means, for what it's worth. I am ready and willing to learn — lots.

I don't expect to find all the answers here, but it's a start. You guys are active and helpful, from what I've seen so far. I need to shop around LA and find a few places where I can take records and test sound systems. (Do these places even exist?!) I expect this to be a multi-month, if not multi-year, research project of mine. I want this system to last a very long time.


12-17-2011, 03:43 PM
The first thing that jumped out at me was the distortion of sibilants as you mentioned the s and t sounds. My first thought is your phono cartridge needs aligned, tracking force may also be too light. I have never heard that distortion with a worn stylus but that may also be a problem.

There are a number of integrated amps that once again have built in phono preamps. I am thinking this might be of better quality than the one built into the table. I own and enjoyed the phono preamp in the Onkyo A-9555 int. amp. This is a moving magnet only phono preamp. Music Hall also offers an int. amps with built in phono preamps. I am not as familiar with receivers but I am sure some may have phono input.

Onkyo A-9555 - Integrated Digital Amplifier | Model Information | Onkyo USA Home Theater Products (http://www.onkyousa.com/model.cfm?m=A-9555&class=Amplifier&p=i)

.:: music hall audio :: a15.2 (http://www.musichallaudio.com/detail.php?p=81)

You also mention speakers but we need an idea of how much you would like to spend.

JoeE SP9
12-17-2011, 03:44 PM
If you don't need FM then an integrated amplifier is probably your best option. Get one with a built in phono stage. The phono preamp in your TT is not very good. You should bypass it at your earliest opportunity.
If you don't have a local place to shop Audio Adviser and Music Direct are sites that deserve a look. They both carry a selection of integrated amplifiers.

How large is the room and what kind of furnishings are in it?
How loud do you play your music?
Do you want two large floor standers or two smaller "bookshelf" sized ones and a sub woofer.
Have you listened to any possible speaker choices?
If not, why not?

Check the alignment of the cartridge on your TT. A new LP should not be overly hissy.
Go to www.vinyleengine.com (http://www.vinyleengine.com) and download a free stylus protractor. You can then make sure your cartridge is aligned properly. You should also check that the tracking force is correct.