I am new here. I am hoping that you guys can help me out with an issue that I've had for years, in fact, ever since I've bought my first turntable. I bought my current setup for DJ mixing purposes, a Pioneer DJM-600 and two Technics SL-1200MK2 turntables fitted with an ortofon Nighclub series 1 E cartridge (The kind I bought did not require a headshell.) Recording mixes into my computer always sounded flat compared to mp3s, but it was not an issue I invested much time into figuring out back then. Fast forward a bit. I produce House music and have recently came accross a decent sized lot of old records I would like to sift through and sample for music production purposes. So, this summer I decided I would try and solve the issue with my signal chain producing undesirable resaults.
My current signal chain has been turntable into phone pre of DJM-600, from the master outs of the DJM-600 going into an M-Audio Fast Track Pro with a pair of Female XLR to TRS cables. After recording into my DAW of choice (Reason 6)I feel as if the recording is somewhat flat and lacking in certain frequencies. When compared to an mp3 of the same recording it does not sound as crisp, or as sharp as the mp3. The vinyl rip is rather harsh in the high end with some frequencies distorting. To some up, I feel as though the recording from my vinyl is not as well rounded as an 128Kbps. This is of concern as Mp3s kind of suck. I did a lot of research and reading the past 2 months, on this forum, as well as gearslutz.com and others trying to figure out what my issue could be. It was recommended to me that I buy a better stylus for my Technics 1200. I was recommended the Nagaoka MP-100 and it saw also suggested that the pre-amp in my DJM-600 may not be that great. So, I also purchased a Radial J-33 pre-amp with the hopes that it would make the sound more full.
I received these two items the other day. I had to teach myself how to equipped the cartridge to the Technics head-shell as my previous cartridges just snapped in. I did not use the Technics head-shell weight as the instructions with the turntable said to use it on cartridges less than 6g. The Nagaoka weighs 6.5. The Nagaoka came with two sets of screws with one set longer than the other. I used the shorter pair. I then used the Technics overhang gauge to align the stylus with the end of the gauge. I did not attempt to align the tip of the stylus with the small triangle as I read (and the source was not that credible, but there was little information on the subject found on the web) that all, or most, of the overhang gauges shipped with the Technics 1200s are defected. However, leaving the cartridge parallel to the head-shell, the stylus seems to line up with the triangle on the gauge (which is off-center). This is how I left it, before deciding to tighten up the screws as tight as I could.
After inserting the head-shell with cartridge to the tone arm I calibrated it, adjusting the height of the tone arm to be as parallel to the mat, with record on top, as I could (I used a ruler measuring the front and back of the arm). The amount of tracking force I applied was 2 grams (manufacturer recommendations 1.8-2.3g) with the anti-skating set to 2. I also switched the mat to the rubber one that came with the Technics instead of the slip mat I had been using.
I am sorry if I am going into too much detail, but I want to make sure I am explaining everything as clearly as I can, as I am bewildered with what my issue is. I began to ran tests.
I chose 3 tracks (two with vocals) off of 3 different records to do comparison tests. I would be comparing the recordings through 3 different signal chains: A. Technics 1200>J-33>Fast Track Pro B. Technics 1200>J-33>DJM-600>Fast Track Pro C. Technics 1200>DJM-600>Fast Track Pro. Before recording I made sure to clean any dust off the records with a Carbon Fibre+Velvet Disc Cleaning Pad. These records have no scratches and have had minimal plays (below 10). I also made sure to clean off the stylus with a small brush that came with the cleaning pad to make sure there was no dust at all. I also recorded with the signal going into the DAW as close to 0db as possible without clipping.
After A/Bing all 3 tracks with their different signal paths meticulously, through speakers and two different sets of headphones, I hear no improvement to the sound quality in the signal chains with the J-33. I have decided that the pre-amp is most likely not the issue. I felt the Nagaoka MP-100 sounded a bit better than my old Nightclub E cartridge, but this could be from the simple fact that it is brand new. Also of note, the slight distortion in the high frequency range of vocals is still there, an issue I've had since the beginning. Adjusting the tracking force/anti skating did not fix this.
I am frustrated by these results. I know that sound from well treated vinyl with less than 10 plays and a brand new cartridge has to sound better than an mp3. The problem has to lie somewhere within my signal chain, but I am unsure where. I doubt the alignment is that big of an issue. I have not dealt with protractors, but I feel like using the overhang gauge should be sufficient enough for what I am doing. My only thoughts are...
Is there a better way to connect the outs of my DJM-600 rather than with the female XLR to TRS cables?
Perhaps the Analogue/Digital converters in the fast track just totally suck...
Could my issue be that I need a better mic pre than the ones on the Fast Track? Perhaps the Fast Track Pro is the weakest link in my signal chain and that is why my recordings sound flat, lacking in certain frequencies, and harsh in the top end.
I am at a loss and would really appreciate any suggestions. All this expensive equipment and it sounds better to just double click an mp3 file, it is very sad.