Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

the thin end of the wedge
mr_ray
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Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 22 Feb 2019 20:07

This question kind of crosses subforums, so I hope it is ok to post here.

My record setup hasn't seen much use recently, but I just moved everything to another room and will be using it much more. I played some records the other day, and I wasn't as blown away by the sound as I once was. My first thought was that the 2M Red cart on my Carbon is getting old (~7 years), although it hasn't seen heavy use. Just to be sure, I adjust my tracking force according to the manual, and things are just ok. Not great, a little boxy, distorted on some records in the upper mid/high frequencies. I confirmed on headphones to eliminate contributions from my so far untreated room.

So should I (if I had to pick just one):

- Upgrade the Red stylus to Blue
- Upgrade phono pre (older Cambridge entry level, I think. Maybe 540?)
- Upgrade my receiver (old Nikko 815 from the 70s)

My speakers are Wharfedale 10.1 Diamonds, which I think should be fine, no?

mr_ray
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 23 Feb 2019 04:58

Just checked, and my phono pre is a 551p. What would be a good upgrade for this, say around $300 or less? Any reason to look at a new integrated amp, or should I go 2M Blue plus new pre?

E.Man
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by E.Man » 23 Feb 2019 07:17

Basics first. Make sure stylus is clean and speaker cable is + to + , - to -.

Luicas
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by Luicas » 23 Feb 2019 16:02

How does your system sound to you when playing a CD? If it sounds good then....

My advice is to always make sure the source is the best you can afford. Then the speakers. Then the rest of the system.

Your speakers are excellent.

Your phono pre is very good.

Your receiver is very good, but probably needs recapping and pot cleaning.

Your turntable is more than acceptable, well above the average. Probably needs a new belt.

Your stylus is entry level, and probably worn. That’s what I’d upgrade first. To a higher quality, like the Bronze. Or another cart/stylus brand altogether. The audio technica AT7V offers a tremendous value ratio. Nude 0.2x0.7 mil tip. Sounds very natural, not “sterile”. And extracts a great deal of detail. Zero IGD, which comes handy on an shortish 8.6” tonearm.

So, my advice is to really make sure you have the best quality you can afford at the source. And then tackle the rest of the system.

Cheers,
Luis

Alec124c41
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by Alec124c41 » 23 Feb 2019 16:32

Agreed.
After 8 years, your stylus should be replaced. The Bronze would be great, but even the Blue would be an upgrade from the Red.
Also, check the alignment.

Cheers,
Alec

mr_ray
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 23 Feb 2019 16:43

E.Man wrote:
23 Feb 2019 07:17
Basics first. Make sure stylus is clean and speaker cable is + to + , - to -.
Thanks. I will double check the wiring. It's been a while :).

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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 23 Feb 2019 16:46

Luicas wrote:
23 Feb 2019 16:02
How does your system sound to you when playing a CD? If it sounds good then....

My advice is to always make sure the source is the best you can afford. Then the speakers. Then the rest of the system.

Your speakers are excellent.

Your phono pre is very good.

Your receiver is very good, but probably needs recapping and pot cleaning.

Your turntable is more than acceptable, well above the average. Probably needs a new belt.

Your stylus is entry level, and probably worn. That’s what I’d upgrade first. To a higher quality, like the Bronze. Or another cart/stylus brand altogether. The audio technica AT7V offers a tremendous value ratio. Nude 0.2x0.7 mil tip. Sounds very natural, not “sterile”. And extracts a great deal of detail. Zero IGD, which comes handy on an shortish 8.6” tonearm.

So, my advice is to really make sure you have the best quality you can afford at the source. And then tackle the rest of the system.

Cheers,
Luis
Thanks, Luis! I will do some testing with other sources (I use an Apple Airport Express to stream music from my laptop) to narrow down the weak points.

Looks like a stylus upgrade is the way to go. If my other components, especially the receiver, don't need an upgrade, then I can afford a better needle like the Bronze. I'll look into the AT as well - similar price as the Blue, which I was looking at due to its compatibility with the Red cart.

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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 23 Feb 2019 16:47

Alec124c41 wrote:
23 Feb 2019 16:32
Agreed.
After 8 years, your stylus should be replaced. The Bronze would be great, but even the Blue would be an upgrade from the Red.
Also, check the alignment.

Cheers,
Alec
Thanks, Alec. I will read up on how to check alignment. I think I did once many years ago, but it should be checked again.

Luicas
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by Luicas » 23 Feb 2019 19:05

Speaking of sensible upgrades. I would add a nice Polk PSW111 sub to those Wharfedale's.

Also, don't trust the Airport Express' analog output as a "reference signal". I'd rather use a CD o DVD player's output.

Don't forget to have fun in the upgrade process.

Cheers,
Luis

mr_ray
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 23 Feb 2019 21:58

Luicas wrote:
23 Feb 2019 19:05
Speaking of sensible upgrades. I would add a nice Polk PSW111 sub to those Wharfedale's.

Also, don't trust the Airport Express' analog output as a "reference signal". I'd rather use a CD o DVD player's output.

Don't forget to have fun in the upgrade process.

Cheers,
Luis
Yeah, I would only the Apple puck as a rough guide to find the very big obvious problems. I don't have a CD player or fancy digital player. All of my good stuff is on vinyl and mp3 ;).

By the way, the AT7 cart you mentioned earlier - is that compatible out of the box with the Debut Carbon?

Luicas
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by Luicas » 23 Feb 2019 22:39

Yes, the AT7V should be a good match with your table. The only thing you need is a couple of 1 gram shims from lpgear, stacked between the cart and the headshell. This will give you a good VTA setting and a tonearm resonance around or below 11hz. Can’t go wrong with this cart.

The Ortofon red is 1mm taller than the AT7V. Hence the shims. And the added bonus of these shims is the extra weight on the cart, to better match the tonearm with the stylus compliance.

Cheers.

mr_ray
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 23 Feb 2019 23:02

Luicas wrote:
23 Feb 2019 22:39
Yes, the AT7V should be a good match with your table. The only thing you need is a couple of 1 gram shims from lpgear, stacked between the cart and the headshell. This will give you a good VTA setting and a tonearm resonance around or below 11hz. Can’t go wrong with this cart.

The Ortofon red is 1mm taller than the AT7V. Hence the shims. And the added bonus of these shims is the extra weight on the cart, to better match the tonearm with the stylus compliance.

Cheers.
Thanks. Not too bad, since LPGear seems to have the best price on that cart anyway. Any others i should consider, say under $250? I started searching for cart comparisons, and my head is already spinning.

I should add that I'm really averse to IGD and shrill upper frequencies.

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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 24 Feb 2019 01:30

So here are the cartridges I'm considering so far. Any comments/opinions on using them with a Debut Carbon? Tracking issues, IGD, etc? Open to other suggestions as well. Trying to stay under $300.

AT AT7V
LPGear AT95SA
Nagaoka MP-150

mr_ray
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by mr_ray » 24 Feb 2019 03:20

Adding the AT VM540ML to the list.

Luicas
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Re: Upgrade Path: New Stylus or...

Post by Luicas » 24 Feb 2019 04:33

Owning both the AT7V and the AT440mlb (basically the same as the vm540ml), I can attest that the AT7V is a more natural sounding cart. And less picky on the preamp’s input capacitance.

Although, the 440mlb can surely extract a wee bit more detail. But not a night and day difference.

The night and day difference DOES exist between the Red and any of the nice nude and sharp tips available.

side note. I wouldn’t bother with lpgears at95 shibata. It’s probably a bonded tip. And the generator is not remotely close to the AT7V (signet heritage) or the Vm540ml.

Cheers!

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