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bad phono cartridge?
Old 04-15-2018, 11:03 AM   #1
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bad phono cartridge?

A question for the audiophiles. For the first time in many years I played a vinyl record (remember those?) only to find it sounds distorted, similar to over amplification of a weak signal. Tried another record, same problem. Then a played the cassette (remember those?) recordings I long ago made of those records, and they sound better than the records. All the recordings and equipment are the same circa 1980 ones, except the receiver is a relatively new Onkyo. Since the receiver is the only changed component I am suspicious of it, OTOH it plays other input sources just fine. What about the photo cartridge? After decades of non-use do cartridges "go bad"?
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Old 04-15-2018, 11:35 AM   #2
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Few new receivers have phono inputs. A phono input amplifies the very low level signals that come from a magnetic cartridge and applies an RIAA equalization curve. The RIAA specification boosts the high frequencies during recording and they must be de-boosted on playback. If they are not, the sound may be what you call "distorted." I'll guess that maybe you are not connecting to a true phono input. iF that's the case you can probably buy a stand-alone phono preamp to feed your receiver.

More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization (OldShooter is also OldRecordingEngineer.)
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Old 04-15-2018, 12:13 PM   #3
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The receiver is about 10 years old so it does have a Phono input. I just checked and, yes, the cables from the turntable are plugged into the Phono input.
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Old 04-15-2018, 12:27 PM   #4
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Yes cartridges go bad just like everything. I'm fond of this Shure and it not too expensive either.
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Old 04-15-2018, 12:43 PM   #5
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It could also be that the wires that connect to the cartridge have corroded due to non use. Gently pull the pins that connect to the back of the cartridge and inspect and reinsert. Also check the wires that connect from the turntable to the receiver and do like wise. Cartridges put out a very tiny signal and it doesn't take much corrosion to distort the signal.
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Old 04-15-2018, 01:28 PM   #6
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Swap cables first, then maybe a new stylus. Only then try a new cartridge.
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Old 04-15-2018, 07:19 PM   #7
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There are also different cartridge designs, primarily moving coil (MC) and moving magnet (MM). MM have higher output than MC, so if your receiver's phono input is designed for MC and you have a MM cartridge it might not be providing the output voltage your receiver needs.

I have been out of the audiophile world for a while so not sure how likely this is to be the issue.

https://uturnaudio.com/blogs/uturn/h...your-turntable

What’s The Difference Between Moving Magnet, Coil, And Iron Cartridges For Turntables? | Electronic Design
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Old 04-16-2018, 08:52 AM   #8
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you need a preamp for the phono - I had to buy one for my 70s technics tt and new AV receiver

Pyle Pro PP444 Phono Preamp with RCA 1 4 Outs | Full Compass

http://www.vinylmeplease.com/magazin...ystem-a-boost/
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Old 04-16-2018, 09:30 AM   #9
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The needle in a phono cartridge is suspended in a rubber mounting system. The rubber can deteriorate over time and cause the sound to distort. I'd try replacing the cartridge or the stylus if one is even available.
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Old 04-16-2018, 09:39 AM   #10
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Quote:
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The needle in a phono cartridge is suspended in a rubber mounting system. The rubber can deteriorate over time and cause the sound to distort. I'd try replacing the cartridge or the stylus if one is even available.
I'd try a preamp before the cartridge

I had the exact same problem when I upgraded my receiver to a newer model.

Older receivers had built in preamps for turntables (because more people played vinyl back in the day), the new ones don't.
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Old 04-16-2018, 11:48 AM   #11
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I'd try a preamp before the cartridge

I had the exact same problem when I upgraded my receiver to a newer model.

Older receivers had built in preamps for turntables (because more people played vinyl back in the day), the new ones don't.
Well, the OP stated that the receiver is about ten years old and has phono inputs. My receiver is newer than that and has phono inputs. Since the stylus is nearly 40 years old, it should be replaced anyway for exactly the reason I stated.
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Old 04-16-2018, 11:54 AM   #12
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Well, the OP stated that the receiver is about ten years old and has phono inputs. My receiver is newer than that and has phono inputs. Since the stylus is nearly 40 years old, it should be replaced anyway for exactly the reason I stated.
how new is your turntable? new turntables have built in preamps

I'm still using my stylus and cartridge from the 80s
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Old 04-16-2018, 12:16 PM   #13
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Thanks for the various replies. You prompted me to get out a magnifier to determine what cartridge is installed. It's an Empire OP2, which I'm guessing was nothing special since I recall being unable to afford the better Shure model some recommended back then. The magnification also revealed fibers and gunk at the stylus. Seems a cleaning is a logical first step so I'm now studying the online recommendations, one of which to my surprise is a Mr Clean Magic Eraser...
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Old 04-16-2018, 12:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big_Hitter View Post
how new is your turntable? new turntables have built in preamps

I'm still using my stylus and cartridge from the 80s

Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayHare View Post
.... All the recordings and equipment are the same circa 1980 ones, except the receiver is a relatively new Onkyo. Since the receiver is the only changed component ...
The MM versus MC cartridge could be it, or maybe a degraded cartridge, but if the new receiver has never been tested with another phono input, a defective phone amp in the receiver cannot be ruled out.

Can OP describe the distortion a little more? To say " it sounds distorted, similar to over amplification of a weak signal." is a little confusing to me. If the signal is weak, and 'over-amplified', it would be noisy. It would be hard to drive a weak signal into distortion, normally distortion is a product of a strong signal exceeding the limits of the amplifier stage.

edit - didn't see the recent post - yes, a good (careful!) cleaning is the first step.

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Old 04-16-2018, 01:01 PM   #15
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Oh yeah, a little lint ball on the stylus tip will make your sound really bad.
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Old 04-16-2018, 01:27 PM   #16
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Note that today you can buy a USB turntable with a magnetic cartridge from Sony at a minimum. (So low tracking force compared to a ceramic cartridge (which did not need a preamp)). You can plug that into a pc or the like to digitize the music and store it on the computer. It also has a switch that will switch the pre-amp into or out of the circuit for the audio outputs.
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Old 04-16-2018, 02:25 PM   #17
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Did the gentle cleaning of the stylus with a Magic Eraser and the clump came off quickly. Now the sound quality is much better. That was all or most of the problem I think.

Now an A-B comparison of the record with the tape I made of it during the 80s sounds quite close. The vinyl is a bit harsher, so either some distortion remains or the cassette, or deck, has degraded with time.

In particular to get similar sound for the A-B comparison I had to turn off Dolby-C decoding. So the tape or deck has lost the high frequency end. Maybe I should be surprised the unit works at all after sitting idle for decades. I did a cleaning of the deck heads, no difference. Found my tape head demag unit but of course its 30 y/o battery is dead. I'm afraid if I tinker much more I'll wind up buying new equipment.
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Old 04-16-2018, 10:45 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big_Hitter View Post
how new is your turntable? new turntables have built in preamps

I'm still using my stylus and cartridge from the 80s
My turntable is from the 1970's. As for a 30+ y.o. stylus https://www.cnet.com/news/shures-gro...o-cartridges/:

Quote:
But the little rubber/elastomer bushing that supports the cantilever shank that sticks out of the cartridge body and holds the stylus can also deteriorate over time, whether the cartridge is played or not. That bushing hardens over time, and restricts the movement of the stylus in the groove. You may hear less bass when the bushing has deteriorated, so if you have a used or unplayed cartridge that's more than 10 years old, replace the stylus.
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Old 04-18-2018, 07:57 AM   #19
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My turntable is from the 1970's. As for a 30+ y.o. stylus https://www.cnet.com/news/shures-gro...o-cartridges/:
link is broken

my vinyl still sounds great on my old turntable; I did pick up an older linear tracking technics for our library and put a pmount cartridge in it.

when I replied I assumed the OP had already tried cleaning the stylus...
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:07 AM   #20
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link is broken

my vinyl still sounds great on my old turntable; I did pick up an older linear tracking technics for our library and put a pmount cartridge in it.

when I replied I assumed the OP had already tried cleaning the stylus...
Sorry about the Cnet link. Will try again but the quote pretty much tells the story. Makes sense too as most rubbers harden/deteriorate over the years and that has to take a toll on sound quality. I also assumed the stylus had been cleaned lol! Never assume anything. Here is the link www.cnet.com/news/shures-groovy-phono-cartridges/
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