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Help with improving sound

Bob from Florida

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Hi Bob,

Thank you for the good advice. I am willing to double my budget since I realize it isn’t nearly enough. That Parks Audio Waxwing looks superb. Will be getting that for sure. I was able to successfully align the stylus and cartridge by using a protractor, a digital scale, and a level. So far so good. Will be buying an VTA azimuth gauge adjustment block soon and aside from that, I don’t know what else I will need for proper adjustment. Thanks for the sub suggestion as well, it looks interesting. Will have to get a different amp to connect the sub as the Aiyima 07 I have now doesn’t seem to have a sub out.

I am guessing the Aiyima you have is the version without the Aux output. You could get a speaker level to line out voltage divider box, but the A07 Max is so cheap < $100......
 

DSJR

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If the cueing/arm lift device is still working on your Technics deck, I'd strongly recommend a stylus upgrade at least, to a 95ML or more refined 95SH which will clean up on the slightly rough basic 'E' spec (you won't realise until comparing the tips available and I happen to be fond of the slightly 'lively' ML stylus for that model I have to say). Take the dust cover off when playing and maybe try a 3mm cork mat on top of the rubber original, adjusting VTA as you go... I say this knowing the slightly 'warm' character of the 1300/1400/1500mk2 deck. A Schiit Mani 2 (if you're US based) should be all you need. The inner null point on Technics arms is about 57mm from disc centre (60mm is FINE I tell ya) as all pivoted arms go to pieces further out and it's totally inaudible! - So don't go anal about messing with overhang once the inner point is set. With this cartridge range, the existing scale on the counterweight should be accurate enough at 2g downforce as well as the anti-skate - just checked a late 70's HiFi Choice review and it's within 10% or so (slightly under) so perfect for the VM95 range.

Last comment on VTA - A lot of the time, if the arm looks parallel, it may actually be very slightly high at the back YMMV here obviously, but it's something I've been aware of in my setting up as a pro in past years and also seeing other 'experts' do exactly the same as I started out doing until it was pointed out!

1709055110960.jpeg


I dare not venture much on the digital side (good digital is cheap enough these days) but it'd be nice to get your vinyl player more to that standard on a good pressing and that's where line and fancy shaped tips come in :D

As for an amp upgrade one day, these small chip amps are bereft of inputs and maybe should be regarded as power amps with gain control as pro's use or used to use. What about a Yamaha 301 which I think has a perfectly passable phono stage built in?
 

kemmler3D

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FWIW I have the Schiit Mani 2 and it sounds great, but I was coming from an old receiver with a very questionable phono stage, so if you're already at the "competent" stage you probably don't need to upgrade your phono pre.

The tube pre might add some distortion that sounds nice, but the funny thing about most tube gear is it actually usually performs a little too well to make a noticeable difference to the sound. You might hear some clipping when you turn it up, but it won't be night-and-day most of the time.

KEF Q150s are fine speakers, the reason many people are telling you to upgrade is 1) $1000 is enough to get better speakers and 2) The only way you're going to notice a big jump in sound quality in 2024 is by upgrading speakers (or switching to digital).

The other standard recommendations of "Get subs" and "Integrate those subs using DSP and a measurement mic" are also achievable within a $1000 or $2000 budget. Well-integrated, subs will make a very nice impact on sound quality.

There are tons of good options for headphone amps, but the JDS stuff is hard to beat, especially if you'd prefer something from the US.

As far as a good set of headphones to get... it's hard to say. Without EQ most headphones don't work perfectly for most people, no matter the price. There are some that are worth recommending but ultimately you need to try a bunch and find one that suits your ear.
 

MaxBuck

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Thanks, but I’d like to avoid digital for now at least. I’d like to satisfy my nostalgia with vinyl first. I’m not after the clinical sound, just the vinyl sound that people like me are after. I don’t know, but with vinyl I like the experience of listening to an album from beginning to end. I don’t mind the inconvenience of getting up and changing sides/albums. I like owning something tangible instead of digital files which may be available one day, but not the next.
Perfectly fine, and your reasons make sense.
 
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J

justlisten

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If the cueing/arm lift device is still working on your Technics deck, I'd strongly recommend a stylus upgrade at least, to a 95ML or more refined 95SH which will clean up on the slightly rough basic 'E' spec (you won't realise until comparing the tips available and I happen to be fond of the slightly 'lively' ML stylus for that model I have to say). Take the dust cover off when playing and maybe try a 3mm cork mat on top of the rubber original, adjusting VTA as you go... I say this knowing the slightly 'warm' character of the 1300/1400/1500mk2 deck. A Schiit Mani 2 (if you're US based) should be all you need. The inner null point on Technics arms is about 57mm from disc centre (60mm is FINE I tell ya) as all pivoted arms go to pieces further out and it's totally inaudible! - So don't go anal about messing with overhang once the inner point is set. With this cartridge range, the existing scale on the counterweight should be accurate enough at 2g downforce as well as the anti-skate - just checked a late 70's HiFi Choice review and it's within 10% or so (slightly under) so perfect for the VM95 range.

Last comment on VTA - A lot of the time, if the arm looks parallel, it may actually be very slightly high at the back YMMV here obviously, but it's something I've been aware of in my setting up as a pro in past years and also seeing other 'experts' do exactly the same as I started out doing until it was pointed out!

View attachment 352676

I dare not venture much on the digital side (good digital is cheap enough these days) but it'd be nice to get your vinyl player more to that standard on a good pressing and that's where line and fancy shaped tips come in :D

As for an amp upgrade one day, these small chip amps are bereft of inputs and maybe should be regarded as power amps with gain control as pro's use or used to use. What about a Yamaha 301 which I think has a perfectly passable phono stage built in
As you alluded to, the cueing/lift mechanism doesn’t work on my Technics deck, and this is a well known issue for these models. The fix is a thicker plastic piece and there’s a guy who 3D manufactures this piece which lasts for years. I plan to fix this. I could sell this deck of course and get a modern one, but show me a modern deck as solid as these vintage Technics and costs $200 which is what it cost me to buy. This thing weighs about 20lbs! And I love the looks of it. Besides, the only thing I did to it so far is lubricate the spindle bearing with proper lube and polish the oxidation on the polished plinth side, but there’s still some oxidation remaining and I’m trying to see what would be a final solution to this problem. Just curios, what does leaving the dust cover open accomplish? I read that a cork mat doesn’t do anything as far as improvement in sound is concerned. I’ve been considering the Yamaha 701 amp. People rave about it. It’s got tone controls and I love how it looks. I’ll still be using a separate phono preamp.
 

DSJR

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As you alluded to, the cueing/lift mechanism doesn’t work on my Technics deck, and this is a well known issue for these models. The fix is a thicker plastic piece and there’s a guy who 3D manufactures this piece which lasts for years. I plan to fix this. I could sell this deck of course and get a modern one, but show me a modern deck as solid as these vintage Technics and costs $200 which is what it cost me to buy. This thing weighs about 20lbs! And I love the looks of it. Besides, the only thing I did to it so far is lubricate the spindle bearing with proper lube and polish the oxidation on the polished plinth side, but there’s still some oxidation remaining and I’m trying to see what would be a final solution to this problem. Just curios, what does leaving the dust cover open accomplish? I read that a cork mat doesn’t do anything as far as improvement in sound is concerned. I’ve been considering the Yamaha 701 amp. People rave about it. It’s got tone controls and I love how it looks. I’ll still be using a separate phono preamp.
REMOVE the dust cover when playing, as it can act as a sound board and the hinges couple it directly to the plinth. This generation of Technics does have a mid-bass warm tone (all in the plinth) so a cork mat added may help here on top of the existing one, not in place of it as the rubbery one damps platter ringing! (it's all measurable by the way) and I wouldn't suggest all this if I hadn't done it myself (okay, on two SL1500 samples, one of which is still here with a dicky power/speed switch!!!)

Shame about the cueing device. Take great care and provide plenty of coffee (or your favourite tipple) if attempting to strip down. I did strip a colleague's SL1400 thirty years or so ago (they didn't have parts even then) and it's not like a Dual or Garrard to get at the bits sadly. The arm seems a good one of its type as were the previous range if the bearings were set better and as I can't remember the headshell they provided back then, for not much money the current Technics shell is fine for most pickups at sensible prices. As you suggest, the deck is WELL WORTH getting fixed if that delrin? cueing part can be repaired or replaced (Technics abandoned that on later models I believe)

The Yamaha 701 looks to be a very sensible choice but if budget is tight, there are ancestor models like the AX 596 which I believe has the same amp chassis but less 'digital' line-level electronics from memory (@restorer-john can hopefully expand on that as I never sold them). I mention the earlier one purely for budget reasons ;) The built-in phono stage may be all you need (I'm certain it's better than a VM95 model will give it, so please don't waste money here, although I don't know the performance of the 701 here).
 
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Bob from Florida

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The built-in phono stage may be all you need (I'm certain it's better than a VM95 model will give it, so please don't waste money here, although I don't know the performance of the 701 here).


Scroll down to the VM95ML measurement. It is actually pretty decent at the loading capacitance shown. The internal phono stages in these receivers are often fixed at 100pf or more loading. The Waxwing is fixed at 47pf and the Mani2 has some variability there. The Zen is fixed at 100pf. Depending on the capacitance of the phono cable, higher is worse, the resonance peak can move lower than 10khz. You may hear this as some added brightness during playback. Having a lower capacitance on the input of the phono stage can make a difference with these MM cartridges. A different phono stage can be beneficial.
My recent experience with the VM95SH caused me to re-evaluate a prejudice I had developed against inexpensive MM cartridges. I have 2 implementations on hand - VM95SH with nude shibata on aluminum cantilever and Clearaudio Maestro 2 - uses VM95 Generator in an ebony body with their HD Microline - EDIT - not Microline but shibata - stylus on boron cantelever. The Maestro 2 has slightly more solid bass - hard to tell for sure without measurements - and the imaging spatiality is a bit better. Not huge differences, certainly not anything proportional to $1500 versus $200! Audio Technica has a great product here!
 
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DSJR

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Scroll down to the VM95ML measurement. It is actually pretty decent at the loading capacitance shown. The internal phono stages in these receivers are often fixed at 100pf or more loading. The Waxwing is fixed at 47pf and the Mani2 has some variability there. The Zen is fixed at 100pf. Depending on the capacitance of the phono cable, higher is worse, the resonance peak can move lower than 10khz. You may hear this as some added brightness during playback. Having a lower capacitance on the input of the phono stage can make a difference with these MM cartridges. A different phono stage can be beneficial.
My recent experience with the VM95SH caused me to re-evaluate a prejudice I had developed against inexpensive MM cartridges. I have 2 implementations on hand - VM95SH with nude shibata on aluminum cantilever and Clearaudio Maestro 2 - uses VM95 Generator in an ebony body with their HD Microline stylus on boron cantelever. The Maestro 2 has slightly more solid bass - hard to tell for sure without measurements - and the imaging spatiality is a bit better. Not huge differences, certainly not anything proportional to $1500 versus $200! Audio Technica has a great product here!
Got to say that vinyl typically loses so much hf in terms of level and attack (depends on various things so I'm being general here) that the slight 'edge' of the 95ML and 'sparkle' of my AT120E (now VM530) in a lower mass arm appeals to me here. I'd have grave doubts as to the Maestro 2 you have, as you really don't want more 'bass' in a vinyl system (I'm remembering master vs. vinyl comparisons i did in the past when able to) and the 95 generator althoigh incredibly well sorted, is cruder than the VM500 body which should offer better and more symmetrical separation figures (POCC wires too - alright, I know :D)

I use the German Lowbeats measurements and sound-bites here also. sadly, they seem to have gone all 'subjective' in recent times (shame), but if I was going to go up from a VM95SH, I'd look at the Ortofon 2M Bronze and the more 'subtle' AT VM740 in the next 'tier, the 740 with metallic mount maybe not 'exciting' hf tonearm resonances as much maybe. The old AT 440MLa always worked well in the Technics 1200mk2 tonearm and the 2g tracking 540/740 should be equally fine in the SL1400 one.
 

Bob from Florida

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Got to say that vinyl typically loses so much hf in terms of level and attack (depends on various things so I'm being general here) that the slight 'edge' of the 95ML and 'sparkle' of my AT120E (now VM530) in a lower mass arm appeals to me here. I'd have grave doubts as to the Maestro 2 you have, as you really don't want more 'bass' in a vinyl system (I'm remembering master vs. vinyl comparisons i did in the past when able to) and the 95 generator althoigh incredibly well sorted, is cruder than the VM500 body which should offer better and more symmetrical separation figures (POCC wires too - alright, I know :D)

I use the German Lowbeats measurements and sound-bites here also. sadly, they seem to have gone all 'subjective' in recent times (shame), but if I was going to go up from a VM95SH, I'd look at the Ortofon 2M Bronze and the more 'subtle' AT VM740 in the next 'tier, the 740 with metallic mount maybe not 'exciting' hf tonearm resonances as much maybe. The old AT 440MLa always worked well in the Technics 1200mk2 tonearm and the 2g tracking 540/740 should be equally fine in the SL1400 one.
The Sorane SA 1.2 arm has considerable effective mass compared to my old arm - Clearaudio Satisfy Carbon at only 7 grams. Every cartridge I have tried on the Sorane has displayed better bass during playback. To be fair, the Maestro is on the Sorane headshell- which is a good one but is 17 grams compared to the AT HS6 at 9 grams - which the VM 95SH is mounted. The bass is not what I would call “bloated” at all. Listening to Classical music or good old Rock & Roll benefits greatly from a solid bass foundation. Since I listen to a wide variety of music, I need that bass “foundation“ to be there.
 

DSJR

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The Sorane SA 1.2 arm has considerable effective mass compared to my old arm - Clearaudio Satisfy Carbon at only 7 grams. Every cartridge I have tried on the Sorane has displayed better bass during playback. To be fair, the Maestro is on the Sorane headshell- which is a good one but is 17 grams compared to the AT HS6 at 9 grams - which the VM 95SH is mounted. The bass is not what I would call “bloated” at all. Listening to Classical music or good old Rock & Roll benefits greatly from a solid bass foundation. Since I listen to a wide variety of music, I need that bass “foundation“ to be there.
But but but - records shouldn't have any bass 'weight' to speak of (after RIAA) much below 40Hz as that's how they're so often equalised and cut... Your idea of 'bass' may well be different to mine though and from such a distance I can't say, but my take is to use a well known track on CD and compare with good vinyl cuts (I had a few favourites when doing these comparisons decades ago). if the vinyl sounded more 'driven' as say, a restored Goldring Lenco GL75 did for example, I'd say that's wrong but so many audiophile types would prefer the Lenco!

Sorry again to all, this little sub-discussion ain't helping the OP at all. I've heard too many master grade recordings in my time and become accustomed to their generic qualities compared to the average mid level vinyl source which is almost always different. NOT a discussion for here - and I had a now deceased pal who propagated infra-bass in the 70's (well known in mags at the time) and used to mass load his tonearm to get the main resonance below 7Hz or so (no warped records here my boy). Got to say I'd rather have this authority in the speakers rather than trying to do it at the source end, bearing in mind how records are made and cut below 80hz or so, but there ya go guv'! :)
 

Bob from Florida

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But but but - records shouldn't have any bass 'weight' to speak of (after RIAA) much below 40Hz as that's how they're so often equalised and cut... Your idea of 'bass' may well be different to mine though and from such a distance I can't say, but my take is to use a well known track on CD and compare with good vinyl cuts (I had a few favourites when doing these comparisons decades ago). if the vinyl sounded more 'driven' as say, a restored Goldring Lenco GL75 did for example, I'd say that's wrong but so many audiophile types would prefer the Lenco!

Sorry again to all, this little sub-discussion ain't helping the OP at all. I've heard too many master grade recordings in my time and become accustomed to their generic qualities compared to the average mid level vinyl source which is almost always different. NOT a discussion for here - and I had a now deceased pal who propagated infra-bass in the 70's (well known in mags at the time) and used to mass load his tonearm to get the main resonance below 7Hz or so (no warped records here my boy). Got to say I'd rather have this authority in the speakers rather than trying to do it at the source end, bearing in mind how records are made and cut below 80hz or so, but there ya go guv'! :)
I get what you’re saying, but I am talking about what we normally interpret as “bass” - above 60 Hertz to maybe 200 Hertz . Think “bass guitar” - or not so much low E on the piano. Early Led Zeppelin LP’s and other rock recordings need that bass to be there or even boosted a bit to get the “enjoyment” possible. I can use the loudness compensation on my Luxman, but this sounds better to my tastes without the Loudness turned on. The beautiful thing about vinyl playback- at least to me - is playing with the adjustability of the playback chain and experiencing the resulting changes. The OP may have different priorities - and that’s okay. The discussion at least provides some exposure to what can be done, but in the end there is a budget to consider when deciding on how you want to play with this stuff.
 

AaronJ

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The other standard recommendations of "Get subs" and "Integrate those subs using DSP and a measurement mic" are also achievable within a $1000 or $2000 budget. Well-integrated, subs will make a very nice impact on sound quality.
This is the route I would go. Allocate $450 for a MiniDSP DDRC-24 running Dirac Live (w/ UMIK-1 included) and $500 for a pair of subs and there is no better bang for your buck to be had. This will completely transform your system. If you want a more performant solution you could shell out for a MiniDSP Flex that will double the cost of the DSP device, but it would represent an endgame component with better measured performance, increased functionality, better looking, etc.
 

DSJR

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This is the route I would go. Allocate $450 for a MiniDSP DDRC-24 running Dirac Live (w/ UMIK-1 included) and $500 for a pair of subs and there is no better bang for your buck to be had. This will completely transform your system. If you want a more performant solution you could shell out for a MiniDSP Flex that will double the cost of the DSP device, but it would represent an endgame component with better measured performance, increased functionality, better looking, etc.
I'm not in the SLIGHTEST arguing with you I swear, but most music lovers out there just don't want to add usual black boxes cluttering up the room with cables to dress and/or hide away and as for a UMIK and software? Most don't have a clue and not inclined to want to learn.. I've just been exposed to a (mostly) domestic makers opinion on having to give new advanced speaker plans a ten year introduction cycle for the dealers and customers to get used to it.

We're rather spoiled here I'm discovering (and many/most of you know that already :)) as most of us can adapt to ways of getting rooms better or the speaker 'better behaving' in said rooms. It looks as if much of the audiophile market out there (and the subjectivist fraternity especially) can barely select well matched/solidly performing components in the first place, buying all manner of 'influenced' confections and then run round in circles buying add-ons in the ignorant hope their sound systems will be 'better' for it.

I've nowhere to place one sub let alone two, but obviously if you can, that'd be great (loose rule of thumb even before a UMIK and so on - if you can 'hear' the subs, you may have them set and/or working too high).

Good luck to the OP and hope I/we haven't confused them completely. With an analogue source, I still feel there's mileage in the 'source first' mantra, but with digital, one can these days turn it on its head and look at speakers first..
 

Bob from Florida

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This is the route I would go. Allocate $450 for a MiniDSP DDRC-24 running Dirac Live (w/ UMIK-1 included) and $500 for a pair of subs and there is no better bang for your buck to be had. This will completely transform your system. If you want a more performant solution you could shell out for a MiniDSP Flex that will double the cost of the DSP device, but it would represent an endgame component with better measured performance, increased functionality, better looking, etc.
The SVS 3000 Micro is an 11 inch cube with a 800 watt RMS amp driving 2 - 8 inch drivers in a sealed box. The built-in adjustments accessed via your smart device app allow enough adjustments to easily integrate the sub with your main speakers. Audiotools app for your IOS device makes use of the internal microphone in said IOS device to get decent accuracy- you can get an external mic if you want. The total cost of basic Audiotools plus sweep generator is $35. What I do is feed the stereo the sweep either via Airplay to the TV to stereo or via an external dac to stereo via the Apple camera adapter cable. Set the sweep for 20 - 400 hertz and measure from seating position, make adjustments via phone app to SVS sub, repeat measure adjustment cycle until satisfied with measured result. Listen to music to confirm. You have 3 memories on the SVS sub to store variations on the theme. This is far simpler than setting up the laptop, etc and is “close enough“ for most situations.
 
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justlisten

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This is the route I would go. Allocate $450 for a MiniDSP DDRC-24 running Dirac Live (w/ UMIK-1 included) and $500 for a pair of subs and there is no better bang for your buck to be had. This will completely transform your system. If you want a more performant solution you could shell out for a MiniDSP Flex that will double the cost of the DSP device, but it would represent an endgame component with better measured performance, increased functionality, better looking, etc.
Thanks. I had to look that up. I had no idea such a thing existed!
 

kemmler3D

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Most don't have a clue and not inclined to want to learn..
True, but those people don't make accounts on ASR and ask questions. The people who actually make posts on ASR are probably in the top 1% (or better) in terms of rigorously engaging with their decision-making. So if you've come that far, you might as well look up how to use a UMIK. ;)
 
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