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How close can I get the sound of my vinyl setup to my digital setup

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#1
I recently was given my grandfather's old high end turntable from the late 70's. I had it repaired and then went on a binge collecting my favorite albums of the last 20 years to the extent I could find color / limited edition versions thereof. While I definitely went overboard, I really like the collecting and physical medium part of vinyl.

On the other hand, the turntable sounds..... just fine. This is in comparison to my digital setup which blows me away (even though it is definitely budget, as you will see below). In part, I wonder if this is because the repair shop talked me into installing a $50 Ortofon OM 5s cartridge (my pre-amp is definitely good enough and the turntable was top of the line in its day and caringly restored by the shop I took it to).

So my question is, if I put a $200-$400 cartridge on the turntable, how much will that improve the quality? I know it will never touch the digital setup, but I am wondering if I can make the listening experience a bit closer to the richness and sound stage I get from digital. Otherwise, I may slow down on the vinyl collecting (and only play the vinyl records when I am in the mood), even though I really love the collecting part of it.

SETUP:

Digital --> Tidal HIFI (over UAAP) --> SMSL M500 ---> Emotiva SP-1 Phono Preamplifier and Analog Input Selector --> Schiit Loki (only on sometimes) ---> Emotiva BasX a-100 ---> KEF Q150

Vinyl --> vintage 1979 Mitsubishi DP-EC2 (with new Ortofon OM 5s cartridge) ---> Emotiva SP-1 Phono Preamplifier and Analog Input Selector --> Schiit Loki (only on sometimes) ---> Emotiva BasX a-100 ---> KEF Q150

Thanks!
 
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dinglehoser

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#2
Much of that "richness" and "sound stage" you're experiencing with your digital setup is a) good stereo separation and b) low distortion, neither of which the vinyl format inherently delivers. You can improve both to some extent, but that's largely down to your cartridge and the quality of your vinyl. The Ortofon 2m series is, from what I understand, quite good when it comes to tracking and general distortion levels - particularly for the price. (Sweet spot in the line is the Blue, IMO.)

Rest of the chain isn't contributing or detracting much, tbh.
 
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Thread Starter #3
Much of that "richness" and "sound stage" you're experiencing with your digital setup is a) good stereo separation and b) low distortion, neither of which the vinyl format inherently delivers. You can improve both to some extent, but that's largely down to your cartridge and the quality of your vinyl. The Ortofon 2m series is, from what I understand, quite good when it comes to tracking and general distortion levels - particularly for the price. (Sweet spot in the line is the Blue, IMO.)

Rest of the chain isn't contributing or detracting much, tbh.
Thanks for the thought. I guess if I can get 70% of the way there, that would be enough to enjoy listening a bit more.
 
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#4
A lot if this also has to do with the pressing of the record you are listening to.

Search for any MSFL pressing of any album, (search mfsl on ebay) or ask your local record store if they have any.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised
 

Chrispy

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#5
Did you have the shop mount the cartridge? Have you checked its setup? A better cartridge is the major way to improve vinyl playback, tho. The good ones are getting pretty pricey, and a decent one at similar cost like the Shure M97xE was not all that long ago (now discontinued and NOS I've seen hits that 200-400 range mentioned). The Ortofon series seems to please a lot of people. Might look at Grado, too.
 
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Thread Starter #6
A lot if this also has to do with the pressing of the record you are listening to.

Search for any MSFL pressing of any album, (search mfsl on ebay) or ask your local record store if they have any.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised
Yeah, some records I picked up definitely sound better than others, but I would rather grab ones that are colored / personal favorites, etc. If that is my biggest limiting factor, I may just have to deal with it. I can try searching for an MSFL as a test case at least.
 
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Thread Starter #7
Did you have the shop mount the cartridge? Have you checked its setup? A better cartridge is the major way to improve vinyl playback, tho. The good ones are getting pretty pricey, and a decent one at similar cost like the Shure M97xE was not all that long ago (now discontinued and NOS I've seen hits that 200-400 range mentioned). The Ortofon series seems to please a lot of people. Might look at Grado, too.
The shop mounted the cartridge and by all accounts knew what they were doing. The sound is not terrible, or off by any means, just a bit thin and flat. I guess I am asking the impossible, but just trying to figure out whether an upgrade is "worth it" in the sense that I get closer to the digital sound, or whether I am only going to get incremental improvements and therefore, I shouldn't bother.
 

0bs3rv3r

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#8
with new Ortofon OM 5s cartridge)

I think this is the weak point. Very much an entry level cart. I do believe you will see a big improvement with a much better cartridge, but whether it is as BIG as you are hoping, I cannot tell. I would invest in one of the AT VM95 series carts because their top level stuff is still only a few hundred (or less) and competes with stuff from, say, Ortofon that is hundreds of dollars more expensive (all, of course, just IMO)
 
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#9
yep, usually colored vinyl or picturedisks sound worse, but some say the modern color vinyl is ok.
cheap pressings like the old columbia house are so bad they had to give away 8 albums for a penny.

If it was produced after CDs became popular a lot of times the mastering job is poor, or they use the same one for both the CD and the LP.
 

Chrispy

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#10
The shop mounted the cartridge and by all accounts knew what they were doing. The sound is not terrible, or off by any means, just a bit thin and flat. I guess I am asking the impossible, but just trying to figure out whether an upgrade is "worth it" in the sense that I get closer to the digital sound, or whether I am only going to get incremental improvements and therefore, I shouldn't bother.
I've used a variety of cartridges over the years (got my first decent tt/cartridge (Shure M91ED IIRC) back in early 73? so went thru a variety eventually. I ususally stuck to generally well reviewed mid to upper level range from a variety of brands, and like Shure, also gone now. I never really had that epiphany where one was so different from another to immediately want to switch back or anything....YMMV. Never had an Ortofon at all let alone have any idea where it falls in their range....but usually see the Red as the basic reco from that brand these days, and you can always move up the stylus line with that line if you want to try further "upgrading" without full expense of a new cartridge.
 
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Thread Starter #11
I think this is the weak point. Very much an entry level cart. I do believe you will see a big improvement with a much better cartridge, but whether it is as BIG as you are hoping, I cannot tell. I would invest in one of the AT VM95 series carts because their top level stuff is still only a few hundred (or less) and competes with stuff from, say, Ortofon that is hundreds of dollars more expensive (all, of course, just IMO)
I may pull the trigger (wife will be very confused by the need to upgrade since I just got it all hooked up :))
 

Chrispy

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#12
Then again knowing how to set the cartridge up and what options for alignment your tt can accommodate is a good idea, especially if you change cartridges. I just checked the service manual available (if you haven't already) for your tt at vinylengine.com, it has detailed setup instructions (sign up is free if you want to download). Did you get any accessories like the overhang gauge with yours?
 

Maxicut

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#13
The Mitsubishi DP-EC2 is a decent turntable, but not top of the line. It hasn't got VTA adjustment though, so to fix &/or help the thin-sound you're getting, you need to use a thinner platter mat, which will raise the arm base.
That stylus will still do the job, but something like an Ortofon Bronze, which is the sweet spot for price/performance, would dramatically improve your listening experience.
Coloured vinyl is for collecting & black vinyl is for playing. Coloured vinyl will always play worse that black, especially picture discs & solid silver.
Learn how to settup your turntable yourself & spend a few hours getting it perfect.
 
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#14
Hopefully you still have your old cart, look into it and if it is a good one see if you can get a new needle.
 
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#15
I'm new here but vinyl and I go way back, so here are some thoughts:

Cartridge alignment.
- I see that the overhang spec for your turntable model is 14mm (9/16") from spindle to stylus tip. Place the tonearm over the spindle. The needle should land 14mm beyond the center of it. Use a precision measuring device to set it there if necessary, and square it up with the front of the headshell. Now make sure you set the tracking force and anti-skate to the correct levels for your cartridge. If the tracking force is given as a range, it will probably need to be set near the top of the specified range since that's normally how it is with a new stylus. (Edit): The OM-5s has a tracking force range of 1.5- 2.0 g. The recommended tracking force is 1.75 g but don't be afraid to push it up to 2.0 g and see if it reduces distortion.

Interconnect cables.
- If your cables are hardwired to the turntable, and they are the original cables, then they're probably fine since the manufacturer likely supplied cables with the right capacitance. If you're using aftermarket cables with RCA connectors at both ends, most generic ones have a capacitance value that is too high which can cause your records to sound dull. You'll want cables with fairly low capacitance value, and use as short a run as possible to your preamp. 6 ft is fine, 3 ft is even better, on the other hand 20 ft is pushing it. Look on Amazon for RCA Cables by KabelDirekt. Their Pro series cables are not expensive, have low capacitance and they work great. But people like lots of other cables for this purpose so feel free to do your own research.

The cartridge.
- The OM5s is an entry level cartridge but can be upgraded with an OM10, OM20 or OM30 stylus, each step producing better results. But consider upgrading to the Audio-Technica AT-VM540ML which is a sweet sounding cartridge with low distortion and a very slight rise at the top giving the highs a bit of sparkle like so many digital recordings. The AT-VM95ML is also great for half the price. Its response is actually flatter but that means it doesn't have quite the same digital-style sparkle that I feel you would probably like.

The volume.
- In A-B comparisons, if the volume isn't matched people usually like the louder one. If the output of your phono preamp is lower than the output of your digital sources it might lead you to feel that records don't sound as good. Try to compensate with the volume control when comparing.

Nice looking turntable, by the way!
 
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OP
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Thread Starter #16
The Mitsubishi DP-EC2 is a decent turntable, but not top of the line. It hasn't got VTA adjustment though, so to fix &/or help the thin-sound you're getting, you need to use a thinner platter mat, which will raise the arm base.
That stylus will still do the job, but something like an Ortofon Bronze, which is the sweet spot for price/performance, would dramatically improve your listening experience.
Coloured vinyl is for collecting & black vinyl is for playing. Coloured vinyl will always play worse that black, especially picture discs & solid silver.
Learn how to settup your turntable yourself & spend a few hours getting it perfect.
Thanks. That makes a lot of sense. On the platter mat, would you recommend something simple like a felt slipmat to go thinner, or something else?
 
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Thread Starter #17
I'm new here but vinyl and I go way back, so here are some thoughts:

Cartridge alignment.
- I see that the overhang spec for your turntable model is 14mm (9/16") from spindle to stylus tip. Place the tonearm over the spindle. The needle should land 14mm beyond the center of it. Use a precision measuring device to set it there if necessary, and square it up with the front of the headshell. Now make sure you set the tracking force and anti-skate to the correct levels for your cartridge. If the tracking force is given as a range, it will probably need to be set near the top of the specified range since that's normally how it is with a new stylus. (Edit): The OM-5s has a tracking force range of 1.5- 2.0 g. The recommended tracking force is 1.75 g but don't be afraid to push it up to 2.0 g and see if it reduces distortion.

Interconnect cables.
- If your cables are hardwired to the turntable, and they are the original cables, then they're probably fine since the manufacturer likely supplied cables with the right capacitance. If you're using aftermarket cables with RCA connectors at both ends, most generic ones have a capacitance value that is too high which can cause your records to sound dull. You'll want cables with fairly low capacitance value, and use as short a run as possible to your preamp. 6 ft is fine, 3 ft is even better, on the other hand 20 ft is pushing it. Look on Amazon for RCA Cables by KabelDirekt. Their Pro series cables are not expensive, have low capacitance and they work great. But people like lots of other cables for this purpose so feel free to do your own research.

The cartridge.
- The OM5s is an entry level cartridge but can be upgraded with an OM10, OM20 or OM30 stylus, each step producing better results. But consider upgrading to the Audio-Technica AT-VM540ML which is a sweet sounding cartridge with low distortion and a very slight rise at the top giving the highs a bit of sparkle like so many digital recordings. The AT-VM95ML is also great for half the price. Its response is actually flatter but that means it doesn't have quite the same digital-style sparkle that I feel you would probably like.

The volume.
- In A-B comparisons, if the volume isn't matched people usually like the louder one. If the output of your phono preamp is lower than the output of your digital sources it might lead you to feel that records don't sound as good. Try to compensate with the volume control when comparing.

Nice looking turntable, by the way!
Thanks so much. I'll look into all of this.

RCA cables are built in but were replaced when I brought the unit back from the dead a few months ago (along with belts, micro switch etc). I can ask the shop what they used, but they look generic.

Volume wise I try to get a good comparison when A/B testing, but it is not scientific.
 

jokan

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#18
@aerochrome2 Oh this is a very difficult one to answer simply. Analogue is another beast altogether from Class-D/H amplifiers.
The most important thing with vinyl LP playback is proper setup. Everything must be "Just so" to get your rack, platter, plinth level. Then you have cartridge alignment, skating or anti-skating to deal with, and stylus pressure, VTA for a start. Cartridges also have an inherent lifespan built in from the moment it was produced. They have suspension systems built in and suffer from age. You can get close or better a subjective opinion depending entirely on your equipment and ear combination to modern Class-D amplifier driven speakers but do you really want the same sound from your LP's compared to a well executed Class-D amplifier? What type of motor assembly is used by your deck also makes another difference. Your phono-stage and cartridge combo is vitally important as well as any external power supply that can properly maintain RPM. Record players need constant attention to keep them working well, belts dry/stretch. Oil dries out or evaporates. The list is endless. And most likely there will be someone who has something better, always. I did come across a swivelling mechanism for cartridges that use a "headshell" Literally traces the groves and swivels with virtually no resistance and could make a really inexpensive Nagaoka cartridge sound hugely better because it swivelled. But not everyone has a player with an arm that uses detachable headshells. My player is fixed so I can't use this $350 ish part that made such an audible difference to playback.

I hope this helps you towards an answer. Cartridges can reach over $10,000USD. Will that work well with the rest of your deck? Yes if you have that sort of money to spend on a deck itself. The pursuit is endless and hugely expensive. Most of us Analogue die-hards draw a line in the sand and think this is good enough at some point.

I also hope that you remember to enjoy listening to music! It's easy to get trapped into a vicious circle of pursuit. Newer cartridges are extremely good now. MM vs MC is a line that is becoming increasingly blurred.

Cheers, and happy hunting. It's a great and rewarding hobby.
 
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Robin L

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#19
The worst distortion from LPs creeps up slowly as the record plays. One can get everything right as can be with overhang and VTA, but the reality of inner groove distortion is that it can never be eliminated, only brought to a level that is "good enough" for those still attached to the format. Even if one is listening to an LP that's perfectly centered [rare], has a low-noise vinyl formula [not that rare but still not the norm], short durations [17 minutes or less a side] and low modulation levels [not the norm] there will still be audible distortion. It won't be the glaring, in-your-face distortion of a single disc copy of Beethoven's 9th [all are sonically hopeless], but there will be a loosening of grip, softening of bass and a reduction of high frequencies. LPs are inherently faulty. If everything is maxed out, there will still be distortion and sonic compromises compared to the source for that LP, and that source for new LPs is almost always a digital master that can be reproduced flawlessly on cheap gear.

Improving the cartridge and making sure that everything is aligned correctly will improve the sound coming from your records. But it can't eliminate the reality of a format that will always sound worse at the end of a side than it did at the beginning.
 

dmac6419

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#20
I recently was given my grandfather's old high end turntable from the late 70's. I had it repaired and then went on a binge collecting my favorite albums of the last 20 years to the extent I could find color / limited edition versions thereof. While I definitely went overboard, I really like the collecting and physical medium part of vinyl.

On the other hand, the turntable sounds..... just fine. This is in comparison to my digital setup which blows me away (even though it is definitely budget, as you will see below). In part, I wonder if this is because the repair shop talked me into installing a $50 Ortofon OM 5s cartridge (my pre-amp is definitely good enough and the turntable was top of the line in its day and caringly restored by the shop I took it to).

So my question is, if I put a $200-$400 cartridge on the turntable, how much will that improve the quality? I know it will never touch the digital setup, but I am wondering if I can make the listening experience a bit closer to the richness and sound stage I get from digital. Otherwise, I may slow down on the vinyl collecting (and only play the vinyl records when I am in the mood), even though I really love the collecting part of it.

SETUP:

Digital --> Tidal HIFI (over UAAP) --> SMSL M500 ---> Emotiva SP-1 Phono Preamplifier and Analog Input Selector --> Schiit Loki (only on sometimes) ---> Emotiva BasX a-100 ---> KEF Q150

Vinyl --> vintage 1979 Mitsubishi DP-EC2 (with new Ortofon OM 5s cartridge) ---> Emotiva SP-1 Phono Preamplifier and Analog Input Selector --> Schiit Loki (only on sometimes) ---> Emotiva BasX a-100 ---> KEF Q150

Thanks!
Vinyl it's free if your music app host vst you're set
https://www.izotope.com/en/products/vinyl.html
 
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