Sibilance / disortion

Discussion in 'Turntables' started by tw1st, Sep 8, 2017.

  1. tw1st

    tw1st AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I am writing this after finishing listening to the MFSL Crime of the Century LP, with headphones, front to back, without a hint of sibilance or discernible distortion of any kind. This is on my Mitsubishi LT-22 through a Shure ML120HE.

    I have struggled with sibilance, inner groove distortion, and some audible high-frequency distortion (mistracking?) since buying my first turntable, a Sansui linear tracker with no means to adjust VTF or change the cartridge. I then upgraded to a traditional Technics 1/2 mount table, and began to experiment with alignment and different cartridges with more advanced stylus profiles than a .7 conical. With a genuine Shure HE stylus, the issues all but disappeared. This was in addition to careful alignment as well. The LT-22 has taken alignment out of the equation, and I have finally arrived. I no longer anticipate S sounds getting "essssy" or any "static" on loud passages, or IGD as I knew it before (though I'm aware of the reduced groove velocity as record side progresses). The journey is far from over, however, as I will likely now shift my focus to improving the sound that I hear or reducing the noise floor, etc., but at least I no longer have to labour over this.

    I guess the real point of this is for my own information but also others': is sibiliance and distortion / mistracking being accepted by vinyl enthusiasts? I don't mean those with AT-LP60s or Crosleys, but you, reading this.

    I have heard needledrops here that exhibit mistracking. I read about cartridges or styli that have sibilance, though they are being discussed as if it a minor drawback.

    Is my current level of distortion-free playback attainable without an advanced stylus profile / quality cantilever? I see conicals being recommended but also read (and have experienced) an inability to properly track inner grooves - is this seen as a trade-off for their cheaper cost or reduced susceptibility to alignment issues?

    I hope this doesn't come off wrong, as I am genuinely curious (and relatively inexperienced). I did not grow up with vinyl, and I did not have the benefit of hearing a high-end system from the beginning. In fact, initially, I assumed that the things I was hearing was simply a limitation of the medium, and nobody was totally free from sibilance and IGD. I now know this isn't the case.
     
  2. Hajidub

    Hajidub He's a beast! Subscriber

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    Heck no it's not accepted, I minds well stop listening and find another hobby (would drive me nuts). The only times I've experienced ssssssss is when my stylus has obtained a lint ball the size of a gerbil or someone didn't setup the TT correctly.
     
  3. Doug G.

    Doug G. Addicted Member

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    I read all the time now about enthusiasts having problems with IGD, the supposed deterioration of sound quality in inner grooves, and various other issues I have never really experienced and I have played records for over 60 years.

    Doug
     
  4. polypetalous

    polypetalous Active Member

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    I fought Sibilance/IGD on my Lab-500 for quite some time and attributed it to the R9000E-LWS integrated cartridge (Sure M95)/arm/table combo.... but ultimately I found it to be my stylus choices...

    Once I bit the bullet and put an HE stylus on... all sibilant/distorted sound disappeared.... aside form the odd bad pressing/worn record.

    Probably not too surprising that the generic $15 stylus' I used previously weren't that good

    Ben
     
  5. tw1st

    tw1st AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I want to hear from @needlestein and @malden as they are both well-versed in various (perhaps an understatement) cartridges / styli. Can a conical ever perform as well as well as a more advanced tip shape when it comes to tracking?
     
  6. gusten

    gusten Addicted Member

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    I am neither, but a short answer is; no it can't. But it can track good enough in many cases.
     
  7. ear4audio

    ear4audio Active Member

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    My first system included a Dual 1019 and a Shure V15 type II. I was quite happy with that combination and I never had a record where there was sibilant distortion. Then I started hearing about the ADC XLM. All the reviews I read raved about the low distortion and low tracking forces of this cartridge. I couldn't resist getting one even though I didn't have any complaints with the Shure. So I swapped out my Shure and set up the ADC. The recommended VTF was 0.6 grams(!). and it had a compliance twice that of the Shure. At the time I didn't know what that meant in terms of tone arm compatibility or tracking distortion, but listening to vocals sounded like they were all spitting at me: terrible sibilance. I thought maybe the VTF was too low so I increased it to 1 gram...same distortion. I then increased it to 1.5 grams...same problem. Switched back to my Shure and never went back to the ADC. What was the difference? Compliance? I'm told the compliance only affects the low frequency range. The elliptical shape of the ADC had a broader tracing radius by .1 mil, perhaps it couldn't handle the high frequency modulations as well as the Shure? Then I read that the smaller the effective mass of the stylus tip results in lower distortion in the mid to high frequency ranges: could that be the difference? I had a chance to audition other cartridges and found Stantons and Pickerings were good at handling sibilance. Empires had a trace of sibilance but not as bad as the ADCs. I also found that Audio Technica and Ortofon were as bad as the ADCs. Of all the distortion that can occur with vinyl, sibilance is the most irritating and ruins the entire listening experience for me. I never purchase new cartridges based on reviews or others recommendations and I always try to determine if it can handle sibilance distortion.
     
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  8. needlestein

    needlestein Addicted Member

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    To the feeble human ears, I think the answer is yes. To sophisticated FR response plotting software and equipment that can detects mouse farts across the room, probably not. Like anything in audio, there are a lot of variables. I would say that depending on the record, also, and more critically, the location of the groove that is being traced, for example at the null points, perhaps even for the sophisticated analytical equipment the response would be equal between tip types, if not identical. Perhaps the difference could be reduced even more with an excellent quality linear tracking arm. Much depends here on tip mass rather than tip shape. If you get a low enough tip mass, and high compliance, elliptical styli can trace quad carrier signals.

    But at the inner groove, this is where the conical gets into trouble, and at higher tracking forces from what I understand, and it gets worse for cartridges that require massy arms. For example, the Denon DL-103 is a much loved LOMC cartridge of long and storied pedigree. With its heavy tracking requirements for best sound, it does seem to me like the conical tip does have some trouble moving in the groove deftly. The DL-103 introduced me to the sound of "groove pinch." I'd heard it before I'd heard of "groove pinch." Stick a line contact on the DL-103, and it seems as though all is forgiven.

    However, I swear that I don't hear groove pinch with lighter tracking conicals. Tough for me to make a direct comparison, though, because I don't have any other heavy tracking low compliance LOMC's with elliptical or better tips, nor do I have any lighter tracking high compliance LOMC's with conical tips to compare. My heavy tracking conical moving magnet and moving iron cartridges are still not so low compliance that they need a lot of mass on the arm, so perhaps they don't produce artifacts like groove pinch, either. Tough to say.

    I do have some conical styli that I swear you wouldn't be able to tell from line contacts, though--at least by listening. High polish also has a say as well as tip size. A well-polished conical can beat the pants off a crude elliptical. Walco made some very high quality conical replacement styli. I've got some for Pickering XSV cartridges and they are phenomenal. Just don't try to track quad grooves with them, I guess.

    I recently picked up another conical replacement for my Shure M97 and it is fantastic. But, I'm playing it in Dynagroove records, which were created for conical styli. I'm not certain that an elliptical or even a line contact type does much to improve the experience in Dynagroove records. In fact, the cartridge, still, that brings out the most from Dynagroove in my experience, especially the high end: ceramic Sonotone 9TA or BSR SC5M.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
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  9. tw1st

    tw1st AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I followed the conical vs. elliptical thread, which started me thinking about all this. I almost pulled the trigger on an N97GD because of it. But I have an N97HE - surely there is no reason (with an absence of dynagroove records in my collection) to pick up a conical stylus for the cartridge as well, right? Well at least at the prices currently being asked for them.

    You have a huge selection of carts and styli. Properly aligned, do (m)any of them exhibit sibilance or mistracking / inner groove distortion? If they do, is it something that you look to correct, or is it simply to be expected from certain cartridges and/or styli?
     
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  10. needlestein

    needlestein Addicted Member

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    Well, they don't. None of them are sibilant, even on heavily modulated modern LP's like "Thriller." But some are smoother than others, which I don't attribute to tip shape. My smoothest cartridges that aren't rolled off are Pickering XV-15/1200E and Stanton 681-EEE-IIS.
     
  11. monkboughtlunch

    monkboughtlunch Super Member

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    I don't accept sibilance if it can be overcome. I've found that line contact cartridges, like the discontinued AT-150MLX, virtually eliminate inner groove distortion and sibilance.

    However, when you buy a near mint used record, there's no guarantee it wasn't damaged by the previous owner's mistracking or damaged stylus. In those cases, a micro line cart cannot undo the damage the previous owner did.

    I'd be curious to know if there are any conical carts that handle IGD and sibilance better than others. There's still a place for conicals for some records.
     
  12. ear4audio

    ear4audio Active Member

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    From my experience, sibilance is due to the design of the cartridge. I've eliminated sibilance by switching cartridges (returning to Shure from ADC). Also, even though there was serious distortion with the ADC, it cleared up when I switched back to the Shure so the ADC did not cause any groove damage.
     
  13. needlestein

    needlestein Addicted Member

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    There are many conicals that handle IGD better than others, depending on what "better" means. I hate to sound like I'm being wishy washy, but that's the reality. I may also not be sensitive to IGD. The worst IGD I've heard if that's what it was, comes from the Ortofon 2M Red.
     
  14. malden

    malden Super Member

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    A quality stylus that is properly matched to, and set-up in, a quality tone-arm should not exhibit distortion or mis-tracking, regardless of tip profile.

    I personally think that there is too much attention given to tip shape, or at least the advertised tip shape. Equally important is the suspension, but that is much more difficult to discuss unless you are an engineer or physicist that actually works in this field.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  15. onwardjames

    onwardjames Hoardimus Maximus Subscriber

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    I nearly gave up on vinyl for the first few years back in the hobby because of IGD and sibilance.

    For my transfers to digital, I use a humble Stanton cart due to its very adept handling of IGD. Best I've ever heard among conicals.

    My Astatic MF-100 doesn't track worth a hoot, and the suspension sags a bit (less after the WD-40 treatment) but it will NOT give you IGD. Damned great cart.

    And another vote for the Sonotone 9TA, which needlestein and I have both written about extensively. I regret posting soundbites of Waylon Jennings' album "Hangin Tough" because about a month later, I got the cd of it, and guess what? Yep, it's in the recording.
     
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  16. sqlsavior

    sqlsavior AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    The worst sibilance I've ever heard was caused by loose tonearm bearings, using a fine-line cartridge that, on a good tonearm, had none whatsoever.
     
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  17. malden

    malden Super Member

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    There are many variables to consider when experiencing distortion or sibilance. As @sqlsavior stated, he traced sibilance back to his tone-arm bearings.

    ADC cartridges do not have sibilance built-in, it must have had something to do with the quality or age of the stylus. Was it NOS, "after-market", new, used? What model stylus and what tone-arm?
     
  18. ear4audio

    ear4audio Active Member

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    My comparison was done when the ADC XLM was first introduced in 1971. It was brand new, right out of the box. The Shure was about a year old when I compared it to the ADC. Both used the same tone arm and same records. I had a spare cartridge headshell so I was able to switch without realigning for overhead adjustment. The only adjustments I made was balancing the arm and setting the VTF and antiskating.
     
  19. tw1st

    tw1st AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I loaded up the only conical I have, a barely-used Excel ES-28. A/B vs the Shure with the same inner track - seems to be more bass and certainly not bad sounding at all, however there is some light breakup where the HE stylus was crystal clear. I know this is n=1 and not a high-end conical by any means, but it helped illustrate things for me. The first track on the side sounded pretty good. On the LT-22 I didn't really sense any sibilance, but I guess it was "groove pinch" that was audible, which could be described as IGD.

    Maybe I will seek out a high-quality conical for one of my Shures to play around with. There was a VN-3 on the bay but I didn't keep track of the auction. Went pretty cheap too.

    EDIT:

    I also played Side 1 of the mono box set White Album with a similar outcome. Tiny of bit of high-frequency distortion. Swapped back to the HE - no contest (and no distortion!)
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2017
  20. needlestein

    needlestein Addicted Member

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    Groove pinch is something else. You know it when you hear it. It's more like confusion. I only hear it with my DL-103.

    I also have observed that if a cartridge or cartridge/stylus system is sibilant, this can usually be overcome by increasing tracking force, provided all else is in working order and the tip is not worn.

    IGD is something else, and I believe I have heard it in my system once. It was due to a combination of an old record and a stylus with a faulty suspension. It's was an elliptical--inexpensive aftermarket that sounded great on everything else.

    The Ortofon 2M Red probably also is not mistracking or exhibiting IGD, but it doesn't hide anything either. So, once the 2M Red tattles, you hear the same problems over the same grooves with other cartridges, but you realize they do a better job not making an event of problem areas. This is what I would describe as "harsh" sibilants. Not mistracking per se, just not silky smooth. I assume the cartridge is simply faithfully tracking what's there in the groove warts and all.

    This could also perhaps be caused by electrical peaking and perhaps even clipping in my phono stage perhaps. I'm not really sure. I don't really think that's the problem because my phono stage has a nice gain pot that I love. That combined with the observations of others about the 2M Red keeps me pretty confident that it's the cartridge and not my system.
     

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