Troubleshooting distortion within turntable.
August 17, 2010 11:20 AM   Subscribe

TurntableFilter: Distortion within 'table itself requires diagnosis and repair. Troubleshooting ideas and/or audio technician recommendations near Boston, MA much appreciated!

Table is a Music Hall MMF 5.1 — and with the exception of this issue, it's been glorious to use.

While distortion now occurs immediately and constantly, the first time I used a new cartridge and stylus, record play was clean and listenable for about half-an-hour before crackling-up began to intensify and entirely submerge the audio in fuzz. I had the same issue with another cartridge, and incorrectly believing the stylus was worn-down and to blame, replaced it with the new one. The recurrence of the issue across two cartridges, along with the half-hour of clean play at first, leads me not to suspect the cartridge/stylus as the culprit.

I also believe my phono preamp and receiver aren't to blame, as a phono-like, very low-level signal is not distorted at all when run through the same signal path from a laptop. On both counts, however, I could indeed be incorrect, so all suggestions are welcome.

My thought now is that a component between the cartridge and turntable RCAs and ground is at fault. Everything I can think of in that part of the signal path: headshell clips (cartridge leads to tonearm wire) possibly poorly soldered, or themselves defective: tonearm wires distressed or defective: soldered connection between tonearm wires and RCAs.

After that, I would like to disclaim (mostly as a matter of irrelevant pride) that I've been meticulously gentle with the table. Haven't dropped it or anything horrible. It also exited the warranty period a month ago.

In any case, the turntable will likely require professional repair, as I'm afraid I've reached the edge of my abilities in installing the cartridge. Therefore, I'd very much appreciate suggestions on a technician in the Boston, MA area with whom you've had a positive experience.

Thank you in advance, and I look forward to your questions and ideas.
posted by alexandermatheson to Technology (6 answers total)
Dave at Natural Sound in Framingham.
posted by Ferrari328 at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2010

(this won't really help with your exact current issue, but may help in the long term...) Just a plug (ha!) for upgrading your turntable's cabling (if you've ever thought about it, and you have the coin). If you're getting work done on your tt anyway, now's the time. A new phono cable is a nice little upgrade.
posted by analog at 3:01 PM on August 17, 2010

Ferrari: Thanks for your recommendation!—I'll check it out.
Analog: Have certainly considered a tonearm cable upgrade, and it is tempting, despite the cost. If the problem is indeed the wires, a cable may be the route I elect to go.
posted by alexandermatheson at 3:43 PM on August 17, 2010

You might try the turntable with a different preamp and amp. Take it to a friend's house, whatever, just to verify that the distortion is originating in the turntable. (Just because distortion is more likely in the electronics than the turntable.) Alternatively, if you take it to a repair shop, have them hook it up and listen while you're there to demonstrate the distortion to them, to verify for yourself that the turntable's to blame, and to avoid a phone call from them a week later "We couldn't hear any distortion. That'll be $80."
posted by exphysicist345 at 11:17 PM on August 17, 2010

Exphysicist: Solid point—thanks. I tried to isolate the problem as much as I could, but it's always possible there's something that can't be accounted for within a system. I think a diagnostic is probably necessary anyways, but I'll definitely get the technician to verify the distortion is arising from the turntable wiring before committing to the repair.

Thank you, all! Peace be, and be well.
posted by alexandermatheson at 11:41 AM on August 18, 2010

Unnecessary followup: Dave was great to work with, and Natural Sound is a seriously cool joint.
posted by alexandermatheson at 2:09 PM on November 28, 2010

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