Author Topic: Stylus Shape and Sound  (Read 320 times)

Offline S Clark

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Stylus Shape and Sound
« on: September 28, 2019, 06:45:04 PM »
Steve Leung of VAS installed a new Al cantilever and microridge stylus on a Sumiko Blackbird cartridge a few weeks back, and the result is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
Background-
The Blackbird had already been repaired, and had a SoundSmith ruby cantilever with their line contact stylus.  It had light wear when I broke it.  At that time, it had been in my main rig on a second arm, but wasn't my favorite cartridge in that system... that spot was reserved for a Dynavector 20x2L.  That rig had all of my best gear, cables, room treatments, etc.  I had moved it to my smaller room system when I set up a pod for a Victor TT81 I had recapped.  I had it well installed and many hours put on it while waiting on a new pod from the good Mr. Elledge.  When the new pod arrived, I broke the cantilever moving stuff and installing the arm.

Bear with me. This is a bit long winded.
Ok, so now I have the "new" Blackbird on the Jelco750 on the new pod, on my Victor TT in my small system.  The small system also has a Dodd preamp, a Folsom amp, misc ok cables, and a pair of GR-Resesrch X-Statiks all in a medium L shaped room with minimal treatment.  My new copy of Jennifer Warnes "the Hunter" arrives,  I put it on the small system  and it sounds great.  Like better than I've ever heard this album.  I assume its the LP vs CD magic.  So off to the the big system because this is going to be ORGASMICALLY good!   LS9  speakers, Moscode 401HR amp, Dodd pre,  Dodd phono pre, Vyger Timor TT, Pioneer P3 arm, and Dynavector 20x2L cartridge.   But... the room treatments had been pulled a couple of nights ago for the Ladies Book Club (and a happy wife yada yada yada) . But I gotta hear it, so on it goes and it all sounds like crap. No detail, boomy bass, - disappointing, but not unexpected with no treatments.  Today, I put it all back, room set up right, and I play the new Jennifer Warnes lp... and there's clearly detail missing compared to my small room rig.
 
Ok, never on its best day has my small room with X-Statiks come close to the detail of my LS9 lines sources.  Never has that Blackbird sounded as good as the Dynavector 20x2L. 
There's a lot of things in play, but I leaning toward thinking that the new microridge stylus is the cause of so much extra detail.  On the Soundsmith website,
Peter Ledermann mentions the potential for great detail from microridge styli when everything it just right.  But he doesn't push them because he thinks they wear out too fast.    But IF I'm right, and the stylus is the main factor in this change in sound.... I'll never buy another line source, Shibata, super elliptical, etc. ever again.   
Now I've got to pull the old Dynavector off and install another one that Steve retipped for me, fortunately with a microridge stylus.  And kudos to Steve Leung at VAS for great work.    :thumb:
« Last Edit: September 28, 2019, 06:49:49 PM by S Clark »
“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat: “we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.”
Gear: a bunch of second hand stuff and kits.
Dodd,GR,Moscode,Folsom,Vyger,Victor,Sumiko,Dynavector,Wywires,TWL

Offline Folsom

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2019, 01:33:03 AM »
Do you mess with VTA much?

Also do you know the shim trick for mounting carts?

Offline S Clark

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2019, 07:42:11 AM »
Do you mess with VTA much?   No, but I just picked up a micrometer that mounts to a Jelco for on the fly VTA adjustment, so I'll be doing a lot more

Also do you know the shim trick for mounting carts?  No, I have no idea what that is.
“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat: “we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.”
Gear: a bunch of second hand stuff and kits.
Dodd,GR,Moscode,Folsom,Vyger,Victor,Sumiko,Dynavector,Wywires,TWL

Offline Folsom

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2019, 10:23:54 AM »
VTA. I start with the arm parallel. Then I creep up some to get more detail and bass. But at some point you'll have too much bass and a hallow midrange so you have to back down till it's sounding just right - this might happen immediately, it might not. Without doing that you are at the mercy of the stylus tip and cantilever given angle.

The shim trick is about coupling the cart to the arm. I use the cardboard reel stuff that transistors and things come on, since I have lots of it at any given time. You cut it to the shape of the cartridge top, and cut out some U shapes for the screws. It's like using a gasket for an engine between the head and crankcase. The surfaces may or may not be flat, but either way it mates them together evenly. This can bring leaps and bounds to the sound quality of a cart that isn't mating well. I'm sure cutting a cereal box or something like that would be fine, a slightly thick piece of paper, maybe even print paper, almost anything should work that can be crushed slightly.

Offline S Clark

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2019, 12:04:43 PM »
I'll try thick paper shims.  That's an easy tweak. 
As far as VTA, yeah, I start with a horizontal arm, and usually move up just a hair, but I've never really been one of those guys with a microscope measuring 92*
Having said that, I got  a USB scope on the way.  Maybe I'm headed further down the rabbit hole. 

“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat: “we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.”
« Last Edit: September 29, 2019, 12:08:51 PM by S Clark »
“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat: “we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.”
Gear: a bunch of second hand stuff and kits.
Dodd,GR,Moscode,Folsom,Vyger,Victor,Sumiko,Dynavector,Wywires,TWL

Offline Folsom

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2019, 12:27:29 PM »
I think the ear is fine personally.

Offline Folsom

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2019, 01:16:55 PM »
I have no idea what you mean with horizontal talk.

Offline rollo

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2019, 02:01:24 PM »
VTA. I start with the arm parallel. Then I creep up some to get more detail and bass. But at some point you'll have too much bass and a hallow midrange so you have to back down till it's sounding just right - this might happen immediately, it might not. Without doing that you are at the mercy of the stylus tip and cantilever given angle.

The shim trick is about coupling the cart to the arm. I use the cardboard reel stuff that transistors and things come on, since I have lots of it at any given time. You cut it to the shape of the cartridge top, and cut out some U shapes for the screws. It's like using a gasket for an engine between the head and crankcase. The surfaces may or may not be flat, but either way it mates them together evenly. This can bring leaps and bounds to the sound quality of a cart that isn't mating well. I'm sure cutting a cereal box or something like that would be fine, a slightly thick piece of paper, maybe even print paper, almost anything should work that can be crushed slightly.

  You start with "arm Parallel" that is what I am referring to. I meant to say parallel my mistake sorry. S. Clark was talking horizontal and I got confused.

charles
« Last Edit: October 09, 2019, 02:09:05 PM by rollo »
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Offline tmazz

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2019, 02:52:18 PM »
Two years ago I attended a clinic at CAF on turntable set-up given by Harry & Matt Weisfeld of VPI. According to Harry, the only way to do the final fine tuning on a cartridge alignment is by ear. He went on to explain that with only a handful of exceptions the stylus tip is glued onto the end of the cantilever and this leads to much more variance in the placement of the tip than one would expect. All of the alignment tools we is key off of aligning the cartridge body better yet the cantilever itself. But cantilevers are not always placed perfectly with respect to the body ans as Harry told us stylus tips are not placed consistently on the cantilevers. So since we in reality are trying to align how the diamond itself sits in the record, so these tools can do nothing better that give us an approximation. And interestingly enough, the better the cartridge, the higher the probability if variance because they are hand made.

Hence Harry's assertion that although alignment tools can get us in the ballpark, the final optimization of the setup can only be done by ear or at the very least by using tst record and a meter or a scope to read changes in the electrical output of the cartridge.
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Offline rollo

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2019, 08:48:50 AM »
  Agreed Tom. My question is where does one start. Meaning is top or bottom of cart to be level with LP when dropped on LP. Pete advised me to use an index card with lines. Having the lines with card sitting on LP align with top of cart.
 

charles
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Offline P.I.

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2019, 09:03:44 AM »
Scott,

I hope that the new pod I made for you has in some small way contributed to your newfound happiness!

 :thumb:
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Online HAL

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2019, 09:22:32 AM »
Scott,
Still my favorite stylus shape is a microridge.

Have the JICO boron cantilever with microridge stylus for my Shure Ultra 500 cartridge when the original beryllium tube and MR dies.  Most likely from suspension polymer parts hardening.

Glad to hear the MR in the new cartridge and pod sound so good.

Offline tmazz

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2019, 10:01:21 AM »
  Agreed Tom. My question is where does one start. Meaning is top or bottom of cart to be level with LP when dropped on LP. Pete advised me to use an index card with lines. Having the lines with card sitting on LP align with top of cart.
 

charles

I would consult the owner's manual for the arm. My SME IV has a tapered arm so there is no real way to make an edge parallel with the platter. But SME stenciled a line on the side ot the arm tat they say should be made parallel as a starting point. The even give you a card with a calibrated scale on it and say to adjust the VTA until the distance between the platter and the line as measured with the cards is the same at the front and the back of the arm.

Most other arms I have seen have some kind of VTA instructions that come with them.

And of course from there do the final dialing in by ear.
Remember, it's all about the music........

• Nola Boxers
• Sunfire True SW Super Jr (2)
• McIntosh MC 275
• ARC SP-9
• VPI HW-19 Mk IV/SDS/SME IV/Sumiko Blue Pt. Special
• Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC/Bluesound Node/Pioneer DV 563A
• DigiBuss/TWL PC/MIT Cable

Offline S Clark

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2019, 12:44:13 PM »
Scott,

I hope that the new pod I made for you has in some small way contributed to your newfound happiness!

 :thumb:
I'm sure of it.  It always seems that when I make changes, there are too many variables to completely pin down the improvement, but I suspect the pod and the new stylus together (and maybe a thousand other factors in mounting the cartridge) all worked to create a better sound. 
If I was really concerned with chasing down the sound, I'd change out pods now that I've got my cartridge back.  But it's such a pain in the butt to pull the arm off the pod, mount it on the new pod, readjust the arm height, get the distance perfect, reconnect the wiring...  I'm just too lazy to do it.  I'll just take the better sound and be happy listening to it. 
“But I don't want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can't help that,” said the Cat: “we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.”
Gear: a bunch of second hand stuff and kits.
Dodd,GR,Moscode,Folsom,Vyger,Victor,Sumiko,Dynavector,Wywires,TWL

Offline BobM

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Re: Stylus Shape and Sound
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2019, 12:51:10 PM »
Here's a trick I learned from ... someone, somewhere. Use an index card with lines on it. Place the long flat edge on your record and then put the arm into the lead in groove. You can then line up your eye with the top, or bottom of the arm tube and see how that relates to the lines on the index card. Should give you a good starting point for horizontal as long as the arm tube isn't tapered as TMazz says.
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