Low volume on turntable??

Hi everyone, so I’m new to vinyl and have a lot to learn but I just hooked up a my first turn table, and with my preamp at maximum volume, and amp at full gain, it was still veryy quiet and had no depth/bass. The turntable is an old Denon DP-31L that I just installed a new cartridge in (AT-95E) --->Cary Audio AES SE-3 preamp---->McIntosh MC2125--->Klipsch RP-5’s. The system sounds magnificent running .wav vinyl rips with a Monarchy DIP upsampler--> Emotiva XDA-1 DAC in between my comp and the preamp, so there must be something wrong with either the unit, or how i hooked it up (basic built in RCA to preamp, with the integrated ground wire running to the Mcintosh chassis). On the plus side the ultra-quiet music has no hums, or background distortion whatsoever, even at full volume.

Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated! Cheers
Your Cary preamp doesn’t have a phono stage in it. It’s line level only. You will need to get an outboard phono stage or buy a new preamp that has a built-in phono input.

RIAA, (cartridge) output needs to be boosted to a higher level.

Here's a pretty well written, altough a little basic, discussion on preamps/phono stages.

yep, that would do it!  you defiantly need a phono stage somewhere in the system.  My first phono pre was a NAD PP2, a cute little thing that works pretty well for the price.  I upgraded eventually to a PS Audio GCPH, which was a more robust unit with more options and a finer sound.  I then went for a tube model with the Audio Research PH3SE, and my current model is a Whest PS.30R.

This represents an initial spend of less than $200, and ratcheted up to $3,500.  I can happily say that I was pleased with each and every one of these phono preamps, and they are all spaced out in price.  On Audiogon, you could probably get the NAD for $80, the PS Audio for $550, the ARC for $1000, and the Whest for $2,000.  So depending on your budget and your commitment to vinyl, anyone of these would be a fine choice, at least in my opinion.

Good Luck!
That's very good advice, although it is certainly disappointing I have to spend $$ money to get this thing running.

thanks all!
Is there a price point for a phono stage that would not be worth exceeding because my turn table is not the best quality? Or is it the other way around?
there is a NAD for $150 and a Rega for $250, both on Audiogon right now.   Either is fine, it seems you are just getting started, and as you mentioned, the table and cartridge are pretty entry level.  Personally, I'd get the NAD, and save the extra $100 for a rainy day.  

If you decide to get serious about vinyl, you may consider a bit higher budget for the analog setup.  If you get more into it so to speak, and can justify the spend, I would sell the table, cart, and stage in the future to a friend who also wants to dabble, and roll that cash towards a step up the chain, which will get you in the area where vinyl can outperform digital.

 I read an article recently by and non audio journalist who came to the conclusion that unless you break a particular price/quality barrier, vinyl will not sound better than a standard cd player. Since you have a reasonably nice DAC, you may find that your analog does not sound as good as your digital.  If that is the case, I would not let that discourage me!

For your system, I would say an investment of $1000 for an analog front end would be a Very very good spend.  I would look for a table, cartridge, and phonostage at $333 each, hopefully all used, meaning your $1000 should be getting you closer to $1800 in gear, gently used.  I think at that level, you will feel the analog will sound as good or better than the DAC.   

For now, grab the NAD and enjoy some records!  Can't go wrong.
The Schiit Mani is a great little phono stage and sells new for $129. That would be a great match for your Denon table and AT cart.  Better than the NAD.

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Just had an idea of a possible immediate solution until I can afford a quality phono stage, let me know what y'all think:

i have a Sony V444ES receiver that has a phono input. Could I run the turntable to that, and then feed the single to my Cary audio preamp via the pre-outs on the Sony? It also has a "2nd AV output", but I'm thinking the I should use the "pre-out" 

will this work? And if so is it a terrible solution compared to a $200 phono stage, bc id rather go this route now for the next 6 months and save to buy a much better phono stage later on
Yogiboy, what are these "IC’s" you mentioned that I’ll need? Interconnects? Clearly I still have a lot to learn 😁
I've heard nothing but good things about the Schiit brand. Haven't actually heard the gear, but I hear it is good schiit!
 I'm not sure if using the Sony receiver is going to work. Pre-out means that that jack is designed to output to a power amplifier from the preamplifier.    It might work but it might be  dangerous.   I don't know enough to be sure, but I believe the signal will have gone through the phono stage section  of the Sony, then through the pre-amplification stage of the Sony, and then it would be going through a second preamplification stage in the Cary.   This doesn't sound worth it to me. Also, I think the NAD or the Rega  are more than competent  to amplify your cartridge. In fact, I would save that extra money and put it towards a better cartridge in the future versus worrying about a higher end phono preamp now.   I used the NAD PP2 with a Dynavector 10X5  cartridge with great results. Sure I eventually upgraded, but the point is that your cartridge probably deserves the first upgrade dollars. 
 Good luck! 
Thanks for the info, that makes sense about the pre-outs, but according to the manual if I select Analog Direct on the Sony: "The analog input signal is not digitally processed. Only volume control and the balance between the front left and front right speakers can be adjusted."

does this change anything from your original thought? I really just want to start listening to vinyl TODAY haha 
If the sony has a tape or record out you could use that. The signal is usually outputted prior to any gain or preamp functions. Run tape out into any line level input on the Cary. I agree however that even a stand alone phonostage would serve better. The Schiit Mani seems like a great deal. 
 I think with Sony means by that is that it does not make any adjustments in the digital domain. Perhaps you have some fancy controls on the Sony that would allow you to correct for certain issues. It could do this by modifying the digital signal.   I'm guessing the analog direct option prevents the Sony from converting the analog signal to digital.

You can certainly try it, but I do believe you may be double preamplifiying the signal, if  my suspicions are correct.   If you do try this, clearly put the volume control to absolute minimum on both the Sony and the Cary!  Slowly raise the volume, perhaps to 9 o'clock on the Sony, and then carefully raise the volume on the Cary just a bit.

it is possible to overload a preamplifier. I've done this with my phono preamplifier into my stereo preamplifier. With the gain  set too high on the phono stage,  The musical peaks were full of distortion - scratchy poppy sounds.  I dropped the gain on my phono stage,  and problem solved.

 If you give it a shot, let me know what happens! It's possible that you can turn the Sony volume halfway up or all the way up, and then use the Cary to  do the rest, and possibly only required to Cary volume Control to be set quite low. Just be careful and gradual with those volume control knobs!
Mesh,  excellent idea! If the tape out is line level and not preamplified at all, that could work. But I also agree, this is a short-term solution so the original poster could play records today and not a long-term solution at all.
So I tried leaving the turntable to the phono input and using "tape out" to the preamp and no sound, then I tried plugging it into the "tape in" with outs still in "tape out", and no sound either.... I think I'll try next leaving the turntable plugged into phono, with outputs plugged into the "pre out" and run that to the Cary. I'll leave the Sony volume super low with mode set to analog direct...
Should the "tape in" work with a turntable normally? I would speculate not bc there is a phono input too, otherwise Sony would have only made one phono/tape RCA input instead of 2 separate ones for each...
Hockey- If you look in the manual for the Sony on page 50 you will see instructions for recording.  Follow those but where it says tape recorder or tape machine, think "any analog (RCA) input on the Cary".  You will need to set the Sony to the phono source, and the Cary to whatever source you plug the tape out RCAs into.  The only other thing you will need to make sure that there is not a tape monitor switch on the Sony. If there is, and after you make the connections I just outlined, if you still have no sound, try switching the tape monitor switch to the other choice.  

Swamp beat me to it. What he said is correct. Also, the preamp out will work, but you will have to use the volume control on the Sony to raise the output level.

The signal coming from the "tape out" is fixed and cleaner, so that would be best sound.

Since the Sony is an A/V receiver, you might have to get into the menu setting and tell it what you are doing.
This was copied from the user manual you linked:

  • The analog audio signals of the currect function is output from the REC OUT jacks. When you use AUDIO SPLIT to assign a digital audio input (for example, MD/DAT OPTICAL), the analog audio signals of the assigned audio (for example, MD/ DAT ANALOG) is output.

  • When 5.1CH INPUT is selected, audio signals are not output from REC OUT jacks.

    Hope this helps/makes sense.

Hockey, I think you may be taking this jury rig too far.  Look at NAD phono preamps on eBay, there are a couple for less than $100...  The one here on audiogon is a better option, 4th generation, for $150
It works! Used the Tape Out to the Cary preamp, turntable plugged into Sony phono. The Sony doesn’t control the volume at all, only the preamp and McIntosh gain change it, so I left the Sony volume at 0, speakers turned "off", and input on Phono Direct Analog. So it would seem I am using the phono stage only, probably not much different than a really cheap stand alone. It sounds pretty good, granted I only have 1 record to try, so I can’t really say to much if it’s better than the digital im used to, but I can say it’s not worse. It’s a little better than a good 16 bit 44hz .FLAC, but not as good as some 24bit 96hz .wav vinyl rips. With that being said I need to fix a couple things like the fact the turntable is sitting on a yoga mat on the floor, and has a 3’ female-to-male RCA cord extension to reach the receiver.

New problem to tackle: the tone arm doesn’t seem to track properly I think? every 10-30 seconds the music gets all distorted for about 1-5 seconds, and sounds like it’s in slow motion with a helium voice.

is this likely to be the new head I installed not being perfectly aligned or could it have something to do with the spinning platform? I did calibrate the counter weight and anti-skate appropriately for the new cartridge, and have the cartridge screwed onto the head unit in the same spot as the original, so it should be within a millimeter of the one I took off. I was going to use this protractor but didn't know how accurate/necessary it was: http://www.vinylengine.com/ve_downloads/index.php?stupid_protractors.pdf


thanks all!!
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Nice work, that tape out saved the day!  (Thanks Mensch for that!) I'm all for using the Sony now that it's proven it's worth... I agree with you, it's probably no worse than a cheap phonostage.

As for the intracasies of vinyl setup, I am inexperienced.  I got lazy and when I bought a new cartridge I asked the dealer to mount it for me.  Oh the shame and embarrassment!  However, I have taken the first steps toward redemption, and I bought Michael Fremmer's famous DVD on turntable setup, link below.  I would think this video would get you fully up to speed on proper setup of the arm and cartridge.  I have been toying with the idea of buying a cheap used cartridge and practice setting it up, but haven't gotten around to it just yet.

Nice job on getting the Sony to pull its weight!.  Check out Herbie's Audio Lab, they make some cheap isolation materials.  The grungebuster dots can be good under your table.  Also check out the cable co.  They have a sister site that sells used cables.  Most are pretty high end, and the prices get quickly insane, but they have some entry level items from the good cable producers that may be found at a steal.

I don't know what musical taste you have, but here are a few of my favorite recordings that are excellent on Vinly:
Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms
Steely Dan - Aja
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Dead Can Dance - In to The Labyrinth 
John Lee Hooker - Chill Out
Willy Nelson - Red Headed Stranger 


Thanks all for the valuable input.

i fixed the distortion problem too thank goodness. All I had to do was remove the platter, put a single drop of 3-1 oil on the center shaft, and then I slid the magnetic tape head closer to the outer permiter by about 1 mm, so the gap between the platter and the magnetic head is separated enough for a piece of paper to slide through (about half of the original gap).

Works perfectly now, zero artifacts/distortion/background even with 100% gain on the McIntosh. Perfectly silent with my ear against the speaker. Never heard Adele sound this clear!
I'm considering getting the AT100E and returning the new AT95 cartridge I just installed. 

Yall think it would make a significant difference on a turntable of this quality? It's $73 vs the $38 I spent on the AT95. I live on student loans, so I'm on a budget.

any thoughts as always would be most appreciated, thanks!
"They" say the two most important components are the source and the speakers. In this case, your cartridge is your source. Before you upgrade your cartridge, which I would definitely recommend, I would look beyond the audio tecnica line, and see if you can snag a bargain on a higher end cartridge. A quick look on audiogon, and I found this one: https://www.audiogon.com/listings/cartridges-sumiko-blue-point-special-evo-iii-hi-high-output-mc-exc...
which is a well known cartridge that is favoribly reviewed.  At $550 retail, if you can pick this up for 200-250, that is a heck of an upgrade.  Bonus, this is an MC design which is generally superior to MM, but this particular unit is a high output MC, which I think will be fine with your Sony phono rig.  Perhaps do some research on the best cartridge in the $300-$600 range, and then hunt for a steal on a used one for $125-$250.  I think this may be a better plan.  What do you think?

ps I had a Dynavector 10x5 which I thought was great.  That could be on your short list.  I sold mine for $200.
I think that's great advice, but unfortunately I'm stretching it big time if I were to spend $100....my wife would end me if she knew I spent the $38 haha. I will keep that particular cartridge in mind though when I can afford something a little nicer.

with that said, what would you have in mind with my budget under $90-ish?
Shure M97xE around $70
Ortofon 2M Red around $100

These (2) IMHO, are better than the AT100E.  I have the AT95E on one of my tables and it's a great little performer.  Not sure if the AT100E is really a step up.
If it makes any difference I like classical (piano, cello, violen), classic rock (CCR, Clapton, pink Floyd, Beatles, Dave Mathews early stuff etc.) and anything with good vocals (rich raspy type voices like Adele). One thing I know they all have in common is a richness with the sound, if that makes sense? I hate nothing more music that hearing a song that should have a deep full sounding cello that has no feel/hollow.

Does that help narrow it down?
Hey, Hickey-That's great.  Using a good cartridge protractor will help your set-up.  Unless the new cart is the same as the old one, that setup is not likely to be close to optimum. Even if it was the same, fractions of a mm can make a big difference. 
Sorry for suggesting those items out of your price range!   I am sure that you can get good suggestions on cartridges for any budget, I would take your time and perhaps start a new thread "best cartridge for $75" or something like that to lure more members in to then discussion. That and a meticulous install, and I think you're set!
i readjusted last night before bed with a printable protractor 😁 It was actually almost dead on by chance, must have been lucky. 

Any more thoughts on changing the AT95 that I just put in for another cartridge if I can stretch my budget to $80-100? its worth noting that this ghetto Sony phono stage I have rigged will hopefully be replaced in the near future with an Audible Illusions Modulus 3A, so at that point weakest link will be the Denon TT, but in the mean time if I can get a good enough cartridge for under $100 to minimally satisfy that new preamp that would be great. 
Thanks Mark, I'll start a new thread for the cartridge. Thanks again to everyone!!
I did calibrate the counter weight and anti-skate appropriately for the new cartridge....
I would add to the excellent inputs you’ve received from the others that anti-skating recommendations provided by the manufacturers of many turntables are often much too high. In many cases those recommendations correspond numerically to the tracking force, which would certainly result in too much anti-skating force.

See my two posts dated 4-11-2016 in this thread for how I would recommend that anti-skating be adjusted, at least in the case of most moving magnet cartridges, including yours.

Also, I couldn’t find a spec on the input capacitance of the Audible Illusions Modulus 3A (or for the phono section of the Sony receiver), but that can be a parameter that is important when selecting a suitable cartridge. It would probably be a good idea to contact Audible Illusions and ask them if they can tell you what that value is.

The sum of the input capacitance of the preamp’s phono stage and the capacitances of the phono cable and turntable wiring should **approximately** conform to the load capacitance that is recommended for the particular cartridge, by its manufacturer. If (as I suspect) the DP-31L turntable has a phono cable that is not detachable, and is in the vicinity of 5 feet long, figure on roughly 150 pf (picofarads) or thereabouts for the total wiring and cable capacitance (to which the input capacitance of the phono stage that is within the receiver or preamp would add, as I indicated). I see that your present cartridge has a recommended load capacitance of 100 to 200 pf.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

Al, nice to see you take part here.  hockey4496, Almarg always has some excellent experience and insight...
Very insightful indeed Al, I appreciate your taking the time to look into those details. I’m going to start a new thread for the cartridge question but in the mean time I would love to hear your thought on a cartridge you would choose under $100? I know you gave me your thoughts with details I would equally endorse in my selection, but considering my budget at this stage I would value your thoughts on a cartridge you’d endorse under $100, negating all other factors. I only say that because I will be using my current setup for a minimum of 1 year, and after that I don’t know yet which TT I’ll upgrade to. So really I’m just looking for the best investment i can make today. I’m sure with the level of quality the Sony phono stage is providing, one pico magnitude off won’t be too harsh on my novice ears 😁 Thanks again for taking the time to share you’re knowledge, my interest is peeked anytime someone talks real physics. That’s my sh*t (no better way to say it)

Mark & Hockey4496, thanks for the nice words. I don’t have specific knowledge, though, that would enable me to suggest a cartridge in that price range that I feel confident would be a meaningful upgrade to your AT-95E.

But in addition to the responses you may receive in the cartridge thread you have just started, I would pay particular attention to the comment above by Mofimadness, as his knowledge of and experience with vinyl playback is pretty much unparalleled. Although his comment that "I have the AT95E on one of my tables and it’s a great little performer," together with the many favorable comments that cartridge has received at Amazon and NeedleDoctor, suggests to me that going to another cartridge in the sub-$100 range may not provide as much improvement as you might be hoping for.

In any event, do check your anti-skating per my earlier suggestion.

Good luck! Regards,
-- Al

Hockey et al, What surprises me the most is that you perceived apparently decent sound in the first place, with no RIAA corrector in the circuit.  Did you notice a bizarre frequency imbalance?
lewm...there is no way he could have gotten that rig to a volume level that he could even perceive a frequency imbalance.  It would have been barely loud enough to even hear.  He even states that it was "ultra quiet".

I completely agree with you that if he could have heard it louder, there would have been a very strange frequency imbalance and a rather weird overall sound.
Lew, in addition to Mofi’s comments, as you may have noted Hockey4496 did say in the OP that there was "no depth/bass." Weak bass of course being one of the major consequences of the absence of RIAA equalization that would be provided by a phono stage.

Best regards,
-- Al

Good points, Al and mofi.
There were a slew of products marketed in the 90s, receivers and integrated amplifiers mostly, that had input jacks labeled "phono" and yet contained no phono stage.  The label was to indicate a pair of high level inputs to receive the output of one's outboard phono stage, but its presence caused many to believe they could run the output of a cartridge directly in to those jacks.  I'm not sure if that is what caused confusion for the OP.

LpGear offers their own upgrade stylii to hotrod the AT95E. One is a Virtual Line stylus for $89.95. The other is a Shibata stylus for $129.95.

Both are favorably reviewed as significant performance improvements over the stock elliptical stylus.

Shibata stylus upgrade reviewed
Virtual Line stylus upgrade reviewed