Odd problem with TT setup...

I’ve got an SME 30/2 TT with the Gold V tonearm. Recently, I’ve noticed on a few albums with particularly punchy kick drum passages (The Police Zenyatta, Talking Heads Slippery People particularly) that on occasion I hear a distinct “pop” as if overdriven during these notes. But not every time in the song, nor on every song.. The odd thing is, it doesn’t matter what I change... my typical cart is an Atlas, but it has also done it with other carts, namely a Sumiko Blue #2 MM. Capacitance settings don’t change the problem, I’ve tried cable swaps on both ends, different phono stages, gain settings, loads etc. it happens in any channel on my Hegel regardless of volume, it happens if I run straight into my head phone amp with headphones. The ONLY constant here is the tonearm. All of the setup parameters are spot on, I’ve tried a variety of VTA settings, antiskate you name it. Is it possible the internal wiring of the tonearm can have a problem? Overall the sound is excellent, great soundstage, overall presentation etc. with the exception of this one issue. Any ideas?
The tonearm wiring has zero effect on what sounds like a transient (hot-cut spot) causing either mis-tracking or phono stage overload. The last is an often-common little-recognized problem with some phono stages - inadequate headroom, especially when cartridges try to track too-hot cut grooves!
Have you tried a mat? Sounds like the cartridges you say that present the issue are showing you an arm/cart mismatch.
Dear @geof3 : Hegel is a way top design products that any one can’t doubt on it.

I don’t know if Hegel manufactures Phono Stage too. Anyway could you tell me which your day bay day Phono Stage with your lovely Atlas? Thank’s in advance.

Btw, a internal tonearm wiring problem seems it’s not because whe exist a problem down there one channel is in silence or the channels are inverted or things like that but pop....? ? Could happens but I seriously doubt it.

Even that could be generated electrical static or a non-consisten/intermitent electrical power/source system  " problem ".

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,
@geof3 : Other not often problem that could happens is that if your Atlas is over 800 play hours could be a premature suspension or stylus tip problem it does not matters the cartridge pedigree.

If you have a " doubt " about the best is to take direct contact with @jcarr Lyra owner.

Generally every thing we are discussing would be in play... once again it is not cart specific, it isn’t “random” in the sense it just happens whenever. It is very specific on specific songs, and the same each time. Regardless of cart, phono stage cables etc. it is a VERY weird issue. And no I have not tried a mat. That is a good idea.
geof3 : I mentioned the cartridge because here in Agon an Atlas owner had aproblem and after more than 200 posts the OP took my advise about and guess what? The Atlas was the problem even with not so high hours and its problem was at random too.

Btw, Why dead silence about your day by day phono stage? or Hegel already has PS ?

Anyway, up to you.


Is it more of a pop or a knock? If the bearings got worn/damaged/out of adjustment enough then when the energy from the kick drum gets there it bounces out of contact and when it comes back would knock, like I guess you would call this bearing chatter. Which I never heard but would think something like this could happen. Except I would expect it to be more of a knock or click or something rather than a pop.

A pop to me is more of an electrical kind of thing. But all the electrical glitches I've heard in situations like this the sound cuts out it doesn't pop. So this is a good little puzzle you got here. 

First, are you absolutely sure it happens in conjunction with sharp transients like kick drums. Does it occur with anything else.
The Atlas should be ok in that arm but I would like to see at least 2 grams added to the headshell. I think, but I am not sure that the Atlas is nowhere stiff enough to get the resonance point that high. But ruling that out is easy. Just for fun add 2-3 grams to your head shell and sell what happens. Soundsmith makes a set of variable mass screws. 
But assuming that is not it, and please do not make assumptions, You have condensed it down the the arm. That table is perfect for a Kuzma 4 Point. The Atlas loves the 4 Point.
@Raul it’s not the cart. I’ve now tried my Atlas, two Sumitomo MC’s (high output) and now, for kicks, I tried a demo Ortofon MM... all the same. My current PS is a Simaudio Moon 5.3LP, I’ve tried a 310, I’ve tried 3 Lehmann’s Cube, Cube SE and Decade, I’ve tried McIntosh’s newest PS. All the same. A variety of cables of all levels... I’m completely stumped.

@Millercarbon, the sound is that if an overdrive. It is definitely distortion of some sort. Both channels, primarily right, I’ve tried antiskate settings from zero to “3” on the V... no idea...
Ok, so one more step in this troubleshooting... I just snagged a demo TT and I’m going to see what happens. A thought by my local guy suggested a short perhaps in the tone arm. Update at 11...
A disc that was cut to hot , but still on the level where it is tracable but very close to where there could be mistraking , so it does it sometimes , sometimes it does'nt thus many cartridges you use it does it .
So, an update... yes, there is no doubt these particular albums are hot for sure. I “borrowed” a Rega P3 and plugged it into my system and played the offending albums/tunes... no extraneous pop. So, either the combo of cart/tone arm/whatever on my SME is very, very sensitive and is doing just as mentioned above and possibly mistracking those hot passages, or I have a problem with my tone arm. Here’s a thought... could there be something with my SME power source? A ground problem or some such? 
Most likely its a resonance/vibration problem of some kind. Electrical faults- bad solder joint, frayed or damaged wire - usually results in cut-outs not pops. My first thought was slight bearing wear. Kick drum energy bounces the bearing and when it lands it generates the pop. But that would be more like a knock I would think. 

I can tell you how to test and prove its not internal wire, but you won't like it, way too complicated. To check the bearing/compliance/resonance idea place some small mass at the pivot point, adjust VTF, and play. To check compliance add a mass of a few grams like a penny or dime, stick on top of the cartridge with Blue-tack or tape. Anything temporary just to check the theory. Its unlikely, but so is everything else at this point, sad to say.
@MC... I did try the mass thing last night as suggested above, just to see. I added 2 grams of blue tac, no luck. I’m going to mess with it a bit more this weekend... maybe I get lucky. Otherwise, I’m going to just throw in towel and enjoy what I’ve got and maybe see about sending the tone arm into SME. Its about 12 yrs old give or take. Could prob use a service anyway...
Dear @geof3 : 12 years on that SME tonearm?, I assume you are the original owner. I don't know if the internal wiring in that tonearm is the same of more contemporary samples and if not then could be a good time for SME rewires it and at the same time can gives a check up to its overall specs, especially the bearings.

Now the V is a tonearm balanced design and the best way to use it is not in balanced way but in static way. Do you already did it ? if not rigth now is time to do it along its silicon damping ( tray. ).

Btw, I know that first than all you need to fix this pop trouble but after that and due to the quality top Atlas performance levels as the Hegel electronics and very good TT/tonearm you should change that good but average/medicre one phono stage that can't honor the true Atlas quality performance that can shows you with a way better phono stage that you can buy from Simaudio due that this Canadian company has very good and high level engeneering.
Your today unit works mainly through op-amps and its overload levels is really low at 2.2db. with a non accurated RIAA eq. for high differences in between both channels.
I know that you like what you are listening ( other than that pop. ) but in reality what you are listening is a " poor " quality against what the Atlas can shows you or to any other audiophile with the rigth phono stage.

With all respect you own a " Ferrari " that is running it with bike tires.

A development... today, the right channel cut, very briefly... twice. Pretty sure now I have a tone arm problem. The question is, send it to SME and have it rebuilt/serviced or start thinking about a new tonearm?
The question is, send it to SME and have it rebuilt/serviced or start thinking about a new tonearm?
Both! Get a new tonearm and THEN send your SME in for service. Win win. Fun fun.
A pop to me is more of an electrical kind of thing. But all the electrical glitches I've heard in situations like this the sound cuts out it doesn't pop.

So now at last we have our answer: worn internal wiring. Probably internal and out of sight but carefully inspect all you can see. Use tweezers to pull the cartridge clips, or at least give them a little nudge to confirm they're still nice and tight. 

But basically yeah, probably time for service. If you like the arm they probably can upgrade the wire. Origin Live has wire upgrades for theirs, SME should too. 
Dear @geof3 : Before you could think in a new tonearm you must fixed the V because in that condition you can put for sale and yes SME is whom needs to do it and as I told you maybe the internal rewiring if your sample has not the today latest internal SME wire that’s an excellent one.

After that test it for some time and if you don’t like it then think in the Kuzma 4Point.

Btw, sooner or latter if I were you and want it to stay truer to the recording I will change as sooner I can that phono stage that is really a "mess " with your analog rig and Hegel electronics.
The question I could do it to my self as an hipothetical owner is: why in the hell own a SME 30 TT, Atlas cartridge and the Hegel electronics with that " poor " Simsaudio model?

This is the one:



I really don’t care if you just folow with those " bike tires " at the end you are the " Ferrai " owner, that is only an opinion as the opinions of any one else.

Regards and enjoy the MUSIC NOT DISTORTIONS,

Yes, I am looking at demo-ing an 810 perhaps next week. My local shop is a Simaudio dealer. But then, there are numerous options at that level... gotta get the TT sorted one way or another first. The “bike tires” are ok for now...
So, the SME is off to be rebuilt and rewired. I’m sure it will be weeks before I see it. I suppose, if it comes back and I still have issues, we can start this thread up again! Crossed fingers!
Ah, kind of forgot about this thread. All sorted, and sounding great. Still have no idea what the problem was, but it is no longer an issue. I was having some other issues that just boiled down to getting the setup just right. Happy ending!