Vinyl experts, I need your advice. TNT6, ETII,Benz

O.K. Here's the deal. I've been listening to vinyl for a long time on a VPIHW19jr. fitted with an ETII tonearm. Recently I upgraded to a somewhat lessend version of a VPI TNT 6. This is basically the new TNT jr. with the dual motor cutout but using a single motor and a TNT 6 platter and bearing. No air suspension, just the sorbothane units.
For my little pocketbook, this upgrade was substantial and I hope to eventually upgrade to a full "6" status. Here's the kicker, although the table sounds MUCH better than my old HW19jr, I still get a fair bit of what I believe to be distortion generally more towards the end of the record. I should add that I kept the ETII arm and a Benz Gold cart. I can't tell whether this is from record wear, mistracking or it is just a phenomenom of records. Some records are worse than others, some are what I would call unlistenable. When my wife listens to her Strisand records or other female artists I generally leave the room because when the going gets rough it gets unlistenable. Loud passages or higher pitched singing can be unbearable. I love Rickie Lee Jones and find that it is so much more pleasant on my Jolida CD player. THIS JUST WON'T DO! I have heard records sound great but there is always an uneasiness as I wait for that loud passage.
I have also heard this on better systems which makes a little apprehensive about vinyl playback anymore, and this is a shame because when it's's real good.
If anyone has any ideas on where I should be looking to improve my playback please remark.
Alun, first, congratulations on your new turntable. The TNT 6 is quite a step from the Jr. Second, you should not have distortion at the inner grooves; what you're experiencing is not normal and should/can be fixed. But, the cause of the distortion can be a number of things, with the top candidates including: record wear from some other time and place, misalignment, or a cartridge wearing out.

I used an ETII for many years and continue to admire this tonearm. Start by making sure it is aligned correctly on your new turntable. If it is accurately aligned, then double-check the vertical tracking force on your cartridge, keeping in mind that a little heavier is better than too light (a little experimentation is useful here). If the alignment is spot on and tracking force is where it needs to be, then consider whether your cartridge could be getting old and the cantilever suspension hardening up in it.

And one further thought: does the arm float freely and easily all the way across the record when you put it into a neutral balance? I'm sure you're aware of properly dressing the tonearm wires after all these years, but also make sure there's no contamination build-up that might be causing some binding of the arm at the end of its travel through the manifold.
i think rushton is correct. your likely problems are the et and the vta setting. and your cartrige is fairly ancient and could have a bent cantilever or be in need of re-tipping. if i were you, i'd start by replacing the cartridge (this will "automatically" erase any vta problem, assuming the new one is set up properly).
All of the above are a possibility AND/OR the capillaries that pass the the air in the bearing housing may be getting clogged. I experienced what you describe and the problem was clogged capillaries. A bit time consuming to clean them, but not too difficult. The pump may be producing enough PSI, but the air bearing may not be seeing the same PSI. The capillaries will get clogged after years of use, even with the air filter in use.

Good luck.
Frogman, will clogged capillaries show up as drag on the spindle as it passes through the manifold?
Drag on the spindle is exactly what happens. There is simply less air pressure inside the manifold. I started to notice a subtle but increasing deterioration in the sound, grain and overall lack of the smoothness and refinement that the ET is so capable of. When I cleaned the capillaries, I was almost embarrased that I had let it go for so long.
The easiest way to clean the capillaries is to disconnect the air line from the bottom of the manifold, squirt 2 cc of isopropyl alcohol in the air line, reconnect the air line and turn on the air pump. The alcohol will be forced thru the capillaries. Move the arm slowly back and forth and you will feel it gradually loosen up at the end of its travel. Putting paper towels at both ends of the manifold to catch the drip is not a bad idea. Doing this every six months kept my arm moving freely. If I didn't do it regularly the arm would get stuck in the groove and skip at the end of LPs.

One of the joys of having a linear tracking arm is no inner groove distortion.
Frogman, thanks. That's what I would expect. Interesting that in 15 years of use, I never experienced this with my ETII.

Rgordonpf, thanks for the follow-up with the cleaning recommendation. A friend now uses my old ETII and I'll make sure he knows your cleaning process. This might be the solution to some end of LP skipping he's been experiencing with it.
Wow, thanks for all the help. The arm seems to move in both directions freely, however I have never cleaned the capilleries so I'll give that a try. I'lll also double check the tracking force although I think it is o.k. as I just recently set this rig up and it was good then.
Cartridge may be an issue and I would love to upgrade it to either a blackbird, or maybe a celebration as I can't really afford at this time anything too esoteric.
I was once told that the dampning trough from ET was a good upgrade, any thoughts?
Again, I have heard this on other systems which could mean record wear. Yeouch!!! I'm hoping to take a few records down to my favorite shop and try them out on a HRX,12.5,Ebony setup and check the results!
Thanks again for your advice, I'll be sure to follow up.
I started with a standard ET II and upgraded it step by step to a fully modded ET 2.5. All of the changes were worthwhile. The biggest bang for the buck in descending order:
DIY Air Pressure Regulator
2.5 Larger Diameter High Pressure Manifold
Magnesium arm wand
Damper Trough
Bright Star Padded Cell (to silence the air pump
if it has to be in the listening room)
Yes, I've read about some of those upgrades, but I'm not sure if the HP Manifold is still available.
Ive been researching some cartridge upgrades, but for now I'm hoping to just retip the Benz Gold and upgrade later. I hear so much about the Shelter cartridges but it's hard not to use the Benz trade in program.
Thanks, I'll let you know how the manifold cleaning works out.
The ET 2.5 is still offered for sale on the Eminent Technology website Give Bruce Thigpen a call and ask him.
O.K. I think I nailed it today. I spent about 2.5hrs on aligning the arm and cartridge and it sounds REALLY good. It is tracking some of my classical albums as well. I'm really impressed with what a little patients can achieve.
I also cleaned the arm tube but did not do the capilleries at the time. Airflow seems to be pretty good.
Now I really want to hear some better cartridges. I know that the Benz is pretty entry level and sounds decent, but how good can it get! I'm going to take a couple o my records down to the shop to hear the Benz LP. My gold is a little dark sounding in my all tube system and I think it could use a little more life on the top end. The Lyra cartridges (Argo and Dorian) may be a good match with a better compliance for the arm as opposed to the slightly more compliant Benz's. Sumiko's Celebration could also be a want on my list.
Any ideas?
Your on the right track all alignment parameters are very important vta, vtf, overhang etc.

Heres the problem when you upgrade your turntable you will now Hear more, including any short-comings in other components (Cartridge etc.) by upgrading your cartridge and spending the time to get it aligned. You will be delighted
with the improvement.

I wouldn't waste the time and money on a retip. Looking into the Blackbird and Celebration would be good choices at this price point

I currently use a Shelter 501 that IMHO bettered my van den hull grasshopper and Benz glider.