Vinyl woes / cartridge upgrade

There are many threads about dealing with the usual clicks and pops.  I have been reading them everywhere since starting into vinyl about a year ago (the most recent post by jay73 being somewhat typical of my experience).  I am trying out some of your very helpful recommendations.  Winter static very bad right now and it is obvious.  Even with a humidifier running 24/7 and careful cleaning, Zerostat, etc. most albums become fatiguing after the first couple of songs.  It seems like the static builds up as the record spins.  :-(

It has definitely been an up/down ride so far.  Once in a while (but not lately!) it just dials in and I get it.  I see what everyone is talking about with the sound.  Even with my modest rig - vintage Dual 1219 TT and Graham Slee Gram amp 2 - I get it.  Of course album condition plays a huge part.  Some good used finds and some that look good but sound bad.  Returned/exchanged 4 of the 10 brand new albums purchased (don't get me started).

So while working on cleaning/static solutions I am also considering upgrades.  I do like the Dual but possibly a new TT in the future.  For now I would like to get a new cartridge.  The current, and most likely original, is a Shure m93e.  Researched many threads and found some possible replacements to be Shure m97xe or v15.  These would be used I presume as Shure is out of the cartridge business.  Audio technica at440mla, Ortofon Red?  I think I prefer new.  Anybody with 1219 experience would like to share an opinion?  

I have about $300 into it so far between purchase and professional tune-up.  I figure I could drop another $100 - $200 to see what a new cartridge can do for me.  Not hi end, I know, but good enough for now.  Not sure that I want to dive deeper with a new TT, RCM, etc.

So you're doing pretty good so far then. Good. Silent vinyl is wonderful but the magic is where its really at and you already caught on to that so are on the right track.

I don't want to make too much of surface noise, because the more and longer I do this the less I care about it. It really is about the magic. But in terms of surface noise clean is only a part of it. 

Most of what people call groove noise is really stylus jitter. Even tracking a perfectly smooth and silent groove excites the natural harmonic resonance of the whole stylus/cantilever/suspension/motor moving mass. Vibrations go up the cantilever, to the motor (coil or magnet) which being much more massive reflects it right back down to the stylus, which being light can only dissipate this energy by bouncing and hitting the groove walls. 

When you read reviews talking about how some really high end cartridge seems to make groove noise disappear, this is why. Take it from a guy who has gone from Stanton 681EEE to Benz to Koetsu this is definitely true. The really good carts not only float images free of the speakers they also seem to float the music free of the noise. Its not that the noise isn't there, but it is less and even more importantly its of a different character. Its like cheap cartridges aren't good enough to separate the two, the really good ones are. 

So a really good cartridge is totally worth the money. The question as always is more like, but is the cartridge really the best thing to upgrade? To answer that you have to listen carefully and make changes and get a handle on what in your system is doing what. What is contributing the most, what is detracting the least, from what you want. 

Then if its the cartridge, since you already know that for now at least surface noise is important then pay attention to comments about that in reviews. I would think AT would not be on my list, Ortofon maybe, Soundsmith for sure. 

With a budget that low however I would be looking at even cheaper tweaks that will really help, like a sand box, cones or footers under the turntable. 
I have about $300 into it so far between purchase and professional tune-up.

Missed that last part. Do yourself a favor and vow that from now on you will never pay anyone anything to set up your rig. In fact, don't even let anyone do it for you for free. Not unless they come over and show you what and let you do it yourself. Which you do not need anyway. Because its not that hard. Not hard to understand. Not hard to do.

For $50 you get the Mobile Fidelity Geo Disk. Actually you don't even need that, the templates can be downloaded and printed for free. GeoDisk does make it easier but not at all necessary. So your call. Then for $20 you get a Shure stylus force gauge. You can buy better for more if you want digital but the Shure works just fine. Then a bubble level and you are good to go.

I was skeptical about the Sweet Vinyl Sugercube SC-1 but since I could buy it from an online dealer with a good return policy I decided to give it a try.  I'll be damned but the thing does work as advertised.  It gets rid of static based clicks and pops although it doesn't do much for damaged grooves.  I don't notice any sound degradation although when you set the "processor" to the highest levels I do hear, with my ears at least, some compression starting to occur.  Sweet Vinyl recommends the processor levels to be set at 5, at that level I notice no degradation of the analog sound quality.  
 Audio technica at440mla, Ortofon Red? I think I prefer new. Anybody with 1219 experience would like to share an opinion?  

I have about $300 into it so far between purchase and professional tune-up. I figure I could drop another $100 - $200 to see what a new cartridge can do for me.

If you like new then it is no problem to buy vintage NOS (which is like new), right ? Audio-Technica is much better with Beryllium cantilevers, but this material is not available today, restricted for use for all manufacturers. Audio-Technica AT-ML150 OCC with Beryllium Cantilever and MicroLine stylus is something to look for. 

Ortofon M20FL Super with FineLine diamond is another great and cheap MM. 

Stanton 881s and Pickering XSV-3000 (both with Stereohedron styli) cartridges are superb too and you will hardly find anything better withing your price range.  

Turntable does not matter, the mass of the tonearm is important. Look for MM or MI the cartridges from the same era (70's/80s) for your vintage turntable. 

I was reading about that piece.  Very cool, glad it works for you.  If someone wanted to loan me one......
I would never add anything between a signal from your cartridge/phonostage and your amp. You don't even have a good cartridge yet, but already thinking about some strange devices designed for people with digital background, why? Analog playback is cartridge - phonostage - amp - speakers and nothing else in between. It was like that forever. Cartridge is one of the most important component, phono stage is very important too, if you don't have top quality cartridge and phonostage do not add any devices like Sweet Vinyl Sugercube SC-1 etc. Analog chain must be very simple and very short.

If you want unnatural clean sound then just use digital.   
millercarbon"Even tracking a perfectly smooth and silent groove excites the natural harmonic resonance of the whole stylus/cantilever/suspension/motor moving mass."

For you to say this means you do not understand the basic function of resonance in general and in Music Reproduction Systems in particular because that is not how naturall harmonic resonance works in any way at alll.

"Vibrations go up the cantilever, to the motor (coil or magnet) which being much more massive reflects it right back down to the stylus, which being light can only dissipate this energy by bouncing and hitting the groove walls."

The bouncing part is very funny you have a fertile, active, free spirited imagination!

Bouncy bouncy! Funny! 


Peter Ledermann is the president, CEO and chief designer at Soundsmith. Ledermann has decades of experience designing, building, and repairing phono cartridges. Please skip to 20 min for his discussion of jitter

Learn something new every day, eh?

He’s a little long-winded. Takes till about 28 min to show a diagram of the exact same thing I described in my post above.

Got it? If not let me know. There’s another one of the guy who designed the new Onkk Cue turntable talking about the exact same thing.

Lol chakster, easy now.  I don’t  have any plans to get one.  Although I would experiment if the price was right.  ;-)
Cartridge, etc. first.

Thanks yogi for the link, I’ll check it out.   Think I remember hearing that Grado cartridges are a little more lively than most. Is this a valid point? 
Wow yogi, that is a positively gushing review.  Those always make me go hmmm....   Do you have the Grado black 2?
I have the Grado Black 1 that I use as a backup cartridge and it sounds real nice. 75 bucks for that Grado is just a mere bag of shells compared to many of the others in the $100 to $200 budget that you want to spend!
Just wanted to let you know that I thought that your description of the magic of vinyl was so on point. 
Don't give up on your vinyl journey. You’ll get there, and it sounds like you’re well on your way. I would however recommend a new cartridge rather than a vintage or NOS one. Any of the new Grado prestige series like the Black2, a Nagaoka MP-110, Goldring, and Ortofon are good choices. Making sure that your turntable is set up correctly is a necessity, which millercarbon explained very well. Good luck with everything. 
You can still get the shure m97xe but you will pay dearly on ebay. I have one brand new sealed in the box but again you will I'm currently using the shure on my vintage Lenco l90, the one in my profile pic. It's a terrific cartridge and shares many qualities with the v15.  Any how I like my pro ject the classic sb with ortofon quintet red moving coil. Sounds nice to me. I hardly ever hear click and pops, but on rare occasion when I do, it does not bother me in the least. Not sure what the big deal is, even the most expensive of rigs will have some issues now and then with a particular record/ tic & pops, its unavoidable, all you can do is keep it at a bare minimum.some phono stages are better at lessening the degree of the noise than others. To be honest, the affordable musical fidelity lx lps is a fantastic little guy at 299.
To be honest, the occasional pops and ticks have never bothered me at all.
As long as not excessive and constant.

If the music has that magic then they just fade into Oblivion for me.

Even the best setup will suffer from it now and then.
It’s part of the parcel.

Common sense will tell you what is too much I would hope......

Anybody looking for absolutely no surface noise ever... Well there’s always digital.......
None of the mentioned cartridges have a proper stylus profile for correct reproduction of vinyl with less distortion and wider frequency response, those entry level Grado and Nagaoka have an Elliptical or even Conical profiles. The life span of such diamonds is very short (300-500 hrs) compared to Audio-Technica MicroLine that can be used for 1200 hrs or even longer.

Choosing an MM/MI cartridge first thing to check is Stylus Profile and Cantilever material. These things along with cartridge compliance responsible for the sound quality, ultralight mass and rigid cantilever with decent (nude) diamond profile like MicroLine is able to track micro details, deep bass, extended highs... it is all about accuracy.

Changing one entry level cartridge to another entry level cartridge make no sense at all (just waste of money), you will stay on the same low level. You already have entry level Shure cartridge, if you want something much better with huge difference in sound you need a better cartridge with better cantilever and better stylus tip. This is what you can find if you can spend about $400, this must be a serious upgrade.

For once I agree with Chak... Lol.

The m93e is actually not a terrible Cart, I have one in my collection, came with a table I bought I think.
However it really does not sound bad and tracks well so I think would be hard to beat it for same price bracket IMHO.

$400 is not a whole lot more and as Chak said it opens up a huge wide world of significantly better stylus profiles.

Buying another budget cart might change the flavour a little but will still be basically vanilla.
If you decide on a V15 and need a new stylus, I would recommend a JICO replacement. If you can get their SAS, it is a stellar performer. I have one on my V15 Type III and I love it. A lot of info is available out there. 
I recommend a Shure based product and basic technics direct drive.  I got mine for $10 at yard sale.  Added a custom matched NOS sperical needle and Stanton body $450.

I trust these guys advice and put your $ into the cartridge.  Then put your cheap turntable on bubble wrap and leave the cover open. 
PS: Almost all old vintyl is trash. Warped, poppie, scratched or all three. These need an amp with both low and high filters. I have a large collection of half speed masters from the 1980s and many of them are full of pops. 
The modern discs are good quality but they all have a charming floor of stone needles scaping through bumpy grooves.  Don't get me wrong!  I just sold an un opened MFSL UHQR limited edition (total 5000) Sgt Peppers for about $700. I bought it as an investnent for $55 in 1982, I think.   Shipping address AmConGen APO Frankfurt. 

I like SACD or MQA streaming bluetooth 5.0 from Tidal.  However,  I own half speed masters that were never re-issued.   Plenty of them from the old days. John Klemer's "Touch" is what I used as a sonic benchmark.  Still have a sealed copy. 

"PS: Almost all old vintyl is trash. Warped, poppie, scratched or all three."

I find the opposite to be true. Last night I spun Tom Rush "Tom Rush". I bought it a Goodwill for .99. Played nearly dead quiet. BTW great sonics on this lp.

Almost all old vintyl is trash. Warped, poppie, scratched or all three.

For this reason we have GRADING SYSTEM and according to this no matter how old is the vinyl, it can be MINT- condition or even STILL SEALED. So any vinyl release from the 60’s can be as new even in 2020. Just don’t buy VG condition and you’re fine. Actually even strong VG+ should be fine if the seller is honest.

An old pressing is superior to 99.9% all those modern re-issues made for audiophiles, because even if they are using original tape as a source, the tape degrade in time, but nicely stored original vinyl is still fresh as new. It’s a perfect media.

Honestly, most of the reissues made from the digital copy, some digital copies made long time ago when digital was sucks. Most of the re-issues are digitally remastered which is sucks if you love analog.

And finally: a lot of great records will never be properly reissued because the musical taste of audiophiles behind the reissue labels like Analogue Productions is very strange (at least not for younger generation). Also, in most cases, original master tape has been lost if it wasn’t a major label. You can’t buy half-speed mastering re-issue from analog source if the artist wasn’t big, but there are tons of great music released in the 60s/70s on very small independent labels, you can only buy an original or crappy re-issue made from the copy recorded from original vinyl, not from the original master tape.

Added a custom matched NOS sperical needle and Stanton body $450.

Sperical needle is the worst on the planet and must be avoided for any cartridges.
Stanton cartridges are great, but ONLY models with Stereohedron stylus (Not conical/spherical or elliptical). 
Stereohedron stylus alone cost about $450 NOS, but this is one of the best stylus profile in the world.  

If you decide on a V15 and need a new stylus, I would recommend a JICO replacement. If you can get their SAS, it is a stellar performer. I have one on my V15 Type III and I love it. A lot of info is available out there.

This is true, SAS is great and here is more information why, but the SAS stylus alone cost more than entire new cartridge or very close. Any other styli from JICO (except very expensive SAS) are nothing special. 

I bought a Audio Technica VM750SH (Shibata) recently for $400 to see what an economy MM sounded like. It’s not as good as my Deccas but it is no slouch. Excellent highs and detail and low surface noise. Took about 20 hours to settle in with the stage opening up and frequency response leveling out. I can recommend it as a step up from budget cartridges. If you buy from Amazon, you could return it if it isn't to your liking. 
Audio-Technica cartridges are great, but even at $400 it's possible to find one not with Aluminum cantilever like the VM750SH, but with something like Titanium Pipe or Beryllium Pipe. Also AT's MicroLine (like MicroRidge) is better than Shibata (which is also great profile).  
I strongly recommend the AT-VM95SH. I bought one of these recently when I thought I damaged my wonderful Soundsmith MIMC☆. I installed it and was pleasantly surprised. It is very good at rejecting surface noise, with a warm, meaty sonic signature. Nowhere near the level of my $2000 Soundsmith, but not 1/10th the performance either! The better cartridges take the surface noise and separate it from the music. DO NOT buy a spherical stylus. Heck, I don’t even like elliptical styli. I have many garage sale LPs. Many played with the spherical or elliptical styli so popular back in the day. A Shibata or Microridge/line will ride the groove in a different spot, potentially "reviving" old records. Try it, you wont be disappointed.

Audio-Technica AT-VM95SH Dual Moving Magnet Turntable Cartridge

This might help you with static on vinyl.
mapleshade static draining brush. This drains static away. Other brushes move it around. 
I love mine. 

Thanks all for the replies. 

Mike, the AT-VM95SH looks good.  Or, maybe the 95ML for a bit less.  I have been researching the Microline and Shibata types and the shape seems to make sense.  The Gallos still sounding great BTW!

The Mapleshade brush is interesting, seriously considering it.  There is a 30 day return policy.  Hopefully it works better than the carbon fiber brushes and the Zerostat.  Honestly now, is the Zerostat a scam?  It does nothing for my vinyl that I can tell.  Maybe Mapleshade will do a trade-up for my Zerostat.  ;-)   
Stanton and Pickering cartridges comes with a brush right in front of the stylus of the cartridge to protect the Stereohedron diamond from dust when you're playing records. 
Yes the Zerostat is a scam and you are absolutely right. The static electricity is being created while the record is playing by the friction of the stylus in the groove. You have to discharge the static while the record is playing and the best way to do that is this
It will also clear any incidental dust out of the way. If you use a dust cover and this device your new records will stay clean forever and you will never need to clean them. You might have to clean your stylus once in a blue moon. In my experience moving coil cartridges do not extenuate the pops and ticks as much when used with a high quality phono amp. 
Stylus "jitter" is a marketing term used by Peter Ledermann. The appropriate term is miss tracking which is painfully audible. 
Irregardless you are going to get the occasional pop, tick, stuck needle etc. It is just the nature of the game but on good pressings they are surprisingly rare and there is a magic you do not get with digital.