Weak Link in Vinyl Playback

Hi Everyone,

I’m looking for some input on a weak link in my system, mostly in regards to my vinyl playback chain in a 12’x11’ room.

I currently have a Technics SL-1700 MK1 with an AT-VM95ML cartridge. The turntable is connected to an iFi Zen Phono. The phono is connected to a Schiit Saga S via 3 ft. Blue Jeans BJC LC-1 cable, and the Saga runs to a single Schiit Vidar by the another set of the same cable. The Vidar is connected to Elac Debut B6.2’s via 10 ft. Belden 50000UE cable (as an aside, my digital path is Pro Ject S2 Pre Box Digital connected by the same 3ft. interconnects to the Saga>Vidar>speakers). I’ve connected a sub previously (a Martin Logan Grotto I that I inherited) to the Saga in the past, but am currently running without it.

My concern is that while the digital path sounds full to me, at least as much as can be expected, the vinyl path sounds a bit thin and weak. I guess I’d describe it as kind of lacking energy. My gut tells me the Saga S having 0 gain in both the passive and buffer mode (I run it in passive mode because it sounds more lifelike to me but I’ve used the buffer in the past as well) is the reason for this, but I’m not positive. I’m ready to upgrade to the Freya S if that’s the solution, but I didn’t want to start throwing money at a problem without really narrowing it down first. The Zen phono is set to MM and gain 1, which should be correct for my cartridge, the interconnects aren’t overly long (the speaker cable being 10’ isn’t too big a deal, I think?), the Vidar should be driving my inefficient speakers with no issue and judging by the digital path, it is. 

I’m hoping someone here can weigh in on what would make the biggest positive impact in my listening and give me the oomph I think I’m missing. For what it’s worth, I plan on doing some room treatment down the road, but that’s not what I’m looking for advice on at the moment.




That is for cartridge alignment in the horizontal plane and is super helpful. What you also should look at is for the vertical alignment of your cartridge and tonearm. That same gauge could work if tipped on its side looking to see if the tonearm is level with the record using that center line to eye it all up.


You’ll have to excuse this guy’s monotonal voice, but the info is super helpful. It discusses exactly what I was poorly trying to explain.

@nlitworld stupid question maybe, but how can I check if tonearm is level without the record spinning?

@vonhelmholtz I say this because getting analog right can be an unexpectedly expensive endeavor.

Well said, I could not agree more!!!!

@owl9113 Don't turn on the turntable, but set the needle down on a record and place the gauge up next to the tonearm. Then visually inspect from the side whether the tonearm is level in relation to platter. Pretty quick and easy.

I've been reading your thread and throughout you share how your TT sounds vs. your Digital chain, but you never mention what your DAC and digital source is.  For some of us who may have insight into your challenge may benefit in knowing what you're comparing it to.