Anyone know anything about setting up a turntable?

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ArmyOfQuad

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I've been having bad luck trying to get help anywhere else - may as well start asking here.

I've been trying to finally get together a decent turntable that is properly setup and calibrated and all, and every time I try this, it turns into a situation where I throw money at it, I try a few things, and it all fails miserably and I end up with something half assed and not at all what I have in mind.

It started with the cartridge. I had an opportunity to put some money into a decent upgrade, and decided....may as well get a nice MC cartridge. I decided to take a look at what Ortofon had to offer, as at the time I was in possession of an Ortofon MCA-76 head amp. And that's how I've ended up with an Ortofon Rondo Bronze cartridge.

At some point a friend gave me his Luxman PD-121 turntable. I've been happy with it....but it came with this rather crappy Denon tonearm on it. It's one of those turntables that would come without a tonearm, to give the flexibility of buying it separately. The Denon was a bit wobbly, and also didn't have enough counterweight for the Rondo Bronze cartridge. I've half-assed it for the past 10 or so years by adding extra weight onto the end....but while that's worked, it seems that I'm not operating within the expected specs, so I can't expect it's performing to it's potential. This has always bothered me. (Although....I suppose the tone arm is adequate for the CD-4 signet cartridge. But even then, I don't like how loosey goosey the arm is - although some have suggested it's supposed to be)

So, this has led me down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out how I can pair another tone arm to this turntable. Vinyl is in fashion. You can find documentation for just about anything online. Forums are filled with audiophiles that seem to suggest they know how to setup turntables. I figured...how hard can this be? But anytime I look to get advice, all I'm met with is generic suggestions that I'll need to research things to make sure they pair nicely. And sure, friendly advice is appreciated. But.....like....duh! How is telling someone that they need to pair things properly, who is asking how to pair things properly, actually offering any help?

I'm not sure if people are just not looking to be helpful, or if all these audiophile types that hang out on audiophile forums like audio karam or the hoffman forums are just idiots that don't actually have a clue what they're talking about. I'm not looking to put anyone down....but when I've spent 10 years looking for advice on these things, and have gotten a bunch of useless tips, and not a solid piece of advice on anything relating to pairing these things, well....I'm beyond a bit frustrated at this point. Especially after all this....

So....one thing I did find out was that the Ortofon Rondo Bronze cartridge will not pair with an MCA-76 head amp. And that information came from Ortofon's support. Basically, the output of their modern cartridges is more than their older ones, so they won't pair. That led to me ditching the MCA-76 head amp, and I do now have a more modern pre-amp with both MC and MM inputs, that works well with my cartridges. So I decided I may as well turn to Ortofon support again and see what they would recommend as far as pairing a tonearm with the cartridge and my turntable. The support rep recommended an SME 3009 tone arm as a common choice of tonearm for the luxman turntable, that would be a suitable pairing with the rondo bronze. And so I dropped $700 on ebay and bought one.

What arrived is a tonearm with a base plate, and 4 tiny wood screws, and instructions to use a guide to drill a hole in a wooden base, and use the wood screws to secure the base. Which is not at all how a luxman turntable works. Mind you, I did try to do all my homework before ending up with a bad match like this. I cannot express how frustrating it is to go around in circles asking anyone and everyone how to buy parts that will work together, download every piece of documentation you can find on the equipment you have, read it all over, and after following advice, having a bunch of expensive parts that will not work! The turntable documentation tells you how to remove the part that has the slot to add in a tonearm - doesn't tell you what tonearms will work with it. Anyways - before I pulled the trigger on the ebay auction, I did compare the pictures in the auction with pictures online, as I did find examples online of this tonearm in use with luxman pd-121 turntables, so add pictures to the recommendation from ortofon, and I figured, there must be a way for this to work, it should be safe to drop the money on the item. But NOOOO! Not at all! The surface I have to work with on the luxman is metal/plastic. Not a desireable surface to be mounting things with wood screws.

But, ok.....this is what I have now. This is what others have recommended. This is what there are pictures of onilne - and I do see it adhered to the metal/plastic base with screws. So....may as well give this a go. So I carefully drilled 4 holes in the base, and carefully broke the heads off of 4 tiny wood screws.

Ok - off to the hardware store to buy more screws.

I bought 3 packs of screws. One pack of slightly heavier screws that looked like they should fit, and would hopefully have more strength to not break off the head, one pack the same size but a little longer than the original screws, and one pack that were pretty close to the original screws.

Bigger screws wouldn't fit.

Longer screws gave more length that would have to be secured in before breaking - more opportunity for fail.

Plan C ended up working - just long enough to grab in before they could get stuck.

So, I have the tonearm secured to the base.

But then I find out - neither of the 2 counterweights that came with this tonearm work for the ortofon cartridge. One is too light, the other too heavy. Neither will balance it properly no matter the adjustments made.

Great.

So, the tonearm that Ortofon recommended to me to pair nicely with my turntable and cartridge, pairs with neither! It takes a bit of half assing to get it on the turntable, and the ortofon cartridge is in a no mans land between the 2 provided counterweights. And from looking online, it seems those are the 2 normal counterweights for SME tonearms - I've not found an in between size.

So I'm back to having to modify weights if I want this to work.

So then I figure, ok then, maybe I can get the signet cartridge on this for now.

And once I start balancing that, I find that, even with the tone arm lift lever in the down position, the needle hovers up over the platter.

Which is ironic given that the instruction manual suggests the opposite problem might exist, that an added platform might be needed if the platter is over a certain height.

So, once again, I throw a chunk of money at my system, and all I get is crap that doesn't do what I expect.




Is there anyone out there that knows how to setup a turntable, how to pair these things, that can give me any solid advice?

And sure, at this point perhaps the best advice many could give is to sell it off, and just buy a new turntable. But - that's typically the answer to give to someone "that doesn't want to bother with this", which suggests an element of laziness. That's not really the case for me - I welcome chances to learn a bit, I'm up for the opportunity to put a bit of effort into this. I just actually want the right knowledge. Like I said, I've gone online and pulled up the documentation and specs for all the equipment I'm working with. I've gone to the forums and asked for help and advice. I've gone to the manufacturers. I've turned to every resource I can find out there. But all I end up with is vague advice, or specifications that relate to the specific equipment it's about, without any useful information on how to use it with other equipment.

There's got to be some people out there still that have knowledge of these things that can pass it along.
 

jefe1

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Is there an audiophile or high end stereo store in your area that sells and services turntables ?
Maybe with an old geezer...like many of us.... that's been around turntables for years who can help?
Thats really disappointing about the arm advice you got from support I would be really pissed about it.
Ultimately I think you are going to have to buy a matched set up from such a place
I took my Rega to the store I had bought it a decade earlier and got a new Ortofon cartridge installed. They had the Rega shim to raise the tonearm height to match the taller new cartridge.
You are just killing yourself when you should be spending time enjoying your music.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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Unfortunately, I don't know where to begin there when it comes to finding more help. I do a search, and I can find a few audio related shops nearby - but I find things like car stereo installation, or stereo/tv repair......I don't know what I'm getting there. For example - I once took a tape player to what appeared to be a reputable stereo repair shop, because it was noisy and crackly. A few days later, they called me back that it was ready, charged me a bunch of money for cleaning and alignment, I got it home and I now had clean and aligned crackle. Seems to me they didn't know anything more than basic electronics to get something working, and basic maintenance such as cleaning and aligning the heads. It seems we live in a world with bullshit artists that know just enough to appease the majority of the population that are happy listening to records on their crosley cruisers, appearing to be experts to them, but revealed to be hacks when presented with a real challenge. Simply....I've not found anyone trustworthy to work on my equipment, and don't know how I can go about finding someone, so I'd rather learn to do it myself. But.....can't seem to find the information to learn to do it myself.

Not sure how any of us are expected to keep these technologies and hobbies alive, if the only option is to find someone else to do it, when I can't even find someone else that can answer some basic questions. If none of us learn these things, the knowledge will all be gone someday, and then what?
 

ArmyOfQuad

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jimfisheye

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I calibrated my setup with assistance from HiFi News Analog Test LP (The Producers Cut) and Cardas Frequency Sweep and burn-in record. Everything is pretty dialed in. I think I remember the 2 tone resonance tests being the most difficult to nail. Both those and being able to track the full 15db tracking tests at all 3 spots (start, middle, end of side) require a pretty critical setting of the tracking force. (I can't remember what that was. Probably 1.something gram. Maybe pushing towards 2 and I think this is expected from these Benz Micro cartridges. This was all some years ago now.)

Cliche A/B test. I put on the MFSL stereo of Dark Side next to the bluray release from 2012 and it was eerie how exact of a match they were. (Says something about very little generation loss in both of those divergent signal paths.)

Benz Micro MC-3
Linn Basik LV-X
AR Model E
Mark Levinson No. 28

All Ebay snipes years ago. Very much a "scavenger's special" system! The table isolates. No feedback of any kind. I could literally jump up and down in the room hard. The tonearm is also kind of low budget and was barely able to be adjusted into calibration. Absolute PITA. Would not recommend. Got it there though! Not sure what I would put together specifically if money were no object.
 

markshan

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Man, tonearm matching to tables and plinths is advanced stuff. I've been playing with them for decades and feel like that endeavor would challenge my skill set. Maybe at this point your best bet (I hope this isn't discouraging, I don't intend it to be) is to sell everything you have now and get a better plug and play setup like a midline Rega or Pro-Ject that has the arm, and cart already installed and ready to go. Some people get great pleasure from tinkering and futzing to get everything just right. Others get the pleasure from simply listening. Neither approach is wrong.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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Hmmm....cool design. May have to file that away for a future option.


Ok....so I got some further helpful tips on other forums, and here's where I'm at currently....


So it seems that this tonearm was originally packaged with a 110g counterweight. I had assumed both weights this came with came with the arm originally, but on 2nd thought, it seems that perhaps the 180 was purchased separately by the former owner for the cartridge that was previously used with it. Someone pointed out there were 90, 110, and 130g weights made for this arm, so that suggested that a 130g weight would be the right weight for this arm.

Turns out - the piece of copper pipe I was using with the Denon tonearm to modify it to work with the ortofon cartridge fits perfectly over the 110g weight, and weights 24g, bring the weight into the correct range I need. So....I'm back to the same modification, heh. Although this time I'm within the spec of the arm.

Also, it seems that there would have been boards manufactured for this turntable that would have screw holes to accept SME tonearms, a detail that would have been helpful from the ortofon rep that recommended this arm. But....ok....not their equipment. Also, that would have been helpful information for luxman to include in their documentation for the turntable. Anyways....I'm happy with my drilling and screwing modification, it got the job done.

Now I'm just left with the height issue, which I have a set of star screwdrivers on order that should arrive tomorrow from amazon. Some tweaking and fine tuning, and I should be in business.
 

EricKalet

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You are just killing yourself when you should be spending time enjoying your music.
This is just so accurate and right on the money.

I've never owned a record player, and the only one we have in the house is my son's, which was a basic $100 player that connected right up to one of my "older" AVR's. I wish you the best in figuring your dilemma out, wish I could help you beyond stating the obvious of IMO buying a new record player and starting from there. I'm saddened to have read that you've spent a lot of money to end up at several roadblocks.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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I guess when it comes down to it, I'm a tinkerer. Which is my downfall. But it's also why I have a modified teac reel to reel deck to convert Q8s. At some point during the chase for perfection, I settle for something and find moments of enjoyment.
 

Q4Fan

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I guess when it comes down to it, I'm a tinkerer. Which is my downfall. But it's also why I have a modified teac reel to reel deck to convert Q8s. At some point during the chase for perfection, I settle for something and find moments of enjoyment.
Here's a handy little tool to check cartridge alignment.
 

MidiMagic

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I know about this, but I don't know any of those units you have.

I made a general purpose page on the subject:


Others might benefit from it.

In your case, the main thing you must pay attention to when mounting is the distance between the centerline of the arm pivot and the centerline of the record spindle.

When all else fails, read the destructions. :)
 

tonyE

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Unfortunately, I don't know where to begin there when it comes to finding more help. I do a search, and I can find a few audio related shops nearby - but I find things like car stereo installation, or stereo/tv repair......I don't know what I'm getting there. For example - I once took a tape player to what appeared to be a reputable stereo repair shop, because it was noisy and crackly. A few days later, they called me back that it was ready, charged me a bunch of money for cleaning and alignment, I got it home and I now had clean and aligned crackle. Seems to me they didn't know anything more than basic electronics to get something working, and basic maintenance such as cleaning and aligning the heads. It seems we live in a world with bullshit artists that know just enough to appease the majority of the population that are happy listening to records on their crosley cruisers, appearing to be experts to them, but revealed to be hacks when presented with a real challenge. Simply....I've not found anyone trustworthy to work on my equipment, and don't know how I can go about finding someone, so I'd rather learn to do it myself. But.....can't seem to find the information to learn to do it myself.

Not sure how any of us are expected to keep these technologies and hobbies alive, if the only option is to find someone else to do it, when I can't even find someone else that can answer some basic questions. If none of us learn these things, the knowledge will all be gone someday, and then what?
How are you looking for the "audio shops"?

I'd suggest you look at some High End Audio manufacturer web pages and look up their dealers. When you find nearby dealers, call them and ask them if they know of someone who works on turntables.

I got my Linn upgraded that way, buying used parts and talking to the US Linn rep and three nearby Linn dealers. Also, as I read your posts, the dealer that sold you the cartridge did the installation. Did you call them to find out if they could also do the arm installation?

I also don't understand why the Ortofon Rondo Bronze MC cartridge, with an output of 0.5 mV, won't match with the MCA-76 step up transformer. Recall that what it will do is step up the voltage up to Moving Magnet levels and match the load impedance so you still need an MM phono preamp. Some folks prefer the use of such transformers, others prefer phono preamps with sufficient gain and appropriate loading. That MCA-76 is worth some money.

And I sure hope you're not using one of those "phono preamps to DAC USB" things.... terrible stuff.
 
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ArmyOfQuad

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A little update. The SME 3009 tonearm did not work out in the end. It wasn't as described, it had previously been worked on and repaired poorly, so I initiated an eBay return. Which was frustrating, as the seller refused to cooperate, so I had to wait for 3 business days to pass for eBay to step in and force it. I hate eBay sometimes.

So, that left me back where I started, and I wasn't about to buy another eBay tonearm and repeat the cycle. I'm sick of chasing the dream, and always ending up with crap.

So I called up a nearby audio shop that someone recommended on another forum and that looked pretty good from their site, https://www.techhifi.com/. I figured it was a good sign that they're an Ortofon dealer, and my main cartridge is an Ortofon. After talking, they suggested I bring in what I have, so we can go over our options. Mark, the owner, took a look at what I have, and confirmed what I had suspected for quite some time - the Denon tonearm my Luxman came with really is in poor shape, and has some serious issues with the bearings. It seems having the Luxman serviced would be problematic - there's a current shortage of tonearms with Jelco going under, and he seems to have reservations about the amount of money I'd potentially have to put into the turntable vs. the value of it when fixed up.

I had been considering the possibility of finding a 2 tonearm solution. But, I realized that means chasing down another piece of vintage equipment, with who knows what problems, and likely having to buy at least 1 of the tonearms separately, and dealing with the joys of buying used tonearms yet again, and having everything serviced, and put together, and.....

...it just ain't happening.

So, I did the only thing I really could do at this point, and picked up something new to have the Ortofon cartridge put on, and put CD4 on the back burner for another day. Which will probably mean a 2nd turntable dedicated to CD4.
I ended up going with an NAD c588, which is having the Ortofon cartridge installed on it currently and will hopefully be ready to pickup during the week.

Perhaps another day I'll chase down a tonearm that will work with the Luxman and Signet, and start going down that rabbit hole of crap again. I dunno. But....at least I'll have something to listen to 90 percent of my vinyl collection on for now.
 

tonyE

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...

Perhaps another day I'll chase down a tonearm that will work with the Luxman and Signet, and start going down that rabbit hole of crap again. I dunno. But....at least I'll have something to listen to 90 percent of my vinyl collection on for now.
I don't understand.

What prevents the new turntable from playing CD-4 records? is it the Ortofon cartridge? Why don't you install the Signet cartridge on the turntable?

Now, not to really rain on your parade... but as I recall, a cartridge with a line contact Shibata stylus will easily track to 30khz which is what you need for CD-4 records. It will also play very nice with stereo LPs.

You could look for a used, better turntable and install the Ortofon in there and then use the Signet in the NAD.

It's only money and imagine how High End will you be when you need to reach over and plug/unplug cables to select your phono source. It won't get any Higher Ender than that. That's how I select amps and speakers, no switches for Yours Truly.
 

ArmyOfQuad

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The Ortofon is my better cartridge when it comes to all things that aren't CD4. But I've yet to get it to pair nicely with a demodulator.

I've done a lot of stumbling through purchases that I thought I researched enough, and learning along the way. This is a bit of a story....

I had picked up a Mitsubishi linear tracking turntable with a Signet TK7Su cartridge from Cai when I first wanted to get into CD4. It was a great starting point for me. Unfortunately, that Signet cartridge had developed a slight problem, perhaps in the shipping despite how well packed the thing was. One of the channels would occasionally go dead - but a slight tap on the cartridge and it would come back to life. I lived with that for a bit. But that started me on my path to looking for a modern cartridge to replace it with.

Although it's not always true and perhaps a bad habit to get into - often times more expensive = better quality. Or at least when looking within the same brand, the higher end cartridges are more expensive. But then there are things that come to mind when thinking about gaging quality by price - such as printers that have the cheaper version be the more expensive version programmed to print slower, or the line of sound cards that were all the same but the more expensive one had features unlocked, which resulted in a lawsuit when people started figuring out how to unlock the features. But I'm going on memory on those things, and am getting sidetracked. Guess I'm acknowledging that it's not always as simple as more money = better - but to an extent I would use price and budget as part of my buying process, with an amount of research as well. Anyways - I had known certain audio technica cartridges were supposed to do CD4 well, and so I started looking at higher priced ones. And I remember at the time seeing at the top of Audio Technica's line an AT-OC9ML II. It was rated with a frequency response up to 50kHz. I figured, ok, top of the line Audio Technica, does the frequency response I need, I'll buy one of those and that will have me in CD4 heaven.

And that's how I learned about moving coil cartridges, and the existence of step up transformers and head amps. I ended up with a brand new expensive cartridge I couldn't use.

Having blown my upgrade budget on the cartridge, the only thing I really could do was find the cheapest step up solution I could find that would work with it, and hope that would be good enough until I could figure out the next phase. I ended up with a step up transformer that did well enough to use it for stereo playback, but the CD4 was sandpaper. The transformer probably wasn't rated for higher frequencies.

So, the next area of focus was finding a step up solution that would do better than the cheapo eBay special I had found, and hope that would work. After all, the cartridge does the correct frequency range. And one day I found an Ortofon MCA-76 head amp on ebay, with a CD4 button on it. I figured - ok - MC head amp, that acknowledges CD4 playback - surely that's rated for the correct frequency range. And I bought it.

I don't remember pairing that head amp with the Audio Technica - but it must not have worked. And I guess I came to the conclusion - if the head amp has a CD4 mode button on it, and I'm getting sandpaper, it can't be the head amp - must be the cartridge. And that put my focus on another cartridge upgrade. And so when my next bonus came, I was all excited - going to do it right this time, drop more money that I have before on an upgrade, and buy the cartridge that would make this all work, and tie it all together. And I decided - lets go with Ortofon. What would pair better with an Ortofon head amp than an Ortofon cartridge? And with my naive process of moving up the list of cartridges by quality as the prices increase until I got to my budget, I landed on the Rondo Bronze. Which definitely has the frequency response range to do CD4.

To my disappointment, I found that inner grooves turned to sandpaper. Very noticeably on US pressed CD4, with minimal breakups that were infrequent but noticeable on Japanese CD4.

That's when I complained to Ortofon, and they filled me in that their modern cartridges have a higher output than the vintage cartridges the head amp was meant to work with.

Throughout this, I kept the Signet around on a separate headshell, swapping and rebalancing them on the Mitsubishi quite frequently. But at some point, the needle began to wear, and replacement shibata needles for the Signet were gone.

But I got lucky on that one. I sent an email to Audio Technica, since they owned Signet, asking about the possibility of tracking down a replacement stylus. I managed to get a hold of someone that was very generous - he looked through some old stock, and he found a cartridge, and needle - although they weren't paired, he found the cartridge with the wrong needle, but then found the right needle on another cartridge. Audio Technica could no longer legally sell anything under the Signet brand, so he gave it to me. And that's how I got my current Signet cartridge. No more tapping the cartridge every now and then to keep it working on both channels.

Ok.....so after all that money and agony, I landed on swapping the carts. This would help preserve the life of the unreplaceable Signet stylus, as I possibly had the last one. And that was fine and dandy, but then I would notice that the linear tracking arm adjustments weren't completely silent in quiet passages and between tracks. It wasn't horrible, or massively intrusive. People had told me, oh, you need to lubricate it. And I had. But still - the design of that type of linear tracking turntable requires periodic arm adjustments. And that's when I started becoming more aware of the flaws of linear tracking tables. It was a great turntable for what it was, and it tracked CD4 great. I even asked Cai about it, and he admitted that it was part of the reason he didn't stick with linear tracking when he upgraded from it - he decided to go with a long arm for his next turntable. Although he had considered going with a higher end linear tracking table that would use a air compressor to float the arm on air. Anyways, this led to me considering that throughout time, many high end turntables were made with a standard pivot arm, and perhaps this linear tracking thing was more of a trendy thing. There are those that will go into lengthy descriptions about how due to the way it works, it ends up always being just a little off of the null point as it's constantly adjusting to catch up. So - I figured - the majority of the world likes a pivoting tone arm, many high end options are there.....maybe I should go back to that.

And then an opportunity presented itself. A Co-worker that I'd talk music with once quipped - I oughta just give you my old turntable and records, if you convert them for me. How many you got? Oh.....not many. Deal. And that's how I ended up with the Luxman, and 3 huge moving boxes of "not much". I guess the tone arm with it's problematic bearings was able to hold up enough to the playback I gave it - although I tended to keep playback on those cartridges to a minimum - I always kept around cheaper equipment for day to day background listening.

At some point I sold off the step up transformer and Ortofon head amps - the Audio Technica MC cartridge was traded to a friend in exchange for him building my speakers, the Mitsubishi turntable was sold off. And....yeah....that's pretty much what I've been dealing with.....a Luxman with a Denon arm in poor shape, that somehow still tracked good enough to do many of the CD4 conversions I did, and with added weight of a copper pipe to balance it out when using it with the Ortofon. But - I was never happy with it, seeing the cartridge slump a little to one side when resting in the holder not in use - although it would somehow sit properly on the record when playing back. But what could I do, between dealing with a few years of data migrations that resulted in my job becoming redundant, moving across the country and re-establishing myself on the east coast, and working up towards home ownership, and then redoing the electric in the house when I discovered the hidden knob and tube wiring in the attic. But now it's time to upgrade the system again, and get something right for once.

So.....yeah.....I've always considered my Ortofon cartridge my superior/more expensive cartridge that almost does CD4 but just can't quite do CD4, and the Signet the irreplaceable CD4 cartridge that should be salvaged by only using it for CD4.

But.....perhaps a modern Ortofon step up device between the Rondo Bronze and the Marantz CD400.......if only I could find something to try before buying.....
 
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