While checking the tracking weight of the deck earlier this week I had the nagging feeling that the tonearm was not pivoting across the platter as easily as perhaps it could. Moving when cueing felt stiff, whether the cue control was lifted or not. I wondered if this was contributing to some of the sibilant distortion I’ve been hearing lately.
So I took the deck apart a second time today, to have a look at re-greasing the internal mechanisms with Lithium white grease as an experiment to see whether freeing up the mechanisms might help tame the subtle distortions I’ve been hearing. I also noted that the platter spindle didn’t want to continue spinning freely in its socket even when the drive belt was removed, so for good measure I removed the spindle and greased its socket.
After putting everything back together I rechecked the cartridge/stylus alignment and tracking weight. The latter was much easier to set, and confirmed that the arm moves much more freely on its pivot than it did. So as a test I’ve started playing the first side of Mike Oldfield’s “Five Miles Out”. It’s a very treble-heavy recording, but it is now much less distorted and demonstrates much more extension beyond 10KHz. It’s also worth noting too that I’m hearing a lot less rumble in quieter moments on the disc – so it seems that greasing the spindle bearing/socket too was a success.
Interestingly low end rumble from the LP itself is much more obvious – different tones coming from different sides of the disc would indicate mastering or manufacturing issue rather than motor bearing noise being passed through.
I’ve also found that tracking with 2g force rather than the recommended 1.5g seems to get more control over the treble, and seems to improve overall dynamics, giving drums more immediacy and impact without dominating or smearing the mix.
Maybe in time I’ll do a complete stripdown for a proper cleanup and to get the old grease out before applying new. At least at this point in time I’ve confirmed the theory of what I wanted to achieve – for which I’m rather happy!