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Need advice on turntable cartridge upgrade / pre-amp

Greetings all,

My wife and I received an Ion Profile Pro turntable from friends as a wedding present late last year, and I've just gotten around to hooking this thing up.  While I recognize it's certainly not a high end turntable, for us I expect it will do the job, and am looking to get the best possible sound reproduction out of it.

Specifically, I'm wondering about the need (or lack thereof) for a pre-amp, as well as if it is possible to use a non-OEM cartridge on this table.

I tested the turntable with Nirvana's "Bleach" album from 1989, and it sounded very punchy and really great through my system.  I have a Harmon Kardon AVR-235 receiver, and a pair of JBL S26 studio series speakers, with a JBL E150 Northridge series subwoofer. 

While the Nirvana album sounded great and played at a great level, I got together with my father today and we threw on a couple of old King Crimson records, and I immediately noticed that while the sound quality was good, the volume was extremely low.  Is the seemingly low playback volume just a result of the mastering of these early seventies records?  I recall listening to these years ago on my dad's turntable through a 70 watt analog Onkyo amplifier, and if he turned the dial up to "2" the sound would be blasting.  My receiver is logarithmic, and either goes to 0 or +10 and I had the thing at -10 to get a reasonable volume level!  By comparison, I usually listen to CD's between -40 and -30 and they are LOUD at that level.

This turntable does have line-level RCA outs and, i'm assuming, possibly incorrectly, a built in pre-amp.  Can anyone tell me if that's the case, or should I invest in a quality pre-amp?

Finally, I'm unsure of how to replace the cartridge on this turntable: the manufacturer's website is frankly terrible, IMHO.  There support section for this turntable has almost no information, aside from a PDF of the user's manual.  It's difficult to get at the cartridge and I'm not sure how to get it off.  I'm hoping someone might be able to point me to a website/guide that might show how to remove/replace the cartridge?  Also, I'm wondering what type of cartridge mount this table uses, and if there are any Audio-Technica cartridges that might be available that would work with this turntable's tone arm?

I realize this got long and there's a lot of questions here, but sincerely appreciate any and all advice!  Thanks very much in advance.

Need advice on turntable cartridge upgrade / pre-amp

Reply #1
I think twice about upgrading the cartridge.  If you're going to upgrade, I'd consider upgrading the turntable too.  (And, you'd probably have to buy a preamp also). 

I don't know why it's so quiet.  I would expect the line-level outputs to be about the same as any other line-level output (from a CD player, tape player, DVD player, etc.).  Maybe those records were simply recorded "quiet" with lots of dynamic range for occasional peaks?  (As you may know, most modern CDs and vinyl is over-compressed and loud.)

And, I don't know anything about that turntable, except I just looked it up, and it has a built-in preamp.  If there were no preamp, you'd hear nothing (or or almost nothing), assuming it's a magnetic cartridge.  A phono preamp also applies the RIAA equalization to un-do the equalization applied during recording.  Without RIAA EQ (if you run a phono preamp through a mic preamp) you will get too much treble an no bass...  It's unlistenable with no EQ.

In the old days, every receiver had a built-in phono preamp.  Now it's rare.  Now, it's usually a separate little box  Or, some turntables, like yours, now have preamps built-in.

Most phono cartridges are magnetic...  Anything from Shure or AT, etc. is magnetic.  It's rare, but some cheap phonographs/turntables may use a ceramic cartridge, which has higher output and does not neeed a preamp.  Ceramic cartridges also have a natural frequency response curve that approximates RIAA equalization.  If your turntable does have a ceramic cartridge, an upgrade is impractical, as you'd have to add a preamp internally (connected directly to the cartridge).

There are two or 3 standard phono-cartridge mounting methods.  The most common is with 2 screws on 1/2 inch centers.    There are also P-Mount cartridges (which just plug-in, it think... I've never owned one.)  And some have the cartridge integrated into the tonearm "shell", and these just plug into the tonearm.

As a price-reference, I like use Shure's best cartridge (M97).  In the U.S., you can find it online for about $60.  I don't see much point in spending more than the cost of Shure's best just to play "scratchy old analog" vinyl.

I haven't purchased  turntable (or cartridge) in about 30 years, so I can't recommend a turntable.  But my feeling is, that you can get a good one for about $300 USD.  Again, I don't see the point in going overboard to play records.  You can also get good deals on good used turntables.

Need advice on turntable cartridge upgrade / pre-amp

Reply #2
P.S.[/b][/u] says you have non-replaceable magnetic cartridge.

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