Hey man, not to disrespect you, but after spending $1000 on Seth's great machines you should have given the man a call or email and outline your situation with him before jumping on a board and saying that the machine is not performing.
No one better than the builder will give you a on point solution.
To say the machine run at 4 volts unloaded means basically nothing, since you can't really tell the right voltage and how a machine runs your needles after is loaded.
a 9 FT is usually nothing to worry about, sometimes by angling the spring or contact screw a bit brings it back to "0".
In reality numbers don't mean much when you have mastered your tattooing technique.
Regarding sound, all machines sound different so to judge a machine by the sound is a hard call, unless the machine sounds like a choppy chain saw.
Give Seth the opportunity to help you, I've realized that most users' problems are due to the user's inexperience regarding certain aspects the machine rather than a problem in the machine itself.
Not to kiss ass but I own some of his machines and they are solid running gear. I probably should have kept my mouth shut but couldn't help.