analogue market oddities. variable gain vs. fixed

We all know and lots of us think that it's good to have a variable gain phono. Sometimes we will use the lowest gain setting of all possible. Will that mean that we've just paid twice for what we use right now?

On my understanding higher gain phonos give us the possibility to get for the same price lower-output versions and claim to improve the sonic performance of our analogue setups. On the same time, If we use a variable gain phono to increase the gain we a)either turn on an additional amplification stage(s), 2)or step-up transformer(s). In either case we add more harmonic distortions with each step of amplification we bring.
The last described disadvantages will dissapear if the fixed gain phono(with one amlification stage)is used.

That's why I think that phono should be with fixed gain and should be a function of cartridge i.e.

phono = f(particular cartridge) if sonics is on the first place or
phono = f(any cartridge) if convenience is more important than sonics.

Please discuss this analogueaudioscience theorem or formulas and let me know if there is something wrong.
The ultimate proof is in the sound. That is why all this is so difficult to comprehend. Expert approaches to problem solving will undoubtedly render the best results. Given this fact, only those truly outstanding efforts at problem solving must be followed (ie. product purchases). Overall, good design and quality control practices will bring consistency. Consistent phono performance should be the designer's goal. Either way, the gain must be correctly set or else noise and distortion will take over and get carried on to the following components. Pretty simple, isn't it?
There's two schools of thought:

1) fixed parameters (gain, capacitance, impedance)

2) variable parameters

Does this remind you of tubes vs transistors?

If you're just going to stay with one type of cartridge, then #1 makes sense. However, if you don't know then #2 is the option, unless you're seriously compromising sound quality. As far as reality goes, most if not all the top phono preamps (Klyne, Manley, etc) have variable parameters. You can get good, fixed parameter units (like the Van Alstine phono pre) if you know you're going to stick to either MM or high output MCs that have 47 KOhm impedance.