Cartridge Loading and Gain

Help! I have an old low output .2mv/1khz/5cm/sec dynavector cartridge, along with a lehman black cube phono stage, batvk5i preamp, levinson 331amp, and innersound eros speakers with active crossover and amp (mk1 version). The innersound amp was replaced, and the replacement amp has significantly lowered gain. While this works okay for cd playback, i now do not have enough gain to play my vinyl at reasonable volume. My question is twofold: what is the correct loading for this cartridge? The cube has a variety of loads for mc cartrdges - 47kohm, 470 ohm, 100ohm, and 80 ohm. I have read that mc cartridges prefer loading in the 100 range but would like some advice on this. I don't think the loading will impact the gain, so part two is, how do I fix this gain issue so that I can enjoy vinyl again with the least amount of capital expenditure?

I see my options as the following: higher output cartridge (I really like the sound of the low output dynavector though), higher gain phono stage (the lehman has 60db of gain and the BAT has 20 db so I'm not sure if I can find a phono stage with that much more gain for reasonable money), three - upgrade the innersound amp (a very expensive proposition) or four - some sort of step up device before the phono stage. I would appreciate any suggestions or thoughts on this matter -

Thanks - Scott
Hi, Scott:

I also own the Lehmann Audio Black Cube (with the larger PWX power supply), and use it with a Grado Reference cartridge (4.5 mV output). While the Black Cube has adjustable gain up to 60dB, which should be enough for your Dynavector cartridge, most of the comments I have either read or heard suggest that the Black Cube is not the best phono preamp for moving coil cartridges (although it performs very well with higher output moving magnet and moving iron cartridges). The criticisms of the Black Cube, comparing the sound with moving coil cartridges vs. moving magnet units, is that there is less air and reduced dynamics with moving coil cartridges. I have not personally had a chance to make an A-B comparison, so please take these "second hand" observations for what they are worth. If true, however, you may find that you will be better served with a different phono preamp if you want to keep your Dynavector.

Most moving coil cartridges will work satisfactorily with 100 ohms loading. The only way to really know if 100 ohms loading and 60-dB of gain will work satisfactorily is to try it and let your ears be the judge. If you don't like what you hear, and want to keep your Dynavector, you might want to look through the Audiogon archives for posts about phono preamps that work well with moving coil cartridges (such as the Acoustech, the Coph Nia, etc.).
Your cart has a low enough output that it cannot be expected to work its best with a modestly priced phono stage and no step-up transformer. I think SD is right - if want to keep the cart, you should look into improving your phono preamplification situation, rather than depending on having an unusually high gain power amp. This could still involve trying a step-up first, even if you switch phonostages later on in addition. Of course, it might be simpler to just get a medium-output MC cart instead, but simpler in your case might not be better...
Thanks for the assistance guys. Sounds like if I want to keep the low moving coil cartridge, my best options are either a phono prestage with enough gain to handle it (right now 60db of gain are not enough), or to add a step up. I would welcome any suggestions on what gain level might be enough with a phono stage alone. Regarding adding a step up, in looking on the web, ear makes a step up, dynavector makes a "head amp", and it looks like a company called jensen makes quite a few step ups for very little money (although it appears they are made more for manufacturers than for end users but I can't really tell yet. Any advice on these would be greatly appreciated. I am going to have to buy these sight unseen unless I can find a manufacturer who will give me in home trial due to my location.

64dB of gain would be optimum for this cart. Loading of 100R - 1000R.