Have had a CAT Signature MK3 for a looong time, at that time i partnered it with a grashopper 3 of 0,65 Mv.
the Volume sat around 10 to 11 oclock, in which the tubes just started to 'whisper'.
depending on the sensitivity of the poweramp used, i got the experience that the CAT does not work well with say 0,60 or less output.
after the CAT i listened to other pre-amps and i encourage you to listen to the BAT pre-amps, the LAMM, and the discontinued but still mightyfine CELLO Encore or if you have the money the AudioSuite.
i liked these much better than the CAT, and have ordered a BAT VK-51SE right now.
The CAT relies very heavily on tube rolling, if you are lucky to get the right ones which stay ok, the CAT is a great pre-amp.
I got tired of all the tube rolling, i have no experience with the Ultimate though.
keep the vinyl spinning !
I, too, used the CAT with a 0.65 mv. output cartridge (a van den Hul Frog). It was fine, but I would imagine that anything lower than that would be a stretch. When I went to a phono stage with better gain (Rowland Cadence), the improvement in noise floor and dynamics was very audible and welcome.
Call Ken Stephens or Marty at CAT and see what they say.
I have the CAT SL1 Mk 3 & use a Benz L2, which is 0.4mV. The CAT by itself does *NOT* have enough gain for a 0.4mV MC cart. I tried it for about a month: by opening up the volume pot, I could get enough volume thru the speakers but the quality of the sound was pretty bad vs. what I know the CAT can produce. There was a serious absence of bass in the music. So, I got a 14dB step-up xformer (from K & K Audio that uses Lundahl xformers, which I really like. I have no hesitation recommending it. It costs $225 in kit for & ~$300 in finished form. The website is: http://www.kandkaudio.com
. FWIW). This fixed the bass issue & I have sufficient gain now. The sound quality is back up to what I think the CAT should be producing.
The objective (for 0.4mV type MC cartridges) is to get atleast 60dB of gain in your phono stage (step-up + phono OR phono only - the types that have a MC/MM switch).
Hope that this helps.
Well, my experience with an SL-1 MK2, with a Benz Glider L2 was that there was plenty of gain. However, I did not have the proper loading plugs, so I cannot evaluate the sound.
I'm using a Shelter 501 II with a CAT SL1 Mark III loaded with the 100 ohm plugs, with PLENTY of gain! In fact, I keep the volume on my Berning amp around 2:00-3:00, instead of all the way up, because if I leave it up there's too much gain to get sufficient low volume control via the pre. I'd be curious to hear what difference I get using a step-up vs. current setup, but it really doesn't seem necessary. Must admit that some of the previous posts surprise me, especially Bombaywalla's comment on lack of bass. In my room bass performance measures well. I certainly don't doubt his experience, as Bombaywalla has been a helpful & knowledgeable friend, but my rig certainly has plenty of gain w/o noise. Cheers,
I am using a Koetsu Urushi wiht my CAT Ultimate pre with more than ample gain as the cart is .50mv....the cat pre-amps are absolutely some of the best ive heard!
It might depend a little on what amp you intend to use with the CAT but in my system a step-up is needed to bring out the best in the 0.6 mV Koetsus. You might not know what you're missing until you try one.
WOW...the vote is pretty much EVEN for my query. i appreciate ALL your responses and will TRY it without a step-up and post my results. now...who wants to sell their CAT??
Good to read that you have the CAT up & running & that you are enjoying it & that you consider it an improvement from your prev. preamp. Whew! I don't feel so bad recommending this pre to you then! :-)
Thanks for the compliments, BTW.
Now, re. the CAT sound w/o a step-up: I can only speak w.r.t. to my system & room. I found that I had enough bass for Jazz music. However, the bass was lacking for both Rock & Blues music. Bwtn these 2 genres, it was missing more on Blues music. Bass is an integral part of Blues & if the slam factor is on the low side, Blues just sound right. That's how it felt in my room.
BTW, w/o a step-up I had to open the vol control to 10 o'clock to get half-way decent volume. 12 o'clock was well over 90dB SPL loud. I was beginning to get happy about this 'cuz volume controls sound their best when set between 12 o'clock & 3 o'clock. It is a myth that one should not open up the volume control! In fact, the more open it is, the better the sound.
However, in my case it didn't work out. I got the volume but as a friend put it I had "no bass heft". The tube rush got louder too. Couldn't hear it from my seated position but I could hear it as I approached the speakers.
BTW did you all ever notice that MC stand-alone phono stages come with 60dB gain while stand-alone MM phono stages come with 40dB gain? The CAT phono stage has 47dB gain & by adding 14dB thru the step-up, I no have 61dB.
Also, from the CAT phono spec: the input sens. is 0.12mV. So, 0.4mV is nearly 4X higher than min. sensitivity. It's good but I have found that to get a really good signal:noise in a real-world setting one needs to be 10X above the min. sensitivity.
Like Kleech put it: try it with & without one to find out what you are missing.
Should have edited my post before posting but I hit the wrong key!
Correction: I meant to say that Blues does NOT sound right if the bass slam is missing.
(might be obvious but all-the-same).
You also might want to call Ken Stevens and ask him, as I did. He would be the one who knows best...Cheers,
GOOD advice CAT lovers!! I'll first try without a step-up and see if the sound quality is acceptable. I will also talk to Ken Stevens...
Thanks for all your comments and very helpful advice!!