SUT, of course!
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OK, so far the consensus is to stay away from high-level MC. Care to elaborate a bit more for the inquiring (and not-so-technical) mind? I was under the impression the SUP requires greater knowledge in matching the electronic characteristics of the cartridge and the SUT? Would a Graham Amp 3 be a competent unit -- it definitely falls within my budget. Thanks
I would skip both and buy the Soundsmith Strain Gauge system. It does away with the RIAA compensation and need for step-ups. It blows the doors off any moving coil cartridge I have heard, which include the best. I have the first production unit and have been listening in disbelief for the past 5 weeks.
K&K Audio makes a very nice SUT. I believe it is $325 assembled. It can be configured for different gain levels and has the ability to allow you to swap resistors for proper cartridge loading without soldering. I used to own one and used it with a Hagerman Trumpet before I bought the K&K Audio SE phono stage.
If you check recent issue of S'phile, there is a review of several SUTs and it talks about some of the issues associated with matching. IIRC, the bottom line is that matching is critical for a cart and SUT. And many LO carts are very sensitive to proper loading, so if you use an SUT, you want to make sure it is easy to swap out resistors.
I've always gone the medium to high output MC route with great success. Right now I'm using a Sumiko Blackbird. It's a great match for either my Bryston 1B's phono stage or my Pro-ject Tube Head phono pre-amp.
I love my Tube Head, yet I've read reviews complaining about tube noise when used with low output cartridges. With 2.5mV of output from the Blackbird, noise is not an issue, at all.