MC transformers - what do they sound like?

Besides providing gain, are good quality MC transformers transparent to the signal they are providing the gain to. Or do they give added/reduced bass weight, more high end sparkle, added grain or what?.
This is obviously compared to active gain
It seems that audiophiles either luv or hate MC transformers?.
All of the ones I've heard cause harm to the bass and reduce transparency.
I agree. I have had no luck with them. I think the j-fet before the tube gain stage ( as in the new Audio Research phono pre amps) is going to be the way to go.
You're going to get a some interesting responses to this question. The two sides will probably confuse you more than help you. All I know is that I have a Hagerman Trumpet MM phono stage and the designer himself confirmed for me that the MM version of the Trumpet combined with a quality MC step-up was a better configuration than buying the MC version of the Trumpet. In any event I think system synergy is more critical when using a MC step-up as you're adding another piece to the chain, but I have experienced great sound with my modest K&K Lundahl and haven't had any issues with bass.
This topic can be one of the most contentious ones you'll find in this forum. There are people I respect greatly, but with whom I disagree on this topic.

The relevant question (as far as colorations are concerned) is to compare an MC step-up against an active gain stage.

I fear that those who report bad results with step-ups are wrongly accusing the architecture when it is the implementation that is at fault. Anytime you're given freedom to choose (a transformer, interconnect, line stage, etc.), you have an opportunity to screw up.

Matching a trannie to a cartridge (assuming we're talking about a quality trannie) involves knowing the DC Resistance (DCR) of the coils in your cartridge. You're typically looking to match the cartridge's DCR with that of the transformer's primary ... with the trannie being as much as double the cartridge's DCR, but not much more than that.

Secondly, there is the issue of the reflected impedance that the cartridge sees. In it's native mode (without additional loading resistors), a cartridge will "see" a 470 ohm load through a 1:10 step-up, when connected to a phono stage with a 47K input impedance.

You can run into problems if for example you have a cartridge that wants to be loaded at 1K or 5K and you're using a 1:10 step-up. You will have excessive high frequency roll-off. This is not normally an issue, because the numbers tend to work in your favor. For example, almost all .2mv to .5mv cartridges can use a 1:10 step-up from a gain perspective, as well as from the perspective of the impedance they like to see, which is typically well under 470 ohms. You can always add resistors in parallel to drop the load, but you can't easily raise it.

For some excellent discussions on transformers, go to the Jensen transformer website ( On my support page, I
have some links to excellent articles on step-ups - written by Jim Hagerman (Hagerman Technology) and John Chapman (Bent Audio).

Trannies are yet one more instance of the old adage - it's not so much the chosen architecture, but how well you implement it. I happen to like them because it allows you to tailor a phono stage to a particular cartridge. Other people are baffled by such choices. Others have fallen in love with the colorations of their favorite MC active gain stage.

Knowledge is power.

Thom @ Galibier
The Jensens are amongst the best. Audio Research uses them in their reference phono and Rowland uses them as balancing transformers. I think though Audio Research is charging a lot of money for something you can buy directly from Jensen for a couple of hundred bucks.
I've used a couple of inexpensive Denon step-up trannies with Denon DL-103 carts and think they're great. Excellent synergy. Dave
Look at these. When I get a few buck,I am going to mod my 834p with a set of these mosters.
Makes the jensens look like toys.

Thom. thaqnks for that, The Bent audio Mu transformers appeals to me as it is easy to change the loading and seems to have a good reputation.

What is the difference between changing the load on a MC transformer compared to changing the loads on an active gain stage. Most active gain stages have several impedance loading options these days.

there still seems to be no consensus on whether a MC transformer adds bass or takes it away.

My only expereince with MC transformers was with the Manley Steelhead and the transformers sounded a little more dynamics in the bass compared to the straight gain - sound wise not my cup of tea, a little hi fi sounding

Rwwear, I think you will find that ARC have dereleased their ref phono stage and replaced it with the PH7 phono. get / tube like the PH5 but souped up to the max.
When I had MC pickups I initially used a Signet transformer that was almost the size of a beer can, which I gather is larger than most. I was very skeptical about the merits of a transformer, and it was only after I abandoned it and went on to active MC preamps that I realized how good the transformer was.

This is probably an area where generalities are inapropriate. Results will be highly dependent on which transformer and which pickup is involved, and which preamp you compare it with.
the transformers sounded a little more dynamics in the bass
I think you'll find this is due to better loading -- rather than a characteristic of trannies at large.
What a well implemented tranny should offer is a little bit of extra signal purity...
Makris explains all of this above.
You can also consult Stevens & Billington's (S&B)site (link above, FLemke) for some implementation info.
Finally, experience I've with S&B trannies is very encouraging. I believe Bent uses these for their products.

Brilliant post. Thank you very much for saving me alot of typing!

The Bent stepups are indeed excellent, though as Thom implied there is no one "best" trannie. Adjusting the reflected impedance on the secondary side (very easy with the Bent's) is vitally important, but even then you have the issue of the primary side impedance interacting with the cartridge. I suppose this is why (IME) some trannies work better than others with a particular cartridge even after reflected impedance is optimized.

As Thom also implied, using trannies well involves a lot of work. LOMC's are extremely sensitive to reflected secondary side impedance. Those who claim trannies have non-flat frequency response simply haven't done the necessary work.

We spent dozens of hours swapping cheap resistors. Finding the optimum value for a cartridge almost always requires doubling up resistors on each trannie. (This allows much finer gradation of resistance values.) Having done all that, we then spent hundreds of dollars on multiple sets of high quality resistors. I'll discuss those results in another post if anyone cares. The results with every cartridge were always an even frequency balance.

At ultimate performance levels, however, it is now my belief that a properly implemented gain stage will outplay any trannie. A transformer must, by its nature, diminish amplitudes and smooth waveforms. The effect in a good trannie may be very slight, but it cannot be eliminated. This means a diminishment of dynamics and a rounding of notes (bloat, in plain language). My new preamp/phono stage is built as Hi5harry described, FET followed by RIAA circuit followed by tubes. It easily outplays the Bent's and every other tranny I've heard. I have a friend who owns nearly 20 different stepups. He's used some of them for over 30 years. Once he got his new preamp (same as mine) they all went into the closet.

Beating the Bent's and Cotters takes a large outlay however. If you aren't able to spend $6K+ on a privately built preamp or $10K+ on a commercial one, the trannie route will often do a better job, provided you're willing to do the work.

Hi Doug,

I would categorize the S&B in the very, very good category, but not in the world-class range of component. It continues to be my humble opinion that an extreme solution, whether it be a step-up or an active stage will be satisfying to the music lover.

Coming out of an after hours session at the Rocky Mountain Audiofest this October, the seeds of some very cool development in MC step-ups were planted. I have NO COMMERCIAL INTEREST in this project, but check out Dave Slagle's Intact Audio site (the forum) for ongoing discussions about what Dave is developing (

In that Saturday night session, the likes of Frank Schröder, John Atwood (Artemis Labs), Dave, and others got together to play with step-ups.

Dave's first attempt nudged into second place behind Frank's unobtanium step-ups. For this experiment, Dave reached into his parts bag and pressed into service an autoformer volume control. In other words, it was an adhoc attempt, done on the fly, and not in the least sense of the word, a mature design.

In recent months, the boys in Fort Collins have been playing with dedicated MC step-up designs from Dave. These are the "boys from Colorado" referenced in various threads on Dave's forum. They have been playing with dedicated designs - trannies that surpass Frank's on a range of cartridges from Myabis to a Lyra Olympos.

There are some characteristics of step-ups which might be beneficial to musical reproduction.

One of them which comes to mind is bandwidth limitation. Note that trannies like the Jensens go out to 100KHz, so I'm not talking about premature HF roll-off. I suspect that some of that "juicy" sound inherent in good iron has to do with the filtration of RF Interference. This is speculation on my part.

Secondly, consider the moving coil cartridge. It's a motor assembly. The better cartridges have a reduced winding count (and the resultant output voltage) in order to minimize moving mass. Given a compatible transformer, what better way to effect gain than to "restore" some of the windings, but outside the cartridge so moving tip mass remains optimized ?

Thirdly, bass response is a function of the inductance of the trannie. It's definitely another one of those matching issues we've discussed.

Once again, it's my contention that there are multiple ways of solving a problem effectively, and the above thoughts are most definitely slanted toward my bias - in favor of trannies. I have no doubts that an extreme approach to active gain can also accomplish these ends.

Certainly, we're in agreement, that at real-world prices, MC step-ups rule.

Thom @ Galibier
Audio Note KSL-spx, - their step up Transformer - did anyone try it?
I can't compete on the technical descriptions, which are helpful by the way. In fact I have just changed from a good SS conventional phono stage, the Clearaudio reference, to a K&K phonostage. The lateral is a JFet/tube hybrid with Lundahl transformers. In the past I have tried Tom Evans and Trichord stages too. The K&K is head and shoulders above the rest, more detail, much more dynamic, much quieter, no better imaging, but every other parameter is better. Is that because transformers are intinsically better than active gain stages? I am sure it is because in this case, the K&K is a better thought out design.
At the risk of being obvious, are'nt you dealing with a set of compromises particular in good as opposed to the best gear. For most of us buying the good, it may not matter if the phonostage is active or with transformers, or the amp is SS or tubed, what matters is the skill of the design, which in turn depends on the balance of compromises made. There are still compromises with the "ultimate", design, such as the boulder. Perhaps its more interesting to discuss which way you would design the best stage you could build, at any cost, would that be active or transformer based? I don;t know the answer.
This is a very interesting thread. David12, you are right on the money. While for certain goals or design criteria, a certain design approach (step up vs gain) may be superior, its highly unlikely that any individual design does not involve compromise. Picking one design approach vs another is the easy part, based on your design criteria; effective implementation is the hard part if cost is a factor. I am looking forward to continued discussion on this, but mostly, I would love to hear a demonstration. One additional thought or question I would throw in the mix is this- are there certain upstream or downstream choices that affect the step up vs gain stage decision, all other factors being equal? I have no idea and look forward to comments from others.
>> I am looking forward to continued discussion on this, but mostly, I would love to hear a demonstration.

Open invitation to one and all! Hear it live! Bent Audio Mu's vs. one "no holds barred" FET gain stage.

Of course I defer to Thom's experience with better SUT's. If he'll ship me one we'll include them in the shootout and report. ;-)

I've also heard Frank Schroeder's unobtanium SUT's. They were certainly very good, but some other parts of the system were insufficiently transparent for me to note specific differences between them and the Bents.

>> ... are there certain upstream or downstream choices that affect the step up vs gain stage decision, all other factors being equal?

Great question. One thing that comes to mind is frequently balance. If a system or room happens to be tilted up or down at either end, it might be possible to compensate with SUT's by adjusting reflected impedance. I would never recommend such a "band-aid" approach, but it might work for someone who doesn't have the time, interest or resources to solve the problem directly.
Hi Doug,

Hop onto Dave Slagle's forum at Intact and join the frey.

Likely you can get into the evaluation loop as these are being developed.

The forum category is near the top - "MC Step-ups". Note that in order to view any attached photos or graphs, you need to establish a logon. The text of the posts is there for all to see however.

This thread ought to whet your appetite:

Once again ... the dislaimer: NO COMMERCIAL INTEREST, YMMV, etc. etc.

Thom @ Galibier
I was not thinking so much of an attempt to compensate, rather a better interaction btwn either an SUT or a gain stage with a certain kind of cartridge or line stage, or amplifier. Just a question, I have no idea if that is true or if any generalizations can be made.
David12. I have looked at the K&K p[hono stage. Does it have nice tube warmth?
In M Fremer's colum last mnth he reviewed the art audio ref1, which is based on the K&K. he commented on overloading and distortion when using a .5mv lyra titan. This does not sound right. have you have any of these issues?

cheers Shane
Dear Downunder: +++++ " Besides providing gain, are good quality MC transformers transparent to the signal they are providing the gain to. " +++++

In absolute terms the answer is: NO!!!, it does not matters design or price.

Thom posted that this subject is very contentious one and I think that it is because the people no know-how and because they never had the opportunity to heard the right active gain phonopreamp.

Next are some issues about step-up transformers SUTs:

The SUT is an old patch for bad SS phonopreamps designs and for the inherent limitations on tube phonopreamps for handle low output MC cartridges. It is a " cheap/easy solution to a complex problem ".

Any SUT has many inherent disadvantages like: distortions generated at the core ( it does not matters if is: air core ), heavy phase discharge ( landslide ), high apt to take hum, the wide zone ( band ) can't go down to DC, severe roll-off at high and low frecuencies, the reactive impedance on the SUT is incompatible with the cartridge impedance: this cause that we never could have flat frecuency response when we are using SUT, this mismatch between the impedances promote that the signal that pass through any SUT will be equalized.

Any time with any of you we can make the tests and prove all those disadvantages and others like the additional cables that you have to use, additional connectors, the SUT is an additional ( filters ) link in the analog audio chain.

I want to let clear that there is no single advantage, in any way, using SUT's, any of them.

The SUT always be a : wrong PATCH.

In the past and for many years I was thinking that the SUTs were the best way to go till I learned about. I try almost any SUT out there, in my system or in one that I knew very well, and always corrupted the signal that pass through it, that's why in the last 10-12 years we design and active gain and perfect a phonopreamp with out SUTs: we try every single technology: bipolars, fets, mosfets, tubes, combinations, etc, etc ( btw, Doug: bipolars for MC and fets for MM cartridges ) and this self design is what I'm using for and its quality performance is far away ( very far ) from SUTs design and far from any SS or Tube today comercial design. In our design there are no trade-offs.

There are not many good phonopreamp out there ( and are expensives ) and this is because it is a great challenge to design a good phonopreamp that can achieve targets like: accuracy on RIAA eq. ( inverse ), deviation no more than 0.05db between 20 to 20Khz, enough gain with out noise and distortion free.

The challenge is too big for some phonopreamp designers and they choose the " easy path ": SUTs and you people have to suffer. That's not fair, for you and for the music reproduction.

Regard and enjoy the music.
Dear David12: +++++ " . There are still compromises with the "ultimate", design, such as the boulder. Perhaps its more interesting to discuss which way you would design the best stage you could build, at any cost, would that be active or transformer based? I don;t know the answer. " +++++

I don't want to speak about Boulder, but you can read the review on Stereophile and if you read it in deep, both parts: subjective and objective/measurements ones, you can see that maybe it is not the " ultimate ". Certainlly by price it is, the phono/line preamp it is only: 46K.

Now, if you take a look around phonopreamps: what do you find?

FM Acoustics, Boulder, Rowland, Pass, Klyne, Levinson, Krell, Aesthethix, Supratek, Gryphon, etc, etc.: all these people choose active gain stages not SUTs Do you think that these " facts " are a good answer to your question?

Do you think that we take 12 years of work with our self active gain design just for fun?

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Swampwalker: +++++ " One additional thought or question I would throw in the mix is this- are there certain upstream or downstream choices that affect the step up vs gain stage decision, all other factors being equal? " +++++

In my opinion, other than money/price, no know-how and poor interest in music quality reproduction I don't think exist any upstream/downstream about. The choice must be active gain stage.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Rauliruegas...Transformers do have their proponents. In addition to the MC phono aplication, some prefer transformer-coupled amplifier stages over capacitors, and some prefer variable coupling transformers over pots for volume control.
Dear Eldatford: Yes, I agree with you and I respect to every single preferences that have the people.

I'm only given my opinion/answer to an especific Downunder question: " Besides providing gain, are good quality MC transformers transparent to the signal they are providing the gain to?. "

I think that the question here is not which proponents exist about the subject but which way is best for achieve a better quality music reproduction.
I know that are many SUT proponents but that does not means they are right about. The SUT is an easy way to hide bad designs, but the medicine ( SUT ) is worst than the illness ( bad design ) because to a bad design you have to add another disadvantage named: SUT. My advise is that the SUT proponentes have to learn about. Like Tom say: " Knowledge is power. "

Btw, ++++ " some prefer transformer-coupled amplifier stages over capacitors " +++++, as you know this statement ( both designs ) is the non right way, the right way is: direct coupled amplifier that is always a challenge for the designers.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Rauliruegas...Agree that dirct coupled amps are best. I have some Kenwood LO-7M monoblocks that are direct coupled. Such an amplifier is really a DC power supply, with high slew rate and analog voltage control.
Dear Swampwalker: +++++ " I was not thinking so much of an attempt to compensate, rather a better interaction btwn either an SUT or a gain stage with a certain kind of cartridge or line stage.... " +++++

Your way of thinking is right on target. No one in his healthy brain sanity can speaks about the use of SUT for compensate for some problems over the audio chain.

" interaction "/ synergy that's the name of the game in audio. The SUT certainly has no synergy with cartridges and that's why we have to go for active gain stages. The SUT is the " easy " way to hide bad phonopreamp designs. These bad designs add a bad medicine ( SUTs ) trying " to help " but the SUT not only does not help but increment/continue the signal degradation. The source of the problem is in the origin: bad design.

" Interaction with line stage ": in my opinion the active gain phono stage must be integrated with the line stage, in this way we can have a better synergy. Of course we could go for and stand alone/external active gain phono stage but here we can lost synergy, not only because we need additional cables and connectors that function like filters/veils to the signal reproduction but because the phono stage could comes from a manufacturer different from the line stage one.

Well as you can see this is a very complex problem. That's why I post about SUTs: " a cheap solution to a very complex problem ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Eldartford: Great!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Doug: ++++++ " At ultimate performance levels, however, it is now my belief that a properly implemented gain stage will outplay any trannie. " +++++

After all that time and after several post by your self about how good were the SUTs and after several discussion against/with me now your mind change in favor of active gain phono stages: good.

This is only for the records ( no argument about, please.): it is what you post about:

+++++ " For the record:
- some of us love them
- some of us tolerate them
- one of us hates them with a fiery passion. " +++++

" one of us hates.... ", that's me. It is nice to " see " that I'm not in the wrong road after all.
Like the people say here in Mexico: " the time put everything and every one on the right place ".

Doug, those fets on the MC stage...??????

Regards and enjoy the music.

If you don't want an argument then what exactly was the purpose of your last post?

You have mis-stated my position on SUT's (again), but if that makes you feel good then I'm happy you're happy. Feel free to do it three times a day, with meals, as needed.

Doing what I can to control health care costs,
Dear Doug: Maybe you are right: it is out of place and no I'm not mis-stated your SUT position: " if you want an active gain phono stage that outperform any SUT you have to pay the price $$ ".

Regards and enjoy the music.
" if you want an active gain phono stage that outperform any SUT you have to pay the price $$ ".
Agreed. Not easy to find or cheap, but worth doing if you can.

Raul- since you use a custom preamp I have no way to verify your results. How much gain does your preamp have? Have you plotted a distortion versus gain curve for your preamp? Have you plotted a noise versus gain curve? I would be interested in the results.
Sorry Raul I chekced your system description that gives 85db of gain and a signal to noise ratio of 82db. Is that across the bandwidth?
Dear Gregadd: Yes, across the bandwidth. Btw, We do some changes on our phonopreamp design/parts and now we have the " final " one I will write the update info about. Stay tunned.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear Gregad: This is a quick resume of some info about my phonopreamp:

- In reality our phonopreamp have three preamps instead of only one:
it has and MC phono stage, it has a MM phono stage and a line level stage
preamp. All this three stages are totally independent from each other. We don't do any compromise, the
MC and MM
stages are very critical and needs to be independent.

- Our design is a Zero-feedback ( no overall and no local feedback ),
direct coupled, pure class A , true balanced input to output, dual mono
design and fully regulated input to output with dual external power supply.

To round off the preamplifier's RIAA capabilities, we have introduced a
switchable 3.18 us turnover point to compensate for the cutting head
preemphasis roll-off.
There is also a low-cut filter designed to remove unwanted rumble
frequencies, selectable between DC, 16 and 32 Hz.

- RIAA eq. deviation from 20 Hz to 20 Khz: 0.02 db
Frequency range to: DC to 2 MHz.
Clean gain: Adjustable to 100 db
Signal to noise ratio: better than 82 db

Regards and enjoy the music.
Sounds impessive.
Dear Gregadd: Well, this is a mature phonopreamp design, part of our 10-12 years of hard/fun working about: testing and hearing, testing and hearing, etc, etc.

We use the best pasive and active parts ( not necessary the more expensive ones ), other than the desing it self we take care all over the whole " instrument ( phonopream ): our ultralow noise circuitry was specifically designed for very low output moving-coil cartridges. The outstanding CMRR of 120 dB at the input stage will reject any interference not present at the audio signal generated by the cartridge, ground plane design , ultra low noise power supply ( better than an alkalyne battery, at least in our design ) that is solid " steady " one: it has more than 40,000 uf of capacitance , bullet proof whole circuit protection, four layers circuit boards, very precise ( almost perfect ) circuit board lay out, good design execution, extremely trusty operation, no internal wires where the signal pass through ( every component is direct soldered to the circuit boards ), etc, etc, etc.. We don't left nothing to " destiny ".

Our phonopreamp had some " old/new " ideas, examples: all the best preamps use at their volume/attenuator a serie's resistors ( it does not matters if they choose doing through relays or ladder attenuators design ), at least two por volume position, in our design the signal pass ONLY for one resistor at any attenuator position.

Our design is a Current Drive one and this allow that the volume control attenuates the audio signal and the stage noise at the same time, resulting in outstanding signal-to-noise ratios and dynamic range.

Our whole design permit to have a preamplifier combining
the purity and transparency of a passive preamplifier with the speed, dynamics and drive of an active preamplifier.

What happen when you hear through our phonopream: SS signature? Tube signature?, not at all, only real music with all the music emotion.

Through our phonopreamp we have not only a different musical experiences but a new emotional one that we never experienced and that we even don't know it could exist in any audio system at any design/price.

Yes we are extremely proud of what we achieve over those working years.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Wow, Raul- Not only impressive, but I would love to hear one in my system. When do you go into production ;~)
I think Raul should build a prototype and send it to me for evaluation.
Raul's system should be called "Shiva". All those arms!
Dear friends: Here are some facts about why exist the SUTs for LO cartridges ( at least is my point of view ):

- In the fifthies appear the MC LO cartridges ( As a fact: Ortofon invented in 1948. ). In that time all the phonopreamps were designed for HO cartridges MM/MI/etc. No one was in the design of high gain PP because no body need it.

- Ortofon and latter other MC LO cartridges never ask to the PP designers/builders to manufacture a high gain PP for their MC LO cartridges. What I mean is that never exist a cooperation job between the MC LO builders and the PP manufacturers.

- What was the comercial attitude of almost all MC LO cartridges builders?: to put on sale their MC LO cartridges along with a SUTs ( designed for it self ) for those MC LO cartridges.

- I can remember from Ortofon when they design the MC10, MC 20, Mc 30, Mc 2000, Mc 3000 and MC 5000, cartridges at the same time they offer the respective SUT: T 10, T 20, T 30, T 5000.

- Like Ortofon everybody do the same: Denon, Audiocraft, Fidelity Research, Koetsu, Micro Seiki, Accuphase, Dynavector, Highphonic, Audio Technica, Entre, etc, etc.

- In the mid-time what does the PP designers ( SS or tube ) for the development of a high gain PP?: almost nothing, almost all take the easy " cheap road " ( wrong/worst one ): that the customers buy SUTs along with their PP if they want to handle a LO cartridge. Some of the PP designers/builders incorporate in their " high gain " PP internal SUTs, exactly like today ones.

- No body take the challenge to design a HG PP with out SUTs. There are some exceptions: Curl, Levinson, Pass, Klyne, Classé, D'angostino, etc, etc,

- So we all are suffering the " easy road/ wrong road " that almost all designers/builders take it more than 55 years ago.

- All those comercial attitude never take into account us: the audio customers and never take into account the QUALITY MUSIC/SOUND REPRODUCTION. They don't care about in those times and many of them don't care about today.

Fortunatelly, in the last few years, some PP builders finally take the challenge ( others like me designed our self ones ) and we have some very good HG PP, many of them at very high price.

This change of comercial attitude: Bravo!!!!!!, could tell us that the best about is coming because the developtment of HG PPs are really " starting ", it is not a mature industry.

Regards and enjoy the music.
transformers were chosen because they are inherently quieter not because the designers were lazy. they were some aggresive pps' like the marcof.
Dear Gregadd: Well that is yout point of view and I respect it.

I never speak about " lazy " but now that you are mentioned maybe some of them were lazy. I speak about " they don't care about music and quality sound reproduction ".

If you like the SUTs go a head, no problem: is up to you. My point of view is still the same: " a cheap/easy/wrong/worst solution for a complex problem " and I can prove it. Can you prove that the SUT is a better solution ( better quality music reproduction ) than a good high gain phonopreamp design?.

You are a wise person and I can't understand why do you have that attitude of " SUT/designers protector?. The proponents of the SUTs are against you and against all of us: can you understand that?

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul, you have an opinion which you have relentlessly and repeatedly stated regarding transformers and low output MCs. Why can't you just accept that some people may disagree with your considered opinion?
Dear Onhwy61: First my opinion is not a mere " my opinion ", there are facts objective facts about. Of course that I accept that people may disagree with me, no problem about.

But this SUT case is really critical for only " accept " opinions with out objective facts.

I think that all of us take some learning through this kind of dialogue and I put an example from a person that I respect: this very enthusiastic person always defend the SUT against my opinion about, through the time he grow up ( very fast ) and now he own a high gain phonopreamp and today he knows that is really better than the SUTs that he defended.

This is what is all about. If we can grow up in our audio hobby then we are on the " right road ". Don't you think?

Btw, I can't see on your audio systems any SUT: Good!!!!

Regards and enjoy the music.
Raul what I learned ealry is this -insufficicient gain in the phono stage can make a great system sound meidocre. Agree? Y/N?
What we need is a preamp that has sufficient gain to drive the cornucopia of excellent low output mc cartridges? Agree y/n?
This means that we need a preamp with about 60-80db gain in the phono stage.Agree Y/N?
Optimally we also need about 80-100db S/N ratio(unweighted). AgreeY/N?
Luckily there exist a number of of preamps capable of this with no problem. They do tend to be expensive. Agree Y/N?
What does the audiophile do who is either unable to or uwilling to trash his current preamp in favor of one that can drive a low output preamp?
He can avail himself of an outboard pre-pre amp. Or he can avail himself of an outboard transformer. I took into consideration one parameter-noise.
The more you magnify the signal the more you magnify the noise (Ask DR. Dolby). Transformers make it easier to magnify the signal with less amplification of the noise. IME. Of course noise and gain have always been a bigger problem in tubes than solid state. Agree Y/N?
BTW you list a very impressive group of manufacturers who used SUT. you don't really mean to suggest they don't care about music?
Maybe I'm missing something but if designers like Jim Hagerman and Kevin Carter recommend the use of step-up transformers with their products, then they can't be as bad as Raul makes them out to be. Both these designers make outstanding phono stages and I'm sure they would never recommend something that is proven to compromise the sound of their designs.

BTW - In the interest of full disclosure I use a K&K step-up with a Hagerman Trumpet. This set-up may not be as high quality as some other phono stages out there, including Raul's, that don't require a step-up, but I'd be willing to bet I would have had to pay significantly more to get to that level.

What do you think of Tim De Paravancini from EAR. He uses transformers extensively in all his products including MC pickups. His EAR 834 is an excellent unit, I am listening to one now and it has a fluidity that the Pass Xono or Ayre Px5 don't seem to have. - not sure what I like better at the moment.

What about this guy from TNT review site who states that
"Active devices are drifting with temperature, operating point and under work, and if input signals are smaller than 1mV, the drift gets into the way of the music. Bass lines are muddy then and drum players seem to play like if they are drunk. So the music is lacking immediateness, and rather sounds hollow, uninvolving, uninteresting".

see his review

cheers Shane
Gregadd sez
Transformers make it easier to magnify the signal
These trannies increase voltage at the expense of current -- they can't increase the energy, as you doubtless know.

Downunder: if you're interested in improving your EAR, check a relevant thread by Thorsten Loesch (an advanced diyer)[url+]here[/url].
As to the note by the TNT writer, he's referring to *circuits* (and many circuits fit that description); components used in a circuit have this bad habit of drifting with temp (& voltage for that matter).

If what Raul is to make sense, he is using a very well stabilised active circuit and he's using his components in their optimum operating region. That's difficult and painstaking to design and implement -- but better (even in theory) than using a tranny. But let's face it: as Gregadd seems to imply, a good tranny, while expensive, is nowhere near the cost and rarerity of an outstanding fully active 80-100db riaa.
I think that all of us take some learning through this kind of dialogue and I put an example from a person that I respect: this very enthusiastic person always defend the SUT against my opinion about, through the time he grow up ( very fast ) and now he own a high gain phonopreamp and today he knows that is really better than the SUTs that he defended.

Thank you for remembering me, but please do me the courtesy of allowing me to explain my own ideas.

I never questioned your contention that a $5K+ gain stage could outplay an $800 SUT. All I have said (and still say) is that those on a budget must choose some compromise, such as:

- less expensive gain stage or head amp
- avoid LOMC's altogether

Each of these choices will degrade sonics in different ways. Which degradation sounds "best" or "worst" depends on listener preferences and system synergy.