More output from Analog set up, MC Transformer?

I am pretty happy with my set up of Origin Live Oasis S/Illustrious/ Koetsu Rosewood Signature into a Clearaudio Reference phono stage, Conrad johnson Premier 17, Pass labs Aleph 3, Living Voice Avatar speakers, cabling is Acoustic Zen. i am happy with it, but the Clearaudio is rated at 57db of gain and the CJ needs the wick cranked up to 50 to 60/100 for a good output.
The koetsu is rated at .6mv of gain, I am not convinced, I feel it is probably lower. The sound lacks a little oomph. The set up is detailed and polite and that's the way I like it, but the analog sound is a little too polite. I do'nt want to change the basic set up, it makes a great sound, but do you think an MC transformer would give the sound a bit more grunt, if so which? Presumably I only need 10 to 20db of extra gain. Am I completely on the wrong track, looking to a transformer to improve things? Thanks for any advise
My VDH black beauty is 0.5 mV. It was not enough gain with my ARC SP-11 MK II in my power hungry system (80db speakers.) However, it is enough for my friend's lower setup. You probably need more gain. Something like Audio Research Reference phono gives you 69db gain.
I end up with full function preamp with MM/ active step up device combo.
It is probably the cartridge. I had the same issue with my Benz L2 - great detail, but no "oomph". I switched in my Dynavectore 20XH - plenty of "oomph" or "dynamics" but less detail.

Some attribute greater dynamics to higher output cartridges, but I haven't been through enough cartridges to test that hypothesis.
Some attribute greater dynamics to higher output cartridges, but I haven't been through enough cartridges to test that hypothesis.
I have, and those attributions are not consistent with my experience. Nor are they consistent with theory.

LOMC's have lower moving mass on the cantilever than HOMC's. That's why they make them. A lower mass accelerates more rapidly and to greater amplitudes than a higher mass. Faster accelerations and larger amplitudes generate faster rise times and greater voltage differentials. Newton's laws work very well here. The difficulty comes in trying to preserve and cleanly amplify such tiny voltages without distortion or noise.

IME the most dynamic cartridges are all LOMC's, other things being equal of course. Of course the Koetsu RS is not particularly low output, and it may be not that dynamic a cartridge (don't know, haven't heard it). Still, it's probable that inadequate gain is part of the problem. Impedance loading may also be involved.

Here's an easy test: do you listen to line level sources at significantly lower gain control settings? (My recollection of demoing the Premier 17 with a CDP was that gain was set in the 20's, not the 50's.) If so, adding more phono gain should certainly help.

I have 67db before my line stage. That is slightly more than optimal for a .5mv Shelter 901, but only slightly. 57db would be inadequate even though the 901 has a reputation for being a "robust" .5mv cartrdige. If, as you suspect, the Koetsu is acting like a polite cartridge that also has less than .6mv output, then 57db probably wouldn't be enough.

Changing phono stages to one with more gain would be one solution. I defer to others with more experience for recommendations.

A high quality stepup transformer would also help, and that is my preference vs. FET-based high gain stages. YMMV. I've heard 4 or 5 different stepups with various cartridges and have yet to hear one that regularly betters the BentAudio Mu. They are available wired for 14db, 20 or 26db of gain. The best choice would depend on the Clearaudio's gain on its 47K MM input, which is where a stepup normally should be plugged in.

If you do go with stepups, consider this VERY carefully: MC's playing into a transformer are EXTREMELY sensitive to impedance loading, far more than when playing directly into a gain stage. Impedance changes of .5 ohm or even less are not only audible but sometimes critical. A change that small wouldn't even be noticed playing into a gain stage. The BentAudio design allows for instant and flexible load resistor swapping. I have found this to be of immense value when fine-tuning cartridges. This ability to optimize cartridge performance is the reason I prefer a good stepup. It's more work but the results are worth it, to me anyway.

BTW, if maximum dynamics were your primary goal then a low compliance cartridge like a Koetsu wouldn't be an obvious choice. But you know that already.
Or, if you can afford the price check out a used Kondo transformer which has all the various loadings/capacitance setting built into the transformer. You can dial in various settings to test with your cartridge. Not cheap, though, at around 2500 and up. At that used price you will have a collectible (Konda San is quite old and I suspect products built by Mr Kondo himself will appreciate in value upon his demise; just a guess) top line transformer that is simply one of the best at any price.
I prefer step-up transformer as well.

If you can afford the best,you should buy Kondo KSL-SFZ.
Thankyou for the thoughtful responses and keep them coming. The Kondo is out of my price range, the Bentaudio Mu, sounds interesting, have you any more info about it, price website, etc. As you say Dougdeacon, I did'nt buy the Koetsu to blow my socks off, but a bit more dynamism would'nt go amiss. For your info, I usually play my tuner at about 22 and my Shanling CD at 30 to 35
I wish I could afford to try a Kondo too! You'll find the Mu and other stuff on BentAudio's website. John Chapman is a great guy to deal with.

Since you're playing line level sources at so much lower levels, it seems even more likely that more gain will improve the dynamics of your vinyl front end.
The trannies Bent uses are very good (Stevens & Billington).

Are you sure the cartridge loading is correct? I assume you've already tried a higher setting, etc, but thought I'd mention it.
Dear David: Very nice audio system, especially the Living Voice speakers.

First, your cartridge don't have and can't have that extra " little oomph ", that you are looking for.

Second, you don't need an MC transformer. The Clearaudio gain is enough for the 26db gain of your Premier 17.

Third, your Aleph 3 has only 20db of voltage gain. So you need to push the Premier volume. That's all.

Fourth, your Premier 17 is a high output impedance one. So you need to check with Conrad Johson which will be the best match cable for this preamp. Now, the Koetsu had a soft sound and your Premier too, maybe is too " much of the same " .

+++++ " The Kondo is out of my price range, " +++++. Thank God is out of your budget. Please, do it you a favor: don't use any additional stepup transformer: any SUT do a heavy degradation on the signal that comes from your cartridge. Period.

My advise is that try to test another cartridge like: Shelther 90X, Sumiko Celebration, Van denHul Grasshooper IV, Transfiguration Temper W, etc.... All these cartridges have that extra oomph that you are looking for.

Regards and enjoy the music.
"any SUT do a heavy degradation on the signal that comes from your cartridge. Period."


Listening is the only count not spech !!

My Xono has a MM/MC and when i use Step Up to the MM,it's much better than directly to the MC. It's not just better,MUCH better !
Dear Audio999: +++++ " Listening is the only count not spech. " +++++

I already try/test at least ten of the best SUT ever made, including Expressive technologies.
Any one of them can't give a better QUALITY sound reproduction. It is imposible to do that for a SUT. This is not spech.

What you have is an easy handle ( more gain ) of the signal by the preamp. So you have more quantity but no better QUALITY. Please don't mix up. Use common sense.

If you need to use a SUT, this fact does not " say " it's better. You are degrading the quality sound reproduction on your system.

Please don't insist about.

Regards and enjoy the music.
Dear David: I forgot: the Aleph 3 is a Mosfet input/output design, it is in the " soft " side sound reproduction, too.

I confirm my advise: try other cartridges, including the Clearaudio Discovery.

Regards and enjoy the music.
I'm not counting/hearing quantity with using SUT.
When i said "much better", i meant the quality !

"I already try/test at least ten of the best SUT ever made, including Expressive technologies."

It's funny that you had tried top TEN SUT ! If you didn't like the first three,you would had given up.

No need to push others with your believe !!

Dear Audio999: +++++ " I'm not counting/hearing quantity with using SUT.
When i said "much better", i meant the quality . " +++++

You really don't know nothing about. You are " only hearing ", but you don't know really what are you hearing. It is unusefull to continue this dialogue, I repeat: you don't know nothing about and can't understand that subject. Sorry.

Regards and enjoy the music.
"It is unusefull to continue this dialogue"

Raul, you are just frustated and confused ! Stop lying around and let his ears decide it!
Well, normally the gain should be enough for the 0.6mV of the Koetsu. Anyway, all I can say is, I stay away from transformers after trying a few and listening to a few. They push the Gain, right, but when connected to a FIRST RATE Phono preamp, they change the sound. I know, there are different opinions out there, but I made my decision. When you want to go on with Analog, go for a Phono Preamp which is adjustable.
Once again, Thomas brings common sense to the table...
I am presently using the only transformer that is an exception to the above post by Thomasheisig. It is the Auditorium 23 which is distributed by It is designed, I think, only for the Denon 103 and the Ortofon SPU. I use it with the Ortofon and will never go back to just a high gain phono stage.
Insufficient gain in the phono stage can be a major cause of a lean sound.we all want to keep our signal path as simple as possible. I currently use the quicksilver transformer. I have tried to get rid of it by switching to solid state, hybrids, high efficeincy speakers... it usually only results in louder but lean sound. Cj continues to refuses to make a high gain phono section hovering around the 46-56db range. This frustrates the hell out of me.maybe they know something. Lo output mc's beat the hell of high output mc's. Amplification distorts (it also magnifies noise). the more you amplify the more you distort. This mandates a transformer. In the past I have overstated the need for a transformer. I am currently using a lo output benz glider with a cj premier 12a(46 db). I temporarily switched from inefficient maggies to a high efficiency mini monitor. I took out the transformer. It played loud but lean.

Have I conducted a shoot out with a top notch pre-pre amp?No. The "quickie" does it for me. Idealy you would want a preamp with the necessary gain. But if you love your current preamp a transformer is the way to go.
Dear Tbg: +++++ " I use it with the Ortofon and will never go back to just a high gain phono stage. " +++++

Which one or which ones high gain phono stages are you talking about?

Regards and enjoy the music.
I am using the H-Cat phono and presently an Exemplar tube line stage. The H-Cat has MM and MC inputs with 40 and 60 db of gain respectively. There are provisions for a load from 47K ohms down. With the transformer, I am using 47K although it would prefer 100K. Without it and on MC, I use a 100 ohm load as recommended.
i forgot to mention leaness can also be caused by restricted low bass extension. a sub can help.
Thanks again for all your advise, I know my system is quite polite anyway. The power amp, Aleph 3 and Living Voice speakers, have a lovely sound, but do'nt pin you to tour chair
well, I've taken the plunge and bought a YS Audio audio Experience Solo MC transformer. No I've never heard of it either, it's a Chinese manufactured valve transformer, reduced from $1000 to $360. If It does'nt work, no real harm done. I'll report back what I found and thanks again.
So far a good thread
Even had a few laughs.
David your opinion on the tranny will be interesting.

by the way my shelter 501 .4mv into 60db gain (blackcube) is more that enough for me.

Auditorium 23 transformer ( posted from Tbg ), I have this one here ( loan from a friend ), true is, there is worse out there, fact is, I made my post above after using that one, too.
Well the Audio experience Solo(currently on the Gon site, but about to time expire) is very impressive. straight from the box, without any run in time, the dynamics, base and soundstage are much better. It's a very nice little unit and good value at $360. It looks hand made, but whats wrong with that.
However it was probably all in vain. the Clearaudio unit I bought on E-bay was supposed to be set up for a maximum output of 57db, it was actually set to 49db. Not an enormous difference, but it was also supposed to have an input impedence of 100ohms, just right for my koetsu. It was actually set to 900ohms. No wonder the sound was anaemic. I will give the new unit a good run in time and then try back with the Clearaudio alone set up properly. Buying 2nd hand has got it's problems, but caveat Emptor. Thanks again for your input, that at least was set to the right gain