It is quite important to get a good SUT, but equally important to get one that synergizes well with the cartridge. A stepup that sounds great with one cartridge may not sound nearly so good with another, even after very careful impedance adjustment.
I haven't heard the Denon stepups, though one would "assume" they'd be a good match for their cartridges. Of the 4 or 5 SUT's I have heard the best match with a 103/103R were a friend's Cotters. They won't be easy to find used, but worth it if you can.
A really good active MC phono stage will outperform most (if not all) SUT's, at least IME. But good MC stages are difficult to design and costly to build. The ones I know that outperform a good SUT are well beyond your budget (judging your budget by the other components you're using). I think it would be reasonable to stick with SUT's for now. IME they're a value leading way to use value leading LOMC's like the 103.
I have had many transformers for low output moving coils: Cotter, Denon, Techniques, Auditorium, AudioNote, and Neumann. I have always hoped that I would find a phono stage with enough gain to not need either a transformer or a head amp prior to the phono stage. I have had success with all but the lowest output cartridges, which are the ones I find best.
I don't agree with Dougdeacon about the Cotter. I traded mine long ago to a guy in Japan for the Techniques 304 amorphous metal transform. He was happy and so was I. I have found the old Neumann that I won on Ebay to be the best I have heard, but that is with my Shindo cartridge and may be different with other cartridges.
Have you tried the Monolithic at the highest gain setting without the SUT in the circuit? I ran my Denon 103R with my Monolithic PS-1/HC-1b combo and at 54dB had plenty of gain, and it was still dead quiet. I realize 60dB is recommended for the 103 series, but if the rest of your system has enough gain it should work fine.
Armstrod, if this is directed to me, I have never even heard of the Monolithic.
Sorry for the confusion; the post was for Bbaxley2. He's using the Monolithic.
Bbaxley: If transparency, low noise, and low distortion are within your checklist, try a low noise phono stage. Solid state units are best in this department, but you will also find a couple tubed ones with good performance. The idea is to avoid using a transformer; the detail loss, coloration and diminished frequency extremes may be subtle, but they are real.
armstrong,i am running it with out denon step up now and i do like it this way.im running it to my arc pre in balanced inputs.adapters are hooked up to out puts of monolithic,it does give me more gain that way,i just noticed it has to be at 12.00 to 2.00 to sound full. i guess its ok like this,im going to listen to it for a while,and maybe get another phono with the higher gain later.it sounds good now,just wondering about the gain
Running with your pot set between 12 and 2 o'clock is a good place to be ... assuming you don't have any noise issues.
It's not adviseable to have way too much gain, only to have to burn it off through an attenuator. Better "just enough" with a bit left over for head-banging sessions than to be running with your pots at 9 or 10 o'lock.
Thom @ Galibier
I personally prefer an active head amp to a transformer. I haven't tried any of the new ones (if there are any), but the Klynes (SK-1 is good, SK-2a is best) come up from time to time at reasonable prices. In tubed units, the Klimo and the Audio Research are also wonderful. I find that an active head amp gives more dynamics than a transformer, and if you match carefully noise will not be an issue. The Klyne head amps in particular give you more options in terms of resistive loading, which is all important if you are using coils. With transformers, as I understand it, either it matches or it doesn't -- there is no flexibility. Good luck!
This is the seamy side of moving coils. I have owned many active headamps, includingthe Klyne SK-1, and I have had transformers that do give you optional loads, but the best yet is a phono stage with enough gain. The problem is very low output cartridges, which are always the ones I prefer.
With a sensitive enough amp, my H-Cat P-300 phono and P-12R line stage gives me enough gain to even allow a 100 ohm load. The key is an amp with such sensitivity.
Your experience exactly matches mine. With the Monolithic and 103R I was running right at 12 noon on the volume control, and it sounded great. Thom is exactly right - just enough gain is way preferable to too much gain. I wouldn't change out the Monolithic just to add a few dB; if you feel the need to upgrade, concentrate on sonics. You'll have to go a ways to better the Monolithic.
what is a good cart to use other than the denon103 with a little more output,that dont set me back alot
Trust us on the gain issue Bbaxley2.
If you have to 'burn off gain' by keeping your volume pots at 9 or 10 o'clock, this means that you are passing signal through more of the pot as well as more resistance - a higher proportion of say, for example a 50K pot.
Even if you you have a ladder type stepped attenuator this too is generally a bad thing as the single resistor value will also be a large proportion of the pot's nominal value.
Resistance is futile (grin).
Your comments lead us to believe that you're just fine with anything in the .3mv to .5mv range.
Choices are too numerous and I'd hesitate to advise you on this.
Tell us what you don't like about the Denon.
As an aside, I'm pondering having Peter at Sound-Smith re-tip my Denon, but that's a subject of a whole 'nuther thread. Please note, I have no commercial interest in chatting up the Sound-Smith re-tips, but at the same time, I've heard nothing of is fine work that would lead me to believe that it won't be a significant upgrade.
Thom @ Galibier
Interesting discussion about slightly more than just enough gain being best.
My new Tron Seven phono stage (once it's hooked in), may end up having a bit too much gain for runing the volume of my pre at something close to unity gain.
My Atma-sphere amps are so scalable, I may end up pulling out enough tubes to lower gain to that sweet spot I am looking to be at on the volume control.
That was actually what was so amazing about the varible gain of the GCC100 amp (that I now use on my woofers), since it varies the gain of the amp rather than shunt extra signal to ground, no volume control provided better transparency. I am tempted to try PS Audio;s gain cell pre amp.
When I use a low-output MC, I employ the Quicksilver MC Transformer. Prefer it over my (active) PS Audio MCA2.
SUT's are one thing I like to see measure well. While you have to find one that sounds "good" it's really good to get one that is as neutral as possible because everything else in your system adds so much coloration.
Back when I was choosing a step -up, I listened to freq sweeps before i listened to music to hear which ones held their own without grain up the spectrum. Then of course, you must listen to music
well ive left it alone. took the sup out and running the denon 103 to the monolithic and set settin to my taste,and just started listening to these albums,d change th motor gromets on my 124,and put a new idler wheel on turntable,and aded the turntable gromets between turntable and plinth, and set neddle,and love it..thanks for your help,rally weird going from a 4000.00 cd player to thisand love it more