Need help with finding a new phono stage.

I just got my SOTA TT back from being upgraded from a Star to a Nova. Now I need to work on getting a new phono stage. I currently have a Cary PH-301 that has served me well for years but I'm looking for a phono stage where I can adjust the gain, impedance and preferably the capacitance as well. I have mounted a new Benz M2 wood body MC cartridge (0.8mV) on the Kuzma Stogi tonearm. According to the papers the recommended load is 200 - 47k ohms. I don't see a figure for the capacitance. My Cary has a swicth on the back to go from MC to MM (60db/42db), and says the impedance is adjustable (MC only, 10k - 68k, MM fixed at 47k) but the manual does not instruct how to do this.

Any suggestions for a new or used phono stage in the $1500 price range. I prefer tubes but could go solid state. If anyone also knows what impedance level would be best between 200 - 47k ohms and what the capacitance on my Benz cartridge I'd appreciate knowing that as well.

Get an adjustable step up device will do.
Moving coil cartridges are relatively insensitive to capacitive loading, that is why nothing is specified and phono stages do not provide for variable capacitive loading. Conversely, moving magnet cartridges are sensitive to capacitive loading and should be unloaded (read very high value, like 47k) as far as impedance loading.

I've heard, but not had an opportunity to fiddle around with the Benz. But, the 200-47k loading recommendation suggests that the cartridge is mechanically well dampened and/or has a high source impedance and does not need to be loaded down (low value, like <100 ohms, equals higher loading) to prevent a high frequency peak. As a pure guess, I would predict that 47k loading would be fine. If the cartridge sounds too bright and sibilant, then the lower value could be tried. The difference between 200 and 47k is often quite subtle, so there is no reason not to try an even lower value if the sound is still too bright. I find that if you load the cartridge down too much (again, low value), it will sound muffled, leaden and lacking in upper frequency "air."

I have the ability to pick my loading option on the fly by remote control so experimentation is easy. If you end up with a stage with a fixed loading and can pick the value, I would look for something close to the 200 ohm value because it should work with most other cartridges as well. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine was having trouble mating a Temper V to the phono stage in the Hovland HP200. We could hear lots of noise that suggested RFI problems. It turns out that the factory default loading of the Hovland is 100k and the Temper has a very low source impedance, around 3 ohms, so the extremely wide bandwidth of this combination was probably passing a lot of RFI. When we changed the loading to 100 ohms, the problem went away.

Good luck.

Why not try some Trannies, no not that kind, step up transformers, I have the Lundahl step up trans. kit($250., nice 4 price)), but think the Bent Audio MU dual mono trannies are the ultimate especially for $825. Continuous cast copper wound trannies directly terminated to Bullet rcas, no toggles ot dip switches for your sound to go through, adjustable with a resistor mounted externally on each tran. with little binding posts making it easy to try different values and even different brands of resistors!, talk about extreme fine tuning! If you are happy with the Cary, set it for MM, and set up the trannies for your cartridge. Check it out.
Step up transformers are not adjustable for gain. Also, it has limitation on load impedence value.
Thank you all for the suggestions. Lots of interesting options.

Larryi - I appreciate the explanation and this makes sense to me. I need to call Cary and see what the factory setting on the PH-301 is and how to change it. Then evaluate the results.

To those who suggested the step-up transformers, after doing some research I am sure this is a good suggestion but I would prefer to upgrade the entire phono stage rather than go this route.

Under consideration at this point are:

Musical Surroundings Phonomena with battery PS
ASR MIni Basis
Audio Mirror PP1 (preamp with phono stage modified to just provide the phono stage)
Acoustech PH-1P
Eastern Electric Mini Max

I'm looking for others to research so any suggestions are welcome. Again, budget is up to $1500 used although if I'm not satisfied in this price range with my options I may have to bite the bullet on a Whest.
Actually that should have said budget is $1500 new/used.
Take a look at the Decware phono stage; just over 1500 including moving c oil transformer step up devices. This unit will accomodate MM or MC cartridges and the values can be changed. Decware makes their own stuff and it is high quality. Best yet is you can run it for a few weeks as there is a 30 love it or return it deal from Decware. Small footprint, too. It also uses a small number of tubes as opposed to many of the other tubed phono preamps out there that use a LOT of tubes; ie, BAT, Aesthetix. Start pricing quality NOS tubes at 50 to 100 ea(or a lot more for Telefunken ecc803s/12ax7 at 500 plus per pair) and you'll see the cost of your tubed phono stage skyrocket.

Thanks for the suggestion. I went to the site and looked at the various models. The 1.5 is the one most similar to my needs. I think I may give Decware a shot along with the BAT and Eastern Electric, all of which I can get on 30 day trial.
If you are comfortable soldering and doing some assembly the K&K Audio phono preamp from Kevin Carter is outstanding. It is very similar to the Art Audio Vinyl Reference that Kevin designed.
You might also speak with an Audio Note representative or send an email to Audio Note asking about their transformer line. They make quite a few different ones and most are adjustable. They range from modestly priced (for high end;ie, about 600 to start) to outrageously priced.

The best Audio Note transformers are the Japanese made units by Kondo. Not surprisingly, these also command quite high prices on the used market but they are quite remarkable.

Thanks for the advice. Right now here is where I am at: Yesterday a 3 month old Whest PS .20 popped up on Audiogon and I grabbed it. This was thought to be out of my budget at $2500, but I got a sweet deal on this one so I could not refuse. In the meantime I ordered the Decware 1.5 and have a sale pending on a Hagerman Trumpet MM with a separate step up transformer, again another sweet deal I could not refuse. I'll be comparing all 3 and then keeping one. I'm sure all 3 can be easily resold, or in the case of the Decware, returned. As such I passed on the Eastern Electric and BAT for the time being.
i can strongly reccomend the Audio Research PH5 wich i use with a Kuzma StabiS/StogiS turntable and a Benz Ruby 2...wonderful musically and rich, just "right" sounding with a huge huge soundstage wich is wonderful 3 dimensional...loading options via remote from 100 ohms - 47 a medium output of your benz will fit perfectly...
Please post your impressions of the different phono stages when you can. I am interested to know what your preference will be & why. I am in the market also & am looking for all the input I can get. Sounds like you made some good choices to make your selection from. Have fun.
Yes, please post as I am quite interested in learning about your impression of the Decware phono.
Thanks for all your suggestions and interest in my testing of the Whest, Decware, and Hagerman phono stages. I will start a new thread as soon as I have each unit and have had ample time to listen to them. The Whest will be here by next Friday, the Decware and Hagerman probably not until the end of August or early September. Decware builds to order and takes 2 - 4 weeks. I have to go and pick up the Hagerman and that will take me some time. I imagine I need a couple weeks to get proper burn in and then do some critical listening. Look for something around the end of September.