Phono Pre Gain

I'm considering purchasing a Audio Technica AT-ART9XA for a 1210g. I have a Sutherland 2020 pre that only put out 64db of gain. I've read that the AT requires at least 66db of gain. Anyone have any experience with this? Will the 64db be enough? I'm also considering an Ortofon Cadenze Bronze, but the price point of the AT is very appealing.


You will also add the gain on your preamp. So yes you will have enough gain!

I wouldn’t begin to worry about 2db.

Sometimes we overthink things. And since I'm running in a Bronze at the moment for its ancestor, the Kontrapunkt C, I have to say it sounds marvellous, even after <10 hours. I'm currently alternating sides of well-loved albums, with either the Bronze or the London Decca Reference, and my musician wife can't say which is which.

I have one that provides 70 db of gain for MC. I don’t use it anymore. It’s a great sounding phono stage.

KAB calculator actually shows 64 db to be dead on ideal for that cartridge and it has always been a pretty good benchmark for me in the past. Most cartridges also have higher output than spec'd in real life. 


I'd bet that 64 might sound better than 66 (my preference is slightly less gain than necessary as opposed to slightly more if you can't get it dead on). 


I'd say go for it as well.



I'm going to say that 64 dB is probably not enough for a 0.2 mV output cartridge.  I have the ARC Ref 2SE phonostage  w/ 72 db output and when I had the Ortofon Anna (also w 0.2 mV output), it was not loud enough for me.  I could hear the hiss from the phonostage at the higher volumes, which I hated. I have added SUT's to my setup which has lowered the noise floor and no longer hear the hiss from my phonostage at louder volumes. A lot will depend on how loud you like your music.

I would be calling the Sutherland fellow… as I believe that he would likely know.

I always prefer to check the MC portion's signal boost (x factor), that is relative to the resultant impedance 'shown' to the MM stage.

that AT cartridge is 0.2mv signal strength; 12 ohm coil.

guidance for 'resultant impedance shown to MM stage' is coil impedance x 10, in AT case: 120 ohms.

x factor of 20 gives you a 4.0mv signal, very nice.

x factor 20 squared is 400. 47,000 divided by 400 is 118 ohms, nearly spot on to the guidance of 120 ohms.

then the MM stage deals with a 4.0mv signal at 120 ohms.

I don't know how unified phono stages to line level work, just saying, 

x factor 20 is +26db, then MM boost of ____ db = total ____db 


If you want to go into detail, with differences in phono stage gain of a few DB, as in this case, the amount of satisfaction of the user is going to be related to the gain characteristics of the downstream components. How much gain does your line stage add? What is the input sensitivity of your amplifier? The input sensitivity is defined as the signal voltage input necessary to drive the amplifier to full output. And finally it depends upon the efficiency of the speakers, obviously. So that is why answers in the range of 60 to 65DB can all be correct, depending on the downstream components. In this case, you have the opinions given, none of which is really wrong.

Oh yeah, too much phono gain, e.g., 66db in this case, is almost never a problem.

I have a PrimaLuna Evo300 amp, Fritz Rev 7 speakers rated at 87db. I typically don't listen too loud as my room is 12x13. From the looks of it I should be fine, I just don't want to be under and regret that I didn't get the ART9XI. I've just read so much good stuff about the XA.

Ask Ron Sutherland.


But be aware that total system gain (including the sensitivity of your speakers amp and line stage) is what really matters.



@herbreichert +1. I chatted with Ron to make sure my Hana ML was a good match with the KC Vibe MkII. He was super helpful. And yes he asked about the preamp, amp and speakers specs. 

Ask Ron Sutherland.


But be aware that total system gain (including the sensitivity of your speakers amp and line stage) is what really matters.



A friend emails Sutherland about using his VdHull and did not hear back for a month or two…
The response was something along the lines of, “It would not have been a good match when you emailed, but it is now.”

It is possible that the know what works with his preamps… in fact it is likely that he does.I would not let the opportunity to make the call pass by… but I mentioned that yesterday or the day before.

Ron emailed me back yesterday and said that it would be fine. So I guess I'm going with the 9XA! Thanks to all who contributed!!

My phono stage has 64dB gain and it’s enough for an SPU Royal N quoted at 0.2mV. you won’t have a problem with the similar output from the AT beyond maybe remembering to turn the volume down a little when switching to a digital input.


I have a 20/20 and had the ART9XA (big ART9 fan).  

I thought the XA sounded very good but wanted more than the 64db gain.  Good but not great and definitely not optimum.  

The Original ART9 at .5mv sounded much better.  I would suggest the XI for you.  

If you can stretch for a Lyra Delos (an online retailer with the initials UA gives a decent discount) is the best cartridge  I have heard and is significantly better that the ART9.  I also had the Ortofon Cadenza Blue which was just a touch better than the ART9- the '9 was cleaner and more refined though.  

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