Seperate phono stage v.s. step up transformer

Fellow analog lovers help me with this dilemma. I have a Teres 265 turntable with a Graham 2.2 arm and a Lyra Helikon cartirdge. I just purchased a new preamp that has a terrific phono stage but, its' sensitivity is 2mV @47Kohms and the Lyra cartridge is only 0.22mV.
So I have 3 choices, get a new cartridge, get a seperate phono stage, or a step up transformer.
What would those of you with more experience in these things do? If it is change cartridge, which one? If seperate phono stage, which one? If a step up transformer can be used without sacrificing any detail, dynamics, etc. which one?
Thanks ahead of time to any of you that answer these questions.
You don't say what your great phono stage is, but if it is great, it would seem that a good step-up would be the way to go. The Helikon would not be my very first choice for a cartridge, but I don't think you'll find one any better that doesn't have significantly different output characteristics.
Check - the S&B step-ups are about as good as it gets, and his prices for the Mu step ups in either kit or prebuilt form is a helluva deal.

I agree with both David and Ed.
Thank you for your responses. The preamp that I am refering to is the Granite Audio Model 770. Their CD player with the tube output has been the first CD player that I have owned that I can listen to with as much enjoyment as vinyl so, decided to try their pre-amp also. Before I was using a ARC LS 5III with the Phenomena + Battery pack for a phono stage. Not the best phono stage but, I got it as a package deal with a used Clearaudio turntable before the Teres.
The Granite preamp can be returned after 30 days and I could go back to the ARC but, I like the Granite better. Just have to figure out if I should change the cartridge or go with the step up.
Yeah, go with the TX103 from Buy the kit version and save. Best trannies on the market today. I use them with my Trumpet.

I have gone through something quite similar recently with a built in phono stage in my nuvista and scoured all over for information. I got a large amount of input from people here and on aa. I believe everything people have said thus far is more than reasonable. The input I had was that bent audio make great stuff. For a simpleton like me I understand it that transformers will allow you to boost the signal and are a very economical way to go. If you don't care for the improvement they are generally easy to sell. I ultimately went with a separate stage and this has had an amazing improvement on the quality of musical reproduction. Since I struggled with this for some time drop me a note if you wish to hear the sordid details. Good luck

Don't forget the Lundahl xformer based step-up from
Kevin Carter of K&K Audio.
This is *also* available in kit form for just $225! Kevin is a really nice fellow & will assemble the kit for you for under $300 total (i.e. kit + labour).
The Lundahl xformers are amorphous core & their sound characteristic is much more natural than any other xformer core metal (such as permalloy or mu-metal).
This is a serious contender against the TX102.
My friend (who owns a SP-6A) has a pair of these installed inside the preamp chassis. Results are simply excellent.
I add my vote to the posts from 4yanx, Ed, Twl and Hagtech.

No cartridge that plays with a Helikon will have enough output to keep you from needing more gain. Changing cartridges won't help unless you settle for a performance downgrade, which would be crazy on such a nice rig.

See my recent post 'Shelter + BentAudio loading' for details on the BentAudio Mu trannies. John Chapman starts with Stephens & Billington TX103's, finishes them off nicely and adds two great performance features: infinitely variable loading and the fewest possible connections/joints in the signal path. It's a fine, well thought-out product.

The K&K's mentioned by Bombaywalla are well regarded and less costly, but I don't know if they do either of the two things I like about the BentAudio's so elegantly, or at all.

BTW, the specs on the Granite Audio 770 don't say how many dB's of gain the phono and line stages have. You'll need to know before choosing anyone's tranny.
The K&K Audio MC step-up based on Lundahl xformers does 1 of the 2 features of the Bent Audio step-up: fewest possible connections/joints in the signal path.

In fact, Lundahl xformers are one of the very few xformers that come WITHOUT flying leads. The Lundahl xformer comes with pin-outs (like an I.C.). The xformer is attched to the PC board & you solder to xformer pin. This makes a very secure connection as you do not have to worry about soldering your wire to the xformer flying leads.

Changing the cartridge load is more cumbersome (but more secure) as you have to un-solder & re-solder resistors. It has not been a problem for my 2 friends as one uses a Grado Sonata hence the load is 47K while the other one uses a Benz L2 with a 300 Ohms loading.

Having this one additional feature of cart. load changing for $700 (vs. K & K Audio's <$300) did not make any sense to me! Both xformers are imported - one from the UK & one from Sweden. One seems to be ridiculously expensive while the other is much more price worthy. I can practically guarantee that the TX102 is *not* 2X better despite its more than 2X cost!

From my personal experience, I ask the skeptics to give this step-up a listen. You will be very pleasantly surprised!
The Granite Audio 770 already has variable cartridge loading with the use of some vishay resistors adjustable between 1 to 100000 ohms. I assume if you have it once in the phono chain it is not needed in a step-up transformer correct?

Agaffer, nice purchase I pressed my luck with one of these preamps as well and have been very happy for the last 5 months. I did bring the preamp over to several dealers and one wasn't able to best the Granite's built-in phono stage and another one didn't exceed its performance until we got into ~$10000 linestage and separate phone stage pairing. These two experiences have firmed up in my mind that the Granite preamp is certainly no slouch on vinyl, or as a linestage for that matter.
I have a custom phono stage built for me by Kevin at K & K. I also have great respect for John Chapman and the Bent products. I've heard nothing but good things about his step-up and I was very impressed with his passive pre which I used to own but which did not mesh with the rest of my system at the time.

I will say that the K&K is a superb unit that will equal or best anything up to $4K that I've heard (and includes quite a few). The phono stage is based on the 6n1p tube (two) - cheap and superior to the 6dj8/6922/7308 and many applications. Mine has the built-in Lundahl step-up (10dB extra gain) and it has four settings for MC (100, 300, 1K, and 47K Ohms) and two for MM (47K Ohm and 47K Ohm in parallel with 220pF). It runs QUIET within the volume range of any listening I'd ever do and sounds absolutely superb. Highly recommended and the best value I've ever purchased in audio.
Yes, considering the none of the replied have heard in the lived a any serious step-ups or any serious MC active phonocorrectors you have a lot of opportunity to get around here a qualified answer.

Good luck,
Romy the Cat
I have the same phono stage as 4yanx with only a couple of exceptions. It is MC only and has a fixed load of 300 ohms as per my request. I can only reiterate what Bombaywalla and 4yanx have said about this phono stage and the Lundahl transformers in general. This is an excellent design that sound great. I am using the TX-102 as a volume control, but have not heard the TX-103 SU device, so I can't compare it to the Lundahls. But as Bombaywalla points out, the Lundahls are much less expensive and perform nicely indeed.

I am glad you are finding the Granite preamp's phono section to your liking. I would like to hear how it compares to the full blown K&K Audio phono stage, which as 4yanx already pointed out, is a hard one to beat.

Flatulent Feline Farts:
"Yes, considering the none of the replied have heard in the lived a any serious step-ups or any serious MC active phonocorrectors you have a lot of opportunity to get around here a qualified answer.

Good luck,
Romy the Cat"

I assume from that fakely garbled message that you are saying that none of us here are qualified to comment in answer to the poster's question. You, typically of course, submit this opinion and give no suggestions of your own. Either be helpful to this person and lay off the condescending crap (which might at least be tolerated if you actually knew something) or crawl back to your litter box.
Best to ignore him David, as you once taught me, though I wish he'd chosen some less attractive animal as his nom-de-fume. There are so many unattractive animals available, houseflies, rats, any number of viruses; did he have to choose cats?

Bombaywalla, thanks for clarifying the features of the K&K's. I am certainly not a "skeptic" in any negative sense. I even said they are "well regarded". (BTW, BentAudio's SU trannies are not built with TX102's. The TX102's are used in their passive preamp.)

If, as Soliver informs us, the Granite Audio 770 already has variable cartridge loading then the K&K's become more attractive. Otherwise, those who prefer quick and easy load changing to soldering can choose to pay for the convenience. Clearly a case of YMMV.

I think we all agree that Agaffer won't go sonically wrong with either of these solutions. May he enjoy whichever one he chooses!

nope, I have no interest to educate YOU: it would be too primitive and none-noble task; also you are a dead prospective student. All that I said was to ridicule you and you-similar “thinkers” with your desire to project you own limited and frequently negative experience as something that put you in a position to provide the abstract conclusions or generalizations. As far as I concern you understanding of Audio is “garbage in – garbage-out”. How many pathetic “followers” you’ll find on this site is totally irrelevant and I would say quite indicative…

Good luck,
Romy the Cat
He's baaaack! As I obviously know nothing of step-ups and phonocorrectors, I shall defer to the all-knowing above.
I know Doug, but I don't post here as often as in the past and coming here and finding this creep again is repugnant. He is probably best ignored, but I WILL call him to the scratching post when he goes beyond his usual attacks on products and expands his venom to people here. Few ever seem to have the balls to tell him exactly what he is for fear of expulsion, themselves. I have no such fear.

Romy - You can't now and never will be able to educate ANYONE - not because they are too primitive for YOU - but because you are totally clueless yourself and only speak negatively, about people and about products. Yes, you ridicule, and that's basically all you do, likely from a position rooted in your own inferiority complex for which you should, I suppose, be pitied. Nothing constructive, just "garbage out". Don't use what Romy uses - Romy will tell you that product is crap. Don't believe what Romy believes - Romy will tell you that you are a poor, ignorant fool.

You know, you also once again tip your hand. Isn't it amazing how your english writing skills improve ten fold when someone gets under your fur? You sir (and I use the term lightly) are a charlatan and (oh, and please let me spell it our for you)an I D I O T. You've been tossed and unwanted from AA and are most universally unwanted here. Now, GIT!

I have now spoken my last on the topic lest I overly bore the good people here with tedious bickering.
”I have now spoken my last on the topic …”

And what was the subject of the topic:

a) Advantage/disadvantage of transformer vs. active stage, the subject about which you have no experience, authority or knowledge
b) Blaming Romy that he is an idiot because, now and before, he considered your comments being totally bogus

Look, Audio is a complex and very serious thing, believe you or not, but there are people out there for whom audio is not only to prioritize the leadership of the audio products, built the justification for purchasing selection or kiss the stinky asses of the different manufactures with an objective earn some better accommodation or the first listening row-chair at CES.

My, disregarding of YOU, as even prospective valuable opponent, is based on my deep familiarity with this particular and with many other subjects when you was trying to express reference-like but very questionable (not to sat wrong) opinion, and with my understanding of the primitivism of the motivation and reference point that derived you. I intentionally do not bring the counterargument because I do not want to compete with but only to point out the methodological idiotism of your thinking pattern.

You might be angry; you might call to the moderator to delete my replies (but preserving you allegations – the cheap method that you usually use); you might do whatever make you happy but it will not change the foundation of the arrangement: you are a blind, deceived and ignorant jerks who is willing to vandalized and to destroy whatever is higher then your level of comprehending to preserve your own ego and your own status.

As far as your deep confidence about your own “superiority” - be very quite with it: I have personally met the majority of the internet-present “audio-intelligence” and tell you honestly that I was feeling a strong temptations to vomit after 5 minutes of conversation. The same was applicable when I heard their listening rooms.

So, the very next time when you decide once again to “evaluate Romy” ask yourself: are you fight with Romy or with your own necessity to believe in his idiotism.

Regrettably for you, you did not demonstrate so far any intellectual, audio or spiritual capacities to ignite any Romy’s interest. Therefore, the fearful unfortunate, die with your pathetic secret.

Romy the Cat
OK, I will happily break my "last to say on the subject". I, and others, have offered suggestions to the poster. You have offered the poster nothing except to disparage those with whom you disagree (your usual tact). No counter suggestion for that person who seeks help - nothing. When you are challenged to do so, you throw out the TIRED "you are not on my level so you won't appreciate it anyway" crap. Fact is, you know little and have little to share. I could care less about CES or any of the manufacturers. You probably still try to attend those shows but get thrown out for being a loutish jerk (sound familiar?). I could also care less what any moderators think of my posts to you. You deserve anything you get, and if I get sanctioned, it is sanctions well spent.

Unlike you who has no idea of who I am or what is my experience, I have spoken with several who know YOU, Mr. Romy the Comrade in Boston. All affirm that you are as big of an ass in person as you are on these boards, have limited practical knowledge and experience of your own, and are basically a wannabe who doesn't have the brains or balls to be one. I dismiss you and your decidedly pseudo-intellect like a scratched LP.

Are you out of your mind? In the place when the barbarians like you delete each post that dose not support YOUR agenda you propose to find a valuable poster who value his/her own context. I am too familiar with your cheap, hypostatic tactics and too mach understand what stays behind your “diplomacy”

Regarding the rest, sweetheart, do not patronize me. I am very comfortable with who I am and put my understanding of audio, intellectual and life accomplishments against you and you-like ANYTIME. I know who and what hiding behind your implications and what agendas desperately trying to cash-out the chips of the “Romy-idiocy”.

Continue you cheap “play of public”.
Romy the Cat
You are too funny and highly pathetic there Romy. No one is "behind" what I say, as much as that fails to play into your neurotic and paranoid conspiracy theories. Pitiful. Get half a clue, then come back. On second thought, just stay away.

BTW, I have nothing to do with post deletion on this site or others though I know you use that claim as yet another ruse to deflect the real issue of your inadequacy and in attempts to engender some strange sympathy for your bogus "us against them", "I'm so oppressed" nonsense. Let's face it, you've been exposed, you're mad, and you can't fool me. Live with it.
Sure, and who put you in position to quantify me? Were it you yourself or was it your strong NEED do not admit the fact of your OWN exposition?

I was pronounced by many of your “friends” and the "mental colleagues", even presented with the evidences, that Romy is a high ranking member of mafia, the associate of Ocama bin Baden, hidden audio publisher, secret manufacturer of audio equipment, sexual offender, a 13 year old person, IQ-clanged person, well masqueraded audio dealer and of course the pinnacle of the audio intellectualism: a mad person...

Well, I admit that I am qualified to be all of them, even more: I am a person who read your cretinism, look at you and say: what a feeble idiot you are!

Signing off,
Romy the Cat
You bore me and are no challenge. Goodbye!
4yanx: Romy bore you? You bore everbody else! Maybe spend less time talk and more time listen then maybe you learn. You give bad advice about subject know nothing about then get upset when Romy point it out? Shame on you.
Yep, the person who is in his search for a Best Bolero and whose brain is just a pile of the primitive audiophoolic dogmas and fears have the dreams to be my challenger! Actually even your attention to “Romy the Cat” insults me.

The Cat
Oooo, you have brains enough to do a forum search. I'm shocked. Why waste any time on the likes of you - inferior being as you clearly are in terms of intellect, morality, and even muscial taste. When and if you can ever drag yourself up to a point which allows you to engage in discourse at a level equivalent to a third-grader, let me know and I MIGHT have some fun with you. Otherwise, you remain an insufferable and pathetic loser and I'm afraid your low-grade intellect will rub off on the board. You're exposed Romy and you can't take it. Your very being insults me. You can have the last word, though, It will no doubt be as nintelligible as all of your posts.
Shame on you. And learn some English.

So how do YOU know my advice was bad. At least I have SOMETHING to offer. All you have, like Romy, is unsupported criticism. Talk about being all talk.
I have the Mitchell Cotter Mk2 Step-up Transformer, and the factory instruction sheet to adjust the loading via soldered jumpers. Is this something that is considered a "serious" step-up device? I have lived with it for some time now. Am I getting close to qualifying as someone who knows about, and lives with, a serious step-up device? My fragile, audiophile ego is at stake here.
Tom (Twl) I know you're being sarcastic and I know you are not referring to me. For the other two "experts" I will say that Tom's reputation for having REAL knowledge and experience in the field of audio, AND a willingness to share it is beyond reproach. They (he) will never answer your question because they (he) has no real knowledge. To mask that fact, they (he) will only offer lame excuses as to why they won't (probably something to do with being superior and not being bothered to stoop to your level).

And let me ask you this Mr. Kevinkwann. How do you KNOW advice given here is wrong? You say "more listen". Have you HEARD the K & K? Have you HEARD the Bent? Have you HEARD the Cotter? Have you HEARD the Granite. I have, except for the Cotter, and many others. If you haven't, you have no business telling others that their advice is bad. If you HAVE heard them, WHY is suggesting them bad advice? WHAT would YOU suggest instead. Waiting for a constructive reply which I doubt will come.

Oh, surprise. In viewing your SIX other posts, they ALL have the same character as Romy's many. Same sarcastic. same critical with no support or alternatives. Same idiocy. Are you guys clones, both just as vile as the other, or maybe the same person?
Yes, David, you got me right. Just being sarcastic to the comments from the peanut gallery. I was also targeted as being "not qualified" to give decent advice. Interestingly enough, apparently so was Mr. Hagerman(Hagtech), who makes a very nice phono stage that is quite highly regarded by many. I guess none of us are up to Romy's high standards. :^)
Excuse me... I hate to break in on this raging debate and name-calling but I still have questions related to the original premise of this thread ... namely the merits of a separate phono stage vs. transformer.
I recently had the pleasure of listening to Doug Deacon's excellent system which features the Bent audio transformers with a CJ PV11. I went the separate phono stage route with a Sonic Frontiers SFP1 Signature and my CJ PV10A. My PV10A has a MM phono stage, so I could use it with a Bent or other step-up transformer. Any opinions as to how this would compare with the current set-up? My only disatisfaction with the current setup is gain is a bit low (57DB + 18DB line stage.The PV10 phono stage has 48.5DB gain)
P.S. - all opinions accepted without prejudice... just be nice!
“ I still have questions related to the original premise of this thread ... namely the merits of a separate phono stage vs. transformer.”


There are two things: the question you asked and the answer you are wiling to accept.

You asked a fairly global and fairly serious question about contribution of the properly implemented magnetic core into signal path at MC level but all that you want to hear, as an answer is a positive reinforcement to buy or not the specific “product”.

There is a big different between a specific product and marginal capacity of class/topology. You did not ask: I have my Helikon and CJ phonocorrectors, so will the Bent’s transformer good enough or bad enough to handle my cartridge and my correctors. Instead you asked a genetic quest, and as usually you received in response the ”wisdom” of the Patricia Barber’s subscribers drooling over the black boxes that they have home on their shelves and bitching about whatever they never heard. If you would like to have a useful help you should learn to ask the intelligent questions or at least to make in your question the correction for the “intelligence” of the local “advisers”.

I wish you the best luck on your journey,
Romy the Cat
Thank you for your response Romy. Now, anyone else?
Thanks for the responses to my original question. I guess one of the questions I should have asked is if the step up transformer degrades the signal at all, or are the better ones like a good pre amp.
My fear that the transformer may add a unwanted sonic signature to the music made me take the safe route and I purchased a used Tom Evans Groove.
By the way, I can't beleive any of you would let Romy the Cat bait you into a dialog. There is always someone like him in any forum, they go away when ignored. I have several hobbies, audio, surfing, and keeping large (250lbs on up) land tortosies. Even those forums have guys like Romy. Clearly they are jus posers and should be paid no attention to.
this guy has a serious personality disorder, imho. BIG grain of salt here--just let the ranting rant, and let it go you all.
A high quality step-up transformer is a good way to go. Lower quality ones can interfere more with the sound. Even Kondo-san of Japan's Audio Note Ongaku fame requires a special step-up transformer with his top line cartridge. He states that it can do what no phono amplification circuit can, when dealing with very low output cartridges.

That said, I'm sure that you'll find enjoyment with the Groove you purchased. It is one of the most highly touted solid state phono sections.

Thanks for the nice word. As I mentioned, I expect to be going away for a week or so in November. If you want to borrow the BentAudio trannies and do an a/b in your system, no problem. Then you can post a real world comparison.

Agaffer, glad to see you made a decision. Enjoy! I'm picturing a 250 lb. tortoise hangin' ten with a nice pair of Sennheisers on its head. That would be some Beach Boy.
I agree the Musicdoc. I do not write much here but it is always when I need to ask a question. People here have helped me and are almost always friendly. The 4yanks person is right I think. There is no excuse for telling people they are wrong without saying why. I still can’t believe that someone had the nerve to tell someone that they did not even know how to ask a question. People like that should be taken off the site. I wish I could help Agaffer but it looks to me like he got some good answers.