Step-up transformers...

I recently purchased a lovely Benz-Micro ACE 0.4mv cart. from a member here on Audiogon, but have come to find out that my Audio Innovations 500 cannot accommodate such a low output...

I've seen/heard of a couple of options - the KAB "Pre-MC" and the "Blackhead II" (what a name, eh?)...

Has anyone ever used either one of these products? - I guess I want to use a simple step-up because it's inexpensive and I would like to stick with the tube phono pre offered by the 500.

Thanks a ton,
I have the Benz ACE M like you and still do. When I was using it mated with the Wright WPP100C, I used K&K Audio (Lundahl L9206)step up trannie. The trannie can be hardwired into 1:5 (14 dB), 1:10 (20dB), and 1:20 (26dB) depending on your application. Info can be found here:

and their exclusive forum if you have some concern that needs some addressing is here:

I do not use a trannie anymore but I still have it. My Supratek preamp has a lot of gain so the trannie becomes un-necessary. I kept it because it sounds great to me and hoping that someday I can use it again. Mine is not for sale BTW.

Check the links above. This might work for you.

If you can stretched your budget a little more, here's another one:
Although the Bent cost more money.

Both of the step up trannies are more than adequate for the job and sounds great from my experience.

Happy holidays!
While I'm sure there are other good options, I would second the Bent Trannies. I don't own them but I once borrowed Doug Deacon's and they were awesome. I'm sure Doug will chime in with advice at some point.

On the other hand you might just consider a preamp change. I have a Shelter 501 cartridge which also is .4mv into a Plinius M14 solid state phonostage with MM and MC gain and a LAMM LL2 tube preamp. I prefer to use the MM gain in the phonostage since the LAMM pre has fantastic detail and dynamics and low noise and also using the low gain gives more adjustment range in the preamp volume control. With MC I typically stay below 10 O'clock position.
try the quicksilver transformer.
Most definitely a tranny.
The K&K kit looks good (if you know how to diy the PS, etc).
Bent uses S&B trannies which are very good.
BTW, so are the Lundahl used in the K&K kit.
I have the K&K, and kept it even after adding my Supratek. I feel it is one of the true values in "high-end" audio. It is the only solid state piece in my system.
Has anyone listened to both the K&K and the Bent Audio? Toying with switching from a .4mv Shelter 501II to something lower output going into my CAT SL1 MkIII. Suggestions for this application? Thanks, Spencer

Bombaywalla has/had a CAT SL1 Signature MkIII. You can read his review on Tubes Asylum. Maybe he can advise on how it handles lower output cartridges.

My guess is you'll need a stepup, though 20db might be too much. If your line stage is the same as his it has a ton of gain. Both the K&K and the BentAudio's can be wound for 14db. That looks about right for cartridges around .2mv or so.

I haven't heard the K&K's, but I recently had a friend over who owns about 20(!) different stepups. He brought along three of them so we had 4 trannies to try with four cartridges (three ZYX's and a Denon 103).

This guy maintains there's a synergy between tranny and cartridge that goes beyond how "good" or "bad" a particular tranny is. Lord knows he has enough experience to back him up, and he proceeded to prove it as we mixed and matched.

The DL103 liked his Verion/Cotter best.

The ZYX Airy3 really liked a tranny made by some guy in the Netherlands, no name on the box that I can recall. (Whatever it was, I bet it would be a great match for a Shelter 901 too.)

My ZYX UNIverse liked my BentAudio Mu's best. (Woo-hoo! Talk about dumb luck, I usually do system synergy with a random number generator.)

From this one could conclude that the more expensive, revealing and refined the cartridge, the more it wants an expensive tranny. Sounds like a good audio conspiracy theory anyway.

One huge advantage of the Bent's is their facility for quick impedance adjustments. I don't know of another tranny (or phono stage) that makes it so easy to get EXACTLY the loading you need. With some cartridges this has proved indispensable.

BTW, we also tried playing the four cartridges directly into the SS MC gain stage of the same preamp. The stepup sounded better in every case. The lack of grain and glare was very noticeable.
Thanks, very interesting.
It's quite a dilemna: what hurts more, adding a tranny or choosing a high output version of a cartridge, in lieu of the lower output version? In this case, I'm considering the Airy3. Mehran and I talked, and we sort of settled on the 3H as a good option with the CAT. However, he also pointed out that generally the lower output versions sound best, which makes sense. Naturally, adding a tranny vs. not is sure to risk adding some additional artifacts into the mix. Without the luxury of a shootout like you just did, it's tough to judge. I'm confident that the 3H would be fine w/o tranny, as it's output exceeds my 501II. Also considering other carts w/similar output levels such as the Benz LP Ebony & Ruby3, and the Allerts.
Heading to CES on Saturday, so hopefully I'll get to hear some good analog while I'm there...Cheers,
Thanks Doug!
I still have the CAT SL1 Sig MkIII & still use the Benz L2 with a 14dB K&K Audio step-up. For me, with the step-up sounds best. I used the Benz L2 w/o a step-up for several weeks. Fiddled a lot with the setup to get it to reproduce sound the way I thought it should but couldn't. The mid-bass & bass were lacking & the music had very little heft. Hence the use of a step-up.
Spencer & I have talked before about this. Somehow his CAT SL1 Mk3 behaves differently in his system than mine does & he is fine w/o a step-up. So be it!
Spencer, let us know how the ZYX 3H compares to the Shelter 501. Thanks!
I'll be sure to post regardless of which direction I end up going. I'm having a tough time working thru this decision. It would be nice to be able to listen to the effects of the step-up + low output cartridge vs. the higher output versions. I also am still considering other carts, such as Allerts and Benz and welcome any suggestions. Cheers,