surface noise and cartridge/ phono pre questions

Ok, here it goes. I'm very green to analog but thanks to Agon, I have so far been lead in the right direction. I'll cut the bull and get to it.
I'm currently using a Music Hall 5.1se, AT140LC cart, Musical Suroundings Nova Phonomena phono pre with a DIY phono interconnect. I'm loading the cart at 50k, gain at 40db, going into a AE-3 pre. I've made many adjustments to VTA (SRA), VTF....etc. currently I'm at approx -2degrees on VTA and 1.46g on VTF. I also tried a Shure V15 IV w/ ed saunders stylus, never could get it to sound right to me.
I'm very happy with the sound now and I think it's really close to the proper set up. I have Alison Krauss "So Long So Wrong" last 2 tracks of side 2 sounding sweet!!! The problem....I seam to be getting surface noise and pops with recordings that I would think should be better.
My main question. I tried using a lower cart loading, (2k) obviously this is to low, sounds super clean, black and quiet. Again, obviously, the highs totally diminish. Any suggestions on a direction I should go to obtain this sort of quietness without losing my high end?
I'm very new to this and learning daily but if I'm chasing my tail with my phono pre, cart, tonearm compatibilty, I'm open for suggestions. The more I read on here, it's sounding like this could be the difference in a really good phono pre. I really like the sound of the AT140 and feel that it is a good match for my humble tonearm and system. I'm curious on what you guys think and suggest.
If this is not enough info, I'll try to give more.
Just a quick note, I just hooked up the AE-3 pre last night and It's really something else for such an inexpensive investment. Great match for my SET45.
not to change the subject too much , but in addition to ticka and pops whatwould cause those sharp "s" and "t" s too occur on some recordings . it can just appear on some recordings as it gets to the end of the record. is this a pre amp issue also ?
Panu21, it *can* be, but can also be a setup problem with the arm and cartridge. If the cartridge is not loaded properly, and is not set up correctly, it is conceivable that the additional RF energy that shows up at the end of the LP could bother some preamps.

However, it is far more likely to be an arm/cartridge setup issue.
can u advise on what part of the setup issue i should check? recalibrated the weight , antiskate and vta. anything else i should look at ? tks