What on earth is Loading and Gain

I feel like an idiot, but I have a Conrad Johson EF1 which has 47kohm, 1kohm (I think), 500ohm, and 200ohm. I have transfiguration temper and also a shelter 501.

I've decided to use the 501 for a bit. This has a 4mv output, the temper is 0.25.

I found my sytem sort of 'clipped' with the old settings of 52db gain and 200ohm.

I moved to 47kohm and this 'clipping' stopped, but the sound is now quite shut in, quieter, deeper, and darker.

Why is this?

can somebody explain this all to me?
The Shelter 501 usually sounds best loaded at 100 ohms. If you can't go lower than 200 ohms, that is the best of the options you listed. If the EF1 allows you to increase gain to 60-65db, that would help vs. the 52db setting. If not, you might want to consider trying adding a step up transformer such as those available from K&K or Bent Audio.
There is plenty in the archives on these topics. YMMV. Cheers,
I agree with Spencer on the settings he described.

Regarding the technical aspects of loading, the cartridge generator is designed to operate into a "load" which it was intended to be linear with. This is a balance of the voltage and current output levels of the cartridge. Lower loading increases current output, and higher loading decreases current output. These factors actually affect the linearity of the cartridge generator, and will affect frequency response and control. Generally in an MC cartridge, making the load higher than specified will cause a rise in high-end frequency response, making is "zippy" sounding(due to reduced hi-freq damping). Making the load too low can cause the cartridge to become out of control and sloppy, especially in the bass. Sticking close to the manufacturer's recommendations for loading is appropriate, but small deviations may be better sounding on your system, so experimentation in a small range can be good.

Gain, is the amplification of the small signal output of your cartridge generator. It is typically described in the logarithmic db scale. The phono stage requires a certain level of input signal strength, in order to finish its amplification(gain) stages, and send it to the linestage, so that the desired SPL can be reached without dialing-in too much gain in the linestage, which can increase noise floor, and limit dynamic headroom. If the input signal is too weak for the gain setting selected, then you have to turn up the volume to an abnormally high level, just to achieve listening levels. In many cases, a weak input signal combined with an insufficient gain setting can make the music sound lifeless. Overly high inputs to the phono stage can overload the phono input stage, and cause distortion, and too much output from the phono stage into the input of the linestage can also cause overload distortion. You should match the output of the cartridge to the available gain settings on the phono stage, to get the desired result. For the Shelter 501, a phono gain of about 62db or higher would be appropriate, and I use about 66db on mine. Load for the 501 is 100 ohms, but it can vary by a few percent for optimization, if you want to experiment with it.
Thanks for posting in a way that continues to educate me and probably most of us.
For a guy who listens to equalizers, you sure know your stuff ;-)

I am currently running an old Dynavector 20A at 100ohms I think the recommended load is 47Kohms but it seems to sound better at this setting.This is O.K I presume?
Here is a different explanation

Loading- feeding drinks to the ugly girl on the bar stool next to you, for a possible sexual encounter

Gain- how much better she'll look, after you yourself get loaded!
Stefanl, you can load the cartridge as you like it. The sound is the only thing that will change, nothing will be destroyed by the different loading. If you like it that way, there is no reason why you shouldn't load it like that.
Thanks TWL,I found that the 47Kohm nominal setting with Dynavector 20A HOMC gave a low volume and soft almost "moving magnet" sound and changing to 100 ohms lifted the volume considerably and yielded a brighter more balanced sound overall-it sounds more real and representative of the source this way.