Phono stages, SUTs, and cartridge loading question for those with experience...

Bobvin

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For a while I've been wanting to upgrade my phono stage. I am currently running an Einstein "The Turntable's Choice" four chassis dual mono balanced unit. I have not been unhappy with this unit as it brings most everything I want in a phono stage except the extra "something" that comes with a tube. I recently auditioned a Doshi phono stage, which confirmed for me I want a tube in my phono stage but the Doshi was noisy compared to the Einstein (dead silent, alas it is SS). It also confirmed what I had read in reviews, the Einstein adds a wee-bit of emphasis to leading edge of transients. This is not a hard coloration to live with as it gives just a little extra excitement, but it is still a coloration.

I did consider Audio Research REF10, REF3, and while solid-state I considered the Dagostino. More research convinced me the Ypsilon VPS-100 was the way to go. The VPS is a MM phono so I would need one of Ypsilon's step-up transformers. I recently found one on Audiogon.

As I began to research which SUT I needed, I ran into the problem that my current cartridge, a Benz Micro LP-S which puts out .34mv, is best loaded at >500 ohms. I am ignorant of loading—my Einstein running "wide open" had resistance of 470 ohms so I didn't use any loading plugs. The Ypsilon SUTs can be loaded, but here's where my ignorance got in my way: I learned you can load a SUT down, but you can't load one up. I had never thought about it, the Einstein wide open is 470, with plugs for four other options or custom (I don't remember the values, 80, 140, 200, 300?) The Einstein has gain of 70db. (With the Doshi, which had almost infinite loading options, I found below 420 the LP-S lost some magic, above that I didn't notice much difference. As the LP-S internal impedance is 38 ohms, using the 10x rule this makes sense.)

The Ypsilon step up that I would normally want for my .34mv output LP-S is the MC16, which provides 24 db gain (the VPS-100 itself has 39db gain.) But the MC16 has impedance of 200 ohms. I thought no problem, add the proper resistor and viola, 500 ohms, but you can't go up, only down. The SUT that would provide the appropriate impedance, the MC10 (500 ohms) offers only 20 db gain, and going the other direction, the MC20 SUT offers 26db gain but impedance is 140 ohms.

Have I just happened to find a cartridge / phono stage that is crappy match? What options do I have? I've cut the check for the VPS-100 but it has not shipped yet, and I'm not really keen or have the resources to purchase a new cartridge at this time, so I suppose I could, possibly, back out of the transaction but I don't really want to do that.

Help me Obi-wan!
 

djsina2

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May 31, 2019
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You can get a custom made SUT from EM/IA which will be tailored to your specific cartridge. The downside is of course having a SUT for a specific cartridge.
 
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Solypsa

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Slagle is the man for custom winds.

Are you sure you need that 6db of gain?
 
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Bobvin

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Slagle is the man for custom winds.

Are you sure you need that 6db of gain?

I don’t know... I have read so much about getting the gain and loading right it is confusing.

And, the Ypsilon SUTs are reportedly exceptional.
 

Solypsa

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Since the preamp is bought and the cart is in hand you might just buy or borrow any decent 1:10 SUT and get started. This will give you a baseline for load and gain, although perhaps not the ultimate finesse of a top unit...
 

dminches

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The Zesto SUT (Allasso) is also highly regarded.
 

tima

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The Ypsilon step up that I would normally want for my .34mv output LP-S is the MC16, which provides 24 db gain (the VPS-100 itself has 39db gain.) But the MC16 has impedance of 200 ohms. I thought no problem, add the proper resistor and viola, 500 ohms, but you can't go up, only down. The SUT that would provide the appropriate impedance, the MC10 (500 ohms) offers only 20 db gain, and going the other direction, the MC20 SUT offers 26db gain but impedance is 140 ohms.

With the .34mv Benz LP S, 20dB gain should be enough - giving you 59dB total. Do you have a dealer to let you try the MC10?

If you want to stay all Ypsilon you may be faced with the same issue for every cartridge.

Since you have a REF 10 linestage, do you mind saying why you chose the VPS-100 vs the REF 10 Phono? Was it lack of availability used?
 

Bobvin

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With the .34mv Benz LP S, 20dB gain should be enough - giving you 59dB total. Do you have a dealer to let you try the MC10?
...
Since you have a REF 10 linestage, do you mind saying why you chose the VPS-100 vs the REF 10 Phono? Was it lack of availability used?

Dealer? Sadly not in Portland or the Pacific NW that I can tell, I am dealing with the importer directly.

As for the ARC REF10 phono... didn’t consider it to strongly but can’t say exactly why. Damned by faint praise perhaps, not much ink reviewing it. And reviews of the Ypsilon have been outstanding, with one reviewer having previously had the same Einstein balanced unit to compare. Fremer also previously had the Einstein as a reference but moved to the Ypsilon. Auditioning phono stages is very difficult, perhaps if your city has a great many dealers you can get away comparing a few brands, maybe in-house, but there are a crap load of brands to choose from. The other thing I like about the Ypsilon is the no-capacitor design and point-point wiring. A different approach that by all accounts produces exceptional results.
 

brencho

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Aug 28, 2018
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Like you, I was also trying to demo phonos in house and got lucky to do that a few times thx to some dealers and friends. I ended up getting the EMIA LR phono, which drops the caps even in the riaa eq section. Can also vouch for their outstanding SUTs (copper or silver) wound to match your cart. I don’t use any load plugs with mine. I know of a couple people who went with Slagle SUTs (from their previous ypsi sut) due to better aligned values since they are custom vs a few preset ones that might not match some trickier carts. Good luck in your search, I’m sure the results will be very rewarding!!
 

bazelio

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Sep 27, 2016
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There's no 10x rule here. Here's basically how to think about it.

With a SUT, try to match the cart internal resistance to the DC resistance of the SUT windings. This is different than loading. Loading appears at the input of the phono and it is reflected back to the cart by (windings_ratio)^2. The typical phono stage loading is 47000 ohms. With a 1:10 SUT, the loading is then affected by a factor of 100. Since the phono loading is reflected "back", you'll divide by 100. Therefore, in this scenario, the cart sees 470 ohms load. So you can see the 47k ohm standard load is something of a limitation.

I also have the Emia LR phono (a collaboration between Dave Slagle and Jeffrey Jackson). It's fantastic by the way, and I like it better than the big names commonly bandied about here in the forums. Nevertheless, one great thing about the Emia phono is its loading is much higher in value: 270k. So, with that same 1:10 SUT, you'll now present a 2700 ohm load to the cart using an Emia phono. Big difference.

Regarding SUTs, I've done direct AB compares between the Slagle silver SUT and the much more expensive copper Ypsilon. The Slagle, simply put, is better. I suppose the Ypsilon silver SUT could be comparable, but egads, the price! The Zesto SUT is inferior in terms of sound.

I suggest you demo the Emia LR phono. It's better than the Doshi you heard. And it's more flexible with SUTs due to the loading scheme. Contact Dave or Jeffrey and they'll mail out a unit for demo if they're not currently sold out. Your cart wants a SUT with 40ohm DCR and about 1:20 ratio if combined with the Emia. This gives more zero noise gain and lower noise floor than other options. That said, the Emia phono is intentionally not designed to be dead quiet with your ear to the speaker. But it is quiet from the listening position in almost all cases.
 
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bazelio

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One last thing is that I'd recommend avoiding load plugs. That is create your system with a windings ratio that presents the desired impedance to the cart directly. Even when using precision low noise resistors, I've never found load plugs that don't have a negating effect on dynamics. Just my personal experience.
 

dminches

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Oct 22, 2011
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One last thing is that I'd recommend avoiding load plugs. That is create your system with a windings ratio that presents the desired impedance to the cart directly. Even when using precision low noise resistors, I've never found load plugs that don't have a negating effect on dynamics. Just my personal experience.

What happens if you use different cartridges or change cartridges? I am not asking about the load plugs but the concept of matching the SUT to a particular cartridge.
 

shakti

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May 9, 2015
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I had the Einstein phonoPre @home for a phonoPre shoot out. A very good phono stage.
Difficult and expensive to beat. Most likey, it will only be different.

I had also the Benz LP-S, which is a nice cart, but not the end of the world in terms of cartridge performance.

Would it be a possibility , to think about another Cartridge to be paired with your Einstein?

Could be an Opus1, an Etsuro gold, an Ikeda Gold, a Koetsu Coralstone Platinum and more?

just a thought .
 

bazelio

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What happens if you use different cartridges or change cartridges? I am not asking about the load plugs but the concept of matching the SUT to a particular cartridge.

You have a couple options. The most convenient is a multi-SUT switch box in which you have them build SUTs to match different carts. They call it the MC Trio. Three is usually enough as most carts fall in to an acceptable range of low, medium, or high internal resistance.

http://myemia.com/Trio.html

It's going to be an issue in any system that utilizes a SUT, internal or external. External is obviously more flexible. If you don't want to worry about it at all, then you'll want to use a solid state phono that doesn't need a SUT.
 

dminches

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Oct 22, 2011
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You have a couple options. The most convenient is a multi-SUT switch box in which you have them build SUTs to match different carts. They call it the MC Trio. Three is usually enough as most carts fall in to an acceptable range of low, medium, or high internal resistance.

http://myemia.com/Trio.html

It's going to be an issue in any system that utilizes a SUT, internal or external. External is obviously more flexible. If you don't want to worry about it at all, then you'll want to use a solid state phono that doesn't need a SUT.

Why solid state? Aren’t there a lot a tube phonos that don’t use a SUT? Doshi, Modwright, etc. Maybe I am not understanding.
 

bazelio

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Some tube units don't use SUTs. I don't know if there are "a lot". I'm not familiar with the loading ranges they provide though. I wouldn't consider those personally anyhow, because I find advantages in having some SUT gain in combination with tubes. Something like the Pass Labs or Merrill SS phonos definitely offer a wide range of loading options.
 
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dminches

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I don’t understand the electrical engineering in all these units but I know the Doshi uses transistors for the step up and then they step it down with transformers. I think the Modwright uses tubes for the step up. The Doshi loading goes up to 6k, I think. The Modwright caps at 470.

All these uses have step up gain. It is just a matter of how it is executed.

Again, I have no opinion on what is a good design. All I can do is listen and see if I like it.
 

bazelio

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Yeah if you like the transistor or all-tube gain, go for it. 470 is too big a limitation with some of the carts I like.
 

Solypsa

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... Nevertheless, one great thing about the Emia phono is its loading is much higher in value: 270k. So, with that same 1:10 SUT, you'll now present a 2700 ohm load to the cart using an Emia phono. Big difference...
Dave has posted since many years about this subject. I have no doubt an emia (or a silvercore ... ) phono would do very well in comparison to the einstein and ypsilon. But the OP has already purchased the ypsilon. So if he can get by with 1:10 sut gain can still do a sut shootout between the same players.

Shakti brings up an interesting point about cartridge. Of course the ever present cart setup conversation applies too...
 

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