Trying to decide on a phono cart & do I need a transformer?

adingley

Novice Member
Through some friends, I recently received a non-functioning record player. The speed select wouldn't budge, and that meant you couldn't get it to start playing. Also, it was missing a needle... seemingly a small thing. What I ended up finding out is that it's a 1960's Thorens TD-124, with an Ortofon RMG212 tonearm on it. Turns out, that's a really nice combo! But still, it needed some work.
IMG_2593.jpeg

I found a tech who works on those, and he did a clean-up of some parts / re-mounted the motor on nicer springs / fixed the slumped counterweight on the tonearm. But he let me know that I needed a new transducer for that tonearm. The AudioTechnica MS10 Headshell, with the Shure V15 Type IV was too light to properly balance, so I should consider a heavier Headshell/cartridge.
EB8F7EE6-A37D-4C84-B8A0-1D09666AB68D.jpeg

Turns out "proper" Headshells for the RMG212 tonearm are NOT cheap! For context: My current TT setup has been a MusicHall MMF2.2, with a Pro-Ject arm, and I went (what I thought was) nuts... and I bought an Ortofon 2M Bronze for that.. I felt a little wild spending 300-400 on that cartridge. So I feel both super-lucky that I got this (potentially) amazing turntable... and A little out of my league with this fancy-ass TT. Part of me thinks I'm totally screwed, because this is likely going to be a moderate obsession, that rivals my gear-lust in the recording studio hobby that I already sink tons of cash into, each year.
I've been investing in my TT setup for years, but it seems that this new machine is a huge step up in build-quality and tone-potential. I want to do it right (without going crazy for every snake-oil solution out there).

I already own a decent phono preamp: Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL — which has capability to operate with MC and MM carts + it has different loading / settings to help you match up to different carts.

The next step seems to be buying a decent low-compliance headshell/cart. I'm fairly set on an Ortofon SPU (probably the 1e for budgetary reasons). I do see some notations that MC carts are classically going to be lower-output, so many people use Step-Up Transformers to boost signal to higher outputs. My curiosity is; with a variable resistance Photo-Stage like the M1 ViNL — do I really need a transformer? Is this a "give it a try, and if you're not satisfied with the level, then get one." situation? Or is a transformer also supposedly imparting some sonic characteristics on the phono output? I'd imagine most TT enthusiasts are hoping for / shopping for "transparent" transformers... but I come from the studio recording world, in which folks covet certain transformer-output devices for the particular flavor that the particular iron / nickel imparts on the audio.

So I'm curious. Am I going to be in pretty good shape with an Ortofon SPU 1e headshell/stylus going directly out of the Thorens into the MC-ins of the M1 ViNL phono stage, or am I completely missing the boat if I don't add a Transformer in between the TT and the Phono Stage?
Once my photos get approved by the message board, I'll have a few pics of the device, as I complete more updates & upgrades. It might not happen until the summer, but I'm planning on milling a new hardwood plinth, and I'm even going to put a small sliding drawer in the plinth for the brushes & accessories that I keep handy with the TT. I can't believe I don't see any big plinths with built-in storage.
 

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DT79

Well-known Member
It will probably be too quiet putting an MC cartridge straight into a MM phono stage And you’ll end up having a lot of noise once you turn your amp up to a decent listening level. Also MM phono stages typically have a variable capacitance setting (if they have any adjustment at all), a nice step-up transformer (SUT) will have a variable resistance to allow impedance matching with your MC cartridge. When I first got my TT with MC cartridge I used it going straight into the MM phono preamp while I waited for the SUT to arrive, and I can confirm that with the SUT in place it sounds quite profoundly better.
 

adingley

Novice Member
Thanks for the quick reply, but you missed one thing: Sorry if my original post confused the issue, but no — the Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL IS NOT a strictly MM preamp. It handles both MC and MM (it's got separate inputs for each cartridge type. There's a short blurb in my post that states that it handles both. So — is there anyone out there who's used one of these (or equivalent) and do they still think I need a transformer.

Are SUT's typically for folks that are taking an MC cart into a MM preamp? If so — perhaps that answers my question. Since my preamp is totally MC savvy, maybe I shouldn't need a SUT???

Thoughts / experiences, anyone?

It will probably be too quiet putting an MC cartridge straight into a MM phono stage And you’ll end up having a lot of noise once you turn your amp up to a decent listening level. Also MM phono stages typically have a variable capacitance setting (if they have any adjustment at all), a nice step-up transformer (SUT) will have a variable resistance to allow impedance matching with your MC cartridge. When I first got my TT with MC cartridge I used it going straight into the MM phono preamp while I waited for the SUT to arrive, and I can confirm that with the SUT in place it sounds quite profoundly better.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
Thanks for the quick reply, but you missed one thing: Sorry if my original post confused the issue, but no — the Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL IS NOT a strictly MM preamp. It handles both MC and MM (it's got separate inputs for each cartridge type. There's a short blurb in my post that states that it handles both. So — is there anyone out there who's used one of these (or equivalent) and do they still think I need a transformer.

Are SUT's typically for folks that are taking an MC cart into a MM preamp? If so — perhaps that answers my question. Since my preamp is totally MC savvy, maybe I shouldn't need a SUT???

Thoughts / experiences, anyone?
Yes sorry for missing that, if your phono pre can handle MC cartridges then no need for an SUT.
 

daytona600

Active Member
Spu Still in production after 70years & still are great sounding cartridge
 

adingley

Novice Member
Yes sorry for missing that, if your phono pre can handle MC cartridges then no need for an SUT.
So, is the consensus that if your Step-Up Transformers are ONLY needed when trying to boost signal from an MC cart and using a MM phono-stage? I certainly don't want to buy something that's not necessary (or worse, going to add harmonic distortion by overdriving the MC Phono stage input), but I'm curious to know if there's a definitive best practice here.
 

DT79

Well-known Member
So, is the consensus that if your Step-Up Transformers are ONLY needed when trying to boost signal from an MC cart and using a MM phono-stage? I certainly don't want to buy something that's not necessary (or worse, going to add harmonic distortion by overdriving the MC Phono stage input), but I'm curious to know if there's a definitive best practice here.
Main function of a SUT is to boost the tiny level of the signal coming out of an MC cartridge. A good SUT will also provide a variable resistance to impedance match to your cartridge, presenting it with the proper ‘load’.

So really 2 reasons why you might get a SUT in your situation:
1) the gain on the MC input/setting of your phono stage is still insufficient and the signal is too quiet (MC cartridges vary in their output level).
2) If there is no option on your phono stage to impedance match to your cartridge, and the specs for the two show that it’s way off. It will still work, but will likely not sound its best. If you did this then you’d connect the output of the SUT to the MM input.
 
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daytona600

Active Member
connect MM cartridge to MM input
connect MC cartridge to MC input
simples
 

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