Advice on a SUT

the thin end of the wedge
Big Al
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Advice on a SUT

Post by Big Al » 13 Mar 2019 19:31

I have an Ortofon Quintet Black cartridge running through the MC stage of a Primare R32 phono stage and am thinking of adding an SUT. The Ortofon ST7 is still available, at least as an import from Japan to the UK. Has anyone any experience of the Straight Sound Company (Germany) SUTs such as the one here? https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Step-Up-Tran ... SwqF9ZdgNT
Or any other suggestions for me?

rewfew
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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by rewfew » 13 Mar 2019 21:24

How's bout Rothwell. Made in country. http://www.rothwellaudioproducts.co.uk/html/hi-fi.html

ChrisfromRI
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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by ChrisfromRI » 14 Mar 2019 00:50

You are smart to try a step-up into the MM setting on your R32. I don't think the R32 is terribly different than the R20 and I found that using a step-up with the low gain setting of the R20 improved the sound with a LOMC. I like those old Denon AU-320 step-up units that are plentiful on the used market because they allow you to switch between two tonearms, two impedance transformation ratios, and a pass-thru for MM/MI. They can handle most situations you throw at them,

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by Agrippa » 14 Mar 2019 08:02

The Denon AU-320 is indeed an excellent step-up. I used one for many years myself and can attest to its quality. It's now damn expensive compared to the $60 I paid for mine many years ago, but it's still one of the best and most flexible options available for reasonable money.

Rothwell makes fine products, but in my experience the AU-320 is at least equal to their SUTs and can be had for less.

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Take Care on Selection of a SUT

Post by EdAInWestOC » 14 Mar 2019 14:52

The Quintet Black S is a good cartridge and deserves a SUT that is transparent. The problem with cheap SUTs is that they tend to add some coloration of their own. Usually you find this as additional bass or rolling off of the high end.

Both of those things are something to be avoided and is why cheap SUTs get bad reviews. When it comes to cheap SUTs it is sometimes better to rely on a phono preamp with MC capabilities. Cheap MC amplification is easier to accomplish with electronics than it is with a transformer.

There are ways to get a decent stepup but you have to rely on the used market and take your time to shop for something that is really good. Personally, I try to avoid cheap stepups because the ones I have tried all had a sound of their own. Cheap stepups can also have hum/noise pickup problems, where you have to experiment with placement of the stepup to avoid the hum/noise problem.

Obviously you want a stepup that has no sound of its own and is immune to placement issues. Those two things in a stepup usually equals a more expensive unit but you can get lucky and land a bargain.

Before you buy a stepup I would ask the seller whether the stepup tends to add coloration of its own or is sensitive to placement. If either of those questions are answered yes, avoid that stepup. Unfortunately that last suggestion relies on an honest seller. That means you should limit your buying to an established business that sells second hand stuff.

Fortunately many hifi stores take trade-ins and, if lucky, you can find a good quality stepup from this kind of place. At least you have some recourse if you don't like what you bought, when you buy from this kind of source. If you buy from a seller online you can have the problems that plague many of us who have tried that route.

Whatever you choose, good luck,
Ed

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by Jim Leach » 14 Mar 2019 18:12

How about buying a (loose) Lundhal (or a pair, relay) and going with that? I have some but I believe they are 1:1 for a standalone DAC output that I may build at some point...

Big Al
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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by Big Al » 15 Mar 2019 16:34

I’m not into DIY. Would probably sever a finger or worse. Are we suggesting here that the Ortofon ST-7 might not be ‘good enough’ for the Quintet Black? It’s very difficult to find reviews of SUTs so any advice is appreciated.

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by balky » 15 Mar 2019 18:02

Big Al wrote:
13 Mar 2019 19:31
I have an Ortofon Quintet Black cartridge running through the MC stage of a Primare R32 phono stage and am thinking of adding an SUT. The Ortofon ST7 is still available, at least as an import from Japan to the UK. Has anyone any experience of the Straight Sound Company (Germany) SUTs such as the one here? https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Step-Up-Tran ... SwqF9ZdgNT
Or any other suggestions for me?
I have a 1:15 SUT from this guy, and as far as I can tell, I prefer the sound coming out of the SUT into the MM input of my ifi-iPhono2 than using the MC input on the ifi-iPhono2.
I also have a Lounge Audio Copla head-amp that I use for my Denon DL-103, DL-103R, DL-110, DL-103S into the MM input of the ifi-iPhono2.
All sound fuller than connecting directly to the ifi-iPhono2, which on its own is not a bad unit at all.

I don't completely agree that the SUT will color the sound because it is not expensive... or at least this one isn't, from personal experience.
The seller is a competent guy who knows what he is doing, just try getting in communication with him.
He will ask you which cart you want to use it with and customize the SUT to the cart's specifications, a service you will never get from the big companies.
I can tell that if this SUT was under a brand, they will put it in a fancy case, stick some logo on it and will cost more than the double what the guy is asking especially if they have to customize it to suit your specific cart.

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by ChrisfromRI » 15 Mar 2019 19:55

Big Al wrote:
15 Mar 2019 16:34
I’m not into DIY. Would probably sever a finger or worse. Are we suggesting here that the Ortofon ST-7 might not be ‘good enough’ for the Quintet Black? It’s very difficult to find reviews of SUTs so any advice is appreciated.
That is because every SUT is a bit different with almost every different LOMC cartridge you pair it with. I would think an Ortofon step-up transformer should work with an Ortofon LOMC but I have never tried an Ortofon step-up transformer, as I don't have one. The step-up transformers I do have are from Denon, Fidelity Research, Signet, Quicksilver Audio, and another DIY one using Cinemag transformers. I have a couple of different models from some of those manufacturers. The transformation ratios are different between many of them, and some accordingly suit different internal impedance cartridges better (not just higher or lower cartridge output levels). I also have a collection of active step-ups when all else fails - but in general they all have a slightly higher noise floor because they are active devices versus a passive step-up (e.g., shot noise from the FET or transistor amplification even with ultra quiet battery power supplies).

Anything set up wrong can hum, and that's another story altogether.

I have a couple of Ortofon MC25FL cartridges which have a low internal impedance of 6 ohms and worked well with the Denon and Fidelity Research transformers that have winding ratios suited to low internal impedance cartridges. OTOH my Dynavector 17D2 and Denon 103 have high internal impedances and need different transformation ratios to sound right. As an example, if your MM phono stage has a typical input impedance of 47,000 ohms your LOMC cartridge sees that through the transformation ratio of the step-up transformer, and mathematically sees an impedance of 47,000 divided by the square of the transformation ratio of the step-up. There should be a 10X difference (or higher) between the internal impedance of the cartridge and what it looks into. So in this example a 20:1 step-up would be fine for a low internal impedance LOMC like my Ortofon MC25FL but not at all appropriate for my Dynavector or Denon cartridges which would need something more like a 10:1 step-up.

Experimentation is invaluable, and one of the reasons I like the Denon AU-320 is that it has two transformation ratios, plus if you swap headshells to listen to a MM/MI cartridge it has a bypass position - then there is even the ability to add a second tonearm/turntable...

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by theclosetguy » 15 Mar 2019 23:27

I have a Ortofon Quintet Bronze. I decided on cinemag 3440 AH's for my SUT. The difference was night and day. I bought mine through this e-bay seller. Very well made and quit inexpensive compared to other makers using the same Cinemag Transformers.
IMG_20181216_081136.jpg
(61.93 KiB) Downloaded 116 times

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Cinemag-3440AH ... 7675.l2557
Mike M

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by balky » 16 Mar 2019 06:46

theclosetguy wrote:
15 Mar 2019 23:27
I have a Ortofon Quintet Bronze. I decided on cinemag 3440 AH's for my SUT. The difference was night and day. I bought mine through this e-bay seller. Very well made and quit inexpensive compared to other makers using the same Cinemag Transformers.

IMG_20181216_081136.jpg


https://www.ebay.com/itm/Cinemag-3440AH ... 7675.l2557
Mike M
This aligns with my opinion very well... a SUT doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg to be good...

Big Al
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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by Big Al » 16 Mar 2019 21:13

The Rothwell MCL looks like a good option for me. *Dumb question warning* why don’t manufacturers such as Primare simply fit a couple of Lundahl transformers into the case of its R32? There’s plenty of space!

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by ChrisfromRI » 16 Mar 2019 22:31

Big Al wrote:
16 Mar 2019 21:13
The Rothwell MCL looks like a good option for me. *Dumb question warning* why don’t manufacturers such as Primare simply fit a couple of Lundahl transformers into the case of its R32? There’s plenty of space!
To a manufacturer:

Signal Transformers cost $$$$$

while

A couple of extra transistors added to an existing board only cost $

Note: There are definitely all solid state and all tube LOMC Phono Stages, with no signal transformers, that are equal to or even quite higher performance solutions than what we're talking about - BUT - at much higher price points.

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by theclosetguy » 18 Mar 2019 02:01

Sorry Chris but transformers don't have to cost $$$$. Cinemags 3440ah's run around $95.00 each and 1254's around $180 each. This is retail pricing. So realistically you should spend between $300 and $500 respectively for a excellent sounding SUT set up not $1000 and up for a fancy name brand using cinemags.

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Re: Advice on a SUT

Post by ChrisfromRI » 18 Mar 2019 02:52

theclosetguy wrote:
18 Mar 2019 02:01
Sorry Chris but transformers don't have to cost $$$$. Cinemags 3440ah's run around $95.00 each and 1254's around $180 each. This is retail pricing. So realistically you should spend between $300 and $500 respectively for a excellent sounding SUT set up not $1000 and up for a fancy name brand using cinemags.
Using your example, if a manufacturer of a $1500 MM phono stage adds $300 of Cinemag transformers and a switch for LOMC capability, a multiple of that parts cost gets added to the price. I would say we probably end up at $2400. OTOH, the manufacturer can add a few of transistors (that cost only a couple of dollars) to the circuit board with a switch and only end up at $1700 max. Both units are now MM and LOMC capable, but there is a difference in the price of the finished product. The lower price point gets more traffic from potential customers and it is easier to compete in that price category and achieve higher sales, while the higher price point may well still be a good value it will unfortunately see lower sales and a higher margin is necessary. That was the question that I answered, about why manufacturers don't typically include transformers within their phono stage.

We are knowledgable end-users and in the case of adding a step-up, we can be better off to add what we prefer, without being encumbered by a manufacturer's business case and margin.

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