Cartridge output vs. phono stage input sensitivity

I was just thinking about cartridges and phono stages. I have the SuperLine E version which states its input sensitivity is between 200μV - 1mV and I am currently using, and have been for quite some time an EMT JSD 6 which has an output voltage of 1.05mV @ 5cm/s and it sounds superb. I also ran, for a while, before I sold it, the Apheta 2 (with an output voltage of either 350μV or 500μV depending nowhere you look - the Rega site no longer seems to have that info…) on the RP10 and this sounded, although good, had just a bit less of everything and always left me a little underwhelmed. Now the JSD 6 is about twice the price of the Apheta so I would expect a big difference.
So back to the actual question - my JSD 6’s output is ever so slightly above the input sensitivity of the SL and the Apheta was at the lower end of the range. Is this just a recommended range? What happens as you reach either end of that range? Would a cart like the Lyra Delos with output of 0.6mV@5cm/sec. which is pretty much bang in the middle be an even better match for the SL?
Lots of questions I know but I am curious about this relationship between output and input.
Something to muse on over the weekend :grin:
Cheers and have a great one

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The Superline E came about because the regular Superline, while fabulous for really low output MCs wasn’t really ideal with MCs of 0.6mV or more (the SL versions are ideal here). I use an E mainly because it gives me a bit more flexibility with the range of carts I use, and I don’t use anything of less than 0.2mV output. Or at least not yet, anyway…

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I use Naim E 523 boards very successful with a high output MC - the DV10X. Which I think has a nominal output of 2.5mv…?


The E boards and E Stageline and Prefix are quite different to the “E” Superline. The E Superline is just a version of the Superline with slightly lower gain.


So using a cartridge slightly over 1mV on the SuperLine E shouldn’t present any major problems or indeed sound quality issues?

It’s at the higher limit and headroom may be an issue, but if it sounds good to you…

My Lyra Skala had 0,5mV output, and the more revealing my amplification/Speakers became the more I was able to hear issues with higher impulses from records. So for years I thought the sound was very good with my then standard Superline, even while pushing the headroom. Today, using the Superline E (first with the Lyra Skala, now with Lyra Atlas Lambda(0,56mV)), I know how important enough headroom is.

Interesting - something to bear in mind when it comes time to get a new cartridge - sometime towards the end of the year I think - thanks!

So what might happen to the sound when you push headroom too far - would there be a loss of clarity at the top end or loss of bass etc?

I’ve never tried and just tried to avoid.

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Sten, if I may?

In my system certain frequencies, especially noticed with higher frequencies, sounded brittle and harsh, but more important, micro dynamics got lost/smeared (less room information, decay, separation…).
Also tonality is harmed if the phono pre and consecutive the preamp get sort of a overloaded - and has to recover afterwards (cannot put it in better words technically, but it was explained to me from someone knowing/designing phono stages).
Probably lots of people take this as punchy, forward, lively sound although it’s not correct.

If you hear it, you know it…if not, just leave it as it is. But I guess you will be surprised if you get a perfect match for your Superline with your next cartridge.

Hope this helps,

Just a thought but if you play 45rpm records you may have a higher output still. One of the Naim tech guys may be able to confirm how close you are running to the redline :slightly_smiling_face:
I’d be surprised if Naim haven’t designed in tons of headroom.

I’m not sure who to ask though :thinking:

Thanks Jodl, makes sense the way you explain it but I have to say I do find the my current cartridge very engaging indeed but it does raise the question if a cartridge like the Delos or the Benz Micro SHR Gullwing (0.7mV) might hit an even sweeter spot. Anyway thanks a lot for your thoughts.

Good point Gunnless and I think you must be right - even at 45rpm the EMT sounds great so the headroom might well be well above the parameters stated in the specs - would be great to know for sure from someone in the know…

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I suspect there may be plenty of headroom. I ran a Dynavector 10x5 High Output MC into 523 MC ‘S’ boards and didn’t notice any issues with distortion.

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