Thoughts on adding a SUT to an external mm phono stage

I’m idly thinking about MC cartridges at some point in the future but would probably wish to retain MM capability. As such I’m wondering about a Step Up Transformer, or phono head amp. My question is if there are any concerns or experience of running three sets of phono cables in such setups, one from TT to SUT, another set from SUT to MM stage, and a final set from MM stage to integrated amplifier. I suspect shielding and/or routing would be higher priority considerations for the first two sets than using a more straightforward setup? Would matching the cables make sense and if so should all three match?

My other thought was keeping an eye out for a second MC stage, I run the MM Graham Slee Accession and already have the matching power supply, so finding a MC accession and swapping between them would probably be doable and avoid the additional complexity of a SUT.

Ortofon made step up transformers in an oversize phono plug.

Google tells me there were called the Ortofon T-5.

I have no experience of these, just recall them from years ago.

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The Elevator Exp should give you excellent synergy with the Accession, I would give it serious consideration as an alternative to a SUT.

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Yep, thanks, I am thinking about both SUTs and head amps (which I think is the correct term for what the Elevator is!?)

FWIW I ran a Rothwell Headspace II along with an Accession for a while and it worked quite well.

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There’s no problem using separate SUT, MM stage and integrated amplifier in my experience, quite common to see it.

Before moving to a simpler system with SUT going into my NAIT 50, I ran my Thorens turntable with the low-output MC SPU Wood A (0.18mV), into a Sculpture A SUT, then a valve Icon Audio MM stage, then a Croft valve linestage. Then onto Quad II monos and Klipsch Cornwall III. A few visitors said it was amongst the best systems they’d heard. I tended to use fully-shielded interconnects for minimal noise.


These are surprisingly effective considering their tiny size and inexpensive cost (also look for the Empire and Sony equivalents which are the same underneath). You need to spend, much, much more to do clearly better, and at that point you might well be better off with a decent MC phono stage like a Superline.


That’s a pretty extreme viewpoint, Richard :sweat_smile: There are plenty of good quality SUTs for a few hundred pounds that would better the mini Ortofon plug-in types, and best a solid-state MC input stage too eg. Rothwell, Ortofon, Music First Audio, Silvercore, etc. plus some vintage ones from Fidelity Research, Denon and the like. IME the Ortofon plug-ins are ok to get you going but nothing special compared with a good sub-£1000 SUT.

Oh yes, I’m sure. I’ve tried a number that were pretty good (still have some of them knocking about) - probably better than the little T5s for sure, but all more expensive and none yet that I felt were considerably better or without certain little niggles that ultimately annoy or disappoint. And so much depends on the MM stage too. The T5s are great with something like a NAIT because they are cheap and expectations are reasonably low. That they work at all is rather remarkable, but they do. However, by absolute standards there are some clear problems - I’m told that what I want is possible but for much, much more money, and with that in mind I reckon the Superline may well be the better choice.


I bought a Japanese-made Ortofon ST-7 Step-Up Transformer so that I can use a Goldring rebuilt Linn Troika into the MM-only phono input of my new Nait50.

It does the job superbly. It was a bit of a faff finding it, but eBay Japan came up trumps.

I use a Chord Shawline cable between the Ortofon and the Nait. The cable is almost as red as the Troika bodyshell!

(I couldn’t find any of the Ortofon T-5 plugs shown by IanRobert M above, nor the other Ortofon SUT that I remember from years ago that looked like an oversized dry cell battery with female phono inputs and flying male phono outputs. But I’m happy with my choice.)


I’ve been thinking of replacing the cable between deck and SUT. Think I’ve just got a Van Damme one at the moment. My SME arm has RCA outputs so I could use a standard Shawline interconnect. I’d then need another to go from SUT to NAIT 50.

I had an MM Graham Slee Phonostage Reflex M. I decided to go for quite a high quality cartridge and considered a SUT. But was looking at an extra £800. Sold the MM phonostage for a reasonable price and bought a much better MC phonostage.

If you’re going down MC route permanently then what’s the point of a SUT?

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Dan, I was obliged to find a SUT, because I couldn’t have used my newly rebuilt Troika MC cartridge into the NAIT50, which doesn’t have an MC input.

(I hope that you’re keeping well.)

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SUTs tend to have lower noise than transistor MC stages (when positioned optimally) and seem to have a lovely sound to my ears.

They each tend to have different distortion characteristics too - harmonic distortion in a transformer is highest at the lowest frequencies, and falls rapidly as frequency rises. Transistor MC stages more usually have rising distortion as frequency rises, which may be more intrusive in many cases. Transformers also tend to have lower intermodulation distortion. Overall the distortion is pretty benign compared to many MC transistor stages.

So I’d say they’re far more than just a stop-gap method of accommodating a newly purchased MC cart, they could be the best solution for many listeners. It’s important to get one that matches your cart electrically though, which can be a bit of a headache.


I did look seriously. And decided that an MC phono stage is made for a reason.

If I started with MC cart would I go MM PS and an SUT, No I wouldn’t.

So finding better overall MC PS was my plan.

I am sure they are excellent. But extra box, extra PSU and so on.

I applied logic to situation and went for an MC dedicated PS.

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Either choice is valid, just depends. Some carts seem to sound better one way or the other, as many have found. Certainly, my vintage-style Ortofon SPU responds well to a SUT.

Not sure if I misunderstood your post above, but there’s no PSU for a step-up transformer, as it’s a passive device which is partly why they have such different electrical and sound characteristics than an active transistor stage.

A single box with one fewer pair of cables is certainly a good reason for going the MC phono stage route :+1:


Makes sense Graham as you’d need an MC phonostage otherwise, so it’s still just one more box whether you had a SUT or MC phonostage.

I see the point now, especially if you have an integrated phonostage MM from your pre or integrated amp, then you’d need an extra box anyhow for the phonostage. And in many cases the phonostage has a brick for a power supply.

You also can save a limited number of line level input for another equipment in case of the Nait 50 by using a SUT with its MM phono input.

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Some years ago I was considering the Auditorium 23 hommage sut, to upgrade the one inside my ear 912. Not cheap.