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To Garrett Hongo,

I've been researching mono cartridges and came across your reviews in Ultra Audio. They are informative, excellent reviews!

I'm trying to build a system around SPUs and an SME 3012-R tonearm. My goal is to be able to easily change cartridges to play all the stereo, mono, and 78s in my collection with a one-tonearm system. SPUs seemed perfect for this. The problem I'm having is finding a transformer that would work with the lower outputs of the stereo cartridges and the higher outputs of the mono and 78 cartridges.

I read in your review of the EAR MC 4 transformer that you used with the SPU mono. Did you have any problems with the high output of the SPU mono overloading your phono stage? Do you prefer the sound of the SPU mono straight into your 47k input on your phono stage or loaded by a transformer?

Thank you for any advice you can give.


I love the EAR MC 4 and am purchasing one for myself! I found there were no issues with using its 6-ohm/X24 setting with my Ortofon SPU Mono GM MkII SPU (3.0mV/100 ohms). I run the phono cables to the MC 4 first and then Auditorium 23 interconnects into the MM inputs of my Herron VTPH-2 phono without any issues. No overloading. And, using mainly the 6-ohm inputs on the MC 4, I also use a half-inch MC and another SPU of much lower output -- the Ortofon Cadenza Mono (0.45mV/5 ohms) and the Ortofon SPU 90th Anniversary (0.3mV/2 ohms). For all of these, I prefer using the EAR step-up rather than running into the MC input of the Herron phono.

I will say, however, that when I play classical music or opera recordings, I prefer running my Zyx Airy 3 (0.24mV) cartridge into either the MC inputs of the Herron phono or else via the Music First step-up into the MM inputs rather than through the EAR MC 4. I mention this in my review as well.

I've not tried 78s, however, but I know Dan Meinwald of EAR USA plays them using the EAR 834P phono, which, for its MC function, has a far lesser step-up in it than the MC 4. The MC 4 should be even better. I've visited his home on a couple of occasions -- once just to listen to 78s and they sounded great!

Finally, I know Ortofon has recently released a step-up designed to be used with its the classic SPU-type mono cartridges, the CG 25 DI MKII and CG 65 DI MKII -- the ST-M25 Mono. I haven't heard it yet, but Jeffrey Catalano of High Water Sound in New York City, a dealer and distributor of great expertise, recommends it highly. If you bought it, you'd also buy one of the "classic" Ortofon SPUs. Likewise, you'd buy a dedicated step-up for each of your other MC cartridges. I've friends -- in the category of analog purists -- who do this with great results and say there is no other way for optimum performance.

So there are basically two ways to go here -- the EAR MC 4 or its like with multiple gain/impedance settings; or a small array of various "dedicated" step-ups designed to work precisely with any given cartridge. I chose the EAR MC 4 and done! . . . Garrett Hongo