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Step-Up Transformers are a serious option for anyone who owns a Moving Coil (MC) cartridge, as they allow both the cartridge and the phono stage to work to their fullest potential.
Due to the technology they use, MC cartridges have a very low output, often around one tenth of a Moving Magnet's (MM) output, which means they require more gain from a phono stage in order to be played at normal listening levels through your hi-fi system.
Where phono stages, as part of their signal amplification, will have a constant resistive input impedance, Step-Up Transformers have an input impedance that is frequency-dependent. Step-Up Transformers are also passive (i.e. not mains powered) devices, which also reduces the chance of external electrical forces impacting on the cartridge's low output signal. The result of a Step-Up Transformer's design is that they are able to amplify the MC output level and produce less harmonic distortion as the frequency rises - which is the opposite effect of a phono stage. This results in a cleaner electrical signal and a more dynamic sound performance from the cartridge in a wider, deeper soundstage.
Step-Up Transformers still require a phono stage in the system, for "active" amplification and RIAA equalisation, so they are connected between the turntable output and a phono stage. However, the phono stage will now need to be set for an MM-type signal, typically at around 5mV/47kΩ. This reduced gain requirement allows the phono stage to perform to its fullest potential, for greater sound performance.
Step-Up Transformers are often seen as niche devices, but Ortofon produce a range of options - each of which are suited best to a particular cartridge line - offering both affordable and high-end solutions. One thing is clear, and it's that Step-Up Transformers are a must-audition accessory for any serious vinyl audiophile.
Visit the Product Catalogue and view our full range of Ortofon Step-Up Transformers.