Need help with finding a new phono stage.

I just got my SOTA TT back from being upgraded from a Star to a Nova. Now I need to work on getting a new phono stage. I currently have a Cary PH-301 that has served me well for years but I'm looking for a phono stage where I can adjust the gain, impedance and preferably the capacitance as well. I have mounted a new Benz M2 wood body MC cartridge (0.8mV) on the Kuzma Stogi tonearm. According to the papers the recommended load is 200 - 47k ohms. I don't see a figure for the capacitance. My Cary has a swicth on the back to go from MC to MM (60db/42db), and says the impedance is adjustable (MC only, 10k - 68k, MM fixed at 47k) but the manual does not instruct how to do this.

Any suggestions for a new or used phono stage in the $1500 price range. I prefer tubes but could go solid state. If anyone also knows what impedance level would be best between 200 - 47k ohms and what the capacitance on my Benz cartridge I'd appreciate knowing that as well.

Moving coil cartridges are relatively insensitive to capacitive loading, that is why nothing is specified and phono stages do not provide for variable capacitive loading. Conversely, moving magnet cartridges are sensitive to capacitive loading and should be unloaded (read very high value, like 47k) as far as impedance loading.

I've heard, but not had an opportunity to fiddle around with the Benz. But, the 200-47k loading recommendation suggests that the cartridge is mechanically well dampened and/or has a high source impedance and does not need to be loaded down (low value, like <100 ohms, equals higher loading) to prevent a high frequency peak. As a pure guess, I would predict that 47k loading would be fine. If the cartridge sounds too bright and sibilant, then the lower value could be tried. The difference between 200 and 47k is often quite subtle, so there is no reason not to try an even lower value if the sound is still too bright. I find that if you load the cartridge down too much (again, low value), it will sound muffled, leaden and lacking in upper frequency "air."

I have the ability to pick my loading option on the fly by remote control so experimentation is easy. If you end up with a stage with a fixed loading and can pick the value, I would look for something close to the 200 ohm value because it should work with most other cartridges as well. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine was having trouble mating a Temper V to the phono stage in the Hovland HP200. We could hear lots of noise that suggested RFI problems. It turns out that the factory default loading of the Hovland is 100k and the Temper has a very low source impedance, around 3 ohms, so the extremely wide bandwidth of this combination was probably passing a lot of RFI. When we changed the loading to 100 ohms, the problem went away.

Good luck.

Why not try some Trannies, no not that kind, step up transformers, I have the Lundahl step up trans. kit($250., nice 4 price)), but think the Bent Audio MU dual mono trannies are the ultimate especially for $825. Continuous cast copper wound trannies directly terminated to Bullet rcas, no toggles ot dip switches for your sound to go through, adjustable with a resistor mounted externally on each tran. with little binding posts making it easy to try different values and even different brands of resistors!, talk about extreme fine tuning! If you are happy with the Cary, set it for MM, and set up the trannies for your cartridge. Check it out.
Step up transformers are not adjustable for gain. Also, it has limitation on load impedence value.
Thank you all for the suggestions. Lots of interesting options.

Larryi - I appreciate the explanation and this makes sense to me. I need to call Cary and see what the factory setting on the PH-301 is and how to change it. Then evaluate the results.

To those who suggested the step-up transformers, after doing some research I am sure this is a good suggestion but I would prefer to upgrade the entire phono stage rather than go this route.

Under consideration at this point are:

Musical Surroundings Phonomena with battery PS
ASR MIni Basis
Audio Mirror PP1 (preamp with phono stage modified to just provide the phono stage)
Acoustech PH-1P
Eastern Electric Mini Max

I'm looking for others to research so any suggestions are welcome. Again, budget is up to $1500 used although if I'm not satisfied in this price range with my options I may have to bite the bullet on a Whest.