Phono Cart Impedance Question

I have a little bit of hiss through my 6 ohm, 0.28mV cart but only at a volume pushing the upper end of my listening volume...and it's only audible before I drop the needle, and even then not from the listening position.  I realize I therefore likely have a "non problem"!  

But I still have a generic question on to the sensitivity of producing hiss as it relates to cartridge impedance alone.  If one kept all other cart specs identical (including output of course) would you expect hiss to go up or down at the same volume and system gain if I used an 8 ohm or 12 ohm cart instead?  It seems like the hiss would likely go up just like moving to a higher impedance speaker under the same gain setup but perhaps I'm looking at this incorrectly? I realize moving to a slightly output cart could very well reduce the hiss.

Thoughts?   Sorry if this is a ridiculously obvious question and answer.

Just to note that running the phono stage with no cartridge connected is very likely to produce volume control dependent levels of hiss. Most of our phono stages will behave that way.
If I had to guess, the broadband hiss is from a noisy tube gain stage and since it changes with volume setting tubes would be a good place to look. Check to see if the noise is the same type / level in both channels and if there are differences swap the tubes left to right and see if the noise follows the tubes. Writing down some basic notes during this process helps a lot.

The noise types you typically get from a cartridge / SUT combo are:

  • low frequency line hum (50/100, 60/120) from EMI which can usually be modified by SUT / cable placement.
  • more of a buzzing sound that points to ground connections and use of an unshielded cable from the SUT to the phono input.
My test to see if any type of noise is an issue is to listen to an album side at what you would consider a loud level and then lift the needle and check to see if the noise is audible from the listening position. In general i find the line frequency stuff to be rather benign, the buzz to be unacceptable and the hiss tends to kill dynamics.



Thanks for your thoughts.  My own troubleshooting suggests the same culprit - noisy tube in the gain stage.  Upon setup I had addressed other issues you identified including placement of the SUT (which was sensitive to proximity to toroidal transformers) and by using a very well shielded cable between the SUT and the phono.  I tried several cables and I'm getting the best performance from an AQ Colorado with its active noise suppression.  It beat out some shielded Cardas cables I had.

I'm left now with no buzz or hum.  I also don't think the SUT is contributing to the "white noise"/tube rush.  It's exactly the same even when I remove the SUT from the chain and run the cart leads directly to the MC inputs on the phono.  Noise appears to be equal in level on both channels.

I'm just waiting to hear back from Keith before proceeding further.
I realized I had a spare pair of Mullard 12AX7's from a preamp I sold, so I started experimenting a bit this evening.  The long and short of it is that I've ruled a bad/noisy tube as the issue.  I swapped the Mullards into the 1st gain stage - exact same white noise at very high volume when stylus hasn't touched the vinyl; again, the noise goes away once it touches and this volume level is really louder than I'd ever listen.  I then replaced the original tubes into the 1st gain stage and used the Mullards in the 2nd gain stage (which actually increases the gain by 5dB as they're replacing a pair of 12AT7's).  Same exact white noise under same volume conditions, albeit a bit louder just because of the gain.  I then used one of the removed 12AT7's from the 2nd gain stage and swapped the output stage 12AT7.  Again, same result.  I then replaced all tubes back into original configuration - the sonics are actually best that way, unsurprisingly.

So I now suspect this is an RFI issue with the cart/cable relationship.  I see there are no shortage of threads on this forum about RFI and phono.  Again, this really isn't a huge problem and perhaps I should stop obsessing over white noise hiss that only is audible when the volume is cranked with a LOMC cart before the stylus ever touches the vinyl.
I doubt RFI three. All the original tubes in my ARC were noisy. The SLN tubes if I remember correctly are 1 in 100! But it could be just inherent noise in your phono section. It does not seem that bad according to your description. The best thing to do might be nothing rather than spend money chasing your tail. My own rough test for phono noise is if I can hear it between songs over the background noise of the blank groove I'll go after it. If not it won't matter.