Phono Stage Gain - how does it impact sound?

Just upgraded from Hana EL (0.5mV out) to Hana ML on my MoFi UltraDeck table. Running Sutherland KC Vibe MkII phono stage. Max gain on the Vibe is 60db. Hana ML output is 0.4mV. Absolutely love the sound. Sweet, extended treble, vibrant mids, great clarity. Intoxicating sound. Soundstage is immersive. A huge upgrade over the EL. However, the bass is slightly on the lighter side. It’s detailed, textured, but lacking in the impact and dynamics department. Around 5hrs so far on the new ML but I doubt it’s the break in. I’m suspecting the 60db max gain on the Vibe isn’t driving my Pass XP-12 line stage to the fullest potential. 

Cartridge is set up as perfectly as I could get it using Dr. Feichert protractor - overhang, VTA, azimuth, stylus force all seem right. Imaging is dead on. 



Shouldn't sound like sh*t when you use the cartridge with 3mV output and the phono set for 2.6mV.  But anyway, as for audphile, the results depend in part also upon the downstream equipment.  I am surprised that the 2.6mV input does not work decently also with the 5mV cartridge, if that's what you are saying.

Sensitivity ought not affect frequency response. I presume that's mechanical cartridge break-in (or you just dont like the response of either the cart or the phono stage, which, after all, is an equalizer).


I presume your question as asked is rhetorical mostly. I'm happy to explain why its a ridiculously tough task, and therefore will have a huge impact.



Ran it all day while working today and added another 7-8hrs.
Sounds amazing, there’s just no other word for it. Relaxed, zero fatigue listening to it all day on and off. I believe the bass is somewhat coming around and improving with more play time on the cartridge. Threw on few classical records, Dire Straits and some new Steely Dan (Analog Productions “Everything Must Go” 45rpm). It requires 8-10 more volume clicks than my benchmark DAC does but I run the benchmark into the XP-12 with a pair of XLRs.
As I said I’m not too worried, I’ll make it work. Worst case I’ll try a higher gain phono stage and see if it makes any difference. But for now I’m going to be patient until I have around 40-50hrs on this cartridge. 
Thanks all!!!

Having a colleague with an EE background was helpful when it came to the phono stage.   It is a simple circuit to produce an accurate Riaa correction and amplification with modest parts.  He found my modest z phono to be overly complicated.An amplifier is a different effort, variable loads, cables, heat, vibrations to cope with.  My 30 wpc class a amplifier playing into. 91 db 8 ohm paradigms was totally top ended, yet fills the room with bass with the late arriving new speakers.  Using a subwoofer is an inexpensive way to use the class a watts for midrange and treble and class d to drive the bass