Advice on next step for vinyl chain

Hi everyone. I have been listening to digital and working on my digital setup for a few years now. Recently I inherited an old Kenwood turntable and I have a pretty large record collection from earlier years. I have been trying to set up a vinyl chain. It has been a real joy - even liked the pops and scratches at first. Can I ask some advice about cartridge choice, or even whether a new cartridge is the way to go? The current chain is: Kenwood KD-5070, Ortofon Blue MM cartridge, Parasound JC3+ phono pre, ARC LS25 II preamp, McIntosh MC 462 power amp, either B and W 803 matrix II or Celestion 700 speakers. The B annd W are a bit sharp and fatiguing, so I will be looking to switch to other speakers before long, something with the upper end of the Celestions but with bass (Harbeth?). I listen to big classical, chamber, classic rock, jazz, opera…

The gain on the vinyl chain is high. Have to keep the pre almost all the way down. The ARC is marginally better than using a passive pre. Thinking a moving coil would be a real improvement. Is that the way to go? Which cartridge would be a match? Thanks a lot for your help. 


Enjoy! With each of the Celestions I have, music that is harsh on other speakers becomes a joy. Beautiful detail and imaging too. 


interesting about the Celestion and subs. Especially that I bought a pair of F3s, haven't heard them yet, but I know they lack the low end. My first great speakers were Celestions 5s, they are still in the family, small but sweet, engaging sound 

Elliotbnewcomjr Thanks for the extensive advice and examples. Very (elpful and I will study. 

grislybutter - loved Celestions ever since the SL6si were my first audiophile speakers long ago.  Tried to build on that and came upon used 700se. The highs are really pleasing - no fatigue with great detail and tone.. Strings especially. They lack deep bass for symphonies etc, but the manual says don’t pair with subs. I have been unable to make it work with a sub as the sub dulls the imaging no matter what I do, even with really low cutoff. 700s have deeper bass extension than the 6si, which DO pair well with a sub. The 6si don’t sound as good though. I have an NHT sub. If I could ever add bass to those 700s I would be terminally happy. 

Kind of you to say so. It was a bit disturbing for a few minutes, but audio has distracted me - my refuge as always. :)

@arhgef don't take the blocking personally. It could be any number of not very good reasons, mainly how the rules were configured. We have to live with and accept the quirks of the site

... My post was blocked by a moderator ... There seems to be no way to ask a moderator why something was blocked. Just saying.

Kindly note the Contact Us link at the bottom of every page. It works.

My post was blocked by a moderator - it was only letting people know about an interesting comparison of passive preamps, with extensive measurements. Wonder why that was not allowed? Didn't push any of the buttons about profanity or being mean etc etc. I tried to include the link (to ARS of all places) but that was blocked first. Then even a text telling people about it was blocked. There seems to be no way to ask a moderator why something was blocked. Just saying.


IMPEDANCE of MC Cartridges are not absolute, but there are guidance formulas and Maker's recommendations.

ANY MC Cartridge: do the math, i.e.

Hana before you choose between the ML and the SL

ML, slightly lower signal strength 0.4mv; much lower coil impedance 7 ohms; HANA recommended load more than 100 ohms. A bit lower would be ok, i.e. 70 ohms

Hana SL, slightly higher 0.5 mv signal; much higher coil impedance 30 ohms; HANA recommended load more than 400 ohms, a bit lower 300 ohms would be ok.

a SUT, best, one with separate adjustments for signal strength and impedance would be good, you could get a lower signal strength and the proper impedance.

You could use the SUT output with your existing MM Phono Input, where the RIAA EQ takes place.

And you would be set for future cartridge choices.

xFactors (signal increase) (you want a lower signal increase to use your existing chain)


existing 5.5mv is too high (unless you change your Phono Stage)

Hana ML: 0.4 mv: if xFactor is 10 (+20db), signal is 4.0 mv

Hana SL, 0.5 mv, if xFactor is 8, (+18db) signal is 4.0 mv


example of why separate adjustments for signal strength and impedance is advantageous:

My Fidelity Research has 4 optional choices, lowest is 10.55 xFactor; however the impedance is directly related to the xFactor and is 423 ohms.

Hana SL 0.5mv x 10.55 = 5.28 mv, too high for your existing set up, 423 impedance is good.

If ML, 0.4mv x 10.55 = 4.22 mv, a bit lower, perhaps low enough GOOD, BUT, the impedance is 423, much higher than recommended 100 ohms


Ortofon T30 SUT has 5 options, the results are like mine, none have proper combo of gain and impedance.

Like you, I don't see a way to adjust arm height (which is how you adjust VTA). But, it's a nice TT.

When the stylus is down in the groove, IF the arm is parallel to the LP, that's generally good enough.

Cartridge body height/stylus suspension, can vary,

IF the arm slopes down at the front, shims can be used to lower the cartridge/raise the arm.

IF arm is high in the front, you can try to find a cartridge with smaller (total) playing height.

total height varies because some stylus/suspension combinations are 'low riders', the stylus just below the cartridge's body, little clearance; others, the stylus/suspension has more clearance while playing. 

Cartridge height variations are a big reason to have easy arm height adjustment. 

OP I have both SL and ML Hana . The SL is very musical and exciting to listen in my system.The ML is more refine.

Post removed 

Test. I am being blocked and wondering if it is the link I wanted to show you. 

Thanks all for your help. Looked at the HANA SL and it is affordable and reviews well. Will I do much better by going up to say 2K. No burning desire to spend money here, but maybe better than buying a second one later.  I wonder also when the turntable will become limiting. I am learning about the VTA etc and believe I cannot adjust that with the Kenwood.

Re the gain structure and the ARC, I wonder how a passive preamp would do?What preamp would you recommend? I think tubes could match well with my setup. Can a SET be used here? 

The problem is your preamp. ARC preamps are great but their gain structure is crazy high. The trouble you will have with any cart, phono combo is you will need to drop the gain out of the phono pre too much to get it to work well with the ARC and thus not get the most out of your cartridge. I’ve had three ARC pre’s and all were similar. Try another pre, or maybe try an ARC phono pre then go from there. A great bang for the buck cart is the HANA SL a good starter and the ML is hard to beat at the price point.

the cartridge output is high, 5.5mv.

the pre has 48db gain for MM

are you using XLR or RCA? Some XLR outputs are stronger than the RCA output, perhaps the RCA output would tame it some.


Connections and Cartridge Loading

The JC 3+ is a dual mono design with unbalanced inputs and outputs using Vampire RCA jacks, plus balanced outputs using Neutrik XLR jacks. A custom-made three-position input impedance switch provides for 47 k ohm MM cartridges, 100 ohm MC cartridges, and 47 k ohm MC. The latter is an ideal load for some MC cartridges and high-end moving iron cartridges."


The phono pre has a fixed gain for MM but variable for MC. Don't really know where to begin trying to understand and compare cartridges. I will do some searching on YouTube and Google etc. Thanks.

The Kenwood is a good starter table, not the end all but for what they cost on the used market for what you get a descent set up. the Ortofon Blue is probably your first step in upgrade, ok cart on many basic tables but the Kenwood is good enough to to be worthy of a better cart.

You may want to check if you have adjustable gain on the phono preamp as you look to have too much gain from what you have written. if there is a lower gain setting try that. \\MC, MM, MI all can be had in various  outputs you will have to match the output of the cart to the gain of the phono stage and other loading settings.