Stellar Phono Gain & Loading Settings for Dynavector 20X2L

Have read through a lot of threads on the SPP, which I received yesterday, and haven’t found many discussions about gain/loading choices. My previous (and first) phono stage was the Heed Quasar, and my dealer set up the loading and gain before sending to me, so this is the first time I’m getting my hands dirty with these settings. If anyone is using my exact cartridge with the SPP (my cartridge is mounted on an RP6, fwiw), I’d really appreciate you sharing the gain and load settings you’re finding most satisfying.

Dynavector suggests loading this cartridge at >30 ohms and research I’ve done seems to confirm 30 ohms is a standard and accepted load setting. The custom loading pots on the rear of the unit have 5 hashes between 0 and 250 ohms. I just started with both knobs at zero, then turned up just enough to get a satisfactory level with some flesh to it, which turned out to be right around the first hash mark. Turning the knobs higher than that didn’t make the spl any higher and seemed to degrade the sound. Of course, this wasn’t the easiest adjustment to make myself, since in my system, I can’t adjust the knobs from a good listening position and I like to hear the changes on the fly rather than run back and forth from the listening seat. I’m finding myself toggling between this custom setting and the 60-ohm loading preset in my system, sometimes preferring the sound of one, and sometimes the other. The 100 and 200-ohm presets were not my cup of tea with this cartridge-- seemed a bit shouty to me.

I’d appreciate some insight on whether those loading pots are linear or not-- if they are, then one hash mark would equal 50 ohms, but I’ve rarely come across a potentiometer that functioned in a perfectly linear fashion, so for all I know, the first hash mark is really 5 ohms and 125 ohms is closer to 250 than halfway between 0 and 250. I’m not fixated on the number, but am trying to get a feel for what custom loading I’m actually selecting based on how far I’m turning it up, since various sources have pegged 30-ohms as really being ideal loading for this cartridge.

Would also appreciate thoughts from users on how they approach gain settings. Based on the 20X2L’s output of .35mv, the user manual suggests the high gain setting, but sometimes it’s nice to push the amp volume a bit and keep preamp gain lower.

In all of this, as always, I will let my ears be my guide, but am curious what approaches folks are using.

Welcome @RichardL !

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Although I don’t have it now, I’ve owned the 20x2-L. First the question of gain, which is a general rule not specific to the 20x2-L. I always start with the lowest phono preamp gain I can get away with. Why? Because the SNR of pretty much any phono pre is always better at lower gain. That statement is backed by the measurements JA did for the Stereophile SPP review. There is no single number I can cite because the lowest gain you can get away with depends on the gain of the line stage and amp you’re using. Whatever gives you the lowest noise floor at a reasonable volume setting, stick with that. Again a general rule applicable to all MC cartridges, just use your ears and not fret about the taper of the loading pots. The impact of increasing the resistive load is to raise the level of the ultrasonic resonance in the cartridge and the subjective impact is to enhance high-end sparkle. But that can also be perceived as introducing a tipped up balance that above a certain load leads to a presentation too forward to be satisfactory. Strictly up to you to find the right balance in your specific system with the music you prefer. The good news is the SPP gives you a lot of flexibility (I’ve owned the SPP too, although not now) to find that balance. Have fun!