SUT versus Solid State Phono Preamp


Senior Member
I felt a little like I was thread-crapping my own SUT thread so am posting my results of my two phono preamp set-ups here. Please chime in. I started down the SUT road after reading so many good things. The Denon AU-320/Lounge LCRIII combo with the the Denon DL103 sounded darn good but I thought there was something missing when I tried my HANA EL trough the same combo. Enter a used, in good condition, Musical Surroundings
Phonomena ii.
Having read SUT/preamp matching could be hazardous to your wallet, I decided to give high quality preamp a try. Below are my results so far, starting with the HANA EL on both combinations.

NOW PLAYING: Bernie Krause - Citadels of Mystery, Side Two
HANA EL - Musical Surroundings Phonomena ii versus Denon AU-320;Lounge - Notable differences
Musical Surroundings Settings: Gain=56dB. Loading=475 ohms
*Background singers in intro seem to come out of nowhere, not sure I was that aware of them with the Denon/Lounge gear.
*Piano in cut two has significantly more detail and harmonic overtones. Has that HANA pleasant and realistic bite.
*Soundstage is H U G E in comparison to the 320/Lounge.
*Third cut, much faster, more space around EVERYTHING where you can “hear” the venue. Steel drum section has a pedal drum clearly present where I did not notice on the AU320/Lounge.
*I give the midrange steel drum to the AU320/Lounge but the upper frequency steel, drum goes to the MS ii.

NOW PLAYING: Paul Simon - Hearts and Bones, Side One
Musical Surroundings
*I have played this album a thousand times through a variety of preamps and the details and soundstage through the MS ii is amazing. Small, delicate picks on guitar or the leading edge of the sound of the pick hitting the strings are presented really well with the Musical Surroundings.
*Second cut, Title Cut, MS ii is clearly more detailed and has a faster “leading edge” presentation.

Vocal presentation is quite pleasing but cymbal detail has fallen back. Bass is not as tight but pleases nonetheless.
Soundstage is not as wide, strumming guitar is pleasing but doesn’t have the detail of the MSii
While I find the overall presentation very pleasing, the detail and pace of the Musical Surroundings, at least on the HANA EL, are superior.


While the AU-320/Lounge combination is very pleasing, so is the MSii while delivering more overall detail and much broader soundstage.

More to come, the Denon DL-103, I might say the venerable Denon DL-103
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Staff member
Interesting. Have you tried the AU-320 with the Phonomena? I'd also be curious about a different SUT with the Lounge (I have an AU-320...I like it on some carts, on others its a bit grainy/veiled).

I have run my Shelter, Zyx and AT LOMCs with my Primare R32 preamp's LOMC head amp input, and also with a few SUTs into the Primare at normal/MM gain and prefered the SUT approach with that preamp. It's just more harmonically interesting and has a lower noise floor. Not that the Primare sounded bad, it was just more engaging through the SUT. My favorite was one of Redboy's creations.


Senior Member
Interesting. Have you tried the AU-320 with the Phonomena? I'd also be curious about a different SUT with the Lounge (I have an AU-320...I like it on some carts, on others its a bit grainy/veiled).
Great minds, i was wondering the same thing. It’s worth a try for sure. It’s not like the AU-320 with the HANA sounded bad, but as you mentioned, just a bit veiled in comparison. The soundstage difference is substantial.


Senior Member
NOW PLAYING: Bernie Kraus - Citadels of Mystery, Side One
Denon DL-103
AU-320/Lounge LCRIII
Immediately pleasing sound, totally accurate, smooth. Laid back but extremely musical. Emotionally connecting.
Trumpet is a little soft but woodwind, oboe I think, is sweet.
Background vocals laid back and a little smeared.
Cut Two
Guitar intro involving
Vocals sweet and pleasing
Well balanced.
Side Two
Percussion involving, bass seems powerful
Congas snappy
Cut Two
Piano realistic, nicely balanced with upper register keys with a slight, realistic bite.
Cut Three
Voices and percussion blend nicely.
Vocals and chorus seem to be equally presented.
Congas snappy
Steel drums mid register very even, overall very balanced. Night steel drum register weak, strained.

Musical Surroundings Phonomena ii
Side Two

Congas initial intro reveals a double strike on the heads which I did not pick up with the AU320/Lounge
Overall soundstage is more refined and individual instruments retain individuality.
Sax sweetly bites.
Strings have more dimension.
Bass powerful and controlled
Cut Two
Piano more realistic with additional detail.
Much broader soundstage with retained individual imaging of instruments
Cut Three
Similar to HANA with air and room venue present
Individual and choral still even but more individually defined
Steel drums upper register more defined. MUCH MORE.

Projected Winner is the Musical Surroundings.....but it’s dinner time so more later.

Similar performance traits with both the Denon DL-103 and the HANA EL. Which cartridge I might favor with the Musical Surroundings Phonomena ii, I’m of sure there is a clear answer yet. I’m leaving the 103 installed for the moment and listen some more, maybe with some classical and jazz and see what develops.
The difference between 47K and 50K is insignificant in a loading application. The SUT ratio reduces the difference even further. For example with a 1:10 ratio a 47K load on the SUT presents an effective load on the cartridge of 470 ohms. A 50K load on the SUT output has an effective load on the cartridge of 500 ohms.


Junior Member
I never heard SUT, but my friend here has MS Phonomena ll, and very expensive SUT for his Dl103. He says AD797 sounds much superior than Phonomenaii + SUT combo.