The Benz Micro Ace SL S Phono Cartridge
One Mating Dance You Want To Get Exactly Right

Francis Vale


I was just about to give up on it, this little ruby slipper of a thing called a Benz Micro Ace SL S cartridge.

It had sat so sweetly perched, all plastic lip gloss, under the Clearaudio Satisfy tonearm. And the dark blue Emotion Turntable offered such a cool aesthetic counterpoint to the bright red Benz. It all looked, well, so right. So how come I was so unhappy?

After all, the recently upgraded Nova Phonomena phono preamp was certainly giving me cause for joy. Its noise floor had dropped to near inaudibility, pumping out a beautifully clear, clean signal into my Sunfire Classic tube preamp. But for all that, no musical dice with the Benz in the loop.

This moving coil Benz is an electric low rider, offering up an output voltage of just 0.4mV. The Micro Ace SL S also has a recommended loading of 200-47,000 ohms. On the Nova, I initially set the gain DIP switch at maximum (60dB). As for resistive loading, and as the Nova manual also notes, low output moving-coil cartridges like the Benz typically use 2000 Ohms or less.

Usually, a lower resistive setting provides increased focus and tighter bass, while a higher setting provides more openness. The Nova offers multiple resistive load settings via its back panel DIP switches, ranging from 30 ohms to 100K ohms. I initially set the Nova at 2000 ohms.

With all switches so DIPped, I spun vinyl.


How come that piano now sounded like a kid's toy and not an adult Steinway? The ivories went all plink-plink-plink on me. Female vocals were borderline harridan. And on it went. The big Analysis Omega full range ribbon speakers were clearly, audibly displeased. WTF?

Like everyone else, I had read the glowing ACE reviews, and this $700 Benz was supposedly a steal because of its stellar performance. The Mgf. says this little carmine creature needs about 40 hours to get all comfy about making music, so spin away I did, with about a month in between break for a European Vacance.

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