Acoustic Sounds

TONA Moving Coil Step Up Transformer

T 20 40

By: Michael Fremer

May 8th, 2024



A Beaut of a SUT From TONA

Offers both 1:20 and 1:40 gain

Here's an easy way to approach using a step up transformer with a moving coil cartridge: The load that a step-up  transformer presents to its primary is calculated when you divide the resistance connected to the secondary with the turns ratio squared. So for the Ypsilon MC16 for instance, it's Rin=47k/16*2=183.5ohms.

To be more precise this stands for an ideal transformer with no winding resistances. So add also 450ohms secondary and 8ohms at primary coil. Rin=47450/16*2+8=193.3ohms.

See how easy this is? Obviously if you are mathlexic as I am, this is difficult. But if you have any hope of living with step up transformers and using the right cartridges with them, it's important to have some of this knowledge and apply it or you might use the wrong cartridge with the wrong SUT and blame the SUT.

In the case of Ypsilon's SUTs, it's possible to use loading resistors at either the primary or secondary side to regulate what resistance the cartridge or the MM phono preamp "sees". That's what presents both the opportunity to perfectly control loading and to confuse the hell out of mathlexics, though I eventually got the formulas down and was able to plug in the numbers, get results, and buy high quality resistors and solder them into Eichmann RCA "Bullet" plugs.

But first, this TONA SUT. It's not some off the shelf transformers housed in a heavy ten pound wooden case, nor does the wood produce the weight. Here's the chassis interior:

The TONA SUT was developed by Gyraf Audio a Danish company located in the very, very nice town of Aarhus. I've been there and it reminded me somewhat of a larger scale Cambridge, MA.— a sophisticated, upscale, college town kind of place, though I was there for only a day so perhaps my impression is off.

Gyraf's products are almost exclusively pro audio in the analog domain. Check out the website and you'll see a lot of really cool looking "knob centric" analog gear based around tubes and "carefully tuned passive circuits". I supposed its CEO Jakob Erland (also described on the site as 'solderer, designer, packer, accountant and marketeer) hangs out at NAMM with EveAnna Manley. They appear to be electronic "birds of a feather".

Mr. Erland developed this transformer with TONA for the consumer moving coil cartridge market. It's available in single-ended RCA and balanced XLR versions, though in balanced it uses the IEC 268-12 pro audio standard that puts pin 3 to ground. Your consumer balanced cables might need rewiring.

Worldwide TONA distribution is through Sallingboe Audio a Danish distributor of a wide range of mostly familiar consumer hi-end audio products. Sonarecoeli a Wisconsin-based retailer handles American sales.

I encountered Dan Sallingboe at Munich High End 2023 and got a good vibe from the transformer so I asked for a review sample, which he sent within a far more reasonable time period than it's taken for me to write this review, for which I apologize.

I asked for the RCA version, which has two sets of inputs 1:20 and 1:40, though both can't be used simultaneously. The 1:20 input produces 26dB gain and a 118 ohm load. The 1:40 produces 32dB gain and a 30 ohm load. 1:20 should be appropriate for cartridges with moderate internal impedances and 1:40 for low internal impedance cartridges like some of the better Ortofons, for instance.

The transformers utilize toroidal nano crystalline cores, wound in-house with the primary side hand-wired with litz type wire requiring a "very strong force" that can only be done by hand, it says on the website.

I don't claim to be so well experienced with transformers that I can explain the sonic differences between various core materials and constructions because I cannot.

Why transformers? The advantage is gain with less pain in terms of added noise though of course transistors now are quiet. Transformer distortion is highest at low frequencies and dropping rapidly at higher frequencies. Solid state distortion characteristics are the opposite. I'm not going to get in the middle of the 'war' between SUT advocates and active circuitry advocates.

Still, there's a lot of voodoo involved in various core and coil materials and there's confusion in the loading and matching side of it. Transformers passively increase voltage but at the same time they decrease current. Impedances are also transformed on both sides of the transformer. A 1:10 transformer plugged into a 47Kohm MM phono preamplifier means the cartridge will see around a 470 ohm load. Conversely, a 3 ohm internal impedance cartridge will produce 30 ohms at the secondary, which is fine into a 47kOhm load—you want at least 10X greater impedance on the input side. This doesn't take into account the effect the cartridge's internal impedance has on the calculations, which is to what the formulas at the top of the story refer. Another transformer issue is hysteresis. When I first purchased the Ypsilon VPS-100 along with a few transformers I discussed these issues with the designer Demetris Backlavas. I've not retained it all, more most but one thing I'm sure of: so much is at play here, it's difficult to accurately predict how a transformer and a cartridge will interact with one other beyond the basics.

I used the TONA with a variety or cartridges including the Lyra Atlas Lambda SL (output .25mV), the Ortofon MC Diamond (.2mV/6 ohm internal impedance and the Verismo (.2mV/7 ohms). I used a variety of phono preamps as well, including the Ypsilon VPS-100, the van den Hul The Grail SX and most recently the CH Precision P10.

Though TONA seems to have designed this SUT for use with vacuum tube based MM phono preamps, I found it compatible with all of them and with all the results were equally outstanding. In fact, I'd say surprisingly transformative when I ran the Lyra AtlasLambda SL into it. Even though Lyra recommends using an SUT designed for 1-2 ohm impedance cartridges (Lyra doesn't spec impedance for some reason), I found the 1:20 sounded better. And that's what I used for the observations below.

For instance, I've been playing a great deal recently Joe Pass Portraits of Duke Ellington (Pablo 2310 716) a 1974 simple trio recording featuring Ray Brown, Pass and drummer Bobby Durham. It's an intimately mic'd "larger than life" production that sounds great through the CH Precision P10 current amplification input. My experience with transformers into phono preamps where it's possible to compare active amplification has been that it's a trade-off: you get improved articulation and even better tracking due to better mechanical damping, but you lose transparency. With better transformers it's a tradeoff more than that the active playback is clearly superior.

In this comparison the TONA's presentation was clearly superior (which shocked and surprised me tbh), with improved articulation of Pass's transient action. Each note became clarified. Textures were "meatier". The same was true of Brown's bass plucks and the overall instrumental texture. Same with Durham's drum taps—more skin and cymbal sizzle. Everything about the presentation was slightly less electronic sounding and more "acoustic". No excess leading edges but also no rounding and softening of transients. It just sounded more natural and real. I was surprised!

Then I moved on to the new Bill Frisell album, Bill Frisell: Orchestras (Blue Note 00602458837483) a which will be reviewed here ASAP. It's a triple LP of Frisell playing live with orchestra recorded in Belgium 2022 and in Italy December 2021 and New Year's Day 2022. There's more to it than that, but for here that suffices. These were live in performance recordings, spatially coherent "big picture" productions, not of the every instrument has a microphone type. There's a wonderful cover of "Lush Life" and two takes of Ron Carter's "Doom", oe with the Brussels Philharmonic and one with the Umbria Jazz Orchestra, but all of that is better covered in a record review.

It's a fine sound triple set originally mastered by Greg Calbi and Steve Falcone at Sterling Edgewater, NJ and cut to lacquer by Joe Nino-Hernes at Sterling, Nashville, TN. It was worthy of at least a 9 for sound until I put it through this transformer and then the upgrade to instrumental textures, and string tone took it easily to 10, maybe 11. Again I was surprised.

But the biggest shocker, and you'll hear this soon on YouTube was when I played an early pressing of the song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" from the album (Columbia KCS 9914). Engineer Roy Halee told me that the master tape of the song had long ago been removed from the tape and that a poorly done substitute has been in its place for many decades including on the Classic reissue and the Mobile Fidelity One Step. You really have to hear an OG to know what you're missing but when I played it through the TONA transformer I found out what I'd been missing! This was easily the best I've ever heard this song sound. Artie's vocals were buttery smooth and perfectly placed. I've never heard the "big strings" sound so vibrant and again well-textured. Honestly, I couldn't believe what I was hearing and I had to play it a second time to be sure it was what I was hearing. I recorded it the second time that's what you'll hear soon. Then you can tell me! I'll record it again through the active section and await comments.

I have another bunch of transformers to review and I'll get to those ASAP.


This TONA transformer is transformative. Whatever Mr. Erland did to produce it, it's got the transformer "secret sauce" in large ladles full. I can't find the precise price but it's around $3500, which is reasonable. If you're in the United States, contact Sonare Coeli and ask about price and also about a money back guarantee audition because transformer/cartridge coupling can be tricky and there's no guarantee it will give you what I heard, though if you've got a Lyra Atlas Lambda SL, chances are good you will.


• Developed in-house in Aarhus, Denmark with Gyraf Audio, maker of high end tube audio equipment for the professional market

• Two inputs 1:20 and 1:40

• Mahogany, oak or custom RAL color options

• Connectors can be customized as well the choice of balanced / unbalanced operation

(contact Sallingboe Audio for further details)

• Laminated soft iron case with 8 to 20 mm overall thickness

• Toroidal nanocrystalline transformers wound inhouse.

• The transformers are induction matched in stereo pairs before and after winding

• Matched in stereo within 0.2 dB from 20Hz-20kHz

• -3dB at 4 Hz and 60 kHz (measured with 4Ω cartridge output)

• Hand wired litz primary windings, (the technique involves a very strong force, that can only be applied by hand)

• Stable heavy base accepts all XLR and RCA cables

• 2 years warranty


Gold plated RCA connectors.

Silver plated XLR connectors.

Special configurations are possible with custom choice of connectors.

Contact Sallingboe Audio for further details.

Manufacturer Information


  • 2024-05-08 05:04:07 PM

    bwb wrote:

    If you want a real in depth discussion I recommend you go here (I hope this link works but without a preview option who knows) title .. I understand most of the math and theory but that doesn't explain with using an SUT sounds better to many of us. In my experience the linked article is correct in its conclusions. -the SUT should be viewed as a device to get the gain you need, not as a device to reflect back an impedance to load the cartridge. It does that, but the goal is gain -the loading should be achieved by loading the primary (load the cartridge side) -47KΩ MM input is a vestige that is not ideal to load an SUT. That's why EMIA phono input is by default 300KΩ.

    I can't explain why it sounds better to me... but it definitely does

    • 2024-05-08 05:07:39 PM

      bwb wrote:

      sorry, I misunderstood how the code works, click "title" in my reply above and you will go there, or click here (I hope) EMIA discussion of loading

  • 2024-05-08 06:40:33 PM

    JACK L wrote:


    "it's around $3500, which is reasonable" qtd M Fremer

    Yes, it may sound "reasonable" pricewise for audiophiles who already got MC cartridges costing more than $3,500.

    For cheapskates like yours truly, I've saved the hassle of & some big bucks to hunt for the right SUT to fit my MC which is already supplied with same factory matched head amp (fully symmetric pure class A sing-ended push-pull topology, battery powered.) Made-in-Japan. Thank goodness.

    Surely you know SUT is not all angel: limited low frequency due to inductance, roll-off high frequency due interwinding leakage capacitance, substantial phase shift at low frequency, hum problem is not installed properly, & last not the least - high cost !!!

    Above said, MC is not my cup of tea as I dislike its tonally bright coloration which I don't perceive in any live performances.

    JACK L

    • 2024-05-08 07:52:18 PM

      bwb wrote:

      NONE of your concerns regarding the sound produced by an MC cartridge + SUT are realized in a properly configured system. NONE of them.

      Yes, cost is a factor for many, but the best of anything is rarely inexpensive, and $3500 is a mere pittance to many. Did you know there are about 60,000,000 millionaires in the world.

      Your many dogmatic statements regarding a variety of facets of this hobby are holding you back from reaching a higher plateau, but glad you are happy in your insular world with 1000+ AAA records.

      • 2024-05-09 01:53:24 PM

        JACK L wrote:


        "Did you know there are about 60,000,000 millionaires in the world." qtdd bwb

        Did you know I am a multi-million man as well? Now you know as I just told you. Ilve invested some 1.5 million dollars in the stock markets alone, managed by my darling wife day in day out home for me.

        Did you know how many millionaires on this planet play hi-end audios ? Among them, how many play vinyl with SUT ??

        Is it not about money, which I've got abundant to acquire the most expensive SUT on this planet. Again, it's the unique coloration of MC which I never perceived in any live performances.

        FYI, my elder son is a disciplined classical pianist, formally graduated from my city's Royal Conservatory of Music (founded 1886) with honors. I listen his practice at home & his performances in the public venues. I know what I am talking about in term of musicality.

        How often you attend live concerts ??

        JACK L

        • 2024-05-09 02:47:03 PM

          bwb wrote:

          so first you make it about the money (mentioned the cost twice in your initial post) and now it's not about the money? There is no point in discussing things with someone who is a moving target.

          and yes, I do know all about your son, your wife who manages your money, your 1000+ AAA records and 45 that are digital, etc. How can one not if they visit here when you post it over and over and over?

        • 2024-05-09 04:04:04 PM

          bwb wrote:

          Your posts routinely read as if you and only you have discovered the holy grail, and we should all follow your path.

          Let's put all of the grandstanding, appeals to authority, and posturing aside for a moment.... if you follow the link I posted you will see examples of poor implementations that suffer from all the ills you mentioned. You will also find proper implementations where the bandwidth and phase response are excellent suffering none of them. My point is the same as before. Properly implemented, an MC + SUT is an excellent option, and in the minds and ears of many, the best, if cost is not an overriding concern.

          • 2024-05-11 12:53:18 PM

            JACK L wrote:


            "You will also find proper implementations where the bandwidth and phase response are excellent suffering none of them" qtd bwb

            Dear me to witness you keep on arguing moot without any basic knowledge of a transformer. For goodness sake, please spend sometime to study it like I did despite, again, me being in the electrical engineering career disciplines in the Northern America for decades. I am also a hobby audio handyman !!!

            Read some textbooks like I've done: "Radiotron Designer's Handbook: authored by Langford Smith, F. before you started to talk SUT, a type of small transformer.

            "Properly implemented, an MC + SUT is an excellent option" qtd bwb

            Not intended to go racism, can one with color skin be converted to white skin if "properly implemented"?

            Please don't tell me you keep on praising how good is MC+SUT sound if "properly implemented" because you have wet your feet for spending sooo much money on MC+SUT ? Sorry to say, you are not alone.

            Yes, it may sound "good:" to you but not to my musically skeptical ears reference of live concerts !

            This public site is for audio readers worldwide, not exclusively dedicated to Mr. bwb. Yes, I repeated posting info of my audio & my self is for whoever new readers here, not intended for YOU alone, bwb !

            If you don't like it, toooo bad, pal. Please let the editor here to do its moderation job. Who ever authorized you to act like a moderator here ?

            Enough said with YOU!

            Knowledge is the magic to get ahead of this audio game !

            JACK L

            • 2024-05-11 09:12:19 PM

              bwb wrote:

              I provided a link with a rational discussion backed up with data to prove my point. You provided an appeal to authority with nothing factual to back it up other than offering yourself as that authority…… I’ll leave it at that.

              • 2024-05-12 01:22:56 PM

                JACK L wrote:


                "You provided an appeal to authority with nothing factual to back it up other" qtd bwb

                I already quoted YOU the "factual to back up" my claim on any transformers: "Radiotron Designer's Handbook: authored by Langford Smith, F., PhD. Once you read the section of "transformers" of this textbook, you'd know what I am talking about is "factural". As an electrical engineer for decades. I don't talk without any factual substantiation. This is my principle as I am nooo salesman !!

                "a link with a rational discussion backed up with data to prove my point." qtd bwb

                I am all eyes & ears for your "link" as long as it is an independent third party 100% not related to the SUT vendors. Otherwise, I will dismiss such "discussion" as sales pitch !!!

                JACK L

                • 2024-05-12 07:38:22 PM

                  bwb wrote:

                  OK, but since most of the leading experts on the design and implementation of audio transformers, and for that matter all audiophile devices (turntables, DACs, cartridges, etc.) are engaged in producing and selling them, you will have a limited number of independent 3rd party experts to choose from. Am I to dismiss whatever Kuzma says about tonearms or Lyra says about cartridges or Mercedes says about luxury sedans because they sell the devices? Should I mistrust Ed Meitner and dismiss him when he talks about DSD because he sells DACs? Should we dismiss Nelson Pass when he speaks about amplifiers because he sells them? A bit silly when you think about it.

                  Also a bit curious that you are dead set against transformers because they don't measure perfectly, yet are so enamored with vinyl when that playback system is riddled with limitations and distortions that are easily measurable and far exceed those of a transformer. . . . . . . . . . I rest my case.

                  • 2024-05-14 01:38:32 PM

                    JACK L wrote:


                    "Should we dismiss Nelson Pass when he speaks about amplifiers because he sells them?" qtd bwb

                    Dear me, you still miss the point completely.

                    Yes, Nelson Pass is a amp design/built expert. But I am not challenging his expertise, but I just don't amps from him. He is a vendor as well.

                    FYI, I know too well he grabbed the last batch of VFETs on this planet (the only solid-state devices that resemble the linear V/I curves of a triode) to build his some of his First Watt amps. FYI, a triode tubes are the the only truly linear active device on this planet, & I've used them to DIY design/build ALL my phono-preamps & power amps.

                    Sound better than Pass VFET amps, much much cheaper & therefore I don't buy any amps from him. Any triodes sound better than VFET- this is physics. Yes, he sells his amps but he just can't sell me because I know too much about his amps.

                    Yes, transformers are indispensable to building the power supplies for most audio amps & as output transformers for tube power amps as impedance reducer.

                    But a SUT is NOT an indispensable device to match any MC, a good headamp, like mine, can do same job if not better.

                    All vendors/manufacturers always try to grab yr money as it is their job. Take it or leave it is up to the consumers as long as they got the proper product knowledge to make such purchase or not from vendor-unrelated sources !

                    My question: did you do yr proper product research independently before deciding on a SUT ?? Or just hearsay ?

                    Now, you've got my point. I rest this case for good with you.

                    JACK L

                    • 2024-05-18 10:58:45 AM

                      bwb wrote:

                      on the one hand, many of the most highly regarded phono stages ever built use an MC SUT. Thousands upon thousands of audiophiles around the globe including many who are the most highly regarded in this hobby swear by them or at least concede they are an excellent option.. and then we have you,,, a man who claims to be THE ONE with the golden ear, the man with 1000 thrift store records who knows based on theory from a 1934 text book published in the infancy of electronics and long before anybody even dreamed of a high end stereo system, that the rest of the world is wrong.

                      The world is lucky to have you.

                      • 2024-05-18 01:21:09 PM

                        JACK L wrote:


                        "Thousands upon thousands of audiophiles around the globe including many who are the most highly regarded in this hobby swear by them or at least concede they are an excellent option." qtd bwb

                        So what? Nearly every human being on this planet drinks coffee. I don't because of its bitter taste. I drink tea or hot chocolate instead.

                        Just because everybody drinks coffee, you drink coffee as trendy despite its bitter taste partly due to caffeine, a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant !!!!

                        I just had a huge debate why so many audiophiles use MC cartridges (which need a SUT or headamp) in Copper Magazine only yesterday.

                        Hearsay without own aural judgement to use SUT because so many audiophiles are using it ??

                        Be my guest !

                        Be vinyl smart !

                        JACK L

                      • 2024-05-18 01:36:43 PM

                        JACK L wrote:


                        "a high end stereo systems" still uses power transformers, balanced input/output transformers & SUTs, right ???

                        FYI as you don't know, the first transformer was invented 1886. So how all high-end audio systems today still use such historic old thing: transformers, e.g. SUT ???

                        JACK L

                        • 2024-05-18 03:07:52 PM

                          bwb wrote:

                          If transformers are so flawed why do you continue to use them? Because you prefer how your system sounds with them on the outputs.... just like many thousands prefer the sound of their systems with them on the inputs and in other places.

                          Don't try the argument that you use a step down because triodes are so linear. Solid state amps are also extremely linear with lower distortions, higher damping, and other advantages over tube amps. So you must agree that it is preferable to put up with a limitation if the benefit outweighs it;. And perhaps acknowledge that there is a bit of magic going on in SET amps that we can't fully explain with theory and measurements? After all, your output transformers have the same issues as the MC SUTs do. Actually even more, since they have to carry DC in the primary which tends to make them saturate along with handling a lot more power.

                          And really, what in the world does coffee and your PREFERENCE for tea (which BTW has a significant of caffeine too) have to do with this other than to prove my point that we all have preferences. Yet YOU have determined what is best for all of us when it comes to sound. Why don't you just admit that there is more than one way to achieve the intended result?

                          • 2024-05-18 05:40:17 PM

                            JACK L wrote:


                            "Solid state amps are also extremely linear with lower distortions," qtd bwb

                            Yes, you admit solidstate amps are so good, so why not use a solidstate headamp, like what I am using with my MC, instead of a SUT ?? Because so many audiophiles use SUTs so you just follow the trend ? Or you actually compared yourself SUT vs headamps before deciding using a SUT or simply hearsay ?

                            JACK L

                          • 2024-05-18 06:03:47 PM

                            JACK L wrote:


                            "your output transformers have the same issues as the MC SUTs do." qtd bwb

                            Output transformer is a must for tube amps (except OLT) as impedance reducer for loudspeakers. No choice !

                            But as I already stated in earlier posts above, SUTs are not indispensable at all, replaceable by a headamp which you already said it is "extremely linear with lower distortions".

                            Yes, there are always many way to achieve similar result, but for what cost ?? More or less ??????? FYI, I can afford to buy any Mercedes SUV, but I've settled down with a Subaru after my actual test drive both 7 years ago. More sturdy, feeling safer & cost me much less money.

                            Because everyone else is using SUTs, so you just follow the trend ! Or have you actually did yr own audition before choosing a SUT insrtead of a headamp ?

                            JACK L

                            • 2024-05-18 09:50:02 PM

                              bwb wrote:

                              I never said an SUT is indispensable, I think it is a better option, just like you think an OPT with an SET is a better choice. Yes, I've tried a litany of phono stages including BMC, Esoteric, Van Den Hul Grail SE and others that used solid state input. My current Emia MM phono with an SUT is the best I've ever heard. Period, not really even close.

                              But you didn't really respond to my point. YES, you must use a transformer in your SET amp, but you DO NOT need to use an SET amp. You decided the multitude of problems caused by having an output transformer is acceptable because of the other things your amp brings to the table.

                              You keep repeating that a head amp that is more linear with lower distortions is better than an SUT, yet you choose an OPT that is less linear and has higher distortions than a solid state output.

                              You CHOOSE to use a fundamentally flawed transformer for your amplifier output when you don't have to, but everyone who CHOOSES to use one on the other end is a mere sheep following the cult of SUT.

                              It is called being a hypocrite.. acting in contradiction to one's stated beliefs.

                              • 2024-05-19 01:57:01 PM

                                JACK L wrote:


                                "DO NOT need to use an SET amp." qtd bwb FYI, SET sounds the best among any amps, tube & solid state. That's why I only go for all- triode SET which I design/built myself some 10 years ago & works like magic since day one.

                                Likewise, you like the distorted sound of yr SUT. It is your own choice. Nobody else can help you.

                                Yes, you have said it: "following the cult of SUT".

                                JACK L

                                • 2024-05-19 02:04:44 PM

                                  bwb wrote:

                                  And you like the distorted sound from your output transformers, as do I. I also have DIY SET amps, 6SN7 that are GASP!!!!!!!! transformer coupled to WE 300B. So while I am in the cult of the SUT, we are both in the cult of the SET-OPT. On that we can agree... amen.

                              • 2024-05-19 02:01:20 PM

                                JACK L wrote:


                                "hypocrite.." qtd bwb

                                If I were a "hypocrite..", you would NOT be more honest to the music truth than a "hypocrite..

                                Enjoy your bad mouthing !

                                JACK L

                                • 2024-05-19 02:14:29 PM

                                  bwb wrote:

                                  A hypocrite is someone acting in contradiction to their stated beliefs. So it is not bad mouthing, it is a logical conclusion based on your statements that transformers are bad so should not be used if they can be avoided.

                                  SUTs can be avoided by using a solid state head amp. OPTs can be avoided by using a solid state output stage.

                                  You choose to use a transformer when you don't have to. Therefore, you are hypocritical by acting in contradiction to your stated beliefs. That is all very simple and logical. Good Day

  • 2024-05-08 08:16:08 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    Michael Fremer and others on this website, while I may not agree with everything you guys write, I always enjoy reading all your articles & watching your videos. You guys are always upbuilding and encouraging to me and to this industry. Unlike some others that must be so unhappy with their lives that all they can do is spread negativity and tear down, both are not good for this industry.

  • 2024-05-20 09:09:54 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    Wow, just wow!