I would respectfully disagree with Avanti's assertion above that most cartridges sound better with the kind of gain recommended in the TAS article he links to. In multiple systems with various low output MC cartridges that I've run for the past 20 years those kind of gain to output numbers would make my ears bleed. In any systems that I've run, utilizing 66 dB of gain at the phono with a .3 mV cartridge would have been unpleasant; 66 with .5 mV with the equipment that I've used might have had me abandoning vinyl. All systems are different, however, and subjective listening preferences come into play. But, unlike many, you have the luxury with that phono stage of being able to experiment with a very broad range of gain and loading settings. If, as you dial the gain down, you continue to get improvements with a deeper, more natural soundstage that is a good sign. Things should start to sound more natural and less like hi fi, and with good all analog recordings much less like poorly recorded or compressed CD's. Dynamic contrasts in music (quick bursts from soft to loud) should be rendered in a way in which you can still hear individual instruments instead of just a cacophony of noise-that is a sure sign of too much gain. This may well result in you dialing volume much higher with your linestage preamp or integrated ahead of the phono stage, which often seems to bother people. It should not, as that volume pot will be much more linear and also give you better sound quality in a more advanced position. As long as you can achieve SPL's to listen as loudly as you want to without injecting noise into the signal/music (ie. achieving the best signal to noise ratio), where you are on the volume pot is not important with the exception of achieving the best sound quality and having to turn it down when you're done a listening session to avoid blasting yourself if you switch over to digital for the next one. With the Art 9 in most normal systems (with adjustable phono gain and an active linestage as opposed to a passive) I would expect around 56 dB to be pretty good as Catcher mentioned but your choices are 52 and 58 and 52 is very likely to be too low and inject noise and sound pretty anemic, which is why I recommended you try 58. "Punchiness" is a tough one and means things to different people I think in this hobby. I want the punchiness to be in the recording, not injected by the equipment. Do not confuse punchiness with real dynamics; they can very often be exactly the opposite. In terms of loading, the 9 has relatively low internal impedance of 12 ohms. I'd try the loading at 100 or 330. Just guessing that the 100 would probably be the best but 330 might have a bit more high frequency energy if your subjective preference is for that. But you've dropped the gain down with good results at this stage. My suggestion is you keep doing it until you stop getting a good result, even if you progress in small increments, and then raise it back up if you feel you want to.