Why do I need a phono preamp?
Do you like listening to music through vinyl tables? If yes, then you surely know that they are different from other media players and require an additional piece of equipment such as phono preamp to connect and play via a stereo system. The phono preamp is used by the vinyl record to transfer signal to the sound system. Additionally, it uses the RIAA equalization curve on the signal. You can find both external and internal preamps. However, some internal preamps can be weak, and you might want to buy one of the best external preamps to boost the audio performance.
Finding the best phono preamp can be a bit of a challenge though, particularly if you lack sufficient knowledge regarding it. However, you need not worry since this phono preamp guide will inform you about the things to consider when buying a preamp as well as a review of the ten best phono preamps.
Does A Phono Preamp Make A Difference?
In Short, Yes. The best phono preamps are capable of completely transforming the quality of sound output from your record player. It will take a signal, amplify it while at the same time ensuring minimal loss in quality. It will then hand this enhanced signal over to the amp or directly to the receiver. If you are upgrading speakers, you might find that a preamp is essential to prevent damage to any internal preamp if the speakers are rated higher than the existing preamp can handle. That’s an important thing to keep in mind.
Things to Consider When Buying a Phono Preamp
Preamps are available in a variety of prices and the more costly they are, the better the quality. This is a significant component when it comes to the vinyl player’s audio quality. But numerous high-quality phonon preamps have a price range of between USD100 and 200. You can pick the one that suits your budget and needs.
2. Sound System
There is no doubt that sound is an essential component when shopping for audio equipment. Therefore, you require picking a phono preamp that has the capacity to alter the system’s sound sufficiently. Purchasing one that fails in fulfilling this requirement is a waste of funds.
3. Cartridge Level
It is essential to pick the best phono preamp by looking at the record player’s cartridge. For instance, the MM phono preamp integrates well with a moving magnet cartridge. However, you need to purchase a phono preamp that can suit low output cartridges in case your vinyl player consists of a moving coil cartridge.
4. Vinyl Player Compatibility
The vinyl player that has RIAA preamp integration does not require a phono preamp. However, the digital vinyl turntables have an integrated preamp and have a function where you can disable phono stage preamp. Hence, you can always upgrade. But you need to look at the possibilities prior to purchasing the phono preamp.
10 Best Phono Preamps Reviews
This preamp is known for providing you with low-noise audio performance that you can only get from premium phono preamps. It does an outstanding job of converting the phono signal into a line signal perfectly. It comes in a metal shell that makes it very durable and portable as well. It has level control knobs via which you can adjust volume with little effort. Due to the production of low noise, it provides you with high-quality sound.
- Easy adjustment of volume via its level control knobs
- It has an affordable price
- It has RIAA equalizer
- It has a basic design
If you are looking for an effective yet simple preamp, then the Music Hall phono preamp is the one for you. In addition to its compact size, it performs effortlessly and works with moving magnet cartridges and high output moving coil perfectly. It has been designed from high-quality materials, and it’s compatible with every turntable. The brand Music Hall is well-known for selling premium quality audio products and this one meets the company standards. The preamp comes with a pair of RCA inputs and pair of RCA outputs as well as a 3.5 mm stereo output system. It consists of a high-steel chassis that ensure reliability and durability. Generally, it can turn out to be a high-quality and affordable preamp for the stereo system. The item has a weight of 1.5 lbs letting you move it between places.
- Clear sound due to optimized channel
- Transparent connections
- Comes in a sturdy metal casing for extra security
- It offered an affordable packaging
This product is the best phono preamp for playback and recording purposes. The equipment produces minimal noise, which is an added benefit for buyers. It can integrate well with various sources such as a digital audio workstation, sound card, monitor system, and more. It has a switched analog capacitance that can be used to optimize cartridge response. Additionally, the preamp has a low cut filter that removes a rumble. Moreover, the front gain control option allows you to optimize the gain of the preamp. Generally, it is an ideal product that sells at an affordable price.
- A 3-year warranty from the manufacturer accompanies it
- It can work well with various sources
- The audio pristine is minimized to the highest level by the equipment
- No cons
If you want to purchase a basic phono preamp, then this one is perfect for you. It can be found at a low price, and it works sufficiently. Even a beginner can easily use the product to set up their stereo system. It effortlessly changes the phono sound into a line level as well as enhance the sound quality. In addition to a fast set up, it has RIAA certification, which creates smoother equalization. It consists of a compact design that allows you to link your turntable to the stereo receiver, speakers, and other audio appliances.
- Available at low prices
- Has a 3-year warranty
- Has a simple construction and produces excellent sound quality
- Not ideal for professionals
This is the best phono preamp that costs below $200 because of its subtle and classy design, sturdy performance, and simple-to-use operation. The item provides you with great value for money, and many buyers are happy with it. It comes in two different colors, including silver and black. It also comes with a push switch that determines the cartridge type. It performs on the DC supply of power while creating very slight noise. It is small in size, which makes it easy to install and to carry between places. You can place it near the record player depending on your needs and convenience. Moreover, it has gold-plated RCA sockets and accurate RIAA equalization.
- Solid body casing
- Has both MM and MC cartridges
- Produces completely detailed sound
- The LED of the item has received various complaints
This preamp is interesting, attractive, and neat. It is a small aluminum box that has two tubes protruding out of it, which makes it appear competent. It is more than a phono preamp as it can also be used as a general Hi-Fi preamp. Keep in mind that the RIAA distortion used in vinyl records requires a specialized preamp like this one to come out of your audio output properly. The equipment offers you a two-in-one preamp. It comes with two 6J1 tubes in the box, but you can pick from various replacement tubes to achieve various results.
It has high quality as well as necessary and real valves. Moreover, you will be impressed by the warm tone and widened soundstage that is offered by the device. But there are some issues like a low hum that results from a grounding issue. The issue can be resolved by eliminating the casing. However, it will be far from getting it perfect. Another drawback is that the output gain is somehow lower than on the other phono preamps. Hence, you need to maximize on the dial to achieve a great listening volume.
- Attractive and neat
- Two-in-one deal
- High in quality
- Warm tone and widened soundstage
- Low output gain
- Low hum
If you are looking for an excellent looking phono preamp, this one is perfect for you. It appears like radio amplifiers that are usually bolted inside the car. The best thing about this equipment is its amazing price. It retails at a low price while still providing the performance of more expensive equipment. Its ratio of signal to noise is 70Db, which means that it’s an excellent match for budget turntables that are not likely to have a better ratio. In spite of the many benefits, the Pyle phono preamp has a number of drawbacks.
First, it lacks ground prong, which makes it hard to link the ground wire from the turntable. You can solve the issue by unscrewing one of its case screws and put in a washer for linking the ground wire. However, you can go for newer models that have a ground connection installed. In spite of the drawback, it’s still one of the best budget phono preamps.
- Good signal to noise ratio
- Lacks a ground prong
If the Little Bear T7 is too basic and cheap for your taste, then it could be more worthwhile to consider the larger and more expensive T10 pro. It has been designed for MM cartridges, and MC enthusiasts require checking further up the range of prices for a piece of equipment. The phono preamp increases the number of tubes to three while using the uprated 6N2 tubes instead of the T7’s 6J1 tubes. Also, it is compatible with many models of vinyl tables. It also uses toroidal power transformers.
A toroid is a uniquely shaped core that fails to radiate a lot of electromagnetism. This makes them widely used in high-end audio equipment because they lead to minimal interference. This model makes use of an acrylic case, which makes it interesting to view the components within the chassis. But acrylic is a material that is susceptible to scratching and scuffing. Hence, in case you anticipate rough use of the equipment, you can go for other enclosure options. However, the Little Bear T10 does not come completely assembled, and you will require some setting up. The process is not technical, but the instructions are straightforward. Moreover, your records will sound nicer and warmer than other preamps.
- Nice and warm sound
- Three 6N2 tubes
- Use of toroidal power transformers
- Susceptible to scuffing and scratching
The Emotiva phono preamp comes with technical superiority. The brand markets as a piece of equipment with minimum noise and reduced distortion. It does an excellent job of restoring the distortion created by the RIAA equalization. It gets within 0.25 Db of the perfect equalization curve and rates a ratio of signal to noise that is better than the vinyl turntable from where it is getting a signal. Also, the equipment is outstanding as it can be used with both MC and MM cartridges.
You can manually change the termination impendence to match the requirements indicated on the MC cartridge you possess. The equipment is significantly tinier than a tube preamp, meaning you can use it wherever you want, without regards to current space or rack configurations. Many customers of the product have stated that this phono preamp is top-notch. However, some people have complained about avowed audiophiles, which are mild. But the price makes this a worthwhile equipment.
- Reduced distortion
- Minimal noise
- Versatile as it can use both MC and MM cartridges
- Avowed audiophiles
The company has a reputation for designing top-notch turntables. Its small phono preamp comes in two colors, including white and black. Unlike most phono preamps, it fails to reveal the circuitry, connectors, and components. All these are concealed around the rear. It is elegant and makes a point of not bringing a lot of attention to itself. The equipment may appear simple, but similar to other products by Pro-Ject, there is a lot to it that makes it a premium product. It can drive both MC and MM cartridges, which is amazing at its price.
Its beautiful shell encloses an electromagnetic shield that needs to eliminate or cut down any interference. The components are also engineered to cause as minimal electrical noise as possible. What makes this phono preamp unique is its ease of use. You only need to plug the amp, plug the phono, and everything is ready. The equipment is worth every penny and arguably the cheapest way of amplifying an MC cartridge. The brand behind the preamp is very positive regarding the actual sound.
- Drives both MC and MM cartridges
- Very affordable
- Easy to set up
- Simple design
- No cons