Does A Phono Preamp Make A Difference? The modern version of turntables is making a comeback. Along with these audio systems comes the need for accessories to boost their performance, even incorporate them into other audio systems. One of these accessories is the phonograph preamp, a device that boosts a turntable’s weak audio signal into a strong signal.

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Indeed, a high-quality phono preamp will make a significant difference in both sound volume and quality! Without it, your turntable will likely be nothing but a decorative piece in your music room.

How It Works

Also known as phono stage, RIAA preamps, and turntable preamp, a phono preamp is a type of amplifier that boosts the weak audio signals coming from a turntable. As a result, it makes the sound audible to the human ear while also refining it, although only to a limited level. 

There are two types of phono preamps, namely, the internal preamps and the external preamps. Most state-of-the-art turntables have an internal preamp, so it’s quick and easy to hook the turntable into an existing system. But it offers limited control over sound quality, a limitation that audiophiles don’t want.

It is where an external preamp comes in. While it involves added cost and requires installation, it offers more control regarding sound quality, which audiophiles want. It is also straightforward and easy to install as long as there is a good match between the turntable and the external preamp.

With that said, a phono preamp has two main functions:

  • It takes the weak and tiny electrical signals from the turntable and boosts its strength several times. The resulting signals can then be paired with a line-level input on a receiver. It is the volume aspect.
  • It adjusts the cartridge’s signal so that there’s little to no distortion. It is a quality factor.

How To Choose It

The benefits of a phono preamp can only be enjoyed with the right choice in it.

First, you have to consider the different components in your Hi-Fi system to maintain uniformity, consistency, and compatibility. Your primary consideration should be the type of cartridge on your turntable.

It’s simple: Choose a moving magnet (MM) phono preamp if your turntable has an MM cartridge. Opt for the moving coil (MC) cartridge is your turntable has an MC cartridge.

Manufacturers make it simpler to choose, too. Many phono preamps are compatible with both MM and MC cartridges, so there’s no need to switch preamps in case of an upgrade. 

Second, there are minimum requirements when choosing an MM and an MC phono preamp. The rules of thumb here are:

  • For an MM preamp, look for a gain of 40dB, a capacitive load of 100 pF, and a resistive load of 47,000 ohms.
  • For an MC preamp, look for a gain of 58 dB and an adjustable resistive load between 10 and 1,000 ohms.

Do these technical specs sound alien? You may want to ask a technician for advice.

Of course, you have to choose a phono preamp based on your budget and desired value. You can find a wide range of preamps, from the affordable to the expensive, from those suitable for home use and professional setups.

Does A Phono Preamp Make A Difference?

The Radial Engineering J33 RIAA Turntable Preamp Direct Box for professional studio and live stage setups. The ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier delivers excellent sound for an affordable price. The Cambridge Audio Alva Duo is compatible with MM and MC cartridges.

Does A Phono Preamp Make A Difference?


To conclude, if you are planning on buying a state-of-the-art turntable, you should also consider getting a phono preamp. Owning both will mean hours of enjoyment of great music.

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