What is a phono preamp

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Are you looking to purchase a phono preamp, but don‘t exactly know what it‘s used for? In this article we go into detail about the features and uses of a phono preamp. We will dive in depth about what to look for when selecting a phono preamp. We hope you have as much fun reading this article as much as we did writing.

What is a Phono Preamp?

A phono preamp is an audio component that amplifies the signal from your turntable to a high standard. The phono preamps let you connect to a sound system like any other audio device. Therefore, you can play old and new records with this device.

One major feature of a phono preamp is to apply RIAA equalization curve to a signal, which lets your speakers play as if it were the original recording. If you‘re starting out and this seems a bit too complicated, then the main thing to know is that you need a phono preamp to enjoy vinyl records.

Turntables with Built-in Phono Preamps


Some newer turntable comes with phono preamps built-in, which saves you the hassle of purchasing one separately. Turntables with built-in phono preamps usually have higher prices, but they are more convenient. Having one built-in means you’ll save space within your setup as everything is in one compact design.

However, if you have a turntable without a built-in phono preamplifier, then plug it into your sound system. When the volume level is fine with zero distortion, it means there is a built-in phono preamp.

Selecting the Right Phono Preamp

There are two types of phono preamps, so decide which one is ideal for you. The components differ in the cartridges that go inside of your turntable. Therefore, some amplifiers won’t be ideal for certain turntables. Here is some information about the two designs:

  • MM (moving magnet): the moving magnet design has a lot more power to work with, which results in clearer and louder audio. If you recently upgraded your turntable’s cartridge, then you’d want a moving magnet design.
  • MC (moving coil): the moving coil design has less output, which means it will need more amplification. This option is generally cheaper and is ideal for older turntable models that don’t need a lot of power.

The good news is that most phono preamps on the market are compatible with both options. The only difference is selecting the right option results in louder audio. If you’re unsure which type of cartridge you have, you can look at the manufacturer’s specifications.

How to Connect a Phono Preamp

To connect your phono preamp, you’ll need a set of premium audio cables. Inspect the wires for damage because otherwise the audio will have interference. Take the left and right audio cables coming out of your turntable and insert them into the input jacks in the phono preamp. Afterward, when connecting to an audio system check out the input and output jacks – insert the cables accordingly.

If you find the cables too short to connect from your turntable to the audio system, you may want to consider purchasing longer wiring. However, don’t use super long cables because the cartridge output power isn’t that high. Therefore, with longer cables the signal can become weaker and results in signal loss or distortion.

Where to Place a Phono Preamp

When you’re placing the phono preamp, the goal is to eliminate any humming sounds. Don’t place the phono preamp directly on to of any device with a built-in amplifier because this results in a humming noise. Amplifiers generally have a large power transformer that emits a small hum field that phono preamps can pick up.

Furthermore, never run power cables near the phono preamp since this can also introduce humming sounds. Most people make this mistake by wanting to do cable management and make the setup look neater.

What Not To Do With Your Phono Preamp

The phono preamp‘s design is made to accept signals that are super low in level. There are some audio devices that you cannot connect to because you risk damaging the components. CD players require a lot of power, so using it with a phono preamp would be a mistake. Before connecting any device ensure you do the necessary research. Also, some people think that they can upgrade their setup by adding a phono preamp with a turntable that already has a built-in phono preamp. This results in breaking and frying components or distorting the audio.


To summarize, a phono preamp is an audio component that amplifies the signal from your turntable to a higher standard. The phono preamp lets you connect to other audio devices such as speakers that have a higher volume level. Make sure that you know what type of phono preamp you need – MM or MC. Some turntables come with built-in phono preamps, which means you won‘t need to do as much research on choosing the best option for your current setup.

Connecting the phono preamp is super easy because you only need to insert the correct wires in the output and input slots. You can customize the length of the cable, but avoid using super long cables because the signal strength will be weaker. Also, don‘t place the phono preamp on a device with a built-in amplifier since this results in a humming noise.