What is a Phono Preamp? (Answered)

What is a phono preamp

Vinyl has seen a massive increase in popularity in recent years. Music fans, young and old, are again appreciating the fidelity of records. LP sales are booming and turntables are becoming a must-have for many a listener. In order to appreciate the benefits of this music format, a good phone preamp is essential. For those that have been out of the loop for a while, we take a look at what is a phono preamp. 

It is relatively simple to understand although it can get somewhat technical. We will give you the important facts so that you can understand and appreciate the importance of this component in your sound system. Essentially, a phono stage or phono preamp will increase the volume or output of the turntable to allow it to work with modern amplifiers. It also delivers standardized equalization which improves the quality of the output. 

Do you need a phono preamp?

There are several ways to play a turntable and yes, somewhere in the mix you will need a preamp. Let’s take a look at the options to help you decide. Quality, volume, price, and other factors come into play. You will have to decide on the best solution for your needs. 

As discussed above, the purpose of a preamp is to amplify the sound (signal) coming from your turntable. These are the options:

Built-in Preamp

Many modern turntables come with a built-in or integrated preamp. You can use these with a regular amplifier or AV receiver and speakers. In this case, you do not need a separate phono preamp. 

Amplifier or Receiver with Integrated Preamp

In some cases, the AVR (receiver) or amplifier might have an integrated preamp. These are normally found on sophisticated high-end equipment although some older equipment also has this feature. You want to look for inputs named phono or a ground terminal at the back of the unit.  

Powered Speakers with Integrated Preamp

You can also opt for powered speakers with an integrated phono preamp. This will allow you to play a turntable without the need for a dedicated preamp. 

External/Stand Alone Preamp

An external preamp will improve the quality of the audio. If your system does not have an integrated preamp or you simply want better quality and more volume, this is the ideal solution. It will work with powered or passive speakers.  

As you can see, you will need some form of a preamp. It does not have to be a separate standalone unit, however, these tend to deliver the best volume and audio quality. Unless you are a purist and a true audiophile, any of the above options should work well. What is important is that you understand what your existing system has to determine if an external phono preamp is necessary. 

Having said that, let’s look at the pros and cons of an internal vs. an external preamp.

Internal Preamp Benefits

A quality internal preamp will work well. There is nothing wrong with this solution. The benefit is that the system is more compact and simple to connect and operate. An integrated or internal preamp is often less expensive. It offers slightly less control over the output so the more serious vinyl fans might prefer the next option. 

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External or Standalone Preamp Benefits

With this setup, you have more control and can get the audio precision that audiophiles are after. This applies to all musical styles. Having separate components also allows you to change and upgrade with greater ease. 

Final thoughts 

For man people, vinyl is an important part of their music experience. To appreciate listening to music on a turntable you need a phono preamp. Your system might already include one. If not you will need to invest in a standalone component. This article explains the different options and combinations so you can appreciate your vinyl with volume and quality. 

This article was last updated on September 16, 2021 .

By Charl Jooste

Writing full time from home, Charl enjoys modern technology and advanced gadgets but still has a soft spot for quality reliable appliances. He is passionate about durability and quality going to great lengths to find the very best ideas and leading products to share with readers.