The 9 Best Phono Preamps

Updated November 06, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

9 Best Phono Preamps
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 38 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. With vinyl enjoying a resurgence in popularity, those of you with a significant collection may be looking to buy one of these phone preamps to boost your record player signal up to line level. We've included models suitable for moving magnet or magnetic coil cartridges and both, so even gigging DJs will find a good selection here. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best phono preamp on Amazon.

9. Behringer Microphono PP400

The added 1/4" TRS output on the Behringer Microphono PP400 lets users feed their signal out of the preamp and into an amplifier that might not have an RCA input. There's a little too much hum from both of the outputs, however.
  • bright power indicator
  • designed in germany
  • low resolution conversion
Brand Behringer
Model PP400
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Tec 753LC

For listeners who run their turntables through a preamp and directly into powered speakers without a receiver, the Tec 753LC comes with an RCA/AUX channel and the necessary RCA-to-3.5 mm cable to connect other audio devices that already hit a tenable line.
  • switch-select input
  • 200pf phono input impedance
  • hiss at the highest levels
Brand TEC
Model 753LC
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Phono Preamps TCC TC-760LC

Doing away with the majority of bells and whistles to bring an easy-to-use, inexpensive unit to the market, the Phono Preamps TCC TC-760LC simply has RCA ins and outs, a ground wire terminal, DC input, a gain knob, and a little red light to let you know it's on.
  • riaa curve graphic
  • low total harmonic distortion
  • shoddy ac adapter
Brand Phono Preamps
Model TC-750LC BLACK
Weight 1.5 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Rega Fono Mini A2D

The Rega Fono Mini A2D can't provide enough of a boost to be compatible with magnetic coil cartridges, but for an MM-only preamp it delivers a good quality signal in an incredibly small package. It also has a USB out that allows you to backup your vinyl to computer files.
  • simple level dial
  • audio editing program included
  • too fragile for gigging djs
Brand REGA
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Music Fidelity V90-LPS

Rather than offering a single switchable channel, the Music Fidelity V90-LPS provides you with distinct RCA inputs for signals from moving magnet or magnetic coil cartridges. That separation allows each channel to be optimized for the clearest audio relay.
  • bright green dedicated ground
  • transparent connections
  • lower top gain than other preamps
Brand Musical Fidelity
Model Musical Fidelity V90-LP
Weight 2.1 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

4. Schiit Audio Mani

The Schiit Audio Mani combines precise 2% film capacitors and 0.5% thin-film resistors with a fully passive RIAA network to eliminate poles in its feedback loop and deliver gain stages with little to no noise in the signal.
  • mm and mc compatibility
  • made in the usa
  • no soft start feature
Brand Schiit
Model SCH-18
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

3. Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box S

The four adjustable gain levels on the Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box S are located on the underside of the unit itself, which creates a sleeker, more minimalist outward design, but makes it more difficult to dial in your line if you put a record on with very different grooves.
  • impedance and capacitance switches
  • polypropylene capacitors
  • expensive for its quality
Brand Pro-Ject
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. ART Pro Audio DJPRE II

While the ART Pro Audio DJPRE II hovers between MM and MC cartridge support, it allows you to push the preamp in either direction with an input capacitance button set to either 100 or 200 picofarads. Combined with a -10 dB to 8 dB gain trim, you can dial in the line.
  • compact in design
  • included 12v dc adapter
  • led light for signal clipping
Brand ART
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Emotiva XPS-1

Operating within +/-0.25 dB of the standard RIAA curve, the Emotiva XPS-1 brings your phono signal up to line with unparalleled clarity. It can switch between moving magnet and magnetic coil on the left and right channels, each of which offers four impedance selections.
  • gold-plated connectors
  • high signal to noise ratio
  • great analog sound
Brand Emotiva Audio
Model XPS-1
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

What Does A Phono Preamp Do?

A phono preamp is an important and often overlooked piece of audio equipment. Other names for a phono preamp include a phono stage, RIAA preamp, or turntable preamp. The basic job of the phono preamp is to boost the smallest signals produced by a turntable. These boosted signals can then drive the power amplifier, which in turn drives the speakers. Without the phono preamp, there is not enough power to deliver the correct sound through the speakers.

The phono preamp also applies RIAA curve to the signal. The reason for a need of this special EQ curve is due to the long wavelengths of low frequencies. The grooves these frequencies make are difficult for the needle to play back correctly. Put simply, the RIAA curve boosts high frequencies while reducing low frequencies. The phono preamp then uses an inverse of this curve to balance the track back out. This has two effects. The first is that it makes the grooves for low frequencies much easier to balance. The second is that the process also improves the overall quality of the sound by reducing noises like hissing and ringing. Phono preamps are a requirement for listening to vinyl records on an external sound system.

There are many turntables with built-in speaker systems that have the necessary preamp within them already. It is easy enough to figure out if your model does or does not. If the turntable is connected to the sound system and produces sound at the proper level with no distortion, it more than likely has a built-in phono preamp. Many older amplifiers or sound systems have preamps built in. Any system with an input designated PHONO has a preamp in it. This is very common in receivers or amplifiers made around 1980 or before.Turntables with USB outputs have built-in preamps as well, as they have to convert the input to make it compatible for USB.

Getting The Best Sound From A Phono Preamp

The quality of sound coming from a phono preamp will rely largely on the quality of the other components of the system. For instance, it may be hard to judge the quality of a preamp using low-end speakers. Issues with gain and distortion that are usually blamed on the phono preamp may actually be caused by the speakers themselves. The ideal speakers are neutral, clear, and leave plenty of room for the high resolution of the vinyl sound to shine through. There is no ideal shape or size. Some users favor large floor speakers while others like the freedom of bookshelf speakers.

The turntable's cartridge may be the largest determining factor in the choice of phono preamp. Cartridges are typically either moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC). Both cartridges run a needle along the grooves of the LP to create vibration. It is how they do so that differs.

In MM cartridges, sound is translated by attaching a magnet to the top end of the needle. This magnet rests in between two responsive coils. Vibrations in the magnet create currents in the coils, which are then carried to the preamp. MC cartridges work in the opposite way. They have tiny wire coils attached to the needle that vibrate between magnets. This is believed to increase the responsiveness of the needle. The price of this needle agility is a reduction in signal strength. MC cartridges will typically require more gain that MM cartridges to avoid distorting the sound at the end of the signal. Having a phono preamp that easily adjusts to the needs of the user's specific cartridge is vital.

Creating The Ideal Sound From A Turntable

The resurgence of vinyl is caused in part by nostalgia, but has more to do with the modern listener’s desire for a high-quality sound. Vinyl is considered by many to be the epitome of sound quality. Whether or not this is true is cause for another article all together. The fact remains that vinyl is the only format available to consumers that is both analog and lossless.

Analog audio offers users a direct duplication of the original recorded soundwaves. Vinyl records are the classic example, as pressing a recording to vinyl does not change the sound in any way. It comes out just as it was recorded. Cassette tapes are a slightly more modern example. They utilize magnetic recording to permanently adhere sound to the tape inside the cassette. One distinct advantage of cassettes is the ability to erase and re-record. This may also be a disadvantage when compared to vinyl. Where vinyl provides a permanent recording, cassette recordings can fade over time or by coming into contact with magnets.

In the digital world, lossless audio refers to audio compression that does not change the original recording. FLAC or WAV files are good examples of lossless audio, and MP3 files are usually compressed audio files. During compression, the size of the file itself is reduced. This makes it easier to download, share, and store these files, but it does come at a price. Compression usually achieves this size reduction by eliminating wavelengths that should be well outside the normal range of the human ear. This usually results in a large chunk of the file being removed. Theoretically, lossless compression manages to reduce the file size of the original recording without removing any minute details from the sound. Provided that high quality speakers and amplifiers are used, the listener would technically be hearing audio just as it was recorded.

Vinyl on the other hand requires no additional processes to produce lossless audio. A turntable using accurate needles, coupled with a high quality phono preamp and clear speakers, will produce audio exactly as it was recorded. Vinyl enthusiasts believe this process is much more favorable, as it is not subject to the digital decoding and recoding of the audio file. They feel it gives the audio unrivaled warmth that is missing in all other formats. Much of this debate is subjective, though.

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Last updated on November 06, 2017 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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