What Is A Phono Preamplifier?

The revival of vinyl has meant that it’s becoming increasingly popular in this day and age, a whole new generation is discovering just how good vinyls and turntables are, there’s nothing quite like the warm crackle that prefaces the music.

If you were born in the 70s or 80s or even before, you’ll remember how important vinyls were when you wanted to listen to new music that had come out and having to wait in line for said vinyls, there was no instant release like there is now with Spotify and Apple Music. 

What Is A Phono Preamplifier?

The younger generation who are just discovering turntables may not necessarily know how they work, and may just expect the turntable to be able to play the music.

SONICAKE BOOM Ave. Bass Preamp quic...
SONICAKE BOOM Ave. Bass Preamp quick test

The key component to being able to fully listen to your vinyl is a phono preamplifier, the signal coming from the turntable is super low, so the phono preamp is needed to amplify the signal so that it can be properly played on your speaker system. 

We think it’s awesome that turntables are making a resurgence and we want to ensure that people using them know exactly what to do so they can enjoy the brilliance they have to offer.

So if you’re wondering how to use a phono preamp and connect one then stay tuned.

What Exactly Is A Phono Preamp?

We already briefly mentioned that the phono preamp helps to amplify the signal so that your sound system can accurately translate the signal to play out of the speakers.

The signal coming from your turntable is around 1,000x lower than the signal coming from a CD player, so the phono preamp is essential to be able to enjoy your vinyl properly. 

Do I Already Have A Phono Preamp?

There’s a few possibilities that you may already have a preamp in your arsenal, we’ll list a few of the ways some phono preamps are already incorporated. 

Built In Phono Preamp

You may already have a built in phono preamp in your turntable, a lot of the newer models will have one incorporated into it due to the rising demand of them.

If you’ve recently bought a turntable, then play a vinyl on it and see if any sound comes out of it that has no distortion, if so you’re in luck and you won’t need a phono preamp.

But if you find that you don’t, no worries, no harm has been done. 

Amplifiers With Built In Phono Preamps

If you’ve got a vintage amp from around the 80s or prior, then your amp will most likely have the phono section built in.

If you look on the back of your amp then you should see a set of left and right connections with a ground screw next to them. If your vintage amp has this then you have a phono preamp!

Powered Speakers That Have A Built In Phono Preamp

Over the last few years, power speakers with built in phono preamps have entered the market. These speakers allow you to instantly connect a turntable that has no existing preamp, and voila your music should be playing!

Advantages To An Internal Phono Preamp

So with these different types of components that include internal preamps, you may be wondering if these are the best option, or if external phono preamps are better. 

The first advantage is probably the biggest, having an internal preamp means that there’s less wires to struggle with and thus fewer potential problems that can arise.

What Is A Phono Preamplifier?

Having an internal phono preamp also makes it so there are less components to worry about, since everything comes in the same package.

But it also takes out the control you have over how you want your music to sound, which is why some people prefer an external phono preamp.

Advantages To An External Phono Preamp

Like we just mentioned, an external phono preamp gives you the most control over how you want the song to sound.

Many different songs will have different nuances that will sound best under different circumstances and settings, and you change this by using the phono preamp.

You can also upgrade your phono preamp easily if it’s external, but if you wanted to upgrade your powered speakers that include an internal phono preamp, you’d have to buy two different components. 

How To Connect A Phono Preamp

So, if you don’t have a built in phono preamp, you may be wondering how to connect your external preamp. Firstly, you’ll need a set of audio cables.

Then take the left and right audio cables coming from your turntable and plug them into the input jacks on your phono preamp. 

You should ensure that your audio cables are no longer than 5 feet, as this can affect how the signal is carried and thus can distort the sound a lot easier. Your wires may keep getting tangled up, but it’s worth it to have a better sound.

Definitely do not plug your phono preamp into something that emits high signals like a CD player or your phone, as this will hugely distort the audio and you risk your phono preamp blowing. 

You should also not make the mistake of plugging your phono preamp into a turntable that already has one built in, as again it will only distort the sound of the vinyl or blow the entire system. 

Final Thoughts

After reading this short guide, you should have a better understanding about what a phono preamp is, and how they’re incredibly important to turntables.

If you’re not familiar with vinyl and turntables or have recently bought one, it’s our hope that you now know what to do if your turntable isn’t playing any sound.

The resurgence of vinyl is amazing, and we couldn’t be happier that you’ve checked out this article to find out more about how your vinyl can be played without a built in phono preamp and we hope that you’re now more comfortable with being able to connect them. 

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Vinnie

I'm Vinnie, and I'm here to support you to create your own studio at home, whether it’s for photography, recording audio, podcasts, or videos!

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