Connecting amplifiers to a turntable and an audio system should be easy, but we are all familiar with that irritating moment when we think it is all set up, but the sound just will not come out of the amp at the required volume.  The reason for this could be that most of today’s amplifiers do not have an input socket market turntable, so they cannot be connected without a phono preamp.  This is quite simply an electronic circuit or stage that deals with the correct amplification of the phono cartridge and sends it to the amp or audio system. It is also often called a phono stage or a phono amp, but these all describe the same thing.

Beneath all these technical terms is a simple box that connects between a turntable and an amplifier.  In order to decide which one to buy and what sort of price to go for, an outline of how the phono amp works may be of some use.  When vinyl records were the norm, integrated amplifiers featured an input for the record player or turntable as standard, but this began to die out when analogue sources started to become digital in origin.  As digital sources have similar voltages, a preamp-stage was often no longer necessary, as a simple switch that selects between inputs was sufficient.  For this reason, the ‘passive preamp’ was created, but rather than containing an actual preamp, these boxes just house switches and relays.

For those who are in need of an actual preamp, it is just a matter of obtaining a phono stage, wiring up the turntable to it, and hooking up the output from the preamp to your amplifier.  The effect you will get will be dependent on a few factors, and the prices vary widely.  A particularly cheap preamp is fairly unlikely to provide you with high quality audio, but equally, some budget preamps are dressed up as very expensive ones. The most sensible option for novices is to go for a medium priced one, which will at least ensure that you are not severely overcharged for an inferior product.

It is important, therefore, not to be confused by the technicalities.  The phono stage, the phono preamp and the phono amp all have the same function, that of connecting your amp to your turntable.  With this technology in place, you should be able to play all your favourite music with excellent sound and absolutely no stress.  As long as all your other equipment works, that is!

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