If you are like us, you yearn to listen to vinyl records over digital format. To make this digital transition you need one of the best phono preamp models available today. If you are new to this area of focus you will quickly find that there are lots of specs and things to consider when it comes to using a phono preamp. What’s more, there are a lot of phono preamps to choose from. And, finding the best one for your specific needs can get confusing. This is why we are helping you with our new 2017 guide of the best phono preamp.
We compared the most important features such as equipment requirements, cartridge style, adjustments, connections, and price. Then we narrowed our research to find the 10 best phono preamp options to make your decision easy.
Things to Consider
- Current Equipment. What does your home stereo systems consist of? Many entry level record players with speakers have a built-in phono preamp. However, many higher end turntables do not. Many entry level players incorporate a fairly low quality phono preamp. It may be worth considering a preamp anyways. You may also find that your older AV receiver has a phono input. It is worth a quick examination of your equipment to see what you may or may not need.
- Cartridge Style. The best phono preamp should apply the appropriate amplification to the signal coming from your cartridge or record player. The type of cartridge will directly affect the type of phono preamp you will need. A moving magnet (MM) cartridge generates a much stronger signal than a moving coil (MC) cartridge requiring significantly less amplification creating a lower cost unit. An MM cartridge is also much more common and user friendly. You will find, however, that many of the best phono preamp models have the capacity to handle both types of cartridges.
- Adjustments/Connections. Most phono preamps will offer a gain, or level, adjustment along with a manual switch for MM/MC phono cartridge selection. Some of the more high end best phono preamp models will also include capacitive adjustments for fine tuning your sound and many have dampening and clarifying circuitry to reduce distortion and ambient noise. Outputs of phono preamps are most often RCA style but it is not difficult to find one with digital converters and USB outputs as well. This is all a matter of preference and the way in which you intend to use the device.
- Price. Some people believe that you cannot put a price on sound quality. Other users will simply be on the hunt for a reasonably priced device to boost the sound levels of their old record player. In other words, there are many phono preamp options available for many different levels of users.
Best Phono Preamp Top 10 Comparison Guide
Reviews of the Top Rated Phono Preamps
One of the most popular and best phono preamp models on the market is the Emotiva Audio XPS-1 Phono Preamp. Also one of the most affordable available today, Emotiva Audio presents the user with a simple plug and play setup. Just connect the device in-line with RCA aux cables (not included) and you are ready to enjoy the uncompromised sound of your vinyl records.
Suitable for use with many different turntables, this compact phono preamp provides appropriate voltage gain to convert phono level output to line level output with minimal distortion. If you are looking for an inexpensive, simple, and effective signal booster for your record player, this phono preamp is a great option.
If you have your heart set on a top of the line tube style phono preamp and money is not a factor, then this next best phono preamp is one to consider. Pro-Ject Audio’s Tube Box DS is all that and more. The Tube Box DS offers compatibility with both MM and MC style phono cartridges and also features a gain adjustment of 40/50/60 dB as well as a capacitive adjustment of 100/200 pF.
This phono preamp is geared towards the more technically savvy end user. Other high end touches include switchable subsonic filter, dual mono tube triode architecture, and premium ECC-803 gold pin tubes. Exceptionally low distortion and virtually no ambient noise during playback, this little number is the true audiophile’s dream.
The Cambridge Audio CP1 Phono Preamp is certainly a quality preamplifier that is specifically designed for your MM input stages. Additionally, Cambridge includes a balance control for fine tuning cartridge imbalances to reproduce the finest quality playback possible. In response to the demand for best possible sound, Cambridge has also incorporated discrete transistors at the input stages rather than the common integrated circuits, effectively eliminating white noise sound during playback.
A middle of the road price tag means that this is one affordable way to ensure excellent sound from your favorite turntable without breaking the bank.
Another option possibility form Cambridge Audio gives the user the opportunity to use a turntable fitted with an MC cartridge. The Azur 651P is fully compatible with both MM and MC style record players. It also features multi-parallel capacitors for exceptional accuracy by Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) standards, and a subsonic filter eliminates low frequency ‘rumble’ due to imperfections in the vinyl disc itself.
Designed to replicate the high fidelity sound native to analog vinyl records this beautiful augmentative phono preamp is sure to please even the most discriminating listener. It even includes a reconfigured power supply allowing the consumption to be zeroed when not in use.
The last best phono preamp for review is another offering from Pro-Ject Audio. The Phono Box USB is a solid state device, as opposed to the tube style device mentioned before, and features a digital USB output as well as the standard line-out that you would expect. A built-in Burr Brown PCM 2904 analog converter generates a superior and powerful signal to send to any digital component you choose.
The Phono Box USB is compatible with both MM and MC cartridge styles for the choosy listener and includes gold plated phono inputs and line outputs for minimal loss of sound quality. This is a high end and compact multi-function phono preamp that surprisingly comes with a modest price tag. Certainly accessible to most listeners, this phono preamp is a quality choice.
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