When CDs more or less replaced vinyl records in the 90’s, many home stereo manufacturers stopped including phono preamps in their receiver. As the general public stopped listening to vinyl.
If you have a receiver that was new after 1995 or so, chances are that there is no phono preamp included. In recent years, as vinyl records have made a huge comback, manufacturers have again started to include phono preamps in their receivers. But for about 20 years (1995 – 2015), most recivers did not include a phono preamp.
So, in this article, I will show you how to connect a turntable to a receiver without phono input.
And I will show you a few good and affordable products that will help you play vinyl records on a receiver without a phono input.
Lets go back to the question at hand. How can we connect a turntable to a receiver without phono input?
There are two possible ways to connect a turntable to a receiver without phono input. We can use a turntable with a built-in phono preamp. Or we can use a standalone phono preamp that connects between the turntable and the receiver.
And from there, we need to connect the output from the turntable with built-in preamp or the output from the standalone preamp to one of the available LINE-level inputs on the receiver. It can be AUX, DVD, CD, TAPE, TUNER or any other LINE-level input that is available on your receiver.
The important thing is that we must include a phono preamp somewhere in a vinyl-playing stereo setup. To make it work. So if the receiver doesn’t have a phono preamp built in, it must be included as a standalone unit or as a unit built into the turntable.
That was the short answer.
Let’s dig a bit deeper to get a full understanding of how this work.
What is PHONO input in a receiver?
Phono input is an input that can only be used to connect a turntable or a record player.
A phono input in a receiver is different from all the other inputs in one important way. And that is that it routes the signal straight to an internal phono preamp.
The built-in phono preamp then does two very important things to the music signal.
First, the tiny signal from the turntable cartridge is boosted/amplified so that it becomes approximately the same size/strength as a signal coming from a CD player or a cassette player. This is called LINE-level. The amplitude (size) of the signal is increased by approximately 1000X.
And secondly, the bass is significantly increased while the high tones (treble) is significantly reduced. When records are carved, the bass is reduced to save space on the record. And the preamp corrects this so that the music again has the right balance between bass and treble. This process is called RIAA equalization.
Do I need a preamp if my receiver has a phono input?
If your receiver has a phono input it has a built-in preamp.
And therefor you are covered. No need for a standalone phono preamp etc.
But there might be a few reasons for why you still want to use a separate preamp.
One possible reason to use a standalone preamp with a receiver that already has a built-in preamp is if you want to use a preamp of better quality and higher sonic performance than the one that is included in the receiver.
Upgrading to a higher quality preamp is a common way to increase the sonic performance of a vinyl playing stereo setup.
I personally use the phono preamp that is built into my receiver as a write this article. But I plan to upgrade to a higher quality standalone preamp sometime in the near future.
Also, in some rare instances, the preamp that is built into the receiver might give too little amplification to the signal. So adding a standalone preamp with higher amplification might be needed to get a proper music volume. This might be a case if your turntable uses a cartridge that outputs a very low-level signal. Like a Moving Coil (MC) type cartridge.
Can I connect my turntable to AUX, LINE, CD, DVD, TV or RECORDER?
If your turntable has a built-in preamp (LINE-level output) you must connect it to one of these LINE-level inputs. And not the PHONO input on your receiver.
But if your turntable doesn’t have a built-in preamp (PHONO-level output only) you must connect it to the PHONO input on the receiver. Or use a standalone PHONO preamp that connects bettween the PHONO output on your turntable and one of the LINE-level inputs on your receiver (LINE, AUX, CD, etc.)
What happens if I connect a turntable without preamp to a LINE-level input (AUX, LINE, CD, etc.)
If you connect a turntable without a built-in preamp to a LINE-level input, the music volume will be extremely low. You will barely hear the music even with the volume knob turned to max. And the music will have no bass as the signal won’t be RIAA corrected.
To put it short. This won’t work at all.
Is a stereo receiver an amplifier?
Yes, it is.
It connects to multiple music sources (TT, CD, TAPE, etc.) on the input side. And it connects to and drives the speakers on the output side.
So it is an amplifier.
The line between what’s a stereo amplifier and what’s a stereo receiver is kind of wishy-washy. The terms more or less mean the same.
One difference might commonly be that stereo receivers include more functionality that stereo amplifiers. Like surround processing, tuner, etc.
If you want to connect a turntable to a receiver without a PHONO input, the only solution might be to invest in a standalone PHONO preamp or a turntable with a built-in PHONO preamp.
Below are a few recommended alternatives that won’t break the bank.
All these products should be easy to find with a search on Amazon.
Recommended affordable external preamps
The ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier is a very well received and very popular inexpensive yet high-quality standalone preamp that it is worth considering if you need a preamp to connect your turntable to your receiver.
Another really good alternative that will set you back a tiny bit more is the Pro-Ject Phono Box MM.
If you a really picky about the sonic performance of your stereo, the Rega Fono Mini A2D is the one I would put my money on. Very well reviewed by Hi-Fi critics and currently our favorite for a good sounding and high-value for money preamp.
Recommended affordable turntables with built-in preamp
The two turntables with a built-in PHONO preamps we recommended on this site is the unbelievably popular and affordable Audio-Technica AT-LP60 if you are looking for something decent but super cheap.
And the Audio-Technica AT-LP120 if you are looking for an affordable but fully featured turntable with a lot of fans in the vinyl community.