In this article, you’ll learn how to connect a turntable or record player that doesn’t include a built-in preamp.
To learn how to connect a turntable that does include a built-in preamp, then jump to our How to Connect a Turntable With a Built-In Preamp article.
To learn how to tell if a turntable has a built-in preamp or not, then jump to our How to Tell if a Turntable has a Preamp article.
Alright, let’s get started.
There are essentially two ways to connect a turntable that doesn’t feature a built-in preamp. A turntable that outputs a PHONO signal only.
The first option is to connect the turntable to the PHONO input on your amplifier, if there is one.
The second option is to connect the turntable to a LINE input on your amplifier via a separate phono preamp.
You must not connect a turntable without a preamp to a LINE input on an amplifier. It won’t work. The music volume will be super-low and totally lack bass.
And you must not connect a separate phono preamp to the PHONO input on an amplifier. It won’t work either. The music signal will be clipped off and sound terrible.
Let’s review the two options that will work in more detail.
Connect the turntable to a PHONO input
Some amplifier has a PHONO input. And some don’t.
If you have an amplifier with a PHONO input, you can simply connect the turntable to that input.
This way you will use the preamp that is built-into the amplifier.
The only thing to consider is that the PHONO input on your amplifier is compatible with the type of cartridge you are using on your turntable.
If you have a MM cartridge, you are probably safe. But not every amplifier with a PHONO input supports MC cartridges.
Use a separate phono preamp
The other option is to use a separate phono preamp.
There are two reasons to use a separate phono preamp.
The obvious reason is if your amplifier doesn’t have a PHONO input. Then you have no other choice than connecting a preamp between your turntable and amplifier.
But you might still opt for a separate phono preamp even if your amplifier has one built-in.
And that is if you want to use a preamp of higher quality than the one included n your amplifier. A preamp that sounds better.
When you use a separate phono preamp, you simply connect the output on the turntable to the input on the phono preamp. And the output on the phono preamp to one of the LINE inputs on the amplifier.
LINE inputs have many names. I have included most of them in the table below. You can use any of these. But not a PHONO input.
A turntable without a phono preamp must be connected to the PHONO input on the amplifier, or to a LINE input on the amplifier via a separate phono preamp.
What is a phono preamp?
A phono preamp converts a tiny PHONO signal to a standard LINE signal. It can be a standalone unit, or built into receivers, amplifiers and powered speakers.
What is the difference between PHONO and LINE?
There are two main differences between PHONO and LINE. Firstly, a PHONO signal is much weaker than a LINE signal. A PHONO signal is typically 0.005 Volt and a LINE signal is typically 0.3 Volt. Secondly, the lower tones (bass) of a PHONO signal is significantly reduced (RIAA equalized) while this is not the case for a LINE signal.
Does my turntable need a preamp?
Your turntable will need a preamp if there isn’t one included in the turntable. It is not possible to play vinyl records without a preamp included in the system. If your turntable doesn’t have a preamp, you can use a separate preamp, or a receiver with a preamp built-in.