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How to Connect a Turntable (Helpful Guide)

In this guide, I will explain everything you need to know to connect different types of turntables to all types of Hi-Fi systems, receivers, powered speakers, Sonos, and computers.

We will start with the basics of how to connect a turntable to a stereo. In that section, we’ll cover the difference between PHONO and LINE and the purpose of the all important preamp. And we’ll review the most common ways to hook up a turntable to a receiver.

Following that section, we’ll look thoroughly into how we connect a turntable to every possible type of stereo systems, powered speakers, computer, Sonos, home theatre, mini Hi-Fi, and so on.

I hope this guide will answer every question you might have about connecting a turntable. If not, feel free to send me an email with your question, and I will try to answer it as fast as I can.

For recommended products relevant to this topic, please visit our Recommended Gear page.

What are PHONO and LINE?

The phono cartridge that is mounted on the tip of the tonearm converts the grooves that are carved into the record into a tiny electrical signal that is called a PHONO signal.

On some turntables, the tiny PHONO signal is the actual output signal from the turntable.

While other turntables boosts the tiny PHONO signal to a much bigger LINE level signal before the signal is outputted.

The turntables that output a LINE level signal has a built-in preamp. Turntables that output a PHONO signal don’t have a built-in preamp.

Turntable Output
Without
Preamp
PHONO
(5mV)
With
Preamp
LINE
(316mV)

The main difference between a PHONO signal and a LINE level signal is the signal size. A PHONO signal is typically (but not always) 5.0 mV while a LINE level signal is standardized at 316 mV. So, a LINE level signal is typically about 50 times bigger than a PHONO signal.

The important thing to know is that a PHONO signal that is outputted by a turntable without a built-in preamp can only be connected to a PHONO input on a receiver, powered speakers or on other Hi-Fi systems.

And that a LINE level signal that is outputted from by a turntable with a built-in preamp can only by connected to a LINE level input on a receiver, powered speakers or on other Hi-Fi systems.

PHONO and LINE must not be mixed.

In the table below we see the two different types of output signals from a turntable and what type of inputs on a receiver, powered speakers or Hi-Fi system they can connect to. Note that PHONO only works on PHONO while LINE level will work on a variety of inputs as a LINE level input can have many different names.

Turntable
Output
Compatible
Input
PHONOPHONO
LINE
level
LINE
AUX
TAPE
REC
CD
DVD
TUNER
NETWORK

Below is a picture of the back panel of the stereo receiver I use for my turntable. We see that there is one PHONO input and 3 different LINE level inputs (CD, NETWORK and RECORDER).

A turntable without a built-in preamp will connect to the PHONO input, while a turntable with a built-in preamp can connect to CD, NETWORK or RECORDER.

I have an article that covers the difference between PHONO and LINE in more depth that you can read by clicking here.

MM and MC

To make this even more confusing, a PHONO signal comes in two variants.

MM and MC.

This is because there is two types of cartridges that can be mounted to a turntable. Moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC).

A moving magnet (MM) cartridge outputs a PHONO signal that is typically 5 mV in size.

A moving coil (MC) cartridge outputs a PHONO signal that is typically 0.5 mV.

CartridgeTypical
Signal
Size
Moving Magnet (MM)5.0 mV
Moving Coil (MC)0.5 mV

Most mainstream turntables use a moving magnet cartridge and output a MM phono signal. While expensive turntable used for high-end stereo systems sometimes use a moving magnet cartridge and outputs a smaller MC PHONO signal.

On the picture above that shows the connectors on my stereo receiver, we see that there is a switch to choose between MM and MC. That switch is used to select between MM and MC cartridges when the PHONO input is used.

What is a phono preamp or phono stage?

First of all, phono preamp and phono stage are two names for the same thing. Most often, it is simply called preamp.

The purpose of the preamp is to convert a PHONO signal to a LINE signal.

To do that, it boosts the signal so that the tiny PHONO signal becomes a larger LINE signal. And it increase the bass and decrease the treble (RIAA Equalization) to create a flat frequency response.

A standalone preamp is a little box that has a PHONO input and a LINE output. It will act as the “missing link” in a system where your turntable only has a PHONO output and the thing you want to connect the turntable to a receiver etc. that only has LINE input.

If you, for instance, want to connect a turntable with PHONO output to powered speakers that only have LINE inputs, you will need to connect a preamp between the turntable and the powered speakers.

It is absolutely necessary to include a preamp in a turntable setup. Without a preamp, the music volume becomes almost zero and the music will have no bass at all and way too much treble. The music will not be possible to listen to.

The preamp can be a standalone box, built into the turntable and built into receivers, HI-Fi systems and powered speakers.

How to check if your system includes a preamp?

A turntable that has a LINE output has a preamp built-in.

And a receiver, HI-FI system or powered speakers that have a PHONO input has a preamp built-in.

What is needed for a turntable setup to work?

A turntable setup needs four components to play vinyl records.

  1. Turntable (Record Player)
  2. Preamp
  3. Amplifier/Receiver
  4. Speakers

These can be four separate components or bundled together in different configurations, as we will explore below. The preamp can, for instance, be bundled with the turntable and the amplifier can be included in powered speakers.

Amoeba has a great video on YouTube that explains all this.

Traditional turntable setups

To give you a few practical examples of what we’ll covered so far, let us look at how I connect a turntable with built-in preamp (LINE output) and a turntable without built-in preamp (PHONO output) to my stereo receiver.

Connect turntable with built-in preamp to receiver

In this example I will connect my Audio-Technica AT-LP120 turntable that outputs a LINE signal to my receiver. In this setup, we utilize the preamp that is built into the turntable.

(The AT-LP120 can actually switch between PHONO and LINE, but I use it in LINE mode in this example.)

I simply connect the RCA cable from the turntable to one of the LINE inputs on my receiver. In the example below, I have connected the RCA connector from the turntable to the CD input on the receiver.

To play records with this setup, I select CD on the source selector on my receiver.

Connect turntable without preamp to receiver

In this example I will connect my Rega Planar turntable that outputs a PHONO signal to my receiver using the preamp that is built-into the receiver.

Here, I connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the PHONO input on my receiver. By using the PHONO input, the preamp that is built into my receiver is utilized. I make sure to set the MM/MC switch to MM as my Rega turntable has a moving magnet cartridge.

To play records with this setup, I select PHONO on the source selector on my receiver.

Connect turntable without preamp to receiver without preamp

In this example I will connect my Rega Planar turntable that outputs a PHONO signal to my receiver using an external preamp. This would be the only option if my receiver didn’t have a built-in preamp. As the case is for many receivers these days.

As we learned above, the preamp has a PHONO input and a LINE output. It converts the PHONO signal to LINE.

I connect the RCA cable from my Rega turntable to the input on the preamp. And then connect the output on the preamp to one of the LINE inputs on my receiver using another RCA cable. I use the CD input in the example below.

To play records with this setup, I select CD on the source selector on my receiver.

All turntable setups explained

Below is a guide for how to connect about everything that can be connected to a turntable, to a turntable.

Before we start, please let me remind you that a turntable with a built-in preamp outputs a LINE signal and that a turntable without a built-in preamp outputs a PHONO signal.

Connect turntable to powered speakers

Powered speakers usually feature one or several LINE inputs.

To connect a turntable with a built-in preamp to powered speakers, you simply connect the RCA cable from the turntable to a LINE input on the powered speakers.

To connect a turntable without a built-in preamp to powered speakers, you will need to use a standalone preamp between the turntable and the speakers. You connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the input on the preamp. And the output on the preamp to the LINE input on the powered speakers.

Some powered speakers also have a PHONO input, but those are rare. If you have a set of these, then you can connect a turntable with a built-in preamp to a LINE input on the powered speakers and a turntable without a built-in preamp to the PHONO input on the powered speakers.

Connect turntable to receiver

This is covered in more detail in the beginning of this article.

Stereo receivers always feature multiple LINE inputs. Some stereo receivers also have a built-in preamp and features a PHONO input.

To connect a turntable with a built-in preamp to a stereo receiver you simply connect the RCA cable from the turntable to one of the LINE inputs on the receiver.

To connect a turntable without a built-in preamp to a receiver, you will need to connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the PHONO input on the receiver (If there is one). If the receiver doesn’t have a PHONO input, you will need to use a standalone preamp. Then you connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the input on the preamp. And the output on the preamp to a LINE input on the receiver.

Connect turntable to wireless Bluetooth speakers

To connect a turntable to wireless Bluetooth speakers, you will need a turntable with Bluetooth capability. Many manufacturers make Bluetooth versions of their entry-level models. One popular model that gets great reviews is the Audio-Technica AT-LP60BK-BT.

There is also an option to use a Bluetooth transmitter to “convert” a regular turntable into a wireless turntable.

To learn more about wireless turntables and how to connect them, I want to direct you to this article that covers this topic thoroughly.

Connect turntable to mini Hi-Fi system

Mini Hi-Fi systems usually feature one or several LINE inputs.

To connect a turntable with a built-in preamp to a mini Hi-Fi system, you simply connect the RCA cable from the turntable to a LINE input on the mini Hi-Fi system.

To connect a turntable without a built-in preamp to a mini Hi-Fi system, you will need to use a standalone preamp between the turntable and the mini Hi-Fi system. You connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the input on the preamp. And the output on the preamp to the LINE input on the mini Hi-Fi system.

If the analog LINE input on the mini Hi-Fi system is a 3,5mm phone connector you will need a RCA to 3.5mm adapter.

Connect turntable to home theatre system

Home theatre systems usually feature one or several LINE inputs.

To connect a turntable with a built-in preamp to a home theatre system, you simply connect the RCA cable from the turntable to a LINE input on the home theatre system.

To connect a turntable without a built-in preamp to a home theatre system, you will need to use a standalone preamp between the turntable and the home theatre system. You connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the input on the preamp. And the output on the preamp to the LINE input on the home theatre system.

Connect turntable to Sonos

Sonos devices (Amp, Play:5, Connect and Connect:Amp) features a LINE audio input.

To connect a turntable with a built-in preamp to Sonos, you simply connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the LINE audio input on the Sonos device.

To connect a turntable without a built-in preamp to Sonos, you will need to use a standalone preamp between the turntable and the Sonos device. You connect the RCA cable from the turntable to the input on the preamp. And the output on the preamp to the LINE audio input on your Sonos device.

Check out this guide on the Sonos blog for a thorough explanation.

Connect turntable to soundbar

If your soundbar comes with a LINE analog input (often labeled AUX) it can be connected to a turntable with built-on preamp directly or to a turntable without built-in preamp through a preamp. Please refer to the section on how to connect a turntable to powered speakers above. A soundbar with a LINE analog input connects to a turntable the same way as powered speakers. You might need a RCA to 3,5mm adapter.

Unfortunately, many soundbars come with only digital inputs like HDMI and Optical inputs. If that is the case, there is unfortunately no straight forward way to connect that soundbar to a turntable that I am aware of.

Connect turntable to computer

Some turntables come with an USB output that enables us to use the turntables to rip vinyl records and store the music on our computer in digital formats.

Those turntables feature an USB connector that connects to an USB port on a PC or MAC via a standard USB cable.

To rip the music it is often required to use a dedicated software or app. This is usually provided by the turntable manufacturer, so check the user guide to find the relevant instructions to install and use the software or app.

Related questions

Can I plug a turntable into CD input?

A turntable can be connected to a CD input if it has a built-in preamp (outputs a LINE signal). If the turntable does not have a built-in preamp, it can be connected to a CD input only via an external preamp.

Can I connect a turntable to AUX or LINE?

A turntable can be connected to an AUX or LINE input if it has a built-in preamp (outputs a LINE signal). If the turntable does not have a built-in preamp, it can be connected to an AUX or LINE input only via an external preamp.

Can I connect my turntable directly to speakers?

A turntable with a built-in preamp can be connected directly to powered speakers. However, a turntable cannot be connected to passive speakers.

Can I connect my turntable to sorround sound?

A turntable outputs a stereo music signal and does not support surround sound. You can, however, connect a turntable to surround system and enjoy 2-channel stereo sound. To do that, the surround system must have an analog LINe input and you must use a turntable with a built-in preamp or a preamp without a built-in preamp and a standalone preamp.

  • Tom
  • October 26, 2019