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How to Make Your Turntable Louder (Turntable Too Quiet?)

A common problem many of us run into when setting up a stereo to play vinyl records is that the sound from the turntable is too low. And sometimes, way too low.

The turntable is just too quiet.

Frustrating! I know.

This problem comes in two flavors.

And we’ll address both of them in this article.

The first flavor is when there is almost no sound coming from the speakers at all when using the turntable. This article will give you everything you need to know to fix that problem.

The other flavor of problems is when the sound level from the turntable is decent, but not loud enough compared to other sources. We’ll look at several ways to fix that problem as well.

So, how can you make your turntable louder?

Here are the 5 ways to make your turntable louder:
1. Make sure to include a phono preamp
2. Change the cartridge to one with a higher output level
3. Change the phono preamp to one with higher gain
4. Consider a more powerful receiver/amplifier
5. Consider speakers with higher sensitivity

(PS! I also have an article on how to get more bass from your turntable were you will discover 8 ways to increase the bass from your turntable and stereo.)

But now, let’s go through each of the 5 ways to make your turntable louder in detail. The first one address the problem where there is almost no sound at all coming from your turntable.

1. Make sure to include a phono preamp

The music signal from a turntable is super weak compared to a music signal coming from a CD player, DVD player, iPhone, etc.

So the music signal from a turntable needs to go through an extra stage of amplification before it can be connected to the same inputs on your receiver (or powered speakers) as for example a CD player or a DVD player.

For this extra stage of amplification, we’ll need a phono preamp.

If the sound from your turntable is way too low, this is almost certainly because you haven’t included a phono preamp in your setup.

Or because you haven’t used the right inputs and outputs to connect the phono preamp.

Vinyl basics: line level vs phono Level

The cartridge on your turntable outputs what is called a phono level signal.

And your CD player (if you still have one) or iPhone outputs a line level signal.

A line level signal is about 100 times stronger than a phono level signal.

So when a phono level output on a turntable is connected to a line level input on a receiver, the result is almost no sound at all. As the receiver “expects” to receive a signal that is about 100 timer stronger on that input.

The way to fix this is to include a phono preamp that transforms the phono level signal to a line level signal.

Phono preamp

A phono preamp can be a standalone box, or built into the turntable or into the receiver.

(Phono preamps are commonly called just preamps in the vinyl jargon.)

Possible Preamp Configurations
1. Built into the turntable (Turntable has a LINE output)
2. Built into the receiver (Receiver has a PHONO input)
3. A standalone unit/box

If your turntable has a LINE output it has a built-in preamp. The LINE output on a turntable can be connected to any line level input on a receiver and it will work perfectly. Typical line level inputs on a receiver are LINE, AUX, CD, DVD, TAPE, etc.

If your turntable only has a PHONO output it means that your turntable does not have a built-in preamp.

The turntable then has to be connected to a receiver with a built-in preamp, or to a standalone preamp that connects between the turntable and the receiver.

A receiver with a built-in preamp will have a PHONO input. If it has, it is perfectly ok to connect your turntable PHONO output to the PHONO input on the receiver.

If neither your turntable or receiver has a built-in preamp, you’ll have to get hold of a standalone preamp that connects between the PHONO output on your turntable and one of the line level inputs on your receiver (LINE, AUX, CD, TAPE, etc.)

If you make sure that a phono preamp is included in your setup in one of the ways discussed above and connected correctly, the problem with way too low sound from your turntable should be fixed.

For an in-depth article on the different ways to set up a vinyl-playing stereo, please check out this article that will teach you everything you’ll ever need to know. It will make this perfectly clear.

And you can read a more in-depth article on phono preamps by clicking here.

One affordable standalone phono preamp we repeatedly recommend here at Vinyl Restart is the very popular ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier (Amazon link). Worth checking out if you need to add a standalone preamp to your stereo, and don’t want to spend too much money on it.

MM vs MC

If the sound is still way too low after you have verified that a phono preamp is connected correctly in your system, it might in some rare cases be because your turntable cartridge is a moving coil (MC) type and your preamp is set up to work with a moving magnet (MM) cartridge.

MC cartridges output a much lower signal than MM cartridges and need even more amplification to reach line level. And need a phono preamp that is set to MC. It is often a switch on the preamp that selects between MC and MM.

MC cartridges are only common on very expensive high-end turntables that only savvy Stereophile enthusiasts tend to buy so this is very rarely what’s causing the problem.

2. Change the cartridge to one with a higher output level

Now that we have addressed, and hopefully fixed, the problem where almost no sound at all is coming from the turntable, let’s look at how we can fix the problem where the sound level is decent, but too low compared to other sources.

One way to do this is to increase the strength of the electrical music signal before it reaches the speakers. We’ll discuss how that can be done in tip number 2,3 and 4.

And last but not least, in tip number 5, we’ll look at choosing speakers that play louder without increasing the strength of the electrical music signal applied to them.

When we look to increase the strength (or size/level) of the music signal, it is ideal to first look for alternatives as early in the music signal chain as possible.

The reason being that when we successfully increase the signal strength early in the music signal chain, we also improve the signal-to-noise ratio of our stereo system.

And when playing vinyl records, a good signal-to-noise ratio is very desirable. As we all want as little noise and hum coming from our vinyl records as possible.

Hence, it is advised to start looking at the cartridge on the turntable to see if it is possible to replace it with one that outputs a stronger signal.

Moving Magnet (MM) cartridges that are found on most turntables typically outputs from 2.5mV to 7.5mV. So if you have a cartridge that outputs 3mV and you replace it with to one that outputs 6mV, the music signal that is applied to your speakers is suddenly twice as big. Which will give a noticeable increase in music volume.

I recently experienced this my self. A changed the cartridge on my Rega Planar 2 from a Rega Carbon (2.5mV) to a Rega Exact (7.0mV) which made my turntable sound significantly louder. So it really works.

To investigate the output levels of different cartridges, Needle Doctor is a good place to start. You can also check out the websites of the biggest cartridge manufacturers. Like Audio-Technica and Ortofon.

3. Change the phono preamp to one with higher gain

The next place to look to increase the signal strength is the phono preamp. Different phono preamps have different gain (output level). And selecting one with higher gain over one with lower gain will have a significant impact on the music volume.

Especially if you are using the preamp that is built into the turntable or a very inexpensive standalone one, chances are that the gain and output level are quite low.

One solution is to try an affordable standalone preamp with adjustable gain like the ART DJPREII Phono Preamplifier I already mentioned (Amazon link).

Here is a quick youtube review of the ART DJPREII if you are interested.

If you are looking for a more high-end phono preamp with good gain (and superb sound!) the Rega Fono Mini A2D is worth checking out. A highly recommended and critically acclaimed phono preamp. It is also one of the recommended preamps by the major home stereo magazine What HiFi. And the exact one I use for my turntable. It sounds fantastic for the price.

4. Consider a more powerful receiver/amplifier

Not exactly rocket science, but a more powerful receiver or amplifier will increase the music volume over a less powerful one.

One insight though is to first consider changing the cartridge and the preamp before looking to replace the receiver/amplifier which in most cases will be a bigger investment.

Also, as it is mostly your turntable that provides insufficient music volume (and all other sources are ok), changing the receiver/amplifier should not be the first upgrade to consider. As it doesn’t fix the root cause.

5. Consider speakers with higher sensitivity

One interesting thing about speaker is how different they can be in their ability to deliver music volume with the same amount of power (Watts) applied to them.

We call this speaker sensitivity.

Speaker sensitivity is by Wikipedia defined as “decibels at 1 W electrical input, measured at 1 meter“.

A speaker with high sensitivity can deliver amazing music volume when driven by an amplifier that only delivers 10 Watt.

While a speaker with low sensitivity will need a 100 Watt amplifier to deliver the same music volume.

Typical home loudspeakers have sensitivities of about 85 to 95 dB for 1 W. So it varies quite a bit.

Sensitivity is one parameter that pretty much every loudspeaker manufacturer list in their spec sheet, so it is quite easy to compare sensitivity ratings when browsing for a speaker with high sensitivity.

Conclusion

In this article, we have learned that if there is almost no sound coming from a turntable at all, that is almost certainly because the stereo doesn’t include the all important phono preamp. Or that the preamp is not connected correctly, using the right inputs and outputs.

We have also learned that there are different ways to increase the music volume from a turntable. This can be done by upgrading to a cartridge with higher output level, upgrade the preamp to one with higher gain, upgrading to a more powerful receiver and choosing speakers with higher sensitivity (dB/W).

How can I improve the sound of my turntable?

Common ways to improve the sound of a turntable is to upgrade the cartridge and upgrade the phono preamp. It is also important that the records and the stylus are clean, that the turntable is placed on a stable and level shelf and that the cartridge is correctly aligned and have the right tracking force.

Will a preamp make my turntable sound better?

A preamp will make a turntable sound better if it is of higher quality than the preamp it replaces. It is not possible to play vinyl records without a preamp so a preamp is absolutely necessary. The preamp can, however, be built into the turntable or receiver. Or it can be a standalone unit that connects between the turntable and the receiver.

Do better turntables sound better?

Yes. A higher end turntable will sound better than an entry-level turntable. A high-end turntable will be able to read the grooves in the record with higher accuracy and will have the ability to reproduce music more identical to its original sound.

Why does my record player sound fast?

Vinyl records are manufactured to be played at one of three different speeds. It can be 33RPM, 45RPM or 78RPM. Most record players have adjustable speed. So if your record player is set to play records at 45RPM and you put on a record that is manufactured to be played at 33RPM, it will sound fast.