Why use a phono preamp?

Pourquoi utiliser un préampli phono ?

What is a phono preamp?

A preamplifier is an electronic device used to adjust and correct the signal sent by the source to which it is attached. We often speak of a "phono preamp" for vinyl turntables. This is because turntables produce a much weaker signal than other audio sources, and this signal requires pre-amplification before being sent to a power amplifier or powered speakers. Depending on the different cells, this signal can vary from 0.1 mV to 6 mV. The classic input level (CD, Tuner, Aux, etc.), on the other hand, is approximately 150 Vm. Without a pre-amp, you will hear almost nothing.

In addition, you will be able to observe that the lowest tones will be absent in the sound reproduction, while the high frequencies will, conversely, be accentuated. This phenomenon can be explained by the impossibility of engraving the different frequencies directly on the vinyl. This is why, since the 1950s, the American recording industry has implemented a process called “RIAA”, which is neither more nor less than an equalization standard (represented by the curve below) and which allows this limit to be corrected. In fact, another main function of a phono preamp will be to perform reverse correction to restore the balance between the different frequencies.

RIAA curve - Source: Wikipedia

How to choose the right Phono Preamp?

To correctly choose your phono preamp, several parameters must be taken into account. Naturally, the more precisely your device follows the RIAA correction curve, the more effective it will be. But that's not all. You also need to take into account the cell of your turntable.

If your turntable has a Moving Coil (MC) cartridge, you will need to turn to an MC phono preamp, that is to say compatible with cartridges with low output level. On the other hand, if your turntable has moving magnets (MM), you will need to turn to an MM phono preamp. This is also the case for the vast majority of preamplifiers on the market.

Today, some preamplifiers even offer the two different options directly MC/MM. You will be able to change cells and develop your installation as you see fit.

A phono preamp will not be necessary if:

  • You have an amplifier or Hi-Fi system with a Phono input (this is often the case with old analog amplifiers)

  • Your turntable has a built-in preamp.

In these two cases, and even if your vinyl turntable will work correctly, you can improve the sound reproduction of your installation or make it more in line with your expectations by choosing a quality phono preamplifier. Be careful, however, to deactivate the integrated pre-amp of your turntable.

Our reference Phono Preamp:

With an extremely wide range of phono preamps on the market and varied prices, it is easy to get lost. It then becomes crucial to clearly identify your needs and compare the technical characteristics before making an informed choice.

Pro-Ject Phono Box -
At Octavio , we highly recommend going with the Pro-Ject Phono Box if this is your first preamplifier. A sure value, MM / MC compatible for less than 100 euros.

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