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To play vinyl records, you have to boost the weaker phono signal a turntable emits to a line level signal. That requires a preamp, either built into your turntable, as part of your stereo system’s amplifier, or as a separate device. Every time a signal passes from one piece of equipment to another, there’s an opportunity to impact the overall sound quality. With these four preamps, spend as much or as little as you’d like according to your needs and taste.
If you’ve been gifted a turntable from a friend or relative and just want to get it working with a minimum of cost, this preamp does the trick. It weighs less than a pound and is approximately 5 inches wide, 8 inches long, and 3 inches deep, so it won’t take up a lot of space in your entertainment cabinet. If you don’t have a stereo amplifier, you can connect it directly to powered speakers to save more space. Try using a 9-volt battery to power the preamp instead of the power adapter and keep the preamp close to your turntable to reduce hum and interference.
If you’re spinning actual vinyl at the club instead of mixing digital tracks, this compact and durable preamp enclosed in black anodized aluminum gives you more options than a basic model. Use it to connect your turntable to audio devices from your computer to your stereo or monitors. Just pick up a USB adapter if your audio device doesn’t have a line in. A gain control knob allows you to avoid overloading the signal and minimizes distortion. This preamp is also very portable, with a height of 1.75 inches, a length of 3.5 inches, and a 4.2-inch width.
The type of cartridge at the end of your turntable’s tonearm can make a real difference in sound quality, and also protect your records from damage by minimizing the impact of the stylus (needle) on the album’s grooves. This preamp works with moving magnet cartridges, preferred by some audiophiles in the quest for the best high fidelity sound. Gold-plated RCA inputs and outputs and advanced circuitry contribute to a clear and clean sound with good separation between channels.
Some music fans prize preamplifiers that use tubes rather than electronic semiconductors, saying it produces a warmer sound. This elegant vacuum tube preamp works with both moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC) cartridges to maximize the potential of your hi-fi system. Multiple gain settings allow you to shape a rich, deep, and warm analog sound unmatched by digital audio. You can even experiment with replacing the tubes—known as tube rolling—to customize the sound further.