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How to Set Up a Turntable Preamp

How to Set Up a Turntable Preamp

If you’re setting up a turntable in your audio system, your system will need a phonograph preamp. This may be easy as either your turntable itself or your receiver may come with a preamp built in. The latter is less likely with more modern receivers, but still possible. If neither device has a preamp built in, you’ll need to purchase a stand-alone unit. This can be done for anywhere from $50 to $500 depending on the quality, and feature set, that you require. The preamp's job is to convert the signal coming out of your turntable into a line level signal, which your amplifier can then output to your speakers.

The one exception to this will be if you’re plugging your turntable directly into a computer via USB. Many record players now have USB connections so that you can record your old vinyl onto your computer. If you’re using this connection, there will be no need for a preamp. However, if you’re planning on connecting your turntable to your computer via another method, such as the analog audio jack, a preamp will still be necessary.

Connecting a phonograph preamp to your receiver is relatively straightforward. It should be only a require a pair of RCA connections (those old red and white audio cables you’re familiar with) between your turntable and the preamp, and then another pair connecting the preamp with your receiver. The last connection you’ll need to make will be a grounding wire between your turntable and preamp. Without that ground wire connection, your turntable will have an audible hum underneath everything that you play. Phono preamps accommodate moving magnet cartridges – some also accommodate moving coil + moving magnet cartridges.

Most preamps are designed to be compact to avoid adding another major component to your audio system, some, however, can have dimensions on par with a DVD player, to give you additional features or more control over your system. You may want to consider how often you may want to access the preamp. A small box tucked in behind your turntable is great, but if you buy a preamp that gives you the ability to fine-tune the output, or has a built-in headphone jack, you’ll likely want to place the preamp where you’ll easily be able to use those features.

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