phono preamp

What is a phono preamplifier?

A phono preamplifier amplifies the weak electrical signal from a turntable. This improves the signal before sending it to an audio amplifier or receiver.

The signal is generated by the vibrations of the record needle. Since records have a weaker signal compared to modern audio sources such as CDs or digital music files, a phono preamplifier is necessary to bring the signal to a level that the amplifier can process correctly. The phono preamplifier also compensates for specific sound characteristics of the records that were taken into account during recording.


Important criteria for a phono preamplifier

Pickup selection: Make sure the preamp is compatible with the type of cartridge used on your turntable. There are different technologies such as magnetic or moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC).

Gain: Make sure the phono preamplifier provides enough gain to amplify your cartridge's signal. The gain factor required depends on the output voltage of your pickup.

Hissing and disturbing noises: Clear audio reproduction depends on low noise levels. Therefore, when buying a phono preamplifier, you should pay attention to low noise levels.

The preamplifier should also offer switchable equalization (RIAA correction), as most records require this function. Some models also allow you to deactivate equalization, which can be helpful when playing old records with different equalization.

connection options: Please check whether the phono preamplifier fits your audio system. Some models also have USB ports for connecting to computers.

build quality: Solid construction and high-quality components can improve audio performance and extend the life of the device.


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Moving magnet (MM) vs. moving coil

Magnetic pickups (MM):

Construction: MM pickups have a magnet connected to a needle. The movement of the magnet within a fixed coil system creates an electrical signal.

output voltage: Compared to MC cartridges, MM cartridges generally produce a higher output voltage. This makes them more compatible with most phono preamplifiers.

Price: MM pickups are often less expensive than MC pickups.

This makes them more compatible with most phono preamplifiers.
Price: MM pickups are often less expensive than MC pickups. For this reason, they can be a good option for beginners.

Moving coil (MC):

Structure: MC pickups have a coil that moves and thereby generates the electrical signal in the magnetic field. The coil is lighter than the magnet in the MM pickup.

output voltage: MC cartridges typically produce a lower output voltage than MM cartridges. Therefore, you need a phono preamplifier with a higher gain.

Klang: MC pickups are known for their precise reproduction, which makes them particularly popular among music lovers. MC pickups are known for their precise reproduction, which makes them particularly popular among music lovers. Price: MC cartridges are typically more expensive than MM cartridges and are therefore preferred by advanced audiophiles.

When choosing, it is important to ensure that the phono preamplifier is compatible with the type chosen. Some preamps have switches or settings that allow you to switch between MM and MC modes. This offers flexibility when choosing the pickup.

Switchable equalization (RIAA correction)

Switchable equalization or RIAA correction refers to a special equalizer built into phono preamplifiers. This feature is important to balance the original sound profile of records.


Why is an equalizer necessary?

When recording records, the sound signal is passed through a Equalizer distorted to compensate for the physical limitations and the way records are made.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has established a standard for this equalization that ensures that recorded records have an optimized sound profile.

RIAA correction in the phono preamplifier:

The phono preamplifier contains an RIAA correction circuit that restores the signal that was distorted during recording to its original form. Without this correction, the played signal would sound thin and unbalanced.

Equalization can be switched off:

Some phono preamplifiers offer the option to turn off RIAA correction. This can be useful when playing records recorded with a different equalization. For example, older records recorded before the RIAA standard was introduced may require different equalization.

Flexibility for music lovers:

Audiophiles might benefit from this feature if they own or want to experiment with records with alternative equalization curves.

The ability to bypass RIAA correction provides more flexibility in tailoring the sound profile to personal taste. Overall, the switchable equalization allows audiophiles to adapt to different recording practices and sound preferences while ensuring playback of standard RIAA records.


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