A phono preamplifier, also known as a phono stage, is an audio component that amplifies the signal from your turntable to a level that allows you to connect it to your sound system the same way you would with any other audio source.
For many HiFi turntables and audiophile setups, an external phono preamp is necessary to enjoy your vinyl records, and a great preamp can make for a great listening session. When it comes to what to spend, you’d be very happy with how many great phono preamps under $2,000 can take your current setup and transform it into something unbelievable.
In order to better help with your decision, please enjoy our interactive guide below, which showcases some of the best phono preamps on the market.
|VPI Cliffwood||$$||Works with MM Cartridges|
|Rega IO||$$$||30 watts per channel at 8Ω|
|Project Phono Box S2||$||Works with MC and MM Cartridges|
|Rega Brio||$$$||50 watts per channel at 8Ω|
|Project Tube Box S2||$$||Audiophile Phono Preamp with Tube Tech|
|NAD 3020 V2||$$||Hybrid Digital/Analog Amplifier|
|NAD PP4||$$||Works with MM and MC cartridges|
|Turntable Lab PHO-1||$||Phono Preamp and Headphone Amp|
|Clearaudio Smart Phono V2||$$$||Resonance-free aluminum chassis|
|Project Phono Box DS2||$||Works with MM and MC cartridges|
This precision tube phono preamplifier benefits from outstanding circuit technology from Dr. Sykora and uses ultimate components, making it compatible with both MM and MC cartridges. It offers connections for two turntables plus two selectable line outputs and a continuously variable selection of input impedance for low output MC cartridges while playing a record!
Other features include input capacitance for MM cartridges and switchable subsonic, that prevents your amplifier and speakers of ultra-low rumble below 20Hz. All components including tube output and polypropylene capacitors are audiophile-grade and guarantee a breathtaking sound experience.
A perfect upgrade for ambitious vinyl lovers that are looking for that tube experience in their vinyl setup.
|Best Selling Turntables|
|1) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO|
|2) Audio-Technica AT-LP60XBT|
|3) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB|
|4) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC|
|5) Audio-Technica LPW50 with Sonos Speakers Bundle|
The Aria MM / MC Phono Stage is housed within Rega’s latest half width custom designed case to give it a fresh new look and match the range are two entirely separate, high performance phono stages. One fully adjustable, dedicated moving coil and one moving magnet. Each stage is designed and engineered to maximize the potential of your vinyl system whilst remaining easy to use and set up.
The Aria is an all analog amplifier with no digital control circuitry. The fully aluminum case screens the internal circuit from any stray RFI signals. Rega’s designers have avoided including any superfluous gadgets as they obstruct the signal path and degrade the sound quality.
The Aria incorporates many innovative design ideas including a self-adjusting servo control to keep the MC input circuit at its optimum, compensating for any variations in ambient or operating temperature.
Both stages have their own separate input sockets and input pre-amplifier circuitry. This enabled the manufacturer to design bespoke input circuitry for each cartridge type without compromise.
Signal switching is performed at high level and low impedance, via relays, ensuring there is no degradation of the signal. Known for its quality products, this Rega preamp is sure to be a hit with everyone who picks it up for their turntable.
The nova500 is five audiophile-designed products in one: a digital-to-analog converter (DAC), a preamplifier, a power amplifier, a moving magnet phono preamplifier and a headphone amplifier all seamlessly integrated into a single, beautiful aluminum and wood chassis that is the hallmark of Peachtree Audio.
The nova500 is designed to provide the ultimate link between all of your source devices and your speakers with the most powerful and “cleanest” amplifier section we have have ever offered.
But the nova500 isn’t designed to simply reproduce music loudly. It is designed to deliver music the way the creators intended; with the ease, authority, musicality and emotional impact provided by the worlds best recordings.
The phono section in the nova500 is designed to allow direct connection from a moving magnet or high-output moving coil cartridge equipped turntable. It is custom-designed to enable the best sound quality reproduction from your vinyl collection and eliminates the need to add an external phono amplifier product to the nova500.
The amplifier section in the nova500 features the stunning new 1200AS2 from ICEPower. It is, simply stated, the best sounding, most powerful amplifier section we have ever offered in any product – period.
The nova500 is capable of driving virtually any speaker with the utmost ease and authority. Chances are, you’ve never heard how good your speakers can actually sound until you hear them driven by the nova500.
The nova500’s ability to reproduce complex music passages at any volume level is simply jaw dropping even if only listening to a modest pair of 2-way speakers. But to truly appreciate the amplifier section in the nova500, connect it to a pair of high-end floorstanders and be prepared to be completely blown away.
Boasting exceptional performance and flexibility with almost any MM or MC cartridge, and a subsonic filter that prevents ultra low rumble below 20Hz, makes the Pro-Ject Phono Box DS one of the best choices in its price class.
It’s true dual mono design and unique continuously variable input impedance loading make this preamp a truly dynamic listening experience. The preamp actually matches every cartridge it’s connected to, making adjustments even while playing a record.
With an RCA & XLR In & Out, superior low noise and low distortion, as well as metal casing protects against vibration and interference provide you with a crystal clear listening experience, and build on the incredible work being done by Pro-Ject.
An upgrade in quality does not have to deplete your wallet, and this phono preamp proves that.
The Soundsmith MMP & MCP preamps are revolutionary designs for their price – and feedback is always very positive for those who add a SoundSmith to their vinyl setup.
Each hand – made preamp circuit is housed in a high quality aluminum case, powered by an external DC power supply, with easy to set up instructions. All amplifiers have extremely accurate RIAA equalization response.
The new MCP2 is a low cost way to enjoy your MC cartridge; it is designed with continuously variable loading (10 Ohms to 5K Ohms) to allow use with any MC cart and to tune the high end response for your listening preference. Built-in high quality, fully shielded step up transformers assure noise free and ultra-low distortion to allow unfettered enjoyment from your treasured vinyl collection. The new MCP2 has been favorable demonstrated against preamps costing $3000 – $4000 with surprising results.
Bryston’s new BP-2 phono preamplifier applies extraordinary low-distortion, wide-bandwidth amplification to your record collection. Providing both MM (moving magnet) and MC (moving coil), the BP-2 is a perfect match for most available cartridges today.
This MM/MC version adds a pair of ultra-low distortion, wide bandwidth step-up transformers (the same ones used in the TF-2) to add compatibility with low output moving coil carts. The transformers can be factory wound for an additional 20dB or 31dB of gain.
Power the BP-2 from your existing Bryston MPS-2 DC power supply or from the new PS-3 DC power supply. At an even $1000, this is a great option that saves you a bit of cash so that you can focus on upgrading other parts of your system. Because the BP-2 works well with most cartridges, you can use that leftover to pick up something that will allow this Bryston phono preamp some room and ability to shine.
The Sutherland Insight MM/MC phono stage is a self-contained stereo phono preamp built with two sections in one box. The super regulated power supply resides in one-half of the box, while the critical phono stage sits isolated in the other half.
The dual-mono circuit board layout is something normally only seen in much higher end products. Both cartridge loading and phono gain are easily changed by moving jumpers internally. When you pull the cover to make these adjustments, you will be stunned at the made in USA build quality of the Insight and understand why it sounds so good for the money.
The best part of the two sections included in the Sutherland phono stage is the fact that the most subtle sounds come out of records you think you know quite well. Even mainstays in many vinyl collections like Kind of Blue or Yellow Submarine sound like brand new records, and even if you have a killer turntable, this preamp from Sutherland helps expose a whole new side to your favorite sounds.
EAT E-Glo Petit
If you have your eye out for an elegant high end tube phono pre-amplifier with ultra slim design, look no further! The E-Glo Petit is the small sibling of the highly acclaimed and award winning E-Glo S. With its fully discreet, OpAmp-less design, EAT was able to achieve an outstanding sound in a small and compact form factor. Stunning dynamics, a clear midrange and high resolution definition is what makes E-Glo Petit punch way above its weight.
With the specially designed power supply, the tubes are able to stay “hot” at all times. That ensures that they perform at their maximum during the entire listening session. EAT put a lot of time and effort in getting the power supply just right for E-Glo Petit, as it is a critical and important part of the signal path.
Therefore, it was designed to be regulated and well filtrated for better performance of the complete package. With the use of very special low noise J-FET transistors of the type 2SK209 in a quad-setup, E-Glo Petit reached its incredible and unique Signal to Noise Ratio of 87 decibels.
No other tube phono preamplifier on the market is even getting near those results. With a price tag pushing $1,500, the sound quality is nearly twice or three times that of its asking price, making it an investment you ought to make if you can afford it.
Icon Audio PS2
A supreme value strictly designed for MM operation, Icon Audio’s PS2 MKII one-box phonostage optimizes the warm, natural sound of vinyl while eliminating distracting artifacts often associated with older records. A simplified version of the company’s award-winning and best-selling PS1, the PS2 retains many of the same features and is one of the best overachievers on the audiophile market.
An all-valve model, the PS2 is completely passive and point-to-point wired by hand. Once you drop the needle on a record, you’ll immediately notice fluidity, musicality, detail, and pitch-black backgrounds.
The inherent warm sound of the PS2’s valves are tailor-made for vinyl playback. Since the massive overload of valves prevents distortion and reduces noise on LPs, valves handle massive transient spikes on imperfect, older LPs much better than transistors.
The PS2 intentionally forgoes any use of a printer circuit board, which spoils the sound. A no-feedback design, it employs high-quality resistors, audiophile-grade audio capacitors, silver TEFLON audio cable, and gold-plated input/output terminals within an ingeniously simple one-box solution to capturing the magic inherent in vinyl grooves. Build quality is top notch; the performance will blow your mind. A stereo/mono switch even ensures lower noise from your mono vinyl favorites.
The heart of an uncompromising audiophile stereo “separates” system is the preamplifier. Separate components hold the promise of the best possible fidelity, since each device is optimized for its role in the sound reproduction chain.
The new RC-1572 stereo preamplifier leverages the design of our flagship RC-1590 preamplifier including its 32 bit/768kHz AKM stereo digital-to-analog converter to handle critical signal conversion. Among many refinements, the RC-1572 utilizes relay switching for analog sources instead of an IC based switch to maintain the integrity of the signal path for RCA, phono and XLR inputs.
The RC-1572 stereo preamplifier is also extremely flexible. Four digital inputs (2 coax and 2 optical), plus the rear PC-USB handle digital sources up to 32/384 resolution. Integrated Bluetooth aptX is provided. Analog inputs include balanced XLR connectors, perfect for connecting the RCD-1572 via its XLR outputs, in addition to four pair of conventional RCA inputs.
A moving magnet phono stage rounds out the source capability. XLR and single ended outputs are provided along with a mono subwoofer output, as are two 12-volt triggers to control on/off operation of an amplifier and/or other components.
For custom integration, control options include RS232 on a standard DB9 connector, as well as an Ethernet port for IP control and software updates. In short, the RC-1572 is a tremendous value and the perfect upgrade for owners of older analog-only preamplifiers for your turntable setup.
Every phono preamp on this list is a must-have depending on your needs and current hardware—it’s all about finding the one that you best feel meets your needs.
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