If you’ve spent even 5 minutes trying to find the best phono preamp for the money, you already know there are literally hundreds of choices out there.
And chances are, you’ll end up making a choice that’s less than ideal for you if you’re not careful.
So before you make your final decision, check out my reviews below. You’ll find options for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. And you’ll be sure to find the phono preamp that suits your wallet and your needs…
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- 1 Best Phono Preamps for the Money
- 2 Rega Fono A2D Mini
- 3 Tec Turntable 753LC
- 4 Behringer Microphono PP400
- 5 Pro-Ject Phono Box MM
- 6 TCC TC-780LC
- 7 Musical Fidelity V90-LPS
- 8 Rolls Phono Preamp VP29
- 9 Emotiva Audio XPS-1
- 10 Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box S
- 11 What is a Phono Preamp?
- 12 Why You Might Need a Phono Preamp
- 13 Bottom Line on the Best Phono Preamp for the Money
Best Phono Preamps for the Money
Of the 9 preamps I’ve reviewed here, these are my top 3 picks…
|Product (click to see at Amazon)||Price Range||MM or MC||My Full Review|
|Emotiva Audio XPS-1||$$||Moving Magnet & Moving Coil (MM &MC)||Emotiva Audio XPS-1|
|Pro-Ject Phono Box MM||$||Moving Magnet (MM)||Pro-Ject Phono Box MM|
|Rolls Phono Preamp VP29||$||Moving Magnet (MM)||Rolls Phono Preamp VP29|
Rega Fono A2D Mini
The Rega Fono A2D Mini doesn’t provide an adequate boost to be compatible with quieter magnetic coil (MC) cartridges.
But for moving magnet (MM) options, it delivers a good quality signal in an unbelievably compact case. It’s based off the MM phono stage of Rega’s Mira integrated amplifier.
In keeping with its compact design, the Rega Fono comes with two simple dials for level and balance. As well as RCA in- and outputs.
It also has a USB jack that allows you to convert those analog signals and save your vinyl to high-res digital files. Simply use free audio software like Audacity to monitor volume and balance. While using the dials to optimize recording quality.
Although, if you’re a DJ, this phono preamp is way too lightweight for a gigging rig.
Tec Turntable 753LC
The Tec Turntable 753LC is perfect for folks who play their turntables through powered speakers without a receiver.
The 753LC comes with an RCA/Auxiliary channel and a 3.5 mm RCA cable to connect audio devices that already hit a consistent line.
So if you’re someone who keeps having to switch out devices when you want to spin your vinyl to make room for your TT, then this phono preamp might be the one for you.
It’s also equipped with an input selector switch. And a 200pf phono impedance, but there is some hiss at the highest levels coming in at number.
From my research, opinions on this phono preamp’s performance are mixed. Overall users are happy, although some have experienced background noise or hissing.
Behringer Microphono PP400
The Behringer Microphono PP400 has a quarter-inch TRS output, which is handy if you want to feed your signal into an amplifier which doesn’t have inputs for RCA cables.
It also has standard input and output for RCA, which means you can use it with just about any amplifier.
Designed in Germany this preamp will convert your phono signal to line level. But it’s only suitable for moving magnet carts.
Some folks have complained about a low humming sound when hooking the Behringer up. If you experience this, make sure your deck is grounded via the preamp. And also that the grounding wire is not broken.
Pro-Ject Phono Box MM
The Pro-Ject Phono Box MM is intended for use with moving magnet carts. It’s smart wiring, and the metal case keeps noise and vibrations from affecting your listening experience.
It’s also super compact, so if you’re strapped for space, the Pro-Ject Phono Box MM is what you need.
It features gold-plated contacts and simple RCA in- and outputs. And offers balanced channel separation. Although, if you are a fan of bright sounds, you might be underwhelmed by the lackluster highs and lows.
The TCC TC-780LC can enhance the in-line level to just about any device. And supplies up to a 20dB increase.
It has the usual RCA, ins, and outs, as well as a pair of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) connections. Making it perfect for gear like synthesizers, samplers, and computers.
A 3.5 mm jack at the front makes hooking up headphones, an iPod or MP3 player a breeze.
The preamp has a dial for level control. So you can even use it to have volume control between your line level source and a power amp that lacks level adjustment of its own. Although, some users have noted that the volume control is not accurate.
Musical Fidelity V90-LPS
The Music Fidelity V90-LPS offers RCA inputs for both moving magnet and moving coil carts.
This distinct division means you can optimize each channel for the most precise audio. It comes with a dedicated ground and an on/off switch.
Users report this preamp offers up a crisp and punchy sound. And it might just make you fall in love with your vinyl collection all over again.
Rolls Phono Preamp VP29
Looking for a preamp with easy setup and a straightforward answer to help you bring your favorite vinyl up to line level? Then the Rolls VP 29 is for you.
Although it won’t score any awards for its audio quality, it does offer heaps of volume and performs very well at a sensible price.
It features an LED power light as well as a quarter-inch output option. And it’s proudly made in the United States!
There’s also a dedicated grounding lug which I highly recommend you use to cut out any low humming, especially with older equipment.
Emotiva Audio XPS-1
The Emotiva Audio XPS-1 phono preamp can be used seamlessly with either moving magnet or moving coil carts. And offers unmatched audio accuracy.
The XPS-1 has precision equalization and operates within roughly 0.25 of the standard RIAA curve.
It boasts gold plated connectors. And Emotiva audio has gone to great lengths to design this phono preamp with low-noise power supplies.
Users report a bright and clear analog sound. And the dedicated grounding lug (also gold plated) will prevent any annoying hum from disturbing your listening experience.
Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box S
The four adjustable gain levels on Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box S are located on the underside of the unit. This makes for a sleeker, more minimalist design. and it’s compact size means you
This model works a treat with moving magnet or moving coil cartridges. And also boasts audiophile-grade amplification modules that maintain a high fidelity signal. It features impedance and capacitance switches and polypropylene capacitors.
It offers a very warm soundstage, with crisp highs and mids. You’re likely to notice much more detail in the music. And might need to take some time off work to listen to all your vinyl again from A to Z!
What is a Phono Preamp?
In a nutshell, a phono preamp converts a phono output signal to line level.
Here’s how it works…
Your turntable generates a phono output signal. And this phono signal needs to be converted to a line level signal to work with audio equipment.
Most phono preamps on the market are designed to work with either a moving magnet (MM) or moving coil (MC) cartridge.
But the higher-end phono preamps will play nice with both MM and MC. Although they are usually at a higher price tag.
The difference has to do with the output. MM cartridges have a higher output at around 5 mV. While MC cartridges have a lower output at about 0.5 mV. Therefore MC carts need a higher degree amplification to bring them up to line level.
Why You Might Need a Phono Preamp
So if you’ve fired up your turntable for the first time and you’re not hearing anything. Or you hear the music but it sounds faint and distant-like, you need a phono preamp.
Here are some scenarios in which you might need a phono preamp…
Back in the day, most amplifiers (like my 40-year-old Sansui AU-217 II) came out with phono preamps already integrated. But, from the early naughties, manufacturers started trimming these out.
So if you have an older TT with a new stereo, you might need a phono preamp to complete your setup.
If you’ve bought or inherited a turntable that doesn’t have a preamp built into it, and you have a new-ish stereo or amplifier, you’ll most likely need a phono preamp to get your rig working.
Some decks have a preamp built-in. So, if you have a newer turntable and you’re not getting volume out of it, check the unit for a switch that’s labeled “phono.”
If you have a turntable, stereo or amplifier with a built-in preamp, but you’re not floored by the sound, an external phono preamp might be the answer to improve the sound you’re getting.
Bottom Line on the Best Phono Preamp for the Money
I’ve reviewed 9 great options for phono preamps to choose from.
My top 3 picks of the lot are as follows…
And if you’re looking for a phono preamp that will play nice with your MC cartridge, you should definitely consider the Emotiva Audio XPS-1 from Amazon.
Whichever phono preamp you decide to go with, now you have all the information to make the best choice for your wallet and your needs!