06 Sep Phono Inputs: Equipment Needed to Spin Vinyl
As the owner of PAC, I have witnessed the disappointed look on the faces of friends and clients that either dug their old college dorm room turntable out of the attic, or bought a new one online. The disappointment was created by the lack of sound when they connected the turntable and turned up the volume. Virtually all turntables need to be plugged into the proper input jacks on the back panel of the equipment that connects to your speakers. Your receiver, pre amp, or integrated amp may or may not have a set of phono inputs. If your electronics has those jacks and a switch on the front panel labeled phono, you should be good to go. Do not use any other jacks that are not specifically labeled as phono inputs.
In 9 out of 10 cases you will be good to go with the standard phono inputs. If the volume control is raised and the music is playing very loud with just a small turn there is a compatibility problem with your phono cartridge and your electronics. Also the opposite may happen. You may need to turn the volume knob almost all the way up to hear any music. This is the same problem: lack of compatibility between cartridge and phono inputs on your amp. If there is a switch on the back of your amp that has two positions, this may be the solution to the compatibility issue. The switch will provide a choice between mm or mc positions. This refers to the type of phono cartridge that is mounted in the tone arm on your turntable. Try both positions and select the one that gives you the best results with proper volume range control.
If your amp or receiver has no phono inputs then you will need to purchase a phono pre amp. The turntable will plug into the input jacks on the phone pre amp and the output jacks will connect to the aux input on your amp. This component is important and needs to be selected carefully. For basic performance music systems and low cost turntables, the budget for the phono pre amp should be between $100 and $200. For higher performance music systems and high-end turntables and more critical listeners, the budget would likely be from $300 to $600. For audiophile grade systems and golden ear audiophiles, the cost could be $1000 to $2500 or more.
Some lower cost turntables are available that have built in phono pre amps and may also have a USB output jack as well. This type of turntable can connect directly to the aux input jacks on your amplifier. It can also connect to your computer and facilitate the creation of digital music files from vinyl. These turntables generally offer low sonic performance and are not particularly gentle to your valuable record collection. But they may serve a purpose for casual vinyl spinners. There is no better way to get the best set up for you than enlisting the experience and expertise of your local a/v specialist.