Vinyl collecting is a big thing these days. Many bands are putting their music back on vinyl, which is great. Many people are looking for a high quality phono preamp to improve their turntable sound.
Some record players cannot be connected to speakers or computers straight out of the box. There is a special go-between that is required, called a phonopreamp. Vinyl is a great way to listen to music. It has a richer sound and is more real than listening to a CD or downloading an album.
It’s just more authentic and raw. Once you have listened on vinyl to your favorite songs (powered by a good quality preamp), there is no turning back. I am sharing 8 of the best phono amplifiers under $200 today with you.
What is a Phono Preamp
Although many people don’t, it is possible to have your record player connect to a particular device using a phono amplifier. The phono amp is what you will use to connect your turntable to your computer, speakers or other devices.
You need a phono preamp to do this. Although it sounds complicated, it is actually not. Simply plug your turntable in, then connect the phono preamp to your receiver. Most of the time, you will only need basic RCA cables, which are quite inexpensive.
Many companies have released affordable and new turntables as a result of the resurgence in vinyl. Most of the newer models will include a phono preamp, especially if they have USB connections.
If you are still looking for a turntable that has a built-in phono preamp, it is worth considering a more recent model. But I can assure you that the sound from your turntable with a separate preamp will be superior.
Top 8 Phono Preamp Under $200 Review
Six of the most sought-after phono preamps below $200 were sent to me recently to be tested with my turntables. These preamps were a great addition to my collection. You can also check out the two other options. One is a lot cheaper than our $200 price and the second is a bit more.
1. Music Hall PA1.2 MM/MC Phono Pre Amp
Music Hall has created a beautiful phono preamp with a wooden design. This phono preamp looks great next to my stereo receiver with a similar design. It is built with great quality and has a strong, sturdy feel that you can tell it is quality from the moment you pick it up.
It is easy to connect this to your receiver, speakers, or other device. It was easy to connect in just a few minutes. The hardest part was untangling wires from my receiver’s back. This is the best choice if you are looking for something easy to connect. The LED light is my only criticism. Is it possible that LED lights are so brighter than the sun in electronic devices?
This sound was great. Although some people complained that the sound was a bit flat, if you tweak your stereo settings you can get the perfect sound. Although it isn’t something that everyone wants to do, it is necessary to achieve the best sound. This is part of the joy that comes from listening to vinyl, so I don’t see it as a problem.
- One of the most beautiful phono preamps
- It is made extremely well
- It is easy to set up
- Sound can be great when it is set up correctly
- The price is not so bad
- Led light is too bright!
- To get the best sound, you should play around with your receiver.
This phono preamp is easy to recommend because of its elegant and cool design, as well as the excellent sound.
2. Cambridge Audio CP1 Phono Preamplifier- Black
This one is from Cambridge Audio. It has a very modern and sleek design. This is the perfect turntable for those who want something modern and sleek. It will fit perfectly into an entertainment center.
After a quick set-up, I was ready to start listening to vinyl. It sounds great and I tried it out with an older turntable. The sound was richer and more natural. If you’ve been using a record player that has a built-in phono preamp, and felt something was missing, connecting this will give that raw vinyl sound you are looking for.
The balance control is located on the back of this unit. Most people will leave it in the middle. But I’m a guy who likes playing with audio equipment, so I spent some time trying to find the right balance for my setup. This phono preamp is a great value at around 150 dollars.
- This is a very cool design
- Built with a strong, healthy body
- It takes only minutes to connect
- The price is very affordable
- Sound quality is noticeably better
- Some people may not need the balance dial
- Retro style may not be a good fit for modern look
This is the perfect way to jazz up your vinyl sound and make it look great.
3. Pro-Ject Phono Box USB V Phonograph Preamplifier
The first time I took it out of the box I thought they were sending me two units. However, this unit is a higher end version of the Pro-Ject Phono Preamp we reviewed earlier. It is as sleek and stylish as the original Pro-Ject phono preamp, and if your setup has a predominant black sound, it will fit in well.
The large dial at the front may be a little too much for some, but it’s not that bad. Although it is slightly more expensive than the 200 dollars price tag, I feel it is worth it.
It has the same connections as the Pro-Ject phonopreamp. This model also has a USB connection. It is easy to connect it with many modern turntables or receivers that have USB. This is a great option if you have a modern setup. However, it also has standard phono input and out connections so you can get the best of both.
Although it sounds identical to the Pro-Ject phonopreamp, I was a bit skeptical. However, this preamp is slightly better. The difference is not noticeable to most people, but it does make the sound a bit richer and I was happy overall with the quality of the sound.
- The design is great!
- A USB connection is a great bonus
- The sound quality is excellent
- It’s very simple to set up
- Strong construction
- The price is about 200 dollars
- Dial on the front sticks
This preamp is great for retro and modern setups, as well as having amazing sound.
4. Emotiva Audio XPS-1 Phono Preamp
When I discovered I would be getting to try this out, I was thrilled. This vinyl enthusiast has raved about it and you won’t find a better deal for the money. Although the design might not suit everyone, I really enjoy it. It looks great, is sturdy, and overall, it has a smart design. I don’t like the bright LED light, so I covered it with some tape.
This is easy to connect. If you’ve ever connected an electronic device before you can do it. You can adjust the settings to make it work for you. A novice can connect it, and it will work at its default setting.
Overall, I was very impressed by the sound. I even took it upstairs to test if it would enhance the sound of my older turntable. Although it is not quite at the 200-dollar price, this is still one of my favorite phono preamps in this price range.
- Sounds fantastic
- This is one of the best quality phono preamps in this price range
- You can alter settings
- It’s very easy to connect
- Strong build quality
- For some, it may be a little less than $200
- LED light is too bright
This phono preamp is for you if you want to improve your turntable sound quality and do so in style.
5. ART USB Phono Plus
Although I didn’t actually test the phono preamp, it was less than 100 dollars so I thought it might be worth your while. This phono preamp has a unique design. While some may not like how the front is so busy, it will be noticeable in an entertainment center. However, I’m sure that there are people who will love this design.
The reviews that I read were very positive about the build quality and the ease of connection. Although I would prefer to plug it into a stereo receiver for the best sound quality, many people have said that it can be connected to a laptop. This phono preamp looks more complicated than it is.
This product has received many positive reviews. Although it sounds like you might need to tweak the setup to get the best sound, that is normal when using a turntable.
- Price: Below 100 dollars
- Many devices can be connected
- Amazing build quality
- Sound is said be very good
- Many positive reviews
- Design may not be for everyone.
- You will stand out in an entertainment centre
This phono preamp is very popular because of its unique design and low price (under 100 dollars).
6. Pro-Ject Audio – Phono Box DC – MM/MC Phono preamp with line output
Pro-Ject has done a great job with this design. The phono preamp’s front is a matte black and has a jet-black design. It will blend in well with any entertainment center. This design is perfect for those who want their phono amp to be hidden. This design is strong so it would be easy to drop it …. It is just fine, as I did!
It is easy to connect this, just plug it in, and you are ready to rock and roll. There are no complicated settings or anything. It is easy to connect it to your turntable and turn it on. This preamp is the most popular phono preamp under $200.
The sound quality is excellent, although serious audiophiles might have some concerns, I don’t think that it is too harsh. The sound quality is excellent for the price and will allow you to listen to your favourite albums in a serious way.
- The price is not just reasonable
- Easy to use
- It’s very easy to set-up and maintain.
- No complex settings
- It has a very nice design
- Not the most extravagant
- It is impossible to change anything
This preamp is a popular choice because of its simple design and excellent sound quality.
7. Parasound – Zphono MM/MC Phono Stage with USB
This is more than the 200 dollars limit. However, I wanted to include at minimum one additional high-end phono preamp. It is truly one of the most beautiful phono preamps that I have ever seen. It has a longer and slimmer body, which is unusual considering that most phono preamps have a more boxy design.
This thing connects with a stack. It has phono input, line 1, line 2, and a USB! It is quite impressive in this regard, and it would be a great addition to any setup that has multiple devices. This isn’t for the guy who just bought a turntable and some vinyl records at the flea market. It is more for the guy who is very knowledgeable about what he does.
This product has received very good reviews in terms of sound quality. I haven’t read a bad review. I would love for this turntable to be connected to my turntable and to hear the rich sound it produces.
- Very slim and elegant design
- Will fit in most entertainment centers
- There are many options for connecting
- There are very few negatives!
- Does cost around 300 bucks
- This is not really targeted at the average Joe.
This is the place to go if you are looking for something with more hookups, and a higher budget.
8. YAQIN MS23B upgraded version of MS22B 12AX7B X2 Stereo Tube Phono Stage
It is a unique design that I like, and I am sure some people will be hesitant to look at it. Although it is bulky, some people may not like the exposed chrome. However, I have a retro-style setup upstairs that works well with this.
Although it may seem complicated, actually setting up this was quite simple. It is easy to connect, even for someone who is new to vinyl or just starting out. This is not as complicated as any other one we’ve seen so don’t be discouraged by its appearance.
The sound is the most important aspect of any phono-preamp. It produces an amazing sound. Some turntables have a low-level hum, but you don’t get that here.
The bass was what impressed me most about this product. I had lots of fun playing with the settings on my stereo receiver to get maximum enjoyment. I will say that while this was a fun experience, it may not be for everyone.
- Amazing sound
- This is the perfect tool if you love to alter your audio settings
- Design very interesting
- The most well-known phono preamps
- This is a great upgrade to most setups
- Nearly 200 dollars
- This may not be the best choice for a basic setup.
This phono preamp will give you a richer sound.
EQing and Preamps
Many high-end preamps have switchable classical EQ settings. You might already know a few: Decca, RIAA and Columbia, eRIAA and IEC, as well as eRIAA/IEC. The type of cartridge that you use will determine the EQ curve.
You want to get the best preamp possible. You will get the sound profile you want during recording. This may sound a little too much for some, but it is audiophile territory. If you are unsure, the classic RIAA signal is fine. It’s what I always rely on if only one option is available.
Noise to Signal Ratio
MC cartridges can make it difficult to determine the signal-to-noise ratio. It can be dangerous to amplify such a small signal above line level (AUX). High-end preamps must use specific power supplies and components that block as much interference as possible.
It is usually a better idea to amplify the signal closer the source. Anything else that alters the signal prior to amplification is just asking trouble. It can be hard to determine the signal-to-noise ratio without looking into the circuit. However, preamps that are more expensive have more money to invest in low noise components.
Medal shielding is a must-have. This is the minimum requirement to avoid noise.
All of the tested units produced a better sound than any built-in phono preamp. You will be able to hear the difference regardless of which one you choose. The Pro-Ject Phono Box USB V Phonograph preamplifier, Black is my favorite.
It is one of the most expensive we have seen. The best phono preamps have great sound and are easy to set up. They also offer modern connections options that can be used with most home theaters. This preamp offers all of that and the best part is the amazing sound!
I was ultimately won over by the forum reviews. You can’t always trust the reviews on forums when you buy audio equipment.
You can see that a high-quality phono preamp does not have to cost a lot. These units can easily compete with and even surpass units that cost thousands of dollars.
Do your research. Before you make a purchase, double-check that the one you are considering is compatible with your system. Are you having any questions or comments? Please leave your comments in the section below!
FAQ for 8 Best Phono Preamp Under $200
What is a phono preamp used for?
A phono preamp is designed to amplify a low-level signal that comes from a turntable. A phono preamp is typically used for any device that has an audio output, such as a CD player, cassette player, or MP3 player.
A phono preamp can be used to control the volume of the signal coming out of the audio device. It can also be used to control how much treble and bass are present in the sound coming from the audio device.
Why you want a preamp that is compatible with both MC and MM?
It would be unfair to claim that one MC or the other is superior. The choice of which one to choose often comes down to personal taste and record collection, as each style has its own sound. Each style is best suited to a specific purpose. I needed a phono preamp with both a digital and analog interface.
As I grow my coil collection, I need something that will not hold me back. Moving coils produce a smaller electromagnetic current than magnets so they need dedicated phono-stage preamps. My main concern was that my current preamp couldn’t handle the smaller signal.
Why I wanted to be able to change the impedance of the preamp?
Different cartridge models have different impedances. The cartridge should be matched with the preamp to get the best audio quality. The preamp should have 2.5 times the impedance as the cartridge.
As I said, I need to be able change different cartridges. A preamp will allow me to do this.
What are the differences between analog and digital phono preamps?
Analog phono preamps are used to convert the sound from a vinyl record into an electrical signal. This is done by picking up the output of a stylus that scrapes across the recording surface and then amplifying it. Digital phono preamps are used to convert the sound from a digital audio source, such as a CD or MP3 file, into an electrical signal.
Some analog phono preamps use vacuum tubes for amplification, which can make them more expensive than digital ones. Digital phono preamps don’t need to amplify the signal because they do not have to deal with noise from analogue circuitry like their analog counterparts do. The process of converting analogue signals into digital signals is called digitization and this process is done by an ADC (analog-to-digital converter).
What is the difference between a phono preamp and a regular stereo amplifier?
A phono preamp is a device that amplifies the sound from a phonograph turntable. It is designed to boost the signal voltage of a low-level audio signal and send it to a power amplifier for driving speakers or headphones. A regular stereo amplifier is just an amplifier that can be used with any type of audio input, not just phono inputs.
A phono preamp amplifies the sound coming from your record player before sending it to your power amp. A regular stereo amp can be used with any type of input, not just phono inputs.
What are the different types of phono preamps?
There are three main types of phono preamps:
- Solid state
Solid state preamps are usually the most affordable and offer a good sound quality. They have a high input impedance to avoid loading the signal and can accurately reproduce low-frequency sounds. However, they are not very sensitive to high frequencies and can distort when pushed too hard.
Tube preamps offer a warm sound with a rich frequency range. They also have higher input impedance but need to be maintained for better performance. Their output is less than solid state preamps which means that they require more amplification from external equipment like power amps or speakers.
Hybrid phono preamps are a combination of solid state and tube technology, which offers the best of both worlds in terms of price, sound quality, and maintenance requirements.
How can I use a phono preamp with my turntable?
A phono preamp is a device that converts the audio signal from your turntable to a level that can be amplified by an audio amplifier or recorded on a computer.
A phono preamp can be used with any type of turntable, but it is especially helpful for those who want to play records with high-output cartridges.
What are the features of the best phonos preamps?
Phono preamps are devices that convert a low-level audio signal from a turntable, cassette player, or CD player to a line-level signal that can be recorded by a condenser microphone.
The best phono preamps have some common features such as:
- High input impedance so that the phono preamp doesn’t load down the turntable’s cartridge and create distortion.
- Low output impedance so that it doesn’t load down the line input of an amplifier and cause unwanted noise.
- A very low noise floor to avoid any hiss or hum in your recording.
- A high gain so you don’t need to turn up your volume too high on your mixer or recorder to get a good signal level.
- A low distortion rating so you don’t get any unwanted distortion in your recording.
What are the benefits of using a phonos preamp?
Phonos preamp is a device that amplifies the sound of a recording. It can be used to make speech clearer in the recording.
The main benefit of using a phonos preamp is that it can make speech clearer in the recording. This is beneficial for people who need to listen to recordings, like teachers or lecturers.
A phonos preamp is an important tool for making recordings, especially when someone needs to speak clearly and they need others to hear them well too.
What are some things to look for in a phono preamp?
A phono preamp is a device that is used to amplify the signal from a turntable cartridge. It can be used for both home and professional purposes.
There are many things to look for when choosing the best phono preamp for your needs. Some of these considerations include:
- Quality – this includes distortion, noise and frequency response
- Audio connections – RCA or XLR connectors?
- Noise level
How often should I replace my phono preamp?
Phono preamps are usually rated to last a lifetime, but they do deteriorate over time. A good rule of thumb is to replace your phono preamp every 10 years or when it starts to show signs of wear and tear.