Best Phono Preamps Under $500

A phono preamp can also be referred to as a phono stage helps to improve your vinyl’s output to make it compatible with modern amps. Simultaneously, it brings along standardised equalisation to produce the desired sound quality. Phono preamp take the signal from the turntable record and boost it such that it can be played through your sound system.

You either don’t have one now, then you aren’t able to play records without it or you aren’t satisfied with its current sound performance. To get a good sound quality output, you need a good phono preamp. In this article we round up the reviews of the best phono preamp that cost under 500 dollars for your budget.

Top Phono Preamps Under $500 Review

If you are a music lover, you can understand the need for a good phono preamp. A phono preamp is a device that amplifies the record player’s output and makes standard equalization to improve the sound output.

It also removes noise and makes the sound quality richer and warm.  You may usually need one because your turntable does not have the built-in amplifier or you need to enjoy a better sound quality produced by the existing preamp.

Below you will find a description of the best background preamps under $500 that can’t produce amazing sounds to satisfy your earbuds. We have also scribbled a comprehensive buyer’s guide to help you in making the decision wisely. Read down the lines and find how the best phono preamp can do wonders to the music.


This phono preamp is very versatile and very easy to use. The 3 different gain levels enables you to adjust the sound quality based on what you want in terms of your music output. It is very compact preamp. The downside is that it produces a low humming sound when you are not listening to music, but it is easy to ignore it.

Design wise, we think this model is pretty sleek. It can match any type of turntable you desire whether it’s a modern vinyl or a vintage model. The tubes (valves) for this phono stage can be easily replaced. This is an upside, as these components are prone to wear and tear easily especially if you use the preamp very frequently.

Controls wise, they are very easy to adjust to achieve the desired sound quality for your vinyl. Set up wise, it is pretty easy too, since the instructions are labelled clearly in detail. This preamp can also be utilized with either MC or MM cartridges, so the sky is the limit to  the genres of music you can enjoy, with it hooked up to your vinyl.


  • Easy to set up
  • 3 Gain levels
  • Low TDH
  • Can be utilized with MC or MC Cartridges


  • Produces a low humming sound


This preamp is a tube driven phono stage preamp which also has a built-in headphone preamp, which is really nice. However you would likely as with many others, like to upgrade the power supply of this preamp.

The provided 12-15V unit is, to be honest, not quite reliable and quite susceptible to electrical hum pollution. For the low price you pay for this preamp, a well-specced PSU can result in great difference, bringing you almost noiseless sound performance from the Bellari VP130.

We love it that this preamp comes along with a very nice headphone preamp. Coming with a quarter inch jack and a separate headphone output level control tells us that this preamp is designed for the budget conscious vinyl lovers. With the headphone preamp, it’s a good buy for its relatively low price.


  • Easy to upgrade stock tubes
  • Nice headphones amp
  • Can be utilized with MM Cartridges


  • Power supply not most ideal


Compared with the earlier 2 preamps above, this Parasound Zphono model is very different from them – being very quiet even when you are not using your vinyl. This system comes with an AC polarity switch that gets rid of that humming sound which can be quite irritating for many.

This preamp can be easily accommodating with your MM or MC cartridges, just by flipping a switch on the back of it. You can also achieve a wide range of gain based on the type of cartridge used. Another plus point is that it is a good preamp to bring along for trips. No headaches about long protruding tubes as it is nice and thin, no hassle!


  • No humming sound, very quiet
  • Wide range of gain
  • Portable for travel
  • Can be utilized with MM or MC Cartridges


  • After prolonged usage users have reported deterioration (depends on how you take care of it)


Audio Advisor has a pretty good summary: The PHO-701 MM/MC phono preamp improves upon the best-selling PHO-700 with 2 great new features. Firstly, the introduction of a USB output, enables you to archive your vinyl tracks to your computer using easily available software you’ll find on the Web, including free software such as Audacity. Secondly, now you can fine-tune the PHO-701 to a wide range of phono cartridges via dip switches on the bottom. With these switches, you can easily adjust the input capacitance and input impedance.

The PHO-701 puts its power supply in a completely separate chassis for pristine signal quality. This is a game changer for your vinyl experience as separate cases for audio and power supply circuitry help isolate the signal chain from AC distortion and interference.

This preamp performs its RIAA correction with high precision for ultra-low distortion and uses the highest quality audiophile parts, inside and out. It has a single phono input, which can be switched to accommodate low-output MC cartridges or MM/high-output MC cartridges.


  • Two-chassis MM/MC phono stage
  • USB output to archive vinyl tracks to your computer
  • Easily fine-tune to wide range of phono cartridges via dip switches
  • Easily adjust input capacitance and input impedance
  • Ultra-low distortion
  • Suitable with low output MC or high output MM cartridges


  • USB output apparently has some small flaws
  • High price


This preamp is extremely small, easy to set up with great sound output yet affordable. No annoying humming sound with this preamp model. Compatible with either type of MM or MC cartridge – which makes it versatile. Although its small and compact, it comes with a sleek casing which is also durable – protecting it from damages, coming from any accidental slip off from your hands.

Easy to control, simple to use makes it attractive. Sound quality can be adjusted easily based on your needs, with slight adjustments only. Low THD too, regardless of cartridges used!


  • Low THD
  • Easy to adjust sound performance
  • Easy to set up
  • Small compact
  • No humming sound


  • Not best fit with MM cartridges


This sleek and stylish phono preamp comes with an USB output to get along with the digital music world, similar to Vincent Pho 701 model earlier. This preamp has a natural adjustment in the tone of the sound input for natural and balanced music experience.

It’s inbuilt capabilities enables it to bypass the RIAA curve to reduce background noise which is a huge plus. The inbuilt headphone amplifier allows you to do your recording easily, with no hassle! There is a rumble filter that provides a smooth finished sound quality to all your recordings output without any noise error.


  • Headphone usage function that is inbuilt
  • Gain settings are controllable to improve sound quality
  • High end bass quality sound
  • USB output for digital sound devices


  • Humming sound that creates a disturbance
  • Only one signal can be passed at a time to the output
  • No power button on the device. You have to switch it off from the main supply every time.


This Rega preamp has a pretty sleek exterior design and it uses a fully discrete, cascaded, complementary design. Focus has been placed on the passive RIAA equalization circuit such that the frequency response of this phono preamp produces sweet and classy character.

The transient delivery can be said to be immediate as well as punchy, with plenty of weight in the attack. If you are placing emphasis and importance on a good phono stage, without a huge budget outlay, this Rega Fono MM MkIII should be in the top considerations of your list.


  • Sleek design
  • Fine handling of timing
  • Great performance


  • Not for MC cartridges


Nobsound’s T11 preamp is the newly improved version or the T10 – dedicated to MM cartridges only. This preamp has one 6Z4 power tube and three 6N2 preamp tubes – whereby the latter can be exchanged for the classic 12AX7 variety.

With this preamp, the main concern is noise and its largely due to the improved grounding. It has a ground lift switch at the back of the unit and no less than 10 feet of grounding wire. To attach this wire to a radiator or a metallic window to resolve ground hum noise is not the most convenient natural habit.

The other downside to this Little Bear T11 preamp is the choice for placement of the RCA in’s and out on the front of the unit, making it less aesthetic, albeit the good reasons meant for it. On the upside, this preamp produces impressive sound performance, despite the small concerns above. Tube upgrades can resolve those concerns including ground hum noise.


  • Impressive warmth sound performance
  • Affordable price yet great value


  • Ground hum noise
  • Not aesthetically pleasing RCA placement


This Musical Fidelity LX2-LPS is suitable for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges – yet at this low price it’s a rare find. Some of its features might be overly impressive for you, but this phono preamp still delivers with plenty of gusto. Its performance is impressively spacious and full bodied, with plenty of bass. At this price range its hard to turn it down for its offer.


  • Suitable for both MM and MC cartridges
  • Impressive spacious, plenty of bass
  • Adjustable impedance


  • For the price, cannot really turn it down


A key feature of the V90 Amp is the asynchronous USB interface. This USB interface bypasses your computer’s built-in soundcard, and uses the high quality 24-bit DAC (Digital to Analogue Convertor) built into the V90. With the amp effectively controlling the output from your computer, it can deliver audio to its highest potential. There’s also a shared optical digital/analogue 3.5mm input, ideal for connecting up an iPod/MP3 player or for using as part of a multi-room system.

This Phono preamp is the fraction of the size of a traditional amplifier, so it’s ideal for use on a crowed desktop, on a shallow shelf or as part of a discreet, multi-room application. With a healthy 20W per channel, the V90-Amp is capable of driving all but the toughest of speaker loads to reasonable volume levels, while Musical Fidelity’s hi-fi experience ensures that the audio has been tailored to sound detailed yet dynamic and with a great sense of realism.

The V90-Amp boasts a full metal casing with a pleasing, minimalist design. A metal casing is ideal as it protects the delicate internal electronics from both mechanical and electrical interference, reducing the potential for sonic distortion. With the power supply located outside of the main unit, there is also less chance of mains interference affecting the sensitive DAC circuitry.

The perfect partner for your computer or ideal as part of a quality multi-room system, the Musical Fidelity V90-Amp proves that good things do indeed come in small packages.


  • Asynchronous USB interface
  • Ideal for multi-room system
  • Small sized portable use
  • Toughest of speaker loads
  • Minimalist design, metal casing
  • Less sonic distortion


  • Rotary volume control lacking volume scale/setting
  • No USB cable supplied


This Puffin phono preamp is great value for money if you dabble with several vinyls and audio systems, as it has large gain range. It is so versatile that it can be easily adjusted to hook up with any type of system even compatible for both MM or MC cartridges.

What makes it easy to use is also nice as the adjustment system has a digital display and a simple to use toggle switch. This system allows you to quickly find the gain level that you need. Furthermore, it is super simple to hookup due to the detailed labelling on the front of the unit. One more plus point, other than hooking it up with turntables, you can also use it with CDs! At this set of features offered coupled with the price, you cannot find a better bargain elsewhere…


  • Asynchronous USB interface
  • Ideal for multi-room system
  • Small sized portable use
  • Toughest of speaker loads
  • Minimalist design, metal casing
  • Less sonic distortion


  • Rotary volume control lacking volume scale/setting
  • No USB cable supplied


We like the sleek design looks of this preamp. Features wise, other from that volume control, the front of the Cambridge has a power on/off button, and a selector for moving magnet or moving coil cartridges (hence the “Duo” in the name) and a 6.3mm headphone socket. So as well as amplifying your records for listening through speakers, the Alva Duo can also facilitate some private listening.

Around the rear there are stereo RCA inputs for your moving coil turntable, the same for a moving magnet variant, and a pair of outputs for connection to an amplifier or (slightly less likely) a pair of powered speakers. There’s a grounding post to prevent turntable hum, a small balance control and an output for mains power. They have an auto power-down function, which puts the Duo in standby if it’s been idle for more than 20 minutes, and a subsonic filter.

Testing it between a Clearaudio Concept turntable equipped with a moving magnet cartridge and a Naim pre/power amplifier arrangement, the Alva Duo wastes no time in establishing its credentials. It’s a lush, broad-beamed listen, and adaptable enough to be useful in virtually any price-appropriate system.

You would buy it as it’s nicely  built and well-specified, and it makes good on its specification by turning in a low-noise, high-quality performance that plays to vinyl’s inherent strengths. In terms of detail, dynamic headroom and stereo focus, it wants for nothing.


  • Looks aesthetically pleasing
  • Decent build
  • Impressive specifications
  • Warmth sound
  • Detailed and dynamic


  • Punch can be further improved


This preamp comes with a sleek design and improved circuitry bringing you an even lower noise floor and sweeter sound performance than the previous model. The TT-PSU and motor anti-vibration circuit is a result of the combination of the innovative P9 power supply with the improved P25 anti-vibration motor drive feeding the P9 24V AC synchronous motor.

Acting more than just a power supply, the TT-PSU also allows you to switch between 33RPM and 45RPM with the push of a button. No more awkward, time-consuming belt manoeuvres anymore. Available in Silver or Black. In addition, it’s a supercharger for your vinyl designed to keep noise to a minimum and speed stability at a maximum. The TT-PSU delivers 24V of ultra pure, low distortion power to your turntable, making the ‘table essentially immune to voltage fluctuations and most line noise.

Clean power has other benefits, as well: improved pitch stability, tighter and deeper bass, greater soundstage width and depth and much more natural tonality. The TT-PSU is a must-have for any owner of an RP-3, P3-24 or a P5. The TT PSU can only be used with the RP3, P3-24, P5 and P7 turntables. It is not compatible with any other Rega or manufacturers turntables.


  • Sleek design
  • Improved circuitry with lower noise floor
  • Speed stability at maximum
  • Tighter deeper bass
  • More natural tonality


  • Compatible for some turntables only


The Vincent PHO-8 phono stage is both gain and load optimized for both MM and MC cartridges and it has a front panel push button which is very convenient for you to choose between them. Not to mention its well finished appearance, it is sturdy built. Looking at the way the interior layout is pretty neat, it shows the short signal paths and bundles of high quality parts needed to deliver the crucial low noise operation that separates good quality phono preamps from the standard ones.

This phono preamp has a hefty external power supply housed in a separate chassis, very different from its peers. It is considered heavy for its weight due to the considerable transformer and superior power regulation but this means it is apt at reducing Ac power line ripples and interference to a minimum.

Sound performance wise, this phono preamp is more on the warm romantic side. You will realise it has a fine balance of warmth and resolution without delivering overly hard edges. Its bass is firmly controlled, soundstage width is pretty awesome giving you a sense of depth. When it comes to comparison in background noise levels, this is one that is pretty quiet. This preamp will be handy and indeed satisfying your needs if you are analog lovers or first timers, this would likely be a good companion for you.


  • Gain and load optimized
  • Suitable for MM and MC cartridges
  • Well finished design look
  • Low background noise
  • Warm sound performance


  • Kind of heavier than other preamps in mass

Buying Guide for Phono Preamps

In this section, we will go over everything you need to know to find the best phono preamp under $500 to meet your auditory needs.

About the Phono Preamp and How do you use One

A phono preamp is a device that acts as a translator between your turntable and your speakers. The signal that comes out of the cartridge on any turntable is about 1000x lower than the signal that you would get from a CD player or streaming device.

Since this signal is so low, you need something to boost it so that you can hear it through your speakers. A phono preamp, or phono stage, amplifies the signal from your turntable to a level that allows you to connect it to your stereo system, in much the same way that you would connect with any other audio source.

Features to consider before buying

There are several key features that you need to take into account when you are looking for a great phono preamp. In this section, we will cover everything you need to know to make sure you are getting the perfect model for your needs.

Type and functionality

There are two different types of phono preamps on the market, and each one is designed to work with the two different types of cartridges that are found inside of turntables. Before you purchase your phono preamp, you need to make sure you look carefully at your turntable, so that you are sure that you get the right phono stage for your needs.

MM (Moving Magnet) – Most of the newer style turntables utilize this type of cartridge. It does not require as much amplification as an MC cartridge. If you were to hook an MC phono to an MM cartridge, the sound would most likely be distorted.

MC (Moving Coil) – This style of cartridge has less output than an MM cartridge, which means that it requires more amplification. While you most certainly could hook up an MC cartridge to an MM phono, it probably wouldn’t be loud enough for you to hear it.

Thankfully, most single phono stages on the market can be used with both of these cartridge types. This will give you the ability to connect the right phono stage to either of these cartridges and get the quality of sound you desire. These models will usually have a small switch that allows you to switch between the two modes, based on the type of cartridge you are using.

Gain range

The gain range of a phono stage describes the amount of amplification that it can create. Depending on the type of cartridge that you are going to be using, i.e., either MC or MM, you will need a different level of gain.

Thankfully, most phono preamps spell it out for you quite simply. Pretty much all of them will provide you with a minimum of 40dB of gain, which is usually plenty. Of course, if you are looking for an even bigger boost, you can always go for a model that gets you up to 45-50 dB of gain. This would probably only be for a turntable that uses an MC cartridge, as these require a bit more amplification than an MM one.


THD stands for Total Harmonic Distortion. This is a measurement system that is used to estimate the degree to which a system is nonlinear. A THD measurement is made by applying a sine wave as an input to a system, and measuring the total energy that appears at the output of the system, in comparison to the input frequency.

In more basic terms, the THD that is produced by a phono stage will help to predict how clear the sound quality is. The closer the THD measurement is to zero, the “truer” the sound is going to be, since there will be less distortion than if the THD measure was higher.

Included accessories

Phono preamps are rather complicated devices that are extremely easy to set up. All you need to get the job done with a phono stage are a few different cables and adapters, which will allow you to connect to both your turntable and a sound system.

You will need two sets of audio cables, so be sure that you look for a preamp that comes with them. These will allow you to connect your turntable to your phono stage, and your phono stage to your sound system of choice. You should also be sure to keep your cable length as short as possible and go no longer than five feet. The longer the cables, the more likely you are to encounter a loss of signal or sound distortion.

Extra features

While it might be tempting to stick with as basic of a model as possible, there are lots of extra features to consider when you are looking at a preamp. As you have already read, some models can switch between MM and MC amplifying modes, which is quite handy if you have some turntables.

You should also look for a model that allows you to adjust the level of gain that the preamp will provide. That way, you will be able to create the exact sound that you desire, depending on what you are listening to.


Each of the best phono preamps under $500 actually has their own advantages, it depends on your current turntables as well as the needs you have.

Of all the different models on the market, the best phono preamp under $500 overall has to be the Pro-Ject Tube Box S. It is one of the easiest phono stages to set up and utilize. This model has three different gain stages, to quickly and easily amplify either MM or MC cartridges to the sound level that your system needs. To put it simply, if you want to get a great phono preamp under $500, then this is a hard model to pass up.

If you are operating on a tighter budget, then you might want to check out the Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box MM/MC. It is simple to set up, can be used with both MM or MC cartridges, and, best of all, can be used to rip your vinyl records onto your computer to save your records digitally. For the price, this is a great option.

On the other hand, if money isn’t an issue and you are seeking the most versatile phono preamp out there, then you need to check out the Puffin Phono DSP phono preamp. It is simple to hook up and has, by far, the widest and most sensitive gain range on the market. This is the perfect choice for someone who is going to be hooking up to lots of different turntables and sound systems.

FAQ for Best Phono Preamps Under $500

I already have a mixer and/or digital interface. Do I still need a preamp?

There are some turntables out there that already have a preamp built into their system. If you are using one with a digital interface, then, odds are, that there is already a preamp built into the table.

If you are using your turntable with a mixer, then you will not need an additional preamp, as mixers function as a preamp.

If your system has a preamp built into it, there are a few ways to tell. If you have an older system, there should be an input port that says PHONO. Conversely, if you have a newer system that has a USB port, it has a built-in preamp.

Can I connect a preamp to my media player, iPod or smartphone? Or are preamps designed to be connected only to turntables?

It is not recommended to connect a media player, iPod, or a smartphone to a preamp. These devices do not require their signal to be amplified in the same manner as a turntable. While it is possible to hook up these devices to a preamp, it will not help the sound quality at all. In fact, it will sound distorted and could cause damage to the preamp.

What cables and accessories do I need to connect a phono preamp to my turntable? What is the correct way to hook it up?

If your turntable does require an external preamp, then you will need several cables to connect it to your sound system. The preamp should come with the necessary power adapter, so that is taken care of right off the bat.

You will also need two sets of RCA cables. One set will be used to connect your turntable to your preamp, and the other set will be used to connect your preamp to your sound system. This is relatively easy to do, since they are color-coded as red and white. You should also make sure that you get a cable under five feet. Anything longer than this, and you run the risk of the sound being distorted or interrupted.

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