If you have a turntable with a phono output, to make the most out of it, you should consider buying a preamplifier (or preamp for short). The function of a preamp is basically to assist the amplifier by processing the signal before it gets to the amplifier.

Some turntables come with a preamp built-in (integrated preamplifier). However, others need a separate preamp. Using a separate preamp is more expensive but it will provide a better sound quality than the turntable with the built-in preamp. Therefore if you have a turntable with a built-in preamp, you won’t need a separate preamp.

Amplifier

Photo by Steven Wang on Unsplash

Turntables with a line-level or USB output have a built-in preamp, even if the manufacturer doesn’t clearly mention it in the specification. Also, some turntables have a switchable built-in preamp, which allows you to use the built-in one or one of your own.

Wondering what budget-friendly pre-amplifiers to get? The good news is, there are loads of preamps that deliver exceptional performance without the eye-watering price tag. Here are our top pre-amp recommendations.

Best Inexpensive Phono Preamplifiers under $100

Pyle Phono PP444 Turntable Preamp

Pyle Phono PP444 Turntable Preamp

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Simple, efficient design
  • Dynamic audio
  • User-friendly and easy to install

CONS

  • Slightly muffled audio
  • Minor distortion

The PP444 is an ultra-compact preamp that delivers serious sound performance. The design is frills-free but its portability allows you to carry it around whenever! The PP444 provides excellent voltage gain to any music equipment, amplifying the signal source to deliver dynamic audio quality.

As far as performance goes, the PP444 is a real workhorse. It is quite versatile too. You can hook it up to your microphone, musical instrument, or turntable thanks to its wide array of output. It works silently in the background, offering worry-free operation.

Features include:

  • Phono signal converter with an input sensitivity of 3mV at 50K Ohms
  • Excellent performance with low noise level
  • Connection to modern and vintage sound equipment alike. Compatible with computers, speakers, laptops, and turntables
  • Simple, plug and play operation for fuss-free play

As far as boosting the audio goes, the PP444 enhances the sound to manageable levels. It plays well with a variety of audio equipment. The PP444 shines when it comes to user-friendliness. It’s so easy to install and even easier to set up. However, it is best to set the PP444 near the audio source to prevent unwanted noise or interference. It’s a great preamp to get regardless if you’re a newbie or an advanced user.

When it comes to the downsides, some users say that the PP444 produces slightly muffled or distorted audio. We did not experience these issues during testing but they are something worth keeping in mind when shopping around.

Overall, the Pyle Phono PP444 will take your music and production performance to a whole new level. You get consistent, excellent amplification without making a dent in your savings.

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ART DJPRE II

ART DJPRE II

PROS

  • Quiet operation
  • Consistent, reliable performance
  • With switchable low-cut filter
  • Easy to use

CONS

  • No power switch

Vinyl records are notorious for producing a shh sound when playing. Anybody who has owned a record player can identify with this problem. Magnetic cartridges also produce a weak sound. A phono preamp is a vital part of a turntable audio system, especially a separate RIAA phono preamp such as the ART DJ Pre 11.

Features include:

  • A switchable low cut filter which gives a cleaner sound by removing the rumble of the turntable.
  • The phono cartridge’s response is improved by the ability of the analog input capacitance which can be switched to between 100 and 200 pf (picofarads).
  • Low impedance high output jacks
  • It comes encased in a black anodized casing.
  • A signal LED and a front gain trim control which maximizes the functionality of the preamp for many types of input.
  • The circuitry is exactly of RIAA standards.

The ART DJ 11 preamp will satisfy your amplification and equalization needs as well as provide an interface for your other equipment such as your sound card, home stereo system and audio workstation. This small piece of equipment is quite durable and long lasting. It is at home, either in your home or in your studio or even on stage.

ART DJ 11 comes with a ground terminal, RCA type input R/L, RCA type output R/L, and is powered by a 12v DC which includes an adaptor.

Users were satisfied with the great quality combined with the low cost. Some liked the compatibility of the ART DJ 11 with their older equipment. Few complained about a low hum produced by this preamp.

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Pyle PP555 Ultra Compact Phono Turntable Pre-Amplifier

Pyle PP555 Ultra Compact Phono Turntable Pre-Amplifier

PROS

  • Compact, portable size
  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with old turntables
  • Excellent audio boost

CONS

  • Short battery life
  • Stripped down features

This relatively tiny (0.9 pounds) phono preamp will conveniently run either from a DC power supply or 9 volt battery. Its portability is convenient as it doesn’t require a power outlet or extra wires. Despite its small size, it offers great performance in sound quality.

Specs include:

  • A S/N ratio of 70db
  • An output of 2V max at 10K ohms
  • A 9V battery compartment
  • 20 HZ to 20 KHZ response at 2 DB
  • Input sensitivity is 3mv at 50k ohms.
  • 12V DC adaptor
  • Dedicated RCA
  • ¼ inch output connectors

Many customers were satisfied with the sound quality combined with the reasonable price. The size and portability with the 9V battery of the Pyle PP555 were among the things people appreciated the most. Some like the ability of a new item to work with their old equipment, while some complained of a buzz or hum probably caused by the need for the grounding of the input jacks.

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BEHRINGER MICROPHONO PP400

BEHRINGER MICROPHONO PP400

PROS

  • User-friendly
  • Compact, portable design
  • Clean, clear audio
  • Balanced outputs

CONS

  • 2-dimensional soundstage
  • Prone to interference or static

With the increase in popularity of vinyl records, this is an excellent product to purchase.
The Behringer Microphono PP400 does a good job of converting the phono signal from your turntable to line signal level. The resulting sound will be exactly as it comes from the record.

Features/specs include:

  • ¼ inch TRS output jack
  • 12V adaptor
  • Stereo outputs and inputs

Some customers found it noise-free and able to play with their old turntables. Some were happy with the performance along with the low price. Others, however, experienced a hum, while others, while happy otherwise, thought it could use more strength in the area of bass.

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What is a Pre-Amp?

  • Amplifies phono signal that comes from the turntable (if it has phono output)
  • Volume/equalization control. The preamp will allow the user to control the volume as well as the base and treble of the sound.
  • Assisting with sound quality (cleaning up the signal).
  • Combining several signals into one.

Turntable preamps or phono preamps are different from regular preamps in their response to frequency. The stylus creates multiple vibrating signals which the preamp receives and equalizes to give a better quality sound.

Phono amps are crucial in amplifying the analog signal from the tone arm cartridge. It not only amplifies the signal, but can divide the signal into separate channels for different speakers. Wideband, moving coil, moving magnet and solid-state single stage are some of the more popular varieties of phono preamps available on the market.

Summary
Before buying a phono preamp make sure you can use it with your turntable. Many inexpensive players have preamps built-in and don’t have a phono output, which means they don’t benefit from a separate preamp. Also, if you have a stereo system with phono input, you can connect turntables with phono out directly to it. If that’s the case, there’s no need for a separate preamp, unless you’re not satisfied with the one your system features.