How to connect a turntable to a speaker system

In order for music from a vinyl record to sound, it is often not enough just to connect

the player to the amplifier.It's all about a process called phono correction. In the previous article in the series, devoted to the choice of a turntable, we considered the question “what is phono correction” in some detail. In this article, we'll show you what phono stages are, how to choose them correctly, and how they work with different types of needles, amplifiers, and speakers.

In any case, when you connect the player toan acoustic system cannot do without a phono stage. But what it will be - external or built into the amplifier or directly into the speakers - you decide. Our task is to show the possible options for connecting the player to speaker systems and talk about the pros and cons of each type of connection.

Best external phono stage

Fluance PA10 High Fidelity Phono Preamp

Fluance phono stage designedspecifically for connecting her own players. Simple and reliable, with RIAA certified external power supply and MM pickups only. As a bonus, there is a switchable ultra-low pass filter that helps in combating the vibration of the turntable motor.


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Pyle phono turntable preamp

The most inexpensive phono stage on offeron Amazon. Analogue of embedded solutions in entry-level players. Nothing is said about the possibility of connecting MC-heads, but this is not necessary: ​​one MC-head can cost as much as $ 500, so it makes no sense to send its signal to such a budget solution. The only advantage is the price, but if you need a quick solution, this is it.


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Maker Hart Just Amp 5 with wood speakers

Another inexpensive solution for those who have been giftedplayer, and nothing else was presented. This MM-compatible phono stage comes with a pair of speakers with enough sound quality to satisfy the novice vinyl driver. As a bonus - the richest number of frequency and volume controls for a phono stage.


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The best receivers with built-in phono stage

Sony STRDH190 2-ch Home Stereo Receiver

The most inexpensive receiver in the current lineSony, but with a built-in phono stage with support for MM pickups. You can connect 2 or 4 passive speakers. There is Bluetooth, so in addition to vinyl, you can listen to music from Apple Music, Spotify and other streaming services with which your smartphones are crammed.


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YAMAHA R-N303BL Stereo Receiver

Everything is the same as Sony STRDH190, but with a bunch ofnice buns. The most interesting is the proprietary MusicCast application, which allows you to transfer audio from almost any modern streaming service from your smartphone to the receiver via WiFi, not Bluetooth (although BT is supported). As a bonus, there is support for AirPlay (relevant for owners of Apple equipment) and the voice assistant Alexa.


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The best active speakers with built-in phono stage

Kanto YU6 Powered Bookshelf Speakers

Equally well sharpened for digital andanalog signal, YU6 speakers allow you to connect any turntable thanks to the built-in phono stage. The YU series remote control makes listening to music more convenient: you can quickly switch between audio sources, adjust the soundbar to suit your room, and even control playback when streaming via Bluetooth.


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Klipsch the fives

With almost unlimited possibilitiesConnections including HDMI-ARC, built-in phono stage and more, The Fives delivers better sound quality than traditional soundbars with the same simple plug-and-play setup. The Fives features removable magnetic grilles, including a complimentary pair of beige grilles, multiple finishes, and a subwoofer outlet.


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(if you have never made an order from Amazon, we have detailed instructions on how to do it, even if you do not know English)

A bit of theory

There is an opinion that the phono stage is the samethe same as the preamplifier. That is, its task is to amplify the weak electrical signal coming from the cartridge with the needle to the level perceived by the acoustic system. This is not entirely true. Pre-amplification is only one of the properties of a phono stage.

Vinyl recording technology noticeably lowers the low-frequency range of the recording and just as noticeably increases the high-frequency one. Why it happens?

Это связано с тем, что мощность высоких частот в recordings are significantly less than the power of the rest of the range, therefore, noise from the material from which the records are made (the same vinyl) can affect the playback quality. To prevent this from happening, high-frequency information is maximized in vinyl tracks.

As for low-frequency vibrations, the opposite is true."Smoothed" so that the needle does not jump over the edge of the track. Accordingly, when reproducing the lack of low frequencies on vinyl, you need to compensate.

Needle types

Modern turntables use two types of pickups:

  • with a moving magnet (MM heads - “Moving Magnet”);
  • with moving coil (MC heads - “Moving Coil”).

The output level of the MM is about 5 mV, while the MC is even less - only 0.5 mV. In this case, the amplifier at the input requires from 200 to 1000 mV, that is, from 40 to 2000 times more.

In addition, pickups can differ in resistance, capacitance, and other parameters that must be taken into account.

What are phono stages for?

In 1953, the American AssociationThe Recording Industry (RIAA) standardized for the first time the frequency response of record recording and playback. At that time, the frequency range from 30 Hz to 15 kHz was taken into account. Over time, technology allowed this range to expand, so after 25 years the RIAA-78 standard was developed, which is still used today. For brevity, it continues to be called the RIAA standard.

It is this standard that is guided bycreating a phono stage - a device that brings the frequency characteristics and recording level of vinyl records in accordance with the requirements of the input signal of acoustic systems. Phono stage can be both universal, designed to work with both MM and MC heads, and developed for each type of heads separately.

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In addition, phono stage can be asseparate devices (so-called "external"), and built-in. Moreover, they can be built into the turntable itself, and into the amplifier, or even directly into active speakers, which do not need an amplifier at all.

But, whatever your choice, it is impossible to do without a phono stage in the case of a turntable.

Phono equalizers built into the players

Most modern entry-level turntables (we talked about them in detail in the article "Choosing a vinyl turntable for beginners") manufacturers build in a switchable phono stage.

The advantage of such a built-in solution,it is obvious that it does not require additional costs. Bought a turntable, activated the phono stage with the Phono / Line switch - listen to music through your acoustics set, whatever it may be. In this case, of course, the built-in phono stage will be selected by the manufacturer based on the rest of the player's design: head type, resistance, etc.

A relative disadvantage of this solution is its cheapness and, as a result, not the highest (but absolutely acceptable) sound quality. It can be called rather "sufficient", but far from ideal.

External phono stage

External phono stage usually looks likea small box with a power cord and connectors for connecting cables. In the event that the manufacturer of the phono stage is the manufacturer of the turntable, this is more than enough. The requirements of the RIAA standard will be taken into account, and the design, taking into account the connection of specific models, eliminates the need to equip the device with all kinds of frequency and preamp level controls.

Phono preamplifiers from third-party manufacturers are quite another matter. Here, when choosing a device, you need to consider both the availability of RIAA certification and the possibility of upgrading the cartridge.

In entry-level players by defaultMM heads are installed, but over time you may want more and you will upgrade to MC type head. Therefore, if you even think about such a possibility, the phono stage should take into account the possibility of connecting both variants of the pickup - that is, it should not be specialized, but universal. Otherwise, along with the change of MM to MC technology, you will have to change the phono stage as well.

The weakest link of the phono stage ispower unit. The indoor unit can generate electromagnetic interference from the mains. Therefore, many manufacturers make the phono stage power supply external so that it can be placed at a distance. For very extreme cases, phono preamplifiers, powered by batteries or rechargeable batteries, have been invented.

Phono equalizers in amplifiers and receivers

Since the phono stage can be built into itselfplayer, it can be built into an amplifier or receiver. There is nothing complicated or extreme about this, it is a common practice for many manufacturers who rely on using their technology specifically for playing music.

The recommendations here are similar to those that are relevant andfor external devices: RIAA certification and matching with your pickup type desirable. Phono input jacks can either be provided with a switch or be labeled MM or MC to make it clear which set of inputs your turntable is connected to.

Of course, if over time it is planned to change the technology of the head in the player, then it makes no sense to buy a receiver or amplifier that is not designed for such an upgrade.

Phono equalizers in active speakers

There is a whole class of so-called activespeakers that do not need an amplifier in principle: they carry everything necessary for processing and amplifying the audio signal on board. Often these speakers have a universal phono stage, as well as Bluetooth, optical input, analog RCA connectors and even USB, which allows you to safely get rid of the receiver altogether.

Moreover, despite the fact that such a "zoo"connection options usually evokes associations with cheap plastic junk from AliExpress, we are talking about really high-quality acoustics that will perfectly reveal the potential of vinyl.

Passive columns are mandatoryconnected to an amplifier or receiver, since in essence they are just boxes with speakers. Passive speakers do not provide power or any means of pre-processing the audio signal.

Speaking of Bluetooth

Some turntable models such asSony PS-LX310BT or Pro-Ject Juke Box E are equipped with a Bluetooth module that allows you to stream music to BT speakers or headphones. Also with Bluetooth there are active speakers, as we wrote about above, or even receivers.

You need to understand that the presence of Bluetooth, althougheliminates the need to correctly select the rest of the equipment in the kit for the turntable itself, but negates all the advantages of vinyl as a source of analog sound.

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Bluetooth audio transmission is limitedsupported codecs, among which there is not a single lossless one today. Work in this direction is carried out by the manufacturer of BT chips Qualcomm, but it is not known when players and speakers with support for the new aptX Lossless features will appear. Moreover, the new standard will support maximum CD quality (that is, 16 bit 44.1 kHz) and at the same time only "in ideal conditions." What these ideal conditions are, Qualcomm does not say.

What is the bottom line?

Let's traditionally summarize the basic principles of choosing a set of acoustics and options for connecting a turntable.

Possible options:

  • player with built-in phono stage → amplifier / receiver → passive speakers;
  • player → external phono stage → amplifier / receiver → passive speakers;
  • player → amplifier / receiver with built-in phono stage → passive speakers;
  • player with built-in phono stage → active speakers;
  • player → external phono stage → active speakers;
  • player → active speakers with built-in phono stage.

The most flexible, of course, would be to usephono stage as a separate device. You can upgrade your turntable as much as possible and buy absolutely fantastic acoustics, leaning against the ceiling of your capabilities, but replacing the phono stage with a more advanced model will always allow you to continue upgrading the system. And choosing a particular model can give your kit a sound that you would never achieve with built-in solutions. But remember, no matter what we write here for you, the final choice is always yours.

Enjoy listening.