Which is better, a turntable with a built-in preamp or an external one? Such a question arises for almost everyone who slowly begins to understand vinyl players and their components and, with time, the quality of music. In this article, I will tell you what a phono stage is, as well as the advantages of an external and a built-in preamp, and then you can make your choice in favor of the first or the second one.
What is a phono preamp (phono stage)?
A phono stage is a device designed to convert and amplify the audio signal produced by the turntable to a level suitable for playback on external audio system devices. In other words, it converts the PHONO signal to LINE. Such external devices include speakers, PCs, microphones, electric guitars, etc.
Preamplifiers can be built-in (indicated by the PHONO switch) or external (connected with RCA cables). If your record player has a USB output, it has a preamp. They come in a variety of brands, qualities, and prices.
Advantages of external preamps
Build quality and sound quality
The external preamp, as a stand-alone unit, has better build quality. It is not limited in size like the internal one, so it is not built to “fit in the turntable” but to “fit what you need.” Moreover, an external preamp will serve its sole purpose of amplifying the signal and therefore improving sound quality.
Setup and Advanced Features
First, when initially selecting an external preamp, you can familiarize yourself in advance with what it offers and choose exactly what you want. Accordingly, you’ll be able to set up your audio system how you want it to be. Built-in preamps don’t give you a choice, so you have to use what you have. Second, some external phono stages have additional features (headphone connection, Bluetooth, and gain controls). If you are interested in that and your vinyl player does not have them, you can buy such an external phono preamp.
Advantages of built-in preamps
Cost and Time
Choosing a record player with a built-in phono preamp will not hurt your pocket more than its cost. No extra cost or time spent selecting, purchasing, and installing it. Yes, for many it is important to save time as well. You get a finished product that you don’t have to fiddle with. Just take it out of the box and use it.
Compatibility and Space
Choices can be agonizing for those who don’t know about this kind of equipment. After all, the preamp must be compatible with the vinyl player, and there are many pitfalls. However, with a built-in phono preamp, all of these issues are solved for you. An external phono stage also means a connection, extra space, and wires. Not everyone likes that.
The conclusion that can be made from all the above is that it all depends on your preference. Built-in preamplifiers don’t cost you time and money, so they will suit those for whom vinyl is all about style and compactness. The true audiophile will always prefer external preamps, regardless of the cost and the hassle of handling them. But it will still help you bring your audio system to the next level of sound if, of course, it really matters to you. Which is better? You decide!
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