What Is a Preamp for a Turntable and Do I Need One?

What Is a Preamp for a Turntable and Do I Need One?

Posted by House of Marley on Aug 31st 2023

Hey there, vinyl lovers! Ever been in the middle of setting up your music hall and thought, "What on earth is a preamp for a turntable?" or "Do I even need one for my record player?" Well, you're about to embark on a sonic journey that'll clear the fog. Let's unravel the mystery of preamps, turntables, and all that jazz. By the end, you'll be a bona fide expert, ready to drop the needle and let the good times roll.

What Is a Preamp for a Turntable Record Player?

Alright, let's break it down. A preamp, short for preamplifier, is like the unsung hero in the world of vinyl and the parts of a record player. It's that little device that amplifies the super-soft audio signal from your vinyl record to a level that your amplifier or powered speaker can groove to. Imagine it as the middleman, or the bridge if you will, between your turntable and active speaker, ensuring your tunes don't sound like they're being whispered from the other side of a mountain.

In addition to amplifying the audio signal, a preamp also plays a vital role in shaping the overall sound of your vinyl system. The quality of the components used in a preamp can have a significant impact on the realism, dynamics, and clarity of your music. When it comes to how to choose a record player, If you're serious about sound quality, getting one with a good preamp is definitely worth considering.

Experience vinyl's warmth with our earth friendly turntables

How Does a Preamp Work?

Now, let's get our geek on. When that needle (or phono cartridge) dances over the grooves of your vinyl, it produces what's known as a phono signal. This signal, bless its heart, is a tad weak and needs some pumping up. That's where our trusty phono preamp steps in. It not only amplifies this signal but also applies the RIAA EQ. 

The RIAA EQ curve is a specific frequency response curve that was developed by the Recording Industry Association of America to standardize the recording and playback of vinyl records. The RIAA EQ curve boosts the bass and treble frequencies to compensate for the inherent roll-off of these frequencies that occurs during the recording and playback process [1].

A phono preamp applies the RIAA EQ curve to the phono signal, ensuring that your records sound balanced and accurate. In addition to applying the RIAA EQ curve, a phono preamp can also provide additional features such as gain control, cartridge loading options, and subsonic filtering.

The RIAA EQ is a hidden gem, ensuring the sound quality of your records is balanced and not, well, out of whack. Without the RIAA EQ, your tunes would sound flatter than a pancake on Sunday morning.

Do I Need a Preamp for My Turntable Record Player?

The million-dollar question! The answer? It's a classic “it depends.”

Some turntables come strutting with a built-in preamp, while others play hard to get and require an external one. If you're jamming with an old-school record player, you might need to woo it with an external phono preamp. 

But if you're rocking a modern turntable, like the gems from House of Marley, you're in for smooth sailing.

How to Identify If You Have a Preamp Already

If you're still not sure whether or not you need a preamp for your existing turntable, there are a few things you can do to check. First, consult your turntable's owner's manual to see if it has a built-in preamp. If it does, you're good to go.

If your turntable doesn't have a built-in preamp, you can try connecting it directly to your amplifier or powered speakers. However, if the volume is too low, or if the sound quality is poor, then you'll need an external preamp.

Another way to check if you need a preamp is to connect your turntable to a computer or other recording device. If you can record your vinyl records at a reasonable level, then you don't need a preamp. However, if the recorded level is too low, then you'll need a preamp to boost the signal.

Ultimately, the best way to decide if you need a preamp is to experiment. Try connecting your turntable directly to your amplifier or powered speakers, and see if the sound quality is to your liking. If it's not, then try connecting a preamp and see if there's an improvement. If you’re asking yourself, Do record players need speakers? check out our guide to learn more.

Additional Considerations

If you're serious about getting the best possible sound out of your vinyl records, then a preamp is a worthwhile investment. Even if you have a budget turntable, a good preamp can make a significant difference in the sound quality. The following are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Cartridge compatibility: Make sure to choose a preamp that is compatible with the type of phono cartridge that you are using. There are two main types of phono cartridges: moving magnet (MM) and moving coil (MC). MC cartridges require a preamp with a higher gain setting than MM cartridges.
  • Features: Consider which features are important to you. Some preamps offer adjustable gain and loading settings, subsonic filters, headphone outputs, and other features.
  • Price: Preamps can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Choose a preamp that fits your budget and your needs.

    House of Marley Party

    Explore House of Marley Turntables with Built-In Preamps

    Now, let's shift gears and talk about the pièce de résistance: House of Marley turntables. These aren't just your run-of-the-mill turntables; they're a blend of sustainability, legacy, and darn-good sound quality.

    If you're on the hunt for Bluetooth record players with a built-in preamp, House of Marley has your back. No need to dive deep into the world of separate phono preamps or splurge on expensive phono preamp brands. House of Marley offers the whole package, and then some. Dive into the world of vinyl with our exclusive bundles of record players with speakers, where convenience meets quality, ensuring you get the most out of your music experience without the hassle.

    So, there you have it! A deep dive into the world of preamps, turntables, and the magic in between. Whether you're a newbie just dipping your toes into the vinyl world or a seasoned pro, understanding the role of a preamp is crucial. It's all about ensuring your vinyl records sound as the artists intended. Whether you opt for a standalone preamp or a turntable with a built-in one, like the masterpieces from House of Marley, the end game is to lose yourself in the music. So, keep the records spinning and the music flowing, and let the vinyl times roll!


    1. Wikipedia. 2022. “RIAA Equalization.” Wikipedia. February 10, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization.