Back in the 1970s and 80s when turntables and vinyl were one of the only ways to listen to music, many receivers had phono inputs, which can be used to connect your turntable directly without using an external preamp. However, not all modern receivers have phono inputs anymore.
If you don’t own a receiver with a phono input, there are two methods for connecting your turntable to your receiver: 1) Use an external phono preamp, or 2) Use a turntable with a built-in phono preamp. This article will explain both methods so you can choose the best one for your needs.
What is a phono input on a Receiver?
The phono input on a receiver also called an RIAA preamp or phono stage is a common audio input that connects audio playback devices that produce phono signal and converts them to line-level signals so they can be amplified. This is necessary because most speakers are not designed to turn the low voltages of phono signal into sound.
While many receivers came with phono inputs before the 1990s, many are now missing this feature. The phono input was removed because few people were listening to vinyl records, and many manufacturers felt it wasn’t necessary anymore.
If you have a modern receiver, then it’s very unlikely that it will have a phono input. If this is the case, don’t worry. There are ways to connect a turntable without any phono input.
Connect a Turntable to a Receiver Without Phono Input
A turntable to a receiver without phono input can be connected in two ways. Below, we’ll cover both methods as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Method 1: Using a Built-In Phono Preamp
To combat the modern issue of a receiver without phono input, many manufacturers have been including a built-in phono preamp in their turntable’s standard feature list.
Not sure if your turntable has a built-in preamp? It’s easy to check! Check the back of your turntable for a switch, it will usually say something like “Phono / Line.” If you’d like to engage the phono preamp, simply flip the switch to the “Phono” position and connect your turntable to your receiver.
At this point, you’ll be sending an amplified line-level signal, meaning you can use any of your receiver’s line-level inputs such as “AUX, CD, TAPE, RECORDER,” and more…
If your turntable has a built-in phono preamp, this is a free solution to your problem! It’s not without potential issues though.
Turntables with built-in preamps do often struggle with lower sound quality and other signal noise. You also have no control over volume and other audio adjustments that other standalone preamps offer.
Method 2: Using an External Phono Preamp
If you have both a turntable and receiver without a phono input or preamp, you will need to purchase a standalone preamp to amplify your audio signal. This method is a little more complicated than having a preamp built into your turntable, but the results are often much better.
Here are the steps to connect a standalone phono preamp to your turntable and stereo receiver:
Step 1: Ensure everything is turned off and even unplugged.
Step 2: Connect turntable RCA wires and ground cable to your phono preamp’s inputs. There should be connections for white and red as well as a ground post (more info on turntable grounding here).
Step 3: With a separate set of RCA cables, connect the output of the phono preamp to a receiver without phono input. It’s very important you connect to a line-level input, not phono when using an external phono preamp.
That’s it! Now throw on a record for a listening session to make sure everything sounds good.
Can I Connect My Turntable to Other Inputs on My Receiver?
You can connect your turntable to any line-level input on your receiver so long as the turntable is already powered by a phono preamp that’s either built-in or external.
These line-level inputs are usually labeled as AUX, LINE, CD, DVD, TV, and RECORDER, but could differ based on the brand of receiver.
If My Receiver Has a Phono Input, Do I Need a Preamp?
If your receiver already has a phono input you do not need a preamp!
Just a quick reminder to make sure that your turntable’s built-in phono preamp is switched off if you’re plugging into your receiver’s phono input. If not, your signal will be very loud and it might damage your speakers or other equipment.
Is a Receiver and an Amplifier the Same Thing?
You may see a receiver referred to as an amplifier sometimes, so are they the same thing? The short answer is yes, they are! The receiver’s job is to amplify the audio signal to speakers and act as a control station for volume, pan, EQ, and other parameters.
An amplifier might not always be a receiver though. An amplifier might be something like a guitar amp. While the main job of amplification is accomplished, some deeper levels of functionality might not always be available.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways to connect a turntable to a receiver with no phono input. The most important thing to consider is what kind of sound you’re looking for, and what your listening habits are.
If you just want a quick solution to listen to music with no extra noise or distortion then it’s best to use the appropriate built-in phono preamp on the turntable. However, if you want higher-quality sound that will give you more control over volume, bass, and treble, then it’s best to connect the turntable with an external phono preamp.
However you decide to connect your turntable to a receiver without phono input, you’ll have to keep in mind not all receivers are made the same. Some receivers will be better suited for a turntable than others. To keep your sound quality high, it’s important to choose the right receiver and get the most out of your vinyl experience.
For more information on receivers or any other equipment, check out our other articles!
Lead Editor / Owner
After beginning his career in the video and audio recording industry, Andrew started HiFi Hippo to share his knowledge and passion for vinyl and vintage audio with other readers.