I’ve just recently published an article listing the best amplifiers for turntables, but none of my choices were receivers – and receivers can offer some real advantages over other types of amplifiers.
So I thought it would be a great idea to revisit the subject, and this time focus specifically on the best receivers for turntables in 2023, looking at 8 choices from super-affordable to pretty pricey, all of which are beautifully made, sound great and will work wonderfully with your turntable.
This is a fairly long and in-depth article, so if you’re in a bit of a hurry and just want some of my top picks, here you go:
- My Favorite Stereo Receiver for Turntables: Cambridge Audio AXR85 85 Watt Stereo Receiver with Bluetooth & Built-in Phono
- Best Budget Stereo Receiver for Turntables: Sony STRDH190 2-ch Home Stereo Receiver with Phono Inputs & Bluetooth
- Best Affordable AV Receiver for Turntables: Yamaha TSR-700 7.1 Channel AV Receiver with 8K HDMI and MusicCast
- Best Audiophile Stereo Receiver for Turntables – Affordable Premium: Marantz NR1200 2-Channel AV Receiver Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Heos + Alexa
- Best Premium AV Receiver for Turntables: Denon AVR-X3700H 8K Ultra HD 9.2 Channel (105Watt X 9) AV Receiver
Why Should You Get a Receiver for Your Turntable?
Receivers, in case you don’t already know, are a combination of an amplifier to power your speakers and a radio to receive usually both AM and FM stereo signals.
So one distinct advantage of a receiver over a normal amplifier is that you always have one good source of music programming. Even AM signals are often broadcast in decent stereo sound, and FM radio can be very high fidelity and just beautiful to listen to.
In addition to having a nice sounding radio, many receivers also tend to be pretty complete audio or audio-video control centers, with the ability to accept and process a wide array of inputs and outputs from televisions and video players, game systems, digital streamers and PCs, all sorts of audio devices, smart controllers and so much more, as well as handling multi-room or multi-zone audio and other functionality.
That said, some of the receivers I recommend here go most admirably in the complete opposite direction, with stereo-only sound, a very limited number of inputs and controls, and a minimalist approach to design and circuitry which will always, if done right, lead to the best possible sound quality.
But either way – at least in the case of all the products in this guide to best receivers for phonographs – they will also have a fantastic sounding phono preamplifier and associated circuitry specifically for turntables.
And, best of all for some of us, receivers typically offer amazing value for the money. Some are downright cheap – amazingly so, for what they do – and even the most advanced can be quite affordable.
What Is the Best Receiver for a Turntable?
This is a bit of a trick question, because really the best receiver for turntables is just the best receiver overall – the one with the best sound quality, the one that is the best made and most reliable, the one that offers the best value, the one that does what we want and need it to do and the one with so much power it will get you kicked out of your neighborhood…
That said, there is one very basic consideration, and that is the phono stage. Depending on the turntable you have, or the one you plan on buying, you will probably need a receiver with a built in phono stage, and that phono stage should be as good – as musical, dynamic and detailed – as the rest of the receiver’s audio circuitry.
Do You Need a Phono Stage?
A turntable – or more specifically a turntable’s phono cartridge – has a very, very low electrical output, and if you just plug it into any normal stereo inputs – like ones you would use for a CD player, video player or digital streamer’s analog audio output – you could turn the receiver’s volume up all the way and just barely be able to hear the record.
Not too satisfying, to say the least, and for normal playback, and full fidelity, you need to amplify that low-level phono output before listening. This is normally done by the phono preamplifier- also called a phono stage – built into a good amplifier or receiver.
There are a few turntables that have a phono stage, or a phono preamp, built into them, but still the majority of turntables out there, and typically the best sounding ones – from cheap to hyper-expensive – will not have their own phono preamplifier, and so you will need a receiver with a phono section.
Anyway, even with turntables with phono preamps included, most will also include a normal, lower level output as well, which bypasses the ‘table’s preamplifier – and in my opinion it is almost always better (that is, better sounding) to use that low-level output run through a good phono section in an amp or receiver.
So, back to our question:
What Is a Good Receiver for Turntables?
All of the receivers on my list will have built in phono preamplifiers, and will work with any turntable, and I am specifically selecting ones that have wonderful sound quality overall and especially great sounding phono sections.
I am also recommending receivers I know to be very well made, very well designed and highly functional, and that offer substantial value at their respective price points.
You will find two basic types of receivers below:
Stereo Receivers – of course, all the receivers below are stereo, but here I mean receivers that are really focused on the best sounding stereo (two channel) sound possible. These receivers may not have any video processing or surround sound settings or outputs at all, and are often very simple in design – not just because of their lack of video processing, but because simple design often yields the best sound.
AV Receivers – with not only stereo but also surround sound circuitry and outputs, these receivers are focused on the whole home entertainment package – music, movies, television, games and more – and often have highly advanced digital processing for audio and video. They may not be as pure and neutral as the more audiophile-focused units above, but have fantastic sound anyway – often incredibly good sound, in fact – and are much more versatile and much more popular.
For the second group – the best audio-video receivers for turntables – we see some pretty familiar names, like Yamaha, Marantz and Denon, which are as technologically advanced as it gets and have amazing video quality and sound quality. And the ones I’m recommending also have particularly sweet phono sections.
And for the first group we see another familiar name – Sony, which makes a particularly appealing and very inexpensive basic stereo receiver with phono section, as well as a super-cheap and amazingly versatile unit from Pyle USA. I will also be mentioning – and enthusiastically recommending – a couple of stereo receivers for turntables from one of my favorite affordable audiophile brands – Cambridge Audio.
So let’s drop the needle and get spinning, with this buyer’s guide to the 8 top receivers to use with a phonograph.
The 8 Best Receivers for Turntables: A Speakergy Special Buyer’s Guide
Beautiful Analog Sound on the (Super) Cheap!
- 200 WATT POWER: The stereo receiver amplifier...
- 10 INPUTS: This home audio amplifier is...
- BLUETOOTH CONNECTIVITY: The bluetooth stereo...
- DIGITAL LCD DISPLAY: The wireless speaker...
- FRONT CONTROL PANEL: This home speaker...
- Power Output: 20 Watts a Channel
- Speaker Outputs: 2 – Stereo (no surround)
- Special Features: Lots of Analog and Digital Inputs – phono, aux, HDMI, coax, optical, USB and SD; Really, really cheap!
By far the cheapest stereo receiver good for turntables, the Pyle PDA9HBU is a pretty remarkable unit for a low, low price.
For one thing, the Pyle PDA9 has a quite decent phono stage, which actually plays records with good detail, dynamics and imaging, and has the kind of analog warmth and musicality we love to hear.
But in addition to its analog prowess, including the phono input and connections for other stereo components like CD players or tape decks, the Pyle has a wide array of digital inputs as well, like optical and coaxial, SD memory card and USB flash drive, HDMI inputs and outputs – heck, it’s even got a couple of microphone inputs if you want to get your karaoke on!
Ok, for under a hundred bucks this isn’t maybe the best sounding receiver in the world, and may not be quite as detailed or accurate as more expensive gear, but it’s actually pretty darn good, with low distortion and a musicality and dynamic energy that makes records, and all other music, sound exciting and enjoyable.
Pure stereo, with no surround sound processing or outputs, the Pyle PDA9HBU had 20 watts minimum per channel of power, and will push most speakers to prodigiously loud levels.
So a surprisingly good sounding and highly advanced stereo receiver with a great phono stage for a very low price – a fantastic value and a great starter unit, and the cheapest way I know to really hear and enjoy that wonderful high fidelity analog vinyl record sound.
Best Budget Receiver with Phono Stage
- Amplify and enjoy your home audio experience...
- 100 watts x 2 (8 ohms, 1 Kilo Hertz). Speaker...
- Phono input, 4 stereo RCA audio inputs, 3.5...
- Built in Bluetooth lets you wirelessly stream...
- Connect up to 4 speakers; A/B switching to...
- Power Output: 20 Watts a Channel
- Speaker Outputs: 2 – Stereo (no surround)
- Special Features: Pure Direct audiophile listening mode; Bluetooth receiver
The Pyle stereo receiver, just above, is super-cheap – as cheap as you can go and still get a good phono stage and decent sound – but this Sony STRDH190 sounds much better.
Still a pure stereo receiver without surround sound, and in fact really aimed at 2-channel budget audiophiles, the Sony has a dynamic energy, a smooth and open sound quality and a remarkably extended frequency response that make music sound a lot more effortless and natural, while at the same time really powerful.
The phono stage itself is amazing, with very high levels of phase coherence and accuracy, superior dynamic range, low noise and no interference and no discernible distortion – even high end turntables and the best audiophile records sound great.
I’ve mentioned dynamics a couple of times already, and while the Sony STRDH190 is notable for its openness, detail and musicality, the thing that really amazed me when I auditioned it was that dynamic energy, which makes loud music really, really hit, and music played at low levels sound so alive and engaging.
While the STRDH190 has very little in terms of advanced processing – no digital inputs or video circuitry, no surround sound, no HDMI – there is the surprising, and incredibly useful, addition of a Bluetooth wireless receiver, so you can stream and play digital files from your phone, tablet, PC or digital server.
A powerful (100 watts per channel), dynamic and musical receiver with a great phono stage, the Sony STRDH190 is a budget audiophile delight, and the best budget receiver for turntables you can get in 2023.
Best Affordable AV Receiver for Turntables
- Power Output: 100 Watts a Channel (in stereo)
- Speaker Outputs: 7.2, Surround with 2 Subwoofer Outs
- Special Features: Pure Direct Audiophile Sound; MusicCast Wireless Multi-Room Streaming (and about a gazillion other things…)
For all the audio-video enthusiasts / gaming junkies / digital nerds in the audience (including me, on all counts), with the Yamaha TSR-700 we are finally getting into the world of advanced processing of audio and video, analog and digital equipment and systems.
In fact, even just as an audio-video receiver, the Yamaha TSR-700 is as advanced as it gets at this price level, with full 7.2 surround sound processing, DTS:X audio formatting, multiple HDMI inputs, digital audio and video processing, the amazing Yamaha MusicCast multi-room wireless system and so much more.
But while I love powerful movie watching and game playing experiences, and enjoy playing with processors and controls as much as the next nerd, what I really love about the Yamaha TSR-700 is its sound. Yeah, it is fantastic sounding with video, and the surround is amazingly realistic and immersive, with stunning presence and seamless movement, but what I really mean is hitting the Pure Direct switch and listening to records.
When listening to a turntable with the TSR-700, in stereo and with Pure Direct bypassing all of the DSP (digital signal processing) circuitry, there is a purity and neutrality here that is so refreshing, and honestly a bit of a relief after the admittedly incredibly effective surround sound. In this Direct mode the 700 does not sound like the incredibly advanced AV processing plant that it actually is, but just a simple bit of hi-fi gear – punchy, sweet and musical, with deep, fast bass, detailed and non-fatiguing highs and amazing presence and energy.
So, the best of both worlds? Well, not quite – the best pure stereo experience will be found (at this price level at least) with the Cambridge Audio just below, but the Yamaha TSR-700 is very close, and is possibly the best digital AV receiver overall for anywhere near this money.
My Favorite Stereo Receiver for Turntables
- ✓ PRECISE AND POWERFUL AUDIO EXPERIENCE -...
- ✓ EASILY CONNECT ALL OF YOUR EQUIPMENT -...
- ✓ BUILT IN BLUETOOTH - With the built-in...
- ✓ EXPERIENCE HI-FI LIKE NEVER BEFORE -...
- ✓ TECH SPECS - POWER OUTPUT 85 watts (into...
- Power Output: 85 Watts a Channel
- Speaker Outputs: 2 – Stereo (no surround)
- Special Features: That Cambridge Sound; Bluetooth Receiver
Cambridge Audio, bless their beautiful British hearts, seem blithely detached from and immune to the powerful technological lure of the digital processing realm.
Rather than concerning themselves with variable refresh rates, virtual height, HDMI upscaling or frame transport speed, they seem happy to concentrate on making the best analog audio equipment you can get – and always at very affordable prices.
And this Cambridge Audio AXR85 stereo receiver is a perfect example, with an intensely powerful high-current amplifier (85 watts from Cambridge is not like 85 watts from other companies) that will give you stunning volume and dynamic energy, and with sheer transparency, lack of noise or distortion, hyper-fast transient response, deep bass and beautifully extended highs and an overall tonal accuracy that allow any music to simply shine.
A near-perfect phono stage, with a truly reference grade preamplifier and over-engineered circuits and connectors, complete the picture, and listening to records through the Cambridge Audio AXR85 is as close as I have ever come with a stereo receiver to the rarified heights of pure audiophile separates – a level where you may pay more for a pair of interconnect cables than this brilliant receiver costs.
No, the AXR85 is not as good as a 20,000 dollar hi-fi system, which in turn is not as good as a 200,000 dollar hi-fi system, but this is actually on the same ground as them, and firmly in the dynamic of what we audiophiles call “diminishing returns” – that is, the 20 grand system does not sound somehow 4000 percent better than this 500 dollar receiver. Indeed, it may not even sound 40 percent better, and both truly strive for the same thing – the unaltered reproduction of music, in all its power and beauty.
And though I will talk about fancy AV receivers below that are far more expensive than this beauty, I really don’t’ think any of them – beautiful sounding though they may be – do this as well as this humble and highly affordable Cambridge Audio AXR85, which is my own personal favorite receiver for use with a turntable.
Best Affordable Premium AV Receiver for Turntables
- At 4-inches tall, this 5.2 channel stereo...
- FULL COMPATIBILITY WITH 4K ULTRA HD TV –...
- This 5 CHANNEL DISCRETE POWER AMPLIFIER (50W...
- HANDS-FREE OPERATIONS – Command your...
- EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND & USER-FRIENDLY SETUP...
- Power Output: 50 Watts a Channel x 5
- Speaker Outputs: 5.2 – Full Five Channel Surround
- Special Features: HEOS Multi-Room Streaming; Discrete Amplification; 4K Ultra HD Video Support
When we get into the ultra-competitive 700-800 dollar price range we are really spoiled for excellent choices, and I personally have tried and really liked several great audio-visual receivers and digital processing units.
Many of them don’t have phono preamplifiers built in, but a couple of them that do, and are quite fine overall, are the Onkyo TX-NR696 AV Receiver with Sonos and the Denon DRA-800H, which uses HEOS multi-room streaming.
But for my money, or for your money, I suppose, the best of them all is the remarkable Marantz NR1510, a 5.2 channel surround-sound receiver with full 4K Ultra HD capability, compatibility with Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, wireless streaming via AirPlay 2, HEOS and/or Bluetooth, compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri (as well as many smart TV’s controls) and an enormously powerful – if conservatively rated – 50 watt per channel amplifier with completely discrete circuitry.
What this means in actual use is the purest color, the smoothest video motion and the most contrasty, bright and intense picture imaginable, and audio that is effortless, powerful and remarkably beautiful in sound, as well as three-dimensional stereo and surround imaging and soundstage that is the best, most eerily realistic and captivating I’ve ever heard at this level, all accessible through its easy, understandable and even intuitive user interface.
But we’re all about the vinyl in this buyer’s guide for the best receivers for records and turntables, and in this respect the Marantz 1510 really shines. I was able to spend quite a bit of time listening to one in my friend’s house, with a Rega turntable and cartridge, in both normal and Pure Direct modes.
In normal mode the sound was strong, bold and exciting, but always with the proper scale, and with amazing clarity and detail, but with Pure Direct it was like a veil I couldn’t have possibly perceived was lifted, and there was suddenly no hi-fi anymore, just music. Pure Direct shuts off lights and unneeded analog circuitry, and you can’t really understand how much this improves all things – noise level, obviously, but also dynamics and expressiveness, detail, imaging and the warmth and musicality of the sound – until you experience it.
For the best HDMI technology, in terms of quality as well as controllability, the best picture, the best sound and the best overall movie and gaming experience possible at this somewhat pricey and, again, uber-competitive price level, the phenomenal Marantz NR1510 AV digital receiver is the best I know, and for pure analog vinyl record listening with a good turntable it is, if possible, even better, and provides a truly magical listen – highly recommended!
Best Audiophile Stereo Receiver for Turntables – Affordable Premium
- A MODERN, SLIM STEREO RECEIVER – Indulge in...
- POWER TO SUIT YOUR AUDIO PREFERENCES – The...
- FULL COMPATIBILITY WITH LATEST HDMI...
- HANDS-FREE OPERATIONS – Command your...
- EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND & USER-FRIENDLY SETUP...
- Power Output: 75 Watts a Channel
- Speaker Outputs: 2 – Stereo (no surround)
- Special Features: High Current Amplification with Dual Mono Circuitry; Smart Integration and HEOS Streaming
I’m probably going to surprise people here – including myself – with this choice.
Right to the point, my choice for best premium affordable stereo receiver for audiophiles with turntables is not the Cambridge Audio AXR100 but rather the incredibly beautiful sounding Marantz NR1200 – not just because I’ve already included one of the brilliant Cambridge Audio stereo receivers above, but also because the Marantz is just that good,
Honestly I think the Cambridge is a bit better sounding, in pure audiophile terms at least – it is a tad more open, accurate and expressive, with better natural stereo imaging and finer resolution of micro-detail – very high-level audiophile stuff, and an enormously satisfying listen.
But the Marantz also has a really lovely sound. It is not, I’m sure, nearly as accurate, as honest or as faithful to the original recordings and performances, but is possibly even prettier sounding – sweet, liquidly musical and subtly dynamic in a way that is most captivating, and with a phono section that is especially effortless and open in sound.
So ultimately I guess I’m cheating, and really recommending both – if you want the best audiophile stereo receiver for playing records, the Cambridge Audio AXR100, with its thrillingly powerful 100 watt high current amplifier and pure, discrete and high quality components and circuitry throughout, and its best-in-class audiophile sound, is the answer.
But for really sweet, beautiful sound all the time – audio, video, analog, digital, even with less than optimal records or digital music files or a less expensive turntable, but in a top-tier performer that still really does all of the hi-fi stuff right – detail, dynamics and expressivity, imaging, timing, deep bass, silky smooth highs and almost frighteningly realistic mids – the Marantz NR1200 is a beautifully made and highly capable receiver with phono stage, and has an almost addictively lovely sound.
And even though it is only a two channel amplifier, with speaker outputs for two pairs of stereo speakers and a subwoofer, the Marantz does have sophisticated digital circuitry for both audio and video and a lot of other advanced functionality – so if you also want coax and optical digital inputs and an array of HDMI ports, smart home integration, assistant compatibility, low latency for gaming, HEOS wireless streaming for multi-room setups and a lot more, the Marantz NR1200 is and easy choice, and strongly recommended on all levels.
Best Premium AV Receiver for Turntables
- UNMATCHED 3D REALISM FOR YOUR HOME THEATER...
- Enjoy high quality 3D audio and video knowing...
- NEXT GEN GAMING – Enjoy a smooth, lag-free...
- ENJOY THE MOST ADVANCED VIDEO TECHNOLOGY...
- CONNECT WITH ANY HD/ULTRA HD TV, SUBWOOFER,...
- Power Output: 105 Watts a Channel x 9
- Speaker Outputs: 9.2 – Full Nine Channel Surround
- Special Features: 8K Dynamic HDR and HDR10 plus; HEOS Multi-Room Streaming; Extensive Assistant and Smart Home Integration
Of all the recommendations in this buyer’s guide to receivers with phono stages, this last one – best premium receiver for turntables – was the most difficult.
At this top level there are so many absolutely stunning and almost absurdly advanced high tech audio video receivers, all beautifully designed and made and all as powerful, flexible and future ready (including, for example, 8K video and HD10plus) as you could hope for.
They all have advanced digital processing, state of the art multi-room wireless streaming protocols, smart home integration, assistant compatibility and voice control, and they all have absolutely stunning audio and video quality.
If you are putting together a full home cinema experience, and want the best of the best in every aspect, you can happily choose the Yamaha RX-A4A AVENTAGE, the Marantz SR5015 Ultra HD Receiver or my choice, the Denon AVR-X3700H 9.2 channel 8K AV receiver, all of which are high-tech monsters and all of which also just happen to have beautiful sounding analog phonograph circuitry and phono preamplifiers built in.
And really there is very little to choose between the three – if you prefer one multi-room protocol to another, the Marantz and the Denon use HEOS and the Yamaha uses their proprietary MusicCast system, so that might be a deciding factor. But if you want the most rugged, dependable and long-lasting product, or the best overall picture, sound and home theater/gaming/surround-sound music listening experience, it’s pretty much a wash.
So why the Denon? Well, the AVR-X3700H simply has the best sound quality for basic stereo analog record playback. I’m not sure why this is, and I may not be prepared to say that the Denon has markedly better sound in other modes, like video or surround audio, but there is clearly less coloration and more purity and honesty to the Denon’s sound with turntables.
The qualities I come to look for and expect in the highest of high-end audiophile analog playback are all present with the Denon – absolute openness and presence, effortless retrieval and presentation of even the finest and most subtle micro-details and micro-dynamics, pure phase coherence and rock-solid imaging within an appropriately scaled soundstage, no distortion and no noise and a sense of musical timing that takes listening and engagement to a whole new level.
There are many AV receivers that can offer absolutely top-tier video performance, absolutely top-tier surround sound, absolutely top-tier digital processing and absolutely top-tier technology on all fronts, and any of them would make a brilliant choice. But for top-tier analog stereo audio and true audiophile sound in the bargain, the Denon AVR-X3700H is the clear choice, and one of the finest, and finest sounding, pieces of electronic gear I’ve ever used.
One final note: silly me, I say that these receivers are at the “top level,” but of course all three of these companies make even more expensive, more powerful and more advanced models. I haven’t heard these strikingly expensive flagships, or have only for very short periods, so I don’t feel right recommending or even talking too much about them, but I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t offer at least comparable, or even better, sound, performance and usability.
Or you can just get the Denon 3700 and a ton of records!
Final Thoughts: What is the Best Turntable Receiver for You?
I have to go back to a subject I covered in the introduction, because I think it’s pretty important, and can really help you make the right decision in selecting your new stereo receiver.
And that is the choice between basic stereo receivers and audio-video receivers.
If sound quality is the most important thing, and you are really sure you won’t ever want to use this receiver for video (or at least won’t want it to do full, surround sound and advanced video signal processing) I would highly recommend the Cambridge Audio receivers above – the Cambridge AXR85 or the even more powerful Cambridge AXR100, which will give you easily the best overall sound and an especially amazing listening experience with turntables, and are designed and built to be lifetime investments.
And if sound quality and budget are the most important things, the affordable Sony STRDH190 is the best sounding stereo receiver for turntables I’ve heard at that low price.
If on the other hand you want to go into full home theater, or totally radical immersive gaming for that matter, or if you even suspect you might in the future, you can get an AV receiver that will handle all of that in the best possible way, and with the best possible quality, and still have very, very good sound quality with turntables and records – and I do believe the Yamaha TSR-700, the Marantz NR1510 and the Denon AVR-X3700H are the best going at their respective price points, and with particularly fine phono sections and analog record playback.
But if you want the ideal compromise, with absolutely ravishing purist-level audio sound (with records and everything else) and at least some advanced digital audio and video capabilities, the superb Marantz NR1200 may be the best choice – mark my words, this one’s on its way to becoming a legend!