Turntable Amplifier: The 15 Best Amps Reviewed

turntable amplifier

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There’s nothing like the wonderfully warm and musical sound you get from analog vinyl records, and having a great turntable or record player is the first step in being able to enjoy the magic.

But even if you have a decent turntable, to really hear what records are capable of you will also need a great turntable amplifier. The question is, out of the seemingly hundreds and hundreds of choices, which amplifiers are the best to use with a turntable?

So let’s take a look at the best amplifiers for turntables, with my personal selection of 15 amplifiers and amplified speakers that work especially well with turntables.

I’m going to get into some detail in this article, and have decided to include a couple of categories not found in other guides, so it’s a bit of a read. If you’re in a hurry, and want to get right to the recs, here are my top picks:

What Kind of Amplifier Works Best for Turntables?

There is no really simple answer to this question, since most amplifiers will work just fine with most turntables – there are some simple technical considerations, especially around the kind of output your turntable has (which I’ll get into in the Bonus Section at the end of the article), but even with that we’re absolutely spoiled for choices.

The thing is, you don’t want to look for and get an amplifier that sounds somehow particularly good with turntables – if an amp sounds great with records, but only so-so with digital music, movies, games or other inputs, that amplifier is somehow distorted, colored and inaccurate.

But the qualities of the best amplifiers – strong and exciting dynamic energy, flat and extended frequency response, clarity, detail, high resolution and low distortion, and a beautifully musical sound – these are the same qualities of analog records at their best, and will also make digital music files, or any other source, sound their very best.

So here we’re not really going to focus on the best turntable amps, but the best amps period at all different price levels, and ones that will definitely work beautifully with your, or any, turntable.

How Can You Find the Best Amp for Your Turntable?

Easy – just read on!

I’m going to divide this buyer’s guide into those three sections – best amplifiers for turntables, best amplified speakers for turntables and best phono preamplifiers. 

All of the amplifiers and powered speakers I recommend have built in phono preamps, and so will work beautifully with any turntable, but at the end of the article, in my Bonus Section, we’ll discuss some other options, looking more closely at certain (usually more moderately priced mid-fi) record players that don’t necessarily need a phono stage. 

I should probably warn you that the first section, listing the best integrated amps, starts out with some pretty spendy units – fun to read about, maybe, and superb products, but not realistic for some of us. So if you are a bit more budget-minded, keep scrolling down, and you will find some remarkable amps that are also remarkably affordable.

So let’s just jump right in, shall we?

The Best Amplifiers for Turntables – Recommendations and Reviews

The Best Separate Amplifiers for Turntables

The Best Integrated Amplifier for Turntables Overall

Rega Brio 50 WPC Integrated Amplifier

Rega - Brio - Integrated Amp - Black
  • Brand New Case Design
  • Re-Designed Circuit
  • Headphone Socket
  • Dimensions (D x W x H): 345mm x 216mm x 78mm

This is such an easy choice! The Rega Brio, from the company that knows more about both audiophile record playback than almost any other, is the perfect old-school amplifier, and one of the finest sounding amps on the market today.

The Brio is not an inexpensive amplifier – though there are inferior amps which cost two or three times this much – and it is not a fancy, super-tech digital processing/streaming data center. It is a very basic analog amplifier with an astonishingly minimalistic user interface and overall aesthetic.

The Rega Brio has only analog inputs and outputs – you can, of course, plug in the audio output from a digital streamer or music player, or any other digital or analog source, but the Rega Brio does not take or process any sorts of digital signals.

What the Brio does do is amplify any signal with nearly perfect fidelity – absolutely the lowest levels possible of coloration, distortion, noise, phase shift, dynamic compression or other interference. A good turntable with a good record will sound amazing – incredibly powerful and dynamic, clear and wide open, with all the detail, energy and expressiveness of the original performance and recording conveyed perfectly – and, again, nothing added. And high quality audio from any other source, analog or digital, will sound just as amazing.

Yeah, honestly I’m not sure what else to say! I’m usually going on and on about how “warm” or “musical” or some such an amplifier is, but the Rega Brio is one of those rare amps that has essentially no character of its own. It is, again, purely analog, so in addition to its overall neutrality, you can be sure this integrated will add absolutely no digital quality to your records and their glorious analog sound.

A 50 watt per channel amplifier, I could see that people might be worried that the Brio might not play loud, or really open up inefficient speakers, but nothing could be further from the truth – this is 100 total watts of high current Rega power, and I have heard the Brio push the most hard-to-drive speakers to intense volumes, without changing a bit in audio character – or, again, lack thereof.

With a truly superb analog phono stage, amazing power, neutral sound, perfect presentation of all musical cues you feed into it, an ultra-simple and ultra-intuitive user interface, an almost ridiculously heavy chassis and the best, most over-built overall craftsmanship I’ve come across in a long time (not to mention a limited lifetime warranty), this is a perfect amplifier for any analog vinyl lover.

It also has (which, of course, I absolutely love) an absolutely super headphone amplifier!

If you’re looking for the best turntable amplifier with lots of digital switching, streaming and processing functionality, look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for the best turntable amplifier period, the Rega Brio is it.

Ok, yeah, it is a bit expensive, and if you want a very, very similar experience, with less power and the tiniest bit more coloration – really, the tiniest bit – for a lot less money, I am also head-over-heels for the Rega Io integrated amp.


The Best Integrated Amplifier for Turntables – Audiophile Choice

Musical Fidelity M5si Integrated Amplifier

Musical Fidelity M5si Integrated Amplifier (Black)
  • Dual/mono internal construction on a single circuit board 150 watts-per-channel power delivery at 8 ohms
  • Excellent technical performance, Preamp output, Unconditional stability, will drive any loudspeaker
  • Asynchronous USB input with built-in DAC, Built-in MM phono preamp, Selectable Home Theater input bypasses onboard volume control
  • 4 x Line Level RCA, 1 x USB type ‘B’ connector - asynchronous data stream at up to 24-bit/96kHz
  • 1 x MM phono input, Trigger in, Trigger out Fixed, line level output Variable, preamp output

So why, if the Rega Brio is so close to that audiophile dream of absolute sonic neutrality, would I choose anything else as the best audiophile amplifier for turntables? Why wouldn’t I just recommend the Brio, or the even more powerful, and if possible even more neutral Rega Elex-R?

Well, I definitely could, and maybe should, but I’ve spent too much time with the Musical Fidelity M5si, gone too deeply into its enormously seductive, insanely beautiful sonic reality, to be able to consider anything else a better choice.

Yes, I know, I just went on and on about how the Rega is so neutral, doesn’t add anything of its own, and how this is the audiophile dream, and now I’m waxing poetic about the Musical Fidelity’s seductive, beautiful character?

The thing is, the seductiveness, the beauty, the real power and excellence of the Musical Fidelity M5si – and I do think it is the best integrated amp I’ve ever heard – is not in its musical character, or its sound, or anything like that. If anything, the M5si is even more neutral than the Rega Brio.

It is the best amplifier, and the most alluring, because it is completely unrestricted. Regardless of how much energy the original recording has, that full amount of energy is there in playback. No matter how wide, deep and high the soundstage, how precise and realistic the imaging of the original, that is all allowed to appear completely, perfectly and without any limitation whatsoever.

Not only is nothing added, but absolutely – really, as close to absolutely as I’ve heard this side of 5 figures – nothing is taken away, nothing is held back.

Again, I can’t really talk about the sonic signature of the Musical Fidelity M5si, because there isn’t any discernible sonic signature at all. I can say that the dual mono amplifier, conservatively rated at 150 watts per channel, will push even the most stubborn high-end speakers to blazing glory, and still have so much reserve. And again, without holding back in any way – either in dynamic power or any other aspect of sound reproduction.

The M5si has a pure analog phono preamplifier that is as great as everything else in this amplifier, and clearly the match of even the finest outboard preamps on the market. There is also a basic async USB input and a superlative DAC (digital to analog converter), and other than that just several analog inputs, all with the same gloriously unrestricted and ultimately expressive sound.

I am a Rega man, and a big part of me wants to say again here how great the Rega Brio, Elix-R and even the little Io are, but if I’m honest I like the Musical Fidelity M5si better – of the small handful of times when I felt like I was as close to the music and the musicians as it is possible to get, at least a few of them were with this extraordinary amplifier – and, I should add, with records.


The Best Integrated Amplifier for Turntables – High Power

Yamaha A-S1200SL Integrated Amplifier

Yamaha A-S1200SL Integrated Amplifier (Silver)
  • High Quality Components delivering exceptional musical expression
  • Toroidal power transformer with enormous energy for a pure musical sound
  • Gorgeous level meters convey dynamics and music pulse with a nod to the nostalgic Hi-Fi era
  • Floating Balanced Power Amplifier
  • Mechanical ground concept maximizes rigidity for expressive and rhythmic bass

The clear trend so far, and also with the less expensive integrated amplifiers which follow, is for amps that have as little sound of their own as possible. I, for one, when I’m listening to LP albums, want that gloriously warm, rich and dynamic analog sound to come through as it is – and despite its monstrous stature, the Yamaha A-S1200SL is one of the best examples of this honest and uncolored approach.

And sometimes I want that sound to be really, really loud. Most of the choices on this list of best amps for phonographs can play pretty much any speaker on the market really, really loud, but there are some highly inefficient speakers out there which require tons of power to come alive, and this massive Yamaha is just the ticket.

In fact, even some much more efficient speakers will benefit immensely from such a killer amplifier, which can have an ease and a dynamic/emotional expressiveness at any and all volumes that smaller amps don’t quite get.

The Yamaha A-S1200SL is an extraordinarily powerful amplifier – and not just in rated power, either. Big, immensely efficient power supplies, tons of current and pure, uncluttered circuitry, among many other things, mean an enormous supply of speaker-driving power. And while lots of other amps can claim at least similar amounts of power, the (admittedly hyper-expensive) A-S1200SL is unmatched in its ability to deliver this monumental flow of current with such finesse, such ease and accuracy.

There is probably no speaker in the world today that can’t be driven by the Yamaha A-S1200SL, and driven to ridiculously high levels without any strain, grain or harshness. In fact, the A-S1200SL is much less stressful at full volume than many premium amps I know playing at moderate levels.

And this is as true, in my experience, with the auxiliary line-level inputs on this purely analog amplifier (the A-S1200SL has no digital signal paths or processing whatsoever) as it is with the superb phono stage – which, by the way, is compatible with both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges.

The Yamaha is not as wholly neutral as some of the other premium amps on this list – it does have a bit of a bright, highly etched character, and a very slight, and very pleasant, boost to the awesomely fast, dynamic and deeply extended bass. But even the prominent and crystal clear highs can be heard really loud without a touch of discomfort or fatigue, and always sound sweet and pure.

Fantastic dynamic expressivity, from the softest to the loudest passages, combines so well with a nearly perfect phase coherence, exceptional retrieval of even the smallest and most subtle of details and an uncanny sense of timing, and it all comes together to form an almost overwhelmingly alive musical picture – and one that is, at times, fully overwhelming in terms of sheer power.

For pure neutrality, the less expensive Rega and Musical Fidelity amps are a shade better, but the Yamaha A-S1200SL is at the same level, and for pure musical excitement and energy nothing even comes close.


The Best Integrated Amplifier for Turntables – MId-Range

Denon PMA-800NE Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Denon PMA-800NE Stereo Integrated Amplifier | Up to 85W x 2 Channels | Built-In Phono Pre-Amp |...
  • A SLIM SENSATIONAL INTEGRATED AMP – Enclosed in a vibration resistant design, the PMA-800NE powers the widest range of speakers (50W in 8...
  • LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE SONGS WITH IMPECCABLE PRECISION – Powered by the Denon Advanced High Current (AHC) single push-pull circuit power...
  • EXTENSIVE CONNECTION POSSIBILITIES FOR A COMPLETE HOME THEATER – Features 4 Digital, 4 RCA & 1 phono inputs for connecting various audio...
  • VINYL FANS ENJOY PURE ANALOG – Connect your audio sources and speakers via the RCA inputs with the Analog Mode button that disengages the...
  • SOUND DIRECT CONTROL – Equipped with TONAL BALANCE CONTROLS for better deeper bass and treble harmony on the front panel, this Integrated...

A really advanced digital processing integrated amplifier, with a wide range of digital audio and video inputs, the Denon PMA-800NE does something decidedly more basic and old-school, which makes it the perfect amplifier for our purposes – it completely bypasses all of that digital business, and allows you to play your vinyl records through a fully and purely analog signal path.

And what a signal path it is – with high current amplification, enormous power supplies, simple and direct pathways, superior noise and interference filtering and superior quality components throughout – not to mention Denon’s unparalleled experience in leading edge high end audio engineering – the sound is gloriously clean, clear and detailed, focused and fully formed, and incredibly effortless.

In fact, my second impression when listening to the Denon PMA-800NE was that I couldn’t believe this was an amplifier that costs less than a thousand dollars – way less, in fact. And it shouldn’t go without saying that my first impression was the music itself.

The onboard digital conversion and processing circuitry is equally impressive, and even digital music files have something of that realism and musicality of analog recordings, as well as the same kinds of accuracy, detail and dynamic power.

And so if you listen to and love both analog and digital music, you will have an equally superb listening experience with either or both using the Denon PMA-800NE. But even as a choice for just analog turntable playback this is an extraordinary value – an actual audiophile product at an affordable price, and one with that legendary Denon material and build quality and long term reliability – very highly recommended! 


The Best Integrated Amplifier for Turntables – Budget

Yamaha A-S301 Natural Sound Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Sale
Yamaha A-S301BL Natural Sound Integrated Stereo Amplifier (Black)
  • Package Weight : 21.0 Lbs
  • Digital Coax And To Slink Optical Input
  • Analog Inputs Including Phone
  • Speakers A, B, A plus B With Subwoofer Output

You may have noticed that the amplifiers in this buyer’s guide to the best amps for turntables are a little pricier than you might find in some of the other Speakergy articles and guides, and this is largely due to the superb musical quality you can get from vinyl records, and my desire to find amplifiers that really carry that through to the listener.

And even my budget choice is not a cheap amplifier – the Yamaha A-S301 is not expensive, and is in fact a brilliant value considering not just its sound but also its functionality, fit, finish, overall quality and reliability, but it is also not bargain-basement inexpensive.

But for your money you do get that legendary Yamaha quality, and incredibly clean, clear, honest sound that approaches some of the much, much, much more expensive amps on this list.

The Yamaha A-S301 is rated very conservatively at 60 watts per channel, and you have to understand that this high current power, coming from a big and highly efficient power supply, is not really comparable to other 60 watt amps, but actually provides a kind of unrestrained power that allows for not just massive volume but ultimate dynamic energy and expressiveness at any level.

Similarly excellent, and similarly conservatively rated, are the super-low levels of noise and distortion, and the A-S301 has an overall phase accuracy which comes together with all the other levels of accuracy to present a fully believable and enormously engaging listening experience.

This is as true of digital signals as it is of records played through the fully analog phono stage, and yet the quality of vinyl records combined with the quality of the audio circuits and sound of the Yamaha A-S301 do seem to come together to achieve an even higher level of musicality and persuasiveness. Also especially beautiful and persuasive is the A-S301’s surprisingly excellent headphone amplifier.

A truly premium amplifier in every  sense of the word, which is beautiful sounding, affordable and built to last, the Yamaha A-S301 is the best budget integrated amplifier I’ve ever found for turntables and records – honestly, you can’t pay a lot less and still get an even decent phono stage, but you can definitely pay a lot more, and end up with an amp nowhere close to this.


The Best Powered Speakers for Turntables

This section is going to be easy – I have tried a lot of different Bluetooth wireless powered speakers, and in particular I’ve tried most of the few that have built in phono preamplifiers, and the only ones I have heard that have truly satisfying sound are made by Klipsch.

And yet, even if they are the only choices, these two active speakers are in absolutely no way a compromise – on the contrary, they both present a big, coherent, and fully immersive stereo soundstage, remarkable resolution and clarity, real dynamic power and excitement, surprisingly extended, flat and neutral frequency response, and an overall sound that is warm, rich and highly musical.

Best Active Speakers for Turntables – Budget

Klipsch R-15PM Powered Monitor

Sale
Klipsch R-15PM Powered Monitor - Black (Pair)
  • The R-15PM powered monitors deliver room-filling sound without taking up much space
  • 1 x pair of RCA phono level inputs with switch for Phono/Line input versatility (Phono Pre-amp with ground screw terminal)
  • 1 x USB digital audio from a PC or Mac single RCA line level output for connection to sub.
  • 1 x Digital optical, 1 x 3.5mm mini jack line level, Full featured IR remote. Bluetooth wireless technology

The less expensive Klipsch R-15PM Bluetooth wireless speakers absolutely amazed me with their deep and impactful bass, the clarity and ease of their nicely extended highs, and the palpable presence of vocals.

They are very exciting to listen to, but never feel “too much,” and in fact have a quite relaxed quality as well. This is helped by the total lack of noticeable glare or distortion, which makes listening sweet and easy, and is as apparent with any kinds of inputs – phono, line level and wireless.

But as good as the overall listening experience was, I kept coming back to that bass – I wouldn’t really say the R-15PM are “too” bassy, but they definitely have a dramatic increase in low bass – not so much as to overwhelm the rest of the musical picture, or to scare away classical, jazz or acoustic music lovers, but they are very nicely warm, and can really pound with pop music and electronica.

The Klipsch R-15PM are an amazing value, and the least expensive way I know to hear your phonograph and records in all their analog glory – quite accurate for this type of system, but with a very pleasing musical signature that should appeal to almost anybody, and that sounds especially good with vinyl.


Best Active Speakers for Turntables – Premium

Klipsch The Sixes Powered Monitor

Klipsch The Sixes Powered Monitor – Walnut Veneer (Pair)
  • 1” titanium-loaded tweeters with tractrix horns
  • 6.5” woofers with a ported enclosure
  • 1 x pair of RCA phono level inputs with switch for phono/line input versatility (phono Pre-Amp with ground screw terminal)
  • Bluetooth wireless technology

As good as the R-15PM are, the Klipsch The Sixes are that much better, with an authority, an ease and a beauty of sound that distance them a bit from their similarly excellent little brothers, and puts them in a different league from other powered speakers at this price point.

I’m going to be clear here – I absolutely love Bose, JBL and other premium powered Bluetooth speakers, but even without considering the fact that they don’t have phono stages, there is something about the sound of the Sixes that is just more beautiful – more clear and accurate, far more effortless and more genuinely musical.

The Sixes will play very loud, and at all volumes have a dynamic energy that is exciting and expressive, but never too much, and always appropriate to, and in service of, the music. They too have a pretty strong bass rise, but it works so well for these bigger speakers, and overall they have tremendous impact.

Clear, detailed, accurate and wonderfully low distortion sound, similar to what you would find in separate components and premium audiophile speakers, make the Klipsch The Sixes one of the most impressive and beautifully musical Bluetooth audiophile speakers on the market today. The legendary Klipsch material and build quality, a premium fit and finish, and especially the inclusion of a superb phono preamplifier, push them over the top, and earn them my top recommendation – the best powered speakers for turntables you can get!


The Best Phono Preamplifiers for Turntables (though what else would they be for?)

This isn’t the real focus of this article, and really phono preamplifiers deserve their own buyer’s guide – indeed, any one of the five below deserve their own full review.

Still, I reckon that some people who search the internet for help in finding the best amplifier for their turntable are actually looking for the best preamplifier for their turntable, and so I would like to say a very few brief words about a few of my favorites.

Best Phono Preamp for Turntables – Budget

Fluance PA10 High Fidelity Phono Preamp

Fluance PA10 High Fidelity Phono Preamp (Preamplifier) with RIAA Equalization for MM...
  • UNCOMPROMISED PHONO AMPLIFICATION AND EQUALIZATION - Precisely converts the turntable phono signal to line level, featuring an ultra...
  • SOPHISTICATED CIRCUIT DESIGN ENGINEERED WITH PREMIUM COMPONENTS - High accuracy components, low noise power supply, and low impedance output...
  • VIVID STEREO SOUNDSTAGE - Utilizing individual left and right channel OP amps provide optimal channel separation and virtually no crosstalk...
  • LOW FREQUENCY RUMBLE FILTERING - This selectable high pass filter rolls off the low end frequencies below 20Hz. This slow gentle roll off is...
  • PROTECTED FROM ANY ELECTRONIC INTERFERENCE - Internal metal shielding enclosure to block electro-magnetic interference and electronic noise

I’m going to give a couple of recommendations for the best mid-range and best expensive phono preamps, but at the super-affordable budget level there is one product that is so clearly superior, so very impressive, that we can start and stop right there.

The Fluance PA10 phono preamplifier is becoming one of those very few truly legendary audiophile products that really touch the hearts of music lovers and hi-fi enthusiasts, and remain on their minds sometimes for decades.

With an unforced and musical quality overall, apparently unlimited and unrestrained dynamic energy, amazing phase coherence and presentation of music in time and space, extended frequency response and amazingly accurate tonality, and extremely low levels of noise, distortion and interference, the Fluance PA10 is neutral, honest and transparent, and far and away the best budget phono preamplifier on the market today.


Best Phono Preamp for Turntables – Mid-Priced

Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 Phono Preamplifier

Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 Phono Preamplifier (Black)
  • Suitable for MM and MC cartridges
  • Precise RIAA equalization in two parts, passive/active
  • Fully discreet circuit design without OpAmps
  • 2x ECC83 tubes (replaceable)
  • Front-sided Subsonic filter button

Pro-Ject make some of the finest affordable turntables going, and they also produce one of the sweetest sounding phono preamplifiers on the market – and here I’m intentionally not saying “one of the sweetest sounding affordable phono preamplifiers” because the Tube Box S2 has a more charming and musical sound than many much more expensive top-level preamps I’ve heard.

Offering both moving magnet and moving coil compatibility, the Pro-Ject is also quite fast and detailed for a tube amplifier, with excellent transients and superior resolution of all levels of detail. Dynamic, expressive and both powerful and subtle in equal measures, the Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 is a brilliant audiophile preamplifier for a low price.

Rega Fono Moving Magnet MK4 Phono Stage

The Rega Fono is not nearly as impressive – which in my mind makes it an even better phono preamplifier. While the Tube Box S2 is sweet in that wonderful tube-amp way, the Fono has a neutrality that allows it to essentially disappear, letting the full dynamics, detail, expressiveness and glorious musicality of records played on a good turntable come through perfectly.

As resolving as the Pro-ject is, the Rega Fono is far more so, and is more coherent in phase, more powerful and dynamic, and more accurate and neutral on pretty much every level. It is available in a moving magnet version (the link above) or can also be purchased as a pure moving coil Phono preamplifier – the Rega Fono Moving Coil MK4.

Don’t get me wrong – we are talking about the two best mid-range phono preamps I’ve ever heard, and many people would strongly prefer the warm, musical tube sound of the Pro-Ject Tube Box S2. For absolute accuracy, though, and a product that takes you closer to the music itself, the Fono is untouchable at this price level, and gets my most enthusiastic recommendation – in fact, all things considered (including price), I’m prepared to call the Rega Fono the best phono preamplifier overall.


Best Phono Preamp for Turntables – Premium / Audiophile

Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista Vinyl Phono Stage Preamplifier (Silver)

Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista Vinyl Phono Stage Preamplifier (Silver)
  • Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista Vinyl Phono Stage Preamplifier (Silver)

The Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista is an enormously impressive phono preamplifier, with such an unassertive and wholly transparent quality that it will allow literally any turntable on the planet to reveal its true nature – from meh to magnificent.

More importantly, I don’t believe I have ever auditioned another phono preamplifier which conveyed – or, again, allowed – so much of the information on vinyl records to come through than does this superb nuvistor tube unit.

With bottomless bass, beautifully extended, detailed and naturally sweet high frequencies, wholly accurate and realistic mids that are also astonishingly detailed, and an essentially perfectly flat frequency response from subsonic to supersonic, as well as wholly relaxed and effortless dynamics, perfectly proportioned and precise imaging and the highest resolution of detail I’ve ever heard, the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista may be the finest phono preamplifier made today.


Rega Aria V2 Flagship MM/MC FET Phono Preamplifier

Rega Aria V2 Flagship MM/MC FET Phono Preamplifier
  • Housed within our latest half width custom designed case to give it a fresh new look and match the range are two entirely separate, high...
  • The Aria is an "all analogue amplifier" with no digital control circuitry. The fully aluminium case screens the internal circuit from any...
  • Both stages have their own separate input sockets and input pre-amplifier circuitry. This enabled us to design bespoke input circuitry for...
  • The MC input uses parallel connected, low noise FET's (Field Effect Transistor's) configured as a compound pair. The use of FET transistors...
  • The MM input uses low noise, bipolar input transistors also configured as a compound pair. There are two separate power supplies for each...

So if the Nu-Vista is the best phono preamplifier on the planet, or at least in very strong contention, why even bother with the Rega Aria? Simple, because it is well under half the price of the Musical Fidelity, and the Aria can also be said to be in contention for the best phono preamplifier currently made.

Perhaps not as ultimately effortless as the Nu-Vista, the Rega Aria V2 is nonetheless one of the fastest and most dynamic of all preamplifiers, with a reference level transparency and accuracy – in fact, while the best-ever nuvistor tubes give the Musical Fidelity the tiniest bit of romantic warmth, the Rega Aria is unbelievably neutral.

An extraordinarily over-built and over-engineered masterpiece, the Rega Aria has two completely separate preamplifiers in one highly shielded and acoustically inert chassis – one for moving magnet and one for moving coil. I have only heard the moving magnet circuitry, but can happily report that nothing in this admittedly high price level even comes close – even without the MC side, this is one of the very best values in the high end audiophile market.

If you are in the market for the very best phono preamplifier available, the breathtaking Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista should certainly be on your short list, but if you are in the market for the very best phono preamplifier available, and would like to have enough money left to purchase approximately 40 new audiophile LPs (or maybe groceries for a few months), I can’t possibly recommend the Rega Aria V2 strongly enough.

Conclusion: What Kind of Amp Do You Need for Your Turntable?

All of the products in this buyer’s guide for best vinyl amplifier have a built in phono preamplifier and corresponding input jacks, but certain turntables don’t need this, since they may also have a line level output in addition to the much lower level phono output.

Now it’s my opinion that the best sound always comes from that low level phono output – and it seems to be, and always have been, the consensus of audiophiles and hi-fi enthusiasts as well. But you may nonetheless want to see if your record player has those higher level line outputs. 

If so, you might be able to get away with using an amplifier you already have, or decide to get one of the popular audio-visual units out there – which often have a gazillion digital audio and video inputs, but not a single one for a phonograph. Again, it might not have quite as good of sound, but it might be a lot more versatile and appropriate for your own usage.

So I thought it would be nice to close this article with a closer look at the types of phono outputs a record player might have, to see if you might have more options for your new amplifier.

Phono Output

This has been the standard output for turntables for many decades. It is a very low level output – the small current generated by the phono cartridge itself – and is in fact so low that it needs to be “preamplified” before many amplifiers, stereo systems or powered speakers can use it.

If your turntable has a phono output, you will need an amp, receiver or powered speaker that has a phono input (that is, one that has its own built-in phono preamp) – or you will need a separate outboard phono preamplifier – and again, any of my recommendations above will be just the thing.

Line / Auxiliary Output

This is the standard output for pretty much all other types of audio devices, and is much stronger – around .3 volts, as opposed to a phono output’s typical .0005 volts.

If your turntable has a line output, also called an auxiliary output, this means that the turntable has a built-in phono preamplifier. This also means that you can plug this turntable into pretty much any kind of amplifier, stereo, active speaker or other audio system, as long as the amp or system has an auxiliary / line input.

Both Phono and Line Outputs

Many turntables and record players these days will have both levels of output, giving you the greatest flexibility. As a general rule, if your amp or system has both phono and line inputs, using your phonograph’s phono output might lead to the best sound. This depends on the gear, though, and if it’s possible you should probably try both and compare.

Just remember to plug the phono output into the phono input, and the aux / line output ONLY into the auxiliary input – this higher level signal may damage the more sensitive phono input circuitry.

In order to determine what level / type of output(s) your turntable has, you can check the owner’s manual or the company’s online support page, or you may simply be able to see on the turntable itself.

  • If the words “phono out” are printed there, as you may have already guessed, your turntable has a phono level output.
  • If the words “line out” “aux out” or “auxiliary out” are printed there, your turntable has a line level output.
  • If there is a switch indicating a choice between line/aux and phono outputs, or if you have two sets of output cables, you have both line and phono level outputs.
  • If there is nothing printed there, only the cables themselves, your turntable almost certainly has only phono output.

And again, if you have a turntable with a phono output only, you will need an amp with a built-in phono preamplifier and dedicated phono input, like the units I’ve recommended here. If your ‘table also has line outputs, it itself has a built in phono preamplifier and you can hook it up to pretty much any amplifier, though the preamp that’s included is almost certainly not as good as one found in a better quality amp, and so you may not get the very best sound possible.


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