Phono preamp products provide crystal clear amplification

The delight many music fans derive from playing vinyl is a unique sort of joy only heightened by the heady nostalgia induced by the record. From the now almost obsolete form of art created for their large format album covers, to the unsurpassable experience of hearing the needle touch down onto the record’s black grooves, vinyl had much to offer in its golden era that the cassette tape, CD and MP3 largely failed – and still struggle – to contend with. What is frightening for some audiophiles then is the idea that they may no longer be able to listen to their vinyl; that their record collections might one day become mere relics of a lost musical past. Luckily, such fears can be dispelled as unfounded for those ready to buy the appropriate audio equipment: phono stage set-ups. These, along with phono preamp products and phono amp innovations, are allowing audiences to listen afresh to tunes they might have thought consigned to dusty shelves.

Indeed, listeners can dust their record collections off right now; the phono stage is a highly specialized piece of technology that ensures amplification of vinyl is of the highest quality before the sound reaches the speakers. If quality is not established at this early stage the sound received will be ill-defined, perhaps echoing or even fuzzy – stopped from arriving at the crystal-clear quality well-trained ears truly deserve. The phono stage is also known by some as the phono preamp or phono amp so these three terms should all be kept in mind by those contemplating making such a vinyl-based investment.

Investment is in fact a fundamental word here: phono stage set-ups, phono preamp products and phono amp innovations are not cheap when sought in their best quality versions. But, fortunately, such investments will last for life and can give pleasure in so many diverse settings – from the dancefloor during a DJ set for those in the music industry, to the living room or bedroom of those who represent the more private vinyl connoisseur. Altogether, it is advisable to make precision of sound a priority. Otherwise, all the tantalising memories evoked above will be relived, but poorly; as mere shadows and sonorous spectres of their once vibrant and original vinyl versions. Good quality phono amp use thus presents itself as a key both to the future and the past – the future of record playing looks bright and promising at the same time as it offers an evocation of our pop-cultural past.

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How to inspect your system for a phono amp

Technology has progressed a lot since the old era of vinyl. The digital age means that not only is sound quality different (not necessarily better, though – a lot of people find digital sound too sanitised for their tastes) but the spec of the hardware used to play it have also changed. If you’re using a modern stereo system but still want to play vinyl off a turntable through it, there’s a strong chance you will need to invest in a phono stage (also known as a phono preamp or sometimes a phono amp) before you can get a signal worth putting through your speakers.

The snag is that the output from turntables tends to be a fraction of the output from current digital sources like MP3 and CD players. Thus, if you hook a record player – made for an amplifier/speaker set built to comparable specifications – up to your 21st century stereo system, the chances are that you won’t get a signal strong enough to give you any kind of decent playback quality. At best, you will have to turn the volume right up to be able to hear anything – meaning that you will also receive a disappointing amount of static and crackle, too.

A phono stage fixes this problem by amplifying the signal from the turntable and producing something that will function as an input to your stereo. Very few modern stereos have these phono amps built in – there is no need, as fairly few people still listen to vinyl. Check the back of your amp – there will likely be a range of inputs for different sources. If you’ve got one there marked ‘phono’ or ‘record player’ you’re probably fine. If not, then you’re going to need something to adapt the signal before you can plug it into one of the other inputs – the signal will now work in the ‘CD’, ‘video’ or other plug.

If you’ve forked out a decent amount of money on a stereo and a turntable for your old vinyl (or new, if you’re a current collector), then it’s also worth spending a reasonable sum on a good phono stage. A basic phono preamp will boost the signal to the right level, but if you want sound quality to match the quality of your existing equipment, then it’s best not to bargain-hunt. Purchase a good phono amp too, or you will find that this component is the weak link in your system.

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