Do I Need a Receiver with a Phono Input to Play Records?

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Q I need to replace an old receiver that has a phono input for my turntable. Do I need to get another receiver with a phono input, or can I just use the receiver’s Tape or Aux inputs instead?—David L. Waller 

A If you want to continue listening to records, then yes, you will need to buy another receiver with a phono input. The Tape and Aux inputs on receivers are intended for sources that output a line-level signal. But the phono cartridge on your turntable’s tonearm outputs a low-level signal that first needs to be boosted to line level (and also undergo equalization to reverse the RIAA curve that gets applied to recordings cut on vinyl) by a phono stage before it is amplified.

Fortunately, plenty of manufacturers still make receivers with a built-in phono stages. You can find surround sound models from Onkyo, Denon, Marantz, Yamaha, and Sony, and stereo-only ones from Onkyo, Marantz, Yamaha, Harman Kardon, and Cambridge Audio.

Yet another option would be to buy an outboard phono preamp. You can score a decent model for as low as $150 from NAD, Cambridge Audio, or Pro-Ject. Just plug your turntable in, connect the preamp’s output to the Aux, Tape or any other analog stereo input on the receiver, and you’ll be in business.

mrpaul's picture

You also have the choice of Pioneer Elite receivers, many of which have phono inputs on top models. End of model year now means you might get a bargain on 2014 models still in inventory.

K.Reid's picture

David, I strongly recommend you get an outboard phono preamp. I have had wonderful success with the Vincent PHO-8. Excellent build quality with a separate power supply and great price. Al did not mention that most receivers have cheap phono inputs that do not take both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. Most decent outboard phono preamps do. The Music Fidelity V-90-LPS is another nice option as well. Go to for some other choices. Good hunting.