Why Do AV Receivers Lack Phono Preamps?

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Q I’ve noticed that almost every low/mid-priced (under $700) AVR that Sound&Vision has reviewed recently lacks a phono input. With the recent resurgence of LPs, it’s annoying to think that one would have to spend more money to hook up an external phono preamp when in the old days every receiver had one.

I know that HDMI and wireless inputs are all the rage, but don’t want to spend $500 on a receiver plus another $50-150 for a phono preamp, just to listen to my LPs. Are there any reasonably priced AVRs available that have a built-in phono preamp, or should I bite the bullet and buy an external phono preamp for my current receiver? If the answer is the latter, could you suggest a good model for under $100? —Tim Marlow

A I’d guess that the continuing omission of phono preamp inputs on AV receivers has to do with scale of the “vinyl resurgence.” While undoubtedly a trend, it’s possibly not huge enough to have an impact the product design roadmap of major AV receiver manufacturers. Just sayin’.

There is one affordable receiver we recently reviewed that I can suggest: Onkyo’s TX-NR636 ($700 list, but sells for around $500). This model features a phono input in addition to other bells and whistles including built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Dolby Atmos processing. And the TX-NR636’s just-released successor, the TX-NR646 ($700 list), also packs a phono input.

If you’d prefer to go the external phono preamp route, I’d suggest either the Music Hall Mini MM or the Pro-Ject Phono Box MM. Both models are made by reputable turntable makers and sell for less than $100 on Amazon.com.

Billy's picture

I picked up one there for 35 bucks that just blows me away. It was in their pro line area, what DJs might use on stage. I have a fairly decent Onkyo 1K+ receiver, high end speakers, and the best Puioneer turntable made back in the day with an awesome cartridge. I am no newbie and I tell ya, it rocks. The Onkyo has its own pre amp for the phono, but I much prefer this one.

K.Reid's picture

Tim, go to www.musicdirect.com.
Click on the analog tab and you will see a selection for phono preamp. Just about any external phono preamp will be way better quality than that housed Ina budget priced AV Receiver. If you have the budget, get one that can accommodate MC and MM cartridges with adjustable impedance and capacitance. Most AVRs only account for moving magnet, not moving coil cartridges. This will be useful if you upgrade your cartridge down the road. Right now, Music Direct is having a sale on the Project Phono Box DS.

kimi's picture

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