Unless you like listening to your favorite song at lower levels than intended, or like the sound of distortion interfering with it. Most people don’t though, and that’s where having a quality phono preamp can come in handy, to say the least. You might be wondering why you would buy a separate phono preamp when most turntables have them built-in automatically. The truth is that the built-in phono preamps are usually of a lower quality than one you would buy separately.
This is the reason why many audio geeks rely upon a higher level of customization when it comes to their turntable that they rely on to play their vinyl. Now that we’ve got the technicalities out of the way, which one made it to the top of our list and proved that it can outperform its competition?
It’s none other than the Pro-Ject Phono Box (MM/DC). While it might not be the cheapest one that you can get your hands on, it’s one of the most capable of them all. Not to mention, it has seen a lot of success when it comes to performing for those who decide to add it to their turntable.
Don’t worry, if you’re the type that likes the finer details, we’ve got you covered. Just continue reading to discover more about the best budget phono preamps available today.
Turntable Preamps Under $100 We Recommend
|Image||Phono Preamp Under $100||Connections|
$139.78 at Amazon
|RCA Inputs 1 Pair
RCA Outputs 1 Pair
|$99.99 at Amazon||Analog Input Connections RCA (preamp / phono/line output)
Analog Output Connection RCA (preamp line output)
|$79.00 at Amazon||RCA Inputs 1 Pair
RCA Outputs 1 Pair
|$19.00 at Amazon||Analog Inputs: 1 x stereo RCA
Analog Outputs: 1 x stereo RCA, 1 x 1/4"
Pro-Ject Audio – Phono Box DC – MM/MC
What’s good: Great clarity. Direct signal passthrough. Distortion is minimal.
Not so good: One of the most basic of its kind, but still functional for simple setups.
This is a more “toned down” version of the preamp that earned its right to be our top pick for the best preamplifiers under a hundred bucks. If you’re looking for a quick solution that can produce you with basic functionality, this is one of the better choices.
You could also use it as a passthrough before any other preamplifiers which is what a lot of people do. It offers a clean and clear direct passthrough to the preamp or any other piece of audio equipment that follows it within the setup.
When you look at this option in comparison to some of the higher-ranked products, it’s pretty limited when it comes to its price point which is the same as the Pro-Ject Audio preamp that earned the top spot on this page. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad deal by any means, but it might be most useful in combination with another preamp to give you the most out of your turntable.
Pro-Ject Phono Box MM DC Phonograph
What’s good: Affordable, yet still a quality product. Compact design saves as much space as possible.
Not so good: If you turn up your receiver too high, you might hear a buzz from the speakers. This is meant to be an entry-level solution.
Whether you’re using an MM cartridge or an MC cartridge, this phono preamp can provide you with the boost you need to turn up your audio experience. No larger than a deck of cards, it’s an affordable turntable preamplifier that sounds good in comparison to its competitors.
As far as how you can hook it up, you just use the line stage input to connect it to your turntable. You can even use a headphone amplifier to listen to your tunes privately instead of on the speakers that you’ve got hooked up to your turntable.
In terms of background noise, it’s quite minimal and you receive a decent quality (especially considering its low price point). The maximum output is 9.5V RMS/1kHz for those who like to get down to the nitty-gritty of the technical details.
As for its track record, it’s one of the highest-rated phono preamps at the time that this review was written. While it might not be as intense for the models that you’d spend well over $100 for, it’s a great option for those who want the most out of their turntable at a price that they can afford.
ART USB Phono Plus
What’s good: Digital i/o output which makes it great for the modern age. Easily rip vinyl to your desktop or laptop. The very functional preamp in comparison to others for less than $100.
Not so good: A lower level of bass than more expensive models. The only analog monitor output is via the headphone jack itself.
For those who want to make it as easy as possible to connect their turntable to a computer or laptop, the ART USB Phono Plus is the obvious choice. This is especially great for those who are wanting to transfer their favorite vinyl to their computer.
At the time this review was written, you could get your hands on this model for around a hundred bucks which makes it more expensive than some of the other models that we’ve reviewed here. However, it’s very capable of delivering on levels that some amplifiers couldn’t.
One thing that I noticed on my first look at this preamplifier is that it was designed with audiophiles at top of mind. The reason that I say this is that it’s one of the busiest interfaces among these types of turntable amplifiers. However, it lets you fine-tune your audio to the perfect levels with its option to control input, filter, and gain.
As far as its inputs, you’ll see that they have included a three-way toggle switch (in which you can select the monitor choice you’d like), headphone jack, and a small dial that lets you control the output. This means that regardless of what you’re looking to achieve, it can most likely be done with the ART USB Phono Plus.
Behringer Microphono PP400 Turntable Preamp
What’s good: 3 Year Warranty (Conditions Apply). Easy Setup.
Not so good: It doesn’t work with headphones even though some claim it does.
This is one of the most affordable solutions to our list of the top phono preamplifiers, but does it perform as well as the more expensive options? Let’s see, shall we?
If you’re expecting one of the highest quality listening experiences, you might be disappointed with the results that it produces. However, for an entry-level phono preamp at one of the cheapest prices on the market, it’s decent.
This is a universal preamp that works with all types of magnetic pickups, which is great considering that it makes it more versatile. For a simple solution to boost the turntable signals before it reaches your home entertainment system, mixer, or other pieces of audio equipment, that’s exactly what this Behringer product can deliver.
However, if you’re looking for something that will do the most for your turntable, there are other options that I’ve reviewed here that are much better. For most this is adequate, but for those who have a love for sound (a.k.a. audiophiles), it’ll be quite easy to tell the difference.
Pluto Phono Preamp by U-Turn Audio
What’s good: 3 Year Warranty. One of the most elegant phono preamps.
Not so good: Lacks a punch that you’d see with higher-end models.
The first thing that I noticed about the Pluto Phono Preamp is that it comes at a price that sits right under a hundred bucks, just like our top pick. With a decent impression right out of the gate, it’s time to see if it performs as well as the others or if it’s a waste of money.
While the price caught my attention, something else caught my attention even more. That’s its stainless-steel enclosure which gives it a rather elegant appearance in comparison to competing products. It also helps prevent interference, which is a common problem with cheap preamps that don’t have a high-quality enclosure like this one.
When it comes to eliminating low-frequency noise, it does so by using a subsonic filter. Also, it’s constructed of precision resistors and WIMA film capacitors which provides its users with a high level of clarity and great amplification capabilities.
ROLLS Phono Preamp VP29
What’s good: Straightforward design for a basic preamp solution. Decent levels of clarity and noise for a budget preamp.
Not so good: Doesn’t perform as well as some preamplifiers within the same price range. Tweaking certain audio levels require the assistance of computer software.
Finally, we have the ROLLS Phono Preamp which comes at an average price. It’s not the most expensive in this category but it’s also not the cheapest. This could turn out to be a good thing provided that the level of functionality is adequate and able to perform just as well as some of the others.
Not only does it provide the right RIAA curve for most purposes, but it’s also quieter than some of the preamps on the market today. At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a basic solution so you can’t expect to get the most out of this preamp.
You might have to use software to tweak audio levels to your liking, but for the most part, the basic setup works in most situations. The most popular time that this must be done is when you’re using Sonos with it. Overall, it’s a decent solution but at the same time, I feel that they’ve could’ve done better since a lot of the other preamps have been able to do so while staying in the same price range.
PYLE-PRO PP444 Ultra-Compact Turntable Preamp
What’s good: Budget
Not so good: May not last a long time
At this price, it may seem as though it is impossible to find a solid piece of equipment for your turntable but this preamp has been a solution for a lot of people.
Most love the sound and claim there is very little noise that comes along with it. They also love just how compact this preamp really is.
Others say it stopped working shortly after purchasing and that the sound quality reflects the price.
This product sounds like it may be a hit or miss. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try it out for the awesomely low price.
Phone Preamp FAQ
To help solve the commonly asked questions of our readers, we covered the most popular one for you below. As always, feel free to contact us or leave a comment if your question isn’t answered and we’ll do our best to give you the answer(s) you need. After all, it’s why we’re here!
Do I need a phono preamp for my turntable?
Most turntables that are sold today include a built-in phono preamp. However, if you’re wanting to rip vinyl or embrace the best audio quality possible, a phono preamplifier can produce you with the best experience possible.
What can you expect for under $100?
Most preamps under $100 are basic, to say the least. They’re great if you want an entry-level solution but aren’t the best for those who want the most out of their turntable. Premium options that are more expensive feature better clarity and a more advanced approach.