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How to connect a turntable to a receiver

It's easier than you think

The author attempts to connect a turntable and receiver

Connecting a turntable to your receiver doesn't have to be a complicated process. All you need to know are a few basics to pair them, and then you're ready to savor the sweet sounds of vinyl records.

The key to getting these two components together starts with the phono preamp. 

What's a phono preamp?

The cartridge on the end of your turntable's tonearm generates a tiny voltage as its needle traces the grooves on your record albums. This voltage, or music signal, must be properly equalized and amplified before it can play through your receiver.

Boosting this signal is the job of the phono preamp, also known as a phono stage, phono EQ, RIAA preamp, or turntable preamp. And just in case you were wondering, "phono" is short for phonograph, the old-fashion term for turntable. 

Where is your phono preamp?

The three most common places to find a phono preamp in most systems are: 

  1. inside your receiver
  2. built into your turntable
  3. housed in a separate box that plugs in between your turntable and receiver
A receiver with a built-in phono preamp

This receiver has a built-in phono preamp with a dedicated "PHONO" input to plug in a turntable. There's also a separate ground ("GND") terminal for connecting the turntable's ground wire.

Once you know where your phono preamp is, the rest is easy. Below we'll look at the three main ways most turntables and receivers connect.

System 1: Phono preamp is in the receiver

Connecting a turntable to a receiver with a built-in phono preamp

With this system, we simply plug our turntable's audio signal cable into our receiver's PHONO input, then attach the turntable's ground wire to the receiver's ground terminal, and we're done.

  • This turntable does not have a built-in phono preamp.
  • The receiver has a built-in phono preamp with an input labeled "PHONO".
  • All you have to do is plug your turntable's audio signal cable into the receiver's phono input. 
  • Just below the phono input is a metal post labeled "GND", for ground. Connect your turntable's ground wire (if it has one) to this post. This helps prevent any "hum" or noise coming from your turntable from playing through your system. 

System 2: Phono preamp is in the turntable

Connecting a turntable with a built-in phono preamp to a receiver

This system's turntable has a built-in phono preamp. That means we'll be plugging its audio signal cable into one of our receiver's analog audio inputs.

  • This turntable has a built-in phono preamp. 
  • The receiver does not have a built-in phono preamp.
  • Simply plug the turntable's audio signal cable into one of the receiver's analog audio inputs. These inputs are oftentimes labeled Aux (auxiliary), Line In, Analog In, etc. You can even use your receiver's "CD" or "Tape" input, if needed. No other connections are required.

System 3: Phono preamp is a separate component

Connecting a turntable and receiver to a separate outboard phono preamp

This system's turntable and receiver both lack a built-in phono preamp, so we have to add one. We first plugged our turntable's audio signal cable and ground wire into our separate phono preamp box. Then we connect the preamp into one of our receiver's analog audio inputs.

  • Neither the receiver nor the turntable have a built-in phono preamp. 
  • For this system, a separate outboard phono preamp must be connected between the turntable and the receiver.
  • Start by plugging your turntable's audio cable into the phono preamp's input. Be sure to connect your turntable's ground wire (if it has one) to the grounding post on the phono preamp.
  • Now plug the phono preamp's audio output into one of your receiver's analog audio inputs, connect the preamp to its power supply, and you're all set.  

What if your turntable and receiver both have built-in phono preamps?

If it turns out that both your receiver and turntable have a built-in phono preamp, be sure to connect your turntable to one of your receiver's line (or auxiliary) inputs instead of its phono input. You don't want two phono preamps trying to work together at the same time.

Tips for getting better sound

  • If your receiver and turntable both have a built-in phono preamps, and your turntable has a switch that lets you bypass or turn its built-in preamp off, you can experiment to see if either your receiver's or turntable's phono preamp sounds better. You might discover that one sounds significantly better than the other.
  • Even if your receiver has a built-in phono preamp, a separate phono preamp might still make a good upgrade. Outboard phono preamps often contain superior quality circuitry, and may provide settings and adjustments that can help deliver better sound.    

Skip the wires altogether with a Bluetooth turntable

A few turntables come with built-in Bluetooth for wireless connection to Bluetooth speakers, headphones or receivers. A wired connection will offer greater fidelity, but Bluetooth lets you make a cleaner-looking installation and opens up placement options you may not be able to achieve by running speaker wire.

Expert advice for your system

Setting up a turntable and connecting it to your system might seem a bit intimidating if you've never done it. We’re here for you — every step of the way.

Our advisors can help you choose the right turntable and receiver, and our in-house tech support is available seven days a week to answer questions after you buy.

Want to read more about choosing a turntable? Check out our turntable buying guide for more info. We also have a buying guide for external phono preamps.

Watch our how to set up a turntable video to be sure you get the best sound.

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    Posted on 12/1/2022

    50 yr old has black white connection phonograph amps are red white what goes where !

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