Turntables and record players are making a comeback thanks to our love of authentic, retro sounds as vinyl has seen a real resurgence into the popular market. However, setting up your turntable isn’t as simple as plugging it in and pressing play. One of the essential components in your turntable setup is a phono preamplifier.
The phono preamplifier, or preamp for short, is responsible for boosting the signal from your turntable so that you can listen to it through your sound system much like you’d listen to your CDs or even your Spotify playlist on your smartphone. It’s a very standard device, but can see you spending lots of money if you don’t know what you’re looking for. In order to help you to complete your turntable setup, we’ve put together a list of the best phono preamp under $500.
A Quick Look At The Top Rated Phono Preamps
7 Best Phono Preamp Under $500 Reviewed
Emotiva are one of the world’s premier audio manufacturers, and they take first place on our list with the XPS-1 phono preamp. Combining technical performance with superior quality for your analog sounds, this option is affordable and functional.
High quality gold plated connections: The quality of the connections will ultimately determine how you experience your sound. For that reason, Emotiva have used quality gold plated brass RCA connectors which deliver a great signal-to-noise ratio whilst eliminating distortions and outside interference.
Low power consumption: Phono preamps are typically built to be plugged in and left on, but this may not sit well with an energy conscious user. Thankfully, the XPS-1 has a very low idling power consumption rate which means you can relax and enjoy what really matters – the music!
Compatible with MC/MM phono setups: This preamp is flexible enough to work with any phono setup, regardless of the design. If you have a phono with a moving magnet cartridge, which is the most common type, then this preamp will handle that fine. However, if you have a moving coil cartridge, which often requires a higher level of amplification, this preamp also has you covered.
- Strong, rugged metal case that will help shield outside noise
- MM/MC switch which handles any sort of phono cartridge design
- High quality gold plated brass RCA connectors for high quality sound
- Easy to set the gain or cartridge type using toggle switches on the case
- Easy to fine tune the sound experience
- Inputs and outputs are on opposite sides of the case which you may not like
- The power indicator is extremely bright
Summary: The Emotiva XPS-1 phono preamp is the perfect sound solution for a user who wants high end quality without breaking the bank. Not only is it sturdy and reliable, but it delivers superior sound with the ability for tuning and customization.
For the audiophile on a budget, you can’t go past the Technolink phono preamp. While you might think that the lower price equates to a lower quality product, you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the case for this preamp.
High level of connectivity: Though you might want to listen to your vinyl collection, your setup is probably a bit more technologically evolved these days. Therefore, it’s important for your phono preamp to be able to interface with your more modern gadgets. The USB output on this device allows you to do just that.
Compatible with the most typical setups: In line with the most typical and common of turntable setups, this phono preamp is compatible with moving magnet phono setups. However, while it isn’t officially supported for use with moving coil cartridges, it can handle any higher output device with ease.
Low signal-to-noise ratio: Turntable setups are notorious for delivering that signature vinyl crackling sound. While it may be a sound you can deal with, modern audiophiles might want to find a way to reduce this background noise. The Technolink preamp is whisper quiet, reducing the amount of extra noise you’ll experience.
- Moving magnet compatibility with the ability to be used with high output moving coil cartridges
- USB output so you can connect your turntable to your compute
- Excellent customer service from Technolink
- Solid and sturdy device with little heat generation
- Budget friendly so it’s available for any user
- Very slight hum noise may be evident
- You may experience interference on certain frequencies from outside devices
Summary: Get hold of this set of earbuds and enjoy your music without any undue interruptions. If you have small children in your household, the tangle-free cords shall come in handy.
The Pro-Ject tube box preamp is an offering for those who want a high end solution for their turntable setup. Stylish and modern with exposed vacuum tubes, this model is built to perform a job without complicating things with too many extra features.
Vacuum tubes: Nothing sounds better than the combination of a turntable with a vacuum tube preamp. A signature of high end audio equipment, vacuum tubes enable the free passage of the electrical signal, enabling a rich and full sound.
Improved turntable inputs: Rather than use run of the mill inputs, the Pro-Ject Tube Box S equalizes the voltages generated by your turntable in order to enable a fully three dimensional soundscape. In fact, there is one tube per each of the input channels which means you get improved separation and imaging.
Designed for flexibility: You can use a turntable that utilizes either a moving magnet or moving coil cartridge design. This allows you to properly match any setup design you have in mind. Not only that but you can also personalize your sound through the range of gain settings so that you can get the most out of your system.
- Noticeably less hum than other models
- Very sturdy build and design
- Sleek, modern, silver design with exposed vacuum tubes
- Switchable input which allows moving magnet or moving coil design
- Adjustable gain levels for added flexibility
- If the unit overheats then you’ll find your music skipping
- High cost compared to other models as it is a high end unit
Summary: The Pro-Ject Tube Box S phono preamp is the perfect device that will take your turntable setup from amateur to audiophile in an instant. Not only does it deliver a rich, full sound, but it has a modern, contemporary look.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Toroidal Little Bear preamp is the look. With exposed transformers nestled inside a clear box, this preamp will not only give you the sound you want but looks awesome too.
Assemble the device: There aren’t many preamps around that will let you take an involved approach to setting them up. The Toroidal Little Bear requires assembly before use, allowing you to get your hands dirty and upgrade components if you want to.
Enjoy buzz free music: Thanks to the ability to switch out components, you have complete control over the vacuum tubes that are mounted within the device. Therefore, you can simply enjoy your music without having to worry about the buzz that comes with low quality tubes.
Enjoy a wide sound stage: We know that the quality of the sound is the most important aspect, and the Little Bear delivers a super wide sound stage with amazing imaging. The result is an amazingly vibrant and rich sound that will satisfy your senses.
- Beautiful design with a slight glow when in use
- Rich and vibrant sound with a wide sound stage
- Upgradable modular design so you can install new components as necessary
- Hum free sound thanks to the quality components
- Easily one of the best quality offerings at the price point
- Assembly required, so is not quite plug and play
- The vacuum tubes that come with it may not be up to the quality you’re expecting
Summary: The Toroidal Little Bear preamp is a beautiful, eye catching and strong performer that delivers a great sound at a low price. The ability to upgrade components is easily one of the best features of any device on this list.
The Puffin phono preamp was a long awaited offering from Parks Audio, and in no way did it disappoint! With a sleek, mature design and wide range of settings, it will match an system to deliver amazing sound.
Tilt functionality: The biggest feature of the Puffin phono preamp is the tilt functionality. With the ability to boost the treble whilst cutting the bass, or vice versa, you get full control over the way you experience your sound.
Digital sound control: While many preamp models boast vacuum tubes, there is something to be said for digital sound amplification. Not only will you have a finer control over your sound, but it allows you the flexibility of working with a variety of inputs.
Able to handle many EQ settings: Built for vinyl purists, the Puffin preamp is able to handle a wide range of older style vinyl EQ settings. From 78s through to the more modern LPs, you can listen to your records without worrying about fussing around with the sound settings.
- Supports a gain range of -4dB to 72dB
- Is able to support turntables as well as CDs and more modern devices
- Tilt tone control allows for easy sound adjustment
- 12 phono EQ settings
- Digital sound control allowing for more flexibility
- No vacuum tubes which may disappoint some users
- On the expensive end of the spectrum
Summary: The Parks Audio Puffin is a great option for users who want a high end sound experience along with the ability to support a wide range of sounds. Not only is it flexible enough to allow for a wide gain range, but the tilt control will ensure you will get the most out of your new preamp.
If you’re a purist, then you’ll want your preamp to match the retro feel that you get from your vinyl collection. So what better way to compliment your setup than with the Bellari tube phono preamp.
Tube based audio precision: The Bellari is built with a vacuum tube design so that you’ll experience great audio response and precision. The tube delivers a warmth to the sound that you can’t get with digital units.
Gold plated transformers: Bellari really brings the bling with this model. The transformers are coated with 24 carat gold, which allows for superior dampening from interference whilst maintaining the sound you’re looking for.
Built in headphone amplifier: How better to experience your music than through headphones? Not all preamps are built with headphone support, but the Bellari is designed to allow you this added flexibility. This means you can listen to your music without disturbing your loved ones.
- Beautiful red design with a solid build
- Vacuum tube preamp for rich warm sounds
- Designed for use with moving magnet and high output moving coil cartridges
- Strong in the midrange sound frequencies
- Built in headphone amplifier for added flexibility
- Not very strong in the high frequencies
- Some users may experience a hum
Summary: The Bellari phono preamp is a great little device that can really take on the more high end options at a great price point. Not only is it fun and sounds great, but it allows you the added functionality of using headphones.
Pro-Ject are known for making quality audiophile gear, so it’s no surprise that we see them for the second time on this list. This affordable preamp delivers the quality you’d expect with the ability to work with any cartridge.
Switchable subsonic filter: In order to allow you maximum flexibility, this unit features a switchable subsonic filter that allows you to alter your sound experience as necessary. This is very helpful for music with super low frequencies.
MM and MC compatible: Not all preamps are built to work with any cartridge, but this model allows you to easily switch between moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. This way you can experience great sound no matter what the system you use.
High quality in a simple unit: The Pro-Ject Phono S Box preamp is designed with simplicity in mind. So you’ll find that it is a simple box featuring control switches underneath. That is not to say that the sound quality is simple, in fact you’ll find that it’s quite the opposite.
- Compatible with moving magnet and moving coil cartridges
- Four adjustable gain levels allow for cartridge matching
- Super small but sturdy design
- Very deep bass response for rich sounds
- Very affordable for any budget
- The switches are very small and can be hard to use
- The timing may seem a little off
Summary: If you’re after high quality and rich sounds but are working within a tight budget, the Pro-Ject Phono S Box preamp will allow you to experience the sounds you expect from Pro-Ject but at the price you want to pay. Though it is a simplistic design, it is ready to support any turntable setup.
The Final Words (Summary)
Turntables are making a huge comeback these days and your vinyl collection is likely the envy of many. In order to enjoy it at the maximum level, you need a preamp that will boost the quality of your records without adding distortions that distract from the music. There are many styles and types of preamps out there that will do the job, but knowing the intricacies and features of each will help you to boost your experience. We hope that our guide to the best phono preamp under 500 dollars has helped you choose your new preamp.If you like the article please consider rating it-