More and more people are falling in love with listening to music on vinyl again. With good reason to there is just something epic about the sound you get from listening to an album on a record that listening to it on a CD or as a download is missing. Well, one thing we all want to do is enhance turntable sound and actually be able to enjoy our vinyl in the best way possible!
People think that it is just a case of buying a turntable and it will be automatically compatible with their speakers, computer or whatever. This is very rarely the case, but it is not a big deal as all you need is a phono preamp and you will be rocking out in style. I have tested some of the best and cheapest phono preamps on the market and today I am sharing with you my thoughts as well as giving you a little insight into what the deal with phono preamps is.
What Is A Phono Preamp?
Some people may have told you that you needed one so that you are able to enhance turntable sound and make your turntable compatible with more devices. But do you actually know what one of these is? Well, it is quite simple really. While they can come in all shapes and sizes the basic goal of a phono preamp is to be able to connect a turntable to another device be it basic speakers to something like a computer.
Most turntables will automatically output in phono, but devices like computers, stereos, and speakers require phono to be converted to line level, which is also referred to as AUX (AUX is what the input is commonly referred to on many devices) the phono preamp is what makes this conversion happen. Many people are falling back in love with vinyl these days, they will buy a cool looking turntable, some classic albums and then wonder why they cannot connect it to their stereo, well that is what you need a phono preamp for.
A Few Need To Know Things About Preamps
While we are looking at some of the best phono preamps under 100 bucks today, you do not always need one. For example, if your turntable is a more modern setup that has a USB connection, it will already have one built in. Actually, some stereos and amplifiers have a phono preamp built (these tend to be older models) you know if they do as they will have an input that says phono. So with these, you might get lucky and be able to simply connect your turntable to them.
Is It Easy To Connect My Turntable To A Phono Preamp?
Actually, it is! It is just like connecting any other kind of device and 99/100 it is a basic RCA cable that you will need in order to enhance turntable sound by connecting it to a phono preamp. This along with a ground wire is all that most phono preamps will require you to connect. Some will come with the cables included, but if they do not, RCA cables can be picked up dirt cheap these days. A phono preamp can also be used for other devices like an MP3 player or an iPod.
Should I Upgrade My Phono Preamp?
This is a tough one to answer as, to be honest only you can know for sure if you are happy with the sound your current setup is giving you. But there have been some great advancements made in phono preamps the last few years and you can really enhance your sound without spending a ton of money. So if you have been rocking the same setup for many years, upgrading your phono preamp may be the way to start upgrading your setup.
Top 15 Picks
Now here I get to have some real fun and share it with you. Here are some of the hottest and most popular phono preamps that you can get for under 100 bucks! So if you are in the market for one, have roughly a $100 budget, then without a doubt, check these out.
1. U-Turn Audio – Pluto Phono PreampCheck Out the Latest Price
The first one we have to look at is the U-Turn Audio – Pluto Phono Preamp. What I like about this one is that even at the low price it is going to enhance turntable sound thanks to the stainless steel body (which also looks awesome by the way) as it really helps cut down on interference. It is designed to give you as high a distortion free sound as possible and that is really going to make a huge difference to the sound quality. It is very simple to use as you just plug in your turntable, plug the phono preamp into your device and you are ready to rock!
If you have a built in preamp, you are going to certainly notice a difference in the sound quality. It is the kind of preamp that is perfect for those of you who want something that is going to improve the sound quality but is also very simple to use. Actually, this simplicity might be the only thing that puts some people who are more serious about their music of this. But for those of us who want to keep things nice and easy, this is a winner.
- Comes in black and white
- Fantastic build quality
- Could not be any easier to use
- You will notice the improved sound
- Is quite simple
- Is heavier than it looks
2. BEHRINGER U-PHONO UFO202Check Out the Latest Price
Wow was all I could say over and over again when I was using this bad boy! At around 30 bucks this is an absolute steal. Ok, so let’s start with the basics. You can use this as a basic phono preamp and that is cool, but as well as being able to use RCA cables, this one has a USB connector. This is where the real fun begins as you can download BEHRINGER’s free software and now you can use this preamp to give your vinyl and even cassette tapes a new lease on life.
That is right, even cassette tapes! So all those old mix tapes you made back in high school can be brought back in a higher quality sound that you could ever imagine. The idea behind this is great, but as well as being good in theory, this phono preamp also does a great job in letting you tinker with the music through the software. So you can reduce noise, improve the quality and even make editing new tracks easier than ever before. Now, of course, there is a learning curve with this and it will take some time to get your head around it, but if you want a phono preamp that is offering you more than just a way to connect your turntable to something else, you cannot go wrong with this.
- Free software is fantastic
- Price is incredible
- Very compact in size
- Great for people who like to tinker with their sound
- Software does have a steep learning curve
- Some users have reported quality issues
3. Lepy LP-2020A-3A Stereo Class-D Hi-Fi Digital Audio Amplifier with Power Supply Black USCheck Out the Latest Price
This is a pretty cool little phono preamp that may not be the world’s best if you are looking to enhance turntable sound. But I was actually very impressed with this and had a lot of fun with it. What I really liked about this was the way you could connect it to a turntable, iPhone or whatever and use it with even the oldest speakers you have! This is because of the fact they have included connections for older speakers! This is really cool and something many people will get a kick out of.
As well as being great when it comes to connectivity, this phono preamp is easy to use and actually has a dial for treble and bass so you can play around a little bit to get the best sound which is great if you are using this to strictly just listen to music. It costs a little over 20 bucks so of course if you are a real audiophile, you may not be 100 percent happy with the sound. But there is very little noise and in all, it really does do a wonderful job and is perfect if you do not want to spend a lot of money or just have some old, cool looking 80’s style speakers that you want to use once again!
- Can breathe new life into old speakers
- Allow you to play with treble and bass
- Pretty easy to use
- Does not get too hot
- Sound is not the greatest you will ever hear
- Has a bit of a “cheap” feel to it
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4. ART Pro Audio DJPRE II Phono Turntable PreamplifierCheck Out the Latest Price
This one here is more suited to you guys who fancy yourselves as a bit of a DJ. The idea of this phono preamp is that it is really going to help amplify your records so that whatever your workstation setup is, is going to be able to get the best out of them. Your phono cartridge response can be optimized thanks to being able to switch the analog input capacitance from 100pF to 200pF. It is made to offers as low noise as possible and I would bet that most DJ’s who try this out will be very happy with what it offers, especially considering the low, low price.
The rumble filter is awesome and it does actually cut down on that rumble effect which some turntables can have, which can give a less than awesome sound. It even has some LED lights to let you know if the signal clips. I think this is a great phono preamp, but it really is aimed at a more specialized market. The dude just looking to connect his decks or even his iPod and rock out is not who this is aimed at. I love to mess around with my turntable and I can appreciate how much control this gives me, but to the average joe, I feel this could be a little confusing.
- Great if you are a DJ and want more control
- Sound is very nice
- Let’s you change capacitance input
- LED indicators
- Only suitable for DJ’s
- LED lights are far too bright!
5. PYLE-PRO PP444 Ultra Compact Phono Turntable Preamp
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Is this really only about ten bucks? Is the question I can hear you all asking, but yes it actually is. This is a pretty basic phono preamp, but if you want to enhance turntable sound and want to do it in as easy and basic a way as possible, you cannot go wrong with this. What it lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in ease of use. When connecting your turntable to your output it brings the phono level up pretty considerably, you will certainly notice the improvement in the sound quality, although it is not as high as higher end preamps of course.
The sound quality is very nice and I am sure you will love the way it brings your vinyl to life. Again, you are not going to get the best performance in the world out of this, but at ten bucks, I think the quality is very, very good and well worth taking a gamble on. Especially if you are new to this kind of thing and do not want to spend a ton of money. My only criticism would be that I have read a few reports of people saying that theirs died within a year, but again, ten bucks is a steal and well worth taking a chance on.
- Very easy to use
- It is only around ten bucks!
- Sound quality is surprisingly high
- It is very small
- Not the fanciest phono preamp in the world
- Longevity has been called into question.
6. AudioAMP Turntable Phono Preamp with 12 Volt AC AdapterCheck Out the Latest Price
Ok so using this phono preamp was a little bit weird as it actually did what it did very well, but it is just so basic that it is kind of forgettable. Well, I really want to stress to you guys what a great little phono preamp this is. They have done a wonderful job in making this as simple as can be and if you have a pretty cool turntable that you want to listen to vinyl on, but cannot connect it to your speakers. This right here is going to make that very easy, very affordable and also ensure the sound you are getting is fantastic. I am honestly very impressed with this and actually ended up listening to 4 different albums on it as I was so happy with the sound quality.
It may not let you mess with the treble or bass, but it makes up for this in its simplicity. If you want something that is as easy as connecting your turntable to the phono amplifier and then that to the speakers, this is for you. Even someone who has no audio experience at all would be able to get to grips with it. It is going to cost you a little over 20 bucks, which I think is very good value for money. If you want something nice and easy, go for this as you will not be disappointed.
- Very simple to use
- Sound is very good quality
- Small in size
- Perfect for someone who wants something simple
- Has a bit of a dated look to it
- Offers no dynamic range or bass, treble dials
7. Pro-Ject Phono Box MM DC Phonograph Preamplifier, BlackCheck Out the Latest Price
At around 80 bucks this may be a little higher priced than the previous couple we have looked at. But if you want that quality sound and do not have to worry about any kind of interference then, you will want to consider paying those extra few bucks and getting this. On the surface, this looks like a pretty simple kind of phono preamp and to be honest with you it is. You connect your turntable to it and then that to your speakers or whatever it is you are using. It is easy to setup and it should not cause you any headaches.
What I really like about this is the way it is built. It is made with a strong metal case that protects it from interference, vibrations and just, in general, gives it a really sturdy feel. Its insides are just as impressive as they have gone for dual mono circuitry, which may not mean much to most of you, but it basically means that you are getting optimized channels separation for better quality sound. I do feel that at the price they could have added a few bells and whistles, like maybe giving you a treble and bass dial so you can tinker with the sound quality a little bit. But apart from this, for those worried about interference from other devices, you really do need to consider this one.
- Designed to fight off any interference
- Build quality is very impressive
- Sound is awesome
- Simple to setup and use
- May seem a little pricey
- Could have used a few “special features”
8. Rolls VP29 Phono Preamp
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Clean and simple is the best way to describe the Rolls VP29 Phono Preamp. Talking about a phono preamp like this is kind of hard as there really is not a lot to it, but what it does it does incredibly well. You will have no issues at all connecting your turntable to this. When you do, you are going to be very happy with the way that it really does, enhance turntable sound and bring your favorite albums to life. It is ideal if you want to start enjoying vinyl again and want to do it in as affordable and low hassle way as possible.
One thing I really liked about this was the compact and elegant design. Also, the decision to use red casing was pretty cool and makes it different from all the black and silver ones that are out there. Speaking of the casing, I have heard reports that some people have had trouble with this when it is close to other electrical devices, but I can personally say, I had no issues. I do wish that they put a power button on here though as if you do get a little humming when the turntable is not in use, you will have to unplug it to stop it!
- Looks pretty darn cool
- Easy to setup
- Sound quality is great
- Awesome if you want to start listening to vinyl again
- Can have issues when close to other electrical devices
- Could have used a power button
9. Pyle PP555 Ultra Compact Phono Turntable Pre-AmplifierCheck Out the Latest Price
At under 20 bucks, I was very excited to give this ago and while at this price I was not exactly expecting it to blow me away and really enhance turntable sound to the point I felt like I was at a concert. I did expect a little bit more. The positives with this are that it is nice and easy to use. It is as simple as plugging in and playing and for most people that is great. But there is a lot of reports of this making a bit of a hissing sound (even when grounded) and I must admit that I noticed this too. Now to be fair, you may not notice it after a while, or if you are really rocking out. But it is certainly there and can be annoying.
Now to be fair to this phono preamp, I will say that it is made to be one of the more budget priced, entry level kind of phono preamps. So for someone just testing the waters of this epic world of vinyl, I think it would be ok, but if you want the best sound quality possible, there are other ones on the market that do a better job.
- Price is very affordable
- Is easy to use
- Even non audiophiles can set it up
- Has a cool 80’s kind of design
- Notable hissing sound
- Not the highest quality
10. Pyle PP999 Phono Turntable Pre-AmpCheck Out the Latest Price
Here we have another Pyle phono preamp and this one is actually one of the more popular ones on this list. The reason for this is that Pyle really nailed this one and for many people, it is the perfect entry level phono preamp. It is not the kind of thing you would upgrade to. But for those who are looking for a way to listen to their old favorite records on a turntable or just see if vinyl collecting is something for them. For around 20 bucks, you really cannot go wrong with this. They have made it so that it is as easy to use as possible. It is very easy to connect to your turntable and speakers and once you do, you get next to no interference, which at this price range is very impressive.
It has no power button so it is always on, but this means you can just leave it behind your speakers or turntable and forget about it. I think this is cool, but I get why for some it may be an issue. The sound quality is great, I was especially impressed with the bass (I love some big dirty bass!) and even my original Guns N Roses records sounded amazing coming going through this.
- Simple setup
- Sound quality is very good
- Nice and compact in its design
- Price is very, very reasonable
- Some may not like how it is always on
- While good, it is a little on the simple side
11. BEHRINGER MICROPHONO PP400 ULTRA COMPACT PHONO PREAMP
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I was and still am super impressed with this phono preamp. Ok so let me start with what really blew me away and that was the sound quality I was getting when I ran my turntable through this. It has been designed to “accommodate all magnetic pickups” and what they mean by this is that there will be very little if not no interference at all and I can honestly, hand on heart tell you that I had zero interference when using this. Just a nice clear sound that made me want to just keep on listening to my music.
Using it is not going to cause you any headaches either. If you are buying this to just purely enjoy listening to vinyl, you cannot go wrong as it is so easy to setup. You just plug in and play, it even has a power indicator (although no power button) to let you know it is on. One other thing I have to mention is that they actually give you a three year warranty with this, which when you consider it only costs $25 at the most makes it an even more attractive purchase.
- Great sound
- No interference
- Easy to setup and use
- Is low priced and has a three year warranty
- The silver version is no longer available
- May not be ideal if you are a DJ
12. Little Bear Vacumn Tube Mini Phono Stage RIAA MM Phonograph Preamp & HiFi Tube Pre-AmplifierCheck Out the Latest Price
By far the most interesting looking phono preamp I got to try out was this one here. What is interesting about this one is that it is not just designed to be used as a turntable phono preamp. They have actually designed it so that it can be used as a hi-fi tube preamplifier as well! To be honest with you this is the kind of thing that would only really appeal to hardcore audiophiles, but if that is your kind of thing, I am sure you are going to get a huge kick out of this. I was only really interested in using this as a phono preamp for a turntable, but the fact that it has tubes as well is really cool.
The sound was very nice, I have read other reviews that said the opposite, but for me it was great. Not just the music, but I really appreciated how clear the vocals coming through this thing were. It is a nice compact size and I really do love the design of it, it certainly has that cool vibe to it and it is the kind of thing that you will actually want out on display next to your turntable as it looks so interesting. While I really, really do like this. I have to say that it is not made for the average Joe. It is made for you real hardcore audiophiles! Oh, one huge bonus I almost forgot was that it actually has an on and off switch.
- It looks so cool!
- You will love the sound quality
- Can also be used as a hi-fi tube preamplifier
- Costs around fifty bucks
- May be a little confusing for most people
- You need to buy American made tubes for it
13. ROLLS VP29 Turntable PreamplifierCheck Out the Latest Price
Now, this is all kinds of funky! I really like what ROLLS have done here. They have teamed up with Turntable Lab so that they can officially brand this with their logo and it looks really cool! I was really impressed with how well this reduced background noise and a very nice bonus is the included headphone jack, now I have no use for this, but it is cool that it is there and if you are a DJ I am sure it will interest you. It really could not have been any easier to get up and running and I noticed very minimal hum (I had to really listen to hear it) so I was super impressed with how this made my records sound.
I really enjoyed using this. To be honest with you it is a pretty straightforward kind of phono preamp, but it did enhance turntable sound and I was very pleased with how my favorite albums sounded. I just think that the Turntable Lab branding and the gray color give it a lot more personality. Also if you were buying a phono preamp for someone as a gift, that extra branding does make this seem that extra bit cooler.
- Has a Turntable Lab license
- Headphone jack
- Very easy to use
- Sound is awesome
- You are paying for that Turntable Lab license
- Headphone jack is not useful for everyone
14. Music Hall Mini MM Phono Pre-AmplifierCheck Out the Latest Price
Music Hall has done a pretty damn good job with this phono preamp. First thing, I really like the design they have made this look as elegant as possible so even if you cannot hide it behind your turntable or speakers, it is not going to look horrible. While it looks nice on the outside, on the inside is a very nice system. A system that gives you a nice clear sound that is really going to blow you away and make you realize why listening to vinyl is so much better than CD or digital! I really do not see anyone having any trouble setting this up. While there is no power switch, it does have a LED power light to let you know it is on.
I think this is a great phono preamp and it does everything you want a preamp to do. I did not notice any kind of hum or interference and I really do think that Music Hall has made an awesome product here. But if I did have to question something it is the price, this is priced at close to 80 bucks which is not a bad price at all, but if you are looking for your first phono preamp as you are just getting into vinyl, you might want to test the waters with something a little cheaper.
- It has an elegant design
- Sound quality is very good
- Setup could not be any easier
- Has a power indicator
- Price seems a little high
- May be a bit basic if you are a DJ
15. Pro-Ject Phono Box E Phonograph PreamplifierCheck Out the Latest Price
The Pro-Ject Phono Box E Phonograph Preamplifier is one cool looking phone preamp and I can really appreciate that. The SMD circuitry inside it and the low noise components they have used give a real high quality sound to your records and it really does make listening to them that extra bit enjoyable. It is the internals that makes this one of the more popular preamps on this list. As many of us are willing to pay that little bit extra for a sound that is clearer, although speaking of paying extra, I do not think the near 80 bucks asking price is unreasonable at all.
It looks great, sounds great and it really is going to enhance turntable sound to the point where you feel like you are listening to some of your albums for the first time all over again! It is super easy to setup and in all just a really well made and good quality phono preamp. If you already have one and it is a more modest model, this would be a great, but affordable upgrade. While I think the black design is super cool, it is also available in white, but that version if you ask me is not quite as awesome as this one.
- The design is very cool and classy
- It is simple to setup
- Sound quality is awesome!
- Looks cool sitting next to your speakers or turntable
- 80 bucks may be a little pricey for your first phono preamp
- The white version is not as good.
Final Thoughts On A Phono Preamp For Under 100 Bucks
The majority of these were great and will serve you very well. It would be hard for me to pick a clear winner as all of our setups are different so what I think is awesome may be a little different than what you think is awesome. However, I do feel that these are great products and if you have a look and think about sound quality, price, and ease of use that you will find the right phono preamp for you.