Turntable With Built In Preamp Vs External Preamp – Which Is Better?

Today we are taking a look at turntables with built in preamp vs those with external preamps and finding out which scenario is better. We have looked at a number of turntables some have preamps built in and some do not. We have also reviewed plenty of preamps at all ends of the pricing spectrum too. So, we have a fairly good idea of the difference between a turntable with a built-in preamp and one that requires an external preamp to make sure the sound is as it should be. I have to be honest upfront and say that for me, this is 100 percent a personal preference kind of thing, but hopefully, by the end of this, you will have a better idea of what is right for you.

What Does A Preamp Do?

Before we look at what one is best, let’s take a basic look at what a preamp does in the first place. Without being all nerdy about it and breaking it down into specifics. The job of a preamp is basically there to convert the sound signal that your cartridge is sending (we have a ton of cartridge reviews by the way) to a sound level (called line level) that is actually audible.

What Is A Built In Preamp?

Crosley C6 2-Speed Turntable, Vinyl Turntable w/ Built-in Pre-Amp & Adjustable Tone Arm - Walnut
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It sounds obvious, but a built in preamp is when the turntable has a preamp built into it. If you look at this Crosley C6 2-Speed Turntable, Vinyl Turntable it has a built in preamp so it is ready to be hooked right up to your speakers or receiver and it is good to go.

Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Portable Suitcase Record Player with Built-in Speakers | Upgraded Turntable Audio Sound| Includes Extra Stylus | Turquoise, Model Number: VSC-550BT-TQ
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Many people who are just getting into vinyl will go for something like this Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Portable Suitcase Record Player – these “suitcase” style record players are very popular as they have built in speakers and a preamp so they are ready to go right out of the box without the need to purchase any extra equipment like speakers or a preamp.

The Pros And Cons Of A Built In Preamp

As we are looking at turntable built in preamp vs external preamp, we do have to look at the good and the bad of each one and we are starting with a built in preamp. I would say that the biggest pro that a built in preamp has going for it is convenience. The vinyl industry is one of the biggest in music right now and a huge reason for that is people are just falling in love with it or rediscovering it. These types of folks just want to buy a turntable and go. They do not want to mess around with preamps or anything else.

The Journey+ Bundle
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This Victrola Journey+ Bluetooth Suitcase Record Player with Matching Record Stand is a great example of a convenient record player set that comes with all a person would need to get started.

A record player with a built in preamp also tends to be cheaper and easier on your wallet! The bad about a built in preamp is usually that as they have to be scaled down in order to fit inside the record player they are made with smaller and lower quality components which 99/100 means they are of a much lower quality than an external preamp. If you have a keen ear for sound, you can 100 percent notice the difference between a cheap and a higher-quality preamp.

The Pros And Cons OF An External Preamp

If you are really serious about your sound then you need an external preamp as it is always going to sound better than a built in one. An external preamp does not have to worry about fitting into the casing of a record player, it can be its own thing! Also, these are at all ends of the pricing spectrum.

Image 61 - Little-Dot-MKVIII-MK8-SE-12AT7X2-6H30PIX4-Balanced-Tube-Headphone-Amplifier
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rolls Phono Preamp, Red (VP29)
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You can spend close to a grand on something like this rolls Phono Preamp or you can spend as little as rolls Phono Preamp if you just want something that is going to work. 

Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2 USB Phono Preamplifier - Black
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You can also get something like this 700 bucks Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2 USB Phono Preamplifier which will sound great, but it is also designed to look sleek and not standout in your entertainment center or home theater.

Above all else, the reason that you would go for an external preamp is because it will sound better. There may be some very expensive turntables that have a high-quality preamp built in. However, usually, an external preamp is going to give you a much richer and fuller sound than you will ever get with a built in preamp. The cons of an external preamp are most notably the price. You can easily be looking at a few hundred extra bucks if you want one that is of a high-quality. There is no way someone who is new to vinyl is going to spend as much on a preamp as they do an actual record player. Also, some preamps even the higher-quality sounding ones can have a kind of janky look to them.

So, Which One Is Better: Turntable Built-in Preamp vs External Preamp?

On one hand, is a battle that is easily won by an external preamp.  I have a hard time imagining that there is a single person out there who would say that a turntable with a built in preamp sounds better than one with an external preamp. If sound quality is what you care about and you do not mind spending some extra money, an external preamp is the way to go. Also, remember that you do not have to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on an external preamp, there are some great lower-cost options out there for you to consider.

As far as turntables with a built in preamp go, the benefit for this has to be the price and the convenience. If you are just getting into the awesome world of vinyl then you might be better jumping in with a cheaper turntable that has a preamp built in. Not only is it cheaper, but it is also a lot easier as well.

As much of a cop-out as this sounds, it is all down to you and what you want. Do you want better sound quality? Well, go for an external preamp. Do you want to spend less money and have an easier time, go for a built in preamp.

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