Whether you are an avid vinyl collector with piles of records sitting in your cabinet, or whether your parents still have dusty old vinyl in their attic, you surely want to get a record player that handles these records with care so you can truly enjoy the music. So you might be looking for a brand new turntable. In that case, you will soon come across many new terms: One of them will be the preamp. Preamp is short for preamplifier which is an essential part of every turntable setup. So before we look into the best turntables with a built-in preamp it might be good to first explain what a preamp exactly is and how it works, as we have done in this guide: Does a Record Player need an Amplfier?
“The preamp corrects and converts the tone of the signal that is picked up by the stylus. The preamp adjusts the sound to equalize the volume of the high notes and the lower notes and also, as the name suggests, amplifies it. The signal that the needle gets from the record is called PHONO. Since this signal is rather weak the preamp boosts this to the audio standard that is called a LINE or AUX signal. This standard is used in most audio devices such as radios and amplifiers.”
In short, the preamp boosts a weak electrical signal picked from the record into a strong output signal that is standard within most audio devices. You can find a more in-depth description on Wikipedia.
When should you go for a turntable with a built-in preamp?
For all those who don’t want to get involved with external phono preamps, we recommend buying a turntable with an integrated preamplifier. Fortunately, there are many models in today’s market that have one built-in. That way you have one less device to worry about and you will likely only need an amplifier and speakers or powered speakers to start playing your favorite records. It is therefor the best option for enthusiasts that want to have a plug and play setup or don’t want to spend the amount money and time that audiophiles are willing to spend.
However, if you are looking to upgrade your setup or want to start with a full turntable setup that can match those of audiophiles, you could take a look at our guide on the best budget preamps.
Our favourite Turntables with a built-in Preamp
For this article, we have carefully examined a selection of the most popular turntables with a preamp on the market. But only if they are popular for the right reasons. This list contains, of what we consider to be, the best turntables in terms of quality of materials, included features and of course the overall sound quality. We base our reviews on personal experience, expert test reports, and customer reviews. Without further ado, we think these are the 5 best turntables with a preamp on the market:
U-Turn Audio - Orbit Plus
A Hifi performance at a reasonable price.
This turntable is one of our favorites since we reviewed the U-turn Orbit Plus more in-depth. The model is available in five different colors such as green, black, blue, white and red. If you are someone who doesn’t like boring colors and want to add more flavor to any room than the Orbit Plus is a great option. Of course, you can also stick to the traditional black version.
The record player has a build quality and the fact that this is all handmade in the US makes it an even more incredible deal. The design itself can be best described as modern and minimalistic. It really oozes a premium feel with its lack of hardware buttons and the use of high-quality materials. A great example is the platter that is made from acrylic instead of MDF, this heavier material helps improve the speed inconsistency.
You might not know this, but there are different shapes of the styluses, this specific record player has an elliptical diamond stylus within the premium Ortofon OM5e cartridge. This cartridge is a significant update over the one featured in the basic model (the Orbit Basic) and just gets more out of your records.
The distinct feature of this record player is that it has a precision tonearm that provides accurate tracking while making sure that there is less distortion and vibration, letting you focus the actual sound being played. In many turntables the noise of the motor can be heard, however, this record player minimizes the noise of the motor as it is belt driven and the motor is not placed directly under the platter.
The sound that is based described as clear and detailed, making it very suitable for beginners discovering their vinyl preferences and for vinyl enthusiasts offering a close to Hifi sound for an affordable price. We found it to be objective in its sound so you really have the option to play any genre.
» Available in five colors
» High quality materials, with a one piece plinth, diamond stylus and acrylic platter.
» The cartridge Ortofan OM5e is something special. It just gives a more warmth, bassy and detailed sound.
» U-Turn Audio is US based and the turntables are signed by the employee that assembled it. It comes with a 2-year manufacturer warranty
» The hinge on the dust cover is not the best. You have to make sure to put the dustcover fully vertical.
» The tonearm is somewhat limited
All-rounder that offers a lot features.
The AT- LP120XUSB is an allrounder at a very affordable price just like its predecessor the LP120 was for more than a decade. It is available in two colors, black and silver. It has a modern and urban look that is often found with DJ turntables. The build is solid although there is a lot of plastic used.
The materials used feel premium. The great built-in preamp is a nice upgrade compared to its predecessor. As is also the case with cartridge used, giving a clear and transparent sound.
A distinct feature is that you can use it to digitize your records via USB connection. You simply hook it up to your computer and start up free recording software such as audacity. A great way to preserve your records or listen to them on the go.
Other nice features are dynamic anti-stake control, quartz speed lock, variable pitch control, and fully adjustable tonearm in terms of weight and position. Unlike older record players, this model really makes sure to minimize vibrations and the sound is pitch-perfect. It comes adjusted out of the box so it makes it suitable for beginners. However, the detailed adjustment you can make such as setting the number of grams for the counterweight also make it a very suitable turntable for advance audiophiles.
It comes with a complete package of accessories such as USB cable, detachable RCA output cable, AC adapter, felt mat and removable hinged dust cover. The last one in particular is great since it really can improve the endurance of your turntable.
» Upgraded preamp and cartridge, providing an even better sound.
» USB to digitize your vinyl.
» A lot of features to make precise adjustments for optimal playback.
» Plastic components.
Denon DP-300F Turntable
Perfect for beginners: Fully automatic and easy to setup.
In terms of design, it is best described as modern and premium with an all-black metallic finish. There are some plastic components but the overall look and feel are rather premium.
It is fully automatic, meaning that with a simple push of a button the tonearm of the record player starts moving automatically and assistance is not needed. As some people even end up damaging their records because of the scratches the manually make with the stylus but with this player, the stylus smoothly touches the records while playing. It does make it less ideal for advanced audiophiles that want to make personal adjustments.
This record player has a built-in preamp that is rather transparent. The sound quality is decent, it is not as great as the U-Turn or Audio Technica above but it holds its ground and you will likely not hear much difference if you don’t own Hifi speakers.
It also comes with some advanced features including a mount headshell, DC servo motor and MM cartridge. The cool thing about this popular turntable is that it has a heavier base which lowers the vibrations and gives you a rich sound.
Lastly, it has a very easy assembly and set up, you will not have to waste hours figuring out the functioning of the record player.
» Fully automatic, perfect for beginners.
» Easy to set up and connect.
» Features a decent cartridge and preamp.
» Limited options to make adjustments.
Offers the best sound quality within this list.
Building further on its widely successful predecessor the AT-LP5 that launched in 2016, the AT-LP5x keeps this winning formula with some slight improvements.
The design is best described as a modern, minimalist, and modern looking. It features a matt black plastic plinth and an aluminum platter. The buttons and speed switch feel solid. Also in terms of setting the device up you will find no problems. Simply place the platter and headshell and lastly adjust the counterweight. We also found swapping cartridges for example super easy. What is nice is that turntable now supports moving magnet and moving coil cartridges, if you are ready to take the next step.
Internally this model has a direct drive motor that is very quiet.
A nice upgrade is that the turntable now also supports 78 RPM records besides the 33 and 45 RPM records. Another improvement is the cartridge, it is now the AT-VM95E. This Audio Technica cartridge is more solid, meaningless resonance and boosts a bigger audio output. The internal preamp does a great job even after comparing it to a more expensive external preamp it is quite hard to hear big improvements. But what is nice is that the LP5x gives the option to bypass the internal preamp and upgrade later on.
Coming to the sound, the AT-LP5x feels even more clear and transparent than its predecessor making it one of the top models within its price range. The details remain even with complex songs or music genres. You keep hearing individual layers and instruments
Lastly what should be mentioned is that it features the option to record your vinyl via the USB output to digital files. It works perfectly and delivers high-quality digital files.
All in all the AT -LP5x delivers a total package that includes a really good cartridge, preamp, and silent direct-drive motor. But the thing that stood out most for this model is sound it produces, we consider it to be the best choice in this list in terms of sound quality.
» Really clean and detailed sound
» Impressive internal preamp
» Easy to set up and use
» The build is solid but overuses plastic
Good sound quality and best for digitalizing vinyl.
Often turntables that offer a lot of features lack in terms of build or audio quality, with the Sony PS-HX500 that is not the case.
The design is minimalistic and basic as it is in all black giving it a rather modern feel. It features a speed switch, a nice low platter and a one peice tonearm. Also, it has a high-quality rubber mat that has the ability to get rid of resonance that may interfere in the sound. The device overall certainly has a premium look to it.
The sound is nice and rich although it might not be the most balanced with a slight preference to the light side. The sound is really dynamic meaning it won’t struggle with heavy tracks such as dance music featuring a lot of sound layers, you really keep hearing all the details.
When talking about its features the first thing that really stands out is the ability to digitize your records. Now, you might think why would anyone want to do that? Well often the reason is to save their record collection fro eternity or people really like the vinyl sound and might even want to hear it on other devices as well.
It is the stand out feature for a good reason within this turntable. For audiophiles, it can record up to DSD 5.6 which basically translates into really high-quality sound. The turntable comes with recording software from Sony which lets you easily record, stop and split individual records.
Overall this turntable offers great all-round performance with one very unique feature of digitizing record in the highest quality. A nice modern addition to the revival of vinyl but also a great buy in general.
» Digitize your records to hi-res WAV or DSD file
» Easy to setup
» Good sound quality regardless of genres.
» A basic design.
What does a preamplifier do exactly?
Turntable systems in turntables have a very low output voltage. So if you plug a turntable into an amplifier without a preamp, you’ll only hear a hum. That is because what is basically happening is a needle is going to a really small groove and this can simply not make a lot of noise, so something has to enhance it.
A phono preamplifier enhances the signal of a turntable needle to high levels and equalizes it according to an equalization curve defined by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). It basically boosts it to the level and standards that other audio devices have.
But with just a preamp, you won’t hear much yet. You’ll need a little more.
Preamplifier, Amplifier, Integrated amplifier
The phono preamplifier can also be described as a preamplifier. A preamplifier adjusts the input signals, which can come from different devices so that the actual amplifier (the power amplifier) can work with them. So what components should a turntable setup have? Well, it needs at least:
- Preamplifier: prepares and boosts the signal for the actual amplifier
- Amplifier: amplifies the sound information powerfully so we can hear it
- Or an Integrated amplifier: in this case preamplifier and amplifier are included in one device
The preamplifier is often automatically integrated into many turntables. This has many advantages, but also some disadvantages.
Hint: You can tell whether a preamplifier is present in the device by the phono input.
This is a really clear video I often recommend on the topic of understanding the different types of turntable setups:
Integrated preamplifier: Pros and Cons
If a preamplifier is already built into the turntable it could have many advantages for you. You no longer have to worry about researching into external preamps, creates a simpler setup to hookup and could save you money.
However, some turntables have no button to bypass the integrated preamp, meaning you can not upgrade it down the line. If the manufacturer saves on the preamplifier, you will notice this in sound quality.
Hint: Some turntables have an integrated preamplifier that can also be switched off. So you can upgrade it afterward.
Go for an built-in Preamp or an external one?
Nowadays, the lack of integrated preamplifiers occurs mainly in the higher price segment. Low-cost offers are often the total package. While this might sound strange, audiophiles like to add and tweak their audio setups, thus often buying external preamps anyway. You also need a little more know-how to connect the preamplifier manually.
Do I need a preamplifier?
Whether you need an external preamp or not the best way to check is by looking if your turntable has a phono input or not. If so, a preamplifier is already built into the unit.
What does a preamplifier do?
The preamplifier (also called “PreAmp”) amplifies the signal from an audio source so that the power amplifier and speakers can work with it.
Does a good preamp make a big difference?
A great preamp can make a huge difference in sound quality. As it not only amplifies the signal but also equalizes it.