Does a Tube Phono Preamp Sound Better?

According to this article, if you’ve tried everything else and are still getting less than stellar sound from your turntable, try adding a tube phono preamp. It should help.

“One of the most important things that tube proponents like me always tell other audiophiles is that you need to first level out the signal levels first. That means first damping down your records at 33 or 45rpm (if they’re not already) and then slowly raising up the volume until you can hear each music track.

I recommend doing it on a large, flat surface that you can move around. If you’re going to do this for an entire LP, remember to pick a good LP to start! Then, put the needle on the center of the record and slowly bring it up.

Once you can hear all of your music tracks clearly and there is no background hiss or crackle, raising the level will bring out more detail from the music without being overwhelmed by background noise from other records. The more records you have with this type of setup, the better.”

What is Tube Phono Preamp?

A tube preamp is a device that allows the turntable to be connected to a low impedance input. In my article How To Record Vinyl , I have mentioned that most turntables have a passive volume control/volume pot which limits the volume of the incoming signal caused by cartridge and stylus. When you connect a good quality tube preamplifier to your turntable.

It bypasses this passive volume control and gives you more volume from your turntable.

This means that the incoming signal from your cartridge reaches full volume when you put on your needle with no ‘bounce’ factor in between. It will therefore sound cleaner and with more detail in the recorded music.

I must point out that sometimes, when you add a tube preamp to your turntable, it will sound like you’re picking up the music from a different system altogether. It’s not that your cartridge is suddenly better or that you’re getting better vinyl.

It’s just that when the music comes through the signal circuit properly without any hum or hiss in between, it gives you an exponential and incredible sense of truth and realism.

How does it sound?

I have personally heard the differences when using a tube phono preamplifier when I was using my turntable with my old cartridge, which was an Audio Technica MT-30.

I would always get background hiss and crackle in the music when I would put the needle on the record. It did not matter if I’d used a low or high quality turntable. This never happened when I used the tube phono preamp to connect my turntable to my receiver.

When you hear how it sounds, you’ll know what I mean. Your turntable becomes clearer and more fine-tuned than ever before.

Sound Comparison: Tube Preapms & Solid-State Preamps:

“Most tube preamplifiers do not cause any type of interference or noise that will disturb or interfere with your listening experience. In fact, manufacturers often advertise that their tube preamplifiers “clean up” the sound from your vinyl.

In some cases, manufacturers claim that it can even improve the sound of CDs and eliminate some of the “digital harshness” some people hear on some systems.”

Solid-state preamps vary in price and quality. I have a friend who owns a very cheap solid-state preamp, which he had bought to connect his turntable to his receiver. He was never happy with its sound when he’d use his turntable.

I’ve listened to it when we were out at a friend’s place and was shocked when I heard how it sounded. I couldn’t believe that my friend was using such a device to connect his turntable!

I had once read about a solid-state preamp in an audio magazine and the reviewer said the same thing: They make your turntable sound like you’re listening to music from your computer instead of your home audio system.

He’s right: Solid-state preamps make vinyl sound like they’re coming from a boombox with bad reception instead of your home audio system. It’s just not right.

Conclusion:

Tube phono preamps are not perfect. They give you the best sound compared to solid-state preamps, but they’re not totally transparent.

They’re more than enough to bring out the best sound from your turntable, but you might still want to look at other options.

My advice would be to purchase a high-end tube phono preamp and pair it with a low-impedance input on your receiver. This way, you can always use the preamp when you want to increase the volume on your turntable without damaging your receiver’s inputs or speakers.

FAQ:

Q: Do tube preamps really make a difference?

A: Also what matters is that if a tube preamp is used (higher output impedance) look for a power amp with higher input impedance as well to better mate with the tube pre-amp. Results will be better dynamics and lower distortion, always a good thing. Results may always sound “good”. “good” is totally subjective.

Q: What is the output power of a tube phono preamp?

A: This tube phono preamp provides a smooth sound quality with RIAA equalization. You can enjoy the most realistic sound effects with the help of this phono preamp. The output power of this preamp is around 0.5 Volts. The device has the capability of transforming power.

Q: What does a phono preamp do for sound quality?

A: A good phono preamp can make a major difference in sound quality. This often-overlooked component has a critical job. First, it takes the tiny electrical signal from the cartridge and increases it many times, so it can be used with a line level input on a receiver or amplifier.

Q: Why do some solid state preamps sound better than others?

A: My theory is that there are two main reasons why one solid-state preamp sounds slightly better (and different) than another. 1. Impedance The output impedance of a phono cartridge is inductive in nature while the input impedance of a phono preamp is capacitive. The result is basically a low pass filter with one or several resonance frequencies.