If you’re new to the world of vinyl records, you may have noticed a mysterious input on your receiver labeled “phono”.
What does it mean? Why is it different from other inputs? And why do some turntables have a switch that lets you choose between “phono” and “line”?
In this article, we’ll answer all these questions and more. Whether you’re a seasoned vinyl enthusiast or just starting out, understanding the phono input is essential for getting the best possible sound from your turntable.
So let’s dive in and explore what “phono” really means on a receiver.
What Does Phono Mean On A Receiver
The phono input on a receiver is a specialized audio input that is designed to work specifically with turntables. Unlike other audio inputs, which are designed to work with digital sources like CD players or streaming devices, the phono input is designed to work with the unique characteristics of vinyl records.
Vinyl records are recorded with a specific frequency response curve that boosts high frequencies and reduces low frequencies. This is done to conserve physical space on the record and reduce background noise. However, during playback, this frequency response curve needs to be reversed in order to recreate the original sound of the recording.
This is where the phono input comes in. The phono input on a receiver has a built-in preamp that boosts the low-level signal from the turntable and applies the necessary RIAA equalization to reverse the frequency response curve. This allows you to hear the full range of frequencies and enjoy the warm, rich sound that vinyl records are known for.
It’s important to note that not all turntables require a phono input. Some turntables have a built-in preamp that allows them to output a line-level signal, which can be connected directly to other audio inputs on your receiver. However, if your turntable does not have a built-in preamp, you will need to use the phono input in order to get proper sound quality.
The Difference Between Phono And Line Inputs
The main difference between phono and line inputs is the level of amplification they provide. A phono input is designed to work specifically with turntables and has a built-in preamp that boosts the low-level signal from the turntable and applies RIAA equalization to reverse the frequency response curve. This allows you to hear the full range of frequencies and enjoy the warm, rich sound that vinyl records are known for.
On the other hand, a line input is designed to work with other audio sources like CD players or streaming devices, which output a line-level signal that is already amplified. Line inputs do not have a built-in preamp and do not apply any RIAA equalization. They simply accept the signal as it is and pass it through to the amplifier.
It’s important to note that if you connect a turntable to a line input, you will not get proper sound quality. The low-level signal from the turntable will not be amplified enough to produce adequate volume or bass, and the lack of RIAA equalization will result in an unbalanced sound.
How To Connect A Turntable To A Receiver With A Phono Input
Connecting a turntable to a receiver with a phono input is a straightforward process. Here are the steps you need to follow:
1. Place your turntable next to your receiver and make sure it is level.
2. Connect the RCA-type stereo cable to the output of your turntable. If your turntable did not come with this cable, you can purchase one from most electronic retailers.
3. Look at the back of your receiver and locate the phono input. This input will be labeled “PHONO”.
4. Connect the other end of the RCA-type stereo cable to the phono input on your receiver.
5. If your turntable has a ground wire, connect it to the metal post labeled “GND” on your receiver. This will help prevent any unwanted noise or hum.
6. Turn on your receiver and select the phono input using the input selector switch or button.
7. Start playing your vinyl record and enjoy the warm, rich sound that only vinyl can provide.
It’s important to note that not all receivers have a phono input, so be sure to check your receiver’s manual or specifications before purchasing a turntable. If your receiver does not have a phono input, you can still connect a turntable using an external phono preamp or a turntable with a built-in preamp that can output a line-level signal.
The Role Of A Phono Preamp In Vinyl Playback
A phono preamp is a crucial component in vinyl playback, as it serves two main functions. First, it amplifies the low-level signal from the turntable to a higher level that can be properly received by the audio system. This is necessary because the signal generated by a phono cartridge is extremely low-level and requires a significant boost in gain to match the level of other audio sources.
Secondly, the phono preamp applies the RIAA equalization curve to the signal. This curve is a standard that has been widely agreed upon for vinyl playback since the 1950s and is necessary to reverse the frequency response curve of the recording. Without this equalization, the sound would be distorted and unbalanced.
The RIAA equalization curve is designed to compensate for the way records are cut during recording. To conserve physical space on the record and reduce background noise, low frequencies are reduced during recording, while high frequencies are boosted. The RIAA circuit accommodates for these exaggerations and returns the signal to something listenable by re-emphasizing low frequencies and trimming back highs.
Troubleshooting Common Issues With Phono Inputs And Turntables
While the phono input on a receiver is designed to work seamlessly with turntables, there are some common issues that can arise when using this type of audio connection.
One of the most common issues is a humming or buzzing sound coming from the speakers. This can be caused by a grounding issue, where the turntable’s ground wire is not properly connected to the receiver’s ground terminal. To fix this, simply connect the ground wire to the metal post labeled “GND” on the receiver.
Another issue that can occur is distortion or low volume levels. This can be caused by a mismatch between the output levels of the turntable’s cartridge and the phono input on the receiver. If the cartridge output is too hot for the phono input, you may hear distortion in your records. On the other hand, if the cartridge output is too low for the phono input, your records may sound too quiet and force you to turn up the volume more on the receiver, amplifying any noise present in the cartridge.
To troubleshoot these issues, it’s important to check that your turntable and receiver are properly connected and that all cables are securely plugged in. You may also want to adjust the settings on your receiver to ensure that the phono input is properly calibrated for your turntable’s output levels.