Are you confused about the difference between phono and aux inputs?
You’re not alone.
Many people are unsure about which input to use when playing their vinyl records.
In this article, we’ll break down the differences between phono and aux inputs, and explain why it’s important to use the correct input for your turntable.
Whether you’re a seasoned vinyl collector or just starting out, understanding the differences between these two inputs will help you get the most out of your audio setup.
So, let’s dive in and explore the world of phono and aux inputs!
What Is The Difference Between Phono And Aux
Phono and aux inputs are two different types of audio inputs found on most audio equipment. The main difference between them is the type of signal they are designed to receive.
A phono input is specifically designed to receive the low-level signal produced by a turntable’s cartridge. This signal is much weaker than the signal produced by other audio sources, such as a CD player or a smartphone. In order to boost this signal to a level that can be heard through speakers, a phono input has a built-in preamp and equalization (EQ) circuitry.
On the other hand, an aux input is designed to receive line-level signals from other audio sources, such as CD players, smartphones, or computers. These signals are already at a level that can be heard through speakers, so an aux input does not have a built-in preamp or EQ circuitry.
What Is A Phono Input?
A phono input is a type of audio input that is specifically designed to receive the low-level signal produced by a turntable’s cartridge. This signal is much weaker than the signal produced by other audio sources, such as a CD player or a smartphone. In order to boost this weak signal to a level that can be heard through speakers, a phono input has a built-in preamp and equalization (EQ) circuitry.
The preamp in a phono input amplifies the weak signal from the turntable’s cartridge, making it strong enough to be heard through speakers. The EQ circuitry in a phono input applies the RIAA equalization curve, which is necessary to correct for the frequency response of vinyl records. Without this correction, vinyl records would sound unbalanced and distorted.
It’s important to note that not all audio equipment has a phono input. If your amplifier or receiver does not have a phono input, you will need to use an external phono preamp between your turntable and amplifier/receiver to boost the signal and apply the correct EQ curve.
What Is An Aux Input?
An aux input, short for auxiliary input, is a type of audio input that allows you to connect external devices to your audio equipment. It is typically used to connect devices like MP3 players, headphones, portable music players, amplifiers, and speakers to your audio system. The main benefit of an aux input is its versatility – it can be used with almost any audio device that supports it. This is because most aux inputs use a 3.5mm jack, which is the same connector used by headphones.
When you see “aux input” listed as a feature on a head unit or home theater receiver, it means that there is a jack you can use to connect your device directly to the audio system with a male-to-male 3.5mm TRRS cable. However, it’s worth noting that aux inputs are not designed to receive signals from turntables or other low-level sources that require preamp and EQ circuitry. Instead, they are designed for line-level signals from devices like CD players, smartphones, or computers.
One disadvantage of using an aux input is that the signal may be affected by noise when it passes through the amplifier in your audio system. This can be caused by the phone hardware processing digital music files or by the aux cable and jacks themselves. However, with the rise of Bluetooth connectivity and USB-based Apple CarPlay/Android Auto in modern vehicles, aux-in connections are steadily being phased out. Nevertheless, if you have an older device or an older car without built-in Bluetooth connectivity or USB-based Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, an aux input may still be useful for playing your own music in your car without the need for additional equipment.
Why Does It Matter Which Input You Use?
It matters which input you use because if you use the wrong input, you may not be able to hear anything or the sound quality may be poor. If you plug a turntable into an aux input, the signal will not be boosted to a level that can be heard through speakers, and you may need to max out the volume to hear anything. Additionally, the sound may be trebly and lacking in bass due to the lack of EQ circuitry.
Conversely, if you plug a CD player or other audio source into a phono input, the signal will be too strong and may even damage your speakers. This is because a phono input is expecting a much weaker signal from a turntable’s cartridge, and has circuitry specifically designed to boost and equalize that signal.
Therefore, it is important to use the correct input for each audio source in order to achieve optimal sound quality and avoid potential damage to your equipment. If your amplifier or receiver does not have a phono input, you can purchase an external phono preamp to connect between your turntable and your audio equipment.
How To Connect Your Turntable To The Correct Input
Connecting your turntable to the correct input is crucial to ensure that you get the best sound quality possible. Most turntables have a PHONO output signal that needs to be converted to a LINE LEVEL signal to work with audio equipment such as stereo systems, computers, and speakers.
To connect your turntable to the correct input, you will need a phono preamp. If your turntable has a built-in preamp, you can plug it into an AUX input instead. To use a phono preamp, follow these steps:
1. Connect the RCA cables from your turntable into the “Input” RCA inputs on the phono preamp.
2. Connect the ground wire from your turntable to the metal screw on the phono preamp to remove any hum or buzz sounds.
3. Connect a pair of RCA cables into the “Output” RCA connections on the preamp and connect them to the AUX input on the back of the receiver.
4. Select AUX on your receiver and begin playing your turntable to enjoy music.
If your receiver has a built-in phono preamp with an input labeled “PHONO,” simply plug your turntable’s audio signal cable into the receiver’s phono input. Just below the phono input is a metal post labeled “GND,” for ground. Connect your turntable’s ground wire (if it has one) to this post. This helps prevent any “hum” or noise coming from your turntable from playing through your system.
Tips For Getting The Best Sound Quality From Your Vinyl Records
If you’re a vinyl enthusiast, you know that getting the best sound quality from your records is essential. Here are some tips to help you achieve the best possible sound:
1. Proper tracking force: Tracking force is the amount of pressure the phono cartridge puts on your records. Too little force will cause the cartridge to bounce and skip, while too much will wear out your stylus and records too quickly. Make sure your turntable’s tonearm is set up to apply the correct amount of tracking force for the cartridge you’re using. This is usually specified in grams somewhere in the owner’s manual.
2. Deep cleaning: If your playback sounds crackly or muddy even after using a cleaning brush, your records may need a deeper cleaning. A good record cleaning machine that uses specially-formulated cleaning fluid and vacuum suction to really clear out the grooves can make records sound like new, and add years of listening life by keeping them in good shape.
3. Proper turntable support: Any external vibration will degrade the cartridge’s ability to track the groove accurately. These disturbances can be caused by many different sources, such as sound coming from the speakers, footfall transmitted through the floor, or even passing traffic sending vibration energy through the structure of your house. A decent turntable support is essential if you really want to hear how good your records can sound.
4. Proper volume: If you play your records too loud, they will start to sound distorted. On the other hand, if you play them too quietly, you won’t be able to hear all the details. It’s important to find a balance.
5. Proper speakers: Make sure that your speakers are properly set up. If they’re not, you won’t be able to get the best sound quality possible. Sometimes, the sound quality can also be affected by the type of speakers you’re using.
6. Isolating feet: If your turntable does not isolate well (if it’s lightweight), you can buy “rubber-like” isolating feet that your turntable will sit on and they will absorb most vibrations before they reach the record.
7. Acoustic improvement: Bookshelves (ideally open and filled with books…) are great absorbers of sound. Adding a bookshelf to a naked wall is perfect for improving acoustics.
8. Vertical tracking angle (VTA): This is the angle of the stylus in the groove as seen from the side. It is adjusted by varying its height, theoretically best results are achieved when the arm tube is parallel with the vinyl surface but you can tweak the sound by having it tilted up or down by a few degrees.
By following these tips, you can get the most out of your vinyl collection and enjoy high-quality audio for years to come.
Conclusion: Choosing The Right Input For Your Audio Setup
When it comes to choosing the right input for your audio setup, it’s important to consider what type of audio source you will be using. If you have a turntable, it’s essential to use a phono input in order to properly amplify the low-level signal produced by the cartridge. Using any other input could result in a weak and distorted sound.
If you have other audio sources, such as a CD player or smartphone, you can use an aux input. Keep in mind that some audio equipment may label their inputs differently, but as long as it’s a line-level input, it should work for your non-turntable audio sources.
If you’re unsure whether your turntable has a built-in preamp or not, check the manual or look for a switch on the back of the turntable. If it does have a built-in preamp, you can use an aux input instead of a phono input.
Overall, understanding the differences between phono and aux inputs can help you make informed decisions when setting up your audio system and ensure that you’re getting the best possible sound quality.