What is a phono stage and why do I need one?

9 May 2017

Most amplifiers and receivers from back in the day will usually have an input marked ‘Phono’ alongside the Aux, Tuner, CD, and Line inputs. These other inputs are all effectively the same as one another, whereas the phono input has some additional circuitry which is needed to properly play back the vinyl record.

You see, the signal produced by a turntable is entirely analogue. The stylus vibrating as it navigates the grooves produces its own electrical signal which goes directly to the amplifier. As a result, this signal is extremely quiet and so requires an extra amplification stage to bring it up to a listenable level.

As well as this, the signal which is cut into the disk has some additional equilisation applied to it which is then reversed in the phono stage. The reason for the equalisation is to overcome some of the limitations of vinyl records; The bass is attenuated to reduce the amount of space the grooves take up and to make it easier for the needle to track them, and the treble is boosted so that when it’s is later dropped in the phono input, the surface noise drops as well.

If you have an amplifier at home with an input marked ‘Phono’, you should be good to go with any of the turntables offered at Real Groovy. If not, or if you play your music through a portable speaker like a UE Boom or any other powered speakers, you’ll either need a standalone phono stage or a record player with one built-in.