Best phono preamps

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...and these are the models that bear strongest consideration. They're the best you can buy across a range of prices, including bargain models and money-no-object amps for seriously high-end turntables.

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Best Buys: turntables

12 of the best vinyl test records

Under £100

Edwards Audio Apprentice MM

It's been a long time since we heard an affordable phono stage of such musicality.

SPECIFICATIONS

Minimalist design | Plug-in-and-play | Entry-level

Reasons to Buy
Decent amount of detail
Good timing and dynamic range
Knits music together well
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing to complain about at this price

Under £200

Rega Fono MM MK3

The MK3 improves on the already near-perfect MK2.

Reasons to Buy
Clear, detailed and spacious performance
Fine handling of timing and dynamics
Updated, sleeker design
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing

Under £300

Cambridge Duo MC/MM

Moving magnet or moving coil compatibility, headphone amp, and corking performance from an excellent newcomer.

Reasons to Buy
Full-bodied, warm presentation
Times well, good dynamics
MM and MC capability
Built-in headphone amp
Looks lovely and is a treat to use
Reasons to Avoid
Rega Fono MM MK3 offers a tad more punch

Under £500

Arcam rPhono

These levels of insight and etertainment are rare at this price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Moving magnet/moving compatible | Cartridge loading adjustments | Dimensions (hwd): 4 x 19 x 12cm

Reasons to Buy
Refined, informative and entertaining sound
Flexible
Well built
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this price

Under £1000

Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL

Generous features, superb sound and a little flavour of the truly high-end.

SPECIFICATIONS

Moving Magnet/Moving Coil capability | Cartridge loading adjustments | Balanced input and output

Reasons to Buy
Impressive transparency
Fluid dynamics
Articulate and agile presentation
Features
Impressive build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing at this level

Under £2000

Pathos In The Groove

Not quite the design fireworks we're used to from Pathos, but a superb phono stage nonetheless.

SPECIFICATIONS

Moving Magnet/Moving Coil | Adjustable cartridge loading | Balanced outputs

Reasons to Buy
Refined, insightful and entertaining sound
Cartridge loading adjustments
Fine build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing

Money-no-object

Aesthetix Io Eclipse

Obviously it's suitable only for the headiest systems, but those whose set-up demands the very best need look no further.

Reasons to Buy
Stunningly natural, informative sound
exquisite design and build
Reasons to Avoid
Needs care in use
lacks flexibility
takes up loads of rack space

Also consider

Under £100

Rega Fono Mini A2D

SPECIFICATIONS

USB input | MM phono stage

Reasons to Buy
Musically excellent, with fine organisation, timing and dynamics
Enough space and detail to belie the price
Ability to rip vinyl is a bonus
Reasons to Avoid
Not much to look at, perhaps?

Under £200

Musical Fidelity LX2-LPS

Reasons to Buy
Open and full-bodied presentation
Fluid dynamics
Vocal performances are a particular highlight
Serves both MM and MC cartridges
Adjustable impedance
Reasons to Avoid
Lacks some punch and drive compared with class leader

Under £300

Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Communicator

SPECIFICATIONS

MM phono stage | PSU1 audio power supply upgrade

Reasons to Buy
Class-leading levels of detail
Brilliant timing
Expressive, with a sweet spot for dynamics in the upper registers
PSU1 power supply offers a significant upgrade
Reasons to Avoid
Not the last word in weight or out-and-out punch

Under £500

Furutech ADL GT40

Reasons to Buy
Impressively talented
Wide range of functions
Excellent build and finish
Reasons to Avoid
Phono stage lacks a little openness

Under £1000

Rega Aria

Reasons to Buy
Insight, excellent dynamics and rhythmic ability
Plenty of punch combined with subtlety
MC loading adjustments
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of importance

Under £2000

Cyrus Phono Signature/PSX-R2

SPECIFICATIONS

Remotely adjustable cartridge loading | XLR and RCA inpiuts | Upgradable

Reasons to Buy
A balanced and insightful sound
Expressive dynamics
Clean and crisp sound
Rhythmically surefooted
Flexible
Remote adjustment of cartridge loading
Reasons to Avoid
Poorly marked remote for this application
Display contrast is poor off axis
Front panel buttons feel vague

Money-no-object

Burmester 100 Phono Preamplifier

SPECIFICATIONS

Modular design | Optional analogue to digital convertor | Two inputs

Reasons to Buy
Fluid, dynamic and informative sound
Impressive sonic scale and stability
Modular nature
Superb build
Reasons to Avoid
Lack of choice in equalisation curves may be an issue for some

Money-no-object

Luxman EQ-500

SPECIFICATIONS

Valve circuit | Moving magnet and moving coil | Three inputs

Reasons to Buy
Refined and insightful sound
Fluid dynamics and surefooted sense of rhythm
Feature-packed and made with care
Reasons to Avoid
Demands a top-class system