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The 3 best phono preamps for your turntable in 2024

Getting a phono preamp is a necessary step in the life of every music enthusiast; sooner or later, you’ll feel the need to an extra layer of depth to your listening sessions, and upgrading the phone preamp of your hi-fi system is generally the way to go if you want to achieve great results at a reasonable price.

Below you’ll find a list of what I believe are the best phono preamps you can get right now, based on overall performance as well as price. From the most affordable to mid and high-end items, there should be a suitable preamp here for you, whether you’re a new or seasoned audiophile.

Quick recommendations

If you’re in a hurry, let me just say the Schiit Mani 2 offers exceptional value for money, and I can’t imagine anyone going wrong by buying it to upgrade their sound system. Extremely versatile, capable of handling both MM and MC cartridges, and with plenty of customization options, the Mani 2 can enhance your sonic experience for just $150.

Alternatively, and if your budget allows it, check out the Rega Fono MM Mk5. While only suitable for moving magnet cartridges, the Fono MM Mk5 is a force to be reckoned with; it breathes new life into records, with an upgraded accuracy and spatiality that’ll satisfy the needs of even the most demanding audiophile.

Why you should trust me

I’m a music producer, audiophile, and vinyl enthusiast with 12 years of experience in the industry.

Marco Sebastiano Alessi, author and contributor at Higher Hz

I started my journey in the audiophile world with my parents’ old Aiwa over a decade ago, and have never stopped experimenting with gear and room acoustics ever since.

For the last few years, I’ve reviewed and tested sound equipment to share my thoughts on the best the market can offer, including the finest phono preamps you can buy to upgrade your sound.

How I chose and tested

This list is the result of a personal search for the best phono preamps, taking into account their technical specifications, sound quality, and compatibility.

Throughout the process, I also got some feedback from other audio professionals and vinyl enthusiasts to make sure I had a well-rounded perspective.

My goal was to create a list that offers excellent value for money and highlights the most valuable preamps on the market in 2024.

I’m confident that the preamps I recommend will not only enhance your listening experience but also deliver on quality and reliability.

Best value: Schiit Mani 2

  • Gain: 33, 42, 48, 60 dB
  • Moving magnet: Yes
  • Moving coil: Yes
Schiit Mani 2
Image: Schiit Audio

I truly believe the Schiit Mani 2 is a game-changer in the world of phono preamplifiers, delivering exceptional performance for less than $200.

Its impressive soundstage is partly due to the high-quality passive RIAA network, including precision film capacitors and thin-film resistors, as well as a DC-coupled topology and TI’s low-noise op-amps.

The Mani 2 also comes with an advanced dual-filtered power supply and a switchable one- or two-pole passive low-frequency filter, which helps reduce noise and interference when playing warped records or encountering subsonic issues.

The Mani 2 can handle MM, MC, or MI cartridges, thanks to its versatile gain and loading settings. Users can adjust gain settings from 33 dB to 60 dB, loading settings from 47k ohms to 38 ohms, and capacitance settings to sculpt the perfect sound. The eight DIP switches located at the bottom of the unit make it easy to adjust all these settings.

Schiit Mani 2 rear/bottom
Image: Schiit Audio

In terms of performance, the Mani 2’s tonality feels authentic and balanced, preserving and enhancing the dynamic range and nuances of vinyl records. This preamp doesn’t color the sound in any way, but reveals the sonic subtleties in a natural and immersive way.

Overall, the Schiit Mani 2 is a high-fidelity, customizable, and user-friendly phono preamp: a celebration of thoughtful engineering and design in audio equipment which you should get if you want to upgrade your sound.

What I like

  • Versatile, performing.
  • Built to last.
  • Affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing at this price.
Buy Schiit Mani 2 at: AmazonSchiit Audio

Most intuitive: Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2

  • Gain: 40, 45, 50, 60, 65 dB
  • Moving magnet: Yes
  • Moving coil: Yes
Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2
Image: Pro-Ject

If you’re looking for a phono preamplifier that combines extensive customization options with simplicity of use, the Phono Box DS2 is an excellent option.

Just like all Pro-Ject products, the Phono Box DS2 is extremely intuitive even for newcomers, and designed to accommodate all common MM and MC cartridges, allowing you to easily switch between input impedance, capacitance, and gain directly from the front panel.

One of the best things about the DS2 is how easy it is to integrate into your existing audio setup. It features one pair of RCA inputs for your turntable and one pair of RCA outputs that connect to your preamplifier or integrated amplifier.

Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2 rear panel
Image: Pro-Ject

But the Phono Box DS2 is also built to last. The case is made of durable aluminum metal that protects against electromagnetic interference and vibrations. This minimalist design that defines all Pro-Ject gear gives the DS2 a sleek and elegant aesthetic that will look great with any audio system.

The Phono Box DS2 features a very linear circuit design which delivers a pure and detailed audio output that brings out the best in your vinyl collection.

Overall, the Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2 is a great choice for anyone looking for a high-quality phono preamplifier that won’t break the bank.

What I like

  • Transparent sound.
  • Flexible.
  • Nicely-designed.

What I don’t like

  • Plenty of alternatives at this price point.
Buy Pro-Ject Phono Box DS2 at: Turntable LabPro-Ject

Best sound accuracy: Rega Fono MM Mk5

  • Gain: 41.4 dB
  • Moving magnet: Yes
  • Moving coil: No
Rega Fono MM Mk5
Image: Rega

The Rega Fono MM Mk5 is the latest addition to the Fono MM series and is designed exclusively for moving magnet cartridges.

Even if you’re a seasoned audiophile, you’ll be surprised by how this reasonably priced preamp can enhance the beauty of your record collection, a testament to the dedication to innovation Rega showed already with its iconic Planar turntable series.

The Fono MM Mk5’s complementary amplifier input stage offers a cohesive soundstage, bringing to life an extremely accurate and a noise-free listening experience. This precision in sound reproduction enhances the spatiality of the music and adds depth and clarity to your hi-fi system.

The improved transients in the audio signal make the listening experience more immersive and accurate, while preserving the sound’s natural characteristics.

Rega Fono MM Mk5 rear panel
Image: Rega

All in all, the Fono MM Mk5 is a cost-effective option for serious audiophiles who want to upgrade their listening room, and while more expensive than the Mani 2, it’s definitely worth the investment if you want to reach new highs in high-fidelity sound.

But if the Fono MM Mk5 stretches beyond your budget, Rega offers the more affordable Fono Mini A2D Mk2. Although not as advanced as the MM Mk5, the Mini A2D Mk2 costs half the price of the MM Mk5 and includes a USB output, making it an excellent choice for those new to the world of vinyl or anyone looking for a more versatile phono stage.

What I like

  • Exceptional sound.
  • Value for money for serious audiophiles.

What I don’t like

  • Not compatible with moving coil cartridges.
Buy Rega Fono MM Mk5 at: AmazonTurntable Lab

Honorable mentions

While the three preamps above would undoubtedly be my go-to options, there are still a few phono preamps worth mentioning that provide exceptional sound quality for their price.

  • Rolls VP29. This is a budget-friendly, entry-level phono preamp that costs less than $60. Despite its low cost, the VP29 offers a good and clear sound that can improve the vinyl listening experience of those relying on built-in preamps.
  • Moon 110LP v2. This is another exceptional phono preamp within the price range of the Phono Box DS2 and Fono MM Mk5. It offers a detailed and dynamic sound which won’t disappoint music enthusiasts looking for mid-fi upgrade solutions.
  • Musical Fidelity MX-VYNL. With a fully balanced, dual-mono design and top-of-the-line RIAA accuracy, the MX-VYNL offers extensive load adjustment options, making it compatible with any cartridge. This is a premium option in the phono preamp market, but one that’s worth the investment if you’re serious about your listening experience.

Final thoughts

I hope this guide will help you choose the best phono preamp for your needs! My final recommendation is, if you’re a beginner, to opt for a versatile preamp that will allow you to upgrade your gear stress-free in the future.

If you already know your way around hi-fi systems, make sure you try at least a couple of the models mentioned in this article, to get an idea of how each preamp can upgrade your sound. Differences are not always as subtle as we think. Happy listening!

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