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How to connect a turntable to a receiver

It's easier than you think

The author attempts to connect a turntable and receiver

Connecting a turntable to your receiver doesn't have to be a complicated process. All you need to know are a few basics to pair them, and then you're ready to savor the sweet sounds of vinyl records.

The key to getting these two components together starts with the phono preamp. 

What's a phono preamp?

The cartridge on the end of your turntable's tonearm generates a tiny voltage as its needle traces the grooves on your record albums. This voltage, or music signal, must be properly equalized and amplified before it can play through your receiver.

Boosting this signal is the job of the phono preamp, also known as a phono stage, phono EQ, RIAA preamp, or turntable preamp. And just in case you were wondering, "phono" is short for phonograph, the old-fashion term for turntable. 

Where is your phono preamp?

The three most common places to find a phono preamp in most systems are: 

  1. inside your receiver
  2. built into your turntable
  3. housed in a separate box that plugs in between your turntable and receiver
A receiver with a built-in phono preamp

This receiver has a built-in phono preamp with a dedicated "PHONO" input to plug in a turntable. There's also a separate ground ("GND") terminal for connecting the turntable's ground wire.

Once you know where your phono preamp is, the rest is easy. Below we'll look at the three main ways most turntables and receivers connect.

System 1: Phono preamp is in the receiver

Connecting a turntable to a receiver with a built-in phono preamp

With this system, we simply plug our turntable's audio signal cable into our receiver's PHONO input, then attach the turntable's ground wire to the receiver's ground terminal, and we're done.

  • This turntable does not have a built-in phono preamp.
  • The receiver has a built-in phono preamp with an input labeled "PHONO".
  • All you have to do is 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. 

System 2: Phono preamp is in the turntable

Connecting a turntable with a built-in phono preamp to a receiver

This system's turntable has a built-in phono preamp. That means we'll be plugging its audio signal cable into one of our receiver's analog audio inputs.

  • This turntable has a built-in phono preamp. 
  • The receiver does not have a built-in phono preamp.
  • Simply plug the turntable's audio signal cable into one of the receiver's analog audio inputs. These inputs are oftentimes labeled Aux (auxiliary), Line In, Analog In, etc. You can even use your receiver's "CD" or "Tape" input, if needed. No other connections are required.

System 3: Phono preamp is a separate component

Connecting a turntable and receiver to a separate outboard phono preamp

This system's turntable and receiver both lack a built-in phono preamp, so we have to add one. We first plugged our turntable's audio signal cable and ground wire into our separate phono preamp box. Then we connect the preamp into one of our receiver's analog audio inputs.

  • Neither the receiver nor the turntable have a built-in phono preamp. 
  • For this system, a separate outboard phono preamp must be connected between the turntable and the receiver.
  • Start by plugging your turntable's audio cable into the phono preamp's input. Be sure to connect your turntable's ground wire (if it has one) to the grounding post on the phono preamp.
  • Now plug the phono preamp's audio output into one of your receiver's analog audio inputs, connect the preamp to its power supply, and you're all set.  

What if your turntable and receiver both have built-in phono preamps?

If it turns out that both your receiver and turntable have a built-in phono preamp, be sure to connect your turntable to one of your receiver's line (or auxiliary) inputs instead of its phono input. You don't want two phono preamps trying to work together at the same time.

Tips for getting better sound

  • If your receiver and turntable both have a built-in phono preamps, and your turntable has a switch that lets you bypass or turn its built-in preamp off, you can experiment to see if either your receiver's or turntable's phono preamp sounds better. You might discover that one sounds significantly better than the other.
  • Even if your receiver has a built-in phono preamp, a separate phono preamp might still make a good upgrade. Outboard phono preamps often contain superior quality circuitry, and may provide settings and adjustments that can help deliver better sound.    

Skip the wires altogether with a Bluetooth turntable

A few turntables come with built-in Bluetooth for wireless connection to Bluetooth speakers, headphones or receivers. A wired connection will offer greater fidelity, but Bluetooth lets you make a cleaner-looking installation and opens up placement options you may not be able to achieve by running speaker wire.

Expert advice for your system

Setting up a turntable and connecting it to your system might seem a bit intimidating if you've never done it. We’re here for you — every step of the way.

Our advisors can help you choose the right turntable and receiver, and our in-house tech support is available seven days a week to answer questions after you buy.

Want to read more about choosing a turntable? Check out our turntable buying guide for more info. We also have a buying guide for external phono preamps.

Watch our how to set up a turntable video to be sure you get the best sound.

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  • peter fowler from St. Louis

    Posted on 4/24/2022

    Love crutch! Always an article learn from!

  • Tony from Los Angeles

    Posted on 3/15/2022

    I have an Audio Technica LP60X that has a built-in preamp and I have a Yamaha RX-V485 with no dedicated phono input. I see that the Yamaha has an Audio 3 RCA input but the receiver is not picking up the turntable. Any ideas if this receiver is even compatible?

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  • Francis Neighbour from San Giovanni

    Posted on 11/10/2021

    How do I get a question answered by a real human?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 11/11/2021

    Francis - I always try to answer questions thoroughly here in the comments section, but that naturally doesn't allow for much back-and-forth conversation. Your best bet to talk to one of our Advisors is to call 1-888-955-6000 or use the chat feature on our website. Hope this helps!
  • Beau from DC

    Posted on 11/8/2021

    Let's say my turntable has a preamp and I want to connect it directly to powered speakers. What do I do about the ground coming off the turntable?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 11/9/2021

    Beau - If you're connecting to an RCA input that's not a phono stage, there probably isn't a place on the speakers to connect the ground, so you'd just leave it disconnected on that end. If you get hum, check in with our tech support to see if they have some strategies for defeating it. Hope this helps!
  • G.Jannes from Grimbergen

    Posted on 11/6/2021

    I think your information is very clear and instructive. Thank you for that.

  • KD from Conroe

    Posted on 11/2/2021

    I just purchased a Fluance RT85. I am new to this and have no experience in electronics. I would like some help selecting what else I need - like a receiver with built in preamp or preamp and Amp and floor speakers - all wired not bluetooth. What brand? What model? I have read so many reddit threads - need some help to narrow it down -I would like Eric Angevine to help me decide which products to look into. For each item I am looking in the $100-$600 range. Thanks for your help

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 11/3/2021

    KD - Thanks for the inquiry, I'll see what I can do for you! The first thing I see is that this turntable does not have a built-in preamp, and we have three ways to handle that: connect to an integrated amp with a phono input, use a dedicated preamp between 'table and receiver, or connect directly to powered speakers with phono input. I live in an apartment, so I use the last option, and my favorite in that regard is the Kanto TUK speaker system. It saves you a lot of space, sounds great with vinyl (love the AMT tweeter sound), and you can plug other components into it. I'm going to offer that up as my all-in-one solution, but if you really want to build a system with more flexibility on which speakers you use, reply again and we can dig into receivers/amps and passive speakers. Hope this helps!
  • Nina from Coffs Harbour

    Posted on 10/26/2021

    This is great information. Thank you. Can you tell me how I know if the turntable has a built in pre-amp. It is an old Sharp RPL600A which plugged into the stereo system. For some reason the sound in that system just stopped working. I thought I might connect the turntable to my new receiver, but the receiver manual says I need a pre-amp, I'm not sure what to do.

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/26/2021

    Nina - I found a scanned manual for the RPL600A online that makes it pretty clear that this model does not have a built-in preamp. The Pro-Ject Phono Box MM is our top seller and it comes in at a very reasonable price. It will do the basic job you need it to do. Hope this helps!
  • Oscar A from New York

    Posted on 10/3/2021

    Hello, I was just wondering if you are open on weekends?

    Commenter image

    Eric Angevine from Crutchfield

    on 10/4/2021

    Oscar - As of the time I'm writing this (October 2021) we're open Saturday-Sunday 10 am-7 pm est. That could change in the future, but that's the deal right now! Hope to hear from you soon.
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