Best Tube Phono Preamps – Get The Sound Quality You Deserve

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Last updatedLast updated: November 09, 2022
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Looking for the best tube phono preamp? If you own a turntable, it will enable you to raise your audio output while adding standardized equalization.

And you will need one because your turntable or studio amplifier might not feature one. Or maybe you want to upgrade to a much higher level than the current one.

The good thing is that the market has a bunch of good options to explore, and that’s why we have developed this guide to assist you.

There is a range of different tube phono preamps available, most of them, but we have listed some tube phono preamp reviews for your convenience.

1.

Fosi Audio Box X2Editor's Choice

Features
  • Inputs: MM turntable input, 3.5mm AUX input, 12V DC input
  • Outputs: RCA output
  • DC Input Voltage: 12V
  • Output Voltage Level: 600 Mv @3mV 1kHz
  • Frequency Response: Standard RIAA
  • Weight: 0.66 lb

Other Features: switchable gain modes, low-noise integrated circuits, 18-month warranty

This lightweight device is a good choice if you want to buy the best tube phono preamp. It comes with gain gear hi-fi stereo audio and is a top choice for a recording audio player with a 12V DC power supply. It can convert phono signals into line-level signals with integrated low-noise circuits.

We loved that this device comes with three switchable gain modes, each with different adjustable gain levels, so you can pick the right one based on your needs. This preamp features a 3.5mm jack, a rare sight nowadays.

If you want to replace those vacuum tubes with something DIY to create your stereo, then you can go for your own. Remember that different tubes mean different sounds, and it’s up to you to manage.

It is a unique device that comes with a 3.5mm jack, and it also comes with tubes that you can replace with something of your own. Moreover, this device has a wide range of accessories.

But we think this device doesn’t have any wireless connectivity option. This is the only thing that we think this device doesn’t feature. The rest is pretty much good with this tube phono preamp.

What makes it stand out?

  • High-quality components
  • Three fully switchable gain modes
  • Various accessories and attachments are included

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • No wireless connectivity options

2.

Pro-Ject Tube Box S2Premium Quality

Features
  • Tubes: 2 x ECC83 (12AX 7A)
  • Inputs: 1 pair of RCA/Cinch sockets
  • Subsonic filter: at 20 Hz with 18 dB/octave
  • Outboard power supply: 18 V / 1.000 mA DC
  • Weight: 1lbs

Other features: RIAA equalization (passive/active), Subsonic filter, FET input stage, Dual mono circuitry, Gold-plated RCA

The Pro-Ject Box 52 Tube is a phono preamp with quality written all over it. It’s truly a premium quality product on this list. This device is a suitable option for both MC and MM cartridges. It has accurate RIAA equalization in two segments, active and passive.

It means you can control the front and the background tunes. This is one of the top features of this tube phono preamp, and that’s why we have ranked at this spot in our list. Thanks to the RIAA equalization, you can easily take control of your active and passive sounds and alter the effects entirely.

This device comes with a couple of ECC83 tubes that are fully replaceable. It means you can change the tubes and go for the ones you choose.

But one of the best features of this preamp tube phono device is that it comes with a subsonic filter button that is present on its side. It lets you fully control your audio and make it clearer according to your needs and preferences.

We highly recommend going for this particular device because of its high-quality construction. It comes with various input gains, while the unit comes with an 18V power supply that works with most outlets.

Why did it make our list?

  • This unit is suitable for both MC and MM cartridges Premium quality materials
  • Long-lasting performance

What is not ideal about it?

  • Now wireless features are available

3.

Douk Audio MM Phono AmpBluetooth Connectivity

Features
  • PC-USB Input Sampling Frequency: 192K/24Bit
  • THD:01%
  • PC-USB System: supported XP/W7/W8/W10/MAC/Linux
  • Bluetooth VER: 0
  • Headphone matching impedance: 32-300Ω
  • Weight: 1.72lb

Other features: JAN5654 vacuum tube, Bluetooth 5.0 & APTX-HD, Tone Control, MM Phono Input

If you want a device equipped with a wireless option in your preamp, you must consider going for Douk HiFi Turntable Preamp. It comes with both wired and wireless connectivity options, making it one of the most versatile options on the market.

This is the best option for you to consider because you can conveniently link up different devices based on your needs and requirements. From wireless connection to a 3.5mm jack, this device comes with all the standard options that you need for connectivity.

This tube preamp for the turntable is an excellent option if you want to connect it with multiple devices simultaneously, as in a studio or during rehearsals. It comes with full tone control, and you can customize it effectively per your needs.

This device has a bass boost switch that is specifically designed to enhance various bass effects as well as various auditory effects. Therefore, we recommend this device to your audio collection if you want to mix things up.

This is the right option if you want to add more elements to your creations. The best part is that it comes with various sounds and additions you can use in your recording.

What are our favorite features?

  • Comes with a wide variety of connectivity options, including wireless
  • This device has an exquisite appearance.
  • Excellent power consumption

What could be better?

  • Bluetooth connectivity does take some time

4.

Ampapa A1Best Vacuum Tube Phono Preamp

Features
  • Inputs: Phono MM / Stereo RCA
  • Outputs: Stereo RCA / 3.5mm Headphone Jack
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz (±0.5dB) (RCA); Ref to RIAA +/-2dB (Phono)
  • Output Level:5V RMS (RCA); 0.6V RMS (Phono)
  • Weight: 0.8 lbs

Other features: AN GE5654 vacuum tubes, die-casting molding, 18-month warranty, treble/bass knobs, Phono & line input switch toggle

This vacuum tube is a top voice for you to consider because it can also be used as your headphone preamp. It works with an MM turntable record player and lets you control your tones from different devices. It comes at a decent price, so it is a highly recommended option. So, you can consider it one of the best budget tube preamp devices.

This device is designed to amplify low audio signals in high quality using MM turntables. It can handle various files ranging from a CD player, tablet, MP4, MP3, phonograph, active speakers, easy-to-drive amplifiers, and a wide range of other headphones.

If you look at its performance, you will notice that it is pretty warm, and the sound you will get from this device is pretty fine. You can connect it to a wide variety of other audio devices. It can significantly enhance your overall listening experience.

We recommend this device because it can surpass its competition in terms of performance. The manufacturers have used high-quality components and advanced design of this device to ensure you get the best out of it.

Why did it make our list?

  • Multiple connectivity options
  • Compact and advanced design
  • Comes with a wide range of accessories

What is not ideal about it?

  • The sound, at times, seems a bit too bright

5.

ART USB Phono PlusPro Alternative

Features
  • Preamp Type: Solid State
  • Number of Channels: 2
  • Analog Inputs: 2 x RCA (RIAA)
  • Analog Outputs: 2 x RCA
  • Digital Inputs: 1 x S/PDIF (Coax), 1 x S/PDIF (Optical)
  • Digital Outputs: 1 x S/PDIF (Optical)
  • Computer Connectivity: USB (Bus Powered)
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-50kHz (±0.5dB)
  • Weight: 1.35 lb.

Other features: RIAA EQ, Analog and Digital I/O, Low Cut Filter, All-aluminum black anodized case

The Phono Plus preamp is ideal for transferring your collection to the computer. Plus, it’s a top-choice audio interface with a low-cut filter. It has a healthy complement of digital and analog input/output boards and front-mounted gain for optimizing your analog resources. This unit comes in a tough aluminum case, and digitizing your records becomes much easier.

It’s a great sounding and ways solution that can help you digitize your vinyl. You can choose from different frequencies from your computer, and the unit will ensure a digital audio interface. Moreover, this device is powered by USB, and you don’t have to plug it in somewhere.

The device comes with different connectivity options, and setting it up is not difficult at all. It is also compatible with other operating systems, and you can conveniently convert your vinyl into digital using this preamp.

Whether you are a hobbyist or an expert recorder, this will come in handy whenever you want to convert your vinyl into digital format. It enables you to transfer all your files to the modern format and will handle those lower notes very well.

The easy USB connectivity of this device makes sure that you don’t need any separate power source for this device. You will have to connect it to your system, and that would be it.

This device is ideal for those who want to convert all their vinyl music to digital format. If you have any previous recordings on vinyl, this device will come in handy for you. Moreover, it will enable you to convert your digital coaxial and optical to USB. Your obsolete multitrack recorders can become your workhorses again.

What stands out?

  • Very affordable
  • USB powered
  • Compatible with different operating systems
  • Easy conversion from vinyl to digital and from digital to USB

What cons did we manage to find?

  • It doesn't come with an on/off switch

Things to Consider

As there are different types of tube phono preamps available on the market. Going for the right is important to get the best results according to your requirements. And for that, you need to look at some important features before buying.
We have developed this buying guide and listed down some FAQs, so you become aware of what are the things that you need to know before you buy such a device. After going through it, you will learn what features you need to look for in a tube phono preamp.

Features to Consider Before Buying a Tube Phono Preamp

Here are some important features you need to consider before buying a quality tube phono preamp according to your requirements.

Do You Need a Tube Phono Preamp?

If you have a stereo amplifier called a turntable, it might not come with a tube phono preamp. Therefore, you won’t be able to pay for any of those vinyl records if you don’t have this important component.

It can be handy when upgrading the sound beyond what some amplifiers and record players can manage. But you do need to remember that there is nothing that puts tube phonos ahead of its solid-state counterpart.

A solid-state is a better option if you are looking for better results. But that doesn’t mean buying a tube phono preamp is a waste of money.

This device can give you the most audible change that you can get. You will be able to get the sound from those records as the producers intended them.

These devices are standalone analog, and they are designed to boost electromagnetic signals that are received from a player’s cartridge. It then converts that signal into a line-level output.

Now, discuss the features you must consider before buying a tube phono preamp. These features will enable you to find the best options that suit your needs.

Phono Cartridge

A phono cartridge is a mechanism that can hold the stylus and translates those grooves from a vinyl record and turns them into a signal that can be a sound. Each turntable comes with a cartridge, or they won’t have any sound.

These cartridges are called carts. The cartridges have different parts, including coils, pole pieces, magnets, cantilever, rubber suspension, and stylus.

These cartridges come in different kinds, including moving magnet cartridges and moving coil cartridges. There are different types, including micro-ridge, elliptical, spherical, and hyper-elliptical.

Filters

These devices come with subsonic filters. These filters remove any inaudible vibrations of a low frequency and are often called rumble. This rumble results from the warped records or the bearings of a turntable.

The rumble might be inaudible, but it does cause an unwanted movement in the speaker cone, resulting in distortion within audible frequencies.

These filters won’t harm your system’s base response. But users have mentioned that in some preamps, they do so. Therefore, you need to look for these subsonic filters that are not harmful to the system or device.

Solid State vs. Tube

The primary difference between the two is that tube amps tend to use vacuum tubes for amplification. On the other hand, solid-state preamps use electronics for this purpose.

But there is an audible difference between the two which is why one is preferred over the other. Tube preamps tend to be warm and sound engineers recognize it immediately as they hear it.

Whereas the sound of a solid-state preamp largely depends on its circuitry. Musicians and sound engineers consider these preamps inferior, but these docs have theory one advantages.

Advantages of Tube Preamps

Response

Tube preamps not only have overdrive and tune advantages, but these devices come with response advantages. You will get subtly different sounds with a vacuum tube. Solid-state preamps tend to be more on the crisper side, and they don’t respond to the nuances of a player.

Clear Sound

Being warm, most musicians love the sound from a tube phono preamp. The sound you will hear in front of his device will be extremely clean if played softly. But the heavily accented tone will have a slight distortion.

Some people prefer to go for a crispier sound; it doesn’t matter how hard they want to play. Therefore they go for a solid-state preamp. But if the clear sound is the most important aspect, you should consider going for the tube preamp.

Disadvantages of Tube Preamps

Not That Crispy Sound

Most musicians don’t prefer to go for these preamps because they don’t sound as crisp as their solid-state variants.

More Expensive

These preamps are more expensive as compared to their solid-state variants. So, most hobbyists go for the solid-state variants. These are more suitable for professionals.

Advantages of Solid-State Preamps

More Durable

Solid-state preamps are much more durable as compared to tube preamps. Tube preamps are made of glass, and there is a constant risk that these tubes can break upon impact. This is especially the case if you take your preamp on the road. But the solid-state preamps are more durable as they are circuit-based.

Less Expensive

It’s one of the biggest advantages of a solid-state preamp as it is much cheaper than its tube variant. The solid-state preamps are circuit-based. Therefore, they are much cheaper to produce than their tube variants.

More Sound Options

In recent years, solid-state preamps are becoming more and more advanced as they are equipped with more features.

As they have circuitry, manufacturers have started adding more inbuilt effects. Therefore, you won’t need any extra effect pedals either.

Disadvantages of Solid-State Preamps

Slightly Low on The Sound Quality

These preamps are slightly low on sound quality. They might sound a bit crisper than tube preamps, but they are much better overall.

FAQ

A good phono preamp does make a difference in the overall sound quality. It has a critical role as it converts the electrical signals from your vinyl cartridge and amplifies it manifold.

After that, it is converted into digital sound, and you get to hear what notes were created by the musicians as they intended. Tube preamps are pretty extraordinary in terms of sound clarity, while solid-state preamps are pretty good in terms of crispness.

A phono preamp connects your amplifier and record player back when vinyl was an audio recording standard.

This phone preamp was built right into your amplifiers and receivers. Therefore, you can directly connect your amplifier to your record player.

No, these two devices are entirely different from one another. They perform different duties. They are both required within the signal chain between speakers and turntables. Traditionally both these devices go into the stereo receiver.

You need to connect those RCA cables from your turntable to your RCA jacks in the labels “input” or “in” on your phono preamp. After that, you will have to connect another pair of RCA wires for your RCA jacks that are labeled “out” or “output” or the CD input on the receiver.

Our Verdict

Overall the best tube phono preamp on the market that you can go for is the Fosi Audio Box X2. It’s also our editor’s choice, and it delivers quality performance.

Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 is the second best on our list, and it is a good option if you are looking for a premium quality product.

Third on the list is the Douk Audio MM Phono Amp, and it is a good option for you to consider if you’re looking for wireless connectivity as it comes with Bluetooth and can produce sensations and sounds.

These devices are pretty extraordinary, and they also come at a rather convenient price as well. Most of these are great for professional use. But you will find these devices equally productive if you’re a hobbyist.

Now, you know all about the best tube phono preamps available on the market and what you need to know to find the best according to your requirements.

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