Connecting A Turntable To A Home Theater System

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Where Do I Find A Phono Preamp?

In the past, turntables used to be the norm, as they were shipped with preamplifiers that served two purposes: providing the anti-skating force and generating a pulsing wave to be used for tracking.

Since most home theater receivers have left the phono inputs out of their output lineup, many are now forced to connect turntables to their home theaters using the dreaded RCA audio cables.

If you don't already have a phono amp, you will have to buy one.

Most older receivers supported them, but when manufacturers started to ditch them, it became harder to find a phono amp since not every system supported a phono input. But here's the good news: the demand for vinyl never went away completely, so if you are looking for a phono input these days, there are many choices to be had.

How Do I Connect My Turntable To A Home Theater System?

If you have an old record collection you want to have a listen to again, but you don't want to disturb your family by cranking up the PA, connecting your turntable to a home theater system is the perfect solution.

You'll need the following to connect your turntable to a home theater system:

  • A turntable with RCA cables (RCA is a traditional analog audio cable) and an RCA cable adapter;
  • A home theater system with an audio/video in jack;
  • A phono preamp
  • A cable to connect to your speakers

Sometimes the phono preamp is included in your equipment. Here's some scenarios:

The phono preamp is in the turntable

Phono preamps are a type of electronic device that converts the low signal from a phono cartridge into a line-level (aka AUX/line) signal. In other words, a phono preamp amplifies the signal coming from the cartridge.

Most modern line-level equipment does not need the use of a phono (or record) preamp. However, certain consumer audio receivers, audio processors, and home theater systems may need a phono preamp to connect a turntable.

The preamp is the one component in your turntable setup that you will need to connect a turntable to your home system. Some turntables have them built-in. And although every turntable requires a phono preamp, the preamp may look or function differently depending on the model.

The phono preamp is in the receiver

There are two ways to connect a turntable to a home theater or home audio system: direct connection and receiver connection. Here’s more about how to connect your turntable to your receiver or amplifier.

The first thing to determine is which inputs your receiver, amplifier, or integrated amplifier has. This will determine whether you need a pre-amp or not and your route to then hooking up your turntable.

Recorders, tape decks, or turntables, for instance, will need an input that is designated as the "phono". If you are hooking up your turntable and receiver together in the same line, you don’t need a pre-amp. If you want to add a turntable to your computer sound system, you will need to buy a phono pre-amp depending on the type of computer you are using.

If you’re using an iPod or other MP3 player on your home theater or home audio system, then a pre-amp will be required since the included dock or transducer will need an electrical signal to output to your speakers.

You need a separate phono preamp

Many modern home theatre systems are not designed for a turntable, and may not have a way to connect a turntable to the system without an intermediate device, called a phono preamp.

The most expensive, high-end sound systems or older ones may have a phono preamp built-in. But even then, the preamp is usually just a digital device that takes the analog signal from the turntable and converts it to a digital signal that can be accepted by the system.

Can I Connect A Turntable To Surround Sound?

You might be surprised to learn that a vinyl record can be converted into a digital file and then streamed into any sound system.

Nowadays, home entertainment systems can stream audio and video content from the internet to anywhere in your home. Similarly, you can connect your turntable to your wireless home audio system, and your records will also be converted into a digital format. You can then stream the digital audio files to your home sound system and play your vinyl records again.

Most home entertainment systems that include wireless speakers don’t have room for another device to connect to it, and your turntable doesn’t have to be connected to your wireless speaker system. It makes more sense to connect your turntable to your home theater system. Rather than dealing with multiple set-ups, the option to connect a turntable to a home theater system, or built-in Wi-Fi systems, offers a simpler route to the same result.

Do I Need Any Other Special Equipment For A Turntable?

Connecting a turntable to your home entertainment system isn't difficult. A turntable is made up of just 4 basic components: a power cord (or external power supply), an audio input cord of some kind, a phono preamp, and a USB type connector.

A turntable requires a power cord as it doesn't have an internal power supply. Most turntables are designed to run on switches, which means they don't have an automatic power on/off function. The power cord consists of two types of plugs. One end is connected to an MK power connector, also known as a 110-volt power supply, and the other end is a DIN-socket connector. An external power supply needs 110-volt power and reduces the amount of equipment you need to plug in.

An audio input cord allows you to connect the turntable to the home theater system, while the phono preamp boosts the signal from the turntable and sends it to the home audio receiver.

The USB adapter converts the Analog signal from your turntable to a digital one to be used with your PC or laptop. USB adapters come in two varieties: with a jack for a headphone single plug, or with two RCA plugs. The latter needs a pair of RCA-to-3.5mm audio cables to work with a home theater system.

Do You Need A Receiver For A Turntable?

Not long ago, most turntables needed to be connected to an external receiver or amplifier. This is no longer the case today.

When turntables could only produce a mono audio output, an external amplifier is needed. However, most modern turntables are capable of producing an acceptable stereo or even a surround sound. This means they can be connected directly to a home theater system.

A turntable connects to the home theater system using RCA cables. The RCA cables are usually included in the turntable package.

The benefit of using an external amp is that it will provide better sound quality than your home theater system alone. With amplification and some additional audio equipment, you can use a better quality setup to experience music in a whole new way.

Nowadays, turntables commonly include a USB output and this allows you to record your vinyl music onto your PC or a USB drive. You can even use the USB output to connect directly to your home theater system.

Our main recommendation is a high-quality turntable is ideal for a vinyl enthusiast who is just starting and wants amazing sound with minimal cost. There are many budget options to fit every budget, and you get excellent sound quality for your money.

How To Get The Best Sound Out Of Your Turntable

The information in this section will help you get the best sound when playing your music on a turntable.

Choosing Your Audio Equipment

First, you will need to decide what equipment you will use. Your audio source could be any of the following:

  • A turntable (record player)
  • Your iPod
  • Your computer (with audio output)

Most of today’s audio components are made with the playback of a CD or digital audio in mind, so you should opt for a turntable. If you choose to go a more modern route, you will want to make sure that the turntable is compatible with your audio equipment.

A surround sound system is another option for playing your favorite albums. If you have a surround sound system and a turntable, you should use the turntable for higher-quality music.

How to Connect a Turntable to a Home Theater System

You can connect your turntable to a home theater system in two ways:

  • Connecting the turntable to the system directly;
  • Connecting the turntable using an audio output from a TV.

Make Sure Your Record Player Is In The Best Position

Your record player should be placed inside a housing that reflects the bass sound waves, which should be very sturdy and made of rigid steel or wood. This housing will also suppress the sound of the motor so it isn’t picked up by the tonearm. Listen to a test tone and make sure the record player is placed in the sweet spot of your speakers.

Depending on where you place your turntable, you’ll get better bass or treble response. You can also get the best response if you place it where it is closest to your listening position.

Make sure your speakers are not in front of the turntable. So, the sound waves from your speakers and the tonearm counterweight of your record player are not in the same plane. The speakers should not be placed off to the side either, because they may resonate with the tonearm since they are on the same plane. If you observe a frequency response dip or excessive treble at the same spot on your entire vinyl collection, place the tonearm where you get the most balanced response (and where it will not be in the direct path of your speakers).

Manual Turntables Usually Result In Better Sound

A manual turntable is a conventional turntable that is fitted with a belt. It is called raw manual or manual because there is no direct connection with a home theater system.

Although some newer manual turntables have a built-in pre-amp, the most desirable way to connect a manual turntable is with a home stereo receiver. Connecting your turntable with a home stereo receiver will result in better sound quality.

There are some reasons why connecting a turntable to a home theater system is not as appealing as connecting it with your home stereo receiver. First of all, a home stereo receiver will reduce noise and create a cleaner sound quality. The other reason why you would probably want to connect your turntable to your home stereo receiver is that it creates the option of utilizing all the advanced functions that are available on your home stereo receiver, instead of having to use the basic features on your turntable. If you decide to use a home stereo receiver, make sure that you purchase a turntable that is compatible with it.

Keep Your Needle In Good Shape

If you've ever had problems with your records skipping or your needle jumping, it's probably a good idea to invest in a new one. Not only do you want to hear undistorted music, but a new needle can also give you better sound quality. The needle is essentially the most crucial part of your record player, so keeping it in good condition will help extend the life of your player. That said, there are a few simple things to remember when putting a new needle in your record player.

A new needle should always be lubricated. Many record players don't come with lubricant, so you'll have to buy your own. You can find specific lubricants designed for record players, but a light spray bottle should work just fine.

Another important thing to remember is to rotate the record gently but carefully when you first place it on the turntable so that you don't pinch the needle. You can also gently place your hand on top of the needle while the record rotation may help to further prevent any pinching.

Don’t Be Worried About Buying Old Records

Vinyl LPs aren’t new anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find good ones in record stores. You may have bought your record player to replace the cheap turntable that came with your stereo when you first graduated college. Your next purchase was likely a CD or a digital music library. But before you go and get rid of your old records, take note that the vinyl LP resurgence isn’t a fad. The number of vinyl units sold each year continues to increase. It’s also not just the baby boomers, but younger people buying records during this popularity surge. Curating a collection of your favorite records is one of the most exciting ways to bring the analog sound and feel into your comfortable, modern home.

As the record player collector boom continues, record stores are proliferating, and record players are becoming just as common as old-school stereos and radios. You could have a record player sitting in your attic and you may not even know it.

Don’t Buy Dirty Records

Before you start connecting your turntable to your home theater system, you need to make sure that you have records that are playable and clean. Don’t shop for dirty records – you can find them cheap but they don’t have much value other than a collectible.

Do you love music and own old records but can’t play them because of your home theater system? You will find many different options for connecting your turntable to other devices, and you have to decide which to use. If you want to know how to connect a turntable to a home theater system, you will need to do some research, not just to find out the steps involved, but also the cost and the sound quality.

Clean The Stylus

Before we discuss how to connect a turntable to a home theater system, we're first going to talk about the essential piece of equipment that has a direct connection, the cartridge. Cartridges are available in both moving magnet and moving coil. The former is the most common cartridge used in most home audio systems, while the latter is usually found in high-end audio systems.

When shopping for a cartridge for a turntable, make sure you select an appropriate one for the type of turntable you are using.

There is usually a small stylus on the end of the cartridge which is used to play the record. This should be carefully cleaned and maintained to achieve the best output. Using a cleaning solution specially designed for vinyl records will help in keeping the stylus tip clean.

As records are played and when dust and dirt collect, these gradually build upon them and the stylus.

Contrary to common belief, they do not cause skipping, but they can damage the stylus. Tipping the cartridge slightly, and gently cleaning the inside groove will go a long way in deciding how long your cartridge will last and how clean your records will sound.

Better Equipment Leads To Better Sound

Your sound system isn’t built in a vacuum. It is only one piece of a larger system of equipment. The end result relies on the efficiency of your components. A turntable, the next component in the system, is a relatively complex piece of equipment. If your records aren’t spinning at the right speeds, or if your tonearm isn’t tracking well, music will suffer. A turntable that isn’t positioned right for the rest of the equipment’s needs will sound dull. Since you can’t add anything more to your turntable, you need to take into account your other equipment’s limitations when setting up your turntable.

If you are listening to music from a disc player, computer, or another device, the setup process is a little easier. You simply need to set up your player and connect it to your speakers (and then connect your speakers to your receiver). But if you are using a record player, keep in mind that the only way to connect it without cables is to use a computer or turntable. This means your computer should be up to date. If you're using an old computer, you will need to use a turntable with a record player to connect with speakers.

Adjust The Cartridge

If you're struggling to connect your turntable to your home theater system, before you invest in an expensive outboard preamp, try adjusting the cartridge to the correct phono input on the receiver.

If you don't have a phono input, you can often access the same function by using the auxiliary input on the receiver. (The auxiliary input is universally the next best option if the phono input is not available.)

If the receiver's front panel display shows an indication of the incoming signal (usually in the form of a diamond-shaped pictogram), activate your cartridge's auto-balance/equalization (or manually adjust) by moving the cartridge's arm to the auto position. If the pictogram does not illuminate or indicate the incoming signal, manually move the cartridge's arm to the right position. (You may need to do this four or five times for the receiver to recognize the input signal.)

The primary challenge in connecting your turntable to your home theater system is that the means of outputting the signal varies by turntable type. Generally speaking, newer turntables connect through the phono/line output, and older turntables connect through the balanced output.

Conclusion

Turntables can be connected to modern home theater systems in several different ways. The methods you choose depend on the type and quality of the turntable you're using and the type of speakers you have.

Your skill level and how willing you are to learn will also affect how successful you are at setting up your home theater. You will have the opportunity to tinker with the system to make it perfect for you and your family.

Once you have your system set up and running, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the best possible music in your own home theater!