If cells are an essential tool for the good optimization of the turntables because it is at the beginning of the sound process, the other side is just as important. This month, the Diggers team has decided to focus on the output of the sound to optimize your audiophile system, and inevitably the sound rendering of your turntable, for a listening quality that meets your expectations!
Some turntables have a built-in phono preamplifier, but these often don't allow you to use your turntables to their full potential, or are of poor quality. If you are looking for a significant improvement in sound quality, an investment in a preamplifier might be a good idea. Indeed, the preamplifier allows it to be an intermediary between the source (in this case, the turntable) and your amplifier, and thus allows to amplify and correct the signal sent to the former. Once the signal is amplified, it can be transmitted to the amplifier which will send it to the speakers so that we can hear it.
A preamp will process the sound before sending it to the amplifier, and will allow, as said before, to process certain frequencies that would be limited or distorted without the help of a tool able to faithfully distribute its power and complexity. It will therefore be very useful if you want to develop the full potential of your turntables and avoid losing the quality of the sound rendering, especially if it is quite high end.
The preamplifier can also be useful if you have an old amplifier that does not have a phono input. It will allow you to be an intermediary to connect your RCA cables to the sound output.
However, having a preamplifier is not mandatory: it is possible to find amplifiers with a built-in preamplifier and which has a phono input. But if the budget allows it, you should know that in order to have the most faithful musical rendering possible, it is strongly recommended to have one stage per device. That is to say at least a phono preamp and an integrated amplifier (amp + preamp).
You should also know that the phono preamplifier depends on your cartridge. So if you have a new MC cartridge, you need an MC preamplifier. However, most preamplifiers nowadays have both MM and MC functions.
It may seem superficial, but the good equipment of quality phono cables is often important to bring a superior quality to the sound of the turntable. Indeed, it is really interesting to change your original cable with a more performing phono cable, especially when you own a vinyl turntable and a high quality cell.
Cables are the intermediaries that transmit the audio signal between the different devices that make up your high-fidelity system. Thus the material used in their design and which will be used to conduct the signal will be determining. For example, gold is an excellent conductor and therefore makes up the best cables on the market. Thus there will be less loss of information and therefore the reproduction will be more faithful and more detailed. Carbon and silver are also good quality materials. A connector made of a more democratic material will on the other hand "strain" the signal and lead to a less accurate reproduction.
Phono cables can be either RCA or DIN. It depends on the phono input on your preamplifier.
Beware, however, that some turntables have so-called "captive" phono cables, i.e. they are directly integrated into the turntable or its arm and cannot be changed, or only by a specialized technician.
In the sound path to the speakers, the amplifier is at least as important as the preamplifier. It is this part of the equipment that will really increase the intensity of the electrical audio signal. Some notions are necessary to be able to compare the quality of an amplifier.
The power, calculated in RMS (in watts, the average power supplied) or via the peak power (the maximum power allowed by your amplifier) is the factor that we think first to judge the quality of an amplifier. But this notion must be qualified, because even if the calculations are common to all manufacturers, the processing of the input signal by the amplifier can vary the intensity of the audio power, which is not constant.
The amplifier must therefore provide power but also sound quality. And to understand this essential factor, three characteristics can be monitored. First of all, the rate of harmonic distortion (% THD) will determine how much your amplifier distorts the audio signal. The lower this rate is, the closer the quality of the signal is to the original (that of your source, your music in our example).
Conversely, a higher rate of harmonic distortion will mean a greater loss of signal quality by the amplifier. Then, the quality of the bandwidth, determined by the frequency response of the device (in Hz), can be between 20 Hz and 20 000 Hz. Last indicator to judge the quality of the sound of your amp: the signal to noise ratio. This will be expressed in decibels and will provide an indicator of the quality of the signal compared to the background noise of the device. A good signal-to-noise ratio for an amp will be above 90dB. The higher this dB value is, the cleaner and better the sound.
But to tell the truth, all these features don't mean much when you don't bring them down to the speakers. To enjoy a good sound amplifier you will need matching and quality speakers and vice versa.
Here, we will mainly talk about "passive" speakers, i.e. external to the amplifier. In the case of an "active" speaker, the amplifier is already perfectly calibrated to its loudspeaker. The speaker therefore does not require any adjustment at the level of the amplifier.
To find the right match between your speakers and your amplifier, you should focus on the notions of RMS power (see above) and power handling, which is the maximum acceptable power of your speakers. In short, you must compare the power your amplifier provides with what your speakers can handle.
Generally speaking, you should use an amp with a power rating equivalent to or slightly higher than that of the speakers. As we saw earlier, the best way to power your speakers is to provide them with a powerful and constant signal, without distortion. To do this, you'll need an amp with an RMS rating of half the maximum power of your speakers.
The more powerful the amp, the more it will be able to supply sound to low efficiency speakers (speakers that need a lot of power in watts from the amplifier to reach a high sound level). On the other hand, a high efficiency speaker (>95dB) will require less power from your amplifier.
If this introductory article has motivated you to want to know more about the world of vinyl records, pay attention and follow us on our social channels and our blog! Many more tips and advice are coming soon!
Also, feel free to check out our accessories here, or the website of our partners Pro-Ject here and Ortofon [here]ici, ! 💿🎶