About phono stages

A phono stage is a specialised amplifier that enables records to be heard through an audio system. It serves two functions:

  • It amplifies the very tiny signal from a phono cartridge, which is much weaker than the signals from other hi-fi equipment, like a CD player or a tuner.
  • For technical reasons, records are pressed with reduced bass and augmented treble. When records are played, the phono stage must perform the reverse process, augmenting the bass and reducing the treble. This process is called “equalisation”.

Before the digital era, amplifiers were equipped with an internal phono stage, enabling a turntable to be connected directly to the audio system. When CDs became popular, many amplifier manufacturers believed that vinyl records were about to become extinct, and eliminated the phono stage circuitry in their designs as a cost-saving measure. More recently, as vinyl has undergone a renaissance, amplifier manufacturers have made the internal phono stage a standard feature on many designs once again.

Pro-Ject Phono Box DS+However, a legacy of the era when internal phono stages disappeared (for a while, anyway) has been the development of the external phono stage. Unconstrained by limitations imposed by space within an amplifier or cost, audio engineers have designed external phono stages of immense refinement, sophistication, and clarity. Even relatively inexpensive external phono stages will offer hugely better sound than most integral phono circuitry, and the very best external phono stage can astonish listeners by the almost infinite level of musical detail contained within the grooves of a disc.

Any vinylphile aspiring to the best sound from records should invest in a good quality external phono stage.

To view our selection of phono stages, click here.