Best Receiver For Turntables in 2021

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by Tom D'Agustino on October 3rd, 2021 in Best Picks

If you are an audiophile looking for an upgrade, or if you are new to the wide world of audio systems, the turntable and receiver are the one-two-punch for a great listening experience.

There is no question that vinyl sounds better than the MP3’s found on streaming platforms. If you own a record player or are shopping for one, chances are you appreciate the value of high-quality sound.

Additionally, a receiver can take your turntable’s audio to the next level, bridging the gap between the analogue and digital realms. This article dives into the advantages and disadvantages of some of the best receivers for turntables on the market.

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Why Do I Need A Receiver For My Turntable

A turntable is the part of a phonograph that rotates a vinyl, generating sound.

A receiver is a device that receives audio and/or video signals from multiple sources and moves those signals through the help of internal power amplifiers to drive loudspeakers.

While not all turntables require a receiver, and there are ways to connect your turntable to speakers without a receiver, using a receiver generally increases the overall sound quality.

In other words, turntables that do not have receivers generally sound thinner, gravelier and cannot reach higher volumes with the clarity that receivers can.

Receivers also allow you to keep your speakers connected to a single device that is connected to all of your other audio sources, (record player, TV, CD Player, Blu-ray player). A basic turntable setup would have the turntable connected to the receiver and the receiver connected to the speakers.

How To Pick The Best Receiver For A Turntable

Turntables feed audio signals to external devices like receivers and speakers to best showcase the audio from a vinyl record. That being said, there are a number of factors to consider before purchasing a receiver.

Taking stock of compatibility based on inputs, outputs, phono preamp, flexibility, any additional features and price are essential to determining which receiver is right for your audio system.

Number & Types of Inputs

In order to use a turntable with a receiver and speakers, you need to have compatible connections. Since most turntables are analogue, they require RCA connectors. In order to use a receiver with a turntable, the receiver must have RCA input ports.

While RCA inputs are required, there are other inputs that are nice to have as well. Having multiple inputs will allow you to connect the receiver to your turntable but also other devices like speakers, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, media streamers, satellite boxes and cable boxes.

Number & Types of Outputs

Having multiple outputs can allow a wider variety of uses for your receiver, while ensuring great sound quality for your turntable.

A receiver with multiple HDMI outputs, for example, can allow you to connect to multiple TV’s or projectors at the same time.

For audio-only connections, receivers can have optical and coaxial connections that are used to connect audio from HD and 4k Ultra HD TVs, DVD players and Blu-ray players.

Phono Preamp

Some turntables and receivers come with built-in phono preamps. Phono preamps are included in a device to boost the weaker audio signal coming from a turntable.

If you are looking for a solid, all-around receiver, make sure it comes with a phono preamp built-in. That being said, it is important to note that there is still a possibility that a built-in phono preamp does not quite get the job done boost-wise.

If the receiver you are interested in has a sub-optimal phono preamp or does not have one at all but has a lot of other positive attributes, you always have the option to buy an external phono preamp to make up the difference in sound quality.

Flexibility

The number and different types of inputs and outputs can give you greater flexibility in what your receiver is capable of.

While your receiver must be able to connect sound to speakers from the turntable by way of RCA connectors, having a receiver that can also connect to your HD TV, media player and/or projector, allows you to invest in a multifaceted device that can do more than just boost your turntable’s audio.

Extra Features

If you’re an audiophile who is a newcomer to the world of turntables and receivers, extra features may not be at the top of your list. That being said, investing in a receiver that has Bluetooth, USB ports, Wifi and/or Voice Control/Assistants can only benefit your listening experience.

Most modern receivers have some or all of these extra features and strive to combine convenience with optimal sound quality.

Products

The YAMAHA R-N303BL Stereo Receiver has some of the best overall value on the market. With Alexa voice control compatibility, 100W power output, phono inputs, optical and coaxial inputs, Wifi and Bluetooth, this model has it all.

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Perhaps the most exciting thing about the YAMAHA R-N303BL Stereo Receiver is the diversity of its connectivity options. Having the option to connect pretty much any device via Wifi or Bluetooth and the option for banana cable use, this model is a great addition to a home theater or audio setup.

While the Wifi is definitely a great bonus, the connection can be a bit buggy, so keep an eye on your connection and make sure to troubleshoot your own home Wifi/device first.

The optical input is convenient for TV use, as you can plug your TV directly into the receiver.

The MusiCast “master-app” for Android and iPhone connects via Wifi and can connect to other apps like Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music etc.

The sound quality is great for the price, with an array of EQ settings for extra fine tuning and tinkering. While the YAMAHA R-N303BL does not include a subwoofer output, but if you don’t intend to use a sub, the 100W per channel delivers plenty of power.

What We Like
Connectivity Options - Music-wise, this receiver can connect to anything and play anything. The added bonuses of Wifi, Bluetooth and optical input make this receiver a game changer for multi use audiophiles.
EQ Controls - The detailed EQ settings are perfect for an audiophile who likes to adjust as they listen and tinker to find the perfect settings.
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Wifi Can Be Buggy - The Wifi feature is a plus, but can be a bit buggy when setting up.
Remote And Set Up - The button-ridden remote can be tricky to figure out during receiver set up.
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The Sony STRDH190 2-ch Home Stereo Receiver offers surprisingly good sound quality for the price, delivering a receiver with a phono input, 4 stereo RCA audio inputs, 3.5 millimeter input, stereo RCA output and built-in Bluetooth for overall great value.

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The Sony STRDH190 makes affordability and easy usage a priority.

While this receiver is one of the more basic units on the market, lacking extra features like HDMI inputs/ouputs, Wifi and Voice Control/Assistants, preamp outputs for external preamps, it emphasizes more average listener use by including more of the basics.

The Sony STRDH190 has more of the essential features such as an internal phono preamp, phono inputs, Bluetooth, two-speaker connection. For the low price, these options are great for an audiophile looking to streamline their sound system with high sound quality.

The build quality is solid and reflects the theme of the overall design: simplicity.

With an uncrowded front-face, the device displays a hefty knob for volume, an input selector knob on the right side, and a 0.25-inch headphone jack, 0.125-inch “portable in” port on the left side.

These features combined with the Bluetooth capability allow this receiver to do more than just boost your turntable, you can also play sound from your phone or most other portable devices.

If you are an audiophile looking to upgrade a more modest receiver, you may not be sold on the Sony STRDH190 due to its minimalism. The unimpressive spring-loaded terminals don’t allow banana plugs and there isn’t a line-level subwoofer output, limiting your options on that front.

What We Like
Price - The price of the Sony STRDH190 is outstanding. If you are searching for a reliable, cut-to-the-chase receiver for your turntable, this is the best value on the market.
Sound Quality - The sound quality of the Sony STRDH190 is surprisingly detailed and clear, with banging volume due to the 100W per channel, which will rarely be used but is an awesome addition nonetheless.
Build Quality - The build quality is sturdy yet minimal, which fits the needs of pretty much anyone looking for an easy, well-functioning addition to their listening set up.
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Limited Features - The streamlined nature of the Sony STRDH190 may not be every audiophile’s cup of tea. With no HDMI inputs/outputs, wifi or voice controls, this model may feel a bit sparse.
Frail Speaker Terminals - The somewhat frail speaker terminals pose some questions about durability. The inability for banana cable connection can limit your accessibility and organization in the back of the device.
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The Cambridge Audio AXR100 does not pull any punches when it comes to sound quality. With 100W per channel, four analogue inputs, Bluetooth, subwoofer output, and HDMI outputs, this receiver combines sound quality with flexible usage.

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The Cambridge Audio AXR100 is the most powerful and highest quality model in Cambridge’s AX series.

The inclusion of a subwoofer port for improved bass frequencies and a panoply of inputs make this receiver one of the more versatile premium options on the market.

Boasting 3 sets of analog RCA inputs, a phono input and expertly crafted amplifier, this stereo receiver has the power to drive most turntables/speakers to considerable volumes.

With a smooth and warm audio presentation, the sound quality of this receiver is clear and detailed, and if you’re making use of the subwoofer output you can have significant control over your bass response.

What is a bit surprising in this newer premium option is the lack of features like a USB port or wifi. This model is on the pricier side and does not include what would be considered more premium perks like these.

That being said, you can still use the Bluetooth to access portable audio devices for a listening experience that will not disappoint.

Another thing to keep in mind is the unusually loud horizontal cooling fan that can pose some listening issues at lower volumes.

What We Like
Sound Quality - The detail of sound, amplifier power and subwoofer output give this stereo receiver high marks for turntable listening or home theater use.
Bluetooth - The Bluetooth addition paired with the HDMI outputs are welcome bonuses to a receiver that already does a great job of delivering top notch vinyl quality.
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No USB Input - It is surprising that a model at this price that already contains added features would not take the extra step to allow USB connection.
No Wifi - Similar to the lack of USB, a premium option could greatly benefit from Wifi capability, even if it is a cushier feature.
Loud Fan - The horizontal cooling fan can be rather loud and annoying for pickier audiophiles. Keep this in mind when deciding when and how you will be using this receiver.
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The Fosi Audio TB10A prioritizes size and efficiency, delivering a model that is sturdy, lightweight, and perfect for your desk or home audio setup.

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The Fosi Audio TB10A is a great option for newcomers who are looking for affordable stereo sound without committing to a bulkier device.

Even though it’s a mini model, the ​Fosi Audio TB10A has 100W power for each of its two speaker channels and has Bluetooth support for your other wireless devices. The added bass and treble controls are also a welcome feature for a mini model.

The sound quality is surprisingly good at average listening levels but can get a bit strained at higher volumes. The build quality, while aluminum and minimalist, can actually feel a bit flimsy.

What We Like
Price - This is definitely an affordable option that gives solid sound performance for newcomers, or audiophiles looking for a more miniature listening set up.
Sound Quality - The sound quality is surprisingly good for a model of this size, giving you speakers the extra boost they need. This device also does not give off any unwanted noise that some of the bulkier, horizontal fan models can.
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Build Quality - Definitely be careful with this model. While it is not necessarily fragile, it is definitely one of the smaller and less-robust models on the market.
High Volume Sound Quality - The sound quality is solid for this model, but at higher volumes it leaves a bit to be desired.
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The Pyle 4-Channel Audio Source Amplifier offers 500W peak power, Bluetooth connectivity, a litany of EQ, volume and mic knobs, and remote control. This amplifier can power up to 16 speakers (each channel with one speaker connection) and is great for expanding your sound system or home theater.

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The Pyle 4-Channel Audio Source Amplifier can be a bit tricky to set up at first, but offers zone volume controls, and a ton of power. Unlike other amplifiers, there is an FM tuner but it requires an additional antenna that is not included.

The Bluetooth capability is a great resource for travelling around multiple rooms with the connected speakers.

The user manual can be inaccurate and difficult to navigate as is tech support, but if you are able to get this amplifier up and running you will not be disappointed with the amount of power and range this brings to a home theater or audio system.

What We Like
Power - This amplifier packs a real punch and can control up to 6 individual speaker pairs. Great for a restaurant, office space or home theater.
Bluetooth - The Bluetooth connectivity is a convenient bonus for portable audio device use.
Know Before Buying
Difficult Setup - Setting up this amplifier can pose some challenges and getting through to tech support/finding a detailed manual online can be tiresom.
FM Antenna Not Included - Unlike most receivers, the radio setup will require additional purchases.
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Amplifier vs. Receiver: What’s The Difference?

While you may often hear the words “amplifier” and “receiver” used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same thing.

An amplifier takes the low voltage signals from your turntable or sound source and turns it into a signal with enough gain to power your speakers. The preamplifier generally allows you to select the desired amount of gain while also being able to select a range of inputs.

In short, the preamp lets you select how much gain the audio signal will have, and the power amplifier does the actual gain-ing.

A receiver is an amplifier but with a radio built into it with a selectable input. The radio section does not require any other connection, just speakers.

While radio may be less relevant today with the advent of digital listening and streaming platforms dominating sections of the market, having a receiver gives you the option to explore new music as it is being introduced everyday.

A receiver can also give you a bundle of extra features that a regular amplifier wouldn’t otherwise have.

Can I Use An Amplifier As A Receiver?

Yes and no.

If you intend to use your amplifier to power speakers, then yes, you would technically be using your amplifier as you would a receiver in that situation.

If you are trying to use an amplifier to listen to the radio with great frequency response, input selection, preamp and other features, the answer is mostly no.

In a nutshell, receivers have radio sections built in whereas amplifiers do not.

dj's hands and turntable

How To Connect A Turntable To A Receiver

While your turntable does a great job of translating high quality audio from your vinyl record, your receiver is the device that will allow you to boost your audio through the help of its phono preamp and connectability to your speakers.

If your turntable does not have a phono preamp but the receiver does, just plug your turntable’s audio signal cable into the receiver’s phono input labeled “PHONO.”

If your turntable does have a phono preamp but the receiver doesn’t, plug the turntable audio cable into one of the receiver’s analog audio inputs (usually labeled “aux” or “line in”).

What Do I Do If My Turntable & Receiver Both Have a Preamp?

If your turntable and your receiver both have phono preamps, make sure to connect your turntable to one of your receiver’s auxiliary inputs rather than the phono input. This will make sure both phono inputs aren’t working at the same time.

You can also try to turn your turntable’s phono preamp off (if there is a bypass switch) to test out which device’s phono preamp gives you better sound quality.

In Summary

Nothing beats the high quality listening experience that vinyl offers. Listening on a turntable connected to a great receiver and set of speakers only improves upon and showcases how the artist intended their music to be heard.

While most audiophiles value sound quality over anything else, finding the right receiver with the right set of features for the right price, is a very personalized endeavor.

Before taking the leap and buying a turntable and/or a receiver, it is important to know the ins and outs of these devices’ functionality as well as what features they bring to the table.

Whether you are looking for a bargain, something on the smaller size, or a receiver with a boat load of features like Wifi, Bluetooth and voice controls, this guide can give you a crash course in what receivers are and what they bring to the table.