Using a turntable with a table radio or surround receiver, Pro-ject’s incredible RM-5 turntable

Week of August 13, 2006

Q: I’d like to get a table radio/CD player like the Polk i-Sonic or Cambridge Soundworks you’ve mentioned in your columns, but I’d also like to be able to use it with an LP turntable. Is that possible with either of these products? If not, is there anything similar on the market that has an input for a turntable, or is there some kind of adapter available to connect a turntable to a single radio/CD player?

-Richard Yardum, Pittsburgh, PA

A: You can use a turntable with any electronic component having an available input, though you cannot hook it up directly. You need a phono preamp, which increases the voltage from the phono cartridge and applies an adjustment called RIAA equalization to the signal. The phono preamp is connected to the turntable, and then to the receiver, radio, or other sound component.

A good phono preamp can make a big difference in sound quality. For an inexpensive model I recommend the Pro-Ject Phono Box Mk. II, selling for $119.00. I have been testing one and it sounds noticeably better than the phono input of my $800 high-end NAD stereo receiver, which is known for having an excellent phono section.

Speaking of Pro-Ject, I feel compelled to put in a word for them due to the renewed interest of late in LPs and turntables, and my experience with their products and knowledge of the company. Pro-Ject is the world’s largest producer of turntables and has done more to bring the enjoyment of records back into the world than any other company I know of. They have chosen to done so at prices anyone can afford, and they offer a full line of useful accessories that make it easy, fun and affordable to upgrade or tinker with your system. Pro-Ject turntables are priced from $329 (complete with cartridge) to $2,500, and my experience with the $649 Pro-Ject RM-5 turntable has been absolutely wonderful, far beyond my expectations. A British magazine recently said the RM-5 is “already becoming a legend” and my ears tell me why- it sounds simply stunning, drawing you into the music and making you smile. I can’t remember the last time a component has brought me more sheer enjoyment or made me smile when I turn it on. Imported by Sumiko, you can see Pro-Ject products at www.sumikoaudio.net as well as www.needledoctor.com, which offers the full line.

Now, back to your radio setup. Most radios have a miniplug input, so you will need a miniplug-to-RCA adapter to connect the phono preamp to the radio. Try to place the turntable as far from the radio as you can to avoid setting up vibrations in the turntable which may result in feedback or diminished sound quality. If you use a 6 foot connection cable and locate the turntable on a different shelf from the radio you should be OK.

Most surround-sound receivers do not have phono inputs, so anyone looking to add a turntable to a surround-sound system will benefit from this information, as well. When using an external phono preamp with a receiver that already has a phono input, do NOT connect the phono preamp to a phono input as the phono input is designed to be used directly with a cartridge.

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