A phono pre-amp (external) or phono stage (internal) takes the very low level signal of a phono cartridge and does two things: it modifies it to correct for RIAA equalization applied during production of the LP (essentially a type of tone control meant to compensate for limitations of the LP technology) AND it boosts the signal to live level (like the output from a tape deck, tuner, CD, or DVD; 1-3 volts typically) which can then be used as an input to a line stage pre-amp. There are also devices (external or internal) that boost the very low signal from a moving coil cartridge (MC) (in the fractions of a millivolt) to a level that a phono pre-amp can handle (these were originally designed for the much higher signal from a moving magnet (MM)cartridge). These are sometimes called pre-preamps or MC amps. They do not compensate for the RIAA equalization, nor do they boost the signal to line level. A phono stage is required for that. However, some phono pre-amps and phono stages have high enough gain or an extra circuit to handle both MC and MM cartridges.
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