Phono stage / Preamp Question


This is my first post here, and I'm about to reveal my absolute newbie status with it, so I apologize if the old hands think this is an asinine question.

I'm not exactly an audiophile (too poor graduate student), but definitely an enthusiast in both Stereo Audio and Home Theater audio. I have a modest home theater setup from Onkyo that has to double as my stereo audio system as well.

I'm starting to wander into new territory and I'm thinking about adding fairly serious analog capability to my system in the form of an entry-level audiophile turntable (NAD 533, Pro-Ject 1 Xpression, etc). As such, I also need to add a phono preamp since my modern HT recvr has no phono inputs.

My question is this: can I connect a full on preamp such as a NAD 1020 to my integrated amplifier through one of the AUX inputs? Phrased another way; Can I use a NAD 1020 preamp as a phono stage?

My question steps from a lack of real understanding of what the preamp does. It would seem to me that using a NAD 1020 preamp into an integrated amplifier (built in preamp) would put the signal through 2 preamp sections in succession. I have no idea what effects this would have on the signal, or if it would damage my integrated amplifier.

I'm thinking about the NAD 1020 as I'd like to eventually separate my 2-channel and HT systems, and using the NAD as a phono stage would mean that I'd already have a pre-amp when I do decide to make that step. Buying used, it's no more (probably cheaper) than a quality dedicated phono pre-amp, so I can't see any disadvantage to it unless it's going to kill my current integrated amplifier or something.

Any help?
I don't remember if the NAD 1020 has a phono input or not. If it does, you should be able to connect its tape out to the aux in of the receiver and use the NAD 1020 as a phono amp for MM cart.
I'm not familiar with the NAD preamp or HT receiver but, in partial answer to your question, a preamp isn't a phono stage. Some preamps do, however, have a built in phono stage or amp. A phono amp is excactly what the two words say. It is a amplifier for a phono cartridge. The output from your cartridge is very low and needs to be amplified.
The phono pre-amp does two things. First it applies equalization to the signal. All LPs are mastered with a special RIAA equalizatiion and the phono pre-amp applies a similar but opposite equalization to make the LP sound right. The other thing the pre-amp does is boost the level of the output of the cartridge to a voltage level that your amplifier can work with.

So, you buy a pre-amp to connect it to your Turntable and then you plug that into any "non-phono" input, such as an "AUX" input, on your amplifier. So, if the NAD 1020 has a phono stage then yes, you can use that for your phono pre-amp. Since the NAD is a "pre-amp" that means it's doing the boosting you need, and if it has a "phono" input then that means it's going to provide the RIAA equalization you need as well.

More expensive dedictated Phono-pre-amps are simply better at doing these two jobs in a dynamic yet quite way.

Paul Green
Paul offered a good explanation of the function of a phono stage to which additional explanation is not required.

I do have a question about your motivation in asking about the NAD though. Do you already own this unit? Are you considering buying it with the goal of moving into seperates at some point?

The reason I'm asking is that a dedicated phono stage can be purchased new or used for less than the cost (typicall) of a pre-amp. The dedicated phono stage will (typically) work better than one that was just added to a mid-quality pre-amp. It is not my intention to ridicule the NAD, but better stand alone phono stages will offer you a more direct signal route. Remember, every connection is a loss of signal. Shorter signal routes sound better.
Typically you should be able to connect your preamp to the tape in of the integrated amp which should at least bypass its tone controls and maybe the first stage of the integrated amp. You can then use the preamp for all the input connections for your stereo. You can also cut off the preamp and maintain all the inputs for your HT into the integrated amp( except for its tape input).
If however your goal is just to add phono, I agree with Nrchy & Paul G.
Thank you for the information; my motivation for asking about this unit is that I've heard it is essentially derived from the famous NAD 3020 integrated, containing the phono stage and pre-amp circuits from that design.

I figured I could buy it used off of Ebay for less than $100, which seems to be about the price of a half-decent standalone phono-preamp. That way I'd essentially be getting the rest of its capabilities for free (though they won't be of any use until I go with separates, which is not in the immediate future).

Unfortunately my primary issue has to be budget; I can't see spending much more than $100 for a phono preamp, standalone or otherwise. That leaves me looking at something like a NAD PP-1, Btech BT926 (or bt-26), Pro-Ject phono box (non tube). I haven't heard great things about any of these; in fact I've herad a lot of people say the $25 Rat shack battery preamp beats them all, so maybe I should go that route.

Buying equipment that old from eBay is very risky. I would not recommend it unless you have EE background and don't mind doing repair yourself.

Rather than getting a Radio Shark, I would recommend you look into the Bugle phono amp from Hagerman Technology ( It costs $150, a little more than your budget, but it is a really great product at that price.

Hagerman hosts a user forum in audiocircle ( Check it out and see what other users think.
In my experience, the Radio Shack phono pre is not in the class of any of the other preamps you mention. A while back, a friend and I did a comparison of the little rat, the NAD PP-1, a c. 1990 or so NAD full preamp (forget model #), and the Rega Fono MM. The Rat fared much worse than any of the other budget pres--the music through it was muddy and sounded like the record was spinning slightly slow. I was disappointed in light of the praise the Radio Shack amp gets on the fora.

Just for completeness, the Fono clearly bested the rest of the competition. The NAD preamps were similar and were pretty equidistant from either end, and they were clearly worth the extra cost over the Radio Shack unit.