I'm new to all this audiophile stuff so bear with the question. What is a phonostage's function and do I need one?
Let's start with a easy question :

Do you listen to vinyl ?

If yes, then tell us about your system so that members can suggest what might be a good choice .
A phono stage accepts an input from a turntable and does two things:
1. Provides equalization- during recording, for a variety of reasons, the frequency response of the music to be recorded is altered in a precise way. These days, its an accepted standard, called RIAA. The phono stage provides the opposite equalization so that the frequency response is the same as the music before it was recorded.
2. Voltage gain or amplication- Phono cartridges put out between about 0.1 and 5 millivolts. Most tuners, CD players, DVD players and tape recorders put out about 2V. Therefore the typical "line stage" input on a pre-amp, receiver, or integrated amp is built to handle an input of about 2V (called line level). The phono stage has to boost or amplify the very small phono signal to line level.
I'll add to the previous responses that some preamplifiers or integrated amplifiers or "receivers" (whichever you are using) incorporate a phono stage, and some don't. You need a separate phono stage if whichever of those pieces of electronics you use does not have one, AND if your system includes a turntable for listening to records.

-- Al
Thanks for the reply's. Yes I listen to vinyl. I have a Mac MA 2275 Integrated, Mac MCD 201 , a Monster Power HTS 3500 and presently a Kenwood KD990 table. I think I will be changing to a VPI Scout soon. These play out to Legacy Victoria's and a Legacy powered sub. I was researching tables when I came across Phonostages and am now curious. Also, What do you think of my TT upgrade idea? Thanks again....Pat
Your MA2275 has a very good phono stage built in. I wouldn't consider buying an outboard phono stage unless you want to go super-high-end or want more features (adjustable gain, loading, etc. for use with a wide variety of cartridges).

Upgrading the TT is a much better idea at this point.

The VPI Scout is an excellent table. One of the very best at that particular price point.

If you have a lot of records, I would also suggest investing in a record cleaning machine and a Mint LP protractor for whichever table to decide to buy.


As you realize, the MA2275 incorporates a phono stage. I looked at its specifications at the McIntosh site, though, and it looks like it is suitable for moving magnet or moving iron or "high output" moving coil phono cartridges, but not for "low output" moving coil cartridges. I'm basing that on its signal-to-noise specifications for the phono input, which suggest that hiss level would be excessive with a low output moving coil.

If you choose a low output moving coil cartridge for your turntable upgrade, and that is a very common choice with high-end turntables, you would have to use an external phono stage that is compatible in terms of gain and signal-to-noise performance (i.e., one that is intended for low output moving coil cartridges). You would route its output into an aux input or other line level input of the MA2275.

I'm not particularly familiar with either the KD990 or the Scout, but I know that a lot of people here use the Scout, and it may very well represent a significant upgrade. Hopefully others will comment on that.

It is always highly important, as you may realize, to be sure that a phono cartridge is a good match for the tonearm of the turntable it will be used on, and if you decide to upgrade you'll probably want to start a separate thread on cartridge selection. The key criterion is that cartridge "compliance" has to be a suitable match for tonearm "effective mass."

-- Al
Thanks again for the good advice. I do have a VPI record cleaner. What is an LP Protractor?
What is an LP Protractor
Drpat- Not to contradict Al, but if you go with a low output MC cart you can use a step up transformer (SUT) like a K&K or a Bent Audio or AudioNote. etc. or a pre-preamp = headamp like the ZYX CC3, which will provide sufficient voltage to properly drive an MM phono stage. There is lots of controversy in the forums on SUT vs. active gain stage, but suffice it to say that matching a cart to an SUT properly is a pretty arcane science and very sensitive to cart loading, whereas a pre-preamp or headamp with an active gain stage is "easier". If you decide to go the SUT route, I would recommend getting advice from someone who really understands the issue.