Audio Solutions Question of the Week: What Does the PHONO/LINE Switch Mean On Audio-Technica Turntables?

What does the PHONO/LINE switch mean on Audio-Technica Turntables?

Audio Solutions Team

Answer: Setting up your Audio-Technica turntable properly will ensure that you get the most out of your listening experience. The PHONO/LINE switch turns the turntable’s internal RIAA preamp off/on, thus providing the correct equalization for your turntable’s current setup.

Setup #1: When you plug the turntable’s analog (RCA) connectors into an input on a stereo receiver labeled “PHONO,” you will want to disengage the turntable’s internal RIAA preamp. A PHONO input on a stereo receiver has its own RIAA preamp, so there’s no need for the turntable to supply one. Set the PHONO/LINE switch to PHONO.

Setup #2: When you plug the turntable’s analog (RCA) connector into any other input on a stereo receiver (Aux, CD, tape, etc.) or directly into powered speakers, you will need to engage the turntable’s RIAA preamp. These inputs are for line-level signals, so the turntable needs to supply the required preamplification. Set the PHONO/LINE to LINE.

Audio-Technica TurntableYou may ask yourself, “What is an RIAA preamp and why does this even matter?” Turntables require an RIAA preamp in order to properly reproduce the imbedded content on a vinyl record. All of Audio-Technica’s current line of turntables are equipped with an internal RIAA preamp which the user can either engage or disengage via the PHONO/LINE switch located on the rear of the turntable.

In the 1950s, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) introduced an equalization standard that could be applied to the original audio as it was pressed into a record. This equalization, which continues to be used to this day, reduces low frequencies and boosts high frequencies, thereby compressing the audio so that more of it can fit on a record. During playback, the exact opposite function is performed through an RIAA preamp, resulting in the reproduction of the original audio.

The following provides a simplified example:

When the original audio is pressed into the record, it is altered according to a specific code (RIAA Emphasis added) to save space on the record. When the record is played on the user’s turntable, the inverse code is applied (RIAA De-Emphasis added), allowing for the original audio to be heard through the speakers.

We hope you have found this information helpful, but if you require further assistance or have questions about any other Audio-Technica product, please feel free to contact our Audio Solutions Department – we’re always glad to help. And be sure to join us next time for another “Question of the Week”!



  1. You know what’s the sad part?
    The “Made in China” part and the platter not being the classic world’s powerful motor as the MKs. If you manufactured it exactly as the MKs it would sell like crazy worldwide!!

  2. i am thinking of buying a at lp 60 ineed some imput.
    thank you

  3. i am thinking of buying a at lp 60 i need some imput.
    thank you

  4. Louis, you may contact our Audio Solutions Department for any presale questions about Audio-Technica turntables.

  5. what will happen if I use the phono output on the turntable and plug it into the phono input on my receiver?

  6. As you may already know, many in the vinyl community have videos on how to remove the preamp. There is significant “improvement” when doing this. Does AT have any plans on improving the bypassing of the preamp so as not to “mute” higher frequencies?

  7. I purchased an Audio Technica LP1240 USB DJ turntable today, as my old turntable had stopped working and I needed to urgently check a test vinyl pressing of my new album. Therefore I’ve tried all setups with your turntable and had some interesting results. I have been comparing the vinyl test pressing to the CD WAV files, so I can clearly hear how the different setups vary.

    At first I tried plugging the turntable directly into my external soundcard using RCA cables (with the ‘Line’ option at the back of the turntable selected). The sound seemed fine, but when I compared it with the CD audio it is actually quite muffled in comparison. Bass is similar, but top-end clarity is completely lost. At first I was worried there was a problem with the test pressing, but as it turns out it seems the problem is actually the turntable.

    Next I plugged the turntable’s RCA’s into my DJ mixer (VMX200), with the ‘Line’ option still selected, and going into my DJ mixer’s Line Input. I have kept all EQ flat on the DJ mixer. The sound was suddenly much better, and almost identical to the CD audio. So no problem with the test pressing! Somehow the amp in the DJ mixer, even with a ‘flat EQ”, really improves the sound of the turntable.

    Lastly, I plugged the turntable’s RCA’s into my DJ mixer with the ‘Phono’ option selected, and going into my DJ mixer’s Phono Input (again keeping all EQ flat on the DJ mixer). Surprisingly, the sound seems pretty much identical to the last option, ie. line going into DJ mixer (apart from having to adjust levels). I cannot hear any noticeable difference in sonic quality between the ‘Phone’ and ‘Line’ setting going into the DJ mixer – both sound pretty much identical, and way better than going directly from the turntable into my sound card.

    I want to ask Audio-Technica their thoughts on this? As it would appear to be a design fault. And yet by connecting the turntable to a DJ mixer, the sound quality is restored, making my vinyl test pressing sound almost identical to the CD files. But when I plug the turntable directly into my soundcard, it is noticably muffled in comparison.


  8. Hi, I bought Audio-Technica AT PL120 turntable for my sonic frontiers SFC1 amplifier. First I was frustrated because sound doesn’t work but now I find out and I just switched phono into line and it sounds amazing.
    Thank you.

  9. Hi–The AT-LP60 doesn’t have a ground wire with the RCA jacks. Will that be a problem connecting it to the Phono input of an amplifier? Please let me know. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *