A friend gave me a Kenwood KD 550 turntable (this 30-pound beast from c. 1975 has a synthetic granite deck to reduce vibration among other features). Need a preamp for it -- any suggestions? Does it really matter?
Given the state of hi-fi audio in 1975, no...pretty much any phono preamp will probably give a better reproduction than what 1975 hardware could have obtained. That being said, it kind of depends on your price tolerance. Now that vinyl is back in vogue among the eclectics, you can break out a soldering iron and spend less than $100 on a DIY project, or head to your local audiophile shop and venture well into the four-figure range, especially if you like playing with tubes. What's your budget, and have you confirmed that the installed cartridge is good? (If not, that's around $80+ for an OE replacement cartridge, so plan accordingly.)