Do you have a quality turntable but poor speakers? Have you just upgraded your turntable and not sure which speakers to buy? This post will help you make a better buying decision when choosing the best speakers for vinyl record players.
Phono vs Line Level Outputs
Line level is the output found on all modern consumer electronics devices, usually via a jack or RCA connection.
Phono outputs are only found on record players and turntables. The word ‘phono’ comes from ‘phonograph’, the original name for a record player. Some record players have a built-in phono preamp which enables the output to be switched to a line output.
If your record player only has a phono output, you can purchase a phono preamp for less than $20. Here is one from Pyle.
A phono preamp is a small box with an RCA input (phono from record player) and RCA output (phono signal converted to line level). The line level output from the phono preamp can then be connected directly to your speakers without going through a HiFi amp or mixer.
Active vs Passive Speakers
When considering which speakers for vinyl to buy, you’ll come across the terms ‘passive’ or ‘active’ monitors. Firstly, ‘monitors’ is the professional term for speakers. More specifically, monitors are the speakers used as a listening reference.
Active speakers (also referred to as powered speakers) are the most common type of speaker you’ll find in consumer goods. In simplest terms, active speakers don’t require an external amplifier. Active speakers have a built-in amplifier.
Active speakers plug into a power socket and audio signal is connected straight into the speaker, usually via RCA, ⅛ inch (3.5mm) AUX input or Bluetooth.
Passive speakers are preferred in professional audio applications where the user requires more control and processing. To get signal to a passive speaker, you have to go through an amplifier.
Surround sound systems are a common example of a passive speaker application. A passive surround sound system will have several speakers each with a cable connecting to an amplifier. Each speaker receives signal and power from the amplifier. No amplifier, no sound.
Passive speakers do require some technical knowledge to match power and impedance. Usually, the manufacturer will indicate this in the spec sheet or description of the product. For now, you just need to understand the basic difference between active and passive speakers.
You may come across passive speakers which are cheaper than active speakers. You need to keep in mind passive speakers are going to require the additional purchase of an amplifier. If you already have an amplifier, you’ll need to make sure you match the power and impedance correctly.
RCA to ⅛ inch (3.5mm) Jack – This cable goes from your PC headphone output to the Line or PC input on a powered.
RCA to RCA – This cable can be used to connect the record player or phono preamp to the AUX input on speakers or HiFi.
Speaker Cable – The second speaker requires power and signal from the powered speaker. This cable connects from Speaker Out on the powered speaker to the input on the second speaker.
Bluetooth is the preferred choice of speaker nowadays. Ease of use and the elimination of cables are the main reasons people prefer Bluetooth. For digital audio formats like MP3, Bluetooth is acceptable. Record players and turntables produce an analog audio signal which does not work well with wireless connectivity.
Using Bluetooth to connect your vinyl record player to a set of speakers will result in frequency loss, changes in tone and volume and may introduce noise. When it comes to analog, a cable is the best option to ensure the best quality playback.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have Bluetooth speakers. I’d recommend you have your record player or turntable connected to your speakers via cable and then use the Bluetooth on the speakers to connect your phone and other Bluetooth devices.
Best Speakers For Vinyl Record Player Recommendations
Best Speakers for Vinyl – Best Under $100
I have two recommendations for the best speakers for vinyl under $100. Each of these are compact powered speakers which are perfect for easy listening.
The Edifier R1280T deliver a solid 42W more than sufficient for most living spaces. There are two RCA inputs which enable to you connect your record player as well as one other device.
The R1280Ts come with all the necessary cabling and remote control for volume and mute control. On the side panel of the primary speaker, you can control treble, bass and volume.
The second recommendation for speakers under $100 is the PreSonus Eris E3.5. These compact but powerful speakers deliver a combined 50W output. The clean, modern design will look good in any room.
There are a total of three inputs, RCA, ¼ inch and ⅛ inch jack. There is also a ⅛ inch headphone output on the front. Three rotary faders control volume, bass, and treble.
Best Speakers for Vinyl – Best Under $300
Klipsch is one of my preferred brands when it comes to home audio. The Klipsch R-14PM Powered Monitor delivers a combined output of 80W. Not bad considering each speaker only weighs around 3lbs.
One of the reasons I like Klipsch is they provide a switchable RCA phono input connected to a built-in phono preamp on all their powered speakers. This means a high-quality phono preamp without the additional cost.
In addition to the RCA, the R-14PM has ⅛ inch AUX, USB, optical and Bluetooth inputs. Klipsch has also made allowance for a ground terminal for your turntable.
The Edifier R2000DB delivers an impressive combined output of 120W. These powered speakers have multiple inputs including two line level, an optical and Bluetooth.
Cables include RCA-RCA, RCA-⅛ inch, and an optical cable. A remote control allows you to control volume, switch between inputs and pair Bluetooth devices.
Best Speakers for Vinyl – Best Under $600
With a little more budget to play with, we can start looking at pairing passive speakers with receivers or amplifiers. This means more power and improved sound quality. This is where things start to get exciting!
In the under $600 price bracket, I’ve put together two of the best speaker choices with one amplifier.
For amplification, I have chosen the Onkyo TX-8220 2 Channel Stereo Receiver with Bluetooth. The TX-8220 has multiple inputs most importantly a phono with earth grounding. Other inputs include CD, DVD, cable/satellite, line, optical and coaxial.
A pre-output for the subwoofer means you can connect a powered subwoofer if you choose. There is a line output should you wish to link out.
For the first speaker, I’ve paired the Onkyo TX-8220 with the 2 x Pioneer SP-FS52. The SP-FS52s were designed by legendary consumer audio sound designer Andrew Jones. For their price, the SP-FS52s deliver exceptional sound quality and they’re loud! The SP-FS52 cover a frequency range of 40hz – 20kHz, perfect for your vinyl records.
The SP-FS52 are sold as singles so make sure you purchase 2 for your left/right. The 2 x SP-F52s, Onkyo TX-8220, and speaker cable come in at under $500.
The second speaker pair is 2 x Onkyo SKF-4800. The SMK-4800 cover a frequency range of 55 Hz-35 kHz. These speakers deliver crisp highs with a punchy mid-range and clear defined bass. The TX-8220 plus SKF-4800 come in at a little under $600.
Best Speakers for Vinyl – Best Under $1000
Within a $1000 budget, you kick things into the next gear. You can now afford speakers to start a party and attract noise complaints from the neighbors.
I have three options in this budget range, one fully powered and two with external amplification.
Starting with the powered speaker pair I have the Klipsch R-28PF. Each speaker features a dual 8″ subwoofer and 1″ dome tweeter. The combined power output is 260W!
The R-28PF come with a built-in phono preamp with switchable RCA line/phono input. This will greatly reduce the amount of electronic equipment and cabling. If you’re looking for a clean, uncomplicated setup, you won’t find better than a pair of R-28PFs.
Other inputs include USB, optical and Bluetooth. This allows you to connect your PC, TV and any Bluetooth device. A sub out gives you the option to link to a powered sub. A pair of Klipsch R-10SW or R-12SW are good options to pair with the R-28PFs.
The R-28PF comes with a remote control and cabling including speaker link.
Elac is another trusted brand who design and manufacture high-quality consumer home audio products. The Elac Debut series is another range of speakers from Andrew Jones. I have matched 2 x Elac Debut F5s with an ELAC S8 Debut Series 100 Watt Powered Subwoofer. For receiver and amplification, I have chosen the Onkyo TX-8140.
The best part about going with the Elac Debut F5s and S8 is as it’s part of a range, you can add more speakers as you go.
The Onkyo TX-8140 is a great match for this system for a few reasons. Firstly, the TX-8140 has a phono input with earth grounding. Second, it delivers 110W at 6 ohms which will drive the F5s nicely. Lastly, the TX-8140 also has a PRE output for the S8 sub.