How to Choose the Speakers You Need
For vinyl sound audition, 90% of audiophile choose between the bookshelf and floor standing (also called tower) speakers. So, your first step will be to decide if you need smaller speakers standing on your desk or larger stand-alone speakers. These two can be differed by:
- Size. The bookshelf speaker must fit into a bookshelf or occupy just a small place on your desk. The floor standing speaker requires a dedicated place on the floor and is usually much larger in size. Consider the size of your room when picking the best turntable speakers for you. Remember, there is an option of putting a bookshelf speaker onto a stand as well.
- Stuff. The bookshelf speakers usually feature a minimal speaker’s set: a midbass to handle middle and low sound frequencies and a tweeter to produce the high ones. The tower speakers split it further, handling the bass through a separate driver. Meanwhile, the midrange frequencies sound better, too, providing a more distinct center line.
- Output. The floor standing speakers usually let out greater output and allow making it louder. This boosts not the low-end sound only. The treble also feels more steady and distinct in the floor standing speakers.
- Preamp mode. The floor standing speakers are usually passive and do not have an integrated preamp. Meanwhile, in the majority of bookshelf speakers the phono stage is already included into the construction, so they are called active. Look closer at the difference below.
Passive or Active
The second option you would stick with is the speaker’s mode: active or passive. Let’s define each type and consider its benefits:
- Passive – do not contain a built-in amplifier and thus, cannot work out the weak signal produced by the turntable. In order to make it audible, you will need to connect an AV receiver with the built-in amplifier or a separate dedicated amp. Certainly, this winds up the cost of your phono sound system. However, having a stand-alone amplifier provides plenty of opportunity for upgrading and tweaking your vinyl audio. Most of the tower speakers are of the passive type. There are models with the built-in preamp; yet, they cost considerably higher.
- Active – the plug-and-play speakers that have a built-in amplifier. They let you hear the sound immediately upon connecting to the AV receiver or even to a turntable. That’s quite handy, especially for the beginner audiophile. However, such speakers usually produce more simple sound with more interference due to the signal overlap. Usually, the amplifier is built in the bookshelf speakers, in order to save space and avoid additional cables and tweaking.
Best Speakers for Turntable Reviews
Best Bookshelf Speakers for Vinyl
The bookshelf speakers are usually active type; however, the passive models are also presented in the market. I’ve chosen the best speakers for record player in each category.
Active Bookshelf Speakers for Vinyl
Micca PB42X — Dense Soundstage and Confident Bass
These budget active speakers supply everything the regular music lover needs. The 15W per channel enables decent sound reaching over 100 dB. They could be awarded the best powered speakers for vinyl but for somewhat bright midrange and a bit pitchy (though clear) treble. The bottom bass sounds nice, with enough power and presence effect, though, at top volume, bumps like “music in the head”. The crossover is not impressive at voice sound, while instrumental channels are distributed accurately. The woofer works nicely, while the tweeter produces the unstable impression at high volume. The setup is standard for the speakers with RCA input, all the ports are labeled correctly and feel sturdy enough. Another great bonus is the built-in DSP allowing using the speakers for PC and smartphone audio. Considering the bottom price, these would indeed make the best budget speakers for vinyl, however, the midrange should be a fraction more steady.
- Warmness and mellowness for both analog and digital sound.
- I adjusted the frequency response via the equalizer and got a cleaner soundstage.
- The sleek design of the cabinet and component.
- The lightweight build features resonance at top volume.
Sony SACS9 — a Subwoofer for the Wall-Shaking Sound
This active sub enables the output of 115W and can create a surround effect out of any sound. Flowing vinyl and edgy Hi-Fi are both enriched and greatly amplified. The amplifier is put outside the acoustic box, leading to almost zero resonance even at the extreme volume. Overall, the soundstage is rich and full. The crossover works correctly, there is no channel interference audible even during the older LPs’ playback. The bass is very warm and accurate, not boomy or bumpy. Still, the thumps are felt to the bottom. The setup might become a pain for a non-techie, as this device provides a vast field for tweaking the acoustic and physical parameters. Meanwhile, the out-of-the-box playback keeps up with the upper level, too. This speaker has a compact but not too ergonomic design, with the power button located on the rear of the device.
- Vast frequency range with distinct detailing.
- An automatic turn-off is great for energy saving.
- The silent built-in AC cooler allows stocking the device into the cabinet or next to the wall.
- The in-stock RCA cable is thin and gets worn out quickly.
Edifier S1000DB — the Fully Packed Active Speakers for Turntable
Simple yet solid design of this active acoustic system and the powerful built-in amplifier would make them the best speakers for vinyl record player of the middle segment but for non-steady Bluetooth work. The total output is overwhelming 120W. The woofer is put at an angle for the steadier anаd distortion-free sound. The tiny-cellular grill prevents the audio from “tail dropping” while creating no resonance. Metallic cones produce the sharper digital audio; yet, the sound lacks the warmness a bit at the turntable playback. However, the natural wood case is perfect for silencing the interference and supporting the bass. The latter is powerful and clean, with the wide frequency specter. The highs are clean and transparent, the midrange provides a clear central line. However, for the optimal work of the crossover, it is necessary to put speakers at the distance of at least 10 feet and a bit below the ear level.
- The natural sound without coloring.
- I connected multiple sources including phono stage, AV receiver, and headphones through the dedicated ports.
- Handy remote control with the active interface indication.
- On the heavy side.
Audioengine HD6 — Professional Speakers for Turntable with Preamp
These upper mid-class active speakers can handle almost any format of the sound due to their multiple connectivity options and solid built-in amplifiers. The system can handle the Hi-Fi digital signal through the optical or coaxial input, as well as via wireless connection. Meanwhile, the phono stage can be plugged into the sturdy gold standard aux port. The massive wood design adds to the weight while enabling the crystal clear resonance- and distortion-free sound with the perfect blending of the channels into the integrated audio flow. The analog sound is very clean, not featuring any metallic edges. The aluminum woofer frames drive the bass yet deeper, adding an enveloping and pulsing effect. This acoustic set could be listed as the best powered speakers for turntable, if only it had a bit brighter design, fitting its premium quality.
- Perfect Bluetooth transmission of the digital audio without the quality loss.
- I tweaked the frequency and balance via the remote and reached the deep buoyant soundstage.
- Integrated streaming apps for diverse sound activities.
- The bass is powerful but not “rocky”.
Passive Bookshelf Speakers for Vinyl
Klipsch R-14M — It’s All about the Bass
These compact passive speakers might be called the best bookshelf speakers for vinyl, be there more options in their interface. Yet, they fit into any setup, from PC desk to phono stage, filling the relatively small room with the deep and detailed sound. The crossover and drivers work precisely, enabling the low-frequency cut and super distinct middle line. The high-quality components serve for the perfectly clean audio, even through the low-end amplifier. Good output and wide soundstage with next to no interference at extreme volumes. The sound is precise within the whole range, though it might seem a bit too bright on highs. These might also make the best speakers for vinyl under 100 due to their powerful bass, impressive and responsive, with a solid thump. Still, their range does not go below, to the sub-bass. Plugging in these speakers is no-brainer, the onset of inputs is clear and the connection ports are solid enough.
- Flowing and velvety analog playback.
- I paired them with the AV receiver and tuned up the EQ to my taste.
- Magnetic grill can be easily detached.
- The overly bright blue indicator is distracting.
- Unappealing design.
Fluance Signature Series HiFi — the Master of the Accurate Sound
These small passive speakers fill the room with sound that is both loud and elegant. The tweeter produces the tailor-cut highs, as accurate as can be, while the bass is strong and immersive. They create a deep colorful soundstage, with all the nuances distinctly heard. The sound is precise and authentic. For the sonic factor, they would get the deserved “best speakers for vinyl record player” award, while the analog warmness seems to fade away with the volume increase. In general, the sound flows seamlessly, there is no interference even at the sharp transitions, thanks to the solid work of the crossover. These speakers can also make decent fronts in any surround system, as they deliver the nice warm digital audio as well. The processor works fast with all formats. The wood design of cabinets silences all the interference, enabling the super clear sound. Setting up these speakers is easy, the connection ports are standard and easily spotted.
- Clean and powerful, sharply outlined vocals.
- Wide spectrum of sound even at the top volume.
- Stylish design.
- Small drivers do not allow the bottom-deep bass.
- Well-printed, comprehensive manual.
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 — Enhanced Sensitivity for Authentic Sound
This passive acoustic system produces highly dynamic and vivid sound. The soundstage is wide and transparent, conveying all the nuances of the analog sound. The lows are rich and confident, though not bottom-reaching. They translate the reverberations accurately, without slightest distortion. The enhanced build including the inner bracing of the construction and the solid multi-directional crossover emanate clear and colorful sound within the whole spectrum. These good speakers for record player create a three-dimensional picture even of the poorly recorded vinyl. I listened to some 1950s’ records out of my collection and the mids sounded well, though a bit muffled. However, the tonality, in general, was very warm and precise. Paired with a less powerful amplifier, they produce much thinner sound, providing the audible interference at the volume increase. Considering the price range, these would make the best budget speakers for vinyl save for an amp issue. The latter must be highly powerful to match these speakers.
- The silk dome tweeter produces confident clean highs.
- Nice classic design.
- Front reflex port allows placing the speakers near the wall.
- Rather large for this category of speakers.
KEF LS50 — High-End Speakers for Sophisticated Sound
The elegant non-standard shape and solid future-proof build of all the components make this externally-powered acoustic system the best speakers for vinyl, wouldn’t they cost a whole media system of the middle class. Thick walls keep the sound resonance-free and let them produce a super-powerful output. The 100W power lets out up to 106 dB that sound pristine within the whole spectrum. The woofer is wrapped into the special damper that together with the bent shape of the speaker decreases the vibration and enables the steady confident bass. The midrange radiates the dense audio flow and the uniform central line. The crossover serves for the precise channel distribution making each frequency distinct while in-line with the general sound flow. The vinyl sounds warm, rich and natural, relaying all the particulars of the record. Both digital and analog audio are detailed and dynamic.
- Well-balanced vast soundstage.
- Precise and rich sound with no coloration.
- Solid enforced connectors.
- A low-to-mid sensitivity requires the powerful amplifier.
- No dust grills for external protection.
Floor Standing Speakers for Vinyl
The floor standing speakers are usually larger and thus, provide more loud and powerful sound. Most of the tower speakers are passive. In the review below, I gathered the best speakers for turntable in this category.
Sony SSCS3 — Affordable Tower Speakers for Non-Compromising Sound
These relatively small passive speakers will make a good investment for the beginner vinyl audiophile. While the super-tweeter doesn’t make much use for the phono stage playback, the solid tweeter and reinforced woofer completed by the picky crossover introduce the enveloping warm sound with the accurate channel distribution. The bass is quite hard, close to the subwoofer’s quality. At the same time, the dispersion is rather plain, not supporting any “neighbor protection” frequency cut. The highs sound sharp and detailed, the middle line keeps its shape and character pristine even at the volume increase. The soundstage is not too wide but dense and colorful, the instrumental nuances are outlined well. The elaborated reflex system allows placing the speakers at different positions, ensuring the quality resonance-free sound. Overall, this set can be praised as the best budget speakers for turntable, save for the occasional metallic sound at top highs and slightly blurred audio somewhere in between mids and lows.
- Actual 100W per channel output for the really loud performance.
- Comprehensive setup even for a non-techie.
- Solid cabinet design, with the tapered edge isolation.
- The cabinet surface feels inexpensive.
Fluance XL7F — Elegant Middle-Class Speakers
The first thing to justify the word “elegant” is the design of these passive floor-standing speakers. They are tall and slim, side-curved, with the nice touch of the vinyl coverage. The setup and location of the drivers are unusual, with two midrange drivers and the woofer hidden in the rear. The latter produces a strong and even bass, with no overpowering or shortcoming, just the right smooth juicy bass. The mids are clear and rich, the crossover does a good job splitting them onto two midrange drivers. I especially liked the accurate distribution of the upper midrange, enabling the light flowing vinyl audio. The vocals are natural, though, while produced through the upper midrange, a bit unified with the general music flow. The highs have nice tonality transitions even at the high volume.
- The overreaching soundstage with plenty of nuances.
- High-end components and insulation materials.
- The exquisite design and footstep construction.
- The large gold connectors might become an issue during plain cable hook-up.
- Grill-holding posts are jutting out when the grill is removed.
Polk Audio TSi500 — Dynamic and Powerful Sound
“Large and heavy” is about the build of this speaker but not of its sound. Right out of the box it plays a sharply outlined sound with distinct reverberating transitions and precise dynamic pattern. All of its five drivers seem to emanate the motion, while the bass steadiness is additionally secured by the bottom-placed reflex port. The tweeter treated with the special membrane delivers the precise original sound without the resonance or other interference. The sound range is quite large, as the bass is almost bottom-deep, while the highs are pristine and airy. The instrumental lines are heard unmistakably, while the rich vocals can be presented with less power and color. Still, the soundstage is marked by the sharp contrasts and precisely outlined sonic images. The speaker enables fluent tonality transitions at the low-to-mid volume, while the contrasts become more vivid with the volume increase.
- High sensitivity allows using an economy-class amplifier.
- Digitally modeled grills enable the full presence three-dimensional sound.
- Solid cabinet for distortion-free sound.
- The size and parameters require vast space to deliver the optimal sound.
Klipsch RP280FA — the Tamed Sound Monster of a Speaker
These high-end passive speakers are designed primarily to handle the Atmos sound (which they are perfect at). However, their high-quality build and technologies implemented make them a worthy option for the enhanced phono acoustic set. The tweeter has titan cones and is fixed in the Tractrix rubber, depressing all the resonance. The woofer and tweeter are slightly tilted upwards in order for the sound to be reflected from the ceiling. In terms of the analog sound, this means the deep penetrating bass and exceptionally wide full-presence soundstage. The speakers have the separate amplification of high and low frequencies, providing the most natural and crystal clear sound within the whole frequency range. The sound is mild and fully detailed while letting out the characteristic brand’s dynamic surge. The output is large (though expected at this price) and allows having a full-presence effect even at middle volume. At the extreme, the drivers work steadily, admitting not a slightest distortion or resonance.
- Even, confident sound presentation with zero coloring.
- Easily removed magnetic grills.
- Different footstep options (solid plate or rubber legs).
- Slight tonal balance shifting at high volume.
Selecting well-advised position for your speakers
Speaker placement directly affects user experience from sound, either enhancing the impression or destroying it completely. There several rules that may be applied in the majority of situations, regardless of the room’s size:
- Do not place the speakers too close to walls, leave some gap. The same rule is also true for seats, as bass frequencies tend to be amplified near walls.
- Try and place the front speakers so that they form a close-to-equilateral triangle with the listener’s seat.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment. The trial and errors method may help you in finding the perfect spot for your audio equipment. This is particularly useful for placing a subwoofer, or for rooms that are too narrow or too wide.
Besides, the position of the speakers is defined by three parameters:
- Distance to walls. Except for in-wall / wall-mount speakers, do not prop speakers onto a wall. Use a rule of fifths to define the optimal distance. For example, for a room of 25 x 30 ft, place your speakers at 5 ft to one wall and 6 ft to another.
- Distance between speakers. The larger and more powerful the speakers, the bigger the distance. However, avoid placing speakers too far from each other.
- Distance to the listener. Must be slightly bigger than the distance between the speakers.
Will your audio system benefit from a phono preamp?
If your turntable or receiver do not have a built-in preamp, you will have to buy a separate phono preamplifier. The turntable derives quite a weak signal that must be amplified to the linear level, in order to be “caught” by the speakers. For that, the phono preamps were created. If you connect a record player without a preamp to your speakers or receiver, the sound will be too quiet or completely inaudible. In order to provide decent audio quality, a weak output signal from a turntable has to be processed into a line signal, namely equalized and amplified, before reaching an output device. It can be performed by the following means:
- A turntable with the phono preamp. If you own a modern turntable, it most likely has an integrated phono preamp;
- AV-receiver with the phono preamp;
- Stand-alone phono preamp. Remember that the AUX port is not working for turntables without a phono preamp. If you hear no sound, it means a stand-alone preamp to be connected between the turntable and speakers.
So, if you plan to enjoy the vintage analog sound, choose devices with built-in phono preamps or consider buying a phono stage.
How to connect speakers to a turntable
Hooking up the vinyl acoustic system can vary depending on the actual components used. A presence of (integrated) phono preamp, AV-receiver, speakers amplifier can make the task easier or more complicating.
If your turntable includes a built-in preamp, connection of active RCA speakers depends on the number of RCA ports on a speaker:
- two RCA ports: connect the turntable RCA cable to the relevant jacks on the speaker (red to red, white to white);
- one port: use the RCA adapters. These can be male or female, depending on the cable used.
However, if a separate phono stage is present between the turntable and an output device, the number of links increases. First, you have to connect a record player to the preamplifier using a dedicated phono input, then connect the preamp directly to the speakers if they are active, or via a receiver/power amplifier if they are passive. Use the AUX input on your receiver to connect the phono stage and use the corresponding output terminals or plugs, such as pin/spade connectors or banana plugs, for your speakers.
Basic terms related to speakers
Bass – the lowest frequencies in a spectrum, usually start from 10-20 HZ.
Bass reflex – a peculiar hollow structure in a speaker body that enhances low frequencies using resonance phenomenon.
Crossover – a dedicated filter circuit that splits a signal into different frequency ranges, most commonly – two or three ranges.
Driver – an individual loudspeaker designed to reproduce a specific frequency range and mounted in a special enclosure with suitable acoustic properties.
Midrange – the middle part of the frequency range that is higher than bass but lower than the “highs”, namely 250-2000 Hz. Dedicated midrange speakers are sometimes called squawkers.
Sensitivity/Efficiency – in the context of audio, these terms tend to use interchangeably and denote a rate of power-to-volume conversion. Sensitivity represents the volume in decibels that can be achieved with one Watt of power. Efficiency indicates the percentage of power converted into sound instead of being wasted on heating, etc.
Soundstage – an audio “image” conveyed to the listener by speakers. It encompasses all instruments, vocals and other sounds that should be delivered clearly, fully and without losses and distortions.
Treble – a name for high frequencies in a spectrum.
Tweeter – a dedicated driver for treble that usually has small dimensions compared to loudspeakers for other frequencies.
Woofer – a driver specially designed for bass.
Points to keep in mind while choosing speakers for a turntable:
- Presence of a built-in amplifier. This option greatly improves the sound quality and facilitates connection.
- Multi-driver configuration. Speakers that comprise tweeters, squawkers, and a woofer, or at least a bass reflex, better reproduce the soundstage leaving no empty gaps in the frequency range.
- Control availability. Opt for units that allow adjusting volume and bass/treble levels in order to tune their performance.
- Connectivity. Pick the models that have inputs and outputs compatible with other devices in your media system. His way, you can ensure optimal and lossless connections without adapters or rare types of cables.
- Dimensions. Consider the possible placement of speakers, as well as the dimensions and layout of your room, and choose their size accordingly.
Sound quality of speakers for a vinyl record player
Analog sound from vinyl recordings has a peculiar “warm” tone, so the main requirement for speakers is to reproduce it as fully as possible. It is highly desirable that the sound remains authentic and not tainted by distortions, noise and other external interference to audio signals.
To improve the sound and minimize the noise, you should select speakers with good specifications based on the quality of their electronic components, materials and shape. Besides, proper placement is also essential: speakers, and a turntable should be located on separate surfaces to prevent shared vibrations.
Remember, positive experience from vinyl audio is a result of multiple factors combined to maximize the sound quality. You cannot achieve it by prioritizing only one aspect at the cost of others. For example, it is unreasonable to purchase top-notch speakers and disregard their proper placement or to buy a high-quality turntable and connect it with flimsy unshielded cables.