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Best turntable speakers
You’ve bought the candy apple red turntable with the matching Ortofon 2M Red cartridge, and now you’ve realized there’s nowhere for the sound to come out. You need speakers! Vinyl record sales have surged in recent years, once the mainstay of audiophiles and Luddites, now they’re everywhere. Whether you want a special edition pressing, or are on the hunt for the coveted 7″ single that never made it to the digital era, it’s a bug and you’ve been bit. In a sea of speakers, which ones are the right ones? We’re here to find you the best speakers for your turntable.
Editor’s note: this article was updated on September 13, 2021, to add the Edifier R1280T to Notable mentions.
The best turntable speaker for most people is the DALI Oberon 1
Hear me out. Most people buy the compromise product, whether it’s the Sony WH-1000XM3 instead of the newer Sony WH-1000XM4, or last year’s car because it’s a little cheaper than the newest model. That is okay, and it’s frequently the smart decision. The DALI Oberon 1 makes you feel like you bought the best version and didn’t compromise. As far as speakers go, it’s not cheap, but it’s not audiophile expensive either.
DALI is a Danish company often mentioned in the same breath as ELAC and Bowers & Wilkins (more on B&W below), but the Oberon 1 offers a surprising amount of value and it looks great as a medium-sized bookshelf speaker. The frequency response is somewhere between neutral and consumer-friendly, and that’s pleasing. The large (for their speaker’s size) woofers extend the bass range, and while these aren’t bass-heavy per se, they are for their dimensions.
Keep in mind the Oberon 1 is passive, so it requires an amplifier, and because it is rear-ported it ought to sit 12 inches away from the wall. DALI also specifies that due to the design of the Oberon 1, it is not meant to be positioned “toed in,” rather, point the speakers straight ahead. Try the Oberon 1 and congratulate yourself on a good deal. You won’t be kicking yourself about buying this high-value speaker set.
What you should know before buying turntable speakers
Bookshelf or floor-standing speakers?
Essentially, there are two main categories of loudspeaker which dictate the size of the cabinet. The size difference is fairly self-evident. In a world with increasingly small tech (except maybe phablets) it might seem odd or even indulgent to consider tall, floor-standing speakers. However, the other type, typically referred to as bookshelf speakers, are usually designed to sit on dedicated stands. Bookshelf speakers don’t necessarily belong on shelves. Keeping your speakers on the same shelf as your turntable tends to create more vibration that feeds back from the speakers into the turntable, and then back out the speakers in the form of resonant noise.
Floor-standing speakers generally offer the advantage of improved bass and they’re self-contained, requiring no extra stands. They’re quite large, which is the obvious disadvantage (or advantage depending on your priorities), and more expensive. As a result, most people go with bookshelf speakers and live with the reduced bass or overall output level. Check out the notable mentions section if you really want floor-standing speakers for your turntable.
Another consideration is the difference between active-powered and passive (unpowered) speakers. The easiest way to tell which is which: check if it plugs into the wall. Active speakers arrive self-powered with a power cord. They do not require an external amplifier to push the signal at a useable volume, which passive speakers will need. With passive speakers, you can match whatever amplifier you want, further customizing your experience. You may already own an amplifier, especially if you have a home theater, in which case it’s not uncommon to use that amplifier with turntable speakers for your record collection.
Now, the downside to this all-in-one home theater scenario is that not every amplifier has the right input for a turntable, or maybe you don’t want everything in the same room. Active-powered speakers are great for small spaces, where you don’t want to deal with the extra cabling or an amplifier. If you want to know more about how speakers work, check out this guide. With that said, the price range is vast, and there’s a speaker out there for every vinyl lover’s budget.
Types of connections on turntable speakers
Make sure that your particular setup is compatible with the speakers you purchase. Passive speakers connect to your turntable via speaker wires from the amplifier’s output. If you have active-powered speakers the RCA cables will connect to the turntable (with built-in preamp), or standalone preamp.
Become an expert: Ultimate guide to audio connections
While some newer turntables like the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB have Bluetooth capability, you can’t really harness that without Bluetooth speakers, like the budget-friendly Edifier R1280DB or most Kanto speakers. Some active speakers like the Kanto SYD, YU, and TUK series provide grounding for your turntable, eliminating the need for a preamp (although they can work with one as well). Meanwhile, the excellent sounding ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 supplies a pretty minimal speaker connection only, leaving the frills to the other components of your system.
A lack of connections does not indicate that one model is of worse quality than another, but it can limit or direct how you set up your turntable system. Take stock of what you already own to see what else you need in a speaker.
Sounds like a lot of work, does analog really sound better than digital?
In a word, nope. Don’t run away yet! Vinyl sounds different than digital, not better. To many people, vinyl sounds better than overly compressed digital music. Around the time that producers switched to digital, they also began cranking their dynamic compressors in an effort to kill dynamic range. It turns out, however, that listeners tend to prefer their quiet sounds to be quieter than their loud sounds. In the early days of digital recording up until about 15 years ago, there were a lot of digital recordings that were either mixed and mastered badly (read: too loudly), or recorded using relatively rudimentary analog-to-digital audio converters.
Remember those early digitally remastered CDs that somehow choked the life out of classic albums? Yeah, it’s not that digital is worse, but early digital was sort of worse because it was often employed badly.
The majority of new vinyl records were recorded digitally, so you’re not going to access some mysterious analog nirvana by listening to your digitally recorded vinyl record—at least not because it sounds objectively better. After all, it had to be converted to analog via a mastering process that also involves (most likely) digital-to-analog conversion. At best, you might be enjoying the vinyl master a little more, because the compression is turned down, or your turntable setup is more favorable to your taste.
If an album was originally recorded digitally, having it on vinyl doesn't make it sound inherently better.
With vinyl records, you get a physical relationship with music. Sometimes that means slowing down and paying better attention so maybe you notice things you wouldn’t otherwise, because you have to get up to flip over the record, or you need to lift the tonearm to skip a song you don’t like. To many, these are inconveniences—frankly, they are for me as well, and I love vinyl—but the invocation of the body in these interactions with vinyl records grounds the ephemeral nature of music in the physical world. The occasional pop or hiss from bargain bin records is charming, but you can’t really argue it’s better sound quality when it’s clearly degraded. Some records haven’t ever made it to a digital format, and that’s often reason enough to invest in a turntable with dedicated speakers.
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The Kanto YU4 has all the features you want
Imagine a world where you only get one set of speakers for everything. Maybe you don’t have the room for separate speakers for each audio source, or you like the idea of a self-contained and minimal home. Most speakers need some sort of rigging to get that kind of versatility, but not the Kanto YU4. With RCA, Bluetooth, optical, and ground wires, you can pretty much count on the YU4 to connect with everything you own.
You won’t get a neutral frequency response, but with just 4″ woofers, the YU4 is surprisingly thumpy. Still, want more bass? The YU4 has a sub connection too. With a ground connection on the Kanto YU4, you can use a turntable without a preamp, and because the speakers are active-powered, you don’t need an amplifier. Basically, this streamlines your entire setup to turntable into Kanto YU4, and done. They even threw in a remote and some basic EQ controls. What’s not to love?
For the classic vinyl experience get the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
Already got the turntable, the preamp, and the amplifier? Perfect, the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 is a no-frills passive speaker that focuses on sound and good engineering. Hi-Fi industry legend Andrew Jones is responsible for the Debut 2.0 B6.2 (the name sounds like some kind of cryptic code) which is enough to catch our attention, and the sub-$300 price is enough to hold it.
The Debut is thoughtfully front-ported which means you don’t need to place the speaker at least a foot away from the wall, therefore these bookshelf speakers can actually go on a bookshelf without sounding bad. Bass is never going to be the highlight of speakers this size, however, ELAC made a convincing effort, and most people will be happy with the bass reproduction on the Debut.
Hear vinyl the way it was meant to be with Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 Anniversary speakers
For over 25 years Bowers & Wilkins has made a name for itself with premium speakers. These passive 606 S2 Anniversary edition speakers will shine with the right turntable and amplifier. They’re a good size, with a fairly neutral frequency response, so you’ll be hearing your records close to how they were mixed to sound in the studio.
Bowers & Wilkins refers to these as “standmount” speakers, which basically means they’re intended to sit on dedicated stands. It stands to reason that if you’re paying this much, you should probably do that. No one’s going to arrest you if you put them on a makeshift stand, however, but you should place them at least 12 inches away from the wall. If you’re unable to work around some of these conditions, they might not be the best pick.
Bowers & Wilkins stuffs flagship features such as its Continuum cone which reportedly improves the bass, as well as improved crossovers (borrowed from the pricier 700 series). Improved crossovers make sure that just the right frequencies are coming out of the correct components (highs from the tweeters, lows from the woofers) which makes it easier for you to perceive instrumental clarity and detail.
The best cheap turntable speaker is the Edifier R1280DB
So maybe you love vinyl, but you’ve really just got a small collection and you’re dipping your toes in. It’s hard to justify buying something like the DALI Oberon 1 or Bowers & Wilkins 606 S2 speakers when you only own five records. Enter the active-powered Edifier R1280DB with an attractive $139 USD price tag that means you have more money (to buy more records).
Edifier has a very specific aesthetic: you either love it or hate it. It reminds me of late ’70s synthesizers with the generous use of wood bookends. While some companies concentrate on minimalism and getting a few things exactly right, Edifier is into a form of maximalism. Edifier ensures that even at this price point, you still get tons of connection options, should you want to connect your speakers to your TV, as well as other speakers, Bluetooth for streaming, and—oh yeah—your turntable.
There’s a certain lack of refinement with the R1280DB, such as a flimsy remote (but it is a remote) and imperfect audio reproduction, but it’s cheap and cheerful. You won’t have to make room in your bank account or your home to fit the speakers, which is a pretty good reason to buy them.
Best turntable speakers: notable mentions
- Bowers & Wilkins 607 S2 Anniversary: If you can’t quite justify the cost of the 606 S2 or just want a smaller-sized speaker, these get you the B&W sound.
- DALI Oberon 7: If you want more bass than standard bookshelf speakers can offer, but also don’t want to try getting a dedicated subwoofer, then it’s time to get big, beautiful floor-standing speakers. These are the big brothers of the Oberon 1.
- DALI Spektor 2: If you like the idea of passive speakers, similar to the ELAC Debut B6.2, but want a different flavor, try DALI.
- Edifier R1280T: For under $100 you can grab this set of active powered set of speakers. For the extra few bucks the R1280DB has more features, but if your budget is super minimal this works too.
- ELAC Navis ARB-51: These active-powered speakers are costly, but they’re entirely analog with 6 built-in amplifiers. The amount of engineering in these is admirable. Most of us will admire from afar, but they will please with their detailed sound signature a privileged few.
- Kanto SYD: Imagine you took a pair of Kanto YU4 speakers, put them on their sides, and stuck them together. It’s pretty handy in tight places, and surprisingly punchy.
- KEF Q150: This is basically your cheapest (though, by no means a cheap) entry into KEF’s universe of speakers. These stylish bookshelf speakers might not have anything in the way of extra connectivity, but they sound good.
- KEF Q550: You did it, you made some room for floor standing speakers. But also, you don’t have a huge amount of room. The woofers aren’t that big, but you still want your neighbors to like you, so it’s okay.
- Klipsch The Fives: I love when a company has such confidence to put “the” in front of a name, because it denotes significance. They look good and they have the Klipsch sound, because of the high-frequency emphasis that is colloquially referred to as “bright.” They also hook up to basically anything.
- Sonos Five: It’s a bit of a clunky and expensive system, but if you really want an all-in-one solution for your home audio that is compatible with turntables, as well as streaming, Sonos has it.
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