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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-inch 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 April 5, 2023, to update the Best list with the Kanto YU6 and ELAC Debut Reference DBR62, to revamp the Notable mentions, and formatting.
Why is the DALI Oberon 1 the best pair of turntable speakers for most people?
Hear me out. Most people buy the compromise product, whether it’s the Sony WH-1000XM4 instead of the newer Sony WH-1000XM5, 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 (more on ELAC later), 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 case’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 300mm 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,” but 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.
The Kanto YU6 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 YU6. With RCA, Bluetooth, optical, and ground wires, you can count on the YU6 to connect with everything you own.
You won’t get a super neutral frequency response, but with 6 inch woofers, the YU6 is surprisingly thumpy. Still, want more bass? The YU6 has a sub connection too. With a ground connection on the Kanto YU6, you can use a turntable without a preamp, and because the speakers are active-powered, you don’t need an amplifier. This streamlines your entire setup to record player into Kanto YU6, and done. Kanto even threw in a remote and some basic EQ controls. Unlike the Sonos Five, you don’t need any apps or Wi-Fi. What’s not to love?
The Sonos Five is a great speaker for vinyl in small living spaces
If you live in a small space and enjoy music on multiple platforms, it could make more sense to combine your vinyl setup with your streaming setup. Sonos makes many smart speakers, and today we’re talking about the Sonos Five. It’s big for a streaming speaker, but pretty small compared to other entries on this list, and there’s only one, which further saves room. The price balloons into expensive if you buy a second one, so if you don’t mind having one it’s a good choice. Weighing 6.36kg (14lb)and measuring 203 x 364 x 154mm, the Five can still provide good volume.
One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to pair the Five with a preamp, or have a turntable that comes with a preamp built-in. Unlike the Kanto and Edifier entries on our list, you don’t get Bluetooth connectivity, but just use the aux input for your analog audio sources, or play audio over Wi-Fi. The Five is a wise choice for the person dabbling in vinyl, but who realistically listens to digital music formats more frequently.
Hear music how it was recorded with the ELAC Debut Reference DBR62
The passive ELAC DBR-62 is frequently sold out, which is not surprising. It has a somewhat studio inspired sound, allowing you to hear most of the nuances of your music without undue exaggerations. It helps that the ELAC DBR62 looks good and undercuts the higher tiered competition in cost too.
With a 6.5 inch woofer you’re sure to hear enough low end to satisfy your needs. Its front port allows you to place the speakers closer to the wall than usual rear ported speakers too, adding some flexibility. As a passive speaker, the ELAC DBR62 needs an amplifier, and lacks the wireless connectivity of other Bluetooth and wireless speakers, but it also won’t become obsolete either.
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 ELAC Debut Reference speakers when you only own five records. Enter the active-powered Edifier R1280DB with an attractive 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’s reminiscent 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 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.
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 rates as 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 which gets 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 feel happy with the bass reproduction on the Debut.
The best turntable speakers: Notable mentions
- DALI Spektor 2: If you like the idea of passive speakers, similar to the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2, but want an alternative that’s also well priced, this one goes for $526.35 at Amazon.
- Edifier R1280T: For $16.99 at Amazon 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.
- Edifier S1000W: These powered speakers have a lot of low end emphasis, and plenty of connectivity. You will still need a preamp solution for your record player, but you can plug in plenty besides a turntable, plus there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and it can do some smart home stuff too. It’s not audiophile, but it is convenient for $449.99 at Amazon.
- ELAC Debut 2.0 5.2: The smaller sibling of the ELAC Debut 6.2 is for the people a little short of space. With the smaller woofer, you’ll get less bass, but they still sound good with a competitive price tag ($99.99 at Amazon).
- Kanto YU4: This is the smaller version of the Kanto YU6. You can anticipate similar connectivity with reduced bass response and even more apartment friendly sized for $99 at Amazon.
- KEF Q150: This is basically your cheapest (though, by no means a cheap for $699.98 at Amazon) 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.
- Klipsch The Fives: When a company has the confidence to put “the” in front of a name, it denotes significance. They look good and they have the Klipsch sound, because of the high frequency emphasis. They also hook up to basically anything. Find a pair of the stylish speakers for $492.99 at Amazon.
- Paradigm Monitor SE Atom: The Canadian brand offers solid value on these passive speakers with a hint of treble emphasis. For the low price , they sound great.
- Revel Concerta2 M16: At first glance you might think this is a surprisingly budget friendly pick, until you notice perhaps that the price ($699 at Apple) is for a single speaker and not a pair. If sticker shock isn’t a problem, you’ll get some excellent sound quality and finish with these passive speakers.
What you should know before buying turntable speakers
Bookshelf or floor-standing speakers?
Essentially, there are two main categories of loudspeakers 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, usually 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.
What’s the difference between active or passive speakers?
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. These do not require an external amplifier to push the signal at a usable 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.
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. There’s more to know about how speakers work. 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 cables will connect to the turntable (with built-in preamp), or standalone preamp.
While some newer turntables like the Audio-Technica AT-LP120XUSB have Bluetooth capability, you can’t 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 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 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.
Most 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 involving (most likely) digital-to-analog conversion. At best, you might enjoy 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, and they sort of are. 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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Frequently asked questions about the best turntable speakers
Vinyl, being an analog media, requires cleaning and care. That’s especially true if you just found a bunch at a thrift shop where they’ve been ignored and probably not cared for. So, first try getting a brush to remove debris and static. Next, check if your speaker placement follows the guidelines set by the manufacturer, like distance from the wall being adequate. Ensure your turntable’s cartridge isn’t dull, and that it makes contact with the vinyl record without too much or too little weight on the record. Check the speed (on turntables that have adjustable speeds), because the wrong speed isn’t going to sound right.