It’s never been easier, cheaper, or more convenient to set up a solid sound system. Get a good Bluetooth speaker, a music streaming service, and voila! — a world of music will wash over your living space. There’s nothing wrong with this setup. It’s awesomely convenient and, well, it does the trick. But for those who care about sound quality, miss the tactile feel and look of an album, or want music to be the centerpiece of a room, a turntable, receiver, and pair of speakers is a must. Plus, of course, a respectable vinyl collection.
Sure, you’ll need to pay more than you would for your average-quality Bluetooth speaker — but not that much more. That is, unless you’re looking to. If you want to go truly high-end on a turntable-receiver-speaker combo, you can easily drop a second car’s worth on the whole thing.
So where to start? We’ve got you. Here are three setups for three budgets.
For the Newcomer
If you’re looking to explore the vinyl revival but aren’t sure where to start, this entry-level turntable from renowned brand Audio-Technica looks pro, sounds great, and you can get it for less than $150. Pair it with a solid set of powered bookshelf speakers — don’t skimp too much because speakers are the key to great sound quality. This pair from Edifier uses an internal preamp, so you don’t need a separate receiver.
The AT-LP60X comes in four colors to blend in with any decor, and it looks handsome on a media console. The 3.5mm output lets it connect to almost any speaker (a dual RCA jack is included) so you can be up and running in no time.
The R1280Ts have the technical chops — 42 watts of power with 4-inch subs and 13mm tweeters — but all you’ll care about is the ease of use and rich sound. Wire them up to the turntable and drop the needle. Knobs on the speaker control treble, bass, and volume, but you can also handle that through the remote in a package that’s bookshelf-friendly and not much bigger than an Apple HomePod.
For the Enthusiast
If you already have some records and are ready to upgrade from a basic setup, there are plenty of turntable options in the $300 to $500 range. The Fluance RT85 sits at the higher end, but the acrylic platter and solid wood plinth ensure stability and durability. You can afford the turntable because of the bargain Yamaha receiver — a powerful and versatile model that consistently beats out the pricier competition. German-made ELAC speakers have a thick, MDF housing with bracing to reduce vibration. Front-firing bass ports mean you can tuck these up against a wall, or bookcase, without sacrificing low-end sound.
The sleek-looking acrylic platter isn’t just for show — it adds mass to dampen vibrations. The Ortofon 2mm Blue cartridge delivers stunningly rich dynamics and a flat frequency response for true analog sound reproduction.
The R-N303 is the best of both worlds if you plan to have one system the whole family can use. It will help you pursue Hi-Fi nirvana, but also has Bluetooth, AirPlay, and access to apps like Spotify, Pandora, and voice control through Alexa or the Google Assistant.
Designed to fit a medium-sized room with a 44Hz-35kHz frequency and a 87dB sensitivity that works well with everything the receiver can feed it.
For the Affluent Audiophile
For those who have a dedicated room for listening, Pro-Ject makes arguably the finest turntables, including a stunner that goes for a ridiculous $15,000. But you can score luxury quality for a fraction of that with Pro-Ject’s RPM 5 Carbon. It’s as much a conversation starter as the platters that it spins. Pair it with a Marantz receiver that includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, and voice control compatibility so it works not only for vinyl and streaming, but also for your TV setup. While you can drop the cost of a decent used car for some tower speakers, we’d take versions from Klipsch. Still pricey, yes, but remember, speakers are the key to a great stereo, and these towers will turn a living room into a concert hall.
The striking RPM 5 Carbon is a conversation-starter even when there isn’t any music playing. The MDF body that gives the turntable the signature form also reduces vibration and it uses both an inverted bearing and ceramic beads for buttery smooth and silent spinning. The Sumiko Oyster stylus is able to read the vinyl’s details with precision, resulting in a wide range of frequency and low interference.
While the Marantz feeds speakers with your vinyl pick, it, like the Yamaha, realizes most modern setups are going to host families or users who want to stream. The M-CR612 will beam your playlist to your speakers through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or easily from an iOS device using AirPlay 2 or a host of apps like Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, or SiriusXM.
These speakers are neither cheap nor small — at more than 4 feet tall and about 100 pounds — but the soundstage they produce is full, warm, and realistic. If your vinyl collection includes a lot of live recordings or acoustic sessions, Klipsch delivers, which isn’t that surprising since each one is built with enough pride that the name of the employee who assembled it in Hope, Arkansas is included on a plaque.
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