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What do I Need with My Turntable? (Ultimate Guide)

In this article, I will guide you through different turntable setups and show you exactly what you will need for each setup.

For the simplest setup, you will only need a pair of powered speakers that connects directly to the turntable. A popular beginner combo is the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X turntable and the Edifier R1280DB powered speakers. This setup is affordable, easy to connect, and easy to use.

We’ll look more into simple turntable setups like the one suggested above as well as advanced turntable setups in a second.

But first. Let me try to give you a short answer.

What do you need with your turntable?

There are four components that are needed to play vinyl. Turntable, preamp, amplifier and speakers. These four components can be separate units or bundled together in different combinations. The preamp can, for example, be built into the turntable. And the amplifier can be built into the speakers.

The four components needed to play vinyl are:
1. Turntable
2. Preamp
3. Amplifier
4. Speakers

You probably know the purpose of turntables, amplifiers and speakers. But please let me briefly explain the purpose of the preamp, since it frequently causes a bit of confusion.

External preamps

The preamp converts a PHONO signal to a LINE signal. The PHONO signal from a turntable cartridge is very small in size and needs an extra stage of amplification to reach the same size as the standard LINE signal that is outputted by CD players, DVD Players, streamers, computers, and so on.

If you connect a turntable without a preamp to a standard LINE-level input on an amplifier or powered speakers, then the music volume will be very low. Almost impossible to hear. So a preamp is needed to give the signal a necessary extra boost.

I have included links to a few helpful articles at the very end of this guide if you want I more in-depth explanation on the purpose of preamps.

The simplest way to hook up a turntable is to use a turntable with a built-in preamp and powered speakers. In this setup, you only need powered speakers with your turntable.

The most advanced way to set up a turntable is to have all the four essential components as separate units. A turntable, a separate preamp, an amplifier and speakers.

And there are several setup alternatives that sit between the two just mentioned.

To get the full overview, we’ll review all the different ways to set up a turntable. I will explain what gear you will need for each setup. And who the different setups are best suited for. The pros and cons.

I have also included a section with recommended gear at the end. Check it out if you are shopping for gear and could need a few expert recommendations.

Simple turntable setups

In a simple turntable setup, we connect the turntable directly to powered speakers. This is done with a RCA interconnect cable that comes with the turntable and speakers. We only need two things. A turntable and powered speakers.

In powered speakers, the amplifier is built into the speaker cabinets. Therefore, no separate amplifier/receiver is needed when we use powered speakers.

And here is a simple illustration of this setup.

As we see in this figure above, this setup requires a turntable with a built-in preamp. Preamps are often included in entry-level turntables, while more expensive high-end turntables usually come without a preamp.

A turntable has a preamp if there is a LINE/PHONO switch at the back. The preamp is active when the switch is set to LINE.

There are a few powered speakers models that come with a preamp built-in, but these are quite rare.

Required gear for this setup:
1. Turntable with preamp
2. Powered speakers

If neither the turntable nor the powered speakers have a preamp built in, then we’ll need to add a standalone preamp to this simple setup. A preamp can be bought for less than $20 and connects between the turntable and the powered speakers.

Here is an illustration that shows what this setup looks like in principle.

Required gear for this setup:
1. Turntable
2. Preamp
3. Powered speakers

Who is a simple turntable setup for?

This setup is great if you are just starting out with vinyl and want a setup that doesn’t cost a lot of money, doesn’t require a lot of place, is simple to set up and simple to use.

A cheap setup like this can be bought for around $200. A higher-quality setup like this will set you back from $500 to $1000.

We’ll look at both cheap and higher-priced product recommendations later in this article.

If you are looking for a turntable setup that plays music with audiophile sound quality, then a simple setup for this will not be the best option. In that case, you are better off buying separate gear. And you will probably need a bigger budget.

Advanced turntable setups

Powered speakers have become a popular option for vinyl spinners, but for many people, a traditional Hi-Fi setup with a separate amplifier/receiver and passive speakers is still preferred.

In an advanced turntable setup, we use a standalone amplifier and passive speakers. The preamp is usually a separate unit. But can also be included in the turntable or in the amplifier/receiver.

In the illustration below, we see how a setup where all the four essential components are separate components looks like.

Required gear for this setup:
1. Turntable
2. Preamp
3. Amplifier
3. Passive speakers

Below is an alternative version of the advanced setup where there is used a turntable with a built-in preamp. No separate preamp is needed in this case, and the turntable connects directly to the amplifier.

Required gear for this setup:
1. Turntable with preamp
2. Amplifier
3. Passive speakers

A third version of the advanced setup is shown below. Here, there is used a turntable without preamp and an amplifier with the preamp built-in. The turntable then connects to the PHONO input on the amplifier.

This was a very common way to set up a turntable back in the day. As turntables were common but rarely included a preamp, most amplifiers included a preamp so that turntables could be connected directly.

Not all amplifiers come with a built-in preamp these days, but it starts to become more and more common every year as turntables and vinyl have become popular again.

Required gear for this setup:
1. Turntable
2. Amplifier with preamp
3. Passive speakers

Who is an advanced turntable setup for?

An advanced turntable setup is great for people with a bigger stereo budget that are looking for high-fidelity sound. It is possible to buy gear of much higher quality (and cost) when we shop for separate components.

It is possible to build a budget version of the advanced turntable setup. But if you are looking to get into vinyl as cheap as possible, then you are probably better off with a simple setup.

The advanced setups are also great if you already have a Hi-Fi with a standalone amplifier and passive speakers and want to add a turntable to the Hi-Fi.

With an advanced setup it is possible to upgrade the stereo by replacing one component at the time. So it is great for people that want to start out with a relatively affordable stereo and upgrade it over time.

Recommended gear for simple turntable setups

If you are looking to get into vinyl as cheaply as possible, I highly recommend the Audio-Technica AT-LP60X turntable with built-in preamp and the Edifier R1280DB powered speakers. It is easy to set up, has good build quality and will sound very good for the price.

The AT-LP60X is an extremely popular turntable that is on the very top of many vinyl experts lists of best entry-level turntables. It is a bargain.

And the Edifier R1280DB powered speakers are a shockingly good pair of powered speakers for such a low price. When you open the box, you won’t believe that you got them so cheaply.

If you have a bigger budget, I recommend a midrange turntable with built-in preamp and quality powered speakers.

A great package will be the popular U-Turn Orbit Plus with preamp and the Audioengine A5 Plus powered speakers.

The U-Turn Orbit Plus with preamp offers great sound and very high value. And the Audioengine A5 Plus powered speakers is the very best powered speakers for vinyl that I have found after tons of research. I bought these myself to use with my AT-LP120 turntable. They look good, sound amazing, are loved by critics and include a fully analog amplifier that is great for vinyl. Something that very few powered speakers in this price range have.

Both the Edifier R1280DB and the Audioengine A5 Plus powered speakers recommended above come with wireless Bluetooth so that you can stream music wirelessly from your phone or PC if you get tired of spinning records.

Recommended gear for advanced turntable setups

It is a bit trickier to recommended gear for an advanced turntable setups than for simple turntable setups. There are so many possible combinations, so much to choose from, and the price range can vary from $400 to $40 000 or more.

I decided to put together a quality stereo from scratch not too long ago. And I did a lot of research to try to find gear that wouldn’t completely break that bank but still offer audiophile sound quality.

Based on what I learned from that experience, I have listed below what I believe is the very best gear for people that want to build a quality stereo with a turntable on relatively normal budgets. This is my personal favorite vinyl gear, but there are many other great options as well.

Recommended turntable with preamp

Rega Planar 1 Plus

The Rega Planar 1 Plus combines the award-winning Rega Planar 1 turntable with the award-winning Rega Fono Mini A2D preamp. It looks very elegant and sounds amazing for the price.

Rega is regarded as one of the most premium turntable manufacturers in the world, and they have designed award-winning turntables since the 1970s. This is a very good option if you looking for a turntable that sounds great, looks great and can last for decades.

Recommended turntable without preamp

Rega Planar 2

The Rega Planar 2 is the turntable I use for my daily vinyl spinning. It looks very elegant, sounds fantastic and feels very expensive. It is my top recommendation if you are looking for a high-quality, puristic, HI-FI turntable.

Recommended Preamp

Rega Fono Mini A2D

My go-to phono preamp is the Rega Fono Mini A2D. It cost significant money, but is not crazy expensive. I use this preamp myself and I will probably never replace it. It has a slightly warm and pleasant sound character and it is a good match for most of the popular high-end MM cartridges on the market.

Recommended Amplifier

Denon PMA-600NE

The Denon PMA-600NE is the smaller brother to the amplifier I use for my vinyl spinning, the Denon PMA-1600NE.

It blends traditional high-end amplifier design methodologies with state-of-the-art technology and is a good sounding and powerful amplifier that perfectly matches the sound and spirit of vinyl records. Without costing crazy money.

If you have a bigger budget, I think the two higher-end alternatives from the Denon PMA series are awesome options as well. The Denon PMA-800NE and the Denon PMA-1600NE.

Recommended Speakers

When it comes to speakers, there are so many different sizes, types and sound characters that is difficult to give totally general recommendations. Please send us an email if you want recommendations on speakers that suits your gear, budget and preferences and we will try to help you out.

Recommended Accessories

When it comes to accessories, we don’t need match to start out, but there is a few inexpensive accessories that I consider must haves, even for vinyl beginners.

I highly recommend an anti-static brush for dry cleaning. It is a great tool to help keep your records free from dust. Dusty records sound noisy. Pops and cracks from dusty records can drive you mad.

You will also need a velvet brush and a solution fluid for wet cleaning. Records collects dirt, grease and fingerprints over time. And it is good to give them a wet clean once in a while to clean these things away.

These two items will take you a long way. There is little that frustrates vinyl enthusiasts more than dirty records that sounds like crap. But with the two items above, you are armed to fight fingerprints, dirt and dust.

Related articles

How to Connect a Turntable

PHONO and LINE Explained

How to Listen to Vinyl with Headphones

Best Turntable with Preamp

Best Powered Speakers for Turntables