Speakers can make or break a turntable setup. They’ll either be the foundation you need for your unit, or they won’t be able to provide the quality of audio your turntable can produce. Having the best record player speakers to play your vinyl records will enhance the sound quality and your overall music listening experience. It’ll go from “this sounds great,” to “this is some of the best audio I’ve ever listened to.”
Additionally, if you own a turntable that has a built-in speaker, chances are your vinyl collection isn’t being played to its full potential. In any case, read on as we highlight and explain the best record player speakers on the market.
First Things First: Minimalism
The name of the game right now, in terms of turntable setups during the current comeback of vinyl, is minimalism. Audiophiles, enthusiasts, and novices alike prefer to hook their turntables directly into powered speakers with built-in amplifiers, completely bypassing the middleman (in this case, the stereo system or amplifier). Why is this the most common turntable setup?
- It reduces the amount of hardware needed: the elegance of a record player often comes down to its minimalist and nostalgic qualities. The turntable hooked into a stereo with eight massive speakers does not have the same charm as the one tucked in the corner of the room, with one speaker directly beneath it.
- It’s cost-effective: with multiple powered speaker units on the market, there’s no shortage of hardware available. Additionally, with some pointed research, anyone can find great speakers for a low cost. Great speakers for a record player do not need to break the bank.
In which case, if this is the “standard” setup, what do you need for it to work?
The Phono Preamp
We don’t want to recommend a bunch of hardware to you only for your turntable not to support it. Remember that a poor-quality turntable isn’t going to magically produce great sound with the addition of upgraded speakers. And, a turntable without a phono preamp isn’t going to be able to send the right audio signal to speakers at all.
Thankfully, most turntables made today include a built-in preamp. That means you’ll plug your RCA connectors from:
However, if your turntable doesn’t have a preamp, then before you buy speakers you’ll need to buy one. You’ll then have to use two sets of RCA cables which will end up looking like this:
The preamp is vital because it processes the sound coming from the stylus and record, translating it into a “line signal” your speakers are capable of reading.
Before doing anything, ensure that your turntable has a built-in preamp. If it doesn’t, you’re going to have to purchase one. Or, you can also purchase speakers that have their own built-in phono preamp.
The Best Record Player Speakers
Below is a list of speakers that we compiled without any specific criterion, save for being all-around amazing products. For each of their respective price-points, these are the elite of record player speakers.
The Polk Audio T15 | Price: $100~
This unit is what enthusiasts are calling a “bookshelf” speaker. In other words, it’s a small, compact, affordable speaker that can—if you want—live on a bookshelf. But with today’s technology, quality doesn’t mean bigger sizes. In fact, it’s often the opposite. Something important to note with these—they’re not powered speakers (meaning they’ll need an amplifier).
- Speaker type: Bookshelf
- The Recommended Wattage/Channel: 20 to 100 watts/channel
- Enclosure Type: Vented
- General Frequency: 60hz-24kHz
If you’re on a bit of a budget and looking for the best “bang for your buck,” then most enthusiasts will recommend The Polk Audio T15. Especially if your speaker setup utilizes a stereo system or standalone amplifier.
AUDIOENGINE A2+ | Price: $250~
The award-winning Audioengine A2+ powered speakers are another fantastic unit that audiophiles rave about. Pun intended. As an addition to your turntable, they’re a fantastic choice for decently sized rooms and pack a surprising amount of power for their size. With a peak power of 60W and a 2.0 powered multimedia system, this piece of hardware can also work with your computer, USB drive, and smartphone.
Of course, there’s also RCA inputs, or this wouldn’t be the on the list. It’s still nice to know that the speaker you’re investing in is versatile.
- Speaker type: Desktop
- Peak Power: 60W
- Built-in Power Amp: Included
- RCA Input: Included
- Subwoofer Input: Included (in case you want to add one down the road)
If you’re looking for a powered, plug-n-play speaker that packs a bit more punch than a “bookshelf” unit, you’re probably going to cave at the Audioengine A2+.
KANTO YU4 | Price: $300~
Does your turntable not have a phono preamp? Do you prefer to buy a speaker that has its own integrated into the hardware? The Kanto YU4 is a record player speaker that comes with its own phono preamp. Additionally, it’s a fantastic mid-sized bookshelf speaker that balances sound and functionality, positioning itself as an “everyone” product.
In terms of versatility, it has, as we mentioned, a built-in phono preamp, AptX Bluetooth capability, RCA inputs, a subwoofer output, and a USB charge port. Some audiophiles expect a bit more in the sound department, but this is an all-in-one unit that will satisfy just about anyone.
- Speaker type: mid-sized bookshelf
- Peak Power: 140W
- Frequency Response: 60hz-20kHz
- Built-in Phono Preamp: included
- RCA Input: included
- Subwoofer Output: included
There’s not much else to say about the Kanto YU4 other than what a fantastic, well-rounded, and functional piece of hardware it is. Best yet, it’s not priced to break your bank account.
KEF Q100 | Price: $500
One of the flagship “bookshelf” speaker units, the KEF Q100 outperforms all of its above counterparts. It comes with a 5.25” woofer and 1” aluminum tweeter, rendering these speakers a complement to audiophiles. Of course, they’re also priced as such, which does set us a bit apart from the “minimalist” nature of current turntable setups.
Note: This is a passive speaker, not a powered one.
- Speaker type: large-sized bookshelf
- Power Needed: 10W-100W
- Frequency Response: 49Hz-40kHz
- RCA Input: included
Without any bells and whistles, the KEF Q100 was designed with one purpose: to generate the highest quality audio at the lowest cost possible. While you’ll definitely need a receiver to power these speakers, you won’t be disappointed once they’re on.
AUDIOENGINE A5+ | Price: $400~
If you thought we were done with Audioengine, we weren’t. If the mid-sized bookshelf speakers aren’t enough to sell you on their product, then take a look at these, the A5+. These powered speakers take the functionality of the A2+ and then upgrade the model to attract true audio enthusiasts. It’s the hybrid between performance and function, priced at a bargain.
- Speaker type: large-sized bookshelf
- Peak Power: 150W
- RCA Input: Included
- Subwoofer Output: Included
- Bluetooth Capable: AAC, aptX, aptX HD
With 5” aramid fiber woofers and ¾” tweeters, the bass and sound produced by the A5+ lend itself more towards a “heavier setup” than the lowkey vibes we’ve been preaching. With that being said, it rides the line perfectly, and this speaker is often the only unit vinyl collectors need to purchase. Then again, that’s what it was built for; to the be the best all-in-one speaker on the market.
I’m Still A Bit Confused, This All Sounds Like Jargon!
There’s always the possibility that you’re reading this and going:
- “Powered by a receiver?”
- “RCA Input?”
- “Peak Power?”
If that’s the case, it’s completely understandable.
A Deeper Explanation
There are two types of speakers turntables can utilize: passive and active.
- Passive speakers draw power from an external amplifier, which is often built into a receiver or stereo system. This amplifier needs to connect directly to the speakers, providing power. This is where the “Peak Power” specification comes from, seeing as that’s the most power the speaker should intake.
- Powered speakers—also known as active speakers—are speakers for vinyl that connect directly to an outlet, meaning they come with their own power source. Today, these are regarded as more convenient and user-friendly, being that they can plug directly into a wall without the need of an amplifier. Again, minimalism—fewer pieces, less cost.
Below, we’ll explain some of the jargon that might be confusing.
- Woofer: A driver which producer lower frequencies (think bass)
- Tweeter: a driver that produces higher frequencies (think treble)
- Bass: lower frequency
- Treble: higher frequency
- Crossover: this is a circuit which splits the frequency spectrum in half
- Driver: this is what you call any “sound producing” part within the speaker itself. By within, we mean literally inside the box
- RCA Connector: also called phono connectors, the RCA connector is the wire used to carry audio and video signals. This traditional stereo wiring is red and white. This is the wire you will typically use to connect your turntable to your speakers
The Options Are Endless
To list out the whole spectrum of best record player speakers would turn this article into a study spanning hundreds of pages, discussing quality and replacement of record player cartridges, cleaning record needles, and so many other things to consider that go hand in hand with sound and audio quality of vinyl. The best speaker is always going to depend on the record player speaker setup you’re using and what kind of sound you’re after. With that being said, the units we listed are among the most popular and are constantly paired with modern turntables.
Be warned: Once you start the trek through the landscape of sound design and pair it with the top classic vinyl records—especially if you develop an affinity—sometimes there’s no going back. Just try your best not to become a sound snob!
AudioAdvice. 10 Essential Tips For Aspiring Vinyl Enthusiasts. Retrieved from:
AudioAdvice. Best Powered Speakers to Pair with a Turntable. Retrieved from: