It’s happened. You’ve decided to give vinyl a whirl, literally. Well done you! But now you’re surrounded by empty boxes, foam corners, bubble packaging, random wires, and expensive equipment. And all you want to do is hear the sweet sounds of vinyl soaring through your home.
What’s an audiophile to do?
First, take a deep breath and don’t even think about opening your iPhone playlist. We’re going to guide you through the step-by-step process of how to hook up record player speakers so that in no time, you’ll be hooked up to your music!
First things first: a little tutoring session on the components that are (hopefully) unboxed and surrounding you. To connect your speakers—in whatever form you’ve chosen—let’s go over some preliminary terminology of your particular setup before we can… set up.
The 4-6 (give or take) wondrous pieces of technology you’ll need to hook up your turntable and set up your new stereo of choice are these:
The turntable is the heart and soul of your listening experience. No matter how tricked-out your speakers are, you’d hear no audio without that magical needle or tone arm tracking the perfect little grove and translating that information into a readable electrical signal.
The Preamp or Phono Stage
One step closer to hearing the glorious sounds etched on that vinyl record, and that’s where Mr. Preamp comes in. This piece is crucial in that it interprets the signal coming from the record so that it can be read by your amplifier and then by your speakers.
A preamp is essentially the same thing as a phono stage (or phono amp), and you can often use them interchangeably, but there is a slight difference. A phono amp equalizes the tonality of the record so that the quality of sound is right through the speakers. A preamp will mainly increase the volume of sound for the amplifier to read and it can also control multiple sources.
In the context of turntables, they are essentially the same thing.
As the go-between for your preamp and speakers, the amp simply (or not so simply) takes the signal from the preamp and boosts the signal into one that your speakers can hear. Thus its name.
And now the fun part—the turntable speaker! If you’re wondering, “Do record players need speakers?” - the answer is yes! Your speakers are what actually play the wondrous sounds of your vinyl collection. There are two kinds of speakers you need to know about: active and passive.
- Active speakers (or powered speakers) are a simple sort of affair. They have an amplifier built into them and only need to be plugged in to be ready-to-go, as the name suggests.
- Passive speakers do not have a built-in amplifier and need to be plugged into a separate amp or receiver to be powered.
(Just in case you’re reading this as a frame of reference before you go shopping, check out our picks for best record player speakers.)
I’m sure you know what a receiver is. But if not, the receiver is the hub of your entertainment and sound systems. It provides most, if not all, of the input and output connections and allows you to easily switch between them.
The RCA Cables
Last but not least, these not-so-impressive-looking cables shoulder a big responsibility. They are the cables by which you will connect your various components together. Their signature look? A thick black cable with one red and one white connector on each end.
Depending on your record player choice and your speaker choice, you may or may not need all of these things. Some components are built into one another for convenience, because of technology, or both.
Let’s begin our assembly from simplest-to-most-complicated to ease you into things, just in case you’re still rattled by all of the unboxing and cords and things.
Note: In case you weren’t aware, a receiver is just an amplifier with more functions, and you will see these interchanged for different setups. Use whichever you have, however way you like.
Turntable with Built-In Amp and Active Speakers
This is basically just a plug-and-play situation. Since your turntable has a preamp and your speakers have amps, you have chosen simply and wisely—especially if you’re brand new to vinyl. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time to build out your perfect system as time goes on and you become more familiar with the world of turntables and speakers.
But for now, all you have to do is connect your turntable to your speakers via an RCA cable, plug in your speakers and turntable (if you haven’t already), and let the music begin!
Turntable without Built-In Preamp and Active Speakers
Okay, now let’s throw one more piece of equipment into the mix.
For this setup, be warned that you will need two sets of RCA cables instead of just one. And because this isn’t dismantling a nuclear weapon or anything, you don’t have to connect in any particular order. Just make sure the cables are connected correctly before you power up, and you will have success.
- Join the turntable to the preamp using one set of RCA cables.
- Join the speakers to the preamp using one set of RCA cables.
- Connect a grounding wire from your turntable to the preamp and another from the speakers to the preamp to mitigate any buzzing or feedback noise. If your turntable didn’t come with a grounding wire, you can buy one nearly anywhere for about $6 to $10.
Turntable with Built-In Preamp, Receiver, and Passive Speakers
For an easy setup that lets you use your speakers for other devices, let’s bypass the preamp and just use the receiver in place of it. We’re back to needing only one set of RCA cables for this common turntable setup, so let’s do it.
- Join the turntable to the receiver using the RCA cables.
- Join the speakers to the receiver using the speaker wire.
Turntable with Preamp, Receiver, and Passive Speakers
So, you want to do this thing up right? We respect that! We’ve made it to the most “complicated” setup, which really isn’t that complicated at all. You have just one more component and will need two sets of RCA cables for this one.
And this deluxe setup—while it may take up more room in your home—will allow you to easily upgrade your equipment as you wish for higher quality audio, personalized to you. Let’s get started, shall we?
- Join the turntable to the preamp using one set of RCA cables
- Join the preamp to the receiver using one set of RCA cables
- Join the speakers to the receiver using the speaker wire
- Connect a grounding wire from your turntable to the preamp and another from the receiver to the preamp to mitigate any buzzing or feedback noise.
Turntable with Bluetooth Speaker
Some of you would like to visit the bygone eras of music, but would also love to safely cling to your modern wireless speakers. We hear you; and for you, we have the old-meets-new solution. So how do you connect turntable to Bluetooth speaker? We’re going to show you two ways: one for turntables that contain a built-in preamp, and one for those that don’t.
Note: We do not underestimate your intelligence, and are therefore giving you these Bluetooth connectivity setup instructions on the premise that your turntable does NOT have Bluetooth technology. (Otherwise, you would have just powered up your turntable and connected it wirelessly in .05 seconds, naturally.)
In the following Bluetooth scenarios, you’ll need a modified, semi-old-school wired connection. For this, you will likely need to buy an RCA to 3.5mm cable because most Bluetooth speakers have only a 3.5mm input.
With Built-in Preamp
If your turntable has a built-in preamp, this will be an easy setup indeed! Simply join your turntable to your Bluetooth speaker by plugging the RCA input side of your cable into the turntable and the 3.5mm side of your cable into your Bluetooth speaker.
Without Built-in Preamp
Perhaps you have an older turntable without a built-in preamp, don’t worry—you can still connect it to your Bluetooth speakers: you’ll just have a few more wires hanging around.
- Join the turntable to the preamp using the RCA cable.
- Join the speaker to the preamp using the speaker by plugging the RCA input side of your cable into the preamp and the 3.5mm side of your cable into your Bluetooth speaker.
A final note on Bluetooth speaker setup: even though you’ve now “wired” your wireless speaker, the innate wireless compression of the Bluetooth speakers will cause you to lose the full breadth and depth of your vinyl.
Please don’t cause us to weep by saying, “huh, what’s the big deal about vinyl?” Comparing Bluetooth sound to a decent set of dedicated turntable speakers is like comparing a steak from Texas Roadhouse to one from Mastro’s—one is a decent representation of a genre, and one is a masterpiece.
Ready, Set, SPIN!
Congratulations on stepping back into the past to experience the warm, rich sounds of vinyl while embracing a technologically-modern stereo! Who says you can’t have it all?
Digital music is indeed a gift in your car, at the gym, and on-the-go. But for total music submersion in your home, we think that no purer music form exists than vinyl on a turntable—no matter how you choose to set it up.
Now if you know what you want and are wondering how much do speakers cost, we can help.