Easiest Turntable Set-Up EVER
(seriously, everyone should have this)
We've written a lot of articles about turntables. Some articles that just point you to some of the cheapest / easiest all in one / portable turntables, we've pointed out the most expensive record players you can find, and we've written about our journey into record collecting. This article, however, will outline what equipment you need to have the most simple set up for a turntable without tons of wires, complex equipment, or costly components. I'm going to get right to it...
You need to buy a turntable, and I highly recommend the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct Drive Professional Turntable (the one on the right).
and you need to buy speakers like these... and I highly recommend the Audio Engine A5+ (the ones on the right).
Why these pieces of equipment specifically? The common theme among all of those turntables is that they all have built-in preamps so you don't have to buy any other equipment related to the record player, you just need the speakers. The reason the speakers must be at least similar in function to the ones above is you will require powered (active) speakers since you aren't going to connect your turntable to a receiver (unless you decide you want to later). These are great setups because you can make them super cheap to mid-range in cost, and you're keeping your system simple and easy to update/upgrade later. You can also use your saved money to get your hands on more vinyl, which is always a bonus. The reason I think the AT-120 is the best choice for turntable is I've heard it, I've read numerous reviews comparing it to much higher end and much cheaper options, and it is the best balance of function, quality, and price. The reason I recommend the Audio Engine A5+ speakers is because they are powerful, great quality, and have numerous other features that make them worth the price. You can direct connect to your iPhone/iPod with a normal USB input (you could be charging your devices by your speakers!), they have a subwoofer output if you want to add a sub later, and most importantly, they sound absolutely great. Honestly, they're incredible. So the bottom line is, to have the super simple set up like we're talking about for this article, you need a turntable with a built-in pre-amp and RCA output like these have, and the speakers need to have RCA input and be powered speakers just like these.
And honestly, that's it. Isn't that exciting? You don't have to worry about buying a separate receiver as long as you buy powered speakers as outlined above--I think it's the best turntable with speakers you can get that you don't have to buy a receiver to use. You also don't have to buy a pre-amp because the turntables listed already have pre-amps built into them. So you literally just plug your speakers and turntable into the power outlet, connect the components with RCA cables, and you are in action. Why do I recommend turntable set-ups like this? Because they are so simple that anybody can feel comfortable setting one up and they can get right to listening to records and enjoying music again. We have more complex systems set up in our homes, tied to entertainment centers with passive (non-powered) speakers and we truly enjoy them. But good receivers, higher end turntables, pre-amps, speaker wire, and higher end speakers are all going to send your costs way beyond any basic spending limit. Not to mention, you'll still have to go out and buy your vinyl records. This kind of set up is absolutely suitable for dorms, apartments, as a secondary setup in a loft and keeps you enjoying your records even more. Think about it, you could have a great quality turntable that will last you a very long time, high end powered speakers that are capable of playing your records and music from any modern phone, and you don't have to buy anything else except records.
Do keep in mind, the cheaper turntable options listed above (Crosley and the AT-60) will work with this set up, but they just aren't the best options when compared to the AT-120. One bonus you get with the Crosley however is the ability to play your music without any external speakers at all. You can just fold up the Crosley like a suitcase and take it with you anywhere. That's a nice perk... but because it does have RCA output like the other two options I listed, you can plug the powered speakers right in. Similarly, I highly recommend the A5+ speakers pictured because they're a more full size speaker that will really carry the sound and fill a room. They will make the absolute most of these set ups, but they will cost a little bit more as well. You could step down to the Audio Engine A2+'s listed above, just keep in mind that those will be more like computer sized speakers... STILL GREAT... just not as full and high performing as the A5s.
Here's a video that shows the setup in action. It's a long one.
Hope this helps you get set up and listening to vinyl. Now that you've got your turntable all set up, don't forget to check out our top 25 albums you should own on vinyl--It's a great place to get started with your collection.