How to decide on your first turntable setup?

Be it your love to collect records, or your appreciation for the warmth of analog sound, vinyl is here to stay! The resurgence of vinyl and turntables is NOT a fad with vinyl sales surpassing that of CDs in recent years.

To enjoy vinyl, you will need a basic setup comprising a turntable, a phono pre-amp, and speakers. The debate over which option is best is endless but we will try to point you in the right direction to help you make the best choice for your chosen setup. We will cover the basics and essentials you will need to get going.

Let’s kick off by going through some basic components that you will find in every turntable setup.

Turntable – This is the heart of your setup. The turntable plays your records and generates the music that is transmitted through your hifi or speakers. Turntables are either belt-driven (motor is at the side) or direct-driven (motor is directly beneath the platter). We will explore further into this in another blog but to keep things simple, just keep in mind that there is no clear “better” mechanism, especially when you are setting up your first system.

Phono preamp – A phono preamp (or phono stage) amplifies the signal from your turntable to a level that allows you to connect it to your sound system, the same way you would with any other audio source like a streamer or CD player. Some turntables may come with an in-built phono preamp.

Amplifier – Amplifiers supply power to your speakers to broadcast the music from your turntable. Amplifiers can be standalone units, or built into other components of your system, like speakers.

Speakers – Speakers broadcast the music that has been transmitted from your turntable to the preamp, and the amplifier generates the power to drive your speakers. There are 2 kinds of speakers you may consider for your setup. Powered or active speakers have an amplifier built in and will not require an external amplifier to drive them. Passive speakers will require an external amplifier to drive them.

Cartridge – The cartridge is the part of the turntable that comes into contact with the vinyl and picks up the signal from the grooves on the record. It contains the needle (or stylus). All the turntables we offer at RetroCrates come with a factory-installed cartridge.

There are 3 different types of setups that are available but you should only consider 2. Let’s go through each option and you can decide which suits you best.

Option 1: Turntable with Powered speakers

This is the simplest, most convenient and popular setup option.

Just connect your turntable to its preamp, and hook up the preamp to the powered speakers [Setup 1]. Its even easier if your turntable has a built-in preamp. Just connect your turntable to the powered speakers [Setup 2] and you are all set!

Setup 1

Setup 2

Choosing your turntable

Most new turntables require little effort to setup. Here are some of the turntables we recommend for entry level systems. All of them have a built-in phono preamp:

Choosing your powered speakers

Our range of Edifier powered speakers have got you covered from affordable entry level to audiophile quality.

Option 2: Turntable with traditional Passive Speakers

This setup will require a standalone stereo amplifier or AV receiver to power up the passive speakers [Setup 3]. This setup is more flexible in the sense that each component is a standalone unit so you can upgrade each component separately in the future.

Setup 3

You can use a turntable with or without a built-in phono preamp. You can consider the turntables we recommended for the earlier setup (turntable with powered speakers). We will also introduce 2 other models which will require a separate phono preamp:

Phono Preamp options

Preamps do enhance the sonics of your system, and Rega preamps have won accolades at every price point from entry level to high-end audiophile.

Amplifier options

Rega electronics have been producing the finest stereo amplifiers available on the market.

Passive Speaker options

XTZ is a Swedish speaker manufacturer that delivers a very high value/performance ratio and often punches above its weight. We have both bookshelves and floorstanding options:

Option 3: Standalone turntable with integrated speakers

You may have seen turntables with built-in speakers. They are usually very attractively priced and appear to make a lot of sense as a convenient stereo solution. However, these are usually cheaply built with low quality parts and often sound very bad. In worse cases, they may even damage your records.

Think about it. $120 for an all-in-one turntable with speakers and Bluetooth? Surely it is too good to be true. You shouldn’t risk playing your prized records on something like that.

If by some chance you are using one of these, our recommendation is you try to upgrade to one of the 2 setups we discussed earlier.

2 thoughts on “How to decide on your first turntable setup?

  1. Adi says:

    Appreciate the effort taken to keep things simple here. Exactly what beginners such as myself are looking for. Good and useful read!

  2. yk says:

    Hi, from the reviews I’ve read online, it seems like belt driven turntables tend to have some speed variations. Will we really notice the difference when we listen to the records?

    I’m torn between getting AT LP60XBT and AT LP120X.

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