Everything you need for a vinyl setup: The best turntables, speakers, and more

Estimated read time 6 min read

There is a reason that vinyl has made a resurgence and is still around, even with more “modern” ways to listen to music like Spotify. Listening to vinyl records provides a unique experience that just can’t be replicated.

Also: The best record players

The sound of vinyl records is much more unique than the streaming services or CDs we have available today. Vinyl records reproduce a distinct sound made by the surface crackle and audio distortion that creates a warmer sound in the mid-range sound with more depth than other audio types. 

However, many factors work together to create the signature vinyl sound listeners know and love. Aside from the turntable, there’s an entire setup of speakers, a stereo receiver, and more working together to produce that distinct sound.

If you’re getting into vinyl and just starting to create a setup in your home, I’ve broken down everything you may need for a beginner vinyl setup. As a vinyl listener with a vintage setup, I know it can be overwhelming when starting your vinyl journey. Hopefully, this guide will steer you in the right direction so you can have an easy-to-use setup (that you can eventually build out with higher-end equipment over time).

A turntable 

Although vinyl records are made to be listened to on a classic analog-style turntable, technology has allowed Bluetooth to be built into modern-day turntables to provide more options to different kinds of listeners. Below, I’ve included the best turntables with easy beginner setups.

The great thing about this record player is that there are different ways to listen to your music. You can connect it via AUX or phono output if you want to use the turntable amplifier, a receiver amplifier, or a dedicated preamp, meaning it works with both new and vintage setups.

I went hands-on with this turntable and enjoyed connecting it to noise-canceling headphones via Bluetooth and listening to the subtle vinyl crackles that come through the headphones while working.

ReviewAudio-Technica’s new turntable puts a modern spin on an old classic

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A stereo receiver 

A receiver setup allows you to upgrade your speakers (or use vintage ones) or add a subwoofer, and a receiver usually has a built-in phono preamp so you don’t have to buy an external one. Especially if you inherited your parents’ turntable and are looking to put it to good use, a stereo receiver will be essential for your setup.

This receiver is an all-in-one device for your setup with features like a phono output, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatibility, optical and coaxial audio outputs for a TV, and it even works with Amazon Alexa voice control.

It delivers 100W per channel (two channels total), which is plenty of power. Plus, you can play around with its EQ settings to adjust the sound to your preference. 

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While some turntables come with built-in speakers, it’s best to avoid those setups (yes, I’m talking about the Crosley suitcase turntables). You’ll need separate speakers for vinyl to hook up to your turntable for the best quality sound. Here are some of my top picks.

Although the PSB Alpha iQ speakers are ideal for a vintage setup, they have Bluetooth connectivity with along with Apple AirPlay technology to wirelessly listen to your favorite curated playlists. I tested these speakers with my own vintage setup and was pleasantly surprised with their booming bass and clear sound. They are super easy to set up and connect, and the companion app called BluOS has detailed EQ settings so you can customize the bass and treble to your liking.

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A pair of headphones

While speakers are the most popular way to listen to vinyl, listening to your turntable via headphones lets you forgo room acoustics and allows for a more accurate sound presentation. Plus, if you have roommates, it’s a great way to listen to your vinyl collection without disturbing others. The best headphones for listening to vinyl will have noise-canceling capabilities and comfortable features.

These Audio-Technica headphones were made for studio listening and have excellent noise isolation. With 45mm large-aperture drivers and aluminum wire voice coils, you receive strong bass matched by an expansive frequency range for greater clarity and detail. 

Plus, the swivel earcups and sound isolation pads provide extra comfort.

Also: The best studio headphones

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 You might also need:

There are a few other accessories you might find yourself needing in your vinyl setup, especially to keep your records in tip-top shape. 

Here are some key terms to familiarize yourself with everything from the turntable components to speaker qualities.

Plinth: Also sometimes referred to as the cabinet or chassis, the plinth is the main component that holds all of the other parts of the record player together. It’s the usually square or rectangle box that everything else sits on top of.

Platter: The circular surface that spins and where the actual record is placed.

Counterweight: A weight at the opposite end of the tonearm from the cartridge that allows you to adjust the weight placed on the cartridge to reduce wear on your stylus (the actual needle).

Tonearm: The tonearm holds the cartridge and allows it to glide through the grooves as the record spins effortlessly. There are three types of tonearm shapes: straight, J-shaped, and S-shaped.

Cueing level: Makes it so that the tonearm lifts and drops slowly, so you don’t damage the stylus.

Cartridge: Holds the stylus and is located at the end of the tonearm. Converts the vibrations into audio. 

Phono Preamp: An audio component that connects the record player and the amplifier. It boosts the audio signal to a level that can be played through your sound system. 

RPM: Stands for revolutions per minute and describes the different types of records. Records are classified as 78, 33 1/3, and 45. You’ll mostly find records that are 33 1/3 RPM or 45 RPM. 

It’s best to change your stylus every three to five years. Or you can change it if you notice the sound quality changing. To change your stylus, pinch the cartridge’s sides and gently pull out the old stylus. Then, position the new stylus with the needle pointing downward and away from the tonearm and slide it into the cartridge, pressing into it until you hear it click.

Be gentle throughout the process since the stylus is delicate and can be damaged easily.

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