Perfect Pairings

The Best No-Hassle Vinyl Setups for Every Budget

April 28, 2019 Tech By Photo by Chase Pellerin

While true that traditional turntable setups have a lot of moving parts, that’s the nature of the beast — if not vinyl’s main allure. There’s also an easy workaround. These days, a bunch of turntables and speaker systems come with integrated components (like a phono preamplifier or amplifier). Here, three setups that take the hassle of out of hi-fi.

The Entry-Level Setup

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Turntable: Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB

The AT-LP120-USB is one of our favorite entry-level turntables. Its design pays tribute to the legendary Technics SL-1200, but it has more than good looks. With a USB output, you can hook it up to your computer and digitalize your records to listen to the files elsewhere; it has a built-in phono preamp, meaning you can connect it to either powered or passive speakers; and it’s decked out with DJ-friendly features, similar to SL-1200, so you can try your hand at spinning.

Speakers: Audioengine A2+ Wireless

The latest powered desktop speakers by Audioengine, the A2+ Wireless, make a great partner for AT-LP120-USB. You can connect the two via stereo RCA cables — one cable goes from the turntable to the master speaker (left) and then another tethers the two speakers together. What’s great about the A2+ Wireless is that they’re also versatile. They support Bluetooth aptX, so when the turntable is off, you can stream audio to them right from your smartphone or computer.

The Upgraded Setup

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Turntable: Cambridge Audio Alva TT

The Alva TT is the latest and greatest turntable by Cambridge Audio; it’s also its most expensive turntable ever. It’s a direct-drive turntable with a heavy platter and an integrated phono stage, and it has a generally bespoke design. What makes it different is that it’s the first turntable with hi-res 24bit/48kHz aptX HD streaming. You can wirelessly pair it to any Bluetooth receiver or speakers, so your system and turntable don’t have to be in the same room. You can also hook up the Alva TT direct to your speakers via RCA connections.

Speakers: KEF LSX Speaker System

The LSX is just a brilliant little hi-fi system by KEF. It’s a smaller version of the company’s acclaimed LS50 Wireless and it sounds terrific. Plus, you can connect to just about anything: your TV (via optical), turntable (via RCA), smartphone (via aux) or computer (via USB). It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that let users stream audio straight from apps like Tidal and Spotify. You can connect the speaker system to the Alva TT via an RCA connection (you’ll need an RCA splitter) — or you could simply connect the two over Bluetooth.

The Premium Setup

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Turntable: McIntosh MTI100

A $6,500 turntable isn’t in most people’s wheelhouse, but this guide was a great excuse to fawn over the MTI100. It’s the first all-in-one turntable by McIntosh and it has the brand’s signature look — black lacquer finish, large tactile knobs and lime-green glow. It’s just as beautiful on the inside, too. It comes decked out with a 50-watt Class D amplifier, vacuum tube preamp, phono preamplifier, digital and analog outputs, and a Bluetooth receiver. If you’re looking for a “just add speakers” turntable and your budget is high, this is as good as they come.

Speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2

This is the only setup with passive speakers, so we went big. The 705 S2 are arguably one of the best bookshelf speakers out there. They’re beautiful and unique, with the tweeter sitting on top of the speaker, and separated from the main cabinet, which isolates treble and gives the B&W’s new Continuum midrange drivers even more room to breathe. The bass performance of the 705 S2 speakers is impressively big, too.

Bonus: The Sonos Setup

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Truly want vinyl without the hassle? Few setups embody that idea better than the two sold by Sonos, who partnered with respected manufacturer Pro-Ject to take all the guesswork out of building a respectable audio rig from scratch.

Both options come with the Essential III Phono turntable, which is respectable in its own right and features a built-in phono pre-amp. Where they differ is the number of speakers: the Sonos Vinyl Set ($799) has one Play:5 speaker while the Sonos Vinyl Pro Set ($1,249) has two. The Play:5 is unique among Sonos speakers because it can output both mono and stereo. You can also chain it with other Sonos speakers around the house, or just use it to stream audio from your phone.

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