Finding the best speakers to pair with your turntable can seem daunting given the number of options out there. To help you better navigate what’s available, we put together some frequently asked questions about choosing and setting up speakers.
1. What is the difference between passive and powered speakers? Do I need an amp for my speakers?
Passive speakers receive all the power they need from an external amplifier or receiver, by way of speaker wire. If you’re running passive speakers, you have a couple of amplifier options. First, you can pick up a stereo receiver (i.e. integrated amp) that includes an internal amp and phono input, which takes the signal directly from your turntable and pushes it out to your speakers. If your receiver does not have a phono input, you can use an external phono preamp between your turntable and receiver. Another option is to use “separates” which divide the job of the receiver into a dedicated power amplifier and preamplifier. The preamplifier takes the signal from the phono preamp (that’s right – two different preamps) and sends it to the power amplifier, which in turn drives the speakers.
2. Should I get bookshelf or floor standing speakers?
This has as much to do with room layout as it does about listening preference. Thanks to their large cabinet volume, floor standing (or tower) speakers often deliver better dynamics and deeper bass. The trade-off is that you must have sufficient floor space, which is not a luxury we all have. Great bookshelf speakers can still produce full range sound and are ideal for placing on shelves, desktops, furniture or even for wall mounting.
Some people also prefer bookshelf speakers because the acoustics marry well with turntable set-ups. Listening to vinyl is often a nearfield listening experience (you sit closer to the speakers than you might for home theater), so the extra output from tower speakers is often not necessary.
3. Do I need a subwoofer?
A subwoofer is essentially a powerful speaker that covers all of the low frequency bass notes in an audio system. Adding a subwoofer provides a level of bass that many speakers can’t reproduce. It’s especially noticeable with smaller speakers that struggle with deeper bass. Depending on the type of music you enjoy, a subwoofer can add a significant sense of realism and sonic impact (as well as more overall “oomph” on the low-end). If you love rock, jazz, house music, hip hop or any music that features rhythmic basslines, you may want to consider adding a subwoofer.
4. What should I look for in speaker drivers?
The driver is the part of the speaker that moves back and forth to create pressure waves in the air, which you perceive as sound. The most common drivers are the woofer, mid-range, and tweeter. Good speaker drivers use lightweight and rigid materials that don’t flex (this can color the sound). This is why some speakers use materials like polypropylene composites, carbon fiber, and light metal alloys. Since tweeters have to vibrate at very high speeds, they need to be stiff and incredibly light and are often constructed of aluminum, titanium or silk, though some exotic materials like beryllium are also used.
Good speakers have a frequency response that comes as close as possible to the limits of human hearing (20Hz – 20kHz). These “full range” speakers allow you to hear all the content from the deepest bass to the most sparkling highs. When it comes to woofers and mid-range drivers, the general rule is that the larger they are, the greater the frequency response and dynamic range of the speaker.
5. How should I position my speakers?
In a two-channel set-up, the main speakers should be angled in slightly towards the listener, relative to the primary seating position. Ideal “imaging”, or a speaker’s ability to convey the exact location of instruments across the soundstage, is achieved when the tweeters are close to ear height when you’re seated. Most tower speakers accomplish this naturally, while bookshelf speakers may require stands or surfaces. Pulling the main speakers away from the corners (to the extent allowed by room traffic and layout) will reduce room reflections and improve imaging, which allows specific instruments to be heard across the entire listening area.
And don’t forget - your turntable and speakers should always be on a separate surface! This will prevent speaker vibrations from reaching your stylus, which can compromise sound quality.
We are giving away a SVS Prime 2.1 Satellite System (subwoofer included). To enter this giveaway, please fill out the form below. Giveaway entries will be open through midnight (EST) on September 23, 2016.
The contest has ended. Sorry :(