Powered speakers are a simple, cost-efficient way to hook up a turntable. Here are some of our favorites.Photo courtesy of @tcardamone
There are a lot of ways to set up a turntable. One of the most popular and simple options is to connect directly to powered speakers. Unlike passive speakers which require an external amplifier or receiver to drive them, powered speakers come equipped with their own amp. This allows you to plug your turntable right into the speakers for streamlined setup (to do this, your turntable will need to have either a built-in preamp or external preamp). An added benefit of powered speakers is that the manufacturer can "tune" the amplifier specifically to the speaker drivers and enclosure - e.g. setting crossover frequencies, power level limits, and equalization.
Based on customer feedback and an informal poll of the U-Turn team, we have highlighted three powered speakers that work great for vinyl listening. All three speakers have RCA inputs, so you can connect directly via your table's RCA interconnects. For your convenience, we have included links to the best price we could find for each (no affiliate links).
As far as entry-level powered speakers go, the PB42X is a great value. The 4" carbon fiber woofers and 0.75" silk dome tweeters provide impactful bass, smooth treble, and accurate imaging. Its class D amp delivers a passable 15W RMS of power per channel, which makes it a good fit for small and medium sized rooms. The Micca is our favorite option under $120, but you might also want to check out the M Audio AV 30 speakers as well as the Mackie CR3 monitors if you are looking for alternatives under $100.
The Audioengine A2+ speakers provide dynamic sound at a great price. Despite being incredibly compact (6 x 4 x 5.25"), these speakers deliver 15W RMS of power per channel. The A2+ features Kevlar woofers, silk dome tweeters, and a subwoofer output. In addition to the standard RCA input for your turntable, the A2+ features a 3.5mm AUX jack and integrated USB input with DAC for digital sources. These input options make the A2+ a great choice for anyone looking to satisfy their digital and analog needs with one set of speakers. Comes in white, black, and a sharp new red option.
UPDATED 6/24/16: We replaced the Kanto Yu3 speakers with the Audioengine A2+ as our "mid-tier" choice. We still love the Yu3 (the built-in Bluetooth is a nice bonus too), but the it is currently out of stock most places.
"The sound, especially for a small room, was smooth, evenly balanced and pure analog. To be honest, it put to shame some systems costing far more."
The A5+ is driven by a dual class AB monolithic amp, which is less prone to distortion than the class D amps used in the Micca and Kanto speakers. With 50W of power, the A5+ will fill even large rooms with accurate (<0.05% THD) sound reproduction. It comes with two RCA inputs and a subwoofer out. The A5+ starts at $399, but you will need to spend a little more to get the slick bamboo finish shown above. If you are looking for added connectivity and a little more punch, check out the new Audioengine HD6.
Regardless of which speakers you use, proper speaker placement makes a BIG difference for sound quality. Wired has a great speaker setup guide that we recommend checking out.
Did we leave out your favorite powered speakers? Tell us below!