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The Top 5 Best Recommended Turntables and Stereo Systems

The Best Turntable for Your Needs

Building a stereo system around a turntable from scratch can be tough. There’s a lot to know and, if you’ve never done it before, there’s a lot to learn. Several years ago we put together a guide to selecting the best turntable for a beginner. We discussed the differences between belt drives direct drives. We talked about built-in preamps versus stand alone preamps. But it left a lot of questions unanswered.

That’s at least partially because there is more to building a stereo system than simply buying the best turntable. You need to consider phono-ins, amps, preamps, speakers, and so on. You need to know how to set up a record player sound system. To make matters worse, in the years since we first put together our recommendations for record players the market for audiophile turntables has changed. In fact, several of the best turntables for beginners that we had recommended have been discontinued or replaced.

As a result, we decided to build a new bigger and better guide to selecting the best turntable for your home. Instead of just listing our recommended turntables, this guide is intended to walk you through the process of building a system from scratch with many options and reviews for turntables, speakers, and more.

Starting with our recommended turntables, I’ve listed out six great systems with great turntables that you could build. Each of the systems are generally listed in this order Turntable > Phono Stage > Integrated Amp/Pre Amp > Speakers = Total Price. However, as you’ll notice, some of the products include built in phono stages and amps therefore saving you money on your system and the total number of products you need to get started (but often at the expensive of overall sound quality).

Here are the recommended turntables and setups with explanations for each recommended component following below. Beneath our summary, you’ll find a more in depth discussion of the individual parts. And, of course, if you already have some of these components, you can just skip to the sections you need.

Before we move on, it’s worth remembering that it’s possible to upgrade your system over time. That’s what we did. If an audiophile turntable is going to be the centerpiece of your stereo system, I particularly like any of the setups that begin with a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable and a good set of audiophile speakers as your core and then upgrading the other components over time. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to start with the best turntable for a beginner on a budget to slowly build your stereo, we recommend the AT-LP120.

The Turntable

For me, my vinyl record collection came first and the decision to buy a record player followed sometime afterward. I’d picked up my first few vinyl records as nothing more than collectibles purchased to support my favorite artists. But then, as my collection grew, so did my interest in both buying an audiophile turntable and building a stereo system for listening to those vinyl records.

If you’re like me and you’re looking for audiophile quality equipment to play your records then you’ll have to spend a little money on a good turntable. At $399 we consider the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon to be an excellent (and stylish) entry-level component at a good price. Indeed, we started our system with its predecessor the Pro-Ject Debut III. The nearly identical Carbon is offered at the same price point as the Debut III but with a number of upgrades, most notably “the 8.6” single-piece tube carbon fiber tonearm that increases stiffness while decreasing unwanted resonances resulting in a higher fidelity presentation.” It continues to receive our highest recommendation as a beginner audiophile turntable.

It’s available at Amazon for $399 (and in the following colors: red, silverblackwhitebluegreen & yellow). 

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a recommended turntable for beginners on a cheaper budget (no shame – this stuff isn’t cheap), we recommend the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB. It doesn’t offer quite the same audiophile sound quality as the Debut Carbon, but it’s a solid beginner turntable sufficient for listeners at $150 less. It’s a great option for anyone who wants to start their system without nudging up to the $1000 range for an initial budget and/or who’d rather make bigger investments in speakers and integrated amps than in the turntable.

It’s available at Amazon for $249.

If you’re looking to purchase a used piece of vintage equipment, or just want to see a few other options, you can check out Turntable Kitchen’s Top 5 Recommended Turntables (and Tips for Selecting Your Own).

The Phone Stage

Unless you’re using a receiver or integrated amp with a phono-in (which will be clearly marked as ‘phono’ on the back of the component) then you’ll need to purchase a phono stage. If you’ve tried setting up your turntable and you’re experiencing the problem where your turntable’s volume is too low – this is probably the reason. You need a phono stage. This is because the signal from a turntable isn’t as powerful as the signal from a digital source and also (due to the physics of turntables and vinyl records) needs to be re-equalized. Vintage equipment from vinyl’s heyday would normally include phono-ins, but contemporary receivers and amps typically do not (although the Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 we recommended below does). That means if you try to connect your turntable to a receiver or amp without a phono stage, the volume of your turntable will be too low.

At $149, I like the Pro-Ject Phono Box DC. It’s a good price and a good piece of equipment. Since this is a great piece of equipment at a price point that isn’t going to bust your budget, it’s our only recommendation for a phono stage. Do note, however, that some of the equipment we recommend includes a built in phone stage.

The Pro-Ject Phono Box DC is available at Amazon.

The Integrated Amp/Pre-Amp

An integrated amp/pre-amp is the control center for your stereo system. It’s where the sound from your components will be amplified; where all of the components will be connected together; where you’ll select which components you want to use (the turntable, the CD player, etc); where you’ll turn down the volume, adjust the balance, and so on. In other words, a typical integrated amp combines a two-channel or multichannel amp (which provides the power to your speakers) with a pre-amplifier (the amp where all the different parts of your system are connected and controlled).

The Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 is a great option because it provides balanced, full sound quality and includes it’s own phono stage (which means you wouldn’t need the Pro-Ject Phono Box we mentioned above).

It’s $349 and you can find it on Amazon.

On the higher end at $549, we like the Cambridge Audio Azur 351A. It’s more expensive than the Topaz AM10 listed above but it provides great quality for the price (45 watts x2 versus 35 watts x2 plus USB inputs). However, the price difference isn’t trivial because if you go with the Azur 351A you will need to purchase a separate phono stage as well (See above).

You can find the Audio Azur 351A on Amazon.

The Speakers

Your stereo system, including your turntable, is only as good as your speakers. If you’re going to splurge on one area of your system, I’d recommend selecting a pair of audiophile speakers.

With that said, when it was time to begin building our own hi-fi setup we were on a budget. For that reason, we started with the PSB Alpha B1s. And, you know what? We LOVED them. They are bookshelf speakers (so they’re relatively small) but they have big sound for their size. They offer beautiful clarity and a well defined soundstage alongside beautifully crisp and clean highs and mids. They aren’t as punchy (read: bassy) as a pair of full range speakers, but in most instances they’ll be all you need to produce a clean, clear sound.

You can find them on Crutchfield (they’re strangely $200 more expensive on Amazon).

Meanwhile, the Audioengine A5 Speakers are a great value at $399-469 a pair. They’re a nice pick if you’re on a budget because they include a built-in amp, meaning you could skip the integrated amp/pre amp (although you’d still need a phono pre-amp to use a turntable). As your system grows we’d definitely recommend eventually upgrading to a higher quality integrated amp, but the one built-in to this system would do the trick while you’re getting started.

You can find them on Amazon.

Want to go really big with your sound? We loved PSB’s Image T6 Tower. Unfortunately, they’re no longer producing that model, but most critics agree that the PSB Imagine X1T are a fine replacement at an even better price tag. They’ll add the rumble to your James Blake records.

You can find them on Crutchfield (they’re sold per speaker – not as a pair).

For more information about buying speakers (including a recommendation for a potential splurge worthy upgrade) check out our guide to Turntable Kitchen’s Top 3 Audiophile Speakers.

Recommended Extras / Upgrades

Pro-Ject Speed-Box ($129)

It allows you to easily change between 45 rpm and 33 rpm at the push of a button. Just as importantly, it provides precision speed regulation and gives your turntable a little more bump on the low end. It’s available from Amazon.

PSB M4U-1 Headphones

Some of the best headphones on the market. Available from Amazon.

Pro-Ject Acryl-It Platter ($125)

This acrylic platter not only looks cool, but is designed to provide “a stable support for the vinyl” while eliminating unwanted resonance. Available from Amazon.

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Posted by Matthew Hickey

Matthew is the music editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. He’s addicted to vinyl records, pour over coffee, craft beer, small batch bourbon, and pan roasting pork chops.

  • Emma

    Hi Matthew! I just got my first turntable, a Music Hall usb-1 but I am confused about what to buy next because I don’t own any audio equipment. Should I get an amplifier and then a pair of speakers or just speakers would be OK? If I need an amplifier, could you recommend one that it is not too expensive? I am completely lost… Any help would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks a lot!!!

  • Hi Emma,

    To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with the Music Hall USB-1 but it looks like it has a built in preamp. For a good price, you could definitely use the Audioengine A5+ speakers with your USB-1 for a stand alone system that should perform very well: http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=audioengine%20a5%2B&linkCode=ur2&sprefix=Audioen%2Caps%2C259&tag=turntkitch-20&url=search-alias%3Daps&linkId=SG5UCOQSGKR6OZI3

  • Emma

    Thank you Matthew! These speakers seem like the best option!

  • Guest

    Hi Matthew,
    I’m definitely a college student on a budget, but I would love to get into vinyls.
    I’m looking at buying an Orbit u-turn turntable. I’m thinking about going with the basic set up, but upgrading the cartridge to a Grado Black1. I’ve been contemplating getting an acrylic platter too. What do you think? Are acrylic platters significantly better? An finally, This set up it looking like it’ll be $300, but that leaves me cash strapped when it comes to buying speakers. Do you have any suggestions for some economical yet quality speakers?

  • Hi Anita,

    Happy to help. I’ve not had a lot of personal experience with the Orbit u-turn with acrylic platter, but I’ve read a number of disappointing reviews that suggest it is susceptible to speed shifts, frequency deviation, and is less amenable to upgrades because of the lack of a counterweight.

    Most folks I know would recommend the AT-LP120 instead which also includes a built in preamp (which would save you money). The Wirecutter did an excellent side-by-side comparison that’s worth a read. That said, I do think the Orbut u-turn looks more attractive.

    Whichever you choose, the Audioengine A5+ our my top speaker recommendations on a budget. I like them, in part, because they offer a built in amp as well which saves you money on other components (see above).

    I hope that helps.

  • Sarah

    This is such a helpful post! I would love to go for the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon + Audioengine A5 setup but will I have to get a phone stage for that? (So many parts I didn’t know existed!)

  • Hey Sarah,
    That’s right. You wouldn’t need to pick up a preamp though.

  • Andrew

    Hi my girlfriend was going to purchase a turntable setup for me for Christmas. We decided on the Project Debut Carbon, and the PSB Alpha B1’s. Now the Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 is a little out of our budget for right now. What would be a more inexpensive alternative? Could we use just a cheap preamp to play the turntable and speakers? This is our first turntable setup so we are a little confused. Thanks for your help!

  • Hi Andrew, basically you’ll need two things: 1) an integrated preamp and 2) a phono preamp. That’s because most integrated amps made today aren’t really set up specifically for turntables and without a phono preamp, the sound from the turntable won’t be amplified nearly enough. If you can find an integrated preamp with a built in phono preamp (it would be clearly marked “phono in” on the back) that would definitely do the trick. You should have no trouble finding phono preamps for $99-149 (Cambridge and Pro-Ject both make good ones in that range). The trick (but not impossible) is to find an integrated preamp that is $199 or less. Anyways, I hope that helps!

  • Andrew

    Yes it did. If we decide to just go with the Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10, we would not have to purchase a phono preamp though, correct?

  • Brad Huhnold

    Hey Matthew, I wanna start out by saying I absolutely love this article and the one leading up to it. I have wanted to get a turntable for a while now and just recently seeing one in a store made me really look into it so I could start collecting my set up. Was having issues figuring everything out cause there is a lot to know, and its hard to get good info on certain products so I would never know if the products I was looking at were good or not. But after reading all this I feel I know exactly what I’m gonna get and am confident about it. So I just wanted to thank you for posting this first off! And second, after telling my roommate I was gonna be buying a bunch of this stuff. He informed me about how he had a Pioneer VSX-D702S that he had been trying to get rid of. Now I plan on buying the most expensive set up that you had described as well as a few other products to go with it, so I was just curious about this piece. From what I could find it seemed like a good quality amp, but because its older I had a very hard time finding solid reviews on it and I’m unsure how it would compare to some of the models you had listed. Do you know anything about this particular model? Thanks!

  • Hey Brad,

    Sorry for the delayed response. I wanted to research the Pioneer piece you mentioned but ran into the same problems as you in terms of finding a few good reviews for it. All I can really say is that it appears to be a good piece of equipment but I don’t have any direct experience with it.

  • David Ewing

    How does the Music Hall mmf 2.2 turntable rank compared to these turntables? I have the chance to get a really good deal on one (Like half off on a brand new one), but most of everything I see is talking about the Pro-Ject Carbon. I know their pretty similar, and I assume the Music Hall is a decent turntable, but I’d love to hear some thoughts and advice about this turntable.

  • It’s a great turntable that’s very comparable to the Pro-Ject. If you can get it at 1/2 off I’d definitely recommend getting it.

  • Spencer

    Hello there!
    I am looking to buy a turntable and this article has really helped me! I already have a fairly large high quality speaker with a line in and it is powered through an outlet. Would I still have to buy the phono box or an amp? Thanks!

  • Hey Spencer,
    It’s hard to say for sure without examining your speakers myself. With that said, it probably depends on which turntable you’re looking at. The ATLP60 or ATLP120 may be able to connect directly to your speakers. Otherwise, you may need to pick up a phono stage at least to connect the turntable to the speakers. I hope that helps!

  • Spencer

    Thank you for your timely response. And have a very happy holidays, I plan on reading this blog often throughout my turntable experience.

  • I want to have the functions of a DJ turn table like the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB, but have the sound quality of the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. Within about the same price range as the Pro-Ject, what would you recommend?

    Currently I’m looking at the Reloop – RP7000 Direct Drive Turntable.

    Or is sound quality of the Audio Technica negligible with upgrading the cartridge?

  • Hey Miles,

    It’s hard to say the best option. In my experience, within a certain budget you have to make trade offs in order to obtain new features. If you want a DJ turntable at the same sound quality as the Pro-Ject you’d need to spend more money. If you’re staying in the same range then you’ll have to accept certain trade offs such as increased wow and flutter, less overall clarity, etc.

    The ATLP120 is a great turntable, but it’s not going to offer the exact same high standard of sound production as the Pro-Ject even with an upgraded cartridge. However, whether the difference is worthwhile is subjective. If you have a hi-fi store in your area, I’d recommend stopping in and comparing a few turntables side by side if possible. I’ve heard great things about this Pioneer deck with is audiophile and DJ quality, but is more expensive: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LWFM8H0/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00LWFM8H0&linkCode=as2&tag=turntkitch-20&linkId=5YECKNF3OJRA4ALU

  • Hey Matthew,

    Thanks for your quick reply! Unfortunately it’s a little hard to compare here and the next step can only be to ‘buy’ something.

    The Pioneer PLX-1000 looks good, but it’s about $1,000 compared to a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon for $500 and AT-LP120 for $400! I’m looking for something in the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon budget that sounds as good (if that does exist).

    I’ve also been looking at the Reloop RP-7000 and Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB, which each cost about the same as the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon. But if I surface no facts that these are as good as the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, I’ll just have to favour quality over usability.

    Thanks,
    Miles

  • David Ewing

    So I bought the Music Hall mmf 2.2. I don’t have any other equipment. What would you recommend for speakers, amp, etc. for this turntable?

  • That depends on your budget, but you can pick any of the recommended setups above and swap the music hall in place of the Pro-Ject as they’re pretty interchangeable.

  • David Ewing

    Great. Thanks for your help!

  • David Ewing

    Hey Matt. How does the Cambridge Audio Azur 540p compare to the Cambridge Audio Azur 351a?

  • Well, the 540p is just a phono preamp and the 351a is an integrated amp – so they have different purposes and can’t really be compared for that reason (see above).

  • Kara

    I have a turntable that I believe is in pretty good condition (Technics SL1400), but I think the stylus needs to be changed or something of that sort – any recommendations of where I should/could buy a new stylus for this model? Is it even worth it? If it costs too much, then I may consider just getting a new turntable. Thank you!

  • Hi Kara,

    I’d love to help, but I should note that I don’t have any personal experience with this turntable. As a result, I can’t really answer the “is it worth it” aspect of your question fully. However, typically the cost of a new cartridge is less than the cost of a whole new turntable. So, presuming everything else is working fine and the turntable has no other problems, it’s probably worth it.

    Installing the cartridge might be a little tricky if you don’t have experience with that sort of thing though because you may need to rebalance the tonearm. Ideally, I’d recommend calling a store that specializes in hi-fi and audio equipment and see if they can recommend a specific cartridge and if they’d install it for you.

    I did find this thread that recommends the Audio Technica AT120E cartridge for this turntable and discusses the issue a little more: http://www.vinylengine.com/turntable_forum/viewtopic.php?t=13120

  • Keely Kitchings

    Is it true that Crosley record players ruin records??

  • I’ve heard that before, but that hasn’t been my experience with them. With that said, I’ve never used one for an extended period of time. The argument that they ruin records is based on the idea that they use too much tracking force on your records, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.

  • Lauren

    Hey Matt – I am building my first turntable system since I just inherited a great vinyl collection. I have the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Esprit SB and going for the PSB X1Ts…. What else do you recommend? I’m a bit confused. Thanks for any advice

  • Hey Lauren,

    Sorry for the delayed reply. You’ll also need a preamp and phono stage. The Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 includes both, so it would be the only additional piece you’d need to get started: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003VSFPGW/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003VSFPGW&linkCode=as2&tag=turntkitch-20&linkId=AEWKK5DYIIOSCKIZ

  • SLW

    I’ve owned a lot of different systems over the years and decades, still have an old Thorens TD 150 MK II Table, it’s old. Very old, but with a nice Grado cart, sounds great. This is the thing, some folks will try to sway you with sticking with vintage equipment. Unless you have serious DIY abilities, buy one of the better newer tables, such as the Pro -Ject Debut Carbon. First of all it’s new. As nice as the old dinosaur units are, they’ll need to be worked on, tweeked, fixed up, and basically undergo a full restoration as you own them. The Carbon has not been played for 45 years, no matter how much care was taken. And the sound is as good, if not better than any older turn tables, plus you get a warranty. 🙂

  • Great advice! This lines up with my experience as well. Old turntables have a lot of charm and can be occasionally picked up cheaply, but the downside is that they may need a lot of (expensive) maintenance.

  • SLW

    Exactly. And thanks for the reply.

  • Newbie Audiophile

    Hi Matthew, I am new to the whole turntable thing. I received a Pro-Ject Essential II as a gift but have no idea what to do next. As far as preamps go, can you tell me the difference between Pro-Ject Phono Box DC and Project Phono Box MM (I recently purchased the MM)? Will either of these work to hook to an amplifier, or to powered speakers? Lastly, I have a pair of passive Sony bookshelf speakers..nothing high end. What inexpensive amplifier (new user and not looking to bust the bank just yet) would you recommend to connect them to the Phono Box MM and turntable? Its all so confusing to me. Thank you.

  • Brad

    I was hoping you could offer some help and suggestions for how to build a stereo system. I have purchased a Pro-Ject Esprit DC turntable ($599), but am unsure of what exact accessories I need to start playing records (speakers, receivers, amp, etc)

  • Hey Brad,

    Happy to help. The next pieces you’ll need are a phono stage, integrated amp, and speakers. Dependoing on how much you want to invest, we recommend either Pro-Ject Phono Box ($149) > Audioengine A5 Speakers ($399) or Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 ($349) > PSB Alpha B1s ($299). The Audioengine speakers are a good value and include a built in amp. Meanwhile the Cambridge Audio Topaz in an integrated amp that has a built in phono stage. If you choose the Cambridge amp, you can really use any speakers you’d like to round out the system. We just recommend the PSB Alpha B1s because of their great performance in relation to the cost. If you’re willing to spend more money on the speakers and don’t have the option of auditioning a variety of different brands, I’d say stick with that same brand (PSB) and move up the line. We’ve never been disappointed with their products.

  • Tyler F Louthan

    Question about the following set-up:
    Pro-Ject Debut Carbon > Pro-Ject Phono Box > Cambridge Audio Azur 351A > PSB Imagine X1T.
    Would I be able to run the same set-up with PSB Imagine X2T speakers using the Azure 351A?

  • Absolutely. I don’t see any issues there.

  • problemss

    I am looking at the A5+ speaker to upgrade my system. You mention in the future to look at upgrading the integrated amp, but with it having its own amp how can you add another? Is there a way to bypass the amp? I want to get some good speakers but won’t have money for a proper amp, being able to bypass it in the future is very appealing me me. Thank you for any insight.

  • Yes, it’s my understanding that you just need to connect the integrated amp directly into one of the Audioengine audio inputs to bypass the built-in amp.

  • Frank-Annie Roman

    Hi Matthew,

    Setting up the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon, Pro-Ject Phono Box, Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 and PSB Alpha B1s and want to get a nice set of headphones. Upon researching the PSB M4U-1 Headphones I have come across a lot of comfort complaints with extended use. Do you have any opinion on this complaint?
    -Frank

  • Frank-Annie Roman

    Another quick question,
    Is the Phono Box necessary if using the Cambridge Topaz AM10? It sounds like it has a phone stage built in. Above, your build includes both. Is this a typo?
    -Thanks

  • Hey Frank! I like the PSB M4U-1’s quite a bit. After wearing them for a very long time (several hours) I’d say they get a little uncomfortable but I can’t say I’ve ever tested any where that wasn’t true and I’ve tried plenty that were far less comfortable.

  • Sorry, that may not have been clear above. The Phono Box isn’t necessary if you’re using the Topaz AM10, but I do think it’s an worthwhile upgrade if you’re going for a better overall sound.

  • Frank-Annie Roman

    do you recommend another headphone more?

  • Frank-Annie Roman

    so you would run the phone box along with the Topaz?

  • You know what? After thinking about this more, I realized you were right the first time. When I first replied my mind was thinking “built in pre-amp” which I’d always recommend upgrading. A built-in phono stage shouldn’t need to be upgraded unless it’s not performing well. In my experience the Topaz works fine. I just made a typo. No Phono Box needed with the Topaz (I’ve updated the post above).

  • I don’t have any over-ear headphones I prefer. The PSB M4U-1s are my favorite I’ve tried hands down. However, if you’re willing to consider in ear options I love the Sennheiser IE80 and they probably get the most use of in my home (and on the go): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005N8W27I/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B005N8W27I&linkCode=as2&tag=turntkitch-20&linkId=GT6GFSLXHPSZR4YX

  • Stef

    Hi Matthew. Great post. Would you mind to give me some advise?
    I’m a long time music lover but I never listened to records (only CDs, MP3’s …).
    I do have quite some records because I am in love with the packaging that offers so much more than regular CDs.
    I have no friends or acquaintances with any interest or whatsoever in stereo systems, nor do I have a specialist shop closeby.
    I’m basically looking for an advanced starter’s set-up. I don’t need the cheapest of the cheapest, but I’m looking for a set for home use, mainly via headphones.
    It would be great to receive a couple of suggestions regarding set-ups, so I can do some research myself. I now have the impression the internet is saturated with information and have no clue where to start. Let’s say my target budget is around 1000 dollars, all included.
    I did read some good comments about Pro-Ject Essential II as decent starter’s turntable.
    Thanks!
    Stef

  • Hey Stef! Happy to help. My top recommendations are the 5 different setups recommended at the top of the post. You’ll notice that 4 out of the 5 setups come in at around $1000 or under. If you’re not interested in any specific component (i.e. if you’re not interested in the Pro-Ject turntable for example) I can offer a few alternatives.

  • Stef

    Alright, many thanks! Which one is your favorite set-up from the ones listed around 1000?
    Also, any recommendations regarding compatible cassete decks?
    I still want to listen to music from my PC through the speakers, is that always possible?
    Apologies for these rather simple questions, but I am real noob on this matter.
    What’s the best place to buy? You recommend going to a specialized shop (which I don’t have around), or is Amazon a good solution?

  • My personal favorite is the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon ($399) > Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 ($349) > PSB Alpha B1s ($299) = $1047 as a starter setup. I’m not as knowledgeable about good cassette decks though. I use an old walkmen that I connect to my amp. For digital music I use an Apple AirPort Express that I connect to my amp. I can then stream music from my computer, iPhone, and/or iPad through my speakers. Works great! http://www.amazon.com/Apple-Airport-Express-MB321LL-A/dp/B0015YJOK2/ref=dp_ob_title_ce

    In terms of where to buy, I like to buy from a specialized shop mostly to promote local business and because it means I have someone to help troubleshoot any setup issues. However, if you don’t have a shop nearby, Amazon carries most everything you could want and offers free shipping. You’ll find links to where you can buy all of the different components above.

  • Frank-Annie Roman

    Hi Matthew,

    Quick question:
    I noticed that the PSB Alpha B1s do not come with any cables to connect to the Cambridge Audio Topaz.
    Do you have a recommendation (I will only need about 3 or so feet per speaker location)?
    Thanks again,
    -Frank

  • Frank-Annie Roman

    So I purchased the Monster XP speaker wire and the banana plugs. I noticed that the XP wire has the special Magnetic Flux Tube. My question may sound ridiculous, but I just want to verify everything for my first system.
    When installing the plugs, should I remover the flux tube for the portion that is threaded into the plug.
    Thanks again for all your help.
    -Frank

  • Yeah, the part that is threaded into the plug should look like this (you’ll probably need to cut away some of the plastic): http://www.crutchfield.com.edgesuite.net/pix.crutchfield.com/ImageHandler/trim/555/312/products/2010/27/119/h119XPMS202-F.jpeg

  • Morris

    I already have amplifier, speakers, and computer. They all working fine together.
    I want to add a turntable. Should I go with built in pre-amp turntable? What brands of built
    in pre-amp turntable
    you suggest? What do you suggest?
    Thank you

  • Morris

    Thank you

  • Justin

    Hey Matt,

    I would first like to say that I’ve learned quite a bit from your articles! Thank you so much for all this information.

    I’m a college student so I’m on a tight budget. Do you think that the Audioengine A5+ are worth splurging on as opposed to getting the A2+? The $150 price difference is a lot, and I am just starting out. I want to eventually move my way up, but would it be worth it to get the A5+ now?

  • Hey Justin,

    I don’t have any experience with the A2+ myself, but the reviews I’ve read are good and it looks like you’d still have your built in amp so it should work out for your needs. I definitely think there is no shame in starting with pieces that fit into your budget and upgrading over time. This stuff can get expensive. You could always buy them from Amazon and then return them if they don’t work out I suppose: http://amzn.to/1VuWZlj

    Matthew

  • Stef

    Alright, I’ve bought the following set-up:
    Pro-Ject Debut Carbon + Marantz PM6005 + Wharfedale Diamond 220.
    Installed everything today, but I’m absolutely not satisfied with the sound … it’s quiet, plain and noisy.
    I checked everything thrice, and all is connected in the right way. What could be the problem? If I’m right, this amp has a phono stage built in …

    Also, I’d like to connect my laptop to the amp so I can listen music from my laptop through the speakers. What kind of cable do I need for this? I tried to use a 2x 3.5mm jack from the headphone exit of my laptop to the coaxial port of the amp, but this produces no sound.

    Thanks.

    Stef

  • Hey Stef,

    It’s hard to troubleshoot without seeing everything in person. I’ve not spent a lot of time with Marantz PM6005 but I understand that it does have a built in phono-in. Have you tried multiple records on the setup?

    In terms of playing digital music. I actually use an Apple Airport Express to play digital music wirelessly to my stereo. If you want to go with a wire you can use this one (a 3.5 mm to RCA): http://amzn.to/1Pq40Eb

    Plug the RCA outputs into the back of the Marantz and the 3.5 mm into the headphone jack of the computer. If the audio still sounds flat when playing digital music, you’ll know the problem isn’t with the speakers at least.

  • YoGabbaGabba

    Would you recommended the
    Pioneer PL-990?

  • Sorry to say, but I don’t have any experience with that deck. The reviews are pretty good, so there’s that. Sorry I can’t be more help.

  • Jacob Coon

    Hi Matt, thank you for the article. I am living in Germany and would like to start getting into vinyl, but I definitely do not have the budget to spend $650 just to start out. Someone else suggested the Pro-ject Elemental paired with a Dynavox TC 750 pre-amp, and a Pioneer X-HM11 HiFi system (though I would prefer one with bluetooth). This would cost me about $340. What are your thoughts on this system for a brand newbie?

  • snurfer

    Hi Matt, thanks for all the info! I’m looking to drop decent amount of cash on my first legit setup. Right now I just have a Crosley suitcase table connected to my classic Bose wave radio. I live in a condo, so I don’t want a lot of bass in my system. Would the Pro-Ject Phono Box & the Cambridge Audio Azur 351A make any difference pushing the B1’s vs. theCambridge Audio Topaz AM10 by itself? And would my Wave Radio add anymore bass to that setup? Thanks! -Roland

  • Ben

    Hi Matt – I already own the Audioengine A5’s, but I have the old ones without RCA inputs. Is there a different pre-amp I should use? Or will I get the same effect by using a cable adapter to convert from RCA to 3.5mm? Is there loss of quality that way? Thanks!

  • Well, I’d definitely give the cable adapter a shot. It’s hard to say whether it would lead to any significant reduction in audio quality without trying it out, but since it would be much cheaper than switching up a pre-amp – I’d give it a try first.

  • Joe Como

    Great article with very helpful information. I’m taking the plunge into vinyl and trying to figure out the best system within my budget (around $1000).

    I considered the Audio Technica LP-120 as my turntable choice, but the integrated pre-amp turned me off from it (especially because, even if you turned it off, the signal would still run through the pre-amp, potentially affecting the sound). All the reviews I’ve read have said the Pro-ject Debut Carbon turntable produces better quality sound than the AT LP-120, so I decided to spend a little extra and go with that.

    For a receiver, since the Debut Carbon does NOT have a pre-amp, I needed one that had a phono input. I don’t see how the Onkyo TX-8020 can be beat, considering its price ($174 on Amazon). It seems to have pretty good reviews and will do “for now”. I can always upgrade this receiver later.

    Speakers are probably the toughest decision, as I *really* don’t want to limit myself to bookshelf speakers. I want floor-standing speakers, but of course they’re nearly all prohibitively expensive! Scouring the Internet relentlessly, I finally found a recommendation for the Fluance XL7F, which are floor-standing speakers and only $500 for a pair. The 5-star rating on Amazon doesn’t hurt either (137 reviews)!

    All-in-all, my total bill will be $1,073, not including S&H. Not too bad, I’d say! Once I actually complete the purchase, I’ll come back and let everyone know how it turned out.

  • Hey Joe. Great research on this system! Let me know how those Fluance XL7F work out. Sounds like the system should work out mighty fine.

  • SmoochySmoochy

    Great recommendations, except the headphones. The Audio-Technica M50X are the best headphones one can get for under $300, and they’re nowhere near that (including being less than the ones listed here).

  • Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve not tried out the Audio-Technica M50X but the reviews are good and they look exceptionally comfy. The price is nice!

  • tljida

    One refinement to my system was placing the turntable on a piece of 1″ granite which sits on a rubber pad. The weight of the granite slab and rubber for dampening makes a stable platform so audio vibrations do not find their way back to the turntable. My system is an old DUAL turntable connected to an old ONKYO stereo amplifier.

  • Sam

    Hey Matt!

    I really liked the article and it was incredibly informative since I’m looking into upgrading my system. A good buddy and I are both pretty into vinyl and have small collections, but all the equipment we have is mostly scattered items that we’ve picked up along the way. The only exception of which is that last winter I bought an AudioTechnica AT-LP120 Direct Drive USB Turntable. Other than that I have a Bose Home Theater System as my speakers and receiver. My friend has the all too common Sony PS-LX300 USB and some vintage speakers with a receiver that he found. Both of use are in college though and we are thinking of pooling together some money to each buy half of a system for a really nice sound set up when we’re at college.

    I have heard of simply bypassing the built in phono for the AT-LP120 and was considering that route, so that we could pool about $1,000 on a phono, amp/preamp, and speakers. First of all, what are your opinions on that? Because I don’t DJ and don’t use the USB accessory as much as I would wish. My next question would be if you did support that decision, what would you recommend after the AT-LP120?

    If you would recommend against that, I think we would probably go in on the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon DC. I’m still a bit of a novice past the turntable side of the equipment, so all information and help is greatly appreciated, just let me know what you think!

    Sam

  • MacSaiz

    Matt, hi! Hope you can help me with the first problem you described : “the problem where your turntable’s volume is too low”.

    I had a ‘Ion Max LP’ turntable connected to a Telefunken tube amplifier from 1969, connected throught the phono input. Then I borrowed a Marantz 2220 receiver and everything worked fine, even when I upgraded to a Pro-ject debut carbon. But now that the Marantz has gone back home ;(, when i plugged the debut turntable to the phono inputs of the telefunken bulb amplifier it sounds very very low, almost undetectable unless it’s at top volume. Does this mean that the telefunken needs the pre-amp or the phone stage?

  • Happy to help. It’s hard for me to say without examining your system in person because I don’t have any experience with the telefunken tube amps, but it does sound like the problem is that the tube amp doesn’t have a built in phono stage.

  • MacSaiz

    Thanks for the reply Matt. I thought that since it has a phono input it would amplify the signal as needed. I just found bought a marantz 2275 for 200 bucks, so I can go back to listening to records. But, back to the telefunken. how can I know if it has a built in phono stage? Is there any way I can know?

  • Serge

    Hi matt
    Can I connect the AT120 turn table straight to the Cambridge audio Azur 351A or do I still need a phono stage

  • Hey Serge. As I recall the AT120 has a built in phono stage so you shouldn’t have any problems.

  • Joe Campbell

    So Matt, if I buy the AT-LP120 USB turntable all I would need to get this up and running would be the Audioengine A5 Speakers? No amp or phono box, right?

  • Joe Campbell

    Matt, I bought the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon > Cambridge Audio Topaz AM10 & the PSB Alpha B1s. I am getting a constant buzz or hum coming out of my speakers. I thought it might be my speaker wires, so I changed from an 18g wire to a 16g wire and it is still humming. The turntable works fine, but I disconnected it to make sure it wasn’t coming from my interconnect cables. No change. I don’t know if its the Topaz am10 or my speakers. I have no way of checking my speakers to see if they are working the right way. Any thoughts?

  • Todd Baker

    Sounds like a grounding wire problem. Have you firmly secured the grounding wire between the TT and the am10?

  • Joe Campbell

    Todd, thanks for responding to my dilemma. Turns out it was my amp. Exchanged it and now everything is good.

  • Todd Baker

    Great news! Enjoy the new setup!

  • Scott Kalin

    Hi Matt, I am new to vinyl. I just purchased a Fluance High Fidelity Turntable, Denon SRT-510bt Receiver, Dali Zensor 1 Loudspeakers and a SVS SB12 12″ subwoofer. How will these components work together to play my records? Do they complement each other or do they clash with each other? I am very new to do this and went for it after some internet research. Thanks Scott

  • Hey Scott. To be honest, it’s hard for me to say how these will sound together because, candidly, I don’t have direct experience with any of these pieces of equipment. I’ve done a little research on the Fluance and it looks like a nice piece of equipment for it’s price range. Same with the Denon receiver, Dali speakers, and SVS subwoofer. May you can let me know how they sound once you get everything set up? I’m sure other people would be interested in hearing first hand how these pieces sound.

  • Justin Robben

    This is correct. It’s precisely what I have used for months and it’s treated me quite well. Though I am looking to add a receiver. Pesky headphone issue, you see…

  • bart seismo

    Hi, I’m considering either the AT120 or the new Essential III. I realize the drives are different, have different cartridges and the AT120 has a built in pre-amp. What I’d like to know is whether the quality is better for one vs. another and whether i would hear the difference on my average (Denon x2100W) receiver and my 40 year old records? they are about the same price (before buying pre-amp for the Pro-Ject). thanks for your reply!

  • I think both are fine options. Personally, I like the Essential III a little more because it has a good reputation for getting the most out of less fancy speakers, preamps, etc. I also like the acrylic platter and overall look of the turntable. That said, the ATLP120 also offers the ability to change speeds at the push of a button and has that built in pre-amp. I think either should provide a nice experience for you though – so it’s just a matter of preference.

  • bart seismo

    Thank you. The acrylic platter is an upgrade (I think +$125). I don’t plan to change speeds much (does anyone really want to hear my Osmond Brother 45s?). I found an pro-ject dealer that would test a returned Debut Carbon and if that worked about would sell it for $299 (same price as the Essential III). that sounds like a good deal.

  • Definitely! I’ve always loved the Debut line from Pro-Ject. We still use ours daily.

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