What do you need to listen to your vinyl collection?

Vinyl is currently going through a purple patch and really is the new “cool”. You can buy new albums in trendy fashions stores, supermarkets or bargain dive in charity shops. You may even have a collection of LPs, EPs or 7” singles hiding somewhere in the attic from back-in-the-day.

If you want to get back into vinyl or just want to see what all the fuss is about, what do you need to get started?

You will need four things:

  • Turntable
  • Pre-amplifier or phono stage
  • Amplifier
  • Speakers

Turntables

The turntable is obvious, there are many models to choose from and they range in price from very reasonable to extortionately, eye-wateringly expensive. If this is new to you will find many reasonably priced tables which sound fantastic, but 2 brands which will not disappoint are:

  • Audio Technica provide a great range of turntables but he classic is the AT-LP120 which has been around for years and has a very impressive sound
  • Any of the Pro-Ject Audio turntables are great, I have the Essential III but the Primary E is incredibly good value and you just need to fit he belt, platter and felt mat, unwind the twist wire which holds the arm in place and you’re good to go

There are two choices of turntable, belt drive and direct drive. Both have pros and cons but the main difference for beginners is that if you want to play a mix of 331/3 (LPs) and 45 (7” singles) on a belt drive table you have to move the belt from one roller to another, with a direct drive table there’s a switch. You can also get automatic tables which stop and return the arm at the end of the album, there are USB tables which enable you to transfer your LPs to digital format and even Bluetooth versions.

My advice… keep it simple, don’t buy what you don’t need.

Pre-amplifier

As standard the moving coil (MC) cartridge on the turntable produces a very low audio signal which must be amplified before going to your sound system. This is the job of the pre-amp or phono stage as it is also known.

Now this is one of the gotchas you may experience when buying a turntable. You can buy turntables with the pre-amp built in, you can buy amplifiers or active speakers with the pre-amp built in or you can buy a separate pre-amp. You just have to make sure you have one somewhere.

Taking the examples above, all the Audio Technica tables come with pre-amps but you have to make sure you select the Phono version of the Pro-Ject tables (e.g. Primary E Phono). If a turntable does not have a pre-amp built in, it will come with a stereo phono cable with a little earth wire.

Home cinema AV receivers such as Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, etc. do not have built-in pre-amps but many stereo amplifiers do. If in doubt, get a table with a built-in pre-amp.

Amplifier

Given that you have sorted the pre-amp you can use any amplifier to drive your speakers but if you are using your home cinema system, it will sound better if you switch the sound mode to stereo for the turntable input.

Speakers

Again, obvious but you do need speakers…

You can buy all-in-one suitcase systems but please do yourself a favour and save for a little longer and buy something which will sound infinitely better.

We are big fans of the Kanto Audio range of powered speakers and the SYD, YU4, YU6 and TUK speakers all come with pre-amp, amplifier and speakers in one incredibly great sounding package. All you need to add is any turntable and your rolling.

And Finally

If you need a little help, you can find out more info on connecting a turntable to the Kanto Audio speakers here and this YouTube video gives you a detailed setup guide.

Second hand is a great way of adding to your collection, so as well as bargain diving in your local charity shops, two online sites I use in the UK are:

It really is simple.

Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the music…