Something we get asked a lot is “do record players need speakers?” and although all record players need speakers to play music, there is a lot more you should know know before spending your money to avoid disappointment!
In this blog, we explain everything you need to know about speakers for record players. So first things first…
Do Record Players Need Speakers?
All record players need speakers to play audio but some come with speakers built-in. This means you don’t have to buy and connect your own speakers. Many modern record players under $300 have built-in speakers but their quality is usually worse than using your own speakers.
What Speaker Connections Do Record Players Use?
Almost every record player if compatible with at least: built-in speakers, RCA, AUX or wireless connections to play audio.
This table shows the most popular record players of 2022, and the types of speakers they are compatible with.
Whether you need to buy speakers or just want to use better ones, you need to know the type of speakers your record player is compatible with first (especially when buying as a gift!)
|Brand||Record Player||Does It Have Built-In Speakers?||Can It Connect To Speakers via RCA?||Can It Connect To Speakers via AUX?||Can It Connect To Bluetooth Wireless Speakers?|
|Rega||Planar 3/Elys 2||No||Yes||No||No|
|House of Marley||Stir It Up||No||Yes||Yes||No|
If your record player, or the one you want to buy, isn’t here then leave a comment below and we’ll add it to the list.
What You NEED To Know Before Buying Speakers For A Record Player
Now you know what type of speakers your record player can use, it’s time to find out what speakers are best to use when listening to vinyl. We’ve covered all of this, and more, in our updated Frequently Asked Questions list below.
What Are The Best Types of Speakers For Listening To Vinyl Records?
– Active Studio Monitors. Otherwise known as powered speakers, active monitors are some of the best quality speakers you can buy to listen to vinyl. This is because, unlike most speakers, active monitors produce a ‘flat frequency response’, meaning the sound you get is as close to the original audio as possible. Most home speakers have various settings built into them like EQ settings and frequency cut-offs which change how the audio sounds. This is why the same song can sound completely different when listening through different speakers. Active monitors don’t tend to have this problem and is likely what the sound engineer of the record you’re listening to used when recording that very song!
– Home Speakers. The most common type of plug-in speaker you see, usually with an RCA or Aux connection, are one of the best options for listening to vinyl but with a catch – you get what you pay for! Unfortunately, sound quality ranges dramatically in home speakers and anything below $100 is not going to get the audio quality out of your record. In the $200-300 and more range however, you will see a stark difference in budget speakers that will really bring out the full sound in your records.
– Tower Standing Speakers. Floor speakers tend to have fantastic bass as they benefit from larger cones which can be great when listening to vinyl with a lot of low-end. Similar to most home speakers though, you get what you pay for, and a speaker with great bass might have terrible mids or highs depending on the size and type of room you are in. I recommend testing them in the room you want to use them in first. Standing speakers can be fantastic but the room they are in drastically changes the sound quality.
– Subwoofers. If you’re keen for big bass then you probably want a subwoofer alongside your speakers! Subwoofers provide a significant boost to low-end frequencies, giving you that booming feeling in your chest, but you should never use a subwoofer on it’s own, as the sound will be mostly muffled. It’s worth knowing however, that although they are great to get a big bass sound, for a lot of older records, it is unnecessary, and could even sound worse than not having one. This is because older records were not recorded with the same high-quality low-end frequencies we have today and as a result, your subwoofer could be boosting a low-quality bass sound, or adding too much gain to it.
– Surround Sound. Surround speakers can make listening to vinyl feel really special, especially if you have a dedicated room to take it all in. There is one really important thing to know when it comes to surround sound and vinyl however: almost all vinyl records are recorded in mono or stereo. This means, when you listen to a record through surround sound, it is just duplicating the same sound you would get from 1 or 2 speakers. This is different to audio recorded natively in surround sound, like 5.1, as each of the many speakers will be playing different sounds at different levels to provide a richer, more diverse experience.
– Bluetooth and Wireless Speakers. Wireless speakers are everywhere now, and range from abysmal sound quality to pristine depending on cost and brand. For most people looking to spend around $150-$300, the sound quality you will get in Bluetooth wireless speakers today is good enough compared to traditional speakers, with the added bonus of being able to use them all around your house. Wireless speakers in this range won’t make your records sound bad like budget ones, but if you’re looking for pristine audio quality, especially with bass, then traditional speakers are your best bet.
– Smart Speakers. A more advanced type of wireless speaker, smart speakers can also produce incredible sound quality, especially the more expensive brands. However, a lot of what you pay for is in it’s portability and functionality, like controlling sound from an app on your phone. When it comes to vinyl’s, I would argue this feature is mostly redundant because you need to get up and manually change the record whenever it finishes each side still. Your money would be best spent on traditional speakers if listening to vinyl is your main aim, because you won’t benefit from the modern features that smart speakers have.
Do Record Players Need A Special Type of Speaker?
No, you can connect any speaker to a record player as long as it has the same output connection type. The most common types of connection are Bluetooth, AUX and RCA which you will find in 99% of all record players you can buy today.
RCA: The most common speaker type for record players is RCA which has 2 plugs, a red and a white. They act as the left and right audio output, giving you stereo sound. Because it gives stereo sound, RCA offers the best quality listening experience compared to AUX which is mono and Bluetooth which can lose quality with weak signal strength.
Bluetooth/Wireless: Many modern record players now come with Bluetooth receivers, allowing you to connect Bluetooth speakers to play music wirelessly. Although many modern wireless speakers are of high quality, cheaper record players often come with low quality Bluetooth receivers, meaning the signal strength could be weak, resulting in a lower quality sound vs physical connection types.
Aux: Commonly found in cars, some record players have AUX outputs allowing you to connect AUX compatible speakers to it. AUX cables combine the left and right audio fields giving you mono sound so even if you have multiple speakers, they will all play the exact same sound. AUX outputs are only really seen in cheap record players for this reason. You might also see record players with an AUX ‘INPUT’. This means you can connect music from a device like your phone that will play out of the record players speakers. This does NOT let you play your record out of your phone speakers however (or other device you use). You can connect an AUX cable to the RCA slots on a record player but it will only play the left or right audio signal, depending on which slot you use.
Can I Use My Own Speakers If My Record Player Already Has Built-In Speakers ?
Yes, providing your record player has other output options like RCA, Aux or a wireless receiver. Record Players without these options are only seen in the cheapest under $70 record players that we don’t recommend purchasing.
Is Listening to Vinyl with Cheap Speakers Better Than Listening To Digital With Great Speakers?
No, bad quality speakers won’t recognise the higher quality audio signals that vinyl records have vs digital music. This means it is really important to use good speakers when listening to your record collection, if you want to benefit from the extra sound quality they can have.
Do I Need a Preamp For My Record Player If I Have Powered Speakers?
Most powered speakers include a pre-amp, meaning you don’t need to plug them into anything other than the plug socket and your record player. Not all powered speakers have pre-amps built in though, so you should always check the specifications before purchasing.
Active or Passive Speakers – Which is better for Vinyl?
Active speakers are generally better to listen to vinyl for their simplicity, as they don’t require additional hardware like amplifiers to use. The biggest benefit of passive speakers, is the ability to fully customize how they audio sounds via the amplifier you use it with. However, unless you are a sound engineer or want to manually tweak the EQ of every song you play, this can be frustrating and unnecessary for the majority of vinyl listeners.
All record players need speakers and using plug-in speakers, or active monitors, are generally the best when listening to vinyl records. This is because they provide the best all-round sound quality compared to built-in, or wireless speakers for the same price.
However, as with all speakers, you get what you pay for and cheap speakers of any type will make your records sound bad. To really get the most out of your vinyl’s, it is best to purchase home or active speakers that are at least $200, but typically $300-500. However, if you prefer an average listening experience, with the benefits of portability and simplicity, then Bluetooth Wireless Speakers between $100-200 can be just as good.