How to Connect a Turntable to Speakers without a Receiver
There are dozens of different styles and features that come with turntables today. In fact, there are turntables to fit every budget, space and choice of décor. From all-in-one suitcase models to large, professional-grade versions, turntables have been undergoing a resurgence in popularity. With decades of evolution and modifications, the modern turntable has become a popular choice for individuals from all walks of life.
All-in-one suitcase turntables are nice, light, and easy to port around. However, their speaker quality is leaves a lot to be desired. Because of this, many turntable owners opt for the use of exterior speakers and audio equipment.
Connecting your turntable to speakers is relatively simple. For many, it requires your turntable, receiver, cables, amplifier and speakers. However, for those who want a simple, compact set up – eliminating the receiver is ideal.
Thankfully, with the help of today’s modern technology, there are a few ways you can use a simple set up to easily listen to your vinyl record collection. Below, we discuss the important components needed to connect your turntable directly to your speakers.
The Phono Pre-Amplifier
Investing in a turntable that includes a phono pre-amplifier, or pre-amp, is important. Luckily, plenty of turntables on the market today include this. Nevertheless, you may find yourself wondering what is a phono pre-amp and why is it important?
The stylus attached to the end of your tone arm reads each of the grooves and bumps as it glides over your vinyl record’s surface. The cartridge, to which the stylus directly attaches, then turns these dips and bumps into a series of tiny voltages. These voltages create a musical signal that must be equalized and amplified before an audible sound is produced.
This is where the phono pre-amp comes in. (The word “phono” is short for “phonograph”. For those who have an interest in history, this was the name of the original turntable!) The phono pre-amp boosts the music signal produced by the cartridge’s interpretation of the record’s bumps and dips. (A phono pre-amp may also be referred to as a phono stage, EQ, RIAA pre-amp or turntable pre-amp.)
Locating Your Phono Pre-Amp
Figuring out if your turntable includes a phono pre-amp is relatively easy. For most models, your turntable will have a “PHONO” port, typically located on the back or side of your device. That is it. (You can also look through your user manual. These ports may be unlabeled on some turntable models.) If you are looking for a new turntable, make sure you check the specifications to ensure you are purchasing a model with a phono pre-amp.
When connecting your turntable to speakers, you will want to make sure your pre-amp selector switch is set to “Line”. Failure to do so may cause your turntable or speakers to short circuit, resulting in potentially permanent damages.
Connecting Your System
Connecting your turntable to your speakers without a receiver is relatively easy and requires very little additional equipment.
Today, we will focus on physically connecting your turntable to the speakers. (While turntables and speakers both come with Bluetooth technology, we will briefly touch on this subject later.)
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
We hope that we have impressed upon you the importance of a phono pre-amp coming already installed in your turntable. Do turntables come without them? Certainly. However, for the purposes of minimizing your system and condensing it down to just the turntable and speakers, a built-in phono pre-amp is a must have feature.
Next, you need to have a set of powered speakers. Powered speakers are those that require a direct power supply. They are stand-alone speakers that you can hook up to almost anything. There are some high-end versions that come with built-in pre-amplifiers. (Pre-amplifiers help to clarify and enrich your record’s sound. They make the musical signal stronger, allowing you to play it louder.) Most powered speakers also have volume control knobs, which gives you total control over how loud your music is played. (This is important because a turntable does not have volume control.)
Finally, you need to find the required cables. Some turntables and powered speakers need an RCA cable. Others may require a 3.5 mm, male or female, adapter connected to an RCA cable. If you are unsure which cables you will need, read your turntable and powered speaker manuals. They will specify which ports and cables you need to connect to and from other devices.
That is it. Gather your supplies and move on to the appropriate step two listed below.
Step 2: RCA Cable Only
RCA cables typically come with at least two plugs. For audio connections, you will need to use the red and white plugs of your RCA cable. This is the easiest set up. Simply attach the red and white plugs to your turntable and the corresponding powered speaker ports. (If your RCA cable only includes a red and black cable, this is acceptable as well. Red will go into a red port, while black will go into a white one.) Start your record, crank the volume and enjoy your music.
Step 2: 3.5 mm Female Input on Your Powered Speakers
If your powered speakers come with a 3.5 mm female input, you will need a 3.5 mm mini-plug male adapter cable as well. (Your 3.5 mm female port may be called several different things. This includes identifiers like “AUX”, “Input”, “iPod” or through a headphone icon.) As with the RCA cable only directions, you will only need the red and white plugs for this. Attached them to the corresponding ports on your turntable and the 3.5 mm mini-plug male adapter. Connect the 3.5 mm male adapter plug to the 3.5 mm female port located on your speakers. Plug, play and enjoy!
Step 2: 3.5 mm Male Input on Your Powered Speakers
As with the 3.5 mm female input, you will need an adapter cable for this set up. In place of the 3.5 mm mini-plug male adapter cable, use a female version. Follow all of the steps for the 3.5 mm female input listed above to have your music playing in no time!
This article focused mainly on a wired connection between your turntable and speakers. However, modern technology has also blessed us with Bluetooth turntables and speaker capabilities.
Bluetooth speakers often come with a built-in rechargeable battery. This makes them useable almost anywhere. They can be waterproof as well, allowing you to enjoy your favorite tunes even while hanging out around the pool. That being said, you will likely need to use a wire to connect your turntable to your Bluetooth speaker.
As with your powered speakers, you will want to invest in a turntable that includes a built-in phono pre-amp. However, the majority of Bluetooth speakers need an AUX signal. Because of this, you will need to use one of the cable methods listed above to connect to your Bluetooth speaker. (RIVA Audio, for example, are one of the only companies to offer a Bluetooth speaker that supports phono inputs. This can be costly and negate the cost-saving solutions often being sought by those who want to connect their turntable directly to speakers.)
A Simple Set Up Lets You Simply Enjoy Your Records
Vinyl records are relatively fragile. Connecting your turntable directly to your speakers leaves you little control over the quality of the sound being produced. But it is certainly less expensive than having to buy a receiver and can save you on the amount of space dedicated to your hobby.
You get what you pay for when it comes to turntables, speakers and other audio equipment. Low-quality speakers may not play loudly enough. However, even high-quality speakers will not give you the level of control that a full turntable set up will permit.
By omitting the receiver, you can do nothing to improve the quality of the sound being produced by your turntable. While there is nothing wrong with this, you may notice more wear and tear on your records faster than you would if you used a receiver due to this limited control. (With a direct-to-speaker set up, the only control you really have is over the volume with which you choose to set your speakers at.)
Properly cleaning and maintaining your vinyl records and turntables are important when it comes to producing quality sound, regardless of the speakers or receiver you may use. A dirty, scratched up record will sound terrible regardless of what you play your audio through. (In fact, playing a dirty vinyl can actually lead to permanent damages as your stylus drags across the surface and pushes dirt particles deep into the tiny grooves of your record.)
Whether you are jamming out to ZZ Top or listening to the soothing sounds of Motown’s Four Tops, your vinyl set up needs to be clean, free of dust, and properly assembled. Buying quality equipment can help you save money over time because you will not need to replace or upgrade it as often. In fact, quality turntables may even make your direct-to-speaker connection even more enjoyable.