So you’ve picked out a great turntable, right? Now it’s time to match it with a fine set of powered bookshelf speakers so you can hear that wonderful sound.
In a recent post on record player reviews, we described our top 5 best choices for turntables. If you’ve read it that’s terrific! Maybe you have done it (that is, bought one).
Then you get home and say … ah, what now? We can play a record, but there is no sound to be heard! You need an amplifier and speakers to make the whole show work, you know.
Of course, we are just imagining that you have gone all the way to purchasing a turntable, without having considered what to connect it to.
You would not have done that, really, right? You want a record player with speakers.
Also, in an earlier article, we talked about the excitement of buying your first great record player and went on about the turntable, receiver/amplifier, and speakers that we called our #1. That was fun.
We also brought up an alternative to purchasing the pieces separately. That
1. Edifier R1280T — Lowest price with really good audio
2. Micca PB42X — Competitive for small spaces; looks good anywhere
3. Fluance Ai40 — Costs a bit more with even better sound
4. Audioengine A2+ — A real star
Have you considered powered speakers
Truth is, the more we have thought about it and gotten experience, the more we feel that the best bet for a lot of people is to get a pair of those powered speakers, rather than choosing the individual receiver and passive setup.
Why? Space, money savings, and fun. Money is saved because you are buying one additional piece, not two. You gain space, also, because you only need to accommodate a separate receiver. You don’t have to find horizontal (desktop, table, cabinet, or shelf) space for that receiver. Fun? Well, we think this new kind of sound transmitting equipment is pretty neat.
Why not? You may already have a record player receiver/turntable amplifier, in which case all you need to do is get speakers. Or you may be planning or keeping open the option of a full home theater setup with TV and other components. Your vinyl system will be part of that.
What are we talking about? How do powered and passive devices differ?
Powered loudspeakers have the amplifier stage in one of them. (The other of the pair is “passive” and is connected.) Passive (also called regular or unpowered) speakers do not have an amplifier stage in them. You must have the amplifier as a separate part interfaced after the turntable.
Also, recall, lest there be any more confusion: for record system audio you get a pair of speakers. It is for stereo. You do not need the multiple loudspeaker setup of a surround sound system.
Remember you have to account for the preamplifier
In addition, do not forget the one other bit you must include a preamplifier. In the early days of record playing, (last mid-century!) a preamp was always with the amplifier in the receiver. All phonographs were unpowered and connected to receivers via “phono” in connectors.
When vinyl playing was on the wane and systems not being manufactured, all receivers were engineered without preamps. That is because tape and CD players did not need their sound jacked up. So we then had the situation of receivers not including the preamplification stage.
That’s why we now endure the modern situation of many new phonographs having preamplifiers in them, but not all. Witness the review of our top five turntables, where some had it and some did not!
No preamps are included in these sets
How is this reminiscing about confusion in the industry relevant to this current article which is supposed to be about your interest today? Well, in a reverse kind of logic, the problem is sort of “solved” because powered speakers do not include preamps! You gotta have one, so you have to rely on your choice of a turntable to bear one.
What do you do if neither your turntable nor speakers include a preamplifier? You have to get one. They are not real expensive. Yes, it is another component to find space for. (Oh, well.)
In this regard, first thought we would suggest, is check which preamp your turntable manufacturer recommends. When the record player has none, you will often find the company has a separate preamp for purchase or recommends certain ones.
“Bookshelf” or standup speakers? Which are better?
To review our recent points: The bookshelf kind are smaller ones. Of course, they do not have to be put on that particular piece of furniture! But you may want to put them there. Other kinds of shelves, tables, stands, or wall mounts are all right. Look around your rooms and decide what works for you.
They need to be about eight feet from each other and the phonograph: you must account for that. You should be in that eight-foot triangle too.
Ideally, you would decide upon these little ones for a small space or a smaller budget. But they will usually be a bit over-faced in a huge high-ceilinged living room. So you need to examine your area and decide which way to go. Hint: most people get the little ones and they do just fine in our modern home spaces. (You get multiple ones for a home theater. But that’s not a discussion for today’s theme.)
Physical space in your room dictates which one will function optimally for you
Standup variants are just that: also called floor speakers. You still just need a pair, but they are taller and have larger area woofers and tweeters. They would be for your needs if you have a larger listening space, especially if there is a tall room height.
(Do you need to learn first about what these things are? Be sure to read some paragraphs about
Bookshelf components have 2 drivers, not 3
These smaller components most commonly sport two drivers: tweeters for higher frequencies and mid/woofer drivers for lower frequencies. Versus floor-standers that will usually show three: tweeters, midrange, and woofers. In contrast, the bigger elements cause greater volume and additional bass level.
A criticism of little pieces is that they may be deficient in bass. Actually, it is amazing how well they do in the lower frequency range. What we typically advise it: buy them, put them in, and play them in your individual living area. This could be a
Then, decide if they are good enough, or do you need to enhance the lower expression? Most of the time what you have just purchased is right. If not, you can add on a separate subwoofer.
It’s the bookshelf style that suits most starters
For most of us, the bookshelf will be the kind we will get for our first system: the best speakers for a record player in most private homes. That’s what we are talking about for most of the rest of this article.
Setting up your chosen pair
When you get to furniture and display issues, this is where you need to consider these points: don’t put this equipment right next to the turntable. That may not seem intuitive, so just recall how much goes into the build of a record player to diminish environmental vibration. Now you put speakers, which are really big vibration produces, touching or in close proximity to your turntable! Of course, that does not make sense.
In addition, don’t bury them back behind furniture against a wall.
“Powered” means you need an electrical outlet to plug these in. They are not “passive” that you connect to a receiver that is itself powered.
Most of these items will do their best if you do not set the volume up to the very loudest. Doing so seems to result in some audio distortion.
Connect active to passive speaker
When you have the amp in the speaker housing, which is what powered (or active) speakers mean, one of the two speakers is the “active” one, and the other is “passive”, containing no amplifier parts. Any controls are on the active one. The pair are connected via speaker wire, usually the standard 8 feet length.
Know your component specifications
Drivers: birds and dogs
- drivers – Speakers actually consist of several parts each of which addresses a segment of the sound spectrum. An electromagnet moves a flexible cone and produces the vibrations. Each is termed a “driver”. So the housing of all three uses the term “speaker”.
- tweeters – produce the high-frequency range (2000-20,000 Hz)
- mid-range – produce the middle frequencies (250-2000 Hz)
- woofers – produce the low-frequency range (40-500 Hz)
- subwoofers – produce the lowest frequencies (20-200 Hz)
The tweeter has a moving cone or dome moving cone that can be made out of paper, fabric, or metal. There is a general prejudice that the softer materials encourage a less harsh sound that is much more pleasing to us.
Tweeters are small, woofers large. You’ll find tweeters also called treble speakers, and speakers called loudspeakers.
On the kind of small powered bookshelf elements we are reviewing here, there are only two drivers, not three: the midrange and woofer run together. Usually, that is good enough for the small interior spaces we are outfitting. That can be an individual concern of you as the buyer.
What you can do is listen to it in your home environment and with the type of music you like. Then, if the bass seems insufficient to you, you invest in a subwoofer, which is an additional ingredient. Note that most people find they don’t need it.
More on frequencies
Crossover frequency – The frequency region between these driver ranges is the “crossover frequency”. In high-level systems, how to manage this becomes something audiophiles dwell upon. At our level, we don’t worry about it: it’s why we find reputable manufacturers!
How the manufacturer organizes and separates the drivers so they work well together and don’t interfere is relevant. While the technical details are beyond us, we note the outcome in the quality of the sound. That’s what reviews are for!
Frequency response – The total range of frequencies that the speaker produces and is between 20 Hz – 20 kHz. This does not vary a lot from make to make and is related to human hearing levels.
Power and loudness
The sets we are considering are fairly low-powered. You will not find the 100-watt bangers that you need for a home theater. In fact, it is pretty eye-opening what loud sound, and at more than acceptable quality, these little drivers can produce.
Power is given in watts. Loudness is given in dB.
Don’t scoff too much even at 10 watts. That may do well enough for you in a small space. The makers of these pieces, you will find, dwell on all the contortions their engineers go through to design the electronics, moving pieces, and containers to perform better than you would think possible.
Some minimum specs need to be present, or you wouldn’t be looking at these components:
- speaker sensitivity (SNR) >/= 85dB (usual is 85 – 91), refers to loudness produced per watt (power). Higher is better but the cost goes up. For example, 32 watts should produce about 85 dB and 64 watts should translate into about 108 dB. Much more than that is too loud and can hurt your ears (110 dB max).
- distortion (Total Harmonic Distortion, THD) < 1.0%, refers to how closely the output resembles the input.
- standard impedance (8 ohms usually), relates to limiting the current in the system.
This level of details can be a bit more than interests you! We are happy that it is the job of the product builder. When and if you turn into an aficionado, you can become engrossed in them, too. In the meantime, rest assured that all these products meet and exceed all the minimum recommendations for these values and the various technical markers we are studying here.
Ports and baffles
What’s that hole you’ve seen in the front or back of most speakers? Much small than the woofer, usually, but rivaling the tweeter or mistaken for another driver, until you look up close and see and slit or tube in it.
It is a bass reflex port. Other terms for it are ported or vented or a baffle. There is a vent in the cabinet that is piped out to the surface. This increases the system’s efficiency in the lower frequency ranges.
An alternative is the passive (bass) radiator. This is a more expensive process. The machines we are looking at default to the reflex port instead.
We haven’t devoted time in this article to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled speaker capabilities. That’s kind of a whole subject (or two) in itself. Because of the unreliability, and potential for reduced audio quality, of non-wired connections, we’re staying away from them for now for connecting from record players.
We note, however, that it may be useful to get BT speakers if you want to interface your cell phone or other digital recorders or computer. And have this available for those separate uses on the one system.
With this in mind, we’ve mentioned Bluetooth briefly in our product reviews when the system happens to include it. While we don’t care for ourselves, it could be a factor for you in your decision-making about what you finally purchase.
Our #1 choice – Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
We have talked about these in the earlier post. To us, these are the best bookshelf speakers of this sort: “entry-level”, but still good enough quality for vinyl playing and listening.
We, again, feel they are a good choice for many people. They are actually low-priced on anybody’s scale, plus low in price for the value they give you. You will put out only one Ben Franklin for the pair. They may be your best speakers under 100 if that is the measure you are employing.
By the way, when you go on the search for turntable speakers, especially online, be sure to note whether the price quoted to you is for the pair or for each one. Obvious big difference to your pocketbook.
Quite a few buyers have already gotten them to go with the good turntables, as described in our “top 5” record player report. So you have that track record of success to go on.
Specifications of the small but fine set for vinyl
At 42 watts put out by the pair, they are definitely sufficient for your small-moderate sized room needs. This is what most of us have, after all. Recall: you do not need to pay for the high wattage of an all-purpose or surround sound receiver. Lower power drives all you need, and at lower dollar spend out of your pocket. The bass is pretty good.
The controls and amp are in the right-sided speaker.
tweeters – 0.51-inch silk dome
woofers – 4-inch formed paper
There is an equalizer control on the active speaker (right side of the case) for making small tone adjustments in treble and bass loudness. This feature is unusual in inexpensive components. Alongside is volume control. I guess it is arbitrary where you put these knobs. But we do like that you don’t have to reach all the way to the rear of the device to find them.
physical dimensions: 5.75 in x 9.5 in x 7 in (W, H, D)
weight: 10.8 pounds
Believe me, I appreciate the light weight of these Edifiers. Makes them so easy to move. Similar they are expertly short, well under 10 inches. Taller than wide, of course. Despite the small size and poundage, they have a good feel to them, although not hefty. You don’t feel like you are going to topple them over.
The case has a classic wood look
The cabinet has a good looking wood appearance. The fabric fronts of each unit are gray. The bass reflex port is visible but not unsightly.
Occasionally people say they are looking for solid wood and don’t want a case that is constructed out of medium density fiberboard (MDF). But we say, yes you do. Why? MDF has some good sound characteristics that are very appropriate for speaker housing. Some folks feel it is even better than real wood. Plus, you can have MDF plus a wood shell or coating, as in this model. For appearance, you will be happy to see the outer wood veneer. It is quite pleasant.
They are not vintage, but they do have a bit of a retro look. The manufacturer likes to point this out, and we agree. We enjoy seeing that.
Several extra touches
Something we don’t need, but you might benefit from having are dual RCA cable inputs. This means you can attach your computer, or another digital device, as well as have another cable from your record player. There is a cable to connect your digital inputs to one of the RCA cables.
A nice extra touch is a remote control. It works for volume and to mute. Good for when you are sitting relaxed in your chair and the phone rings! That has happened to us.
Missing for those who like their systems to be as up-to-date as possible: there are no wireless functions. Bluetooth, however, is found, in the upgraded relative to this product, for about 1/3 more in cost.
Pros and Cons – Edifier R1280T
- excellent value
- unusually low price
- double inputs
- lovely retro wood case
- remote control
- no wireless connections
- may not match your different wood record player
Is the Edifier right for you?
We thought this to be the best all-around choice because of the really good sound quality, easy usability, and good looks for quite a low price.
What in particular might attract you?
Particulars that may attract you include the very convenient remote control. Once we have that in our hands, lazy us cannot cope with having to get up to adjust volume or turn off at the source.
Our #2 Choice – Micca PB42X Powered Bookshelf Speakers
These very nice Micca speakers have a lot in common with our similar priced number one choice, and on some lists probably are featured at the top. It was a close call for us. In fact, there are a couple of reasons to prefer these. But that is what it comes down to: individual preference.
First thing, however, is the fact that most listeners find the Edifiers edge out in sound quality. And that, after all, is what we are primarily here for.
Specifications of interest
Power rating is 15 watts RMS per channel (total 30 watts). This is less than our #1 but adequate for small spaces up to moderately sized areas. If yours is a medium-large place, you may be disappointed with these. The Miccas would be better for a smaller room.
The amp and settings are housed in the right speaker.
tweeters – 0.75-inch silk dome
woofers – 4-inch carbon fiber cone with rubber surround
frequency response – 60 Hz – 20kHz
crossovers – improved design. This “X” model represents an improved design of their crossover technology from an earlier Micca offering. They added built-in electronic “12 dB crossovers”, which help to smooth and balance the frequencies for the different drivers.
There is no equalizer (EQ, relative frequency adjustments). Again, in beginner components, this is not really expected.
ported cabinet – improves the bass output, using a plastic tube port. Its bass does appear to be a bit better than the Edifier set, giving a somewhat deeper sound. but the power is a little less. Port is to the back, so you don’t visualize it from the front.
Size may not matter much
They are not very different in size, one being a little taller (the Edifiers), and the other a little deeper (the Miccas). That probably will not be a buying differentiator for most. But if you have a little table or shelf space that you must fit exactly, do pay attention to this. And get out your tape measure.
physical dimensions: 6.5 in x 5.8 in x 9.5 in (W, H, D)
weight: 4 pounds
Classical appearance and case
Small classically modern looking, all black appearance. Will look good in any setting. It’s hard to see in the picture, but there are front covers, all black, held on by simple metal friction pieces.
It’s a good idea in order to keep the drivers clean due to less exposure to your room dust. You can easily take them off if you are one of those who likes “naked” speaker fronts. They look a little plainer, then, to our eyes, but that is ok, too.
Some variety of points
Inputs are RCA and 3.5 mm input jacks. Nice to have them, but a minor limitation is that you cannot connect them at the same time.
Alas, there is no remote. Having gotten used to it in the Edifier set, we now miss it!
The master volume control, we feel is a little inconveniently placed, on the rear. On the other hand, that is touted as a positive because it allows the front and side surface to look clean, uncluttered, and modern.
Pros and Cons – Micca PB42X
- good value
- low price
- the modern black look goes with anything
- for a smaller space
- no remote
- inconvenient placement of on-off switch
- no wireless
Is the Micca right for you?
The low price equals that of our first choice. And both give good sound. So why are they not our first choice? The slightly lower power in this one means they may not be the best for larger than a small area.
What in particular might attract you?
Some find the nice wood surface of the Edifier more pleasing. On the other hand, what if that does not match your decor? We, personally, dislike mismatching wood grains in the same room! You might like the plain black here that blends in with just about anything in the surrounding environment.
Our #3 Choice – Fluance Ai40 2.0 Bookshelf Speakers
To find more quality speakers suitable for a beginning system, you have to start going up in price. We have to get to about twice as much spent to find our third best set.
This Fluance pair is worth your attention.
Specifications to look at
Each speaker has a power of 35 watts, for 70 total wattages.
The right is the active speaker.
tweeters – 1-inch silk dome
woofers – 5-inch woven glass fiber with butyl rubber surrounds
frequency response – 40 Hz – 20kHz
equalizer – treble and bass are adjustable in the handset (remote control).
physical dimensions: 10.9 in, 6.5 in, 7.6 in (H, W, D}
weight: 15.1 pounds
Three cases to choose from
We’ve chosen to display the black ash version of the case. It has a pleasing neutral to modern air. It also is available in two others: walnut and bamboo. The company has done an unusual thing in providing these two less commonly seen visual picks.
The walnut is a sophisticated dark wood. To us, it is reminiscent of a popular type of years gone by. It would be grand if you have a wooden record player that matches.
The bamboo (called “Lucky Bamboo”) is unique. The front surrounds are white. The top and sides are the pleasant lighter bamboo shade. This marked contrast gives it a very casual and interesting modern appearance. In the right environment, depending on your casual decor, it could look pretty cute.
They are good-looking MDF engineered wood enclosures. As we’ve alluded to before, this material works well for our acoustic needs. We always forget to mention that MDF is really also preferable to solid wood because it is lighter. Just try to lug around a solid wood piece!
This system has an acoustic suspension design. The type also called “closed cabinet”, is intended to decrease distortion of low tones (bass). It is an older alternative to the bass reflex design.
Standard RCA connecting cables are provided to go from your turntable.
Is there wireless? Yes: Bluetooth.
Our purpose, obviously, in these reviews, is to discuss pieces that are appropriate for record players. We know that in our modern era, people have other inputs! And folks, maybe you (?), possibly want to direct their TV, computer or other digital recording phases into these speakers. So if you have Bluetooth, it’s pretty easy to go streaming.
Ourselves, it’s not our interest. The lesser quality of digital, especially wireless, we have mentioned before! But as a secondary interest … of course, it’s convenient to have. Here it is!
Remote? Yes. We are so happy that it has one. This control gives a lot of conveniences. It is a slightly complicated one, however. Luckily there is complete on/off and volume. That is basically what we want from it.
However, unexpectedly, you can slide up and down on treble and base: essentially an equalizer (EQ) in a hand control! You can also switch between the RCA input (the turntable) and the Bluetooth input (whatever digital you have connected there).
Pros and Cons – Fluance Ai40
- unexpectedly good clear sound, including the bass
- remote control
- somewhat higher price
- may have a hiss at high volumes
Is the Fluance right for you?
This couldn’t have been our first choice, because of the nature of our search and find. We wanted the lowest priced vehicle that could be a great first set of powered speakers. This was not the lowest price!
Did it deserve to be higher priced? Well, it’s more that the other manufacturers found a way to make about equally good ones available for less. However, it is also true that the rich sound you will get from these is more than ought to be found even at this price point. Go for it!
What in particular might attract you?
The bamboo and white is a pretty fun selection if you are a bit light-hearted or adventurous. It would work if you have gotten one of the uncommon white turntables!
If you must have Bluetooth in addition to your beloved vinyl playing.
Our #4 Choice – Audioengine A2+ Powered Speakers
If you can go up in your price range, you can reach among the finer, yet still, well-priced speaker sets available. You need about 2 1/2 times as much in
Obviously, they are not quite the budget item that you’ll get with our first choice. But they still allow you to stay definitely under the $300 mark that is a high-end limit to many a budget.
Specifications to check
These are not high-powered speakers. The Audioengine particular design makes them outperform expectations.
Power is 15 watts RMS each, a 30W total for the pair.
All the inputs and controls are on the back of the left (active) speaker. This makes that area look awfully busy. But that is ok because you won’t see it, depending on what direction you turn them. We find this backside placing a little inconvenient to reach for on/off and volume, especially since there is no remote control.
tweeters – .75-inch silk
woofers – 2.75-inch aramid (synthetic) fiber woven glass composite with rubber surrounds
These are little drivers, yet the bass is good. You can add subwoofers, but the lower frequencies as they are may be fine enough for you.
frequency response – 65 Hz – 22 kHz
physical dimensions: each 6 in x 4 in x 5.25 in (H, W, D)
weight: 6.7 pounds
What a good look
These are compact and handsome. They really have a nice shiny painted surface over medium density fiberboard (MDF). The black ones (called satin black) will go with most setups and turntables look good with them.
You can get them in white or red instead. While neat looking, we feel they do not look as classy as the black. However, you may have your particular reason for going with the brighter, more modern colors. If your couch is covered in red … Or you have red decor accents, they would be pretty much all right.
Are they modern-looking, retro, or classical? We have trouble classifying the appearance. They look expensive and sophisticated to our minds.
The manufacturer felt the materials to be robust and did not feel grill front coverings were needed.
They are front-ported to improve the bass. Audioengine has a proprietary design for these front ports that are not just the usual tubed holes but specifically designed horizontal slits. Sounds awful, but all is well because the slits are way at the bottom front and look fine.
(Note: it doesn’t seem to matter much whether ports are in the front or back. Speakers shouldn’t be placed right at the wall, either way.)
There is standard RCA cabling for inputting your turntable. With the 3.5 mm mini jack, you can connect a variety of audiovisual gear.
There is also a USB connector (digital-to-analog converter, DAC) that you can use from your mobile phone or other smart devices. That it can be paired with pieces of your digital music system or home computer too increases its adaptability, which is a nice plus for the long run.
Remote? No. We are disappointed. But this omission may not matter to you.
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is not built in. You can purchase the company’s W3 Wireless Adapter Kit. However, it costs a bit.
Uniquely cool stands
A special item paired with these are the Audioengine DS1 stands. You do not have to get them. They do increase the price, but only a little. They are not very expensive.
What they do is angle up about 15 degrees. Given that most people do not actually place desktop speakers at ear level, where they should be. These additions definitely improve the angle.
Pros and Cons – Audioengine A2+
- quality is king here
- can connect a subwoofer
- paired with individual stands
- better for a small area
- no remote control
- on/off and volume controls are on the rear
- cannot adjust treble or bass
- no wireless
Is the Audioengine right for you?
If you want superior sound production in a small (or small-moderate sized) room, and can afford the somewhat higher price for a beginning system, we would definitely suggest this set. However, if you are for sure on a budget, and need the lowest price, go pick our #1 or #2 suggestions.
What in particular might attract you?
This is a straight forward setup with great looks and potential. If you want to do double duty as your desktop computer system audio, it would be an appropriate selection.
To sum up
What we feel could be a really good powered speaker for your turntable
Well, these are the powered speakers we most like. We feel they are the best speakers for vinyl that a novice would favor. Now, of course, there are even better ones when you pay a very high price. But these are much more than you could expect given the relatively modest specifications and the conservative prices.
We continue to feel our #1, the Edifier R1280T, is at the top because it matches or competes well with the higher priced sets but the price is very low.
So we would only suggest another one on our list if you are ok with greater prices or have a certain want or need that means you would be happier with another possibility.
Look beyond the first option to meet your needs to match up with your vinyl turntable
If you are interested in our first option but the wooden facade is not a good look with your decor and you need to go with the lowest cost, then go for our #2, the Micca PB42X. It has that solid black case that will go with everything you place nearby.
Other circumstances may mean you want to enliven your home setting with cheeky white and bamboo or have to match unusually dark wood. Either need will point you in the direction of the Fluance Ai40.
In the case that you can manage more investment, consider #5, the offering that is from Audioengine A2+. If your setting is on the small side. It is awfully good.
Before you go
We so appreciate that you have stopped here for a while to read our reviews. Certainly, we hope you have not only liked them but have gotten something out of them to help you with your desire to buy some powered speakers for your first vinyl stereo setup.
If you haven’t gotten there yet, we would love for you to also go over our first turntable reviews.
We would be delighted if you have gotten interested in looking at our other writings that reference the spectrum of vinyl record playing. See something on a historical perspective on the gramophone. Or maybe all about the parts that make up a record player and its construction.