If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
The search for turntable speakers, especially for a beginner, can be a daunting task. With hundreds of brands and even more types of models available online, even knowing where to begin is enough to overwhelm anyone.
There are a few different ways that these can connect up to your turntable unit, so be sure to check the back of your player to see what your options are before buying. The most classic method on older players as well as modern ones is copper speaker wire. Other options include RCA wires, which are color-coated for a smooth setup, and Bluetooth connectivity on the newer models. The benefit of Bluetooth is its wireless convenience, but because it’s a compressed format, you’ll inevitably be losing some audio quality. For the casual listener, it might not be a big deal. But if you’re an aspiring audiophile, best to stick with wired options.
In some cases you’ll also need a preamp to play records through your new speakers. We’ve picked our favorite ones here, which help take the sound from the player’s stylus and turn it into a signal that can safely and clearly play out of your speakers. It’s not always a total dealbreaker, but if you want to get the most out of your records, these are a huge help. Some players already include preamps in the unit, but replacing them with a high-quality preamp can sometimes give you greater control on getting your music just right.
Keep in mind that when it comes to their size, larger turntable speakers aren’t always automatically better. Thanks to improved audio engineering over the years, a mid-sized or even small speaker can have some seriously strong drivers inside. And while sound is most important when pairing with your turntable for gorgeous sound, looks play into it as well – something that’s going to have a timeless design and pair well visually with your setup too.
Also before buying, take note of where the pair will be placed in your room. Not just for optimal sound, but to cut down on vibrations. Though many have “bookshelf” in the title, placing them on an actual bookshelf along with your turntable can be counterintuitive, as it moves and shakes the surface it’s on, making bass and mids muffled, and even causing the record to skip. The best bet is to raise the speaker up, either on a stand or feet, to decouple it from the surface it’s sitting.
The best turntable speakers don’t always come necessarily cheap, and some specialized models can reach way up into the multi-thousand dollar range. But these four choices provide a powerful and pristine listening experience while getting the most out of your money (and your music collection).
1. Cambridge Audio SX-60 Bookshelf Speaker
Whether you’re using these with your turntable or TV, each of Cambridge Audio’s 100-watt speaker’s 6.5-inch woofer fills the entire room with rich sound, working best in a medium to large area. When you play a record, you’ll notice new depth and detail in songs you’ve heard hundreds of times, and will want to replay everything in your vinyl collection just to experience it on these. No sub in your setup? No problem – for its size, the bass response on the SX-60s is unreal. The low end hits hard, with a punchy clarity, along with mids and highs that aren’t muffled or lost in the mix.
These connect via speaker cables, and are easy to thread the wires through on the back, locking them in place. Design-wise, their steadfast, boxy shaped MDF cabinets look great in any space, and fit easily against walls or in corners. (They can also be mounted.) But they’re not only aesthetically pleasing, they serve a purpose, and help cut down on resonance at any volume, as you pick up new nuances in your old favorites and feel like you’re hearing them for the first time all over again.
2. Sony SSCS5 3-Way 3-Driver Bookshelf Speaker System
It’s hard to go wrong with a pair of these Sony speakers. The SSCS5’s wide frequency range accurately spans the spectrum of sound, giving off thick bass and pristine mids and highs (such as vocals and spoken dialogue, thanks to the sound-absorbing felt inside), where even small details shine.
It’s not just the frequency range that’s wide either, Sony’s super tweeters create a noticeably large soundstage in any room to help recreate the feeling of being in the front row at a show.
Each speaker has three drivers and two crossover points, allowing for clarity in instrument separation, particularly when playing records. These also set up fast, with a standard connection through copper speaker cable.
3. Cambridge Audio Minx Min 22 Bookshelf Satellite Speaker
For smaller rooms, consider the Minx speaker. It won’t take up much physical space, but its audio sounds undeniably immersive and immense. At just 6×3 inches wide, it’s hard to fathom how such big sound is generated by such a small speaker, but hearing is believing. This hi-fi set hides well around the room, to the point where guests might be wondering where the audio is even coming from. It connects through copper speaker wires, and can hold the cable in place once on there too.
Mids and highs are what the speaker does best, but pairing with a subwoofer (or even the SX-60s) takes it to the next level. It can cast a wide dynamic range of sound, thanks to the Balanced Mode Radiator drivers, allowing you to place the Minx virtually anywhere around you and still get the full effect of your favorite record. It also looks sleek, with a heavy, solid build-quality and high-gloss finish that fits in with your entire setup.
4. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
The four-inch bass driver on these Edifiers won’t rattle your eardrums, but it’s powerful enough to round out the clear and balanced mids that come through beautifully via the 13mm silk dome tweeter.
A bonus additional feature of these is a remote to control the volume, as well as an on/off switch, RCA and speaker wire connectivity simultaneously, and knobs on the speaker sides to adjust bass, treble and volume manually. As far as its design goes, its wood finish looks both retro and modern, with a sound that spans eras, whether your records are new or classics.