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Sound advice: Setting up a turntable sound system

November 17, 2014 


Q: I just started collecting old and new records. Record Store Day sparked me, and I love my new hobby! I teach history, and have a Crossley portable turntable hooked up in my classroom. I play classic rock in the mornings, the kids really enjoy it.

I have about $700 to spend on a system for my home and know very little about stereo equipment. Could you recommend speakers, an amplifier and a turntable? I have a room downstairs where it will go, and my PC and TV are there. I would need CD and radio also.

—Brad Pflugh, Saxonburg, Pa.

A: You can put together a very nice-sounding system for $700.

Speakers are the most important part of your system, so we will start there. For $252 per pair, Pioneer’s SP-FS52-LR tower speakers can’t be beat in terms of sound quality at the price. Designed by audiophile speaker designer Andrew Jones, they are detailed and sweet-sounding by any measure and are very satisfying music reproducers. Their tower design yields additional benefits. You will not need to buy speaker stands, which is a convenience and a cost savings. Because they are towers they produce decent bass without a subwoofer, and towers tend to be very efficient so you don’t need a big amplifier to make them sound their best. www.pioneerelectronics.com

Get Onkyo’s TX-8020 receiver to drive the speakers. For only $159 it offers 50 clean watts per channel and a phono input. In terms of capability and price, it is a perfect match to the Pioneer speakers. It has a radio tuner built-in and connections for several other components. I recommend you connect your TV cable/satellite box, DVD player and any video game system you have to the receiver so you can enjoy much better television sound. www.onkyousa.com

Use Audio-Technica’s AT-LP120-USB turntable to play your records. It sells for $249. Turn the output switch to "Phono" and use the phono input on the Onkyo receiver when you connect it. This will provide better sound than the phono preamp in the turntable.

Get 16 gauge speaker wire to connect it all. You can get 100 feet for under $10 on Amazon. You probably have a DVD or Blu-ray player connected to your TV. You can use this to play CDs. If you do not have a DVD player, a simple $30 unit will do the job and get you started. Just make sure it has analog audio outputs. Many disc players do not have them now.

The Pioneer speakers, Onkyo receiver, and Audio-Technica turntable all rank as some of the best values in audio world. Most inexpensive equipment, and even a lot of mid-priced equipment rates pretty poorly these days and you have to be quite selective when choosing components for a system. These three products offer great performance and value, and go well together, too.

Those who are willing to spend a bit more can upgrade the speakers to Wharfedale’s Diamond 10.2 bookshelf speakers for another $200, or Pro-ject’s Debut Carbon turntable for another $149. Alone, either component upgrade will make a noticeable improvement. Together, they will take you into the realm where audiophile sound reproduction begins. The Diamond 10.2 speakers are a bookshelf design, but have excellent bass. Be sure to put them on stands. Sanus makes nice stands for under $50 per pair. See them at www.wharfedaleusa.com, www.sumikoaudio.net and www.sanus.com.

 

 


McClatchy-Tribune Information Services