What equipment do I need to complete my record-player setup?
October 13, 2021 9:51 AM   Subscribe

I have a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo but I have virtually no other equipment, all I know is that I don't have enough. What are the other pieces of tech that I need to get sound from my vinyl to my ears? Thank you in advance! Sincerely, Too embarrassed to ask my dad

I have a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Evo: https://www.project-audio.com/en/product/debut-carbon-evo/#specs

But I have virtually no other equipment, all I know is that I don't have enough. I grew up listening to records in my family home, I know there was something I had to turn on to get the record player to send sound through the speakers, but I don't know what it was or if it is the only thing I need to get.

I definitely need speakers, what are the other pieces of tech that I need to get sound from my records to my ears? Any recommendations of specific products would be welcome!

Thank you in advance!

Too embarrassed to ask my dad
posted by mrk021 to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You will need at minimum:
A receiver or power amp to power the speakers
Speaker cables to connect the speakers to the amp
A phono preamp to boost the level of the turntable to something the receiver can use
Cables (likely RCA) to connect preamp to Receiver and turntable to preamp

Some receivers have a phono preamp built in, which would allow you to eliminate that from the signal chain, but those are becoming harder to find.
posted by TheCoug at 10:06 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]

You need speakers, you need an amp, you need a phono preamp. It's possible to get some of these built into the same piece of equipment.

What your dad probably had growing up is what's commonly called a receiver. This combines an amp with (in some cases) a phono preamp (or phono input). The phono preamp (primarily) applies the RIAA equalization curve to the signal. Basically, when sound is pressed into vinyl, it's processed with an equalization curve that makes physically storing it better (but not sound like the original recording). The preamp reverses that so it sounds correct. You then hook up the receiver to the non-powered speakers. The benefit of this approach is that you can have more than one thing hooked up to the receiver - CD player, streaming media device, it'll have a built in radio, etc., so multiple things can be listened to through the same speakers. You can also find pretty decent receivers cheap at thrift stores, though you'd have to hunt for one with a phono input. You can sometimes find decent old speakers at thrift stores.

Alternatively, you can get a dedicated phono preamp and either hook it up to an amp or receiver that doesn't have a phono input or to powered speakers that have built in amps. This is going to tend to be more expensive, as phono preamps are generally targeted at people spending a lot on their audio rigs.

How much are you looking to spend?
posted by Candleman at 10:06 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]

Some receivers have a phono preamp built in, which would allow you to eliminate that from the signal chain, but those are becoming harder to find.

I think this trend is reversing thanks to the resurgent popularity of records - I recently bought a new A/V receiver that had dedicated phono input (replacing a decade-old receiver that didn't).

Do you have other stuff (TV, DVD/Blu-Ray, etc?) If so you may want a receiver that can handle both audio and video. If not, a simple stereo receiver (with a built-in phono preamp) will do.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 11:16 AM on October 13

you're going to get alot of audiophile oriented answers, and it isn't clear from your question if that is going to be the direction you want to go.

I like listening to records, I enjoy their sound, but do not engage with the audiophile world, because it's just not the hobby for me (not to begrudge anyone who does). I am also relatively gear-averse, and enjoy a stripped down minimalist setup. Mine could be more minimalist, but our receiver is also hooked up to a HTPC and a tapedeck.

I run a turntable (which has a preamp, but yours does not appear to) to a Yamaha R-s201BL, which I have had for 5 years and have had exactly zero trouble with. This model may be discontinued, but whatever the replacement is likely has a preamp built into it. If you choose one that does not, you'll probably need a preamp.

Those are connected to a pair of Dayton b652 speakers, which I have had for longer and have had exactly zero trouble with (they also happen to be pretty damn cheap, and sound pretty damn good, even compared to some nicer entry level audiophile headphones).

A more stripped down, bare bones solution can be had in something like this. That will get you from record to music once everything is connected. You can elaborate on this setup as long as you would like to, if you decide to Do Audiophile.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:55 PM on October 13

It looks like your record player has a built in pre-amp. You can plug them directly into a pair of powered speakers which have a built-in amplifier. If you end up wanting to expand your setup in the future, you can always use them for PC speakers.
posted by erpava at 2:02 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

My audio technica 120 has a preamp and I just plugged it into one of the two existing Sonos:Play5 speakers . Since I already had those as a sunk cost, it was trivial to set up. That’s not the fanciest solution but it means there are no bulky components or wires anywhere.
posted by freecellwizard at 3:29 PM on October 13

If you're looking to get it all done in one product, there are a couple different powered speakers that have phono preamps built in.

In general I recommend powered speakers as a pretty easy and lightweight way to get sound going — in your case if you didn't buy one of the above products you'd need a separate phono preamp as well (something like this). What's nice about some of the modern powered speakers is that they can take a variety of inputs and switch between them seamlessly — in my old apartment I had the Audio Engine A5s with a turntable going into the RCA inputs and a cable hanging out of the 3.5mm input so I could plug in whenever I wanted to play off my phone. The new ones do bluetooth, too, so you'd be all set for all kinds of input.

If you're looking for a minimal and low-cost system that will still deliver quality sound from your turntable, I'd suggest the phono preamp above, a small class-D amplifier (like this, which I use and like) and bookshelf speakers (like these, which have been getting rave reviews at that price). If you go for this approach you can use most any speakers you find, including cheap older things you can pick up at a lot of thrift stores.

I will say that spending a bit more on the phono preamp is probably going to be worth it, if you're concerned about sound quality. There's one from Fluance (here) that is $99 and is going to be a step up from the cheap one I linked above.

Also, to be clear, that turntable you linked definitely does not have a built in pre-amp. As specifically mentioned in Wirecutter review.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:02 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]

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