Top 3 Best Speakers For Vinyl 2020:
- Best Overall Value: Edifier R2000DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- Best Budget Option: Edifier R980T 4″ Active Bookshelf Speakers
- Premium Pick: KEF LS50 Mini Monitor – High Gloss Piano Black
The collectors of vinyls often like to brag how their record format of choice offers the best sound quality you can pack your music into. You know what, they are right and the science can back them up.
Aside from looking classy as hell and being the ultimate collectors’ items, vinyl records have one distinct average that puts them above all modern record standards. They are the only format that’s fully analog and fully lossless.
The warm sound that comes out from the speakers is the sound the artists have recorded and intended for you to hear – devoid of any kind of digital processing or compression (the bane of modern streaming services).
But, that whole situation brings another issue to the table – how to enjoy that rich, mahogany sound if you have crappy speakers designed around compressed digital formats?
Well, we are here to solve your problems. Let’s take a look at some of the best speakers for vinyl and see which one of them can do the most justice to your awesome LP collection.
The Things To Consider Before Buying A Vinyl Record Speaker
But, as always, before we proceed to discuss this week’s contenders we need to take some time to establish what types of the vinyl speakers you can purchase on the web, take a look at some of the features that make a good speaker and finally the things you should pay attention if you want to avoid being swindled.
Even if you don’t agree with our final rankings, these important considerations will make you a more educated buyer and possibly help with some future purchases.
So, without further ado, let’s drop the needle and play this bad boy.
1. The Type Of Speaker
Although we can find a lot of variety in this particular piece of the tech market, speakers can be generally classified into four distinct groups:
- Floor-standing (Tower) speakers – These are the largest and the most powerful speakers. They are also usually the loudest and produce more bass. Because of all these things, floor-standing speakers are also the most expensive variety and present a serious obstacle (literally) in smaller rooms. However, because of the fact they are so bass-heavy, tower speakers may also allow you to skip buying a subwoofer and play your records on two-speaker setup without losing any of the sound quality.
- Studio monitors – Studio monitors have once upon a time been limited to expensive studios and industry professionals, but they have recently been scaled-down to consumer lever. They are smaller than floor-standing speakers but still pack a great deal of power.
- Bookshelf speakers – The term bookshelf speakers cover a wide variety of products with different sizes and price tiers. The common thing they all share is that they can all be placed on a bookshelf. However, this convenience comes at the expense of power and this type of speakers usually lacks some base.
- Satellites – These are the smallest speakers on the list, which makes them a great choice for rooms where saving space is imperative. However, they don’t work all that well in high-quality setups.
2. Built-in Amp And Pre-amp
- Turntables usually need a middle-man in the form of an amp in order to be successfully hooked up to modern speakers. At least the older ones that don’t have this important piece of equipment built into their housing.
- If you don’t own this type of record player, you can still eliminate this “third-wheel” by buying a speaker setup that features a built-in amp and pre-amp. Although not necessary for achieving good sound, this neat feature definitely puts your setup into the space-saving mode and gives you fewer cables to worry about.
- Essentially, different turntables feature different outputs. Most of the models currently circulating the market still transfer the sound through tried and true RCA output cables. On the other hand, some of the newer models rely on more streamlined USB cables. And some turntables will transfer the sound through a PHONO preamp.
- So, be sure to carefully study the turntables output specifications to find the speaker with the appropriate setup. On the other hand, if you plan on using speakers for more than one purpose you can just buy the unit with as many outputs as possible.
4. Frequency Response
- In music terminology, frequency response stands for the specification that describes just how high can the treble frequencies reach and how low you can hit the bass notes. Since vinyl records transfer the sound as if you are listening to live show, you should aim for the speakers that cover the human cover the range of frequencies that can be heard by human beings.
- That would be between 20 Hz at the lower end through 20 kHz in the higher range.
5. The Type Of Music You Are Going To Play
If you do not intend to pour the money into some super versatile setup that can play all the things human beings can hear and beyond, you can narrow down the list of your requirements based on the music genre you are going to play the most.
- Rap music – Rap music often features fast lyrics and very quick bass-lines. The speakers that can properly transfer these sounds should feature accurate frequency response, deep low-frequency response and accurate speed in transients.
- Rock/Metal/EDM – Although very different when looked as genres, they all have similar speaker requirements. Namely, whether we are talking about heavy guitar riffs or synth solos, you should put your focus on the crispness of the sound rather than the frequency range.
- Classical music – Classical music features a wide range of different instruments playing together and puts the most pressure on your speaker setup. So, if you are a classical fan invest your money in the setup that performs well both on high and low frequencies and features excellent dynamic range as well as natural voicing.
- Last but not least, you need to take into consideration just how much money you are willing to pour into your turntable setup. Don’t get us wrong, the quality of music is priceless. But, if you are living in a smaller apartment there is no much sense in spending loads of money on the speakers you’ll never be able to use to their fullest potential.
- Also, if you are buying a multipurpose setup, you should aim for versatility rather than pursuing some specific feature that will suit your vinyl records.
10 Best Speakers For Vinyl Records In 2020: Detailed Reviews
And now that we’ve covered some of the most important basics, let us look at some of the most popular vinyl-ready speakers you can currently find on the market.
JBL is a company that requires little introduction even out of the circle of avid audiophiles. Producing the audio equipment that ranges from large-scale venue speakers to small Bluetooth blasters, the company has built a name that is synonymous with the music industry.
It shouldn’t come off as a too big of a surprise then that their contender in our small speaker roundup has left such a good impression. So, what makes this 2-way class pair so special?
Well, for a start, these 6.5-inch bookshelf speakers pack a surprising amount of power and bass so deep and heavy you can easily confuse for the sound coming from a much bigger and more expensive setup.
But, that wouldn’t amount to anything if the sound wasn’t crisp. Fortunately, JBL Studio 230 takes care of this issue as well. The 1″ CMMD Lite high-frequency driver produces such a detailed, natural and balanced sound that covers the full frequency spectrum.
The final result is a high-definition, cinematic resonance that easily evokes any music genre you put through your turntable.
We also, have to mention the fact that speakers look pretty good and make a nice addition to any kind of room you can put them into. They don’t pick too much dust and are very easy to maintain.
Of course, being a 2-way class pair, these speakers have some limitations, but you have to take them for what they are – excellent hardware meant for people living in smaller apartments.
The good news is that the speakers are compatible with a wide variety of amps so you should have no problem assembling a perfect turntable setup.
Here comes another strong contender in the world of compact bookshelf speakers. Although not as widely known as JBL, Klipsch is a force to be reckoned with and R-14 throws one incredibly heavy punch at the similarly priced competitors.
As you can see from the name, this pair of speakers is labeled as “reference”. In the music industry, the term “reference speakers” describes the speakers that produce such a natural sound the technology can’t further improve the reproduction and you can use these speakers as a reference point to other products.
Although the term has often been misused and abused, Klipsch has truly produced the hardware that doesn’t make any false claims about the sound quality. The overall sound is very natural, balanced and doesn’t go to extremes whether we are talking about the highs, mids or lows.
Once again, the dimensions are more than manageable (9.75 x 5.88 x 7.5 inches) and brushed polymer veneer cabinet looks elegant and stunning.
As for the overall connectivity, we are once again speaking about a passive pair of speakers which means you will need to get an amp to get the whole setup going. The existing rear-firing ports (digital optical, analog RCA and USB) will allow you to hook up most of the common audio equipment.
Finally, each of the speakers you get in the package features one 1-inch aluminum tweeter as well as a 4-inch copper-spun woofer, so you ought to get a rich and quality sound even without the need for buying additional equipment.
So, there you have it – an excellent pair of bookshelf speakers that will put a smile on the face of all audiophiles living in small and medium apartments.
It doesn’t take more than a passing look at this pair of speakers to notice we are talking about one highly polished, premium product. And, as you have already guessed its price is premium as well. That may discourage a lot of casual buyers. But, if you are an avid music lover, gives a couple of minutes and hear what we have to say.
For a start, with its polished high-gloss cabinet, KEF LS50 looks simply stunning. But all the visual inclusions that make these speakers stand out visually actually have a purpose in improving the audio quality. Everything from baffle shaping to beautiful aluminum/magnesium woofers feels refined and does an excellent job producing rich and deep sound very hard to emulate.
Of course, there are other small tweaks that made this manufacturer so famous in the music circles. For instance, the manufacturer has decided to include their unique Uni-Q driver that places the tweeter directly inside the acoustic center of the woofer. As a result, the soundstage feels very natural and realistic.
The overall feeling is very hard to put into words, but we felt fully immersed. As if the music surrounded us. The sound resolution was extremely high and even when we played some more demanding records that feature a lot of different instruments none of the nuances were lost.
We were especially pleased with the crispness of the higher frequencies. Still, the sound was very balanced and we never felt the speakers were too heavily pushing in either of the directions.
Of course, this pair also requires an amplifier (25W – 100W) to work in a turntable setup, but that’s something you need to get used to.
All in all, these speakers left a very strong impression on us. We would give them a wholehearted recommendation if they just weren’t that much expensive.
Here we have the first pair of self-powered amplified bookshelf speakers on this list which automatically makes them a good choice for all the turntable owners who want their setups efficient and simple. But, does this fact automatically makes them quality speakers?
Well, to get the best idea of what type of product we are talking about you should take a look at its price. Obviously, Edifier has put out an affordable, almost budget package so you should set your expectations to moderate.
Keeping that in mind, the speakers produce a very natural sound and the reproduction is very close to the real-life quality. The 24W power output also makes sure that you can pump up the volume to some pretty satisfying levels.
And that’s not all. We were very pleasantly surprised to find that the speakers have a knob that allows you to adjust the bass separately from the main line which is an awesome feature if you love to listen to bass-heavy music. As a matter of fact, we would like to see this feature even on some more expensive units.
The connectivity is alright, but nothing special to report here. As long as the rest of your setup features the standard 3.5mm ports, you will have no port putting all the things together. The wooden cases are fine, but nothing to write home about.
The main point of contempt here is something else. Namely, the built-in amplification is ok, but nothing special, which wouldn’t be too much of a problem if there was an option to use a standalone amp. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here, so you are stuck with what you get out of the box.
Still, this is one pretty affordable and capable package, so we have very little to complain about.
If you thought that this roundup will turn into the battle of the small bookshelf speakers, the good people from Klipsch have made sure to prove you wrong. This pair of beautiful floor-standing speakers look like a dream come true for all the vinyl lovers who want to squeeze a bit more punch from their turntable setups.
So, the potential is definitely there. How do these speakers perform in reality?
Well, if you are concerned with the sheer power you won’t be disappointed – the substantial 34.75 x 6.5 x 10-inch dimensions give the units such a good acoustic chamber you won’t have any problem rocking the records even in the spacious apartments with high ceiling.
Speaking in more specific numbers, the speakers feature power handling capability that peaks at 300 watts and 75 watts RMS. The nice upgrade from the previous speakers we reviewed comes in the form of dual copper woofers that work exceptionally well with a horn-loaded tweeter.
To make things even better, all these elements look pretty good when built into the massive black polymer veneer cabinets. The overall impression feels very retro without going overboard.
As for the sound, we’ve got a very good impression across the entire sound spectrum.
As a matter of fact, we can even say that the higher sounds were performing on the reference level.
Still, if you ever feel that you need more power or want to include the speakers into a 5.1 system, you will be glad to know that speakers feature dual 5-way binding posts which put all the bi-wiring and bi-amping options on the table.
The thing we are not that thrilled about is the bass. Although you have dual woofers on each of the speakers, upgrading the system with a subwoofer will be more of a requirement than an option.
When we talked about Klipsch R-24F, we described that as a pair of incredibly good-looking floor-standing speakers that are unfortunately severely lacking in the bass department. But, they were very affordable and we haven’t dwelt on the flaws for too long.
ELAC DF51-BK paints a completely opposite picture. The speakers look generic to a fault. They also present a much more expensive purchase option. But boy, do they put the built-in sets of woofers to good use.
The first thing you’ll notice about the speakers that instead of two, each of them packs three woofers. Although their cones are still relatively small, when put together they produce one incredibly meaty and satisfying bass that ought to satisfy even the most demanding music lovers.
However, if you want to infuse more power in the system, you are once again gold-plated 5-way posts that will allow you to play with additional speakers and subwoofers.
When it comes to the sound reproduction, ELAC DF51-BK is incredibly clean, crispy and completely drama-free. Some people may find this a bit off-putting and want to buy an alternative that would paint the sound warmer or brighter, but we enjoyed this supposed flatness and we’ve enjoyed it a lot.
One of the main benefits of vinyl records is that they produce the sound that comes as close to real-life as possible. In our books, introducing any kind of variation to this formula only takes the points off.
Of course, no speakers are without their flaws and these ones are no exception. Namely, we feel the build quality could have been far better. But, these are stationary units and as long as you take good care of them you should avoid any serious problems.
If these speakers haven’t done any other thing right, they would still conjure up a great deal of good will if not for anything else than simply for the fact they present true connectivity heaven. If you by any chance own a Bluetooth-powered turntable you will be able to skip all the cables and play your records wirelessly (such a nice blend of cutting-edge and retro).
If not, you can still assemble a whole setup and use the speakers to rock the music from your phone. And you also get optical input and 2 x aux input.
But, that’s not all. These neat blasters also implement silk dome “Eagle Eye” tweeters that make even the slightest sign crystal clear. The woofers are not nearly as exciting but they do a good job of pumping up the bass lines.
As a result, the sound you get is pretty astonishing taking into consideration we are talking about a pair of relatively small bookshelf speakers. Everything feels clear, and crisp regardless of the frequency.
Also, we haven’t mentioned one important fact. These speakers are powered which means you can forget about buying additional amplifiers. And they look extremely sharp and polished.
So, we’re done with singing praises, what about the flaws?
Well, they are all but nonexistent but we found one thing very irritating. The speakers are operated exclusively by a tiny remote you get in the package. If you lose it, prepare yourself for a long conversation with Edifier’s customer service.
Ok, let’s set things straight from the get-go – these speakers may call themselves “Professional” but don’t expect them to blast some studio-grade performance. As a matter of fact, 305P Mk II is nothing more than a speaker built for casual music lovers who don’t expect miracles from their affordable equipment.
Does that make it bad, though?
No, not even remotely. As a matter of fact, this is probably the best speaker you can find in this price range, which is to be expected from the manufacturer that’s so obsessed with cornering all conceivable market segments.
For a start, 305P Mk II operates on the frequencies between 49Hz and 20kHz which leaves very little to be desired. You may notice some loss only if you go incredibly low. As a consolation prize, you get updated HF and LF transducers that result in optimized dampening, superior transient response, and impressive deep bass.
The overall design may look a bit overdone, but then again, the speaker is powered so you, once again, get a useful feature to counterbalance the potential flaws.
Now, we could conclude this review on a positive note and say that when speaking about the speakers the most important feature we can judge them upon is the sound quality and that, keeping that in mind, 305P Mk II makes on incredibly worthwhile purchase.
But, the package contains only once speaker which puts its affordability in serious question. Too bad, if JBL just gave us two of these at this exact price point we would’ve had an undisputed king of the entry-level segment.
Wow, these speakers are firing on all cylinders. Seriously, try to imagine any popular speaker-related buzzword and you will probably find it written on this package. The speakers are powered, feature all kinds of connectivity options that can cross your mind, have remote controls, and they are pretty damn good speakers overall.
Still, we have to ask ourselves are all these things working to the detriment of this entire package. The reasonable answer would be no – the more you get the better.
But, then you look at a pretty hefty price tag, compare the speakers with some other entries that put on a similar if not the same performance and realize that something had to be lost in translation between good intentions and commercially viable results.
So, performance-wise this pair of speakers does not pose any major problem. The sound is clear, the frequency range is excellent, and the woofers are providing a deep satisfying bass (as far as the bookshelf speakers go, of course).
If you have an older turntable, you also get an option to buy a bamboo case that looks incredibly cool and retro.
The question remains, though, why would you go through all the trouble when you can either buy yourself a much more powerful setup or opt for a similarly powerful alternative and save some money along the way?
This speaker competes entirely in its own league – you’re either love it or hate it. Obviously, the biggest divisive thing here is the super-vintage design that’s so retro it will bring you back to the times when turntables were considered a novelty.
But, the speaker looks vintage only on the outside. In reality, though, you get all the connectivity option you can expect from a modern, cutting edge gadget. And, yes, that means you can connect this bad boy to your Bluetooth capable turntable.
Aside from the design, the speaker has another unique thing going for it (or against it, it is really a matter of personal preference) – for the first time in this roundup we have dual stereo speakers packed into one case.
On the one hand, this means you get a full range of sound reproduction that’s pretty clear and true to life. On the other, the bass… Well, the bass comes as good as it gets in the setups that don’t have a woofer.
So, it’s obvious we are talking about a very novel purchase that’s more occupied with design than raw performance.
Still, the price is more than affordable and even if you don’t need an ancillary unit you can put this unit on the list of considerations if for no other reason than to show off in front of the curious guests.
Final Thoughts – Top 3 Speakers For Vinyl You Can Currently Buy
Finally, the time has come to give you the winners of this short roundup. And you know what? We can’t remember when passing the final judgment was as difficult as now. We had such a good time playing with most of the products we reviewed.
Still, after a heated debate we have come up with three picks we feel that they deserve your attention (and money) the most.
Best overall value: Edifier R2000DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers
- This was probably the hardest consideration. Most of the speakers we reviewed were producing a very balanced and natural performance. Still, being versatile, beautiful and capable from start to finish Edifier R2000DB was destined to end up as our number one pick.
Best budget option: Edifier R980T 4″ Active Bookshelf Speakers
- Yeah, believe it or not, but JBL somehow ended up defeated in the entry-level segment. Be that as it may, Edifier R980T is ridiculously affordable and puts on the performance that’s way above its price range, so if you want to get bang for your buck, these are the speakers for you.
Premium pick: KEF LS50 Mini Monitor – High Gloss Piano Black
- And, on the opposite end of the price spectrum we have KEF LS50 – a product that may be a bit too expensive for an average consumer, but makes such a solid purchase we have no choice but to recommend it in some shape or form. The only way to describe it would be – as classy as it gets.