Some thoughts about turntables
I wrote this for a few friends awhile ago and thought maybe it would be helpful for some more folks.
Some thoughts about turntables
I did a LOT of research around this about a year ago. I thought it would be helpful to write up my notes.
^^ my two record stands from etsy, and my pro-ject debut carbon. Underneath the stands are a sonos port, and a Schitt Mani preamp. Works super.
My favorite turnable is the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO - wirecutter pick. Very good. I have two (one at office, one at home). Has a dust cover (required) and is super simple - ~$550 (at amazon)
This is a very capable player and should last forever. It comes with a very good cartridge and plays everything well. It works well in a complicated environment like my office, and works well at my house. You can also get it in a LOT of different colors.
There are other turntables. The cheaper ones can be pretty gnarly. The more expensive ones are way more expensive. I would get a pro-ject Debut Carbon- then you can upgrade it with a better platter, etc.
Options for making the noises come out of the turntable
You will need a preamp or some way to play it. There are a few options:
1) Preamp hooked to your receiver.
- Preamp: Schitt mani - simple preamp. VERY high quality. Made in the US. Great company. Great support. The value is insane. - ~$150 (at Schitt)
There are a lot of preamp options. I have found that this one is the most reliable, cheapest and best for the money. The company is also hilarious. They even wrote an amazing book about their history and running a company. A very very fun read.
You would plug the preamp into your receiver (unless it has a preamp built into it (some do, many do not)). Downside is that the turntable would need to be near the receiver.
2) Use a separate amp and speakers
There are a handful of options for “good stuff”:
a) an integrated amp with phono stage. Roughly #200 - 1.5k b) a phono preamp, and an amp. Roughly $1k c) vintage or thrift store receiver. Roughly $300 but lots of caveats
There are so many options. I really like NAD. You can get a good “receiver” that has a phono stage for about $500. For example the NAD C 316BEE is very nice.
This is how i typically do it:
- The Mani preamp from above
- Project Stereo Box S2 - $300
Both are super tiny and inexpensive. Dedicated hardware will be super nice. Easy to use. Super light and chill. Will sound amazing
Speakers are complicated.
a) best stand alone speakers for this type of application are the KEF bookshelf speakers + stands. Roughly $1.5k b) PSB bookshelves are very nice. Roughly $800 c) Cheap amazon speakers: Roughly $250
You can kind of pick anything here. It only matters if it sounds good to y’all. Volume isn’t really important. A clean sound that makes you happy is. I would go with B or A. C is fine, but often is underwhelming.
The KEF is the best reviewed speaker. They are tiny and mighty. I am jelly of them.
3) Use a streaming setup - I.E. Wireless connecting to receiver, etc
This is how i do it. Rather than trying to have a separate stereo or a connection that requires us to have the turn table near the receiver, amps - i prefer to have flexibility around where i place the turntable. it fits in our lifestyle more and allows us to have more flexiblity around HOW we listen to the turntable (I.e. in different places)
A couple of options:
a) sonos - port ($450) + preamp ($150) b) bluenote - Hub (320) + Node ($500)
option A: the newer sonos stuff is very good for this use case. It would. Sonos has it’s own issues, but it does this pretty well. I use it at my office and our house. It allows for me to play my turntable through the speakers next to me (two play5s) or via the in ceiling speakers around the house. Works well.
option b: I think the bluesound stuff is VERY compelling. They are going after sonos hard and have really great products. Their HUB would plug directly into the turn table (has a built in phono preamp) and then the node would plug into your receiver. It would work basically like the sonos but using a diff system. A lot of people LOVE this. They are known for very high end sound. It is a bit more money, but is probably worth it. Both support spotify, etc. They also have a few really nice and not too expensive speakers that you could put in the garage, or whatever.
Another option around bluesound is that you could buy a new receiver that supports bluOS and use the hub without a Node. The NAD T 758 V3i ($1600) would replace your receiver and have bluOS built right in. Then you could just have the hub to stream the turntable to your receiver. The receiver would support bluos and thus be controled by wifi, etc. Also supports a lot of other standards directly.
I would buy a bluesound HUB and a node plus a Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable. Total roughly $1500 - but would allow you to put the turntable anywhere.
It would continue your divorce from sonos, but also keep you in the wireless audio game. It also would upgrade your streaming game as you would get basic sonos functionality without using sonos (app control, etc).
If you wanted an upgrade or simpler pick (less components over all), i would do the NAD home theater receiver. Then you get the best of all the worlds. That would also allow you to stream your TV to your other speakers (if you got the bluesound speakers).
I think the bluesound might be a better choice because it requires one less piece. It also is very very high quality and will last. This is a pretty good review of the node that includes a lot of extra details.
the bluesound ecosystem is cool too. Lots of neat stuff.
If you want to go with sonos - then the Mani ($150) + the Sonos Port ($499) + a new Port ($499) for your receiver would do the trick as well. A bit cheaper than bluesound - but you would be in the sonos ecosystem still.
How to get records easily and regularly
Obviously Amazon works. I try not to buy from amazon cuz the quality of record is questionable.
Right now I buy from two places:
- Vinyl of the month clubs
It is like ebay but for music. It is insane. You can find almost any record for ~15 bucks. Many used are 2 bucks and new are around 30 bucks. They have everything from new releases to esoteric old stuff. it is awesome
Vinyl of the month clubs
I use two:
1) Vinyl me please
A really solid record of the month club that sends great high quality records. It is kind of fun because you can pick what genre you want and they will transport it to you every month. You can skip or swap every month. I like the surprise. It is very nice. I do Hip Hop, Classics and Jazz.
2) Amazon Classic Vinyl
I was surprised by this - but they send relatively high quality vinyl that is classic rock and roll. A bit more hit or miss than VMP but still pretty solid. Rolling Stones, Nancy Sinatra, and Joni Mitchell were some of the previous months picks. You have absolutely no control over the picks or anything. it is a black box. I don’t even know how to cancel it lol.
Turntable furniture is an insane world. SO expensive and gnarly.
A couple options that I have used:
a) Milk crates b) Etsy b) Dedicated audiophile brands
There is an industry of people selling record storage solutions that look like what our parents used. They are fine. Work well. Not so fancy. Basically a wooden milk crate but made in the dimensions that work best for records. I use these at home and at my office. The downside is that they are not very functional outside of holding records. They take up a lot of space and are not great for fitting into a living space. good for mass storage tho.
So many makers are doing really great work around building solid record holders, etc.
I bought two of DKVinylDisplay’s record holders for my desk setup. They are super nice and not so expensive. They fit into our living space more than the crates and are colorful and have style. He has a lot of different models and shapes. I really like his stuff and would order from him again.
There are hundreds of vendors there. Make sure you look at the reviews. A lot of folks are just reselling chinese made furniture. It isn’t going to hold up and will be almost the same amount as the bespoke stuff.
This is where i am headed. The best brand is called Symbol. They make VERY high end record and turn table storage.
You can get very simple consoles that will hold everything you need (especially if you are streaming) and include a good and hidden record storage.
I am really impressed with their products. I will most likely get one for my office to protect my records a bit, and hide my amps and what not. I can also get them to match my ridiculous speakers.
The downside is that they are quite expensive. The above version is $2500!
Hope this is helpful.