How to Set Up Passive Speakers with a Turntable

Some few decades ago, vinyl music was the most popular form of recording and playing music. Vinyl music was later replaced by tapes, compact discs, and now digital music. Today, there’s an increasing interest among many people on investing in vinyl music. Vinyl is played on turntables. Turntables are making a major comeback and it’s no surprise why. They offer a unique and great sound experience. To maximize the benefits of your turntable, you need to choose the best sound setup, especially if you’re an audiophile. One of the best setup options is using passive speakers.

turntable

Passive speakers are great for connecting turntables because they allow you to easily add multiple speakers to an amplifier and even add sound reproduction equipment for the best effects. You can also use different amps with different passive speakers. It’s also easier to upgrade a passive speaker set up since you can easily add any sound equipment you want. However, with an active speaker, you have to accept it the way it is since upgrading it means replacing the entire active speaker unit. While an active speaker set up will be technically easier to set up than a passive option, you’ll be limited whenever you want to add more sound equipment. Thus, passive set ups are greater for turntables.

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How To Set Up Passive Speakers With A Turntable

Setting up a turntable can be a very simple process when you know what you’re doing and what you need. 

Here is our suggested shopping list for an awesome turntable setup.

  1. Turntable– Basically, a turntable plays vinyl music recordings. It creates an audio signal that is transmitted to a stereo system. These music units operate either with a belt-drive or a direct-drive operation mechanism. You’ll have the freedom to choose between a vintage (used) and a new turntable. A vintage unit might be ideal in bringing out old memories and affordable if you’re going to get it from a relative or friend who no longer uses it. However, a vintage unit might be a bit unpredictable in terms of specifications and maintenance. Modern and new units are more reliable, especially if you can get a high-quality model.
  2. Passive speakers- Passive speakers are speakers that don’t have their own source of power. They are usually powered by an external amplifier. The number of passive speakers you’ll use will depend on the kind of sound you want, your budget, and size of the room. If you decided to to use more speakers, make sure to add a more powerful amp to power the extra load.
  3. Preamp- When setting up a turntable, you’ll need to invest in a preamp. A preamp is usually installed between a device producing sound signals and an amplifier. The preamp, in this context, is strengthening the weak electric signal that a turntable produces. The preamp outputs a stronger signal that is strong enough for more processing by an amplifier. It also makes the signal strong enough to tolerate noise. When using a turntable, you’ll specifically use a phono preamp, which are specially designed to work with turntables. Besides strengthening the signal, this type of a preamp also equalizes the signal to revert it back to the original recording.
  4. Amplifier-Besides a preamp, you’ll also need to use an amp. An amp will amplify audio signals from the phono preamplifier and power the passive speakers. For the best sound, you’ll need a standalone amp. Preferably, choose a power amp with input level controls.
  5. Receiver- You can use a receiver to process the sound coming from the turntable and connect the receiver directly to the speakers. This will eliminate the need to use a separate preamp and amp. Consider a receiver that has phono inputs to eliminate the need to use a preamp. Your receiver is a workhorse! It is processing and strengthening the weak turntable signal to make it strong enough to power the amp line.

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Setup Option #1: Using a Turntable, Phono Amp, Power Amp, and Passive Speakers

Step 1- Ground your turntable

Some turntables may require grounding. You can check for the user manual if your unit requires grounding. Alternatively, check for a knob written “GRND”, which means “Ground”. If you find such a knob on your unit, then it requires grounding. Just unscrew the “GRND” knob and wrap a wire on the metallic part of the knob. Tighten the knob to ensure the wire is held in place. Then wrap the other end onto a metallic post connected to the ground earth. The purpose of grounding is to eliminate hum through the speakers. Basically, this works by preventing low-frequency hum from your turntable from having any interference with the audio..

Step 2- Connect your turntable to the phono preamp

Phono preamps are connected to turntables to strengthen the sound signal for further processing and amplification through an amp. Here, you’ll need standard RCA cables to connect your vintage music player to the preamp. Connect the cable on the right and left output channels on the turntable and connect the other end to the input ports on the preamp.

Step 3- Connect the preamplifier to the amplifier

Next, connect the preamplifier output to the line level inputs on your amp. Again, you’ll need an RCA cable with a right and left channel to do this. 

Step 4- Connect your amplifier to the passive speakers

Next, connect the power amp to your passive speakers. First, decide where you’ll position the speakers. This will assist in determining the length of speaker cabling you’ll need. Once you have determined the best location, run enough length of speaker wire from the amp to the speakers. You can allow for some extra wire for accommodating minor speaker changes down the road. Then connect the cable on the output audio ports on the amp and connect the other end to the input ports on the speakers.

Step 5- Test your set up

Now that you’ve made the necessary connections, it’s time to test the set up. Simply turn everything on. Then load your favorite vinyl recording on your turntable and tune in to the sound. Adjust the volume on the power amp if needed. If your amp has more equalization settings, make use of them until you get the best sound level. In case you fail to get sound, probably you’ve not connected a certain unit properly. If this is the case, try connecting the RCA cables to different ports until you get sound.

vinyl records

Setup Option #2: Using a Turntable, Receiver, and Passive Speakers

Step 1- Connect your turntable to the receiver

First, connect the turntable audio output to the receiver phono input. The receiver will boost the signal of the turntable to be strong enough to drive the amp level input. A receiver comes with an inbuilt preamp that strengthens the signal of the turntable to a useful level. If your receiver does not have a phono input, you can use a phono preamp between your turntable and the receiver. Also, remember to ground the turntable to eliminate hum.

Step 2- Connect the receiver to the passive speakers

Next, connect your receiver to the passive speakers. Simply connect an RCA cable to the audio output port on receiver. Then connect the other end to the passive speaker input.

Step 3- Test your set up

Once you’re done connecting the turntable to the receiver, and the receiver to the passive speakers, power it all up and turn it on. Play your favorite vinyl recording. Adjust sound settings on your receiver to your liking. In case you fail to hear any sound, check the connections or try other ports until you get the set up working.

Conclusion

Although turntables are considered to be vintage, there is nothing old-fashioned about the way vinyl sounds on the right turntable setup. By investing in the right passive speakers, a preamp and an amp, you’ll catapult your listening enjoyment to the next level.