Your new turntable was conceived in an era when vinyl records were audio royalty, but born in an era dominated by digital systems that can pull together millions of tunes at the touch of a button. getting these digital systems to work with the technology of the 1950s can be tricky. With vinyl record sales outpacing cd sales in 2019, it’s no wonder the number one audio question I’m hearing right now from family and friends is, “how do I hook up a turntable to my (receiver, headphones)? bluetooth, wireless speaker, whatever? )?”
No matter what turntable and audio system you have, you should be able to connect them. but the process is not always as simple as it could be. While some turntables include technologies like Bluetooth that make it easy to connect to today’s wireless speakers and headphones, most don’t, making the connection path a bit more complex.
Reading: How to connect speakers to turntable
Before you begin, it’s important to understand what components and technologies you need to get the music from a vinyl record to your speakers (more detailed definitions of the terms can be found in our guide to the best turntables). unlike the audio signal that comes out of your phone, computer, or cd player, the audio signal that comes out of your turntable’s cartridge (the part that holds the stylus or stylus) must first pass through a device specialized processing unit called a phono preamplifier. A phono preamp can be a stand-alone component, or it can be built into a turntable, receiver, or powered speaker set (check the specs or look for a port labeled “phono”). If neither your turntable nor the audio system you want to connect it to has a built-in phono preamp, you need to add one. (The top two options in our guide to the best turntables have built-in phono preamps.) any phono preamp will work with the moving magnet (mm) cartridge that comes installed in most turntables. Many audiophiles like to retrofit their turntables with moving coil (MC) cartridges; these require a phono preamplifier designed to work with mm and mc cartridges.
Turntables without a built-in phono preamp also require a ground wire between the turntable and the phono preamp (or the receiver or speakers with a built-in phono preamp) to eliminate any possible hum or noise between the components. it can be a separate ground wire or one combined with the audio cables. the turntable and phono preamp have screws to connect the ground wire (see photo below).
connecting to receivers and other old school audio equipment
Most receivers, including every model in our best stereo receiver guide and most of the top picks in our best av receiver guide, have built-in phono preamps, so you can connect your turntable directly to the receiver’s phono input (pictured below). If your turntable also has a built-in phono preamp, you must connect it to one of the receiver’s other analog inputs; otherwise you will be “cascading” the phono preamps, and the sound will be extremely boomy and distorted.
Some pairs of self-powered bookshelf speakers, like the Klipsch R-51PM, have phono inputs, so they can be connected directly to turntables that lack phono preamps. but with most powered speakers, you must either use a turntable with a built-in phono preamp or connect an external phono preamp between the turntable and the speakers.
connection to bluetooth speakers and headphones
As we mentioned earlier, some turntables now come with built-in wireless Bluetooth transmitters, which can stream audio directly to your wireless speakers or headphones. examples include audio-technica’s at-lp60xbt and sony’s ps-lx310bt. With any of these models, simply pair the turntable with your audio device and you’re ready to play. Every turntable with built-in bluetooth also has a built-in phono preamp.
For turntables that lack built-in bluetooth, one option is to bypass the bluetooth feature on your wireless speakers or headphones and use the analog input instead, assuming they have one (many do). If your turntable has a built-in phono preamp, you can connect a basic RCA stereo patch cable from its analog output to the analog input of your audio device. Most wireless desktop speakers and all wireless headphones don’t have a phono preamp, so if your turntable doesn’t have one built in, you’ll need to connect a separate phono preamp between the turntable and your speaker system or headphones. which adds a second set of wires to the chain
Of course, the drawback to that approach is that your system is no longer wireless when listening to records. If you want to have your turntable on a table or shelf that is not near your speakers, you need to connect the phono preamp (or turntable with a built-in phono preamp) to a bluetooth transmitter. many of these are available, at prices starting at less than $20. once you’ve done that, simply pair the transmitter with your speaker or headphones.
connect to wi-fi based speakers (sonos, amazon echo, airplay)
Connecting a turntable over Wi-Fi can be difficult and expensive, depending on how you decide to set it up. The easiest and cheapest way to use a turntable with Wi-Fi based wireless audio systems is to bypass the Wi-Fi and make an analog connection. Many Wi-Fi speakers have an analog input that you can connect directly to a phono preamp or turntable with a built-in phono preamp.
If you want to keep Wi-Fi speakers wireless, you have two possible approaches. If your Wi-Fi speaker also offers Bluetooth and your turntable has Bluetooth, you can use that wireless connection method instead of Wi-Fi. if not, you need to buy a device that connects your turntable and your wireless audio system. for sonos, that device is the port (you can also use the analog input on a sonos play:5 speaker to send signals from your turntable to your entire sonos system). for an amazon echo, it is the echo link. For DTS Play-Fi or Apple AirPlay systems, it’s the MartinLogan Unison. The big advantage of this approach is that the system can stream sound from your turntable to multiple speakers throughout your house, and the result can sound a bit better than with a bluetooth connection. the drawback is that this bridge device may cost more than your turntable, and neither of them have a built-in phono preamp, so unless your turntable has one, you need to connect a phono preamp between the turntable and the wireless interface .
if you’re building a system from scratch, there’s currently one turntable that offers built-in wi-fi: the yamaha musiccast vinyl 500. however, wi-fi connectivity only works with yamaha musiccast speakers and audio components. so you have to build your system around that brand.
connection to wired headphones
If you have headphones that require a wired connection, you have a couple of options. If you have a receiver with a headphone jack, simply connect the receiver as described above and plug in your headphones. you can also use an external headphone amp, as long as it has an analog input; simply connect the output of the phono preamp (or turntable with a built-in preamp) to the headphone amp, and then plug your headphones into the amp. Some phono preamps, like the gogroove phono preamp pro, have built-in headphone amps, so you only need one box between the turntable and the headphones.
Now you can see that while the connections can be a bit complex (and, in the case of wi-fi based systems, expensive), there really is a way to connect your new turntable to the audio equipment you need. needs to. you already have, and bring the tactile experience and classic sound of vinyl records into your life.