The best vinyl setups for any budget

Listen up: These are the three best vinyl setups, from budget to boogie

Maybe it was a terrific listening experience at a friend’s house, or perhaps you’ve been collecting records without a decent way to play them for years, but once you have the desire to listen to gorgeous analog audio, nothing else will do. The best vinyl setups enable you to enjoy those lush tones of yesteryear while celebrating the rituals of audio’s early days.

With so many speakers, amplifiers, and turntables available, it can be tough to know how to even start to build a good setup to enjoy your record collection. We’ve got you covered, however. Below, we outline three entirely different vinyl setups to consider, ranging from an affordable and rewarding option to an aspirational audiophile-grade system for those who want to experience analog audio like never before.

Best under $500:

Stanton T62 direct-drive turntable

Stanton T62 turntable

See it

JBL 305P MkII speakers

best vinyl setups jbl 305p mkii

See it

Pro-Ject Phono Box E Phono preamplifier

Pro-Ject Phono Box E Phono preamplifier

See it

Total: $488

If you’re looking to squeeze the best possible sound out of every cent, this simple three-piece setup will spin your new wax with shocking fidelity for its price point. Though not as flashy as pricier decks, Stanton’s T62 turntable will play back your vinyl with impressive quality, while offering a DJ-designed build that should hold up for years to come. A simple and great-sounding outboard phono preamp, the Phono Box E from Pro-Ject will boost the signal from the turntable on its way to the pièce de résistance of this basic vinyl experience — a pair of JBL’s shockingly affordable 305P MkII speakers. Designed for studio use, these powered monitors require no amplifier, offer exceptional audio imaging and balance for the money, and their simple black-on-black aesthetic looks sleek and stylish in virtually any listening space. Add it all up and you’ll have even established audio nerds drooling at the serious fidelity you’ve gotten for your money — and force them to rethink many of their pricier purchases.

Note: You’ll need an RCA-TS adapter cable or RCA-XLR cable to get sound from your phono preamp to these speakers.

Best under $1,500:

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Turntable

See it

PS Audio Sprout Amplifier

PS Audio Sprout Amplifier

See it

ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 Speakers

ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 Speakers

See it

Total: $1,400

For audiophile-grade fidelity at a reasonable price, look no further than this clean and lightweight setup, which features three of the best-sounding options we have ever heard in each of their midtier categories. The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon turntable is a gorgeous and fantastic-sounding deck that comes with high-end features like an Ortofon 2m Red cartridge and a carbon fiber tonearm, which work together to follow the groove in your favorite vinyl with outstanding depth and clarity. The sound will head to the tiny but mighty PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier, which remains a darling of the audio world. With two simple knobs and a built-in phono preamp, it spills out brilliant sound from its beautiful walnut and machined aluminum case. From there, your signal will hit the best-sounding set of $500 speakers we have ever heard, the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5, which will reproduce your favorite tracks with such gorgeous clarity that you’ll swear you’re in a studio control room.

When price is no object:

Clearaudio Concept Turntable

Clearaudio Concept Turntable

See it

Rogue Audio Sphinx Amplifier

Rogue Audio Sphinx Amplifier

See it

KEF LS50 Mini Monitor Speakers

KEF LS50 Speakers

See it

Total: $3,900

Sure, in a price-means-nothing category like this, we could point you toward various made-to-order gear costing as much as your luxury SUV, but let’s be honest: There are seriously diminishing returns at the high end of most audio gear. Given our experience with hi-fi equipment, even if we didn’t have to worry about money, we’d be more modest, purchasing these three fantastic pieces of gear for our listening room. Don’t let the relatively reachable price fool you — this combination is sure to hold its own with even the most shockingly costly setups you’ll come across.

It all starts with the simple and elegant Clearaudio Concept turntable, which will play back your vinyl with astonishing agility and clarity, pulling out even the subtlest sounds from your discs. Pair it with the fantastically sleek Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated amp to expose the deepest tonal textures and sonic details of your favorite artists. When played through a set of outstanding hi-fi speakers like the universally beloved (and astonishingly beautiful) KEF LS50, you won’t have reason to upgrade any portion of your sound system for years to come. The best audio gear is designed to remove the barrier between you and your music, and this system will do that in spades. If we walked into a room to find this setup sparkling in the corner, every one of our review staff would be drooling — and demanding a seat right in the sweet spot for a fresh spin of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors.

Note: Though these are the main components of these setups, you will still need the right cables, speaker stands, and a well-tuned room to get the best sound out of each setup. We recommend getting your RCA cables and speaker cables from Monoprice, and looking into Vivo Premium speaker stands. We also suggest reading this primer on acoustics to get the most out of your listening room. 

Home Theater

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is the epic sound revolution you didn’t know you needed

After Sony’s utterly bizarre press conference, I almost missed what was perhaps the most impactful sonic experience at the show. Luckily, I went back to Sony’s booth on the last day of the show, only to have my mind blown.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Music

Tidal faces legal jeopardy over fake stream numbers accusation

In another challenging chapter for music subscription service Tidal, Norwegian authorities have begun a formal investigation into charges that the company faked millions of streams for artists such as Kanye West and Beyoncé.
Home Theater

Need to get rid of an unused Netflix profile? Just follow these simple steps

Need to delete an unwanted profile from your Netflix account? It's easy to do, no matter what kind of equipment you've got. Check out our handy how-to guide for step-by-step instructions.
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Computing

Beam up the videos: AirPlay support is coming to VLC player

At CES 2019, the developers of VLC player announced they are adding support for Apple's Airplay feature, allowing consumers to beam video and other content from their iPhone and Android devices to an Apple TV. 
Home Theater

Not chill: Netflix is hiking prices across all its tiers

Netflix has to get the billions of dollars it's spending on new content from somewhere. The streaming giant announced price hikes across the board, raising its monthly rates between $1 and $2 per tier in the next few months.
Home Theater

Here’s why you’re not getting Netflix in HD or 4K, and how to fix it

Are you having trouble watching your favorite movies or TV shows on Netflix in HD or 4K? We explain why loading takes so long, why the picture quality fluctuates, and what you can do about it.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Polk Audio’s Command Bar joins Alexa’s multiroom music party

Polk's Command Bar is a home theater soundbar with Alexa built in. But with a new update, it can also be grouped with Amazon's Echo products and other third-party speakers for a multi-room experience.
Home Theater

Sling TV offers free shows, a la carte subscription channels to Roku users

If you are among a select group of Roku users, Sling TV has added free TV shows and the option to subscribe to individual channels without having to subscribe to the company's base level of channels.
Home Theater

QLED and OLED may have similar names, but they're totally different technologies

The names may look almost identical, but OLED and QLED are two entirely different beasts. In our QLED vs. OLED battle, we dissect the differences between these dueling TV technologies, and help determine which might be best for you.
Home Theater

Amazon’s updated base model Fire TV stick now comes with an Alexa remote

If you're looking to take your older TV into the streaming era, Amazon's most basic Fire TV Stick model just got more compelling than ever: Buyers can now get a free Alexa voice remote with their Fire TV Stick purchase.
Home Theater

Banish the bunny ears (and monthly bills) with these excellent HD antennas

When transitioning away from cable and satellite, finding the best HDTV antenna for your area can be touch. To help, we've compiled our picks of the best indoor HDTV antennas you can buy.