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Create a super-simple record playing system

Turntable plus powered speakers

By

Dave Bar

Dave Bar has worked for Crutchfield since 1981. After a brief 23 year stint in the sales department, he now writes about home audio gear and camera equipment for Crutchfield's catalog and website. Dave has been hooked on electronics ever since putting together a 5-tube AM radio in his high school shop class, and still enjoys tinkering with stereos in his spare time. His interests include gardening, cooking, fishing, photography, and music.

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Getting great sound from records used to mean multiple (and oftentimes expensive) components. It also required meticulous setup and plenty of technical know-how. But it doesn't have to be that way. Nowadays, you can savor your record collection while keeping things simple and saving space. All it takes is a pair of high-quality powered speakers and the right turntable.   

Music Hall USB-1 and Audioengine A2+

A surprisingly dynamic duo. Music Hall's USB-1 turntable and Audioengine's A2+ powered speakers (shown with the optional DS1 desktop speaker stands).

For our simple desktop "system", we chose the Music Hall USB-1 turntable and Audioengine's A2+ powered speakers. Virtually ready to go right out of the box, the Music Hall is an easy setup even for a novice. Simply plug the headshell with its pre-mounted cartridge into the tone arm, drop the platter onto the spindle and attach the belt, set the tracking force, plug it in, and you're ready to go.

The USB-1's built-in phono preamp means you can plug it straight into the A2+ speakers using the included patch cords. That's it. Nothing else needed.

The combination of these two components delivers impressively rich and robust sound. And even when placed side by side on a desktop and played at high volumes, the USB-1's vibration-damping feet prevented any acoustic feedback — a problem that creates distorted noise when a turntable placed near speakers picks up their vibrations. For good measure, we placed a pair of the Audioengine DS1 desktop stands under the speakers to angle them upward for greater clarity and vibration damping.

While the mighty little A2+ speakers are formidable in their own right, they don't go exceptionally low in the bottom end. If you're a fan of deep bass, you might consider adding Audioengine's S8 powered subwoofer. The A2+'s line output jacks make it easy. And if your room is large, or your listening position is far away, stepping up to Audioengine's larger A5+ speakers could make sense.

No one trick ponies here

Audioengine A2+

The Audioengine A2+ powered speakers offer flexible connections for hooking up your audio gear.

If all our little system could do was spin vinyl and sound fantastic, it would be well worth the price of admission. But both of these components provide some cool extras that really up the ante.

The Audioengine’s built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and USB port give you a direct digital connection to your computer. That connection bypasses your computer's built-in sound card and headphone jack circuitry for far greater fidelity from  your computer music sources. Plus additional auxiliary inputs allow you to connect other music sources, like a smartphone or tablet.

Along with playing your albums through the Audioengine speakers, the Music Hall’s USB output and included software let you plug straight into your PC. This allows you to digitize your record collection and transfer it to your favorite portable player for listening on the go. Now that's a pretty cool thing that any vinyl lover could get behind.

Add both to your shopping cart

Last updated February 23, 2016
  • Richard niece from Meridian

    Posted on 8/9/2015 8:38:21 AM

    I have a Bose 360 turntable ... But unfortunately , can't find the rest of the system ... Is there anyway to make the turntable work again ?? Or is it a now a bookend ??

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2015 9:58:58 AM

    Richard, It's hard to say whether or not your Bose 360 turntable is salvageable. I did find a Bose support page you might try contacting to see if they can provide any guidance.

  • glen from broken arrow

    Posted on 8/13/2015 7:44:08 AM

    I have 2 magnavox stereo console record players from the 60's or 70's.. Remember these ~ they're about 4 feet long and look like a piece of furniture.. Seems the amps have gone on both models.. DO you have replacement amps for these?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/13/2015 11:15:47 AM

    Glen, I grew up with a 60's Magnavox console in my home listening to everything from the Beatles to Louis Armstrong to Eddy Arnold and Frank Sinatra, so this really takes me back. I'm pretty certain that replacement amplifiers for these consoles have long since disappeared from the marketplace, and the cost to repair what you have might possibly far outweigh their monetary and performance value (but, of course, never their nostalgic value!). It might be possible to substitute modern integrated amplifiers for the built-in ones, but that would require some advanced technical chops, and you would still be facing possible issues with worn out speakers and mechanical problems with old turntables. I almost hate to say it, but you might simply be better off with a new system. Modern amps and speakers sound a lot better, and newer turntables are much gentler on your vinyl.

  • Alan Miller

    Posted on 9/28/2015 4:00:08 PM

    One concern is the ease and cost for changing the needle on a system. What feedback can you offer regarding that issue on this one?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/30/2015 1:42:54 PM

    That's a fair question, Alan. The Music Hall USB-1 comes with a factory-mounted Audio Technica AT3600L cartridge. A quick look around the Internet shows a range of prices for a replacement stylus somewhere between $10-$14. So, not too bad. As for the difficulty level of changing the needle? Piece of cake! You simply pull the old one out of the cartridge body, and slide the new one into place. No adjustments required.

  • Julio Salazar from Union City

    Posted on 12/12/2015 5:26:05 PM

    Does the Audioengine's A2+ work for the my Studio-Standard Fisher record player?

  • Walter from Scarsdale

    Posted on 12/13/2015 10:35:51 PM

    Hello Dave! I've recently bought the Marantz TT42P and I wonder if the MACKIE CR3 would be a honestly choice of powered speaker to use along! Thanks!

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/14/2015 12:20:54 PM

    Julio, I believe you would need a phono preamp to go along with that setup to match the Audioengines' line-level inputs.

    Hi Walter, The MACKIE CR3 would certainly match up with the Marantz 'table for a small, near-field setup. If you intend to fill a space larger than a desktop, you may want to consider something a bit beefier for better room-filling power.

  • Felix from Alexandria

    Posted on 12/27/2015 9:34:21 AM

    Hi there, I have the ever popular Audio Technica turntable, am looking for powered speakers and have narrowed my search down to the Audioengine A2+ or Mackie CR3. My question is: I am interested in having the option to also connect the speakers to my laptop (which doesn't have good internal speakers) when I move around the house and want to take my music with me. Which would be better for that?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/27/2015 6:47:52 PM

    Felix, Either speaker would work just fine for your turntable and laptop, assuming your laptop has a headphone output jack. In all fairness, there is a pretty big difference in price. What do you get for your money? The A2+ has a built-in USB DAC that will likely deliver better sound from your laptop than it's headphone output. The Audioengines also have a more refined sound than the Mackies (I'm listening to my A2+s as I'm typing this, and they constantly amaze me with their depth, detail, and imaging!). That said, the CR3s are a screaming good deal if money is tight.

  • Rafael from Seattle

    Posted on 12/31/2015 12:04:32 PM

    I recently purchased a simple set up for my daughter as a Christmas present (Audio-Technica-LP60 and Mackie CR4) recently visited a few record store and this has sparked a need to start listening to vinyl again. I am considering the Audio Technica LP120 but am stuck on speakers. I want to go with powered speakers and considering the Audio Engine A2, Audio Engine A5, and the Mackie CR4. I plan on having this set up in my living room , so its not a small space such as an office or small bedroom. Are the A5's orth the extra money over the A2's? The Mackie Cr4's seem decent put want something that gives off great sound and quality. Please advise. Thanks

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/4/2016 9:32:23 AM

    Rafael, Get the Audioengine A5s. They'll totally rock a living room-sized space.

  • John from Detroit

    Posted on 1/25/2016 5:14:45 AM

    I recently purchased the Klipsch Icon SB-1 from Crutchfield and I'm very happy with it. The sound from movies and CD's is excellent. Now I want to buy a turntable for my vinyl records. Can the turntable be attached to the Klipsch or do I need separate speakers?

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/25/2016 10:30:33 AM

    John, You could connect a turntable to your SB-1's analog RCA input as long as you have a separate phono preamp, or your turntable has one built in (like the Music Hall USB-1 I used in the system above). Since the Klipsch has only that one analog audio input, if you already have a CD player connected to it you would have to unplug the CD player whenever you want to listen to records. If that's not an issue, I say go for it.

  • Megan Snar from Chicago

    Posted on 2/7/2016 8:58:44 AM

    Hi there! I have the Audio Engine A5 speakers and love them. I connected them to a Denon DP29 (which it says has a built in pre amp) and the sound seems distorted if I crank them up. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/8/2016 1:57:43 PM

    Hi Megan, you could be getting distortion for a number of reasons, but here are three likely culprits: make sure your phono preamp is switched on (the switch is underneath the platter, so you'll have to lift it off to check), you may simply be playing your speakers too loud (you said this happens when you crank it, do you still have the problem at lower volume levels?), your turntable's stylus (needle) is worn out or broken and needs to be replaced (Denon replacement part #DSN-82, about $25 give or take. I'd look around online). Hopefully it'll be one of these issues.

  • Annika from Ann Arbor

    Posted on 2/25/2016 1:08:24 PM

    With the bookshelf speakers, I've hooked them up to my audiotechnica turntable but am unable to get the volume to it's loudest capacity. The problem seems to be that there is an "input cord" that I can't find a spot to connect from the speakers to my turntable. I found a spot on the speakers but am unable to connect it to the turntable. Any ideas or is the maximum volume for the speakers very quiet??

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/25/2016 3:57:31 PM

    Annika, Without more specific information, I'm not sure I can help. What are the exact models numbers (and speaker brand) of the components you are trying to connect?

  • Annika from Ann Arbor

    Posted on 2/25/2016 4:31:56 PM

    More information// Record player: Audio-Technica X UO AT-LP60 Vinyl Record Player, Audioengine A2+ Premium Powered Desktop Speakers.. both from Urban Outfitters. Let me know if there's more information needed to help. Thank you!

  • Dave Bar from Crutchfield

    Posted on 2/26/2016 9:37:30 AM

    Annika, I couldn't find a copy of Urban Outfitters' X UO AT-LP60 turntable owner's manual on their website, so I'm going by Audio-Technica's online standard (and hopefully similar) AT-LP60 manual.

    According to what I'm seeing there, all you need to do is connect the Red and White RCA plugs on the end of the turntable's signal patch cord to the Audioengine's matching Red and White RCA input jacks, making certain to switch the turntable's back-panel Phono/Line switch to the "Line" position, no adapter plugs needed.

    Then (and I'm not making this up!), with the tone arm still fastened to the tone arm rest, slowly turn the turntable platter clockwise ten times, to make certain the automatic mechanism is fully cycled. That should do it! If it doesn't, take it back to UO, get your money back, and buy a turntable from Crutchfield instead. :-)