Create a super-simple record playing system
Turntable plus powered speakers
Dave Bar worked for Crutchfield from 1981 until his retirement in 2016. After a 23-year stint in the sales department, he joined the home A/V writing staff. Dave's expertise and good humor will be sorely missed.
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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.
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
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.