So you've started your vinyl journey with the cheapest, portable, all-in-one record player you could find...that's ok, we've all been there. But, just as there comes a time in life when you ditch the velcro shoes for something with laces, so too must you someday upgrade your hifi system to something that allows for the fidelity & joy possible with a better setup. Why? Well, it would be a shame to think that the muddy, muffled sounds coming from your suitcase player are the best vinyl can muster...they aren't. You can do better, and guess what, you can actually do much better without breaking the $1,000 barrier. Below are 3 different hifi setups, each with different components, each with different strengths and weaknesses, but ALL under $1,000. To reach a sub-$1,000 price point one must certainly make some trade-offs, but the three setups below are intriguing to us because there are truly no "weak" components. Each have been carefully selected to serve their owners well with high performance at a reasonable price point. What you will not see is vintage components. It's definitely true that if you do the research and put in some work a vintage setup can likely outperform many of the setups below, but they are not readily available for purchase for many and vary greatly in quality, thus we stuck with new components. Setup #1: Pro-Ject + Behringer + Audioengine ($723)* The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (DC) turntable is the most recent upgrade to the Debut Carbon line and serves as the anchor of this setup. As far as performance, you'd have to spend closer to $1k to find another turntable that would be noticeably better. Combine this incredible turntable with a great little phono preamp (don't let the price fool you, it'll do you right) and a pair of Audioengine A2+ speakers and you have an outstanding starter hifi setup. The Audioengine A2+ speakers are powered meaning you won't require a receiver or integrated amp to power the system, just go direct from turntable --> phono pre-amp--> powered speakers.
Turntable: Pro-Ject Debut Carbon (DC) ($449)
Phono Pre-Amp: Behringer PP400 ($25)
Speakers: Audioengine A2+ ($249) Setup #2: U-Turn + ART + SONOS ($747) This setup is interesting for two reasons 1) U-Turn is the hottest rookie on the block when it comes to hi-quality turntables that won't require a home equity loan to purchase...serious, they're delivering the goods 2) SONOS, the leader in wireless HiFi systems can fit quite nicely in a vinyl setup...we've tested it and now use the PLAY:5 routinely when spinning wax. It sounds delicious. Put them together and what have you got -- a damn fine vinyl setup for less than $750.
Turntable: U-Turn Orbit Plus ($299)
Phono Pre-Amp: ART DJ Pre II Phono Preamplifier ($49)
Speakers: SONOS PLAY:5 ($399)
Setup #3: Audio-Technica + Marantz + Polk Audio ($910) If you've started the hifi journey recently you've probably come to the question that plagues all newcomers - "Do I need a phono pre-amp or not?" The answer when dealing with new receivers/integrated amps is usually "yes." Vintage receivers hosted phono inputs whereas most modern receivers have now replaced them with something you never use like Bluetooth lip-reading. Luckily for you there are still some companies that value analog and Marantz is one them, their PM5004 Integrated Amp containing a solid phono section at a great price. Connect one of the most well-reviewed beginner turntables, the Audio Technica AT-LP120, and some excellent bookshelf speakers, Polk Audio RT1 A1's and you're making one hell of an analog stew - the kind even Carl Weathers would approve of.
Turntable: Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB Direct-Drive Professional Turntable ($249)
Integrated Amp (w/ phono stage): Marantz PM5004 Integrated Stereo Amplifier ($359)
Speakers:Polk Audio RTI A1 Bookshelf Speakers ($302)
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