Can I Connect My Turntable Directly to Speakers

Rediscovering your love of vinyl records, just purchased your first turntable and wondering if you can connect it directly to your speakers. We can tell all you need to know about turntables and speakers. Dip into our deep well of knowledge and let us share what we’ve learned with you.

You can only connect your turntable directly to speakers if your turntable has a built-in preamp, and your speakers have a built-in amplifier.

To do so, you will need:

  1. A turntable with a built-in preamp
  2. Active/powered speakers

If that describes your stereo’s setup, you can connect your turntable directly to your speakers. You can use an old fashioned RCA signal cable or do it wirelessly if your speakers and turntable support wireless (Bluetooth).

Read on to learn more.

Why You Need Built-in Speakers and a Built-in Amplifier

If your turntable doesn’t have a built-in preamp and/or your speakers don’t have a built-in amplifier, it will simply not work to connect them directly. The fact of the matter is that you cannot connect a turntable to standard passive speakers minus a standalone amplifier. And you absolutely cannot skip the preamp in a vinyl-playing stereo.

To check if a turntable has a built-in preamp, see if it has a LINE output. If it does, you are in good shape. But if your turntable only has a PHONO output, it will have to be hooked up to an external preamp. Or to a receiver with a built-in preamp.

To check if speakers are powered (or active), as opposed to passive, check if the speakers have a power plug. Speakers that connect to power have a built-in amplifier.

There are four components that every vinyl-playing stereo setup is required to have.

  • Turntable
  • Amplifier
  • Preamp
  • Speakers

Without even one of these components, the stereo won’t play vinyl records.

In some stereo setups, the four necessary components are all standalone components. Meaning they are four separate boxes.

Here are the pros and cons of connecting a turntable directly to speakers.

Pros of Connecting a Turntable DIrectly to Speakers

Cost — If you are following a budget, this is the lowest cost option for vinyl playing stereo setup. If we skip over the low cost (and low quality) gear, we would be looking at around $150 for a beginner turntable with a decent built-in Pre-Amp. You will add the same amount on top $150 for a good pair of speakers; it is worth pointing out that standalone components will cost a lot more.

Fewer Boxes — Fewer boxes that bundle components together need less space. You don’t need to find space for a standalone preamp and a standalone amplifier. The setup will look tidy. It also becomes much easier to take the setup with you if you need to.

Fewer Cables — You only need one signal cable to connect the two units. Plus two power cables that connect both units to power. That is orderly. Buying all components as standalone will need more signal cables, cables to ground the preamp, speaker wires. That looks a lot worse.

Cons of Connecting a Turntable Directly to Speakers

Sound — If you are interested in the highest quality sound, you should buy standalone gear. The number one reason manufacturers sell gear that bundle components together is to make it more affordable, not to make it sound better. So standalone components will produce better sounding music than gear that bundle components together.

Upgradability — With components bundled together, the options to upgrade the various components one by one becomes limited.

Flexibility (few inputs) — If you have any sources that you want to connect to the setup, buying powered speakers isn’t the best option as they usually have few input connectors. Buying a standalone audio receiver that drives passive speakers will give you options to connect a CD player, DVD player, a radio, your TV, etc. But powered speakers will usually not have that option.

There are four components that a stereo setup myst have for it to play vinyl records.
Let’s examine them more closely.

Turntable

There are two variants as to what type of signal a turntable sends out.

Some turntables output a PHONO signal, while some output a LINE signal.

A turntable that outputs a PHONO signal will require being hooked up to a preamp. A turntable that outputs a LINE signal will have a built-in preamp.

Thus, turntables come both and without built-in preamps.

If your turntable has a built-in preamp, you are all set. It can be hooked up to an amplifier or powered speakers.

But if your turntable does not include a preamp, you will need a standalone preamp or an amplifier with one built-in. If not, you will require a standalone preamp or an amplifier that has one built-in.

Preamp

The preamp is a component that cannot be eliminated in a vinyl-playing stereo setup.

It has two essential duties.

The first one is to correct the tone of the signal that is picked up by the turntable. When a record is carved, the bass (lower tones) of the music is notably reduced, and the treble (higher notes) is notably increased. This is because lower tones take up more physical space on the records due to requiring wider grooves than higher tones. So to be able to space more than one song on each side of a record, this RIAA equalization technique is used.

So the first (and very important) task of the preamp is to correct the signal’s tone so that the music will sound right.

The other one is boosting the tiny PHONO signal that is picked up by the turntable to what is called a LINE level signal. LINE level is a standard signal level that is outputted by all consumer music equipment like CD players and DVD players. And that can be inputted to an amplifier. Or to active speakers.

Amplifier

The amplifier (receiver) purpose is to amplify the music signal so that it is powerful enough to drive the speakers.

An amplifier includes an input selector, digital to analog converter for digital music input, functionality for surround sound, radio, etc.

And sometimes also a PHONO input and a built-in preamp.

So just as with turntables, amplifier/receivers also come with and without built-in preamps.

Speakers

Speakers convert the power-amplified music signal to sound in the air.

If the speakers are passive, they need a standalone amplifier to drive them.

But if they are active or powered, they have a built-in amplifier, which means that any source that outputs a LINE signal can be connected to them, including a turntable with a built-in preamp.

So to connect your turntable directly to speakers, make sure that you run active/powered speakers.

Stereo Configurations

There are five different ways to configure a stereo setup that plays vinyl records. Only one of them lets you connect a turntable directly to speakers.

Turntable with a built-in preamp

Powered speakers