How to set up a Turntable System for Beginners

Setting up a turntable system is when all your fun begins into the world of vinyl. I’m not going to be using jargon here; this will be a simple guide on how to set up a turntable system.

It’s not a complicated process, but if you have never set up a system, it can certainly feel daunting. I aim to break it all down so you can get the best record system build with ease.

One reason that it can feel daunting setting up a system is there are multiple ways of achieving the end goal. I think there is a best, but more on that below.

You may already own parts of a system, so I will cover all the different ways to set up a turntable system, and you can figure out the extra part you will need. For the people who don’t have any part, they can choose a system that you feel will suit your needs best.

Building a record system is fun and enjoyable for the new items arriving to put together the system. The excitement you feel when building a system, we can often forget what the main goal we want. That’s so we can listen to the deep tones of vinyl of our favorite band in their best audio format.

Essential Turntable System Components

There are four components that you are going to need to complete your turntable system. Below I will tell you each one and a brief explanation of their job within the system.

Turntable: The turntable is what translated the groves of your vinyl into electric signals.
Pre-Amp: The electric signals are then passed into your pre-amp, which boosts it out to a line level.
Amplifier Receiver: The amplifier receiver powers your speakers and receives the boosted electric signal from the pre-amp and sends it to your speakers.
Speakers: The speakers take the audio signal from the amplifier receiver and pump out the music into the air.

Some components can come bundled together, so you don’t need each individual piece to complete a system. However, all four elements must be within the system to listen to your vinyl records.

I find this is where confusion can start, and I hope to break it all down below for you. Once you get this building, a system will be a breeze.

How to Tell If Turntable Has a Built-In Pre-Amp?

Turntables can come with a built-in pre-amp; also, they can come without a pre-amp inbuilt.

If you already have a turntable and want to see if your turntable has a pre-amp take a look at the rear of your turntable. Look for a Phonon Line Switch or a USB port. Having one or both of these will mean your turntable has a pre-amp.

If your turntable you have has one or both, this will mean that you don’t need to buy a pre-amp for your system.

A lot of budget-friendly turntables will come with a built-in pre-amp. As you rise thought the budgets, it’s less likely that your turntable will have a pre-amp.

The reason for this is that the better sounding pre-amps are sold separately. This leads to people still adding pre-amps to their system even if their turntable has one.

How to Tell If Amplifier Receiver Has a Built-In Pre-Amp?

Just like turntables, some amplifier receivers will have a built-in pre-amp, and some will not.

The way to tell if your amplifier receiver has a built-in pre-amp is easy by checking out the back of your amplifier receiver. Look to see if you have a dedicated PHONO input on the back. Suppose you don’t see the PHONO input, then you are going to need a dedicated pre-amp.

Unlike built-in pre-amps with turntables, people will be more willing to go with a built-in pre-amp with an amplifier receiver. The reason being the pre-amp in an amplifier receiver tends to be a lot better than one that is squeezed into a turntable.

Now, you can totally miss out on the receiver in some systems, but I would always recommend including them. The main reason being if you ever want to grow your system by adding a tape deck or a CD player, you can easily do so.

Turntable Speakers Explained

There are two different types of speakers that you can buy for your turntable system passive and powered.

Powered “Active” speakers are plugged directly into your mains socket and receive their audio signal thought standard RCA connection cables. Powered “Active” speakers have the amplifier receiver inside, so you don’t require an external amplifier receiver for this style of speaker.

Passive speakers don’t connect to your mains power source and require standard speaker wire to connect then. However, you will need an amplifier receiver to power and deliver music to them as there is not one inside this type of speaker.

How to tell if your speakers are Active or Passive Speakers?

If you already own a pair of speakers, then flip them around and check out the back.

If you see a volume control, then you will have active speakers.

On checking the back and you only see black and red terminals, then your speakers are passive.

Best Turntable System Setup

Now, you should have a much better understanding of what components you need to make a full turntable system.

If you want the best system, I would highly recommend not buying bundled gear. I would always recommend getting standalone equipment.

The quality tends to be much higher with standalone gear, and it’s much easier to upgrade one each part as you go along.

Components Needed for Best Turntable System Setup:

Best Turntable System Setup Diagram
  1. Turntable
  2. Pre-Amp
  3. Amplifier Receiver
  4. Passive Speakers

To put this system together is really simple to connect it all. You connect the turntable into your pre-amp then from your pre-amp into the amplifier receiver using standard RCA cables. Then with standard speaker wire, you connect your speaker to the amplifier receiver.

There is a little more to consider with this system, but if sound quality and the option to upgrade is high on your list, this is the way to go.

Most Simple Turntable System Setup

If you are after a simple but powerful turntable system, then the next way will be perfect for you. The nice bonus with this system is that it will be considerably cheaper than the best system.

Components Needed for Most Simple Turntable System Setup :

Most Simple Turntable System Setup Diagram
  1. Turntable with built-in pre-amp
  2. Powered “Active” speakers

So, as we discovered above that all four components are needed to complete a system. With these two items, you are getting just that, and as you only have two pieces of equipment, setup is really simple.

To put this system together is incredibly easy. Connect your turntable to the back of your speakers using standard RCA cables. Connect the two speakers to each other using standard speaker wire. Lastly, connect both pieces of equipment to mains power.

This is a straightforward system to build, but this simple system has some negatives. With all built-in components, they are not as good as standalone. This will affect the sound quality, but the average listener wouldn’t notice too much. It is also worth saying upgrading is not really an option with this system.

All in One Turntable System

I don’t believe it would be fair if we didn’t mention all in one turntable systems. I’m not someone who sneers at anyone’s choice of turntable system.

Nearly exclusively, all in one turntable system are on the cheap end of the scale. This is not always a bad thing and let me explain why.

Someone like me who loves vinyl and had vinyl in the ’80s if I got rid of my system when it went out of vogue. I would know I love everything vinyl and would be happy spending money on a system.

Now, if you are someone new and want to have a listen to vinyl for the first time, then something around $100, what is a better way to sample vinyl?

Ok, it’s not going to sound anything like a system we describe above but could be an excellent stepping stone into vinyl records.

Protecting Your System

You have dropped a ton of cash on a new system. The last thing we want is it getting fried. Lighting strikes and power cuts are well known to fry electrical equipment.

I would always recommend plugging all your equipment into a surge protector. In the event of a lighting strike or a power shortage, this will protect your gear from getting fried.

You can plug all your equipment into the main electric, and you’re most likely going to be okay. However, for such a small outlay, I would never skip on a surge protector for the peace of mind.

Rapping Up

I hope my article has helped you better understand how to set up a turntable system. I hope how I have broken things down helps you better understand how the jigsaw comes together.

Setting up a turntable system needn’t be daunting; in fact, it should be fun and enjoyable putting your system together.

Most guides will hit you with jargon, which leads to confusion, and no matter if you already have components or starting with nothing, you should now be set to go.

The Things to keep in mind are that you need the four components in your completed system Turntable, Pre-Amp, Amplifier Receiver, and Speakers. You can have them bundled or all separate, but they must all be within the system.

There is not much more to building your record system once you pick the correct part. On receiving your parts and joining a few wires, you can sit and relax with your favorite tunes.