The vinyl revival is officially here and in full swing. Vinyl sales in the United States have grown year over year for the 17th consecutive year and show no signs of slowing. In 2022 Taylor Swift’s newest album ‘Midnights’ sold 945,000 copies in vinyl, almost double the next best-selling vinyl from Harry Styles. If you’re trying to jump on the bandwagon and begin enjoying high-fidelity music in its old school analog form, there are a few things you’ll need to get started. We’ve put together a list of the essential things any aspiring vinyl hobbyist will need in their setup.
Best accessory overall: A turntable
Rega Planar 1 Dedicated Turntable
Best beginner turntable
Fantastic quality for an entry level deck
Rega is a huge player in the vinyl space, and its Planar 1 table is the perfect entry point for budding vinyl enthusiasts.
- Included dust cover
- No built-in phono stage (phono preamp)
- Ultra quiet motor
- Counterweight isn’t adjustable
The first thing you’ll need is a good turntable, and choosing your first table can be a daunting task. We can help cut through the noise a bit here as we’ve already put together a list of our favorite turntables for 2023. We found the Rega Planar 1 to be an excellent table for beginners. Every penny spent on this table goes towards sound quality as this is truly a purists’ turntable. The Planar 1 has no Bluetooth, no wireless connectivity, and no USB outputs. For beginners wanting to take their step down the deep rabbit hole of analog sound and high-fidelity bells and whistles will only serve as distractions. The Planar 1 focuses your resources on its primary task, and does a great job at it.
In this particular guide, you’ll notice that we list the lack of a built-in phono stage as a positive. A built-in phono preamp makes it a lot easier to just plug your turntable in a set of speakers without much care for what is happening to the analog signal on its journey from the tonearm to the speakers drivers, but if you’re coming over to the world of analog then you’ll quickly learn you want to control every step that signal takes before it reaches your ears. Not having a built-in preamp means this table can grow with you as you go from entry level dedicated preamps to more high-end ones later in your audiophile pilgrimage.
Best vinyl accessory for a comprehensive sound stage
Rega Fono Mini A2D MKII
Best beginner phono preamp
Excellent sound stage quality for this price range
Rega again shows their experience in producing excellent equipment for would-be audiophiles at approachable prices.The Rega Fono Mini A2D MKII is the absolute best preamp at its price point and brings warm vinyl sound to your setup without exorbitant cost.
- Warm sound with a healthy dose of bass
- Supports USB output for creating FLAC files
- Under $200
The next most important purchase you will make for your new setup is your dedicated phono preamp. This is the box of circuitry, or on the old-school higher-end physical tubes, responsible for taking the low-level signal that comes out of your turntable and amplifying it into the line-level signal that can be interpreted by your amplifier, which in turn drives the signal to your speakers. Your preamp is immensely responsible for the type of “sound” your vinyl setup has. When you hear people describe the sound of vinyl as “warm,” or “rich,” they are describing the soothing sound of a good preamp. While many vinyl purists would prefer to keep things analog all the way, true analog preamps that use vacuum tubes are a bit more involved and perhaps best kept for further in your discovery.
Best vinyl accessory for amplifying sound
Best beginner receiver with built-in amp
Excellent sound with a simple setup
The Sony STR-DH190 does an excellent job of delivering power and performance within its relatively narrow purpose. That is to drive a two channel stereo setup which it does beautifully.
- Phono input for turntable with Pure Direct setting
- Built in amplifier to power speakers
- Excellent stereo sound for under $200
- Only supports the two channels so limited in future applications
Once you are ready for a more complicated (and expensive) setup you can dive into the world of dedicated amplifiers, equalizers, receivers, and more. For now, you’ll just want something that does it all-in-one without interfering with your analog signal and delivers it with sufficient power to drive your speakers. We recommend a stereo receiver with a built-in amplifier and the Sony STR-DH190 fits the bill perfectly. The Sony offers support for only the two stereo channels A and B, but that’s all you’ll need as vinyl is meant to be played in stereo after all, if not mono depending on the album. The STR-DH190 even features a phono input for plugging your turntables preamp directly into the receiver without the signal passing through unnecessary circuitry in the receiver. Sony thought this through one step further by offering a “Pure Direct” listening mode that drives the signal to the speakers without passing through any EQ circuit boards in the receiver at all, offering the purest possible travel for your analog signal from tone-arm to speaker.
Best vinyl accessory for your bookshelf
Triangle Borea BR03 Hi-Fi Bookshelf Speakers
Best beginner stereo speakers
An excellent first step in stereo speakers
Triangle Hifi is a French brand with over 40 years experience making high-end speakers for high fidelity systems. Their entry level products bring the best of their DNA at an affordable price point.
- Great price for Hi-Fi stereo speakers
- Good bass level
- Old school aesthetic might not be for everyone
Do even cursory research on high fidelity stereo speakers, and you’ll start to find speakers that cost as much as a sports car. The world of speakers is vast, from smaller desktop speakers to the gorgeous sound of tower speakers. Bookshelf stereo speakers typically reside at the entry level to real stereo sound for your vinyl setup, but even these can reach exceed $1,000 per speaker and much more. Stereo speakers are an essential component in your setup and serve as the final destination of all your hard work and investment. You won’t want to build an enviable setup only for it to play through bad speakers. The Borea line of speakers from Triangle Hifi provides an excellent first step into quality sound. Like other bookshelf speakers they are large enough to take a prominent spot in your living room or listening room but small enough to be easily moved and used in smaller spaces.
Should I start a vinyl set-up?
If you have a tendency to get somewhat obsessed with your hobbies, or would describe yourself as a perfectionist, then buyer beware. You can spend a lifetime chasing the perfect vinyl sound, and there are setups that cost as much as a family home. The ritual of thumbing through dusty records at your local store, finding that special one you’ve been searching for, and taking it home to put needle to record is absolutely intoxicating. Listening to a full album, eyes closed, centered between your speakers, can be a transcendent experience. If you are a music lover, you should absolutely give it a go. Just be careful you don’t fall all the way down and blow your entire paycheck in wonderland.