Many Choices in Finding the Right Turntable Speakers

Finding the best turntable speakers is one of the most important things an individual interested in high fidelity in general and vinyl in particular can do. There is a great variety of products and price points. And, even before that, there is the fundamental decision of whether to go with active or passive (with or without an onboard amplifier) or not.

A “regular person” shopping for technology — i.e., somebody who is more interested in the music than the gear — can either trust the salesperson or educate themselves and make their own choices. The problem with the latter is that the learning curve is steep. Once all the important specifications are mastered and the new widget brought home everything promptly is forgotten. A decade or so later when a replacement is needed the person only has a hazy memory of the difference between THD and SPL and all the other specs — which actually doesn’t matter since everything has changed anyway.

Click here for turntable speakers from Micca, Edifier, Pyle, Polk and Klipish
Turntable speakers are a good example of the blizzard of specs that makes it so difficult to see. A very nicely done feature by Phillip Nichols at B&H describes the important specifications for which to look. The challenge is that he lists 11: Passive vs. active; 2-way vs. 3-way; frequency response; maximum sound pressure level; amplifier class; amplifier and speaker power; crossover frequency; woofer size; sensitivity and total harmonic distortion.

Most non-audiophiles would throw up their hands. Comparing 11 specifications across multiple turntable speakers is impracticable, especially assuming that even among these 11 there no doubt is a bunch you can forget about. Indeed, that’s more or less Nichols’ opinion: “Remember, the factors that most significantly affect the resulting sound quality are speaker type, frequency response, and amplifier class.”

He was wise to put it at the end, since it essentially says that much of what he wrote can safely be ignored.

Why We Need Great Gear: Les Paul
les paul

Nobody had a greater influence on the music industry during the 20th century than Les Paul. Not only was he a great guitar player, Paul’s engineering and design innovations more or less made rock possible. Check out the album he made with Chet Atkins. The music is wonderful and the title — “Chester and Lester” — never gets old. Atkins, also a monumentally gifted player, was a major studio executive. And they both were funny and seemed like nice guys, as the byplay on the album illustrates. Click here for more on Paul.

Unfortunately, a well done article that explains the somewhat complex difference between active and passive speakers What Hi-Fi does not have a byline. Authors of good content should get credit. In any case, Mr. or Ms. X explains that speakers are separated from the rest of the network – including the turntable – by something called a crossover network.

In both a passive active turntable with speakers system set up, turntable speakers are separated from the rest of the electronics by something called a crossover filter network. In a passive system, the output from the amplifier (which already has been boosted by the preamp, which in turn has boosted the signal from the cartridge) is divided into either two or three parts. Depending on the type of speaker, it is delivered to a tweeter and mid-range or a tweeter, mid-range and bass.

Active turntable speakers are a bit more complex. The article explains that the crossover network – which now has an amp – takes the signal from the preamp and processes at a far lower level than in a passive network. This frees it up to more artfully reproduce what is on the record. The sysem can to proactively and delicately mold the sounds the speaker produces.

Active speakers seem more for audiophiles or those who really can hear shades of color. “The result is a filter network that is (potentially) way more accurate in its operation, and delivers a better integrated and optimised sound,” according to the unknown writer.

Gear Patrol highlights active speakers’ benefits in its roundup. In short, putting an amp in a speaker makes it into its own little system. They are loud, come with a variety of feature profiles and are easier to use since they don’t rely on outside elements. They must be powered, however. And they are expensive. In it’s roundup, the “budget” active speaker pair goes for $999. Clearly, this is not for beginners. It’s not just for audiophiles either: Folks who like great sound and have the money can go active–even if they aren’t interested in further tinkering with their system.
5 Tips on Shopping for Turntable Speakers
– Passive and active approaches differ  greatly. Those differences affect the entire setup
– Bluetooth connectivity can degrade quality
– Higher end speaker systems include a tweeter, mid-range and subwoofer
– Fit the speaker to the space it will serve
– Multiple speakers are better than one

There is a very practical ramification of all this that anyone can understand, as pointed out by Aperion Audio: The amps in active speakers are AC powered. Thus, they must be near a wall outlet or the owner must be willing to have extension cables strewn all over the place. It is a basic but important decision.

Turntable Speakers from Micca, Edifier, Pyle, Polk and Klipish

Note: All images are courtesy of the manufacturer. Hover over images for a closer view (in most cases). Vendors have unique short hands for specifications. I’ve more or less left these unchanged, so the capsules are a bit inconsistent.  The paraphrased comments are subjective (and, indeed, sometimes contradictory). Folks sometimes use equipment incorrectly and then complain. Problems mentioned may have been addressed by the manufacturer. Amazon has a tremendous amount of information and feedback on the what it sells and is a recommended element of your shopping research. If you do shop and potentially buy from Amazon, please link to there from HiFi and Vinyl Now. If you are kind enough to do so we’ll get a small commission. The price you pay will remain the same. (Thanks!)

Micca MB42

The Micca MB42 4″ turntable speakers feature a 4″ carbon fiber cone woofers with rubber surround and 0.75″ silk dome tweeter. They are enclosure ported, have a frequency response of 60Hz-20kHz, 4 to 8 ohm impedance, 85dB sensitivity (1W/1M), 75 W power handling per speak. The dimensions are 9.5″ (H) x 5.8″ (W) x 6.5″ (D).

What People are Saying about Micca MB42 Speakers
Pros
+ Good midrange sound
+ Driver small but not comprising
+ Quality beyond price paid
Cons
– Cabinet resonates
– Non-linear, high distortion
– Distortion is high below 200Hz

Edifier P12

Edifier P12 speakers have a frequency response of 55Hz-20,000 Hz, sound pressure level of about 79 dB (1W/1M), are power rated at 20W-100W, 6 ohm impedance and a frequency division point of 1500 Hz.

The bass unit is 4″ and the treble unit offers a 19mm silk film tweeter. The net weight is 6 kg and the dimensions are about 5″ (W) x 9″ (H) x 6.6″ (D).

 

What People are Saying about Edifier P12 Speakers
Pros
+ Well made, sound quality good
+ Easy set up
+ Stylish good looks
Cons
– Bass dominates, muddy sound
– OK–but not high end
– Poor sound at lower frequencies

Pyle PKSP22

Pyle’s Desktop Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers, which have a 5.25″ monitor speaker driver and a 1″ aluminum dome tweeter, are rated at 4-8 Ohm impedance and have a frequency response of 50Hz-20kHz. They are compatible with Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming. They are equipped with RCA (L/R), aux audio input and a USB flash drive reader and support MP3 digital audio files. The audio processing bass reflex active bookshelf speakers have a rear panel control center and built-in digital audio amplifier to adjust the bass, treble and volume.

What People are Saying about Pyle PKSP22 Speakers
Pros
+ Good quality, high linearity
+ Versatile inputs
+ Sturdy design
Cons
– Seem cheaply made
– Bluetooth connectivity intermittent
– Auto voice welcome, instructions too loud

Polk Audio T15

The Polk Audio T15 are wall-mountable vertically oriented bookshelf speakers featuring 5.25″ dynamically balanced mineral-filled polymer composite cone woofer and a 0.75″ round, dynamically balanced silk/polymer composite dome tweeter. It has 5-way gold planted speaker inputs and is rated for 20-100 watts of power per channel. The dimensions are 10.63″ (H), 6.5″ (W) and 7.25″ deep. The speakers featured a vented enclosure. The frequency response is 45 Hz-24Hz with nominal impedance of 8 ohms. The sensitivity is 89 dB at 1watt/1 meter. It is rated for 20-100 watts of power per channel.

What People are Saying about the Polk T15 Speakers
Pros
+ Versatile due to front porting
+ Loud, clear sound
+ Easy setup
Cons
– Poor sound quality
– Came without cables
– Poor bass

 

Klipish R-15M

Klipish R-15M bookshelf speakers have dual 5.25″ copper spun high output IMG woofers and a brushed black polymer veneer cabinet. The speakers’ bass-reflex rear-firing port is matched to the cabinet and drivers. Sensitivity is 94dB at 2.83 volts per 1 minute. The speakers, which are sold in pairs, feature 1″ aluminum LTS tweeters, 90×90 square Tractrix horns, a removable magnetic grille.  Dimensions are 13.3″ (H) x 7″ (W) x 8.5″ (D).

What People are Saying about the Klipish R-15M Speakers
Pros
+ Good after break in period
+ Looks cool
+ Good at high and low volume
Cons
– Tinny, muddy sound
– Disappearing “punch,” range and depth
– Can overwhelm a room

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