How To Connect a Turntable to Speakers Without a Receiver

I’ve recently been tinkering with turntables and wondered whether you can plug speakers into a turntable without a receiver. I did a little research and here’s what I found.

As a general rule, you can plug speakers into your turntable without a receiver. But, you may or may not need a preamp. Certain turntables have a preamp built-in, and others need to plug the speakers into an external preamp first. 

On their own, a turntable without a preamp produces a weak audio signal. Therefore, a preamp is used to boost the audio signal and allows your speakers to play at a good volume.

In this article, I will cover everything you need to know about plugging speakers into a turntable.

What Is Needed For A Turntable Setup?

Before explaining what cables go where I thought I’d do a brief overview of what you need for a turntable setup. Here’s what it is.

  1. The turntable itself
  2. A preamp (it can be external or internal)
  3. An amplifier or receiver
  4. Speakers.

The amplifier or receiver isn’t required but it is useful for more complex speaker set ups. 

If you’re using your turntable from DJíng you’ll need a mixer as well, which gives you more control over the different audio levels. 

A mixer is one of those large boards you might have seen in videos of recording studios that music producers use. It has a tonne of little knobs that are used to adjust the sound with extreme precision. 

But, mixers come in a range of sizes and you can buy smaller ones that are about the size of a laptop.

You don’t need a receiver – but you might need a preamp

There are a bunch of different turntables both new and vintage, and some have a preamp built-in. There are two broad types of preamps for turntables – internal and external. An internal preamp is built into the turntable.

If you have a turntable with an internal preamp you can plug speakers directly into it, and you don’t need a receiver. If the turntable doesn’t have a preamp, you need to first connect the turntable to a small device called an external preamp.

Then you plug the speakers into the external preamp. A receiver has an inbuilt amplifier that is strong enough to where you won’t need an external preamp. There are also two types of speakers – passive and active.

To find out whether you have a turntable with a built-in preamp you can do a Google search for the make and model of your turntable. Or, look at the user manual online, or that comes with your turntables.

Active and passive speakers and whether you need a receiver

Active speakers have an inbuilt amplifier, and you don’t need to plug your turntable into a preamp; you can read a good article on turntable setup by Klipsch. With passive speakers though you need to use an amp or receiver. 

Passive speakers by their design need to be plugged into a power source and don’t have a power cable that plugs into a wall outlet like an active speaker. As you may be aware, they have copper wires that you connect to an amp/receiver and then clip them in place.

A turntable, though, generally doesn’t have the port where you connect them to, so you need to connect them to an amp or a receiver to give them electrical power.

How To Connect A Turntable To Speakers Without A Receiver-Step by Step

Now that you know where everything goes and an overview of how to set up your turntable, here’s how to connect speakers to your turntable without a receiver or amp.

  1. Connect the white and red RCA cables to the turntable
  2. Connect the same RCA cable to the preamp – or directly to the speakers
  3. If you connected it directly to your speakers, you’re ready to start playing music on your turntables. If you plug it into a preamp you need to connect the preamp to the speakers.

Grounding Cables

A turntable and a preamp have a grounding cable that you need to set up to reduce the risk of blowing your turntable, or preamp. If you can plug speakers directly into your turntable because it has an inbuilt preamp you only need to ground your turntables.

And if you need to use a preamp, you only need to set up the grounding cable for the pre amp and not the turntable.

Caveats and additional settings

When you need to use a preamp there can be a small switch on your turntable. You need to switch it from one setting to the other depending on whether you’re using a preamp or not. That tells your turntable that the output is going through a preamp.

To do that it’s best to look at the user manual for your specific turntable to see where it is and what setting it needs to be on.

Do You Need An Amplifier For A Turntable?

An amplifier/receiver is very common in home theater systems to power your speakers to give them enough volume. However, do you need an amplifier for a turntable?

On the whole, you do not need an amplifier for your turntable if you’re connecting active speakers. But, if you’re using passive speakers you do need to use either an amplifier or a receiver for your turntable.

You can tell whether your speakers are active or passive speakers by what kind of cables it has. An active speaker has a power cable that can plug directly into the wall outlet. Whereas, passive speakers have copper wires that need to be connected to an amp or a receiver to give them power.

Do I Need A Preamp And An Amp For My Turntable?

An amplifier boosts the audio signal and powers passive speakers. However, a preamp also boosts the audio signal. So, do you need both a preamp and an amp for your turntable?

On the whole, you only need to use an external preamp if your turntable doesn’t have a pre amp built into it. However, an amp is always required when you’re using passive speakers. Passive speakers need an amp/receiver to give them a power source.

With active speakers you need to plug them into a preamp if your turntable doesn’t have one built in. But, you don’t need to plug active speakers into an amplifier. Because active speakers have an amplifier built into them.

For a turntable without an inbuilt preamp, when it’s all connected it should look like this:

  1. An RCA cable should go from the turntable to the preamp
  2. An RCA cable should go from the preamp to an amp/receiver (if you’re connecting passive speakers).
  3. A separate RCA cable should go from the amp/receiver to the speakers.

Can I Connect My Turntable Directly To Speakers?

The fewer cables and devices you have connected to your turntable setup the less cluttered your setup will be. But, can you connect your turntable directly to your speakers, here’s what you need to know.

There are turntables that can connect directly to speakers without a preamp or an amplifier. However, it needs to be a turntable with a built-in preamp. If it doesn’t have an internal/inbuilt preamp you’ll need to first connect your turntables to an external preamp before connecting it to your speakers.

You’ll also need to use speakers that have their own power. For example, speakers that you can either plug directly into a power outlet or charge them up. These are what are called active speakers and have a built-in amplifier.

For just playing records, plugging your turntable directly into active speakers works really well. But, for a DJ-type setup or if you have a lot of speakers, it’s a good idea to use a mixer or amplifier to give you greater control over your speaker setup. It also makes it easier to manage all the cables.

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