Give the gift of awesome analog music this season with a vinyl listening station featuring great components from Cambridge Audio and Q Acoustics.
Since vinyl is back (heck, I’ve seen LPs for sale at Target!), a great holiday gift idea is to build a listening station for all those classic albums you’ve pulled out of the attic, or the new ones you’ve giving or getting this year. A listening station has three primary pieces: the turntable, the amplifier, and whatever you’re using to project the sound, whether it’s speakers or headphones. Here are some examples of great choices you could make in setting up a listening station for you or someone you love, for under $1,000 (cheaper, if you already have one or another component):
Audio-Technica AT-LP60 Fully Automatic Belt-Drive Stereo Turntable
I’ve had one of these for going on four years now. It’s not some expensive magical device, it’s just an inexpensive workhorse turntable that will treat your vinyl kindly and won’t break the bank. Available for $89 on Amazon.
This is where you start building your quality station. The amplifier is key towards delivering the amazing tunes on your records to the speakers or headphones. This better-than-entry-level integrated amp, from a company with a long and storied history in the realms of high-quality audio equipment, has plenty of power at 35 watts per channel, and can deliver clean, clear sound with plenty of bass. [Important note: the turntable above has a built-in pre-amp to bring it to line level. You don’t need to have that turned on if you use the phono input on this amp.] Available for $299 on Amazon. (These are an Amazon Choice.)
Q Acoustics 3020i Bookshelf Speakers
It’s always impressive when you can get really great sound out of speakers this small, but these are real powerhouse devices. They can sit on shelves or be mounted on stands, and they’ll conveniently take banana plugs. The Cambridge amp above can power these quite nicely, and you’ll get an excellent sound stage for such small speakers. You can get a pair on Amazon for $300. (Again, these are an Amazon Choice.)
The Headphones (Optional)
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones
If you want to go the route of headphones for more private listening, there are so, so many options out there. In the picture at the top, I’ve got my very, very nice Massdrop x Fostex TR-X00 Purpleheart headphones, which sound simply amazing on this rig. However, those run $470, so I’m not even linking to them here. Instead, I’m going to point you at the best price/performance leader you can get in headphones (IMO). These STH-M50x headphones are simply beloved, and considered the best way to get into really good headphones without breaking the bank. Get a pair for just $129. (Again, an Amazon Choice—see a trend here?)
And so, there you have it: all the pieces you need to have an amazing listening experience with your vinyl collection, and all available at prices that won’t break the bank. Right now, all of these have a lovely place in our game room, and will be providing the background music for many a game night over the next few years. If you have any suggestions for other components to include, feel free to mention them in the comments!
[Note: Cambridge Audio and Q Acoustics sent me equipment for consideration. I already had the turntable and speakers.]