How To Set Up Compact Stereo With Turntable

Need to know how to set up a compact stereo with a turntable? A typical stereo receiver usually comes equipped with nearly everything to be a suitable hub for nearly any audio source, but there a few items to keep in mind when setting up a compact stereo with a turntable. Many stereo receivers—especially older models—were designed with vinyl-lovers and audiophiles in mind, so it's not uncommon to find internal pre-amps connected to the phonograph input on these receivers. Compact models, however, often lack such pre-amps and multiple inputs. Don't worry though, there are steps you can take to connect your turntable without having to replace your stereo.

To set up a compact stereo with a turntable you will need:

  • stereo (with speakers and RCA or 1/8" inputs)
  • turntable (with RCA outputs)
  • solid-state pre-amp
  • cables (depending on your setup; probably RCA and 1/8")
  1. Determine the stereo's inputs. Check the sides and rear of the main console of your stereo. Look for specified input channels—typically labeled "Aux In" or "Aux" on smaller models. If there aren't any of these inputs, or if the stereo only takes audio from an iPod dock, you will likely be unable to run any other external audio to your stereo. If you have RCA inputs (the round, protruding and usually colored inputs also found on television sets) or an 1/8" input (the same size and shape as a small headphone jack), this will determine what kind of cables you will need. RCA inputs need RCA cables. An 1/8" input, however, will require an RCA-to-1/8" conversion cable, which can be found at most electronics retailers and major department stores. If your stereo has a specified "Phono" input, you can skip step three.
  2. Connect the RCA cable and ground wire to the turntable. Most new turntables will come with the necessary cables. Simply connect the individual cables to their respectively colored inputs, and attach the ground wire to the turntable. Often this will involve partially unscrewing a plastic cap attached to a flat metal piece on the turntable, sliding the flat metal fork of the ground wire under this cap, and then twisting the cap to hold the wire in place. Be sure that your turntable is on a flat, sturdy surface.
  3. Connect the pre-amp. This is the most important step if you've already figured out the proper connections for your stereo and turntable. If your stereo does not have an internal pre-amp for a phonograph signal, the output through your speakers can be very low, even inaudible at the highest volume setting. To correct this, purchase a small external pre-amp from a local electronics retailer—yes it's a purchase but it will be much cheaper and smaller than a new stereo receiver. Be sure that the device has RCA inputs and outputs, as well as a place to connect the ground wire. Securing the ground wire to the pre-amp can be as simple as fastening it beneath a screw already on the device.
  4. Connect to the stereo. If your stereo has RCA inputs, simply connect the color-coded cables from the pre-amp (or turntable) to the "Aux" or "Phono" input on your stereo. In less common instances, your stereo may have a 1/8" input instead of the typical RCA inputs. Simply use an RCA-to-1/8" conversion cable and plug your pre-amp into the stereo. (You will absolutely need a pre-amp if you are connecting through a 1/8" input.)
  5. Listen to a record! If you hear a buzz, adjust the ground wire until it is inaudible beneath the music. If you don't hear a buzz, you have correctly connected your turntable. Pull out the record crates and throw a party!
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