If you’re a music-lover then a record player is a key part of your set up – and the allure of buying, owning and enjoying vinyl has sent sales soaring. Pretty much every member of The Ambient team has one.
But while record players are great in terms of sound quality and offering us the chance to slow down and consume music more thoughtfully, the tech realities can be a problem.
Read this: Sonos One review
First is that a vinyl set up has a lot of different elements – which causes clutter. And then there’s the wires. So many wires. That’s led many to ask whether it’s possible to use your record player wirelessly or with a Sonos system – and the answer is a resounding yes.
Read on for the various options open to you for making your record player set up a little bit smarter.
How to use your record player with Sonos speakers
Traditionally, a record player needs lots of elements to work: the record player itself, a pre-amp, an actual amplifier and a pair of speakers – all connected in that order. You can cheat a little by getting a pre-amp phase integrated into an amp or record player (available on some models, but far from ubiquitous), but you do need all those parts.
However, with a Sonos system, you can dispense with quite a few aspects of the system.
Using a wired Sonos set up
This is the simplest approach, and will probably suit most people. In this set up, take your record player and put it through a pre-amp phase. From there, use a line-in to the back of a Sonos Play 5. You will then need to select the line-in input via the Sonos app, and you’re good to go. By doing this you’ll remove the need for the AMP and stereo speaker set up, saving a heap of wires, but the bad news if you’ll need to keep them relatively close by.
Use Sonos Connect
Okay, we hear you. Just putting a Sonos Play:5 wired into your system isn’t quite what you wanted, as you still need a static set up, in one part of the room, with quite a few wires.
In this case, you need Sonos Connect. You still need your record player heading into a pre-amp phase which plugs into the rear of the Sonos Connect block. You can stuff this down behind the back of a unit out of sight, as you’re not going to require access to these.
The Sonos Connect will then fire off your music to any of the Sonos family, which can be positioned around the room, free from the ignominy of audio wires.
If you have an old pair of speakers you want to wire into the system, just because, then just get a Sonos Connect AMP instead. This has output for wired speakers on the back, which can then be introduced into your system, like old pair of slippers amongst a collection of brand new English brogues.
How to stream vinyl around your home with Sonos
Not only can you play music to the Play:5, you can also group other devices and bring those into play. That’s great for big rooms, or should you want to listen to vinyl in a different room (let’s not think of the hassle of changing the record side every 15 minutes though).
The problem is that your audio will be choppy. That’s because while Sonos is great at pinging compressed MP3s around your home, your record player is churning out uncompressed music, which will swamp your wireless network and cause everything to break down. At this point you need to either swap to a wired network or invest in a Sonos Boost, which placed at the heart of your set-up, will speed everything up nicely.
Does Connect AMP mean I can lose my pre-amp?
Sadly not. The AMP element refers to the fact that it’s a powered amplifier, which will pump out sound to a pair of speakers, but that won’t be enough to deal with the analogue output from your record player. You’ll require a pre-amp here. We’ve included a couple of options below.
The perfect Sonos vinyl set-up
Rega Plannar 1
An entry level turntable from the Porsche of record players, the Rega's pedigree may not be immediately evident from the unassuming, under-stated design and standard materials. But the quality comes from the tech inside the cartridge, which filters down from Rega's +$1,000 systems. Unrivalled sound quality for the price.
Pyle Phono Turntable Preamp
The idea of using Sonos to go wire-free in your turntable set up means, ideally, keeping the hardware side of your vinyl listening as minimal as possible. The Pyle pre-amp is tiny, and enables you to keep tech to a minimum, while powering that analogue audio into your Sonos system.
Sonos Play: 5
You have two choices when it comes to deploying Sonos into your music set up. First, by a Sonos Connect and pair it up with any speaker in the range, or just wire straight into the back of the Play:5. This is the simplest solution, and you benefit from the huge room-filling sound of the Play:5, which goes the furthest in rivalling your old 2.0 system for sound.
I can’t afford Sonos, are there any other streaming vinyl options?
There are few systems that you can integrate existing record players into as seamlessly as Sonos – but that doesn’t mean that a wireless system is beyond you.
Some turntables are now available with Bluetooth wireless built in, which can connect to powered speakers with a Bluetooth connection. The magic bullet, right? Not so fast – this kind of connection can be spotty at the best of times, and this is especially problematic here. And again, audio will have to be compressed for Bluetooth, so many will question the sense of using vinyl only to compress it down to the quality of a basic MP3.
But the quality of that conversion will differ hugely. Generally, an aptX transmitter should offer the best quality, but it’s far from universal and there are players out there that don’t sound terrible without using that technology.
Connected record players
Audio Technica's record players are from a top pedigree, and the LP60BT comes with Bluetooth built in, which lets you connect to powered speakers for a wire-lite set-up. It's not aptX and some users have complained of choppiness, but if you're building a vinyl set up from scratch with the option to go wire free, it's a strong choice.
Pro-ject Juke Box E
If you really want to cut down on clutter than the Pro-ject Juke Box E is your best bet. This turntable packs in pre-amp, amp and Bluetooth, so you can just add speakers to get going. Pair that with a powered Bluetooth speaker or into a Sonos Connect and you have a powerful set-up as wire free as it gets. It's out in the middle of December 2017.
$400 | Richer Sounds
Leema Pulse IV
If you're looking to play to wireless speakers, then consider this techy amp made from British audio lab Leema and its team of ex-BBC sound engineers. It may not solve the problem of cutting clutter in your vinyl set up, but with an aptX Bluetooth input built into the amp, it can receive the signal from a Bluetooth record player and punch it out to analogue speakers, which should keep sound quality intact.