How to ​smarten up your record player with Sonos

Wire-free vinyl turntable set-ups and streaming explained

How to use your vinyl turntable with Sonos

If you’re a music-lover then a vinyl record player is likely to be a key part of your set up. However, it's not so simple to make this most analogue of devices fit into the digital smart home.

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.

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 turntable with Sonos speakers

Guide to using your record player with Sonos

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 integrated into an amplifier or record player (available on some models, but far from ubiquitous), but you do need all those parts. Sonos actually sells a couple of Pro-Ject turntables with pre-amps built in, to make things easier.

However, with a Sonos system, you can dispense with quite a few aspects of the system and there are a number of configurations you can opt-for.

Grab a Sonos speaker now - great savings

Sonos Beam
Sonos Beam
Amazon
$399
Sonos Play:1
Sonos Play:1
Amazon
$149
Sonos Boost
Sonos Boost
Amazon
$99

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. The Sonos Play:5 is the only speaker in its line up to offer line-in, so we're afraid there's not a lot of choice.

You will then need to select the line-in input via the Sonos app, and you’re good to go. It's a good idea to rename the line-in input from the Sonos app to keep things clear - something like 'record player', for example.

You may also want to tweak with the Line-In Source Level settings in the Sonos app though, to get the volume to a level you are happy with. By default, it's set to 2 but we'd recommend testing around the 6/7 mark - but this will be dependent on your pre-amp's output impedance.

In a Play:5 setup you’ll remove the need for an amplifier and stereo speaker in your set up, which will save a heap of wires.

Once you have the music playing through your Play:5 you can, of course, group that speaker with any other Sonos speakers in your setup... but more on that in a bit.

Using a Sonos Connect or Sonos Amp

A lot of people will be wanting to add their turntable into not only their Sonos system but also their existing stereo and speakers. If you're in this boat you'll need either the Sonos Connect, Connect:Amp or the new Sonos Amp.

With all of these devices you will still need a pre-amp as part of the setup. Turntables need both the pre-amp and an amplifier. So while the Connect:Amp and Amp do, of course (clue is in the name) have amplification powers, that pre-amp is still a must.

With the basic Connect, the one out of the trio that doesn't offer amplification, you'll also then need to feed its output through a dedicated amplifier, or a hi-fi system with a built-in amp.

You could also just use the Sonos Connect as a receiver for the record player's output - still via a pre-amp - and have its line-in beamed around to your other Sonos speakers.

If you have dedicated, non-Sonos, speakers you want to wire into the system, then just get a Sonos Connect:Amp or the new Amp instead.

These have 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

Guide to using your record player 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 may be choppy, depending on the quality of your Sonos network. While Sonos is great at pinging compressed digital music around your home, your record player is churning out uncompressed music, which will swamp your wireless network and cause everything to break down.

Your best bet is to wire-in, using Ethernet, as many of your Sonos speakers as you can or invest in a Sonos Boost, which placed at the heart of your set-up, will speed everything up nicely on the wireless side.

Within the Sonos app you can also choose to compress any line-in audio signals - although we've always found leaving this setting to 'automatic' does the job.


The perfect Sonos vinyl set-up

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon Sonos Edition (Walnut)

How to smarten up your record player with Sonos

$699.99, sonos.com

The slickest turntable that Sonos sells directly - and built with a Sonos system in mind - this Pro-Ject record player packs in a pre-amp phase so you don't need an additional device to get your vinyl hit. It comes with an acrylic platter for improved audio quality, and you'll get a swanky Sonos logo slip-mat in the box too.

Rega Plannar 1

Guide to using your record player with Sonos

$475, Amazon | rega.com

You don't have to use the record player Sonos suggests. A great 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

Guide to using your record player with Sonos

$46.99, Amazon | pyleaudio.com

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

Guide to using your record player with Sonos

$499, Amazon | sonos.com

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.

Sonos Amp

How to smarten up your record player with Sonos

$599, Amazon | sonos.com

The Connect is great if you just want the record's tunes played around your existing Sonos speakers or you already have a decent amp and the Connect:Amp is a fair bit cheaper than the new arrival but, it's the new Amp that we have to recommend for the perfect set up. It's twice as powerful as the Connect:Amp and, if you go with the new Sonance Architectural range (built specifically for Sonos), then you can add up to 6 speakers to the mix.


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 AT-LP60BT

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.

$179, audiotechnica.com | Amazon

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.

$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.

$3,000, leema-acoustics.com



TAGGED   smart home

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