The 8 best budget speakers for vinyl

By in Features, Turntables & Tech

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As one of the most popular pieces on the VF site, we thought it was high-time our guide to the best budget speakers got a refresh. As with our updated budget turntables list, four of the eight options have been updated.

So how can budget speakers even be ‘vinyl friendly’? By not fighting against it, for one thing and also by allowing as much detail through the hi-fi chain as possible. Otherwise, you waste money, resources and time.

Because vinyl is such a high resolution source, though, you want as much information to hit your ears as possible. You don’t want detail lost as the sounds travels down from the deck to the amp to the speakers. Ideally, you need speakers which are more on the neutral side, offering clarity and transparency.

Next, you want great value for money. Got a £150 to spend? You want to buy a pair of speakers that sound like £300 models. Why? Because the better they sound, the more information that exudes from them. As I say, vinyl is a superb high resolution source. Give it as much space and capacity as possible.

Finally, avoid technology clutter. Keep it simple, if you can by avoiding powered speakers and the like. Great value they might be but low cost powered speakers feature a relative cheap amplifier and the limited build budget means that overall component quality is compromised.

This is a budget article so I’ve plumped for speakers priced at up to £400. If I miss your favourite speakers then why not tell us about it in the Comments section, below?


Roth Oli RA1
Price: £99
www.rothaudio.co.uk

Ideally priced and sized for a second system in a bedroom or office or for a small flat or bedsit where its small cabinet won’t excite unnecessary bass frequencies, the Roth RA1s respond well to high quality front end components. They do a good job as computer-based, near field monitors too, especially if you happen to like rock, electronica or high energy music.


Mission LX-2
Price: £160
www.mission.co.uk

One of the best Mission designs in recent times and a result of bringing back some of the old Mission design team to work on the project. It even has the old layout of tweeter (a new 25mm domed design) under the mid/bass unit (a 13cm effort) to trigger memories of the past. The layout reportedly helps timing. Easy to drive, they can be positioned just about anywhere and will still sound good.


Q Acoustics 3020
Price: £199
www.qacoustics.co.uk

The 3020s punch above their weight and are certainly a major competitor for other speakers in its price range. Well designed with obvious care and attention across the board from its drivers to its cabinet, there is a distinct ‘audiophile’ edge in terms of the clarity and transparency to these speakers that, for the price, is quite startling.


Acoustic Energy 101S
Price: £275
www.acoustic-energy.co.uk

One of the recent stars of the low cost speaker design and a company that has put real thought – often with some surprising yet subtle innovations – into its budget designs. In fact, this low cost model borrows a lot of technology from its more expensive brothers. Those drive units you can see here being two examples. In fact, they sound like big speakers but just scaled down a bit and retaining a clean, crisp presentation.


Wharfedale Diamond 122
Price: £280
www.wharfedale.co.uk

The terms ‘low cost’ and ‘value’ have always been associated with the Wharfedale brand. For many enthusiasts, their first ‘proper’ pair of speakers were Wharfedales: me included (Sheltons, in my case). Buying a pair of Wharfedale speakers is a bit like buying a Hoover vacuum cleaner or reading a feature by Paul Rigby. It’s a sign of quality and reliability. Featuring a Kevlar mid/bass unit (yes, the stuff they use for bullet-proof vests) it also has a downward firing bass port to enhance low frequencies. Where? Just inside that tiny gap at the bottom of the chassis.


JBL Studio 230
Price: £299
www.harmonkardon.co.uk

US-based, these diminutive speakers have a typical American sound, offering big and bold presentation. Notice the ‘horn’ enclosure on the tweeter that, says JBL improves the imaging. Anyone who loves rock will use these babies with a fat grin stuck on their face. It doesn’t seem to matter what sort or size room you put them in either, the JBLs seem to fill the room easily. The sound is high, wide and compelling.


Tannoy Eclipse 3
Price: £300
www.tannoy.com

The problem with floor standing speakers within this budget range is that they lack any kind of focus and often sound totally uncontrolled in the bass region. Not this pair though. Offering three drivers (two 13cm mid/bass units and a 28mm dome tweeter), as long as you avoid sidewalls or corners, these speakers should sound pretty nifty.


Cambridge Audio Aero 6
Price: £400
www.cambridgeaudio.com

This one is becoming hard to find in the shops so grab it while you can. Richer Sounds might be a good place to source it. A floorstanding model that was the subject of a price drop from £650, this design feature BMR (Balanced Mode Radiators) drivers that provides extra clarity. They are quite bold and confident in their presentation.


Aside from his ongoing technology column for The Vinyl Factory, you can read more of Paul Rigby’s scribblings at The Audiophile Man.


Comments (27)

  1. David Loos 2 years ago

    sorry, are the “budget” QUADs wifi or bluetooth-enabled? otherwise, i’m pretty sure you’re going to need some kind of cabling, amplifier or not.

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 2 years ago

      Well that depends on how you want to use it, David. There is a 3.5mm socket available to plug your iPhone directly into them and most iPhones arrive with some sort of compatible cable. That, however, was not my point. I didn’t say that you would not have to use *any* cables, Just that the numbers would be reduced which will be welcome for many users.

  2. Andrej 2 years ago

    you seem to have left out the best and most affordable Dali Zensor 1, which will beat the shit out of any above mentioned British monitor. only Jbl are better for rock all else doesnt come close. And at 600£ you get Triangle Titus ez which makes a laughing stock of virtually any monitor up to 1200£.

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 2 years ago

      Well, I’m stuck for space on these articles Andrej so can’t mention everything but, yes, Dali are generally of a high stand. Thanks for your suggestion.

  3. Alex P 2 years ago

    Hello, i’m new to this and bought the Roth Oli RA2 speakers after reading this website. However the speakers cannot connect to my record player (AudioTechinica AT-LP120) it has different cables coming out of it, the red and white RCA kind i believe. i’m not sure what cables i need and how i can connect the speakers to my record player. Is that impossible? It’s really frustrating, if any one can link me to exactly what i need to buy in order for it to work that would be amazing, any help what be greatly appreciated, thank you!

    • brian mcnish 2 years ago

      You’ll need to run the record player and the speakers through a receiver. You can’t hook it up directly to the speakers. And make sure that the receiver had a phono input. You don’t technically need it for that record player if you use the built in preamp but I’d recommend it.

      • Mr. Knowitall 11 months ago

        No, an amp.

        A receiver if you want a radio thrown in, but why nowadays? A straight path makes for a better signal as well.

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 2 years ago

      Please forgive me absence Alex and I hop Brian doesn’t mind me butting it. Brian is essentially correct but the box you need is better known as an ‘amplifier’. I only say that because, traditionally, a receiver is an old designation for a amplifier/tuner combo and some people might get a bit confused if you go asking for a receiver in a local shop. As Brian says, for simplicity sake, check the rear of the amp, if you can, and in amongst the plethora of connection points, see if there are two (a red/black pair) called Phono. That’s where you plug in your turntable. If you need specific recommendations, give me a budget figure (if you have one!) and I’ll name drop a few amps for you.

  4. Filip Mileret 2 years ago

    Don’t forget Xavian Bonbonus – very well made in many color variants, easily driven by almost any amplifier, yet very musically sounding speakers made in Czech Republic.

  5. David 12 months ago

    Seriously? No recommendation of the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 speaker. Selling today on Amazon for $399. Sounds truly amazing.

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 12 months ago

      Yes, ELAC is nice. I heartily recommend them.

  6. Michael Mercer 12 months ago

    No ELAC, or new Audioengine? The Nola Boxer?? LOL
    great piece Paul Rigby – there’s alot out there folks!!

    • Author
      Paul Rigby 12 months ago

      You’ve hit the nail on the head – there’s a lot out there. All good names though.

    • John Matthews 11 months ago

      i have to comment that i bought a pair of audioengines on the strength of reviews and gave them away they were so muddy and bloated, the ‘bass’ was artificially boosted but had no details or texture, the midrange downright poor. A pair of cheap proacs and a £50 amp killed them, i gave them away to a friend , just my experience obviously

      • Author
        Paul Rigby 11 months ago

        The (expensive) lesson there, John, is to find a magazine/website/reviewer that you can trust and stick with it. I’d always recommend reading as much as you can on a product and taking a view based upon a range of opinions.

        • John Matthews 11 months ago

          The most significant and fundamental changes to my system over the years have been work on earthing and professional room treatment.
          To the extent that i find myself always thinking , when reading any review , “yes, but in what room ? with what mains ?”

          I had a pair of “legendary” Epos ES14s I hated and they soon went, but now wonder how they’d sound in my current room.

          If you can’t home demo, then you’re basically taking a punt

      • Michael Mercer 9 months ago

        sorry you had that experience with em – mighta been a bum pair

  7. crispincrunch 12 months ago

    New powered Peachtrees will include a built-in phono preamp, DAC, remote, a plethora of inputs, and sure to sound great given Peachtree’s reputation. Under £200 / $200!

    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/m24-powered-speakers-from-peachtree-audio-bluetooth-usb#/

  8. Pedro Cruz 8 months ago

    Only hifi people could think that some speakers can match the source (vinyl in this case) better than others. You are constantly reading and being brainwashed in order to spend more money. It’s obvious some speakers sound better than others, but what’s the point to spend big money on a pair of speakers if your room sucks? Or is too small? Or is highly reflective? Or is too dull? And what record are you talking about? Some records are too bright and would work better on a not so brilliant speaker, some are too bassy and would sound better on a thinner speaker… oh mannnnn. Buy the more expensive you can afford, as audiophile people always do.

  9. Jack Deckard 8 months ago

    The best speakers for vinyl are also the best speakers for digital. You’re surfing a wave of popularity.

  10. Davide 8 months ago

    speakers for vinyl?!? what are you talking about?!? speakers are speakers. period.

  11. Davaudio 8 months ago

    Best budget (brokeass) speakers will always be Dayton Audio. Matching speakers to vinyl is like “fighting the war on peace” or ” fucking for virginity”. Just silly.

  12. William 5 months ago

    You call this “budget”? Kill yourself.

  13. Dethguy One (Dethguy1) 4 months ago

    Mr. Paul Rigby’s perception on budget speakers is a little bit shit.

  14. Michael Corsentino 4 months ago

    Elac E6 Debut

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