A Full Analog & Digital Stereo System for under $1,000!
It’s a beautiful November day here in the woods ; ) I have been spending the last couple of hours wrapping Christmas presents and listening to some of my old vinyl records from back when I was a kid. As I look out of the window I see the cold breeze moving the trees. I see a few deer in my yard and it is starting to feel like the Holiday season. I love this time of year!
One thing is for sure, these old records still sound very good, much better than I remember. I am playing these old vinyl discs on a system (one I whipped together) that has a retail cost for under $1,000 for the powered speakers, turntable, cartridge, and even phono pre amp. It’s a beautiful little system and screams quality rather than “I cheaped out”. I made a video about this system (see it above) but since I recorded that video I have been enjoying this little system even more than I thought I would. I listen to more records here in this system than I do on my much more pricey analog setup. Why? Because it just works, it sounds great. I do not have to fiddle with settings or do any kind of super alignment on the cartridge. It just makes lovely music.
My Video on this Complete System
The Fluance RT85 Reference Turntable is the finest that Fluance makes. It is at the heart of this small system and I have to tell you that this is a drop dead gorgeous table for what it cost. In fact I can not find any other tables out there at this price that will outperform it. The table comes in at $499 but it features a real solid wood plinth (I chose Walnut), very nice feet that absorb vibrations away from the platter, RCA outputs rather than built in cables (this is good and something that is an improvement over my $3800 Dr. Feickert Table), a pre-installed and set up Ortofon Blue cartridge, an acrylic platter and a nice dial speed control that allows for 33 or 45 RPM.
This is a belt driven table and it also has a nice dustcover. It’s gorgeous in the flesh, and took me 5 minutes to assemble. Maybe 10 : )
I have owned many tables over the years. New, Vintage, Cheap and even one that I spent a whopping $5500 on (without cartridge). I have always been let down by most of the tables in the $300-$800 range though. They always seemed to have cheap construction and simply ok looks. This is the first table under $500 I can easily recommend for someone who wants good looks, great quality and super ease of use. It comes in white, black, walnut and even bamboo (which matches the speakers I will tell you about below).
This table does not have a built in phono pre-amp. This is another good thing about the table and sets it apart from the lower end where really awful quality phono preamps are built in. With this table you must have an outboard phono pre-amp (don’t worry, I have a wonderful one in this system I will share with you) as it’s truly a great quality table.
This table just works. It’s easy to set up. Place the platter on, check the tracking force of the cartridge and you are good to go. It makes gorgeous music and made my vinyl come alive when I used it with the iFi Zen Phono pre amp.
The iFi Zen Phono is another massive bang for the buck product that works with moving magnet carts like the Ortofon Blue in such a lovely way. It also works with Moving Coil carts, even low output. When I compared this $200 phono stage to the $5k phono stage that sits in my reference system (with a $3,000 low output moving coil cartridge) there were things I preferred from the Zen over that mega buck pre amp. Now of course the expensive pre-amp offers all out refinement, zero noise and silky smoothness but the little inexpensive Zen provided boogie, excitement and energy. At $200 it is the best phono stage I have found in this price range. It bested the Shiit Mani as well as the MoFi Studio Preamp I have on hand with ease. This has a full metal construction, is so solid and sounds fantastic with the Ortofon Blue installed on the RT85 Table.
You can see my video on the Zen below:
The Zen Phono PreAmp ROCKS for under $200. My pick for best phono stage under $400!
The Speakers are also from Fluance and are an outright steal for what they are. The ones I have are the lower cost and smaller i41 but they sound plump and fluid and have a remote that allows you to fine tune the treble and bass. They have a nice rich sound with juicy bass that drives the rhythm. Fluance also sells a larger version, the i61 and those will offer a bigger sound than these. Even so, the i41 at $249 are a steal and sometimes you may see them on Amazon for even less.
With these you are ready to rock right out of the box. You can stream bluetooth. They have an optical input and a subwoofer out for when you want to pack more of a punch. They have the analog input that you will hook up your phono stage to (the turntable goes to the phono pre and the out of the pre goes to the speakers input). No speaker cables required as the speaker cable that connects these together is included. This is a full turn key ready to roll out of the box stereo system as it is. You can check these out at Amazon (prime) right HERE.
As a whole this is a gorgeous system that looks great and sounds even better. It has been allowing me to play records, stream from my phone or even serve as a two channel home theater system. I have not yet added a sub but if I feel the need, I can do that as well. No amps needed. No DAC’s needed. This is perfect for a bedroom system, an office system or even a small living room system. It’s a huge bang for the buck complete audio system that is a huge step above the cheap stuff.
This could also make for a perfect Christmas gift this season for the music lover in your family. I have links below to each product at Amazon.