How to stream vinyl records at home

We’re a family of music lovers – we go to a fair amount of live shows, and music is always playing in our home. But I wanted to add vinyl records back into the mix. It was super easy to stream vinyl records in our home, and it sounds great! Let me explain. 

Our home is sometimes a bit of a home tech laboratory, as one might expect. For the most part though, we use Sonos for most of our day to day listening. We use a mixture of Sonos Connects, Connect:Amps, Play:1 wireless speakers, and even a Sub. Deezer is our go to streaming service as it offers high bitrate music for improved sound quality. Streaming radio is also frequently played as well. We find that the lower bitrates of streaming radio does tend to be a bit fatiguing after a while though.

Setting up a system to stream vinyl

I decided to try out a Rega turntable as they are well known for offering high-end sound at affordable prices. When the Rega RP1 arrived, I temporarily set it up in our living room using the living room Sonos Connect:Amp system. I used a Rega Fono Mini A2D phone stage to mate the phono levels for the Sonos Connect:Amp.

Set streaming system input to high quality

You should set the streaming system input to its high quality setting if available. In my case, I set the Connect:Amp to Uncompressed Line-In. I have a rock solid home data network (of course!), so I’ll take higher network traffic for better sound quality. 

Enjoy

Honestly I wasn’t expecting much, as the living room gear is good, but it’s not ‘audiophile’ by any means. When I started playing records though, it was immediately obvious that the sound was amazing. The Rega RP1 and Fono Mini A2D are widely well reviewed, and our’s showed why. They are just simple, great sounding audiophile components for value minded people. Not to kick off another debate about vinyl sounding better than CDs, digital music, etc., but our records sound great. As a bonus, we’ve been listening to whole albums again. Another great thing with the wireless streaming systems like our Sonos system, is that you can also group in other rooms if you don’t want to stay in one room. Manufacturers like Rega recognize people may want to stream vinyl in their homes, so they also offer turntables like the Rega Planar 1 PLUS. Its an all in one unit (turnable & photo pre-amp) that mates well with streaming systems, computers, etc.

Audiophiles may be put off by our system, but for regular music lovers (and ones on more modest budgets), it’s a great way to get the best of both worlds: you can dust off those vinyl records and play them with the simplicity of streaming music systems. Really, whatever level of music lover you are, its about enjoying music. In the end, our turntable has become a permanent fixture in our living room. While we still stream digital music often, its fun to put on albums too, especially on the weekends when we have a bit more time.

Tip for great home music systems: subwoofers

small subwoofers like sub air help home music systems sound better

People are listening to more music, often using streaming music. Many have music (and surround) speakers discreetly installed in their living spaces. Frequently this involves installing ceiling speakers. While they can sound great and are hidden in plain sight in the ceiling, there’s something missing,.. true low-end bass. This includes the low-end dance beat or the rumble from a movie explosion. These low-end sounds require subwoofers. But, there are ways to hide subwoofers too.

Speakers need to be physically large to create proper bass – blame physics. Even with the technical sorcery that manufactures build into their products to make small speakers produce surprising bass, they just can’t hit the true low notes. Its not just for dance music aficionados or action movie fans, good bass helps better fill sound in the room and is more pleasing to listen to (often without specifically noticing ‘bass’). We always encourage people to consider a discreet subwoofer (or completely hidden) whenever possible.

Standard subwoofers

A standard subwoofer needs to be large to properly produce proper bass – especially if you want explosion feeling bass. A true audiophile or cinephile will require a ‘proper’, read very large, subwoofer. In these cases, aesthetics often lose to sound. It doesn’t always have to be the case though. If you’re building or renovating, often some planning can greatly minimize impact to your living space. For example, its sometimes possible to cloak subwoofers with end tables or cabinetry. Often this doesn’t work for a room though, so we have to look to the next two categories.

In-wall or in-ceiling subwoofers

In-wall and in-ceiling subwoofers only need the speaker itself exposed. All the electronics can be hidden in some other part of the home. Some in-wall subwoofers use the space in the wall as part of the speaker to create great sound. Others like in-ceiling subs have the speaker cabinets hidden in the ceiling. Our ears can’t perceive where bass is coming from, so we often ‘hide’ speakers low to the ground behind furniture. Even if exposed, they’re usually barely noticed – like a vent cover. While you can get audiophile or cinephile grade in-wall subwoofers, even a reasonably priced setup can really open up the musicality and sound of a room.

Alternative subwoofers

Sometimes you’re in a bind – perhaps you want to more bass, but you can’t plan for a standard or in-wall/in-ceiling sub. Here you can look at clever subwoofers that are either small or non-standard shaped. While this category of subs can’t play as low as the others, they definitely improve the sound without a large visible presense. For example a small sub can easy be placed under an end table. You can also consider one like the Focal Sub Air that is just over 6” deep. If you’re a Sonos fan, their Sonos Sub is also just over 6” deep. These and others are wireless if you can’t run cables. Some are available in black or white to help blend into your decor as well. These can be  placed under or behind furniture as still sound great.

The addition of a good subwoofer will help improve the sound of home music systems. Depending on your situation and budget, from building to simply adding a wireless music streaming system, there are many subwoofer options available. With some planning, you shouldn’t have to compromise your home’s sound system.