By Don Lindich
Week 17, 2018
Q. My wife thought a nice set of powered speakers (for use with a computer and iPhone) would be a great graduation gift for a niece who plays jazz sax. Do you have any suggestions under $200?
-J.K., Atlantic City, NJ
A. Check out the $149 Edifier R1700BT powered bookshelf speakers. These compact speakers do what you want and also offer the capability to grow into a more elaborate music system.
The speakers have a Bluetooth connection for use with a phone or tablet, as well as two auxiliary inputs. A remote control is also provided. One of the inputs can be used with her computer, and the other input can be used in the future with a CD or DVD player, turntable, or even the output from a television set-top box. Given the popularity of vinyl with younger people and her love of music she may want to add that turntable someday. If she does, make sure she places it on a different piece of furniture than the speakers so vibration is not transmitted to the turntable, resulting in feedback and distortion.
The sound of the Edifier RT1700BT speakers is excellent and as good as it gets for a pair of $149 powered speakers. Though they are called “near field” speakers for use with a computer and listening up close, they also have ample power for filling up a dorm room or bedroom. They look nice too, with their attractive wood finish.
Q. I really liked the $1,000 music system for vinyl playback that you recently wrote about. It consisted of the $399 Music Hall MMF-1.5 turntable, the $199 Onkyo TX-8020 receiver, and the $299 Polk Signature S20 speakers as well as speaker stands and wire. I want to buy it, but is it able to play 78s? I inherited many old records, some of them from the 30s and 40s, and I am pretty sure they are 78s. Is it possible to configure the turntable to easily play both LPs and 78s?
-S.K., Grand Rapids, MN
A. There are two things you need to play 78s. The first is a 78 speed on the turntable itself (which is rarer than you might think) and a stylus (needle) designed to work with 78 records. The has 33 1/3, 45 and 78 speeds, so you have the first part covered.
As for the stylus, you are in better shape out of the box with the Music Hall MMF-1.5 turntable than you are with most other turntables. Typically an entirely different cartridge is required for 78s, and ideally this cartridge would be mounted on a removable headshell so you can swap 78 and LP cartridges quickly and easily.
The Music Hall MMF-1.5 does have interchangeable headshells, but fortunately you don’t have purchase an entirely separate cartridge and headshell. The included, pre-installed Music Hall Melody cartridge will accept a 78 stylus. All you have to do is remove the headshell from the tonearm, carefully remove the standard stylus from the cartridge, and clip in the 78 stylus to play 78s. Swap the standard stylus back in to play LPs again.
The stylus you need is the LP Gear ATN3600W, available for $28.95. While you are ordering styluses you may want to also order the Carbon Fidelity CFN3600LE stylus for $29.95. It will improve the sound of the Music Hall Melody cartridge when playing LPs.
Readers may find it interesting that I received several versions of this question regarding 78s. Despite their age, 78s have a unique sonic character and they are worth playing and enjoying if your turntable can be configured to play them.