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?
A: Check out the $149 Edifier R1700BT powered bookshelf speakers (edifier.com). These compact speakers will do what you want now 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 also is 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 speakers’ sound is excellent. Though they are “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 also have an attractive wood finish.
Still digging the 78s
Q: I’m interested in the system for vinyl playback that you recently wrote about. It consisted of the Music Hall MMF-1.5 turntable, the Onkyo TX-8020 receiver and Polk Signature S20 speakers. I want to buy it, but is it able to play 78s? I inherited many old records, some of them from the 1930s and ’40s. Is it possible to configure the turntable to play both LPs and 78s?
A: There are two things you need to play 78s: a 78 rpm speed on the turntable (which is rarer than you might think) and a stylus (needle) designed to work with 78 records.
The Music Hall MMF-1.5 turntable has 33⅓, 45 and 78 speeds, so you have the first part covered. As for the stylus, 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 in your case, you won’t have to purchase a 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, take the standard stylus from the cartridge — carefully — and clip in the 78 stylus. Swap the standard stylus back in to play LPs again.
The stylus you need is the ATN3600W, available for $28.95 from lpgear.com. While you are there you also may want to order the Carbon Fidelity CFN3600LE stylus for $29.95. It will improve the sound of the Music Hall Melody cartridge when playing LPs.
Despite their age, 78s have a unique sonic character and are worth enjoying if your turntable can be configured to play them.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.