Question Well intentioned setup sounds blah


Novice Member
I'm just not happy with the sound quality in my turntable setup. Doesn't get very loud, and can sound like it's struggling at higher volumes (regular sized room, not trying to blow my ear drums, just want to listen loud from time to time). Hasn't "wowed" since I first set it up. What's the bottleneck in this setup, or where should I try and adjust things?

Onkyo TX-8020 Stereo Receiver (using phono input)
Denon DP-300F Fully Automatic Analog Turntable (I have the pre-amp disabled (as i should with phono))

Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones Designed Bookshelf Loudspeakers

RCA AH1650SR 50 Feet 16-Gauge Speaker Wire

Screenshot 2017-05-29 10.47.40.png


Distinguished Member
The speakers are well reviewed but there are obviously going to be limits to what can be achieved with a low budget & four inch drivers. Some things to consider:

Is it just the TT that disappoints? Do you have other sources connected & how do they sound?

Are the speakers on stands?

Check & double-check that the speakers are in phase.

Try enabling the pre-amp on the TT & use a line level input on the amp, just to compare which pre-amp sounds best.


Novice Member
Thanks @kc5819w - that makes sense.

@Crocodile - TT is turntable? Yes, it's just that, although I've not tried anything else with the setup. Speakers are on the floor, but ive had them raised up before with little improvement in sound quality.

I have good headphones - if they sound good, does that point the finger more firmly at the speakers?

I remember TT preamp sounded terrible, but perhaps just combined with phono input. I'll try that too.


Distinguished Member
Try another source first, even if it's only an DVD player. But having the speakers on the floor is certainly not going to be helping.

And check that speaker wiring.


Distinguished Member
I have two Onkyo 50w/ch Stereo Receivers (TX-8011, TX-8255), they are fine, very clear amps.

The Denon DP300 is a nice turntable for a modest amount of money, I would seriously consider getting one if my current turntable craps out. I especially like the Auto-Start/Stop feature.

But the standard DP300 comes with a pretty low end generic cartridge, unless you got the model that comes bundled with they Ortofon 2M Red. The basic cartridge is fine, adequate enough to start with, but nothing that anyone would desire.

The Pioneer/Andrew Jones are stunning speakers for what they cost, the problem is, they really don't cost very much.

Speaker wire is fine unless perhaps you have exceptionally long runs of wire. But for anything under 25 feet the wire is fine.

So, let's go through item by item -

- Generalization -
How is the system not living up to your expectations? Specifically how?

- Amp - My Onkyo Receivers are fine, exceptionally clear, and my turntable with MM Cartridge and the Phono In on the Onkyo sounded good. The level was not down below what I would have expected. My normal LP playing was with the volume dial around 10 o'clock to 11 o'clock, which is loud but not excessively so. Keep in mind I probably have larger speaker.

If you are not experiencing that, then I would speculate that you've done something wrong. First you HAVE TO BE Plugged into the PHONO input on the Amp. Not only does the Phono In have an additional 10x amplification, but it also has equalization. To make the sound fit on the physical record, they reduce the bass and boost the highs. The PHONO Input does the opposite, it boost the bass and cuts the highs back to the point where the sound is flat.

If the level is too low, that implies you are not connected to the Phono In.

Also, you need to calibrate the turntable according to the instructions. You need to set the Counter Weight at the back so the Tracking Weight is in the working range of your Cartridge. I suspect with the generic cartridge, it is on the high side 3g to 5g. Most good cartridges track in the range of 1g to 2grams.

Then you need to properly set the Anti-Skate. This should also be in the owner's manual, and there are many videos on YouTube explaining how to set Tracking Weight and Aniti-Skate.

- Speakers - the speakers are nice for the price, but they are small. The very first thing you HAVE TO DO is make ABSOLUTELY SURE that the speakers are wired properly. Nothing will suck he life out of one of the speaker like one of them being wired backwards. In every case, the Amp(+) MUST GO to the Speaker(+) - Red to Red, Black to Black.

Next is the placement of the speakers. Where are the place? On a Desktop? On a Shelf? On Stands? Other? Generally the closer to the wall (side and rear) the speaker is, the more bass it will have, but if you go too far, the bass will start to muddy the Midrange. All speakers need some space around them, though smaller speakers need less space.

-Expectations -
They have to be realistic, you are not going to throw any RAVES with the Pioneer Speakers. But they should sound good and, while they are not huge speakers, they should sound reasonably loud. And for their modest cost, they should sound reasonably good.

I would expect this system to sound pretty good ...all things considered... if it does not, then something is wrong, and the first place to start is with how the equipment is set up.

I have very nearly this system on my Computer, it sounds fine. I've had the Onkyo Receiver in my main system connected to my Turntable, again, the system sounded fine.

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Distinguished Member
I will add that if anything will improve your system, once we confirm it is setup right, it will be the speakers.

The Pioneer Speakers were only $130/pr. These are highly rated and on Amazon, they have a 79% 5 Star rating, with a 14% 4 Star rating. That's pretty high approval. Also, the Pioneer only have 4" bass drivers, that is on the small side. Probably fine for Near Field Computer listening, but less so for being at a distance and listening. There is a reason they don't throw Rock Concert with a pair of 4" bookshelf speakers.

Though you have the speakers, if you had contacted us first and indicated the low budget, I think I would have recommended these low cost speakers from YAMAHA - Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers, Black Finish ( Pair ): Home Audio & Theater

8", 3-way, sealed box - Yamaha NS-6490 - $129/pr -

Now if you can massively increase your speaker budget, there are many other speaker to consider.

Again, I have two of the equivalent Onkyo Receivers, and they were fine. They were not recessed or restricted in anyway. I must have liked them because I bought another one (TX-8011, then X-8255).

I think to really get good and big speakers, you need to be in the roughly $250/pr to about $500/pr.

Reference Bookshelf Speakers | Klipsch

Just a few thoughts.

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Well-known Member
One thing I will add, don't be afraid to look in your local classifieds for secondhand speakers. You can catch some absolute steals.

Also a few large speaker companies are currently clearing out old stock so again, take a peek at your local hifi stores to see what they may be able to offer.


Distinguished Member
Whilst I'd expect that the phono amp in the Onkyo would be superior to that in the Denon, I would suggest enabling the Denon one and plugging into an AUX input just to test.

If this sounds better then you know that the Onkyo phono board is faulty or just not a good match for the cartridge you are using.


Distinguished Member
Also, the Pioneer SP-BS22-LR Speakers are rated at 85db Sensitivity. That's on the low side. The Yamaha NS-6490 I suggested are 90db Sensitivity, meaning the Yamaha speakers will take about 1/4th the power to reach a given volume. Usually the Power Doubles or Halves with every 3db change in Sensitivity.

So, it is not unreasonable to think the Pioneer are holding back a bit. At that very low price point, there just aren't a lot of speakers to choose from.

There is no reason why you Amp/Receiver should not perform fine, assuming there is nothing wrong with it.

And while you turntable should be adequate, it could use a cartridge upgrade at some point in the future. However, the existing cartridge should be fine assuming the turntable is set up correctly. There is probably very little to set up. Make sure the Turntable is level, makes sure the Tracking Weight is correct for the cartridge you have, and make sure the Anti-Skate is set according to the manual.

Make absolutely sure that you are connected the input specifically marked PHONO.

Also, as some else suggested, if the Denon DP300 has an internal Phono Pre-Amp, then enable that and use one of the other standard Line Level Inputs (CD, TAPE, AUX...). That would indicate whether the Onkyo internal Phono Stage is working properly. Though there is very little that can go wrong, so I would not expect a problem with the Onkyo Phono input, but you never know.

Also, as previously mentioned, absolutely verify that the speakers are wired correctly. Nothing will suck the life out of a pair of speaker like on being wired backward. Always Red-to-Red and Black-to-Black.



Novice Member
Thanks @dollag - I'll certainly check craiglist if i decide to upgrade.

@BlueWizard - those speaker stands are awesome :rotfl:

Thanks to everyone of the detail, explanations and clarifications.

I re-wired everything (turns out i'd done a horrible job of stripping the speaker wire at all connections which was no doubt not helping, although I think it was all correctly in phase). I also re-calibrated the anti skid stuff on the turntable and raised the speakers up off the floor.

perhaps it's having more confidence in the system (thanks to all your replies), perhaps it's the minor changes described above, but everything sounds a lot more immersive and there is no sign of the crackling that was troubling at higher volumes.

I can see that the speakers emerge as the weak link in the chain, with the cartridge as a possible runner up, and I'll look seriously at replacing these.

Thanks again.


Distinguished Member
I'd suggest you use a proper source into the amp to decide if the speakers are up to much. Even an iPhone or the like with a couple of tracks you're familiar with will let you hear if the amp and speakers together are any good for you.

If you don't have any music on your phone, or an old DVD or CD player somewhere then download Spotify for a moment or two using the free version for a few songs.

Who knows, you might like it so much you'll dump the old fashioned stuff and join in the 21st century's tens of millions of songs available at the touch of a few buttons ( or touch screen :thumbsup: ) gang.
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Distinguished Member
Ps. I see you've listed 50 feet of speaker cable? I know it's a daft question, very in fact, but I'm assuming you're actually using lots less than that?
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Novice Member
Good catch - yes much less than 50'. And I'm heavy into Apple Music, I just like tactile music formats to complement the vast selection.

I literally have no other audio device that inputs to the amp, but will be on the lookout.


Distinguished Member
Perhaps you could borrow a CD player or DVD player, or even a phone with songs on it from a friend?

At least then you'll have a base line from which to judge the sound.

It may simply be that the speakers are too small. Or that the turntable is rogered in some respect.

But it will be easier to diagnose once you have a known quality source playing.


Distinguished Member
Wrong. A cheap 3.5mm to RCA cable in the headphone socket, a dock with audio or a Bluetooth receiver connected to a line level input.
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Distinguished Member
The Pioneer Speakers are very good sounding speakers for the money, but they are small and they are not the highest output. The Pioneer Speakers have received much praise from people - both users and professional reviewers - but they are what they are and they are not what they are not.

Again, if you had come to use before buying the Pioneer, I would have probably recommended the Yamaha NS-6490 at that price point. The Pioneer might be a bit more refined, but the Yamaha are larger speakers with deeper bass, and in any situation other than a desktop, the kick out pretty well.

Though since you have the Pioneer, there is no reason why they can't do a good job for you within the context of what they are, which is a very compact speakers with a 4" bass driver.

RE: Walmart Wooden Stools - true they are nothing fancy, but if you want speakers stand on the cheap, that is about as cheap as you can get.

Depending on your situation, there are some Adjustable Studio Monitor Stands that are pretty high value -

On-Stage SMS6000 Adjustable Monitor Stand, Pair

Here are some from Amazon - SANUS BF31-B1 31" Speaker Stands for Bookshelf Speakers up to 20 lbs - Black - Set of 2: Home Audio & Theater VIVO Premium Universal Floor Speaker Stands for Surround Sound & Book Shelf Speakers (STAND-SP02B): Kitchen & Dining Sanus BF24B 24 Inch Speaker Stands (Pair): Home Audio & Theater

Generally, for home use, speakers stands should be in the range of 24" up to about 30".

Just a few more thoughts.


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