Playing LPs usually requires a complete hi-fi system, but Music Hall's slick USB-1 turntable and AktiMate Mini speakers make beautiful music together.
I associate desktop speakers with computers and iPods, so when Ken, one of my audiophile pals, raved about this slick little Music Hall system, he had my full attention. It's just a pair of desktop speakers and a turntable--there's your system. The little rig dispenses with the usual receiver or preamplifier required to play LPs; you just hook up the USB-1 turntable via its stereo analog outputs directly to the AktiMate Mini speakers, and you'll be grooving to your tunes. You can also dock your iPod to the AktiMate Mini, and digitally dig your music.
The gloss black Music Hall USB-1 turntable has a die-cast aluminum platter and a built-in phono preamplifier, so it can be hooked up to the AktiMate Mini's line input (or any receiver or iPod speaker). The belt-drive turntable's USB connection is obviously intended for computers. The $250 turntable comes with an Audio Technica AT3600L moving-magnet phono cartridge.
The AktiMate Mini is an "active" two-way speaker with stereo 40-watt amplifiers built into the left speaker (that also drive the right speaker). The AktiMate Mini has a 5.25-inch polypropylene woofer, and a 1-inch metal dome tweeter. There's an iPod/iPhone dock neatly concealed under a flap on the top of the speaker. I was unfamiliar with the Aktimate name, but importer Roy Hall told me the speaker was designed by Epos, one of my favorite British speaker manufacturers, and the amplifier electronics come from Mike Creek, of Creek Audio, another noteworthy British brand. The AktiMate Mini measures a tidy 11.75 inches by 7.25 inches by 8.25 inches.
The speaker's connectivity options include stereo 3.5 mm and RCA inputs; and RCA stereo outputs to allow for the connection of a subwoofer. The USB connection is for charging purposes. The speaker comes in gloss black, gloss white, or gloss red. The AktiMate Mini sells for $700 a pair. Of course, you can use the USB-1 turntable with less expensive speakers, like my $200 Audioengine A2s.