With more people buying vinyl each year, there’s a greater number of turntables being bought (or dusted off) and plugged in.
If you’re in the market for a pair of speakers to connect your record player up to, Roth Audio wants the VA4s to be your go-to.
These desktop speakers have a built-in phono stage, so you won’t need an outboard phono stage or separate amplifier.
Trying to make the vinyl resurgence more accessible is a noble aim, but does the performance match the concept?
Not only is the VA4’s moving-magnet phono stage a nice addition, it’s also easy to activate – simply flick the toggle on the back of the master speaker and the speakers will switch the RCA input from line-level audio to phono.
This means you can still connect other sources via RCA. And if your record player has a ground wire, there’s a silver screw connection on the back for it.
If you don’t have a turntable, though, the VA4s still have you covered with their aptX Bluetooth connectivity, 3.5mm input and optical connection. There is also an output to connect a subwoofer.
If you want to charge your smartphone or tablet while using it, there’s a USB port for that too. You can flick between inputs by pushing the volume control dial on the back, or by using the remote.
There are also buttons to adjust bass and treble so, to some extent, you can tailor how your music sounds.
However, the only indication that a button has been pressed is by the flash of a small green light on the master speaker that’s a bit difficult to see with the grille on – and there isn’t a way of immediately telling which input you’re connected to.
The VA4s are small enough that they should fit on bookshelf – measuring 22 x 14 x 17cm (hwd).
You can get them in three finishes – red, white, and black – but that only changes the colour of the speakers’ faces – the wooden housings are the same black colour on each variety.
Your music comes out of the 25mm tweeter and 10cm driver on each speaker, all powered by a 2 x 40W Class D amplifier housed in the master unit – the two boxes are linked simply by speaker cable.
And, on the whole, the sound quality of these speakers reflects their good design.
Tonally, the VA4s are nicely balanced – when playing Confusion by ELO, the high treble synths of the Yamaha CS80 that open the song come across subtly, without any harsh or aggressive edges to them.
Keep the track playing and the Roths put across midrange nicely as well – Jeff Lynne’s vocals are solid throughout and have a good level of detail.
Lynne’s pop lament is a vibrant one, and the VA4s do a good job of conveying its character.
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Give them a chance, though, and these speakers aren’t afraid of hefting their weight about. No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age is a song built on the foundations of low-frequency electric guitars and a bouncing bass drum. The VA4s present both in satisfyingly large quantities.
Dynamically, these speakers can manage the small scale with relative ease, even if they don’t do the bigger dynamics as well. You won’t get the powerful punch on Hans Zimmer’s Mombasa that you might like, but the little, quick acoustic fingerings on Surfjan Steven’s Carrie & Lowell rise and fall with commendable precision.
There are a few refinements that could be made to the VA4s' sound; a little more subtlety and clarity on songs like Stevens’ Should Have Known Better would make these speakers convey the emotion behind his soulful melodies better. Tightening up the bass and the timing a tad wouldn’t go amiss either.
If you’re looking for an affordable pair of speakers that can play everything from Bluetooth to vinyl, then the VA4s are right up your street.
From treble to bass, you’ll get a well-balanced sound with decent insight that’s certainly worth clearing some space on your bookshelf for.
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