In these post-vinyl days we live in, it has become increasingly hard to find a good quality vinyl turntable that doesn’t break the bank. Audio Technica aims to provide an affordable solution with the Audio Technica AT LP120. Coming in at under $300 in price, can the AT LP120 really be a turntable delivering on price, build and sound quality?
Let’s find out.
- 1 Background on Audio Technica
- 2 Introduction
- 3 What comes in the box?
- 4 Features and Specifications
- 5 Audio Technica LP60 vs LP120
- 6 Design
- 7 Sound Quality
- 8 Pros
- 9 Cons
- 10 How to get the most out of your Audio Technica AT LP120
- 11 Customer Feedback
- 12 Where to buy at the best price?
- 13 Verdict: Is this the best turntable for you?
Background on Audio Technica
Before we dive into this Audio Technica AT LP120 review, I want to fill you in on the Audio Technica company. Knowing a little more about the manufacturer will give you a better understanding of this product.
Founded in 1962, AT consists of a number of global companies that are passionate about designing and creating value for money audio equipment. They first made their mark with their groundbreaking phonograph cartridges, before becoming a household name for their microphones, wireless systems, mixers, headphones and electronic products for professional and home use.
Having won scores of industry awards for their products, their products are used in the United States House of Representatives, as well as at the GRAMMY awards and the induction ceremonies of the Rock & Roll hall of fame inductions.
To further build on this pedigree, their audio solutions have also provided seamless coverage at the summer Olympic games dating back to Atlanta in 1996, and the Winter Games since Salt Lake City in 2002. Their microphones have also been responsible for other sports broadcasts, like the Commonwealth Games, the Super Bowl and World Cup soccer.
With their products being used on some of the biggest world stages in both entertainment and sports, you can rest assured that the smart guys and girls at Audio Technica know what they are doing.
Now that we have established their credentials, let’s see if they kept to their high standards with the AT LP 120.
Audio Technica refers to this product as a direct-drive professional USB and analog turntable system. That is a mouthful! They also claim that this device brings the legendary AT quality and audio fidelity to the digital world.
Those are some big claims right there.
As if those claims aren’t big enough, the Audio Technica AT LP 120 is modeled after the legendary Technics SL1200. In fact, if you were to walk past both of these, the resemblance would be striking. The SL1200 was incredibly popular when it was discontinued in 2010 to the shock of many of its fans.
Audio Technica didn’t wait long to bring the LP120 to market. It looks and feels nearly identical to the SL1200, and even weighs almost the same (23.5 lbs to the SL1200’s 24 lbs). AT did add some features not included in the Technics model.
An Audio Technica AT LP120 review and test by a fan:
What comes in the box?
When you purchase this product, you will receive the following:
- Audio Technica AT LP120 vinyl turntable
- Audacity recording software (compatible with PC and Mac)
- USB cable
- 2x Output adapter cables (dual RCA female to mini-plug male & dual RCA female to mini-plug female)
- Power cord
- 45 RMP Adapter
- Phono cartridge (If you want to play, you will have to purchase an additional 78 RPM cartridge)
- Slip mat
- Removable hinged dust cover
Features and Specifications
This high torque table is direct driven (as opposed to belt-driven) which means that you won’t have to adjust the belt at regular intervals. Direct drive is the choice of professional DJ’s as it has better speed stability since the belt can stretch and tension causing speed fluctuations. Direct drive also makes for quicker start and stop times, and allows reversing the rotation direction so you can listen to David Bowie’s ‘Move On’ backward (hint hint). Unless you plan on doing some advanced scribbles and tears, you won’t notice any slowing down of the direct-drive motor.
This 23lbs turntable can play 33, 45 and 78s out of the box, and speed can be adjusted by up to 20 percent. It allows you to adjust the force of the needle, and the built-in strobe light makes it easy to set and monitor speed.
The pitch slider, although made from plastic, feels solid and looks like metal and has an LED to show you when you are at absolute zero. Another LED will indicate whether the platter is set to spin forwards or reverse.
Audio Technica LP60 vs LP120
The belt-driven LP60 is sold at roughly one-third of the direct driven 120’s price and is aimed at the beginner. Unlike the 120, the cartridge on the 60 isn’t replaceable. While the 60 only plays 33/45, the 120 can play 78’s as well. There are users that have complained about the speed being a little off with the 60, causing some records to play a little fast and at a higher pitch.
Some of the nice features available on the Audio Technica AT LP120 (and not on the 60) include the ability to adjust the tracking weight when you get a new cartridge, the ability to adjust the speed by up to 20% and you can choose between using the pre-amp, or bypassing it with the flip of a switch.
One big difference, the LP60 will only allow you to listen to your vinyl records, while the 120 also gives you the option to convert your vinyl to another option.
The design and layout are very similar to the Technics SL1200. The LP120 is much more affordable at less than half the price of the discontinued SL1200. The price means that Audio Technica had to make some tough decisions on the components. A fair amount of plastic had to be used to keep the price at this level, including the base. All in all, the important parts are aluminum and at 23.5lbs, this table feels solid and sturdy.
For those who like to stand out from the crowd, there is a black AT-LP120 available. These tend to be out of stock every time I look, and when they are available, they typically go for a slightly higher price than the stock model.
There a number of factors to consider when looking at the sound quality on a turntable. The condition of the vinyl being played, the stylus, the pre-amp, the cartridge and the speakers all play a large role in the quality of the sound. If just one of these elements aren’t up to scratch, it can severely affect the overall sound quality.
Pairing a sub-$100 plastic turntable with the best speakers will be no use, in much the same way the reverse will also be true.
Having said that, the LP120 has a well-rounded sound right out of the box that is suitable for a large variety of music genres.
In my opinion, your speakers are the most important element when it comes to determining sound quality. The cartridge comes a close second. The AT95E cartridge included with this table, produces a warm and clear sound. The diamond elliptical shaped stylus tracks accurately, but I would recommend an Ortofon or a Shure for those who are serious listeners.
- The built-in preamp with bypass control means you don’t have to purchase any additional accessories when connecting to your stereo, or those powerful speakers of yours.
- It offers great features at this price level, while the USB port makes for easy digitizing of your vinyl collection. The quiet motor, a whole heap of useful accessories and the solid build quality make this a value for money turntable that performs above the expected level.
- The one thing that stands out the most for me is the uncomplicated set-up process. You can order this turntable, and have it setup in no time, ready to spin those David Bowie vinyl records.
- If you plan to use the LP120 heavily, I suspect you might encounter some issues when the need arises to replace the permanent, hardwired RCA connections.
- One other slight annoyance and I only know this because my DJ friend gave the LP120 a spin, is that the otherwise-powerful direct driven motor slows down when doing extreme scratches. Unless you are a serious DJ, this won’t affect you.
How to get the most out of your Audio Technica AT LP120
There are a number of things you can do to ensure you get the best results when using your turntable. Here are a few of the things I have learned to do over my years of experience.
- Be very careful when anywhere near the stylus. Take care not to bump the stylus as this will most likely end up with you having to replace it. Avoid touching it unless you are cleaning it. I like to clean the stylus frequently, using a very soft brush with a back-to-front motion. I don’t use a stylus cleaning fluid, if you want to do so, make sure to do it very sparingly.
- Always be gentle when opening or closing the turntable cover, as this is most often the first part that needs replacing. Handling the cover gently, and opening from both sides will ensure it lasts longer.
- Make sure to use a soft cloth when cleaning the dustcover and the turntable, and use only a very small amount of mild detergent.
Users of the AT-LP120-USB love the fact that this table can play 78’s but recommend a better-optimized needle and a cartridge if you plan on doing it a lot. Most users love the ease of setup, and the crystal clear directions receive a lot of credit for this.
Based on consumer reviews, it is clear that users like the fact that the cartridges are interchangeable. Some of the more discerning listeners mentioned that they really liked pairing this turntable with the Shure M97x cartridges.
The general consensus between users is that this table offers an excellent balance between quality, features, and price.
Mention is also made of the great technical support provided by the guys and girls of Audio Technica, with one user receiving replacement parts delivered to Hawaii within 8 days.
I also read about one professional DJ with a lot of experience on the Technics SL1200, and the only difference according to him, is a slight warp in the platter. To his trained ear, the warp is so minor that it doesn’t affect the sound quality.
Where to buy at the best price?
You might be able to get one of these at your local record store. I prefer buying most of my audio and visual equipment from Amazon.com. They have the widest range and often have the best price on the products I am looking for. I have never had any issues with a return, and you can’t beat the free delivery.
Verdict: Is this the best turntable for you?
The AT-LP120 is a well-built affordable turntable packed with features. It is easy to use, although setup takes a little bit of time. It kicks dust in the eyes of those plastic turntables you have seen for one-third of the price. In fact, it is sacrilege just mentioning those plastic pieces of rubbish in the same review as the Audio Technica.
While some would argue that AT cut a corner with the lightweight platter, I would counter that it is very likely the reason for the soft and lush playback.
This turntable is perfect for those audiophiles that want to digitally archive their large vinyl collections without breaking the bank. It is also perfect for record enthusiasts, collectors, amateur DJ’s and those DJ’s who can’t quite afford the Super-OEM turntables.
When it comes to ease of use, the Audio Technica AT LP 120 usb has no competition anywhere near this price level. In fact, it will give plenty of more expensive turntables a good run for their money when it come to ease of use, and sound right out of the box. It also shines with great build quality and a solid feature set.
For anyone wanting to kick back and listen to those classics on vinyl, the Audio Technica AT-LP120-USB should be considered. It comes with detailed instructions for vinyl interface and computer interface, and a good variety of accessories to please any casual vinyl spinners.
This table looks and feels professional at a very affordable price with simple to use controls, and it tracks really well. The included cartridge and stylus works well, and both can be replaced if you require something of higher quality. This turntable is great value for money, and if taken proper care of, will give you years of listening pleasure.